Climate Change News

Climate Scientists' New Hurdle: Overcoming Climate Change Apathy

It's not just about deniers anymore. Scientists now have to convince a new group: those who believe humans have altered the climate but don't think anything can or should change.


Chuck Nobles of Portland, Ore., believes that climate change is real and that humans are causing it. “I think the evidence is clear,” he said.

He’s just not sure what, if anything, should be done about it. “The planet will survive.  Humans will just need to adapt to live under different environmental conditions,” he said. For the 60-year-old Nobles, who works as a senior lecturer in marketing and management at a university in Portland, the issue is a matter of scope. “If you take some of the dramatic actions that the extreme climate people believe in, it may hurt the economy.  We must work hard to understand the trade-offs and be rational.”

Nobles represents a growing fraction of people who accept that anthropogenic climate change is a real, currently occurring phenomenon but aren’t sure that anything can or should be done about it. In a new policy forum paper published today in Science, Paul Stern of the National Research Council and colleagues call this “neoskepticism.”

Neoskeptics aren’t just random venting bloggers; policy makers and even academics are joining in. They may argue that climate scientists “overblow” the risks or insist that because scientists are still hammering out the details on climate change’s effects on the globe, immediate mitigation is too costly.

How can scientists and educators, many of whom have their hands full combating outright deniers of human-caused climate change, address neoskeptics? It’s all about communicating risk, argue Stern and his colleagues.

The Risk of Climate Change

Scientists assess risk every day, Stern explained. Whether it’s the risk of an earthquake or the spread of an infectious disease, they develop models to help communicate these risks to the public—just like they develop models to understand how climate change may affect the globe.

Consider a medical condition like hypertension, Stern said. Hypertension greatly increases the risk of heart attack or stroke, so doctors might recommend a change in diet or exercise. A doctor cannot predict when a patient might suffer a heart attack or stroke, but there are actions that can reduce the risk.

In the same way, anthropogenic climate change is a progressive phenomenon, Stern said. Although scientists can’t predict precisely its effects on severe weather, sea level rise, or droughts, the longer the world holds off on mitigation, the worse the condition gets.

Uncertainty Fuels Inaction

Unfortunately, in climate science, “there’s been a long history that says that scientific uncertainty is a reason for not taking action,” Stern said. Such delay of action feeds back to fuel neoskepticism.

For example, Nobles believes that there’s somewhere in the middle where societies could arrest the increase of carbon dioxide “a little bit.” But he added that if he were in charge of deciding what needs to be done about climate change, he would stress caution.

“I think you just need to maybe understand ranges of impact a little bit more,” he said. “I think we need to be rational about the range of possible results.”

Stern and his colleagues argue that neoskeptics indeed pose legitimate questions, for example, how much is sea level really going to rise? How much danger do coastal cities like Miami really face? Scientists have these questions too, but some neoskeptics take these uncertainties and conclude that their lack of exact answers means nothing should be done.

“The basic error these ‘lukewarmers’ make is in always taking as gospel the lowest estimate of a plausible range. They are simply allowing their biases to eliminate real uncertainty—and this is merely confirmation bias, not ‘rational optimism,’” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The consequences of neoskeptical thinking are to greatly downplay risk, Schmidt explained. “It would be like only insuring one room of your home because that was the minimum damage you project, ignoring completely that the maximum damage could be much worse.”

Approaching Climate Science Through Risks

At a fundamental level, neoskeptics want risk quantifications, so when thinking about climate change, scientists should investigate these questions from the perspective of risk, Stern said. For example, sea level is expected to rise between 0.7 and 2 meters by the end of the century and, when combined with potentially more extreme storms, could inundate coastal cities like Miami. Scientists should calculate mitigation efforts needed to tackle both ends of that spectrum—not just the best-case outcome—to communicate the very real damage that climate change could inflict.

For Nobles, it’s tiresome to hear every effect of climate change put in terms of the worst-case scenario of death and destruction. He’d like to see a middle ground, where scientists investigate the risks and probabilities of many different scenarios before extreme action is taken.

—JoAnna Wendel, Staff Writer

Correction, 16 August 2016: This post has been updated to clarify the occupation of the author of an Op-Ed that is hyperlinked in this story.

Citation: Wendel, J. (2016), Climate scientists’ new hurdle: Overcoming climate change apathy, Eos, 97, doi:10.1029/2016EO057547. Published on 11 August 2016.
© 2016. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
  • Tom Bjorklund

    The bigger problem than apathy is the need for some climate scientists to open their minds and admit that there are serious problems with the predictions from GCMs. Falling back on
    the spurious argument that a one percent chance of a correct prediction is sufficient to warrant invading Iraq or spending trillions of dollars on solar power is not a solution. Get the science right first, consider the alternatives and be transparent about the process. The Galileo solution of the Roman court, i.e., censoring opposing viewpoints is not part of the scientific method.

  • drseismo

    I may have a fundamental misunderstanding. If the mean global surface temperature does
    not the fit the model for 20 years, is that not a problem? This year a well-known climate
    scientist publicly acknowledged that “there is this mismatch between what the climate models are producing and what the observations are showing,” says lead author John Fyfe, a climate modeler at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis in Victoria, British Columbia. “We can’t ignore it.” Your comments about two different kind of models do not make sense to me. Either the models with respect to mean global temperature fit the data and are good or they do not fit the data and are wrong. Regarding the effects of solar activity, there are many scientists who do not agree that the effects are small.

  • totalastronomy

    Maybe a movement should be started to explain more clearly to the very general general public that humans have unwittingly polluted our planet’s atmosphere (CO2 CH4) on a massive scale in an exceedingly short space of time. This is not wise. Indeed it is immoral. High levels of atmospheric CO2 are also making the oceans more acid. Not good. While it is true that over deep time all sorts of stuff was different back then to now, there’s never ever been such a big change is CO2 over such a short length of time. Let me put this another way: in the last 200 years continental drift has opened the North Atlantic Ocean by less than ten metres or 0.00002% but the increase on CO2 has been 40%

  • davidlaing

    You are simply listening to yourself talk. There is no point in arguing with you, you are always right, period. All you are good at is cutting other people down and thereby showing how very clever you are and how well you can spit out the official dogma. I’m sorry, but I have better things to do than to get into endless harangues about nothing.

  • drseismo

    The first reaction of a global warmer to a critic’s comment is to show disrespect by labeling the critic a skeptic, a denier, and now a neoskeptic, which is usually following by some comment about how the science is settled. A response like this suggests to me that the
    warmer has a weak argument on the merits of the issue in question. If one looks at the bottom-line metric for testing climate change hypotheses, the prediction of global mean surface temperature,one finds that more than 99 percent of models have not even been close for at least the last twenty years. The same models appear to have no relationship to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. In fact, the rate of increase of the surface temperature trend has been steadily declining for about 20 years and this is not the first time in over 100 years that this has occurred. An argument can be made that the rate of change of the surface temperature trend will go negative as soon as 2019, which brings up a question about the urgency of rushing into public policy decisions based on current climate models that could prove to be the exact opposite of the right policies.

    Those who analyze solar activity suggest that a cooling period has already begun and might last for decades. Has a cooling period during this time frame even been considered in the current Global Circulation Models, and if it were considered, would it significantly change the predicted warming effects, if any, of greenhouse gases? Greenhouse gas modelers and solar scientists need to get together and seriously compare notes about climate science. Climate science is far from being settled.

    • dbw

      “…bottom line metric for testing climate change…” you are correct the models have been wrong for the last 20 years. However the policy decision makers use the results and data they choose to support their case. The EPA developed an update on the social cost of carbon (Nov 2014, previous version 2010) that results on average 60% increase in SCC, which is based on IPCC projections that are known to be wrong and has damage functions that the Interagency Working Group itself says are flawed and inappropriate. I know for a fact that this update was planned early in the current administration’s first term in order to push new executive rules. The SCC IAG acknowledge that the technology upon which the update is based is flawed. The “worst case” SCC, 3% 95th percentile case is intended to capture the greatest damages in the extended tails of the distribution, i.e., absolute worst case fat tail … Think about this – it is acknowledged that the models are inadequate and unreliable yet you proceed to do complicated uncertainty and damage calculations to arrive at a set of numbers to use as penalties to support an ideological agenda. We are indeed too smart for our own good.

      • drseismo

        If I understand dbw’s point, he is alluding to the use by the EPA of an administrative concoction called the Precautionary Principle that allows the EPA to by-pass the mandate that policy decisions must be supported by scientific studies. A former EPA official has written that under the Precautionary Principle “suspicion of an environmental problem is enough to justify governmental action to correct such alleged problem, even though detailed study might show that there is no need for the proposed action.” Thus, a 3% probability is sufficient to justify intervention. I would argue that possible but unsubstantiated environmental problems associated with a 3% chance of a warming earth are no greater than possible but unsubstantiated problems associated with a 3% chance of a snowball earth, which should create a regulation standoff. Fixes, if any exist, for a perceived warming
        earth would be exactly the opposite of fixes for a cooling earth. Under this scenario, applying the ‘Precautionary Principle’ and promulgating more environmental regulations based on flawed premises makes no sense whatsoever. The rational decision is to do nothing until the technology and the database are adequate to forecast long term global climate accurately enough to effectively guide energy policy decisions. Congress might consider authorizing and funding a third-party, science-based audit of the entire EPA climate change program that would lead to a return to rational, unbiased environmental policies with real Congressional oversight. The EPA is duty bound to identify and define the problem, the
        uncertainties and alternative solutions with thorough, science-based analyses
        and to not be a tool for political change.

  • VooDude

    The “the consensus among experts” has no bearing upon reality.

    • Concerned

      Not in your deluded head. You have been duped.

  • Pamela Burnley

    What is interesting to me is that otherwise completely reasonable things to do like conserving natural resources (which saves consumers money) and switching from fossil fuels (which are ‘dirty’ in plenty of other entirely obvious ways) to renewable resources, is characterized as ‘extreme action’. The fact that this doesn’t raise red flags for everyone is a testament to how hypnotized we are by consumer culture.

    • VooDude

      Things are so much more complex, than you state.
      ” like conserving natural resources (which saves consumers money)”
      I went to a restaurant last night, where water was served in nice, re-usable, eminently washable bottles. Contrast that to water severed in plastic, disposable bottles. “saving consumers money” must take into account the cost of the washable bottles, the labour to wash them, the lifetime of the bottles, and the energy and water consumed in washing the bottles … just to name a few things … while the money-cost of those disposable bottles is nil. So, which actually conserves natural resources? The assumptions and calculations to actually determine that are immense. Which is better, to waste water, washing bottles and glasses, or to waste petroleum resources in making disposable bottles?

      Wind and Solar power seem to be a no-brainer choice, right? Well, it depends. If you have a modern society, like the USA, Canada, most of Europe … people will die if the electrical power is unreliable. Extreme situations, like open-heart surgery, require constant power … constant … even a second of no power can cause death. There are thousands of people that died in the last ten years, due to “energy poverty” … a choice to spend money to eat, or spend that same money to heat … many froze to death. Periods of no wind and little sunlight can last many days … pie-in-the-sky “tesla power walls” really do not exist … modern life requires constant power. If you back away from open-heart-surgery, there are still lots of situations were loss of power for minutes, or hours, causes death.
      Wind and solar energy can be stored, and dispensed when needed … but actual facilities to do that are, maybe, 2% or less. If you want to reduce CO2 from fossil fuel burning, you have to have a constant source of power to replace the fossil fuels. The way things are today, huge amounts of fossil fuels are wasted by keeping generators spinning, just in case the sun goes behind a cloud or the wind stops blowing. These “spinning reserves” are very inefficient, so they have all the costs of staffing the power generating facility, while actually generating no billable electricity, so these costs must be amortized to the “free energy” of wind and solar … making wind and solar not so ‘carbon free” and a lot more expensive that would seem possible.

      • Pamela Burnley

        You have created a false dichotomy between conservation and wastefulness. Most first world countries use half the amount of energy per capita and have better healthcare and higher standards of living (measured by things like infant mortality, access to child care, time workers spend with family etc). Instead of buying bottled water, I carry around a glass bottle that I toss in the dishwasher each night with the rest of the dishes. It saves me a lot of money and it doesn’t use any extra water in the dishwasher. Looking for “silver bullets” and other excuses to change nothing, it is easy to find complexity and ignore lots of simple common sense solutions which could be immensely helpful.

  • Hagen Marilia

    Naturally, you must take into account that Earth is older , 4.5 billion years. If our sun is four and a half billion years old, how much longer will it shine? Stars like our sunburn for about nine or 10 billion years. So our sun is about halfway through its life. However, don’t worry. It still has about 5,000,000,000—five billion—years to go.When those five billion years are up, the sun becomes a red giant. That means the sun gets bigger and cooler at the same time. When that happens, it will not be the bright yellow shining sun we know today. It will be dimmer and appear red.
    By Nature, both are colder than before. Therefore, global warming is hard to believe in a natural way and not perceived for everybody.
    I am not sure in what you want to blame at Humans. It is not a simple question of carbon emissions. I would say other issues are warming the Earth crust; it involves the devastation of the forests without replanting or only planting exotic trees. The excessive exploration of natural resources, the massive amount of nuclear waste that you are supposed to keep it safe. What else? The extreme pollution of fresh waters the expansion of human population. Also, people lost the link to live for a purpose, they just surviving in worse conditions than before. You probably will be a number soon in the cemetery, and why to concern about the future nobody cares?
    Do you believe the big companies and economic interests are checking the global warming? If the scientists step out and publishing papers showing that explores mineral resources, razing forests are the real causes of warming they will try something different? Who cares? We are temporarily on the earth, battling to survive against the odds. The future is too far.
    However, the problem is crucial then, the riches blaming the ‘emissions’ without ‘emissions’ the planet is safe. The trees you cut, the resources exploited, the nuclear waste all solved if you are stopping emissions. Do you believe in it? Is it a religion? As a scientist, I tell you it is beyond it.
    Therefore, emissions are not the ONLY problem, for the wealthy is a new way of getting money from each other. It will become an international way of getting money and silence your minds. For a while, at least. I have a lot more to say but I am afraid that is already decided to do this way . God have Mercy!

    • Concerned

      ” It will become an international way of getting money and silence your minds.”

      LOL. It’s the Illuminati. They are controlling all the climate scientists. They do this with mind-altering chemtrails. The scientists are all lying about global warming so their handlers, the New World Order, can take your money. It is a world wide conspiracy. Every science society in the world and 195 countries are complicit in the conspiracy. Not a single young gun scientist, eager to make a name for himself, has ever exposed the conspiracy. That proves how effective the chemtrails are. We are doomed.

  • davidlaing

    The world warmed dramatically by nearly a degree C from 1975 to 1998, and it was most probably human-caused, but most probably not from CO2. CO2 has risen steadily for as long as we’ve measured it. Temperature has been up and down, and that should be a red flag, especially considering the nearly two decade “hiatus” following 1998. We put massive amounts of CFCs into the atmosphere from the mid ’60s to the mid ’90s, and we know that they thinned the ozone layer, letting more solar UV-B reach Earth’s surface. This is not only a potent source of genetic damage, it is also a potent source of heat, 48 times as effective as the mild IR released by Earth, absorbed by CO2, and SUPPOSEDLY responsible for global warming. We have no proof of that, no credible experiment that conclusively proves that greenhouse warming works, only extremely sophisticated computer models, which lend the idea a certain amount of respectability, but guess what: it could very well all be WRONG! We need to re-examine our assumptions and start looking at real data concerning climate change rather than simply rely on old, unproven ideas.

    • Concerned

      “most probably human-caused, but most probably not from CO2”

      All your arguments are false. The global average temperature rise is much more variable and noisy than the CO2 concentration rise for a variety of good reasons, including El Nino cycles. Nobody ever said that temperature should rise in lock-step with CO2. The hiatus has long been debunked. It was an artifact caused by deniers using 1998, a record hot year, as a starting point. It was just just a long pause between El Ninos. Most such assessment ignore surface temperatures. The last few years have been record highs, and the trend is and has been steadily up for over 100 years. The ozone hole has mostly been healed. Plenty of lab experiments have demonstrated the greenhouse effect. It is based on nearly 200 year old physics. The models of the greenhouse effect are not wrong. The greenhouse effect has also been confirmed (not that confirmation was needed) by satellited data measuring heat input to and heat output from the earth.

      You need to re-examine your science denial assumptions. You have been duped.

      • davidlaing

        You are the one who is seriously in need of a scientific reassessment. Can you point to the experimental proof that CO2 actually causes global warming? No, of course you can’t, because it simply doesn’t exist. Knut Angstrom had a negative result for this back in 1900, and no actual experiment to test the theory has been done since, only a lot of sophisticated theory and computer modeling, and that just isn;t good enough. I do not make idle or wrong statements. As an Earth systems scientist, I carefully check the known facts about the Earth system before I make any pronouncements about the way I think it operates, and I know that there is a great, big hole in the argument that CO2 and other “greenhouse gases” cause global warming. The evidence is simply not there. I challenge you to prove me wrong on this, but I know that you can’t in the complete absence of supportive evidence.

        • Concerned

          “the complete absence of supportive evidence.”

          The “no empirical evidence” is a common denier ploy. It is a perpetual game of go-fish, where the deniers claim that the evidence is not good enough to suit them. If you point to model assessments and projections, the deniers will say that the models are wrong, so models are unacceptable. If you point to correlations, such as CO2 rising and global average temperature rising, they will say that correlations do not prove causation. Therefore, no evidence is acceptable to a denier.

          In fact, it is not one piece of evidence that does it. It is a concilience of evidence. The greenouse effect is nearly 200 year old physics. No respectable scientist doubts it. Models of the greenhouse effect are not wrong. It is basic molecular level radiant heat transport. Correlations of temperature rise with CO2 rise are not wrong. Energy imbalance (inward from the sun – outward IR) caused by the greenhouse effect has been measured with satellites. Google “satellite data confirm greenhouse effect.”

          I am not going to show you all the pieces of the puzzle because this forum does not like links. Google “Climate Change: Lines of Evidence – YouTube” to find a 26 minute video from the National Academy of Science.


          Prof Steven Sherwood, director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, said:

          “The [no-empirical] evidence argument is specious. Anyone can claim there is no evidence if they refuse to look at it. In Galileo’s time, some people refused to look into his telescope and then claimed there was no evidence to support what he was saying. Same thing today.

          The problem is that evidence does not stand up by itself and announce the answer to any given question. Evidence must be interpreted by humans. Scientists have all interpreted the evidence, going back decades, and unanimously agree that it proves beyond a reasonable doubt that (a) humans are increasing CO2 and (b) this is causing warming. There is not a single respectable atmospheric scientist in the world whom I know of, who disagrees with either of these conclusions (there are a handful who challenge the magnitude of the effect but that’s a different question).

          It is impossible to make a prediction based on data alone. Only a model can make a prediction of anything that has not happened yet.”

          • davidlaing

            You have your head in the sand, Concerned. There is no place for “consensus” or “weight of scientific opinion” here. Either something is right or it is wrong. It doesn’t matter in the least how many scientists are willing to sign off on an idea. If it hasn’t been proven, it hasn’t been proven, and that is all there is to it. Science is not done right in the modern world. You need to open your horizons a lot, otherwise you are not doing science, you are doing religion instead. One you believe something in science, you’re done. ALWAYS keep an open mind about everything, and you’l stay out of trouble.

            • Concerned

              “Either something is right or it is wrong.”

              LOLz. The concept of evidence eludes you. I know you did not review my Google search references. You have not responded to any of my points. OK, you show me evidence that AGW is wrong, since you like to blather so about it.

              As for your assertion that AGW is not proven, there is no proof in science. If you are a scientist, which I seriously doubt, you should know that. The best you can do in a scientific theory (google the definition) is to amass a concilience of evidence and scientific consensus (google the definition) which show that the theory hasn’t been proved wrong yet. You can’t prove it wrong. The AGW theory has met that test in spades after decades of research, including about a century of research into the greenhouse effect. The theory stands.

              All your “open mind” and “religion” nonsense is BS. You have nothing. You can’t show any evidence that supports your view.

              • VooDude

                “…AGW is not proven, there is no proof in science.”
                but there is, in engineering.
                One cannot measure a parameter that is ±50% and then say, with certainly, that a 0.05% change is observed. Can’t happen. Computer models do have ±50% in many, many parameters … actual measurements of ‘climate’ parameters do not have the requisite accuracy to detect, let alone measure, the theoretical “global warming”.

              • davidlaing

                There is no point in my wasting my time further with this non-productive interchange. It is perfectly clear who is the real scientist here. I have my degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard University, and I am extensively published. Can you claim as much? I doubt it, sincerely. I will just close with the caveat that with your uninquiring attitude, you are a discredit to all of scientific endeavor. You would do well to make some kind of effort to educate yourself on the issues concerned here and to change your hidebound attitudes about them, or you can simply forget about making any kind of credible impact in science.

                • Concerned

                  “It is perfectly clear who is the real scientist here.”

                  A real science would be able to show evidence. You can’t. You are not a real scientist.

                • Concerned

                  Climate science deniers will not make a credible impact either. You may be perfectly fine studying the geology of ice age cycles, but there is a big world beyond that which you have no grasp of. I am not too impressed by Dartmouth and Harvard. Unless you have published in the field of climate science, you have no leg to stand on. Care to link to your best work in climate science?

                • Morbeau

                  Fantastic response! “I have degrees, therefore I don’t need to learn about the greenhouse effect.” That’s like a guy I used to work for when we implemented modern safety procedures in the lab: “I have a Ph.D, so I don’t need to wear safety glasses in the lab.”

            • Morbeau

              So you didn’t watch the video. Sadly predictable.

              • davidlaing

                My methodology is rock solid. I don’t study those who study Earth. I study Earth, and the known facts about it, and I come to the best conclusions I can based on Occam’s razor. I don’t claim to be right 100% of the time, but in going directly to Earth, I eliminate all sorts of “clever ideas” that justify researchers’ existences for which they receive large amounts of grant money. I receive no money at all. I am quite secure in my methods. Earth, and no one else, will ultimately prove me right or it will prove me wrong. I rather think that this is the best shot at getting it right the first time around.

                • Morbeau

                  David Liang, you’re clearly an educated guy. How should we, as thinking humans, respond when we find out that some of our assumptions are incorrect?

                  Disputing that the greenhouse effect is real is to attempt to discredit centuries of science, laws of physics and direct observation. Without the greenhouse effect, we would not even be here to argue about it.

                  The way I see it, this is fundamentally an argument about physics. We have a set of rules (or laws, if you like) that tell us how physical interactions work in the universe. Those rules are very useful — they allowed us to build these computers, to put men on the moon, and put several really cool rovers on Mars. We have a whole civilization built on sophisticated technologies like modern medicine, computers, and transportation that were basically unimaginable 200 years ago. Those same physical laws are the basis of climate science — the difference is that we like the results when they put a shiny computer in front of us, not so much when the results tell us we have to change the way we live on this planet.

          • VooDude

            “If you point to model assessments and projections, the deniers will say that the models are wrong, so models are unacceptable”
            Yes, the models are way, way wrong. I can walk you through the analysis, but it would take more than most “disqus” installations will permit … and, it would be necessary for the disqus site to display graphics … which this site does not. The absolute fact that the computer models have insufficient accuracy … is not in question.

      • VooDude

        “The hiatus has long been debunked.”
        Well, sort of. The satellite-measured decline of temperatures was bumped up to a statistically insignificant rise in temperatures.

        “It was an artifact caused by deniers using 1998, a record hot year, as a starting point.”
        1998 was a convenient spike, but, if you ignored the 1998 period altogether, the decline of temperatures, as measured by UAH and RSS, continued from late 2000, right up to the 2015-16 El Niño. So C. Mears was wrong. The pause is presently on hiatus … but the global temperatures are dropping fast from the decaying El Niño.

        “Plenty of lab experiments have demonstrated the greenhouse effect”
        And no real-world effects can be found for incremental increases of the present CO2 levels. None. Absolutely none.
        Certainly … in the lab, where normal atmospherics are cancelled or controlled. The real atmosphere of the earth, however, has water, which sublimes, evaporates, condenses, and freezes, as well as interfere with short-wave sunlight and long-wave infrared. Real effects of the CO2 ‘greenhouse effect’ on the earth are nil, now, because the ability of CO2 decreases logarithmically with atmospheric concentration.

        “It is based on nearly 200 year old physics.” It was theorized a long time ago, but the albedo of the earth was not known until the space age … prior to that, the ‘energy budget of the earth’ used albedo values from 29% to 89% A large albedo necessitated a large greenhouse effect (climate sensitivity); a smaller albedo didn’t require that. It wasn’t until after the 1960s that the albedo was determined to be at the lowest end of the argument’s range, about one third the size of the largest guesstimate, which means that the greenhouse effect was now measured to be a lot smaller than expected. Even today, no measurement … none … of the ‘earth’s energy budget’ figures … is measured with sufficient precision to “prove” any global warming, or not … let alone any anthropogenic effects on “global warming” … So your contention that “The greenhouse effect has also been confirmed (not that confirmation was needed) by satellited data measuring heat input to and heat output from the earth.” … absolutely wrong. No measurements actually “add up” – due to instrument imprecisions.

        • Concerned

          “”It is based on nearly 200 year old physics.” It was theorized a long time ago, but the albedo of the earth was not known until the space age”

          LOLz. The greenhouse effect has nothing to do with albedo. The greenhouse effect is based on molecular radiant heat transport in the atmosphere – absorption and re-radiation in all directions. Albedo is a separate thing. You are an exceptionally weak denier.

          • VooDude

            Well, the greenhouse effect is just part of the energy budget, you know, the solar energy striking the earth must be balanced by the infrared energy emitted by the planet, otherwise, cooling or warming occurs. The greenhouse effect is meaningless without these other factors.

            • Concerned

              ” the solar energy striking the earth must be balanced by the infrared
              energy emitted by the planet, otherwise, cooling or warming occurs.”

              You are almost there. Energy into earth exceeds energy out to space, so the earth is warming. The greenouses effect is the cause of the imbalance. It is a transient response. There is no balance yet.

              • VooDude

                Document that. “Energy into earth exceeds energy out to space, so the earth is warming.”
                Nothing, absolutely nothing is even remotely capable of making that measurement. The supposed “warming” is really small, on the order of ¾W per square metre. The incoming insolation from the sun (TSI) is around 1361W/m^2. Compare the two figures … ¾W is 0.055% of 1361W … absolutely nothing is that accurate.

          • Morbeau


            Entertainment is where you find it.

    • VooDude

      Show me that there was “letting more solar UV-B reach Earth’s surface.”
      The ozone thinning was not a ‘hole’ as perceived in a t-shirt or a plastic bag … the ozone thinning was like a pothole in a roadway … a depression, but, looking into a pothole, one does not see the other side of the earth … and, UV radiation hitting the “ozone hole” penetrates a little further into the atmosphere, but this does not make a significant increase at the surface… To show the penetration of the hole, you first must measure the UV radiation hitting the top of the atmosphere, and then show a corresponding, correlating increase at the surface. Just because an increase is measured at the surface does not mean that the atmosphere is letting more through … UV radiation from the sun varies, naturally, by a factor of ten, and is significantly varying over periods of minutes to hours, let alone days to years.

      • davidlaing

        You’re babbling, VooDude, and you know it. The principle of ozone depletion was well established by Mario Molina, and part of that is increased UV-B irradiation. People were just too focused on DNA effects of ionizing radiation to acknowledge the simple and obvious fact that it also contributes to warming because it is 48 times more powerful than the IR that Earth puts out and is absorbed by CO2. Sasha Madronich has documented the increase in UV-B on ozone depeletion in his 2011 paper.

        • VooDude

          Really? What documents the baseline radiant energy of UV at the top of the atmosphere?

    • drseismo

      I agree with your comments that the greenhouse gas global warming models could well be wrong. But I would prefer to use the trend of long-term warming to measure the amount of long-term temperature change. Technically, based on monthly average temperatures, the earth warmed about one degree C from 1975-1998, but that is based on the difference between high and low temperature outliers. The Increase of the trendline of the temperatures is only about 0.25 degrees C.

      • davidlaing

        Right you are. As I’ve said elsewhere, I think that the dramatic rise in temperature from 1975 to 1998 was induced by spray cans putting CFCs into the atmosphere, thinning ozone, and letting in more solar UV-B. Other than that, I think that HCl and HBr from non-explosive (basaltic) volcanoes plus aerosols from explosive (andesitic) volcanoes account well for the variations in temperature, and they do so throughout Phanerozoic time.

  • M​a​r​k S​h​o​r​e

    I’m puzzled why this article has appeared in EOS, or at least by its tone. If I want to read straw man arguments and misrepresentations and moldy talking points put forth by non-scientists about climate change then I can find them in any number of newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to Canada’s National Post to Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloids in the UK. (Note that I am not referring to the Science opinion piece by Stern et al. but to the space given to the view of Chuck Nobles and to passing the error-riddled political scientist Bjorn Lomborg off as a “respected scientist”.)

    I expect more clarity and sharper science-focused arguments from the newsletter of the American Geophysical Union. The naivete underlying JoAnna Wendel’s approach might have been understandable twenty years ago. It is not understandable today. There is a false balance between according three paragraphs to the views of marketing lecturer Chuck Nobles and two to NASA’s Gavin Schmidt that is utterly disproportionate to their respective understanding of climate science.

    Coupled with the AGU’s footdragging over rejecting ExxonMobil sponsorship (for an annual meeting breakfast, of all things) because of that company’s past and ongoing funding of lobby groups and think tanks disseminating scientific disinformation about climate change, it makes me wonder what the executive leadership at the world’s largest geoscience association is thinking.

  • Concerned

    “The planet will survive. Humans will just need to adapt to live under different environmental conditions,”

    Nobles does not understand the problem. A few degrees C is not like a sunny day at the beach. It is flooding of coastal cities, extreme droughts, greatly reduced agriculture yields, among other things. Nobles must know something about economics if not human misery. As a comparison, consider the impact of 9/11. Now consider the impact of Manhattan being flooded.

    The only scenarios that do not, in time, develop into worst case are scenarios with greatly reduced CO2 emissions.

    • M​a​r​k S​h​o​r​e

      “Now consider the impact of Manhattan being flooded.”

      The $20-plus billion cost of Hurricane Sandy to NYC gives some clue. The last repairs of the subway system should be completed by 2020, eight years after it was flooded.

  • charlesx

    Constant Gardener is right, there is nothing new (or “neo”) here. It has always been the case that if you ask people if they care about climate change, they will say yes, but they aren’t prepared to take drastic action about it, which shows that they don’t really care about it all that much.

    Most people realise that the activist left like Schmidt and Stern exaggerate the risks of climate change. For a specific example, there’s the alarmist claim here that sea level rise is projected to rise 0.7 – 2m by the end of this century, but it isn’t, as anyone can check by looking at the latest IPCC report. Stern and his colleagues prefer to cite an article in the National Geographic rather than the IPCC report, because it gives a higher number which fits better with their political narrative.

    • Colin Summerhayes

      Actually the IPCC failed to adequately take into consideration the likely response of ice sheets to continued warming (for example the increasing rates of melting of Antarctic ice shelves from beneath by warm water welling up from the depths in response to changes in surface winds). A good many recent papers (e.g from Stefan Rahmstorf) consider that the rise in sea level will be significantly greater than shown in the 2013 IPCC projections, which represented the state of the art in published papers from 2012, now 4 years ago. The science has moved on since then.

      • VooDude

        “…for example the increasing rates of melting of Antarctic ice shelves…”
        Well, the rates have been decreasing in the last four or five consecutive years. Yeah, there is melting. But there is also snow accumulations.
        Besides, ice shelves have already made their contribution to displaced water levels, because the float. There have been more than half a dozen “catastrophic” collapses of ice shelves recently, and no discernible perturbations of sea level can be found.

  • Constant Gardener

    This is nothing more than old wine in new bottles. The uncertainty monster has been around a long time and isn’t made new by calling it neoskepticism. But, I guess if a marketing lecturer is having “thoughts” on science, we need to get more serious about slaying the uncertainty monster in all its forms, if only to spare us the denialist musings of marketing lecturers.

  • SteveBloom

    For years, deniers got all the attention because they’re noisy and have friends in high places in business, media and politics. But they were ever a pretty small slice of the population. Now that they’re running out of gas, thanks in part to improving science but maybe more importantly to increasingly palpable effects, the real problem has heaved into view. But they were always there, and always were the real problem.

    Simply put, this “apathetic” (not sure that’s really the right word) grouping won’t respond to threats that are either too far away or too far into the future. This is unfortunate given the severely lagged nature (relative to human lifetimes) of climate disruption.

    I’m not sure what else there is to say, other than keep plugging away. Good luck to us.

    • VooDude

      (1)“…increasingly palpable effects, the real problem…”
      conflicts with
      (2)“…the severely lagged nature (relative to human lifetimes) of climate disruption”

      How can (1) be apparent, if (2) is true? How can effects (of climate disruption) be increasingly palpable, if the severely lagged nature, relative to human lifetimes, of climate disruption is real?

      97% of what is called “anthropogenic climate change” effects are really just ordinary weather.
      Drought, worldwide, is decreasing, Wildfires, worldwide, are decreasing, Hurricanes, tornadoes, and other cyclonic wind disturbances are decreasing across the globe. Maybe, just maybe, precipitation intensity might be going up … slightly. Hard to tell, as current instrumentation, and measurement location density, are not comparable to relevant time periods in the past. I think everyone agrees that it is a tad bit warmer, now, than it was in the peak of the Little Ice Age. I think everyone agrees that Mannkind burns more fossil fuel now, than in the depths of the Little Ice Age. Sea Levels are rising … linearly (no acceleration) and AGW theory requires acceleration.

      There are no “palpable effects” of anthropogenic climate change … let alone, “increasingly palpable effects” …

  • Morbeau

    “…a growing portion of the general public is neoskeptics.”

    A growing portion of the general public is dumb as a post. I blame TV.

    • VooDude

      Your posts, perhaps.