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Discussion > So who's not in the 97%?

I think "measurable" is a bit of red herring, Roger. To measure something, you have to have a steady state against which to measure it. We can't really measure any effect we migth be having because we don't know what t does normally, we've only been looking a short while.

And to answet the measurable question : yes, I think we are having a marginal yet measurable effect on CO2 levels and possibly the climate (define 'climate' for a start!)

A more realistic questions would be:

"Do you think human activity is having an effect on the climate which moves its parameters out of the bounds of natural variability and its ability to absorb, recover or adapt to it?"

This question takes out of the equation us 97%ers who of course believe there is an effect, the crux of the matter is what that effect means.

May 17, 2013 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

But it's your question that doesn't make the grade, BigYin, isn't it?
It goes like this:
Q Do you believe that mankind has an influence on climate? A Yes.
Q See, even the deniers agree with us about AGW. A But, that's not quite what I ....
Q Shut up or I break your legs.
Conversation ends abruptly.

Yes, I am one of the 97% as I explained above.
No, I do not believe that this is in any way relevant to the way in which the climate actually behaves or the way in which we live our lives.
And if we are wrong there will be more than adequate time to adapt which is what humanity has been doing for millennia — as and when necessary.

May 17, 2013 at 1:53 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

They'll need to eat more fair-trade lentils if they want to break my legs :)

May 17, 2013 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Roger Longstaff (12:33 PM) -
I would unhesitatingly answer yes to both of your questions. I think TinyCO2 put it well above.

I find it difficult to believe that you can dismiss all human influence on climate, even if you're dubious of any greenhouse effect. Surely you've experienced some local effects, such as urban heating, or smog.

May 17, 2013 at 2:32 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Harold, by "climate" I mean the average surface temperature of the Earth. I agree with you about smog, urban heating, etc.

James, you say "We can't really measure any effect we migth be having because we don't know what it does normally, we've only been looking a short while." I respectfully disagree. We have historical records of the LIA (frozen Thames, etc.) and the MWP (dairy farming in Greenland, etc.) so we know that current temperatures are well within the bounds of normality, and no cause for concern.

As for CO2 - I do not trust the ice core methodology (as it disagrees with historical chemical measurements and stomata data), and I would expect outgassing after the LIA. In any event plants evolved with much higher concentrations of CO2, and we need all of the ploant food we can get in order to feed the Earth's teaming billions.

And do't even get me started on the absurdity of GCMs.....

I am proud to be a threepercenter!

May 17, 2013 at 3:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

It's not about what we believe but what evidence we have, how we can make our case. There is far too much emphasis on belief here without sound evidence or reasoning. It is not only fruitless to debate the consensus, it is wrong. Those who rely on consensus in lieu of a case, on belief instead of facts, are not being scientific.

I say again to the AGW crowd, make your case. If you believe in the absence of good evidence, you are no more than a gnostic, a self-anointed custodian of the arcane secrets.. I am agnostic, and that's how I must remain until someone can answer the questions I've posed here over the months.

May 17, 2013 at 4:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

There is a decent case to be made that global mean temperature, despite all the difficulties of defining and estimating it, has gently risen over the past 150 years or so.

We might all agree there has been 'global warming' in that time. I think we might all come to agree that that has probably been very beneficial to the biosphere in general and to humans in particular, but that is another matter. 'Warming' has been presented as a bad thing for so many decades, that the notion it could be beneficial might well astonish some people despite the common sense, intuitive appeal of it!

As for the human impact on this, I think we can also mostly agree there are theoretical grounds for supposing a modest warming effect from emissions of CO2 and the like, and a cooling effect from emissions of aerosols, and that we know that human activities contribute a small part of both.

We know there is a warming effect from building cities, as well as from such actions as putting AC exhausts near the thermometers of weather stations. But everything else is more messy.

The variability of the climate system is such that as far as the relative size and overall impact of human activities on the entire climate system is concerned, we might well emulate Zhou Enlai who when asked about the significance of the French Revolution, is said to have replied It is far too early to say..

So, my response to the two relevant questions in that rather low-grade survey reported on by Doran and Zimmerman (see http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2012/07/17/that-scientific-global-warming-consensus-not/3/ and http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/07/18/what-else-did-the-97-of-scientists-say/ for links and more insights) would now be:
When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant? YES
Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures? TOO EARLY TO SAY

Note that a person who believes there has been sustained global cooling due for example to our aerosol releases could answer Yes to each question. As could someone who thinks there has been little change in mean temperature, and human activity has been ‘significant’ in countering either rising or cooling trends due to other causes. And of course, Yes would be the immediate, unhesitating answer of those convinced by AGW with our without the C-prefixed. So, we can see that the questions do not have much by way of discriminatory power. In fact since climate always changes, the answer to the first question is always, and trivially, 'yes', no matter to which time period it be applied to. They are poor questions.

The 97% figure has been used as a kind of rhetorical club by political and scientific activists wishing to promote alarm about human influence on climate, and as such it needs to be handled with care and attention. There is little doubt that these activists have been extremely successful in their promotion of alarm in general, and in their promotion of the ‘97%’ figure in particular. The recent ‘tweet’ from Obama is but one of many signs of this.

Like so much of the rhetoric used by alarmists, the promotion of the ‘97%’ is overblown.

At one time, I would have said Yes to each question, taking 'significant' to mean 'probably detectable', but now I am not so sure. The uncertainties seem too large.

Richard’s suggested acid-test is whether one endorses the ‘consensus position’ that humans are causing global warming. But it is not an ideal one since it is not at all clear whether that would be construed as meaning ‘all’, or ‘some’, or indeed whether or not it is meant to be a net effect of all human impacts. I’ll assume he means we caused a lot of, perhaps most, of the overall temperature rise in the 20th Century.

I would not ‘endorse’ that myself, and I would be very dismayed if it were to be the consensus opinion of informed scientists on the matter. The evidence for it is sparse and unconvincing.

It is a speculation, and one that has proven to be devastatingly successful as a political level. Devastating for those who died from hunger when the diversion of land to produce bio-fuels pushed up food prices. Devastating for children who have been convinced than mankind is a blight on the planet and faces imminent doom. Less dramatic harms have also been caused, imho, to society in other ways. This is enough for us all to be very wary indeed of this ‘97%’ statistic, and of those who wish to lean on it.

May 17, 2013 at 5:07 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

The question is a snare, designed to drag us into the warmist camp by moving the goalposts so that we become part of their "concensus". As others have shown above, the trick is to ask one question then present the answers as agreeing to something quite different.

The solution is to take back control of the discussion by rejecting this question which is irrelevant, and instead asking "Is there hard evidence of significant, dangerous effects of AGW?" which is what actually matters.

I think the answer to that would be a lot less than 97% positive - in most cases you would get waffle about models, tipping points, precautionary principle etc.

I wonder how many warmist reports of this survey will mention that it is 97% of 79 people?

May 17, 2013 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

NW - surely if it is clear that the "consensus" is so widely drawn that it includes Mr Watts, BH and many people who comment here, then it is clear that the "consensus" is worthless. Then it puts the onus on the guys who think the planet is in danger - the barmists" - to define what makes them different from the normal people.

May 17, 2013 at 7:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Roger Longstaff -
Thanks for the clarification. It's true that "climate" is often used -- as in climate sensitivity -- as a shorthand for Global Average Surface Temperature, which is too gastly to say. Which is probably just as well, since there is no such thing as "Earth's climate" although there are many Earth climates, plural.
.
Definitions aside, while I agree that temperatures remain within the range of recent (millennial) history, I still don't get why you think that CO2 will have zero effect on temperature. Is it that you don't accept the greenhouse effect, or that you think that there is some compensating effect which self-adjusts to cancel greenhouse warming? Or some third alternative?

May 17, 2013 at 7:30 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Harold, there are many reasons why I do not think that anthropogenic CO2 will have any measurable effect on the average temperature of the Earth. I do not use the term "zero", as it does not exist in moderm physics (only the progression towards maximum entropy).

The CAGW hypothesis is based mostly on radiative physics, and the absorbtion bands of CO2. In my opinion (very briefly) this has been incorrectly applied (Holder's Inequality and the inability to model albedo), and furthermore ignores, or minimises, the effects of conduction and convection. The role of water, and its phase changes, has been underestimated, despite evidence of a billion years of life on Earth, which has required relatively stable temperatures. Basically it is a problem of non-equilibrium thermodynamics, applied to a rotating planet, with varying planetary dynamics and insolation.

As such, this describes a "climate attractor" (nothing at all to do with a Lorenz attractor) which must rationally be governed by a negative feedback loop, given the large historical changes in CO2, etc.

A poor explanation (I am tired), but perhaps you can see where I am coming from, when combined with my previous comments?

May 17, 2013 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Roger, your explanation does not rule out humans affecting the climate by adding CO2 to the atmosphere. You are instead arguing for a stable equilibrium in climate, which makes you and I almost completely in agreement. We add a bit of CO2, the temperature may go up a bit in the short term, but some other effect dampens and reverses that change. Over a time period, climate settles back to the same equilibrium that has survived cometary impact, continent-wide vulcanism, glacial ages, etc over millions of years. It's obvious that our climate is pretty much a stable equilibrium, or else the inhospitable universe would have snuffed it out by now simply due to entropy.

You are not one of the 3%. In fact, I would say that the only people in the 3% are the Slayers.

May 17, 2013 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

OK James, I can just about live with that - except when I tunnel into the 3% to ensure that I am diametrically opposed to the CAGW fraudsters!

May 17, 2013 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Diogenes, it's a bait - and - switch. The "consensus" presented to us in this thread and which we are invited to join is not what will be presented to the world - see the Obama quote further up the thread for an example. As a regular here you must know that the loudest voices in the warmist game cannot be trusted to behave ethically.

The name of the game is "climate communication"; the next step is "See, we have got them to agree it is happening, now we just need to work on getting them to see how bad it is and what we need to do about it."

May 17, 2013 at 10:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

All of the evidence shows that AGW is entirely negligable.
May 17, 2013 at 9:42 AM Roger Longstaff


To me that sounds like a statement that it exists, albeit it is insignificant.

May 17, 2013 at 10:29 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

A remarkable proportion of the controversies and impasses in climate debates can be analyzed in relation to ambiguities and confusions of meanings. If climatologists were somehow to cease committing the "fallacy of equivocation" (ignoring or misusing differences in the meanings of words) then we could do away with these reckless conflations of "any AGW" with dangerous AGW" and "catastrophic AGW" and also every variant of "climate change" ....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equivocation

May 18, 2013 at 1:30 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Where's Richard Betts? I believe we've established that the deniers aren't denying any human impact. But what is the point of this exercise? During the last year or so I've come around to the belief that a large number of those in the catastrophe tent are, for want of a better word "naive". This has demonstrated itself, to me at least, in three ways. The first is that they assume that we're all pretty dumb and that when it comes to the science they're going to run rings round us viz. Rob Wilson, and in my case Doug McNeall, where they find themselves unable to engage because they hadn't thought of the questions they were going to be asked. The second, and for me the most important, demonstration of their naivety is that the believe we can stop CO2 emissions without destroying the fabric of western industrialised societies. And willingly give sustenance to the environmentalist whose object is to do just that. The third is they seem to believe that if enough scientists support a hypothesis then it must be true, this is in the face of a historical case book a mile high of scientific consensus being wrong.

Now I know Richard is a gentleman, but I have to ask why he bothered to ask the denizens of this blog if they were in the (fictional, by the way) 97% who believed humans caused global warming? Personally I would have thought it obvious that the people on this blog are aware that human activities will affect the climate, you'd have had to have been on a mission to alpha centauri not to understand that. So what's the purpose Richard? You're not John Cook or Lewandowski.

May 18, 2013 at 4:59 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Well, here I am at an unearthly hour back at the computer. I didn't quite wake up screaming in the night, but I did wake up and I did start thinking I had blundered in parts of my comment posted earlier. It was shrunk down from a much larger even more rambling one, but I see now my reduction of the first of the two survey questions to a 'Yes, No' one makes a bit of a parody of it. I had earlier been looking at all the combinations of answers that might well be agreed with by reasonable people (I found that a case could be made for all of them!), but I should have returned to the original formulation for my comments. The offending material is in paragraphs 6 and 7 of my earlier comment. Here is my re-write of them in which I try to minimise the editing required:

So, my response to the two relevant questions in that rather low-grade survey reported on by Doran and Zimmerman (see http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2012/07/17/that-scientific-global-warming-consensus-not/3/ and http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/07/18/what-else-did-the-97-of-scientists-say/ for links and more insights) would now be:
When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant? RISEN
Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures? TOO EARLY TO SAY

Note that a person who believes there has been sustained global cooling due for example to our aerosol releases could answer Yes to the second question (along with 'fallen'). As could someone who thinks there has been little change in mean temperature, and human activity has been ‘significant’ in countering either rising or cooling trends due to other causes. And of course, Yes would be the immediate, unhesitating answer of those convinced by AGW with our without the C-prefixed. So, we can see that the questions do not have much by way of discriminatory power. In fact since climate is so variable, and both our data and our perceptions so limited, any of the three answers to the first question could be found plausible throughout our history, and if you take 'significant' to mean little more than 'existing' in the second question, it would readily be answered in the affirmative - whether you think it is because someone angered the weather gods, or chopped down some trees, or sent smoke into the air.

Now, before I go back and catch up on my sleep, I must say I am glad not to be in the public eye. I hate to think of the fun a hostile press could have had with my careless comment earlier! I am resolved to try to give other people more slack!

May 18, 2013 at 5:14 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

I put myself in the 97% to make it plain to Richard Betts that even the most extreme unscientific denialist agrees with him, but of course I have no important difference with the three percenters.
The survey is not about facts or even opinions about climate, but about the opinions of a self-selected group of people about the likely underlying opinions of some other people. It is so uninteresting it’s not even boring. As Rhoda says so well: “There is far too much emphasis on belief here without sound evidence or reasoning”.
What differentiates us from the warmists (or “barmists” as diogenes delightfully calls them) is simply the addition of the terms “dangerous” (B. Obama) or “significant risk of negative impacts” (R. Betts). The motor car carries significant risks. So we invented traffic lights. What is it that Obama and Richard Betts don’t understand about the world we live in?

May 18, 2013 at 7:20 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it"

May 18, 2013 at 8:44 AM | Unregistered Commentersplitpin

Well, here I am at an unearthly hour back at the computer. I didn't quite wake up screaming in the night, but I did wake up and I did start thinking I had blundered in parts of my comment posted earlier.

(...)
May 18, 2013 at 5:14 AM John Shade

John, don't worry. Nobody reads long posts anyway.

May 18, 2013 at 8:49 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Just a thought ...
Put into words by BigYin last night.
We all keep saying that climate is always changing hence the phrase" climate change" is misleading or meaningless. But perhaps we ought to banish that concept and instead concentrate on the idea that climate does not change, with the obvious exception of major upheavals like the switch into and out of ice ages or the effects of major eruptions or asteroid strike — and even then the effects are (in earth terms if not human ones) short-lived.
What does vary and what human beings are to an extent influencing is weather.
It is human activity that has reduced the snow cover on Kilimanjaro but the climate of Africa has not changed.
The recovery from the little ice age has caused the weather to become warmer over much of the northern hemisphere but it has not altered the climate which is still pretty much as it has been for the last few thousand years — a bit warmer than 200 years ago; a bit cooler than 2000 years ago.
All the evidence I see from observation is that the earth does have a sort of built-in control system (the oceans mainly, I think) which serves to keep the various climates within certain fairly well-defined limits.

Discuss!

And while you're all doing that I'm off for a week's holiday — and I am planning to leave the laptop behind!!

May 18, 2013 at 8:50 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I think you're doing Richard Betts a slight disservice. I think (hope) the object of the thread was to poke slight fun at the 97% figure, and demonstrate that we shouldn't get upset about it, because we're all part of it. Even amongst skeptics, 97% believe we can and possibly do have some effect on the climate. (Yes, and the 97% figure is completely idiotic, as we all know - just use 'most' from now on)

There's three points here to consider:

First, when extremist AGWers use the 97%, they use it fraudulently. Yes, 'most' people, even sceptics, believe human activity can cause changes to the climate. That doesn't mean that 'most' people agree with their conclusions about the extreme consequences of this. They also don't agree with their proposed solutions. But that is what they claim when they use it - that most people agree with them on the full gamut of their beliefs. This is why we get upset about its use, Richard Betts.

Secondly, the 97% is an opinion poll, not a scientific experiment. The reason we have to go on opinion is because there is insufficient scientific data to base proper scientific conclusions on. The 97% is where the dirty world of politicking and opinion-forming overlaps with the cold, hard realistic world of science and engineering. The most widely misunderstood aspect of the global warming consensus is that the 97% is guessing based on their gut feelings. Not science. The fact that the 97% was borne out of politics poking its nose into science is also why we resent it, Richard Betts.

Lastly, climate science as a 'team' always appear to address the 3% when talking about us or to us. They always take the most extreme silly view (denial) and address that as if it represented all of the sceptic view. Trolls do it here, Mann does it in TV interviews. They refuse to admit that most of the opposition to their activism (about 97% I'd guess) is based on good and reasonable scientific scepticism which they have a scientific duty to address and deal with properly. But they never do. They find it easier to attack the 3% of fringe ridiculous opposition. This is scientific cowardice.

So while I agree that the 97% is nothing to get upset about, it represents a way of thinking that we completely abhor, and encapsulates the cowardly, unscientific way that some AGW proponents think.

May 18, 2013 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

The finding of the Betts survey - do not accept imitations - is

∀ x: slayer || warmist & lo, ∃ barmist

97% of readers will agree with this.

May 18, 2013 at 10:05 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Thanks for all the replies. Yes, I did think the paper is slightly pointless as it's not actually addressing the main issue of the debate. It seems that most people, including here, accept that human emissions of greenhouse gases have at least some influence on climate. Therefore it's a trivial result to claim consensus on that point. The real debate is on the level of risk posed by future climate change, and how to respond to that.

May 18, 2013 at 10:25 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts