$10,000 Challenge Submission – EU2014

I think Ben Davidson of Suspicious observers already disproved AGW: http://youtu.be/5c4XPVPJwBY

Response:

So, I actually sat through the whole video and I could not see anywhere that he is even trying to disprove global warming. Let’s recap some of the pertinent points.

He admits the temperature is going up.

He admits there is a correlation between temperature and CO2.

He admits the CO2 comes from human emissions.

So, what is the deal here? What is he claiming?

Well, the most noticeable thing he is claiming is the Sun is cooling. In fact, he states, “I would place my money on global cooling.”

Let’s review. One of the things I have repeated many times on this blog in many challenges is that we are in a natural cooling cycle and part of that natural cooling cycle is that the solar activity has been decreasing. So, what Mr. Davidson really said was the same thing I have been saying, just in a lot (A LOT) more sensational manner. I am reluctant to say we are in global cooling and a new mini-ice age is on the way when we are in the midst of the hottest years ever recorded. And, for the those that keep saying we are no longer warming, 9 of the 10 hottest years and the three hottest have all occurred since the year 2000. This year is well on track to breaking the record if things don’t change (a cold winter in mid-America doesn’t mean the rest of the world was the same).

I know its a big crowd pleaser, but much of his talk was unsubstantiated sensationalism. He made claims about things that he never demonstrated was true or was relevant. He made several claims that I know are not true and others where he conveniently only mentioned the part that supported his claim. Many of the people he cited as ‘experts’ are well-known tools of the fossil fuel industry and receive tens of thousands of dollars in funding (and more!) from that source. Some of the people he mentioned have been caught falsifying their research and data.

And, ultimately, he acknowledged that man made greenhouse gas emissions acted to warm the planet. He just claimed it is irrelevant because the Sun will cool more than the greenhouse gases will keep it warm. That is the gist of his talk.

So, I have to say that this video did not produce any evidence that man made global warming is not real.  In fact, I think he provided a great deal of evidence against the ‘climate goes in cycles’ argument.

And, he might be right about the Sun. It is too early to know for sure (and we have a poor understanding of the Sun’s interior activity), but there really is data to support his general thesis of a cooling Sun. We’ll have to wait and see.

Naturally Occurring Cycles Are Not Responsible For Today’s Warming

The claim that there have been naturally occurring warming cycles in the past has become the single most often stated ‘proof’ that man made global warming is real. I have discussed this before, but thought it was time to address it again.

There are lots of naturally occurring cycles and the climate has gone through many warming and cooling phases in the past. Take a look at this plot of temperature and CO2 over the last 800,000 years. Today is on the left.

It is very easy to see that there have been lots of warming periods in the last 800,000 years. I could 13 separate times the global average goes above the baseline, including today. You may get a different number based on how you define ‘separate.’ We also see the level of CO2 in the atmosphere rises and falls with a very high correlation coefficient.

The denier argument goes like this: Evidence of past warming cycles proves today’s warming trend is just a naturally occurring cycle. To put it succinctly, it goes like this:

There were warming periods in the past.
We have a warming period today.
The warming periods in the past were natural.
Therefore, today’s warming trend is natural.

Does anyone disagree with my characterization of the denier argument?

Does anyone see the fatal flaw in this argument?

Let me give you an identical argument.

Pneumonia kills people.
Gunshot wounds kill people.
Pneumonia is a naturally occurring disease.
Therefore, gunshot wounds are a naturally occurring disease.

The problem with this argument, and the reason it is a false argument, is that it makes a false connection between the first part and the second. It is automatically assumed, without any evidence, that pneumonia and gunshot wounds are related merely because they both kill people. At no time is any evidence presented to link them together or to show that there is only one way to kill people (a naturally occurring disease).

The denier argument makes an equally false connection between past warming trends and today’s warming trend. It is automatically assumed, without evidence, that today’s trend and all past trends are related simply because they are both warming trends. At no time is any evidence every presented to link them together and it is assumed, without proof, that there is only one way to cause a warming trend (a natural cycle). All of these are false arguments designed to fool and deceive. There even multiple ways to have a naturally occurring cycle. They are not all the same simply because they occurred naturally.

The real truth about natural cycles is very disturbing for deniers. There are lots of naturally occurring cycles and they are studied a lot by scientists. There is the Milankovitch cycles, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the solar cycle, solar activity (not the same as the solar cycle), and more.

Deniers will pull one of these cycles out with an ‘Ah ha! Caught you!’ type of attitude, as if they are the first person to find them and scientists are ignoring them. Ask yourself one question, who do you think discovered these cycles in the first place? Some denier playing around on his computer? No! They were discovered by scientists and we work these cycles into our calculations.

Two very influential cycles are the AMO and solar activity. Both of these give a lot of correlation to global average temperature. Unfortunately, both of these were in a negative phase throughout the warming trend of the 1980s and 1990s. The AMO has turned positive (warming), ironically during the same period deniers claim global warming has stopped (not true), but the solar activity has continued to be in a negative phase.

The sum of the natural cycles is that we are in a naturally cooling phase, not a warming one. If it was not for man made greenhouse gas emissions, the climate would be much cooler than the long-term average. All of the heating above the long-term average (actually, above what it would be without our emissions) is due to human activity in the form of greenhouse gases which trap heat in the atmosphere that would otherwise escape into space.

Is Global Warming Caused by Sunspots?

An old claim made by global warming deniers is that global warming can be attributed to the number of sunspots. They will point out that there was a general rise in the number of sunspots during the last few hundred years and the this number closely matches the temperature trend.

This is one of those claims that has just enough truth to sound credible. Basically, the Sun is responsible for all global warming. Without the Sun, Earth would be a big frozen, lifeless ball floating around in space. And, in fact, there is good evidence that solar activity at least contributes to variations in the climate. The Maunder Minimum is frequently pointed at as evidence of the effectiveness of solar activity towards global warming.

During the period between about 1645 and 1715 when there were very few sunspots. This period also coincided with what is dubbed the Little Ice Age, a period when North America and Europe experienced unusually severe winters. There is scientific evidence to show that the Sun’s ultraviolet output varies more over a solar cycle than was previously thought. This seems to lend credence to the idea that the solar cycle is responsible for the recently observed global warming, as claimed by some people.

Unfortunately, there is a real flaw in the theory. Starting in the 1970s the Sun started becoming slightly more quiet, a trend that is still continuing. But, this was when we started to see the unprecedented rise in global temperatures. Never has there been any similar rise in global temperature in the recorded record, going back 800,000 years, as what we are witnessing today. And yet, the Sun actually got cooler during that time span.

One commenter to an earlier posting to this blog, Dan Pangburn, claims to have developed a mathematical equation to leads to a match between time-integrated sunspot numbers and global temperatures.You can read his write-up here. His write-up is very technical, which seems to give it some degree of credibility. However, after looking it over I can say I believe he would not be able to get it past any peer review.

Basically, he uses numerical analysis in order to get a correlation between his equation and the measured data. There is nothing wrong with numerical analysis and it is used frequently, I have personally used in my research. However, it is not evidence of any cause and effect. This is part of what is known as modeling.

Mr. Pangburn claims his modeling shows that carbon dioxide is not a driver of global warming because he can get the equations to fit the data with a great deal of correlation without using any CO2 input. In fact, he actually does use CO2 input, but without acknowledging it. He uses both cloud cover and ocean oscillations as input for his equations, along with the sunspot number. But, it must be noted that both cloud cover and ocean temperature are strongly affected by atmospheric greenhouse gases. CO2 is the most influential of these gases. What Mr. Pangburn is doing is the equivalent of claiming wear and tear on roads is not dependent on the number of cars driving on the roads, but is actually dependent on the number of tires sold.

So, what does this mean?

The historical record indicates there is probably some degree of climate dependence on solar activity. However, the evidence also shows this dependence should be causing a slight global cooling at the same time we have experienced a record-setting rise in global temperature.

So, we can conclude that the sunspot number is not what is responsible for what we have been witnessing the last 35 years. Mr. Pangburn can continue conducting his numerical analysis, but it will only make a nice graph without providing any kind of scientific evidence.

Here is an article in Scientific American about the topic.  And, here is a good summary of the scientific literature.