Lv 7
Trevor asked in EnvironmentGlobal Warming · 9 years ago

How much do you know about climate change?

I think it’s a reasonable assertion that it is necessary to understand something about climate change in order to comment upon the subject.

Without some competency of the subject then all one can do is repeat what others have said. This being the case, then one has no validation in place and no way of verifying the accuracy of the statements being made.

So, how much do you actually know about climate change? What relevant qualifications, experience and / or skills do you have?

And, if you don’t know all that much, then how do you know that what you’re saying is accurate.

Please also state how strongly you accept or reject the theory that humans are responsible for much of the observed warming in the past 100 years.

13 Answers

  • Jeff M
    Lv 7
    9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Well I'm horrible at math and know very little about physics though I am trying to learn more. I only started studying climate change about a month before the climategate fiasco as I got bored of debating evolution with people who had their anti-science heads stuck in their you-know-what so I decided to look into climate change instead.

    In highschool, which was a long time ago, I took various courses in Geography and Geology and I did the same in college but my main points of study in college were both anthropology/archaeology and psychology. I do find it funny though that I've been accused in the past of working for the green industry in these forums based on what I've posted.

    I fully accept that the planet has warmed in the past century and I refuse to believe what opponents state if they use many of the deceiving tactics I've seen them use in the past, such as showing a graph of temperature variation where the medieval warm period was warmer than today yet the graph stops in the 1930s/1940s which I've seen posted on this site before to support a belief. Heck they even used the same technique on 'The Global Warming Swindle', a video posted by one of the users in these forums as a backing for their argument.

    Another reason I delved into climate change is because of a local tourism based website I'm currently building that will have an emphasis on green forms of transportation and energy production. The area in which I live prides itself on renewable sources and has plans on becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020. On the site I'm making I'm also writing a multi-chapter article concerning the reality of climate change and what it means locally.

  • 9 years ago

    I'd classify myself as somewhere between an informed layman and a fringe-relevant expert. I have a BS in general biology, and have been taking classes while trying to get in to the MS/doctoral program. I don't have any actual academic background directly relevant to AGW (other than my current ecosystem ecology class), but I do have a pretty good general science background.

    Though I have some questions about the exact rate of future change and so forth (as any good scientist should), I strongly accept AGW as the best available explanation for the observed warming trend.

  • 9 years ago

    >>>So, how much do you actually know about climate change?

    Depends on how you measure knowledge. I think I am well able to understand the concepts that I read about when it comes to the climate, but obviously I am not in a position of authority, as it were, to say that so-and-so explanation is correct over this-and-this.

    I have asked several questions before on topics that I am not very familiar with. If I do not know something I will admit it; if I think I do know something, then it will be because I have looked at the evidence for the issue and consistency of the points being made, as well as what the majority of experts in the field say about it. Knowing full well the possibility of Dunning Kruger, I'll say I have a knack for assessing the logic and evidence for one claim over another. This doesn't necessarily translate into knowledge of climate science of course.

    >>>What relevant qualifications...

    None I suppose.

    >>>...experience and / or skills do you have?

    No experience I would put weight behind, and skill-wise I'd again say that I have a great potential to learn and assess, regardless of if I currently know a lot. That is why I try to always provide sources for my claims here, lest the explanation is so obvious or sources wouldn't really be a necessity (such as when answering what the greenhouse effect is).

    >>>if you don’t know all that much, then how do you know that what you’re saying is accurate.

    I look to the science. I find that blogs tend to be a great way to gain knowledge on new published papers, or even old ones, but I try to take all of their conclusions with a grain of salt unless I've read the paper for myself. I have seen far too many "skeptic" blogs, for instance, completely misrepresent a paper's conclusions, and sometimes it's just plain as day what they're doing. I recall on another blog (won't give this scum the honor of being named - yes he's that bad) that the owner had tried to use the Berner-Scotese graph to show CO2 and warming did not match up - the usage of that graph by itself is completely dishonest, but when I had pointed it out to him and said that Berner had actually concluded that CO2 and temperature matched up, and that the Scotese temp. data was not published and wasn't Berner's, he turned around and said, and I can't make this up (though I will have to paraphrase):

    "See, even Berner's own data refute his conclusion."

    *facepalm* It wouldn't be too large a leap in logic to say that I know more than he does, or at least have more developed cognitive faculties. Or maybe he's just a liar.

  • 9 years ago

    I know a modest amount about climate change; a reasonable estimate would be that I'm familiar with the equivalent of several credits of undergraduate-level climate studies. Born and raised in Syracuse NY, I had a natural interest in snow, ice ages, and climate in general. The International Geophysical Year ended the year I was 10, the year I discovered chess and science. An undergrad degree in chemistry [Manhattan College, '74] has provided the math, physics, and chemistry basics to understand the concepts and models of climate science. After that, it's self-study.

    Been reading the popular science magazines for 5 decades, Science News for almost as long. And I'm also reading online these days, ScienceDaily, RealClimate, a few other sites, and the papers and videos that are available freely online. Many are, and I miss answering a lot of questions here because I'm reading references and references of references, and references of those, and 4 days are gone! Dana closes his out in a day or two and I almost never get a reply done on time - he's always picked someone by the time I send it in.

    But any self-study I do would be useless without a scaffolding on which to organize the information. My career schedule left me a lot of time to read at odd hours. I played a lot of complicated wargames ["conflict simulations"], designed a few, and bought college-level texts and references, and learned about any subject that interested me, from Astronomy to Zoology. By 1980, I'd read Climatic Change, Camb. Univ. Press '78, and was convinced, apparently along with the majority of scientists who studied the matter, that excess atmospheric CO2, produced by humans burning fossil fuels was already starting to cause global warming, and we would have some problems in the future.

    Over a few decades of reading the popular science magazines & newspapers, I noticed that the articles supporting AGW came to far outnumber the ones questioning it. Further, the real questions were not about the very basics, but about "finer points" - the "how much" and "when" questions, more than the "what". Around 1990, I started seeing contrarian articles, ones that questioned the science, but in my estimation overmuch. The basic thrust of these articles was that "this is such a big unknown/problem that it calls into question the whole idea of current AGW", but they didn't stand up over time. I also was seeing a different tone in the questioning articles than in the others, that questioning of the basic premises, which were already, I thought, pretty solid. There was now a small countercurrent going against the established science, trying to knock down that science with other science. It didn't work. The shaking of the consensus didn't happen, the contrarians only made the edifice stronger in the end.

    About 10 years ago, I started seeing a re-doubled effort to undermine the science of climate change, and this time, I recognized some arguments that had already been disproved. This got me looking more closely, and arguing more, this time online also. I wound up at Baen's Bar, a from my viewpoint hyperconservative meeting place. We had some great arguments but I ran into physicists and other scientists who seriously argued against AGW. I needed a better grounding in the science. So I went back to my old text, Climatic Change, and really studied it. I had not found the blogs or the organized online resources - being a dinosaur, I'm not really adventurous online - at this time, so I looked up specific papers, read my science news, and used my extensive if slightly out of date library to argue with. What I found after a couple years was that the actual science arguments came down to doing nothing more than expanding the error bars and then claiming the uncertainty was too great to act appropriately.

    Baen's barflies did point me to blogs, by suggesting I used them in my arguments. So I looked, and found RealClimate and SkepticalScience. [Thank you, Barflies!] They, along with ScienceDaily, are my main online sources for information and pointing to the actual reports and papers. [I would like a recommendation for good undergrad-level textbooks so I can get a newer framework to hang my studies on. I also wouldn't mind running into a work on remedial math for climate scientists, preferably with pictures and multiple explanations.] I am not a programmer. I used a slide rule in college. My current knowledge of simulations is primarily very practical experience in using and creating conflict simulations, mostly board wargames, and work-related experience with creating new operations from floorplans through projections, set-up, training and running the operations to spec or better.

    Grin, so where do I rate?

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  • 9 years ago

    No relevant qualifications so I am reliant on personal critical abilities.

    I do read books, articles, outlines.

    I am reliant on the consensus of the scientific community. I do like to read the other side of the story but as soon as they claim its a hoax, a conspiracy by communists etc or believe in intelligent design I must admit hat I stop reading.

    Climate change occurs, in history but I accept that temperature levels are at their highest and CO2 is a major contributor to that change.

    I do not know if the wide range of predictions are accurate i.e. small increase - critical increase

    I am open minded as to how we she should tackle future problems although I would look at investing in eliminating poverty and insecurity as a priority over carbon tax/reduction.

    Educated members of the public should engage in the argument, science can only offer information and best guesses. It is essential for a degree of impartiality.

    I am open to new information

    I hope it helps your question

  • 9 years ago

    I don't have to know a single thing about climate science and I'll explain why. Lets look at the following statement: " Why should I give you this data when all you want to do is find something wrong with it? ", Dr. Phil Jones, University of East Anglia.

    I have skills in critical thinking and having a Masters of Engineering degree and I am familiar with physics, chemistry, mathematics, statistics, modeling, etc. I am also very familiar with the scientific method. So even though I may have no direct knowledge specifically in climate science, I know that the above statement by Dr. Jones is very disconcerting. It goes against all I was taught about science.

    I think you might mistake what climate change skepticism really represents. It's all the scientists and professionals who, while not necessarily having expertise specifically in climate science, have specific enough expertise to recognize issues that don't seem quite correct. For example, a statistician can analyze a study by a climate scientist like Michael Mann who attempted to use very complicated statistical techniques to promote an idea using auto regression techniques. That statistician doesn't need to know about dendrochronology or temperature proxy techniques, etc. to assess if a statistical analysis is robust or not.

    So apart from actual skeptical climate scientists like Dr. Roy Spencer and Dr. Richard Lindzen, there are literally thousands of other scientific types who are looking at specific aspects of climate science and poking holes in the thoroughness and robustness of thousands of different topics and studies in the field. Frankly, it's not pretty. Again, I don't need to know about climate science to see this.

    As for your final question: "Please also state how strongly you accept or reject the theory that humans are responsible for much of the observed warming in the past 100 years." What do you mean by "much" here? Do you mean "most"? What does "most" mean? What is the accepted "observed warming"?

    I reject the following IPCC statement: "Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations." My rejection is based on the loose wording (i.e. "most"), the overconfident certainty and the thousands and thousands of of problems and issues that went into making the IPCC AR4 report and that subsequent statement. It can even be argued that the statement doesn't even reflect the content of the actual AR4 report.

    Read Donna Laframboise's latest book on the IPCC and you'll see what I mean.

  • 9 years ago

    I was following it here for a while, then the science went over my head.

    BUT, I was here long enough to see that every argument the deniers came up with was refuted by those who acknowledged the situation, plus knowing that the world's population has increased exponentially since the Industrial Revolution and of all those new people, they all trash and burn fossil fuels right and left.

    I live around a bunch of deniers (TX) and their whole attitude is 'well, I can't see the pollution so it doesn't exist'

    eye roll

  • 9 years ago

    I'm as antediluvian as JJ.

    BSEE 1971

    When I passed my candidacy exams in Applied Ocean Sciences they required knowledge in physical, chemical and biological oceanography, marine geology, and engineering mathematics equivalent to the master's examinations in each of those specialties. I was lured back to electronics engineering for the money.

    I looked at AGW seriously for myself in the 90's, basically starting from earths' radiation budget in space, using open-source data, doing my own math. There's no question in my mind that AGW is real. A major retirement project of mine concerns a form of geoengineering to deal with the excess atmospheric and oceanic CO2 once it becomes painfully obvious to the world that it will be cheaper to do something about the problem than not.

  • Gary F
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    In the beginning...when I got a job at a major research laboratory testing hypotheses and developing mathematical models of Holocene climate variability using long geophysical time series...the only way to get station, gridded, and divisional climate data was to go to the library and xerox the data tables from government documents, enter the data manually, and then analyze it using FORTRAN programs that you wrote yourself (so, you'll excuse me if I laugh every time someone b!tches that the "raw" climate data are not readily available).

    In the late 1980s and early 1990s, we were still trying to determine if the LIA and MWP were real. In a 1991 paper, I cynically remarked that, "giving something a name (e.g., Medieval Warm Period) does not make it real." We spent the mid-1990s trying to decompose frequency signals (NAO, PDO, SST, SOI/ENSO, etc.) in the data.

    At that time, the overwhelming consensus was on the "skeptical" side. Even the reviled Michael Mann was taking the cautionary road.

    “Discrepancies between the observed and model-predicted trends must be resolved before a compelling connection can be drawn between 20th century changes in the behavior of the annual cycle in temperature, and anthropogenic forcing of the climate”

    And, I'm not sure it is possible to be more equivocal than this:

    “Our analysis suggests that a significant share of climate variability on interannual to century timescales may be associated with quasi-periodic processes of either external or internal origins.”

    The current “scientific consensus” did not swing to the pro-AGW side until the mid-late 1990s. Specifically, it was the 1997-1998 El Nino event that triggered the change because the signal was so strong that everyone saw it in their data and, more importantly, it helped resolve the mid-range noise problems that had plagued our spectral analysis.

    If nothing else - I was there when Mann was building his (in)famous hockey stick. In fact, some of my data are in that little puppy. And unlike the scientific numb-skulls who defame Michael from a safe distance, I've disagreed with him in person – and he with me.

    I think my position on the subject has been fairly clear.


    Mike --

    <<Michael Mann who attempted to use very complicated statistical techniques to promote an idea using auto regression techniques<<

    I'm not sure what you mean here because the accusation by Wegman was that Mann FAILED to address the issue of serial correlation in the residual PC series. It is a BS claim because: he relied on the sleazy manipulation of the PCA by McIntyre and McKitrick; he never actually performed any Box-Jenkins analysis (although, looking at M&M's results, the auto-correlation is visually apparent) and; in the process of committing multiple acts of plagiarism (including the work of Ray Bradley - the "B" in "MBH"), he conveniently left out the parts that were contradictory.

    PCA requires a full rectangular matrix. In running their PCA over the period beginning in AD 1400, M&M eliminated all data series with a later start date - which is most of the data. Doing this also changes the number, members, and rankings of the extracted principal components.

    M&M ran 10,000 Monte Carlo simulations of their PCA (fair enough, it's a common method of model validation). During the simulation runs, they defined a variable called HSI (Hockey Stick Index) that collected statistics on the "blade" of the hockey stick. They then rank-sorted the 10,000 HSI values in descending order of the steepness of the hockey stick's blades - and selected the top 100 (the simple fact that 99% of these had a standard deviation > 1.0 is a clear indication of the non-random statistical bias of their sample).

    As I already mentioned, you don't need any math to see the auto-correlation in the 100 (out of 10,000) series selected by M&M. Wegman took M&M's results on faith without ever bothering to do any analysis himself. In doing so, he committed a far more serious offense than plagiarism - incompetent and fraudulent analysis.

    In any case, the Hockey Stick is old news - and it should never have been such a big deal to begin with. The MBH paper was only ever intended to be just a clever little experiment in combining multiple proxy records of varying resolutions into a single regression-based reconstruction.

    There were two groups doing the same thing at the same time: MBH in the US and a European team headed by Keith Briffa. Then the IPCC decided that it would include one of the two reconstructions in a future report - and everyone started taking it way too seriously. We all had an opinion on which reconstruction was superior, but the truth is that (because of the robustness of the data) most people would not see any significant difference - and rightfully so.

  • 9 years ago

    I come to the problem from the perspective of a physicist with expertise in spectroscopy. My research experience over more than 25 years includes spectroscopic investigations of the structure and dynamics of small organic molecules, biopolymers, polymers, minerals, bacteria, fungi, seeds, and animal tissue. I also design of optical instruments for spectroscopic measurements related to food safety, medical diagnostics and automated systems. I have extensive experience in mathematical modeling, particularly spectral pattern recognition. Like any PhD physicist, I have graduate level training in the basics: quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, electromagnetic theory and thermodynamics.

    I have pockets of knowledge centered around application areas for my research including food safety, medical diagnostics, agriculture, water treatment, advanced building materials, and biofuels. My research collaborators tend to know more than I do about these topics.

    I strongly support the theory that humans are responsible for much of the recent observed warming. My judgment is based primarily on a review of the primary spectral data coupled with a very good understanding of molecules and radiation. With respect to other lines of evidence, I am only able to check for consistency with known laws of physics. I rely on the peer review process and the opinions of topic experts to validate results outside my area of expertise.

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