[Coral-List] Copenhagen flop: skeptic arguments 101

John Bruno jbruno at unc.edu
Fri Aug 28 19:48:16 EDT 2009

Climate change skeptics have a basket of well-worn arguments for why  
humans are not in fact changing the earth's climate.  Gene deploys  
many in his wonderfully cranky and cynical post (below).  I have found  
it entertaining and even useful (when arguing with skeptics) to become  
familiar with the most common skeptic arguments.  Most skeptics use  
the same pool of 3-5, although the most popular change over time.    
The fantastic web site SketicalScience tracks, ranks, outlines and  
debunks the most popular:  http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

Also see: http://www.grist.org/article/series/skeptics/

Currently, the most popular argument is the well-debunked "it's the  
sun stupid" argument, which Gene includes in his post.  Read up on  
this argument at these links:




The second most popular skeptic argument is that "climate changed  
before".  I am pretty sure you don't have to have a PhD in geology to  
be aware of the fact that the earth's climate fluctuates.  My kids  
learned about ice ages and geological eras in kindergarten.  And the  
reality of past natural climatic fluctuation in no way refutes  
evidence that current trends are strongly influenced by human  
activities.  In fact quite the opposite; the relative speed of the  
current changes compared to the many past cycles suggest something is  
different about this cycle.  Also see:  http://www.grist.org/article/climate-is-always-changing/

Gene alludes to the third most popular, "there is no consensus"  
argument: http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus.htm

And also the very popular (currently at position #4) "the earth is  
actually cooling!" argument.  This is of course nonsense that is is  
based on cherry-picking small periods in the longer-term climate  
record.  The most popular this year is choosing 1998 (by chance? - I  
doubt it) as the beginning and examining how global temperature has  
change since then.  Indeed, by some (but not all) measures there is a  
slight cooling since 1998.  But such cherry-picking is (to anyone  
trained in science) a silly and disingenuous way to test for trends in  
the longer term climate record.  We have blogged about and made fun of  
this skeptic argument this pretty extensively at ClimateShifts:



Also see:



Gene also works in the "models are unreliable" argument (the 5th most  



and the "global warming stopped in 1998" argument (currently ranked in  
8th place), which is related to the "the earth is  actually cooling!"  


and very frequently tied in with the "it's freaking cold!" (15th  
place) argument


AKA "it's cold today in Wagga Wagga":  http://www.grist.org/article/its-cold-today-in-wagga-wagga/

where Gene, like so many skeptics, confuses local and short term  
weather for climate.

Additionally, as the National Climatic Data Center recently reported,  
ocean temperature this July has been the hottest in the last 130 years  
of record keeping: http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=2654

And as I recently blogged about, a new paper published in Geophysical  
Research Letters (Easterling and Wehner  2009) demonstrates that short  
term periods of no-trend or even cooling (nested within longer term  
warming) are in fact predicted by Global Climate Models;  http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=2029

Finally, Gene takes a slightly new angle on the well-worn "climate  
changed before" argument.  Most skeptics are not geologists; most  
skeptics (including about half of all adult Americans) are not  
scientists of any type.  Moreover, most geologists are not skeptics as  
is evidenced by the various briefing articles and position pieces  
published by the American Geophysical Union, e.g.,   http://www.agu.org/outreach/science_policy/positions/climate_change2008.shtml

titled "Human Impacts on Climate" which begins "The Earth's climate is  
now clearly out of balance and is warming. Many components of the  
climate system—including the temperatures of the atmosphere, land and  
ocean, the extent of sea ice and mountain glaciers, the sea level, the  
distribution of precipitation, and the length of seasons—are now  
changing at rates and in patterns that are not natural and are best  
explained by the increased atmospheric abundances of greenhouse gases  
and aerosols generated by human activity during the 20th century."

Cheers from Chapel Hill, where it is freaking hot!


John F. Bruno, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Marine Science
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-330
jbruno at unc.edu

> Message: 3
> Date: Thu, 27 Aug 2009 13:03:47 -0400
> From: Eugene Shinn <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
> Subject: [Coral-List] Copenhagen flop
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Message-ID: <a06230914c6bc55d93275@[]>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii" ; format="flowed"
>     I read all the responses about the Copenhagen flop on the list
> with great interest and feel they skirt the underlying issue. I serve
> on a large global climate change committee and am exposed to the
> research and opinions from both sides of the issue several times each
> day.  Most of the skeptics are geologists that look to the geologic
> record for guidance. The warmers look to mathematical models that
> project far into the future. Those on the pro warming side of the
> issue often work for companies, government agencies, or Universities
> involved (think paychecks) in CO2 sequestration projects or involved
> in the cap and trade business. The other side, mainly geologists, are
> well aware of former climate changes  before humans arrived on the
> scene. The public does not know who to believe.
>     I suspect the real reason attendance will remain low in
> Copenhagen (unless the climate starts warming again) Is they are
> skeptical, or unsure, of what the climate will do in the future.
> Temperature has been dropping (abundant low temperature records were
> set in July) and many researchers have shown temperature has overall
> been  flat since 2000.  At the same time temperatures have been
> dropping (over the past two years)  CO2 has continued to rise!  It is
> hard not to  notice that temperatures have fallen. Just read the news
> papers. I suspect this observation  has not gone unnoticed by a
> growing body of scientists,  politicians, and investors.  Investors
> are no dummies.  Clearly climate change is a huge growth industry.
> Does anyone not believe that many of the attendees will be there
> looking for a way to make money? I doubt they will be there because
> they fear the earth will burn up! Have coral-listers really looked
> into the money already being made on cap and trade and the sale of
> pollution credits? The next few years will be the proof of the
> pudding and Sunspot cycle 24 is still overdue. Gene PS: There is a
> Foundation  cranking up for the "preservation of CO2." It's all about
> increasing agriculture production. They will be looking for your tax
> exempt contributions.  Ain't this a great country or what!
> -- 
> No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
> ------------------------------------  
> -----------------------------------
> E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
> University of South Florida
> Marine Science Center (room 204)
> 140 Seventh Avenue South
> St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
> Tel 727 553-1158----------------------------------

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