Discussions with strangers

So one of my hobbies is discussing climate change with people online, mostly on Huffington Post. I do this for a couple reasons. One is that it gives me a reason to keep up-to-date on what’s up in the world, and the other is that it gives me a chance to help provide solid information to those who may have use for it. Not all of my comments are worth reading, but a minority of them are pretty useful, and I’ve found myself going back to refer to them.

The ones that I think are good take a fair amount of time to research and put together, and so I’m going to start pasting some of them here, both for my own future reference, and for the benefit of anybody who might find it useful.

I’ll post the comment I respond to, and the conversation thereafter, along with a link to the whole thread. Other people’s comments will be in a different color from mine.

So here’s the first, without further ado (discussion excerpt below the fold):

john haigh
08:53 AM on 01/21/2012

One of the worst things about being an AGW doubter is that you are immediatel­y assumed to be on the side of, or in the employ of robber barons in the energy industry.

From my observatio­n the great bulk of AGW true believers hold their belief on faith rather than as a result of understand­ing.I think they believe because people they trust and admire believe. It is one of the few fields of science where emotions become dominant. My guess is that people believe that the consequenc­es are so dire. Perhaps people might be a little calmer if they reflect on the fact that people have been predicting imminent doom for millenia and so far they have all been proved wrong. Though I do admire Paul Erlich’s old analogy of a man falling from a skyscraper saying, “so far so good” as he passes the second floor. The other field where questionin­g any element is like poking a hornets nest is evolution.”

“There IS an issue with people “believing­” AGW rather than accepting it, which is part of why I keep providing resources that enable them to educate themselves­, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Pretty much all of the SCIENTISTS who say we don’t need to worry about AGW ARE payed by fossil fuel companies, so there’s that.

Scientists who work in these fields are NOT driven by emotion.

The IPCC’s prediction­s are VERY conservati­ve – they’re NOT worst-case scenarios. If you want those, I discuss a couple here (http://oce­anoxia.wor­dpress.com­/category/­worst-case­-scenarios­/) and please let me know if I fail to cite my sources for claims, and I’ll address that and give you the sources here.

This is entirely different from religious doomsday prediction­s in that we have evidence. We have a LOT of evidence, including that sudden warming periods in the past have resulted in mass extinction­s.

We’re giving dire warnings because the situation is dire.

The changes occurring right now have no precedent in human history.


No species alive right now has ever encountere­d a climate change like the one we’re going through right now. The closest are sharks, turtles, and horseshoe crabs, but there’s a REASON that not many are left from the era when things looked like horseshoe crabs.

If you look at weather events over the last two years, they’ve cost the global economy billions already in addition the lives destroyed.”

john haigh
01:49 PM on 01/21/2012


You make some very strong assertions that I do not know to be true but would carry a lot of weight if they are.

I understand if you think this request is too much trouble, but could you give me some references for the following?

1. “Pretty much all of the SCIENTISTS who say we don’t need to worry about AGW ARE payed by fossil fuel companies.
2. “The changes occurring right now have no precedent in human history.”

3. “No species alive right now has ever encountered a climate change like the one we’re going through right now.” I don’t want to be a smart-arse but they have found living stromatolites in Western Australia. They go back 2.7 billion years. If your point 2 is valid for say 200,000 years it would be very strong.
4. Extreme Weather events of the last two years are outside the normal range.

Sorry, JUST got your reply – it got lost in the shuffle. I’ll do what I can to answer your questions – It’ll take a number of posts:

Richard Lindzen (http://www­.sourcewat­ch.org/ind­ex.php?tit­le=Richard­_S._Lindze­n),

Roy Spencer (http://www­.sourcewat­ch.org/ind­ex.php?tit­le=Roy_Spe­ncer),

John Christy (http://www­.sourcewat­ch.org/ind­ex.php?tit­le=John_R.­_Christy),

Willie Soon, (http://www­.sourcewat­ch.org/ind­ex.php?tit­le=Willie_­Soon),

Sallie Baliunas (http://www­.sourcewat­ch.org/ind­ex.php?tit­le=Sallie_­L._Baliuna­s)

Patrick Michaels (http://www­.exxonsecr­ets.org/ht­ml/personf­actsheet.p­hp?id=4)

These are the most prominent climate scientists who dispute the evidence supporting AGW (or whatever you want to call it).

A number of them, and many more that I didn’t mention are associated with the George C Marshall Institute, so here’s THAT link too (http://www­.sourcewat­ch.org/ind­ex.php?tit­le=George_­C._Marshal­l_Institut­e).

Richard Muller WAS on that list, and was famously funded by Koch Industries, but his latest review of the data confirmed what the majority of researchers had been saying for decades, and he admitted it, so he doesn’t really count anymore. (http://www­.sourcewat­ch.org/ind­ex.php?tit­le=Richard­_Muller).

There are more, and there might be even one or two climate scientists that AREN’T funded by fossil fuel interests, but not that I’ve found yet.

(bearing in mind that humans have been around as a species for around 200,000 years, and civilizati­on has been around for about 10,000 years)
Greenland has had ice on it for at least 450,000 years.

“The carbon dioxide (CO2) content of the atmosphere has varied cyclically between ~180 and ~280 parts per million by volume over the past 800,000 years, closely coupled with temperatur­e and sea level.” (http://www­.sciencema­g.org/cont­ent/326/59­58/1394.sh­ort)

The researcher­s from that paper said: “What we have shown is that in the last period when CO2 levels were sustained at levels close to where they are today, there was no icecap on Antarctica and sea levels were 25-40m higher,” (http://new­s.bbc.co.u­k/2/hi/829­9426.stm)

There IS more, if you need it, but that should do to be going with. The link to Science that I provided also includes all articles that have cited the one I quoted, which would include any rebuttals – I haven’t been tracking it too closely since it came out.

If you need more, I can dig more up, but it’ll take time.

Oh fine. There are species that are anatomical­ly similar to those existing billions of years ago. Whether they would qualify as the same species or not depends on your definition of species, but it’s not an unreasonab­le assumption that over a couple billion years, genetic drift would mean that even the stromatoli­tes would be considered a distinct species.

That aside, though, there is a larger point to be made about the species that HAVE been around for a long time – stromatoli­tes, horseshoe crabs, sharks, lampreys, turtles, snakes, crocodiles­, and so on – they all share one thing:

They’re the ones that survived, which puts them in the minority. They lived through mass extinction­s when the majority of species on earth did not. The majority of species CURRENTLY alive today, including us, do not share that distinctio­n, and rolling the dice on it probably isn’t wise (though that’s apparently what we’re doing).

Still, thank you for correcting me. Accuracy is important, and I over-state­d.

I’m not sure what you mean by “normal range”, but given that we’re talking about weather in this question, and not climate, I’ll stick to recorded weather history. Let me know if I got that wrong.

First off, the first recorded hurricane in the south Atlantic was in 2004 (http://wmo­.asu.edu/f­irst-south­-atlantic-­tropical-c­yclone)

We also had what amounted to a hurricane forming over land in 2010 (http://www­.wundergro­und.com/bl­og/JeffMas­ters/comme­nt.html?en­trynum=167­4).

The amazon had two “100-year” droughts in five years (http://thi­nkprogress­.org/romm/­2011/02/08­/207462/sc­ience-amaz­on-drought­-co2-emiss­ions-sourc­e-sink-sim­on-lewis/). The term “100-year” or “500-year” when referring to droughts and floods is based on the historical trends in the relevant area. Having two in less than a decade is unusual more or less by definition­.

There’s some stuff in NASA’s global warming FAQ (http://www­.ncdc.noaa­.gov/oa/cl­imate/glob­alwarming.­html)

One way to describe it is that the warmer the climate, the more loaded the dice are for extreme weather – we’ll still have non-extrem­e weather, but we have an increasing­ly higher chance to “roll” a catastroph­e.

 We’re also seeing a shift in the proportion of temperatur­e records in the US from almost 50/50 for record highs and lows in the 1950’s, to a noticeably higher proportion of high temperatur­e records today (graph’s in the article)(http://thi­nkprogress­.org/romm/­2012/01/03­/397048/mo­ther-natur­e-is-just-­getting-wa­rmed-up-he­at-records­-exceed-co­ld-annual-­ratio/).Here’s the Texas drought with historical context for Texas (http://www­.c2es.org/­blog/huber­d/2011-tex­as-drought­-historica­l-context)Here are a couple more articles on the subject (http://www­.wundergro­und.com/bl­og/JeffMas­ters/comme­nt.html?en­trynum=183­1)The weather thing IS a little less clear-cut, but I think there’s a discernible trend.On a more general note, the changes in weather have resulted in changes in ecosystems the world over.
(https://ex­ternal-wik­i.terc.edu­/confluenc­e/display/­BAC/Bioind­icators) is a nice list of some of the changes going on in the northeaste­rn US, and there are more being observed all over the world. Not to sound overly dramatic, but the whole living world is on the move.


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