Another Plea to Global Warming Alarmists on the Phrase "Climate Denier"

Stop calling me and other skeptics "climate deniers".  No one denies that there is a climate.  It is a stupid phrase.

I am willing, even at the risk of the obvious parallel that is being drawn to the Holocaust deniers, to accept the "denier" label, but it has to be attached to a proposition I actually deny, or that can even be denied.

As help in doing so, here are a few reminders (these would also apply to many mainstream skeptics -- I am not an outlier)

  • I don't deny that climate changes over time -- who could?  So I am not a climate change denier
  • I don't deny that the Earth has warmed over the last century (something like 0.7C).  So I am not a global warming denier
  • I don't deny that man's CO2 has some incremental effect on warming, and perhaps climate change (in fact, man effects climate with many more of his activities other than just CO2 -- land use, with cities on the one hand and irrigated agriculture on the other, has measurable effects on the climate).  So I am not a man-made climate change or man-made global warming denier.

What I deny is the catastrophe -- the proposition that man-made global warming** will cause catastrophic climate changes whose adverse affects will outweigh both the benefits of warming as well as the costs of mitigation.  I believe that warming forecasts have been substantially exaggerated (in part due to positive feedback assumptions) and that tales of current climate change trends are greatly exaggerated and based more on noting individual outlier events and not through real data on trends (see hurricanes, for example).

Though it loses some of this nuance, I would probably accept "man-made climate catastrophe denier" as a title.

** Postscript -- as a reminder, there is absolutely no science that CO2 can change the climate except through the intermediate step of warming.   If you believe it is possible for CO2 to change the climate without there being warming (in the air, in the oceans, somewhere), then you have no right to call anyone else anti-science and you should go review your subject before you continue to embarrass yourself and your allies.


  1. Seattle Steve:

    People who use the "Climate Denier" monicker are interested only in shutting down discussion. They aren't interested in science save for random terminology and apparent authority to further political goals. Some years ago, I made the naive attempt to have an academic discussion with a UN agency worker, they shut down the conversation immediately with language we have become, sadly, used to. If they were actually interested in bettering our future, serious discussion should be welcomed.

  2. FelineCannonball:

    "there is absolutely no science that CO2 can change the climate except through the intermediate step of warming"

    I'm not sure what you're referring to here, but CO2 does impact climate through plant function.

    1) Making plants more water efficient during growth and shifting growing seasons further into seasonal dry periods in some semi-arid climates. This shift in transpiration timing and magnitude can, for instance, increase summer humidity in the southwest and add moisture and intensity to the propagating Arizona monsoon. =Climate change.

    2) Allowing shrubs and juniper encroach on grassland/desert that was previously too dry for them. Plant community shifts have diverse effects on seasonal humidity, albedo, circulation, groundwater, etc. =Climate change.

  3. NL7:

    These are local and regional climate effects, but I think the implication is that climate change (in the context of the ongoing economic and scientific debate) refers to global, catastrophic shifts.

  4. Onlooker from Troy:

    Absolutely right. Points that can't be made enough in order to keep the whole damned debate from going off the rails.

    And the only thing they have to support their catastrophic predictions is models; which so far have been shown to be pretty much useless when compared to empirical evidence (that thing that science is supposed to be about).

  5. Gil G:

    So would deniers drop the term "alarmist" label? No? Oh well.

  6. Matthew Slyfield:

    "man-made climate catastrophe denier"

    Too long for the other side to remember.

  7. Matthew Slyfield:

    In what way is alarmist not accurate?

  8. marque2:

    And in what way does alarmist have an extremely negative historical connotation?

  9. Settin it str8:

    My thing is this. Obviously there have been changes in "climate". See the Kansas area dustbowl of a few decades ago. But what i have a problem with is the "alarmists" claiming this is all to do with man-made variables. I know i'm gonna be "shamed" for not having more specifics, but recall watching a show recently on Discovery where they were analyzing the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere by examining the characteristics of a certain plant whose basic makeup hasn't changed in millions of years. They were able to discern that based on the amount of CO2 receptors in this specific plant over time, there WERE changes in the CO2 levels. And approximately 2.5 MILLION years ago, there were over 3 times the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Yet, none of it would have been MAN-MADE. So, slow the roll, Al Gore and friends.

  10. Bram:

    I prefer "Failed Hypothesis Doubter".

    When the folks putting out the CO2 climate hypotheses can back them up with data that even shows correlation, I'll start paying attention.

    When the real, peer-reviewed data shows causation and man-made climate change is elevated from to the status of a theory, I'll elevate to skeptical.

  11. Patrick Henry,The2nd:

    As Matt said, Alarmist is an accurate description. Denier is not.

  12. FelineCannonball:

    Yes, in the Pliocene we had similar levels of CO2 (due to natural processes) to ones we have today due to anthropogenic emissions (400 ppm). You're numbers are a little off, but if you go back further in time we did see 1000 ppm, 5000 ppm, etc.

    Pliocene climate (in equilibrium with 400 ppm) included an ice-free Greenland and a metastable West Antarctic ice sheet (it oscillated with glacial/deglacial cycles). Sea level was higher by 40+ feet. Climate models support the idea that we'll basically snap back into this state when we slowly approach the new equilibrium -- waiting for the ocean to mix, glaciers to melt, deep soils to warm, deep sea sediments to warm, etc. The Pliocene was a pretty happy time for life on earth, but the rate of change back toward that climate state may challenge today's life due to fast rate of change and limits to rates of migration/evolution. It may also challenge us a bit because much smaller shifts in climate (or oscillations within climate states -- like the dust bowl, or Anasazi/Mayan drought related collapses) can impact agricultural areas -- especially those which are currently reliant on rainfall rather than irrigation. I'd say flexibility in food production and food transport will alleviate most of these concerns. That's basically the sum of it. You can't really take CO2 out of the atmosphere and the persistence of our CO2 emissions will be on the order of 100,000 years. So living with it is the only real option.

    If we were capable of pushing things up to 5000 ppm+ then there would be a bit more room for alarm. But I don't think that shows up in economic models. In the past levels of pCO2 this high have resulted in a warm stagnant ocean with stable stratification (global oceanic anoxia -- and associated marine mass extinctions), polar forests, and life in the center of continents that hides underground for 6 months every summer.

  13. OldNHMan:

    "The Pliocene was a pretty happy time for life on earth, but the rate of
    change back toward that climate state may challenge today's life due to
    fast rate of change and limits to rates of migration/evolution."

    Fast rate of change? I have to ask, but by whose metric? How fast is too fast? Until that's answered implying that it might be happening too fast for species to adapt is a SWAG at best.

  14. Mercury:

    Good grief, There's no reason to be defensive here.

    The whole premise behind "Climate Change!" (formerly Global Warming!) (soon to be...Weather! (??)) is that very long-term climate stasis is the natural norm. That's absurd.

    The other, secondary or implied premise is that any anthropogenic climate change must be a net-negative and natural climate change must be a net positive when in reality there is at least some chance that anthropogenic climate change would mitigate the bad effects of a natural climate change (another ice age for instance).

    What the "climate catastrophe" crowd is advocating is a program of global climate management complete with its own bureaucracy, taxing/rule making powers and limited or zero public accountability. Government run, global climate management; just think about that for a minute.

    It would be one thing if the US or other large governments in the world were coming off an astounding winning streak of sensible, efficient and effective management of Big Deal programs but they aren't at all, not even close. They want to fail upwards (again).

    Further, their "case closed" claims about their ability to predict the future are about as anti-science as you can get.

    Really, it would be nearly impossible to concoct a bigger, naked, despotic power grab scheme based on more vague, unfalsifiable and criteria. May their blatant hubris be punished with crushing defeat and shame.

  15. rambler:

    The global warming side failed to prove their hypothesis. Their results could not be duplicated by other scientists. Add in the manipulation of data, faulty models and massive lying to maintain funding and the only thing left was to stomp all over those questioning the "science". None of this should have been a surprise. Real science has to be defended. Wanting to silence those who challenge the scientific results means that the results were bogus.

  16. MNHawk:

    Those who flunked out of math and real science, and had to settle for Poli Sci, have a lot invested in that phrase. It's obvious this kookball isn't going to give it up, anytime soon. After all, he's just not bright enough to make his case with real science, only the moronic phrases the Political Scientists come up with.

    Which leads to a question for said kookball. How does one deny climate?

  17. MNHawk:

    What is this particular Ugly American going to do to a foreign leader, who doesn't get out of the way?

  18. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    I have heard some "alarmists" claim that increased CO2 is directly altering jet stream patterns, so that may be an example of what Coyote was referencing.

    But meanwhile, I commend you for recognition that increased CO2 makes plants more efficient and productive. (I have seen all sorts of "denials" in the "alarmists" camps about that. I believe the most reliable estimates suggest at least 20% of todays's food production is due to increased CO2 levels.) Here is another possible climate impact: increased CO2 makes the Sahara desert greener which decreases its dust. While the impact is positive for those living in and near the Sahara, there is less dust floating over the Atlantic Ocean, and that may lead to more ocean warming in the area that spawns hurriances in mid-season. Perhaps not a worrisome development since ACE is in downward trend.

    Apocaylptic alarmism is not limited to lay people. Many mainstream scientists in the "alarmist" camp warned of no Arctic ice by this year -- or by last year -- or by next year. The head of the IPCC has claimed that global warming has killed millions of people. A leading scientist whose models are revered in the "alarmist" camp said that much of NYC would be under water this decade.

    I would challenge your assertion that probably most scientists "expect Greenland and West Antarctica to eventually collapse (and consequently raise sea level) due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions." The word eventually is a useful hedge word because 200,000 years from now is eventually. But I suspect that by that time greater influences than anthropogenic CO2 emissions will take over the driver's seat.

  19. FelineCannonball:

    If you take Coyote's quoted rate above (0.7 degrees C) and project it forward it would take 200-300 years to get up to Pliocene temperatures. And longer yet for the ocean and ice sheets to come to equilibrium (1000's of years). Which is faster than the 3 million years it took to oscillate down other way. Extinctions are pretty much a given but the precise impacts are hard to predict. Extinctions are a normal part of biological processes. Some times a large natural climatic shift will wipe out 95% and sometimes they wipe out 5%.

  20. FelineCannonball:

    There are two parts to the ice sheet equation. 1) Air temperatures and precipitation rates getting out of equilibrium with the current form of these ice sheets. 2) rates of melting/collapse/migration of the ice sheets.

    There's pretty good evidence that good parts of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets are currently out of equilibrium with recent climate (i.e. they're melting and losing elevation). Projected global air temperatures in the next one or two centuries (even taking Coyote's slow rate of change) will match temperatures last seen when these ice sheets were non-existent or unstable in the geological past (2 or 3 degrees C above historic temperatures).

    However, the rate of collapse is a pretty contentious issue and relatively difficult to model. It depends on the nature of melting, flow, bottom lubrication, sea temperature at margin, snowfall precipitation patterns, etc. Some early models that assumed melting would be focused at the top and melting might take many thousand years as it worked it's way down to ancient ice. More recently data is showing that melt water has more significant impacts deep in the ice sheets when it penetrates through fissures. Melt-water penetrating to the base of the ice sheet and warming ice deep in the profile have significant impacts on the slip/flow of the ice mass. Models accounting for these processes predict collapse on the scale of many hundred years. Models are currently being refined with real data on ice-sheet movement recorded by LIDAR, radar-interferometry, etc.

  21. Gil G:

    It's amusing to see the new tactic of the denier crowd is "the climate has always changed therefore we can't be vain enough to be believe the world will always be this temperature." It's akin to saying "the WW1 generation were all going to die and be injured sooner or later so why should in matter if some got killed or injured during the Great War?"
    On the other hand, who's really claim "the world's coming to an end" in our lifetime? If current trends continue then things are certainly going to get rather bad in the year 2200 onwards. Rather there will be a slow but steady change over the course over the 21st century where what counts as arable lands will change and that means a lot of people are going to get hungry which in turn will see economic refugees knocking on the doors of wealthier countries.
    P.S. There's no science that CO2 can't change the climate? That's pretty much the whole science of global warming. An increasing blanket of CO2 traps heat and disrupts the traditional cycles of convection throughout the world. It should be noted that Venus has as extremely slow rotation yet the global temperature is pretty much constant.

  22. MJM:

    "Science of global warming.." That's rich!

    Meanwhile the sun, just short of the midway point of its projected life, continues to consume hydrogen and slowly expands. This expansion lessens the distance between Earth and the sun's surface making it warmer on Earth. It will eventually envelop Mercury and Venus and possibly Earth before collapsing into a black hole, a rather insignificant one by astrological standards at that. The good news here is that mankind, and life as we know it will have long ago disappeared.

    So, yes, the Earth will warm over time... regardless of whether Al Gore travels by private jet or public transportation.

  23. Bram:

    You have successfully repeated the hypothesis without any data or experimental proof. What makes you certain? We are talking about incredibly complex systems here. We can't even explain why the Earth has been fluctuating between ice age and warm periods for the past few million years. For all you know, the only thing holding off the next ice age is my SUV.

    Scientific method actually works, let's use it before committing economic suicide.

  24. Gil G:

    And while we're at it: some smokers live to a healthy old age before peacefully dying in their sleep therefore smoking cannot be harmful. On the other hand, no, it is known the glacial periods are caused by the Earth's orbit and axial tilt changing over the aeons not to mention animals can also emit their own GHGs and warm the Earth over time. Heck free oxygen only existed thanks to early life forms so yes plants, animals can terraform a planet if there's enough of them working in unison.
    On the other hand, If CO2 had no real heat-retention properties then Venus would hot on the day side (yet cooler than Mercury) while the night side would be close to absolute zero. But proof? So NASA and the IPCC are just snoozing around soaking up fortunes in taxpayers' money only to photoshop some fancy graphs being going into presentations about the looming environmental apocalypse? Repent your sins against Mother Earth before it's too late? On the other hand, it's the Conservatives who are spending vast sums of their own money to collect climate data from around the world and showing that's the temperatures have peaked around 1998 and we're heading towards a slow but steady global cooling?

  25. Bobby:

    Well, I'm not sure that CO2 causes warming, necessarily. Long term perhaps it can cause cooling via plant growth. I can agree that the hype is dealing within the noise in the data. Show me a control chart with the data, even the adjusted data. I'm pretty sure we see no period that is "out of control".

  26. HoratiusZappa:

    "where what counts as arable lands will change and that means a lot of people are going to get hungry"

    A warming climate will change agriculture, but not likely in the direction you think.

  27. HoratiusZappa:

    "Lay scientist" (as in, one who respects proper application of the scientific method without being a scientist as a primary occupation).

  28. obloodyhell:

    More critically, "Denier" has a simple level of rejection which is not equivalent to "alarmist". One is like the word "concerned", and the other is like "Chicken Little".

    But equating two things in that manner is precisely the issue for Climate Alarmists, after all.

  29. obloodyhell:

    }}} Since Wilma in 2005, we have gone 6 full years without a category 3+ hurricane making landfall in the US, the longest span since 1900 without such an event. And the clock is still counting. When alarmists of all stripes were breathlessly predicting hurricane after hurricane in late 2005, the reality is that we wouldn't see another in the US for over six years.

    And now it's 8.5 years, the second longest such span in reliably available history (the last such period ended in 1870, with reliable records back to about 1820). In fact, if we make it through this season without a cat 3+ hurricane making landfall, it will exceed even that and be the longest stretch since reliable records have been kept and available.

    "The validity of a science is its ability to predict".

    AGW is really ASTOUNDINGLY bad at this. Jeanne Dixon was more reliable. Tea Leaves are more efficient. Phrenologists do better. In fact, if an AGW "scientist" makes a prediction, smart money is to bet the other way.

    "Droughts in Australia!!" (Floods instead, multiple years running)

    No More White Christmas In England!! (Bitterly cold blizzards, also multiple years running)

    This is why they've had to change the term to "Climate change" -- because back in 2001 when they had it snow in parts of the middle east where snow had never been recorded (in, what, 2000+ years?) it makes people's innate Bogon Flux Detectors go off en masse.

    A few years back, Warren, you had a report about what Argo had found in the ocean temperatures after something like 6 or so years of operation -- which was zero ocean warming (and the significance of this is cannot be overstated... water is a magnificent heat sink, and if the oceans aren't picking up heat, then there is no actual warming at all). What's been happening since? Given the lack of hurricanes, my money is on continued zero overall ocean warming. The baseline is still awfully short, but that's the way to bet....

    Feynman on the Scientific Method. AGW Alarmists should pay special attention to the part ca. 5:00 in. AGW is not science)

  30. obloodyhell:

    }}} Government run, global climate management; just think about that for a minute.


    Pardon me while I think happy thoughts for a moment about something more pleasant, like, say, Winston Smith.

  31. obloodyhell:

    They'd say that with a distinct sneer, and turn it into a curse word like "denier".

  32. obloodyhell:

    }}} Their results could not be duplicated by other scientists.

    Hell, they deliberately obfuscated their processes and refused to disclose them OR the raw data they were based on, rendering any kind of actual duplication impossible. For that, alone, they are not worthy of being respected with the term "scientist".

  33. Diane Merriam:

    Not enough mass for a black hole. More like a brown dwarf. Not that we'll be around to verify the prognostications :)

  34. Diane Merriam:

    Considering that the last time it was this warm (well, actually a degree or two warmer than it is now) the Vikings were planting wheat and potatoes in Greenland where it's now permafrost, we're a long ways from catastrophic change.

  35. FelineCannonball:

    Nope. The medieval warm period was a regional event representing 0.2 to 0.3 degrees warming in the Northern Hemisphere only. The Mid-Pliocene, the last time we saw 400 ppm CO2 and a complete lack of Greenland ice sheets, was 2 to 3 degrees warmer.

    Ice cores from the top of Greenland ice sheet are actually pretty continuous through the Holocene. Very little evidence of significant melting till you go back 400 thousand years. The medieval warm period was not that significant, even there were skeptics state it was impressive. If it was there would be a hiatus.

  36. rambler:

    Yup, yup and yup! In addition they have cast a huge shadow of doubt on all scientists, even those who were not corrupt.

  37. Diane Merriam:

    I don't know where you got your data, but ice cores and other proxies, both north and south, show that it was NOT just regional (unless you make up hockey stick graphs) and that it was, indeed, warmer than now. There was another warm period around the peak of the Roman Empire and another at the height of the Minoan.

    Were the vikings in Greenland just making up records of what they planted and grew where just for the fun of it? Were their records that didn't include much sea ice just conveniently missing? I'm sure they weren't planting at the top of the ice sheet. The places where they were successfully planting and harvesting potatoes and wheat are now permafrost.

    Greenland is not some little island up in the Atlantic somewhere. It's almost continental in size. What happens on the edges takes quite a while to propagate inland.

    No one is saying that the ice sheets of Greenland were gone during the MWP. That's a straw man argument. It has nothing to do with the facts under discussion. Wikipedia is a good place to start research, but never a reputable final reference. No one is saying that the temperature in any one specific place is representative of the entire world, but if you're using a given place to make your current analysis, then the history of that one place DOES matter.

    As to the MWP being regional ...

    Did the Pacific plankton have some sort of esp connection to their Northern Hemisphere counterparts that made them die in accordance with the climate on the other side of the globe?

    Did the long drought that ended the Mayan culture just coincidentally happen during the same time period?

    Are the Chinese incapable of researching their own climate history with any degree of accuracy? If anything, they show a bigger warming during the MWP to now than European reconstructions show.

    If you want one place to start to get current research on the MWP, try this:

  38. FelineCannonball:

    In the absence of outside drivers climate change is generally driven by internal oscillations. Patterns of global ocean/atmosphere circulation that have global effects. Warming, cooling, drought, flood. El NiƱo is one well-known modern analog. Our current understanding of the MWP falls into this category.

    Global temperature can not be reconstructed with two cores or a few anecdotes. You have to use all the data sets available and you have to use independent age control. You can't just take the warmest point in every proxy record that's within a 500 or 1000 year time period and pretend like they happened simultaneously. Age control does cause resolution problems which may smooth out some short term events, but lining up wiggles without the support of independent age control is wishful thinking, not science. As far as we can tell at this point, regional warming in Europe was not part of a global warming event. It appears to be a climate oscillation of some sort.

    My original point is that the MWP, even in Greenland was not that impressive of an event. Slower accumulation rates of ice, a fewer incipient melting events that didn't remove any significant stratigraphy. On the other hand, the last time we saw 400ppm co2 and global temperatures 2-3 degrees warmer there was absolutely no ice on Greenland. You won't find any source, Wikipedia notwithstanding, that tells you that there were glaciers on Greenland in the early Pliocene.

    So to summarize, the medieval warm period with a few crunchy layers on top of the ice sheet, is not the same thing as the mid-Pliocene or type of current warming event we are facing today. Even if you take Coyote's conservative rates of temperature change we set in place a huge amount of ice sheet loss over the next two centuries.