The global warming debate summarised

The debates around climate change have hotted up of late. Obviously this is related to the Copenhagen Conference, the “climategate” theft and release of emails in the UK and the attacks on our NIWA scientists by the local “denier” groups the Climate Science Coalition, the Climate Conversation group and a number of local bloggers.

It amazes me how often the same arguments come up, how strongly proponents of these are so adamant about them, and how little they have actually researched the issues – except to confirm their own biases.

Often, but not always, those arguing most furiously have only a rudimentary understanding of the whole subject of climate change. So, they may benefit from exposure to even the most simplified counter arguments.
Recently the Information Is Beautiful blog produced a very effective summary of the arguments and counter arguments (see Climate Change Deniers vs The Consensus). This includes most of the arguments I have heard lately so I reproduce it below. I think it is very effective because it avoids the jargon and technical detail (although I think the simplification may be a bit misleading in parts).

Hopefully readers will find this summary useful. Click on each image to view a clearer version which is also suitable for printing.

Thanks to the Bad Astronomer for the link (see Global warming Information is Beautiful).


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6 responses to “The global warming debate summarised

  1. That IS a beautiful presentation.

    My only criticism is that he seems to be answering the questions (or criticisms) other people are raising, but doesn’t address the ones that are bugging me.

    The biggest single problem I have at the moment is the “urban heat island” question. It goes to the heart of why the CRU emails matter. IF the surface temperature measurements are being “cherry-picked” in any way, and IF the urban heat island effect is being ignored, we could be significantly overstating the warming effect over the last 30 years or so.

    In my opinion, some of the most troubling “red flags” in the CRU emails go to whether HADCRU3 was “cherry-picking” data. The most recent report from the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis CLAIMS to have compared the HADCRU3 dataset with the actual Russian surface temperature measurements and found a significant one-sided selection problem–the Russian dataset, in toto, shows no warming trend, while the HADCR3 subset of Russian data shows a 0.63 degree rise in surface temperatures.

    IF the IEA claim is true, then the CRU data is corrupt. If it isn’t true, I’d like to hear somebody rebut the IEA analysis.


  2. Scott, Your comment is the first I’ve heard of this but I saw this at deltoid, it may address some of your concerns:


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  4. Andrew, thanks for that link. I actually had to go back and read the Russian report (thank God for Google translator!) to see whether there is more to the story than the Deltoid writeup.

    Deltoid picked one graph from the 21 page Russian report and argued, from that visual, that the Russian data does so show warming. In context, that truly seems to miss the point the Russians are making. They, after all, are the ones who put that graph INTO their report. It doesn’t undercut the point they are trying to make.

    The point they are trying to make is about the SELECTION methods CRU used to build the HADCRU3 dataset. The graph shows a BIG difference between the overall dataset and the set that was included in HADCRU3, and the difference is “tilted” towards more warming.

    I admit that there has to be some selection and some correction if we’re going to try to do longterm measurements–if New Zealand’s surface measurement station has to moved 170 meters up in altitude, I think we can’t keep the same series of readings and say “cooling has occurred.” The Russian papers biggest claim, in my opinion, is that CRU rejected stations with long-term, uninterrupted readings in favor of stations that showed a warming trend. If this is true, it seems to be evidence of corruption.


  5. One of the “skeptical” arguments is that the peer-review process has been corrupted. I don’t see an answer to that in this otherwise beautiful graphic. It’s a serious charge, however, which goes to the heart of why we trust the scientific method. I’d like to hear a real response to that concern.

    The evidence FOR a corruption of the peer-review process is quite strong. I’m reading through an 88 page “public comment” by Roger Pielke, Sr., who is a “highly published” expert in this field. He is making very specific, well-documented claims of “stacking the deck” of the peer-review process, such as this:

    “There is an obvious reason why the Report lacks the needed balance, which I urge be considered and remedied in future assessment reports. There is no question that each member of the Committee and the Editor are excellent scientists within their discipline area and are sincere in their views. However, the selection of the same individuals to review the topic as have completed the studies under review is an obvious conflict of interest. Moreover, most of the authors have published together. This conflict of interest includes the Editor who consistently rejected efforts to assess identified uncertainties in the surface temperature record, which is a main focus of his published research activities.

    “When I served as Chief Editor of the Monthly Weather Review and Co-Chief Editor of the Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, we never would send papers to be reviewed to referees who are also co-authors on other papers with the author of the manuscript under review. We certainly would not send to the authors themselves to evaluate. There are always scientists with the qualifications and involvement in the science to provide objective reviews. This approach was not adopted for this CCSP Report. This very serious deficiency in the process should be remedied.”

    Pielke’s “public comment” is here:


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