The Key Disconnect in the Climate Debate

Much of the climate debate turns on a single logical fallacy.  This fallacy is clearly on display in some comments by UK Prime Minister David Cameron:

It’s worth looking at what this report this week says – that [there is a] 95 per cent certainty that human activity is altering the climate. I think I said this almost 10 years ago: if someone came to you and said there is a 95 per cent chance that your house might burn down, even if you are in the 5 per cent that doesn’t agree with it, you still take out the insurance, just in case.”

"Human activity altering climate" is not the same thing as an environmental catastrophe (or one's house burning down).  The statement that he is 95% certain that human activity is altering climate is one that most skeptics (including myself) are 100% sure is true.  There is evidence that human activity has been altering the climate since the dawn of agriculture.  Man's changing land uses have been demonstrated to alter climate, and certainly man's incremental CO2 is raising temperatures somewhat.

The key question is -- by how much?  This is a totally different question, and, as I have written before, is largely dependent on climate theories unrelated to greenhouse gas theory, specifically that the Earth's climate system is dominated by large positive feedbacks.  (Roy Spenser has a good summary of the issue here.)

The catastrophe is so uncertain that for the first time, the IPCC left estimates of climate sensitivity to CO2 out of its recently released summary for policy makers, mainly because it was not ready to (or did not want to) deal with a number of recent studies yielding sensitivity numbers well below catastrophic levels.  Further, the IPCC nearly entirely punted on the key question of how it can reconcile its past high sensitivity/ high feedback based temperature forecasts with past relative modest measured warming rates, including a 15+ year pause in warming which none of its models predicted.

The overall tone of the new IPCC report is one of declining certainty -- they are less confident of their sensitivity numbers and less confident of their models which have all been a total failure over the last 15 years. They have also backed off of other statements, for example saying they are far less confident that warming is leading to severe weather.

Most skeptics are sure mankind is affecting climate somewhat, but believe that this effect will not be catastrophic.  On both fronts, the IPCC is slowly catching up to us.


  1. mlhouse:

    Another thing is also certain: warmth >>>>> cold. One of the weakest arguments that the climate mongers make is that all of the impact on "warming" would be negative when in fact it could have many positive benefits from increasing crop yields to reducing the need for energy to heat our homes. Global cooling, on the other hand, could create mass starvation and war to control the more limited arable land available to feed a population. If we are to error, we should error towards warming and not the other way around.

  2. skhpcola:

    "...certainly man's incremental CO2 is raising temperatures somewhat."

    Bullshit. Increases in CO2 are lagged to rises in average temperatures--that is, increased levels of CO2 occur more than 100 years (IIRC) after temperatures rise...not the other way around, putting the lie to this myth. That data isn't difficult to find and is well-known. Not to pick nits, but when you are waxing heterodox vis a vis AGW, you need to be telling the truth and avoid silly errors, even if those errors would seem to make you sound reasonable to the AGW retards.

  3. mahtso:

    What kind of insurance is the Prime Minister recommending? My homeowner’s insurance does not stop a fire, it pays me to replace my home if one occurs. A better analogy is: would I go to the trouble to retrofit my home with fire sprinklers in my home if I knew there was a 95% chance of fire. That would of course depend in large part on the effectiveness of the sprinklers.

  4. papertiger0:

    Probably thinking of Progressive Insurance, or the Government Employees Insurance Company (providing state mandated insurance coverage since FDR's Great Depression)

  5. MingoV:

    There is zero reliable evidence that increased atmospheric CO2 raises global temperatures. Even if you buy the idea that planet earth can be a greenhouse (which I don't), there is a logical fallacy about CO2. Assume increased CO2 increases atmospheric temperatures. The warmer air causes increased evaporation. The increased evaporation causes cloud formation. But, because the air is warmer, the clouds form at a higher altitude. Higher altitude clouds increase planetary albedo. More sunlight is reflected away from earth, and temperatures fall. This was carefully modeled by a climatologist at MIT. Amazingly, not one of the 25 climate models submitted to the IPCC in 2003 included clouds as a factor. Neither did the "meta-model" promulgated by the IPCC. Isn't it strange that climate models don't include clouds?

  6. Kyle:

    Bullshit right back atcha. Your "argument" is a non sequitur. It's logically equivalent to saying, "Chickens don't lay eggs because chickens have been observed hatching from eggs."

  7. skhpcola:

    Your "refutation" is the usual sophistry of AGW cultists. Look at the graphs provided by the mendacious freaks that promote AGW hysteria. CO2 levels clearly are not causally-related to increasing temps, and they are only correlated by numerous lagged decades. If you are unfamiliar with the data or data analysis, perhaps you should bone up on your deficiencies before being a peevish and ignorant asshole.

  8. Kyle:

    I didn't even attempt a thorough refutation, though I could. The rest of your rant consists of unsupported characterizations of vague allusions to science followed by your unsupported conclusions. You see, I am familiar with the data and the analysis.

    And last, but not least, you made no attempt whatsoever to defend the indefensible. My analogy stands unchallenged except by baseless smack talk.

    Let me make it perfectly clear. The fact that CO2 levels rise in response to warming events initiated by other forcing factors doesn't constitute an argument against the validity of warming initiated by CO2 in any way whatsoever. In fact, all it really does in the current situation is serve as solid evidence of a CO2 positive feedback. I doubt that's the point you'd like to make, but you did so regardless.

    Considering the facts - and they arevfacts -

  9. Kyle:

    that CO2 is rising over 100 times faster than at any time in at least 800,000 years and that human CO2 emissions are over 100 times that of the primary source, volcanism, and that the recent increase perfectly accounts for the observed warming while no other forcing function comes close, and that four different patterns in thecwarmimg are slam dunk indicators of GHE warming, you've got some work cut out for you.

  10. skhpcola:

    "that CO2 is rising over 100 times faster than at any time in at least 800,000 years and that human CO2 emissions ate over 100 times that of the primary source, volcanism..."

    That you are such a brazen and unashamed liar marks you as a particularly egregious asshole. Filthy cultists aren't worth the effort. Looking at your Disqus history, I see that you don your cape and mask every day and run around the intarwebs, dropping your lies and propaganda everywhere that you find people not engaging in AGW cult boosterism. You've got some work cut out...intelligent people already know what you filthy assholes are about and more of the low-info public are disregarding your bullshit every day.

  11. Kyle:

    Well, well, well. You called me a liar but didn't bother to point out a lie. You felt it necessary to scope out my posting history, accused me of previous lies as well, but what's this? Still no indication of what is a lie.

    A thinking person can only conclude that your failure to be specific is an intentional maneuver intended to decrease the likelihood that I will prove your accusations to be wrong.

    I think that you know that I'm right on pretty much everything that I've claimed and that you strongly suspect that I can provide supporting evidence of that.

    Care to be specific or do you prefer some more smack talk instead. If the latter, I accept your concession. That's clearly what it would be, though of the usual science denier variety - with maximum dishonesty.

  12. skhpcola:

    I pointed out your lies in the quotation at the beginning of my previous comment. Of course, you aren't a dumbass--although you prefer to act like one--so you know that is what I was calling "bullshit" on. From a casual perusal of your Disqus commentary, I know that you are a passive-aggressive asshole that assumes an air of dismissal and superior intelligence when you are called out. Whatev, assclown. Filthy fucktards like yourself can't be persuaded or dissuaded with logic or facts, because your sort is more rabid about your AGW cult than any fanatic of any religion in the history of earth. You are a liar, an obtuse asshole, and a filthy progressive tool.

    Your smack talk is humorous. Self-assured sphincters always get laughs from people who recognize that the self-assurance is actually self-delusion. You think that you are correct about your idiotic mantras and made-up "facts"? Goody for you, asshole! Now you can slime back to your progressive buddies and brag about how you have slain another "denialist" (a term that you use often, which is also a reliable indicator of a douchebag that has fully embraced the AGW dogma).

  13. Kyle:

    LOL! I didn't think that you were an actual know-nothing that was calling these facts - trivially easy to verify facts - lies. I mistook you for a more sophisticated semi-pro liar instead. That said, the sheer volume of infantile insults and smack talk (cute how you tried to project it onto me using the same words) makes me believe that you now know exactly how easily they can be verified. Per std denier (accurate descriptor) tactics, you're desperately attempting to poison the well, derail the conversation, or bury your implosion under a mountain of BS that no one will read - or some combo.

    I'm also guessing that you're already digging up denier lies about these easily verifiable facts in preparation for my supporting them with PEER REVIEWED SCIENCE. I'm not even going to bother. You know that I posted facts. Go ahead, denier scum, let's see some long-refuted lies and hand-waving nonsense from retired weathermen and unemployed engineers. (face -> palm)

  14. Kyle:

    Well, denier scum, are you going to disappear rather than admit your errors? That would also be std science denier MO. In fact, I have NEVER had a science denier concede a point, no matter how trivial, even on a tangential issue, even when so cornered that a potted plant could see that conceding would be the only honest thing to do. Seriously n.o.t. .a. .s.i.n.g.l.e. .t.i.m.e. This perfect record is shared - along with many other characteristics - with creationists. This is not coincidental. It also says something about science deniers' desire to find the truth - or lack thereof.

  15. Kyle:

    Resolved - Denier scum skhpcola has maintained the perfect record of science deniers by refusing to acknowledge error. The lesson kids? You tell me. What should one conclude when one side of a debate is consistently dishonest?

  16. skhpcola:

    Yes, YES, Sooper Fucktard!!1! You have won the intartoobs through your use of spurious, "PEER REVIEWED SCIENCE[Y]" "facts" and your desperate desire to cling to a dogma that has been proved to be fabricated and promulgated by demonstrable liars. Yes, yes, YES!!! Pfft. You retards are pitiable. Entertaining, in a way that the Special Olympics never could be, because those people are actually trying to overcome their handicaps, while fucking retards like yourselves embrace your deficiencies and celebrate them. Fucking idiot.

  17. skhpcola:

    Your impotent down-votes are also amusing. Another endearing quality of illiterates, ignoramuses, and retards.

  18. Kyle:

    You were better off disappearing. All you've done is admit - in the least intellectually honest way possible - that I am absolutely right about both human CO2 emissions being 100+ times that of volcanism and the current rate of increase being 100+ times greater than at any time in at least 800,000 yrs.

    Calling me lots of names doesn't conceal the fact that you falsely accused me of lying about both facts. It also proves my point - denier scum aren't amenable to facts. Science denial and conspiracism are dogmatic belief systems. Thanks for illustrating it so well.

  19. skhpcola:

    I didn't "disappear," you inglorious bastard. I've been on this website for many, many years. Fuck off and get back to work, leech.

    Stand on your "science"-y bullshit all that you wish. You mention intellectual dishonesty, yet cannot allow yourself to acknowledge the voluminous fraud committed by AGW cultist "scientists." Well, then. Your entire ideological framework is a farce. Keep on believing that you--against all odds and evidence--possess superior knowledge. If that soothes your wilted retard brainstem, then I applaud you for coping with your defect. Although, I will note, that you are projecting your retardation just a bit too strongly. Fucking idiot.

  20. Kyle:

    Your increasingly ad hominem attacks, full of bare assertions yet void of any support, clearly reveal that you're incapable of admitting error and thereby adjusting your positions to incorporate reality. Likewise, your repeated dismissive references to science, even specifically referencing peer review, clearly reveal your anti-science leanings.

    Your projection is astounding. It is you that illustrates the Dunning-Kreuger Effect by insisting that you know better than thousands of PHD's and every national science academy on Earth. Of course, you inevitably justify this claim by invoking a conspiracy theory, yet only make vague allusions to support it. I'm sure that confirmation bias has rendered you cocksure that every manufactured climate scandal is a proven fact. Nevermind that they've all been eviscerated and shown to be grossly dishonest accusations targeting rubes like yourself. You've probably no idea that, just like creationist arguments, they are routinely shredded immediately after first employed. Just like creationists, climate deniers also continue to repeat refuted claims forever.

    Now you're implicitly claiming that the field of volcanology is a global conspiracy as well. You have no choice if you're going to dismiss one of my facts. The bulk of human CO2 emissions is from fossil fuel consumption. Data for that is readily available and impossible to fake by orders of magnitude (as would be needed to justify your denial based on that side of the equation). Converting that to CO2 is elementary. Therefore, in order for you to maintain your willful ignorance and dogmatic beliefs, you must claim that volcanologists have always understated volcanisms CO2 emissions.

    The simplest thing to do would be to man up and admit that you were wrong.

    I guarantee that you're not capable of doing so.

    And, as I've often said, the conspiracy theorist / science deniers' continued refusal to be rational or honest is the best evidence that they're wrong for the average Joe who can't assess the science. There's only one rational conclusion when one side of an argument is consistently dishonest.

  21. Kyle:

    Unchallenged Fact #1:

    "The fact that CO2 levels rise in response to warming events initiated by other forcing factors doesn't constitute an argument against the validity of warming initiated by CO2 in any way whatsoever. In fact, all it really does in the current situation is serve as solid evidence of a CO2 positive feedback."

  22. Kyle:

    Unchallenged Fact #2:

    "CO2 is rising over 100 times faster than at any time in at least 800,000 years"

  23. Kyle:

    Unchallenged Fact #3:

    "Human CO2 emissions are over 100 times that of the primary source, volcanism."

  24. Kyle:

    I'm waiting for an apology. You called me a liar on two different claims that you clearly now know to be indisputably correct. You called me lots of names as well, no doubt justified in your mind by my "lies", so other apologies are owed as well.

    However, I would much rather that you simply admit your errors.

    I reiterate my prediction: You aren't capable of this most basic element of rational discourse. No science denier is, in my experience. NONE.

  25. Kyle:

    Well wingnuts? Not one of you wants to challenge my facts? Not one of you wants to distance yourself from the guy that falsely accused me? Maybe apologise for his actions? Or are you all going to display the usual nutter solidarity. That's the ubiquitous phenomena, particularly among the climate denier and creationist brands of conspiracism, to completely tolerate and even rise to the defense of all fellow nutters regardless of any incompatible conspiracy theories, ridiculous flawed arguments, or atrocious behavior.

    It's one of the dependable characteristics of dealing with dogmatic deniers of any facet of reality, such as moon landing hoaxers and 9/11 truthers.

  26. $74761448:

    You conclude that they are full-O-shyte. Just like rational people did when the IPCC came out and admitted that they bullshîtted most of their numbers and made graphs that were completely phony in order to fool the dumbest into our society. How do I know that they targeted the dumbest, you ask? Well even after the admission some people still believed the admittedly cooked information. I would label this group as dumb as a bag of hammers, but I would not want to bring any undue insult to any bags and hammers out there.

  27. $74761448:

    "I think that you know that I'm right on pretty much everything that I've
    claimed and that you strongly suspect that I can provide supporting
    evidence of that." Conceited much? The level of arrogance is almost laughable.

  28. $74761448:

    "It's one of the dependable characteristics of dealing with dogmatic
    deniers of any facet of reality, such as moon landing hoaxers and 9/11
    truthers." Just like environuts posting without citing sources. ... and I mean real sources, not IPCC cooked bullshit and the like.

  29. Kyle:

    No such admission exists. Who's the fool?

  30. Kyle:

    No, conceit has nothing to do with it. I happen to know the science. I know that these facts are exactly that - facts.