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Meet John Doe: Climate change is not global warming, and neither are hoaxes

June 18, 2014

Paul Gorski

Paul Gorski

By Paul Gorski

I am writing this article with the global climate change naysayer in mind.

Some people seemed confused about climate change, global warming, the facts surrounding these topics, and the scientific theories used to explain these phenomena.

I have read some odd articles and/or comments in local and national news sources discussing climate change, so I thought I would clarify some of the key points.

First, there are climate facts, usually documented direct measurements or calculated measurements of temperature, sea level, water acidity and more. Then, there are the theories that scientists develop from these facts.

Some relevant climate facts include: oceans are warming, ice sheets are shrinking, glaciers are retreating, sea levels are rising, and the ocean is becoming more acidic.

In addition, the number of extreme warm-weather events is at an all-time high since 1950, and the average global surface temperature has risen at a high rate since the 1970s.

Ice core analyses and recent direct measurements suggest that the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) level is higher now than at any time in the past 650,000 years. See http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/ for the references to support these measurements.

Scientists have developed two theories from these facts: 1) humans have caused the increased atmospheric CO2; and 2) global climate change is occurring as a result of this additional atmospheric CO2.

You may choose to challenge the theories that humans are the cause of the CO2 increase and/or that the increased CO2 is causing climate change, but please challenge these theories with facts.

However, global warming is not a theory, it is one subset of climate change facts — global warming describes the set of measurements that document the increase in global surface temperatures.

I make the distinction between fact and theory so we can focus on the public policy decisions we still need to make about the facts. Sea levels are rising; what does this mean to coastal communities? Average temperatures are rising, causing shifts in national corn, grain and soybean farming regions: how do we adjust?

You might not care that polar bears face extinction, but we need to deal with our own water, food and natural resource concerns. Governments and communities need to deal with reality.

We can react to rising temperatures and rising sea levels by moving farms and communities, but we might be playing that game for a very long time. Or, we can address the root causes of these problems. You may not agree that humans are the cause of these problems or that reducing car and power plant emissions are part of the solution. That is OK. I am all for hearing any viable solutions to these problems. Right now, I believe global climate change is real and that we can do something about it, largely by adjusting how we use and generate energy in this country.

Learn more about alternative and green energy options by reading the renewable energy column in this newspaper: http://rockrivertimes.com/category/living/renewable-energy/.

Paul Gorski (paul@paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident.

From the June 18-24, 2014, issue

16 Comments

  1. William Roosa

    June 18, 2014 at 7:44 am

    If you look at ALL the temperature data and not just the data from the English source (there are 5 data sets) you will see no large temp increase. If you confine your temp data to the English source you do see a large temp rise in the last 50ish years however. I believe the term for this is “cherry picking” the data.
    Not all facts are created equal. Another instance of bad science parading as good and being touted as “uncontested”

    • klem

      June 18, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      However if you look at global satellite temperature data, you see that we’ve had 17.8 years of flat global temperatures. That’s MORE than half the entire time satellites have been recording global temperatures.

      Cool huh?

  2. William Roosa

    June 18, 2014 at 7:47 am

    try this site for a more “rounded” analysis of the “facts”
    http://www.nipccreport.org/reports/2009/2009report.html

    • BooS

      June 18, 2014 at 10:43 am

      The NIPCC? That is the worst report ever created. At least get your facts from somewhere credible, even if you disagree with the statements in the article.

  3. AR

    June 18, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    What caused previous warming and glaciation periods?
    http://serc.carleton.edu/eslabs/cryosphere/4a.html

    • Odin2

      June 18, 2014 at 10:50 pm

      When you have nothing substantive, the only alternative is to attack the source. I found the NIPCC to be very informative.

      I think that the following is illuminative of the UN’s IPCC and it’s definition of climate change:

      “In the ordinary sense of the term, everyone realizes that the climate changes, and there is no argument about it. However, there is a very special limited definition given to the term by the U.N. around 1990: “Climate Change” refers only to changes caused by mankind’s emissions of CO2. Under that restricted definition, anyone who doesn’t think that CO2 is the cause of the changes we’re experiencing is labeled a “denier” of Climate Change. The frequently-recited figure of “97% consensus” is too small for the percentage of scientists who recognize climate change in the ordinary sense of the term; it’s much closer to 100%. But in the specialized U.N. sense (about CO2 driving the change), there is widespread disagreement based on reliable opposing scientific data.”

      The UN’s definition of “climate change” defines the IPCC’s mission. That is to prove that CO2 directly causes global warming or cooling. That is why the IPCC’s approach is so biased and unscientific. The scientific approach would be to start out investigating what factors affect climate change? Instead, the IPCC started out with a preconceived agenda.

  4. Paul Gorski

    June 18, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Thanks folks, nice debate with references to to facts and studies. (And thank you for not citing Wikipedia, which is not authoritative.)

    AR,
    The article you reference clearly states the author believes increased CO2 levels are causing a change right now. But playing the devil’s advocate, I’d like to see if the other known historical factors: earth’s tilt, eccentricity, and precession are having an effect today.

    William Roosa and BooS,
    I work in the world of peer-reviewed scientific literature, and while reports like the NIPCC report may contain some valid data and analyses, I’d like to see reports that have gone through a serious scientific review. I will admit though that some research that has undergone a serious scientific review, and was accepted as being valid, has later shown to be inaccurate.

    klem,
    Send me or post the references for your satellite data.

    Regarding the claims of Roosa and klem that global temps are flat, that was refuted in this article:
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2010RG000345/full

    “Even a more moderate assessment [Solomon et al., 2010, p. 1219], “the trend in global surface temperature has been nearly flat since the late 1990s despite continuing increases in the forcing due to the sum of the well-mixed greenhouse gases,” is not supported by our data. On the contrary, we conclude that there has been no reduction in the global warming trend of 0.15°C–0.20°C per decade that began in the late 1970s.”

    That doesn’t mean the authors of this article are correct, it just means we have different analyses of similar numbers.

    Keep the comments coming! Thank you for reading the Rock River Times.

    Paul Gorski

  5. Stuart Gifford

    June 18, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Something,or someone,causes Climate Change,which,at the moment,is causing
    Global Warming.Read Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers”(Text Publishing
    Melb Aust),esp Ch 1,”Gaia”.Then,consider Australia’s Indigenous Civilization,”sustained” for tens of thousands of years,with its unique concepts of Reciprocity,Environmental Spirituality( and “Law”),etc.
    The Proof is in the Pudding!

  6. Odin2

    June 18, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    !7 years and 9 months of no global temperature increase despite increasing concentrations of CO2. The polar bear population has been increasing and not decreasing. The polar bear population may be close to maximum sustainable levels. Temperatures were higher during the Medieval Warming Period when there was no human generated CO2 to speak of except breathing.

  7. Paul Gorski

    June 19, 2014 at 1:57 am

    Further fueling the discussion, I encourage visitors to this page to read these related articles:

    Carbon credits no longer make sense
    http://rockrivertimes.com/2014/06/18/carbon-credits-no-longer-make-sense/

    and

    Solar on all federal buildings?
    http://rockrivertimes.com/2014/06/17/solar-on-all-federal-buildings/

    Paul Gorski

  8. Grant Odermatt

    June 19, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Just because you observe a particular change in the earths climate(fact), doesn’t mean that your theory to how that change happened is more plausible than another scientist using different scientific theory.Lets not forget it’s only a theory until properly tested and proven. I have heard just as much convincing argument for the sun to be driving climate as co2 and how climate drives co2 levels not the other way round.We need an open and unbiased properly run world scientific theory debate,but in today’s scientific community that is almost impossible.

  9. William Teach

    June 19, 2014 at 8:02 am

    “You may choose to challenge the theories that humans are the cause of the CO2 increase and/or that the increased CO2 is causing climate change, but please challenge these theories with facts. ”

    Fact: despite rising CO2 levels, there has been a pause, meaning the rise of temps has been statistically insignificant, for 17 years and 9 months. Despite rising CO2 levels, there was a 30 year pause from the 40′s through 70′s, which even had temperatures decreasing.

    Fact: non-massaged data shows that it was warmer during the 1930′s.

    Fact: there have been multiple warm periods during the Holocene that were warmer than today

    Fact: Sea level rise is completely consistent with what one would expect during a Holocene warm period.

    Fact: most polar bear populations are doing fine, just like they did during the previous Holocene warm periods

    Fact: climate changes. Always has, always will.

    Fact: CO2 levels tend to lag behind temperature increases, not precede them

    Fact: You provided no scientific facts to back your assertion that the current warm period is caused by Mankind’s output of CO2, just typical verbiage. You can “believe” all you want, but it is up to you to prove your hypothesis. Nor did you provide any solutions.

    How about telling us what you’ve done within your own life. Have you given up all fossil fueled travel and made your own life “carbon neutral”?

  10. Jimmy

    June 19, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    “the number of extreme warm-weather events is at an all-time high since 1950″
    Depends on how you measure/define extreme warm-weather events. Interesting that you cut off “all-time” at 1950. It’s a good thing there was no time before that to have things like dust bowls and the sort.

    “the average global surface temperature has risen at a high rate since the 1970s.”
    As several several people have pointed out in the comments, the last 17ish years have not seen a rise in average global surface temperature (exact time depending on which dataset you use). It’s more accurate to say that the average surface temperature appeared to rise sharply for about 20 years starting in the late 1970′s (a rate that was so high as to be similar to rate of temperature rise from about 1910 to 1940), before tapering off or possibly even stopping in the past 12-17 years (again, exact time depends on the temperature dataset).

    From the comments section: “Regarding the claims of Roosa and klem that global temps are flat, that was refuted in this article”
    The article you cited was from 2010, and only included data through 2009, and only used one temperature dataset. We now have 4+ years of additional data, revealing that the rate of temperature rise has at least dramatically decreased from the rate observed during the late 70′s through late 90′s. There are also multiple other datasets, all of which show a more pronounced “pause” than the one dataset from the paper.

    “Scientists have developed two theories from these facts”
    I’m certainly glad that you are wrong about that, otherwise the science behind the theories of climate change would be incredibly weak. Why do I say that? All you did is show a bit of a correlation and call it causation: Carbon dioxide has gone up, so has temperatures, therefore it is undeniable that one caused the other. Lucky for the science, carbon dioxide has physical properties that make it a very good candidate for increasing the earth’s average surface temperature. These facts about carbon dioxide, which you completely omitted, are critical to giving the theories of climate change any credence.

    “However, global warming is not a theory”
    When most people talk about global warming, they are referring specifically to human-caused global warming, which is a theory. It’s only not a theory to you because you have defined it differently.

    “You might not care that polar bears face extinction”
    When the polar bears start to face extinction, then come ask me if I care. Some populations of the bears are increasing, some decreasing, and the reasons behind those changes are much more complex than just blaming it on global warming.

    “we can address the root causes of these problems.”
    Can we? What can I do to decrease the carbon dioxide emissions of China or India? Or what can I do to address localized sea level rise due to plate tectonics or ground subsidence? Or what can I do to address the portion of increased global temperatures that is due to non-human caused factors?

    From the comments: “klem,Send me or post the references for your satellite data.”
    A wonderful compilation of all sorts of climate-change related data, as well as tools for graphing it in various ways, can be found at woodfortrees.org. I assume that Klem was referring to the RSS dataset.

  11. Jack Wolf

    June 21, 2014 at 6:11 am

    He forgot to add vegetation zones are changing too. And, to all the nay-sayers here, the temperatures are hotter as evidenced by all the record temperatures. 2012 was the hottest year on record and nine of the ten hottest years on record have been since 1998. And, you cherry pick your data by using 1998 as your graphical start point – that was a year with an exceptional el nino. Expand your time frame and you will see that it got hot and stayed hot.

  12. Paul Gorski

    June 22, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    I thank all of you for posting your comments. I will be writing a follow-up article to address many of the issues raised here. Some people have chosen to email me rather than post here and I will try to incorporate as many pro and con points as I can.

    I would like to address a few issues now.

    1) The summary of study that indicated flat temperature changes in the past 17 years (Solomon) has been discredited, so I suggest naysayers stop citing it. You really don’t need it for your arguments anyway.

    2) The fact is that while pro-climate change folks argue their long lists of facts lead a straight line to their conclusions, I don’t believe that is actually the case. There is obviously much interpretation, and hence debate, about those facts.

    3) Yes, there has been climate change, long before humans existed. We agree on that.

    4) Citing personal blogs or news sites is not the type of data I’m looking for. If you find a blog or news site that lists the original sources for the data you reference, site the original sources if possible. I realize some of the sources are behind pay walls; I don’t expect you to pay for the article.

    4) None of the arguments posed here contradict my key points:

    a) Global warming is a term used to describe data that indicates average global temps are rising (feel free to challenge the data set, but it still remains a data set).

    b) Climate change is a hypothesis, some would argue a theory because of data to support it and supposed models that can be tested.

    c) Neither are hoaxes. Climate change and global warming are not “humorous or malicious deceptions” but rather offered up as legitimate theories and or data sets. Folks feel passionate for or against. The debate is no hoax. If you believe either to be a hoax, offer why how anyone would benefit from such a deception.

    5) Citing personal blogs or news sites is not the type of data I’m looking for. If you find a blog or news site that lists the original sources for the data you reference, site the original sources if possible. I realize some of the sources are behind pay walls; I don’t expect you to pay for the article. I’m not interested in either Fox News or Huffington Post links as neither will be objective or lead to peer-reviewed studies.

    Thanks again. Look for a follow-up article soon.

    Paul Gorski

  13. chrissie

    July 30, 2014 at 8:16 am

    Good and easily understood piece on what constitutes fact and theory.
    I find ‘Potholer54′ on Youtube to have a similar objective overview. Are you familar with his work?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpcwyeGQlA8

    best C

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