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Topic Title: E&T Magazine - Debate - Is climate change a man-made phenomenon?
Topic Summary: E&T Magazine - Debate - Is climate change a man-made phenomenon?
Created On: 21 November 2012 10:41 AM
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 21 November 2012 10:10 PM
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simongarrett

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Just a few points:
Originally posted by: griggnz
With the greatest respect Simon, science is not determined by consensus, but by the scientific method.

The scientific method is a continual process of gathering and assessing evidence, and forming, refining and if necessary changing a consensus with regard to hypotheses. With physical sciences (as opposed to pure logic-based activities) theories are never proved true, one just looks for more evidence. They can, of course, be proved false, but...
Originally posted by: griggnz
Postulation of any reasonable theory is fine, but the moment a single piece of evidence debunks that theory, it's all over.

... it requires more than a single piece of evidence. For example, Newton's law of universal gravitation predicts the attraction between two bodies. We could never prove it true, but it would take only a single case where it were not true for it to be proved false, or at least incomplete. But we would want more than a single piece of evidence to be confident that our test case really is counter to Newton's law.

On the more general issue, I think it's revealing to look at just who is taking each side on climate change issues. I like to think of myself as quite clever, but I'm not a climate scientist, and my views on whether climate change is happening (and why) don't carry much weight. Similarly, if we're serious about the scientific method, as I think griggnz is suggesting, then we should not only gather evidence but we should try to assess the reliability of it. Perhaps weight most strongly the evidence of experts in the subject?

If you take evidence only from climate science experts, and preferably from peer-reviewed sources, you'll find there really is a very strong consensus about whether climate change is happening, and whether human activities are a significant factor. See for example Doran 2009

Perhaps you think climate scientists are biased, naive or just victims of confirmation bias. But can you suggest a better source of evidence on climate change than from climate scientists? If so, please demonstrate to me that your source of evidence is more reliable than the evidence of climate scientists.
 22 November 2012 12:53 AM
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johnbill

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Unfortunately climate scientists seldom present evidence. Instead they present their interpretations of the evidence that can be found at sites such as the CDIAC. The peer review process tends to reinforce a concensus, but as Galileo found to his cost the consensus is not necessarily the truth.
The whole debate hinges on the concept of the "Greenhouse Effect", a terrible misnomer, supporting the fallacious concept of a layer of carbon dioxide reflecting heat back to the ground. There is no cause to doubt the calculated "black body" temperature of -18C for a body this distance from the sun, in contrast to the mean surface temperatue of 14.5C. At the time of Copenhagen I saw an IET link to "What is the Greenhouse Effect?" The explanation was excellent. At those wavelengths where the atmosphere is opaque, radiation must escape from the cold upper levels, cold because of the 'lapse rate' thermodynamic effect.
Since heat can only escape from the Eath by radiation, from space the Earth must 'appear' to be at 18C, made up of some wavelengths radiating from the surface while others are from temperatures approaching that of the tropopause.
As I say, I found that explanation clear and convincing, but within days it had been taken down from the IET website. Why?
Spectra from space show the makeup of these wavelengths and a clear impression is that in the CO2 wavelenghts the atmosphere is "as black as it can get".
There are many ways to view the temperatue records. Al Gore saw 'hockey sticks' that have failed to transpire. As a control engineer, I see them not as an exponential runaway but as a series of lagged steps. let me portray a fanciful hypothesis.
In the 1960s, concern about 'acid rain' caused sulphur dioxide to be scrubbed from chimney emissions. That removed an effect that depressed temperatures and a lagged step was the result. A couple of decades later there was concern for 'the hole in the ozone layer' and CFCs were banned. Ozone is a 'greenhouse gas' in its own right and an increase could account for the lagged sep that stabilised in the late 1990s. Apart from random variation, we have seen no significant increase since then, although atmospheric carbon dioxide has continuted to escalate unabated.
I have tried to draw together the data in a paper that can be found by Googling "Facts about Carbon and Climate". It neither supports nor denies the connection, but it does cast doubt on the certainty with which the carbon-reducers hold their views.
 22 November 2012 03:21 AM
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HazelGroveWolf

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Originally posted by: griggnz

But somehow the climate-change (formerly known as global warming) lobby has captured some people who really should know better!


Exactly, I'm 47 so am well clear of what might be taught in schools now.
I was told candidly by a maths teacher at lower sixth standard that my son was taught (along with everyone else no doubt) that the college didn't teach understanding but how to pass exams. I wasn't suprised but I hate the implication - might it be possible that understanding helps pass exams without breaking a sweat.
 22 November 2012 03:32 AM
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HazelGroveWolf

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Originally posted by: mpataylor

It's hard to believe that a professional engineer would think he had anything worthwhile to contribute to someone else's speciality. Do you think they're discussing the finer points of electrical engineering on the climatology websites? Of course, if you think you know better than NASA, The Royal Society etc...


Our customers are welcome to make their views known on our products anytime they like.
You are naively appealing to bodies you consider as authorities.

Do you really believe that we live in an age when the lessons of the past have been learnt? Has political oppression even in the 'west' disappeared?

Edited: 22 November 2012 at 03:39 AM by HazelGroveWolf
 22 November 2012 07:42 AM
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juliancable

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I think this debate follows the unhelpful thinking current on the subject.

Does it matter whether or not its our fault? No-one else is going to fix it for us.

A valid question is: 'Is there a plausible body of evidence that humans can affect the climate?'

If there is, then we can have some hope that we can mitigate the worst affects of climate change, and we have some clue as to how.

If there is not, then we need to try something different and see if that works, or give up trying to fix the climate and put all our efforts into adapting to it.
 22 November 2012 08:36 AM
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mpataylor

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I really cannot see how to begin to reply to your post, Hazel: it makes so little sense. Were you posting after a heavy night? Our customers can make their views known about our products anytime they like, too. And the relevance of that piece of information is? I don't think listening to the views of institutions such as NASA, the AAAS or The Royal Society on a question of science is naive. Quite the opposite. Where would you suggest I find out about climate change? Sorry - what lessons from the past? It has nothing to with politics - it's a question of science. The politics only comes in when we need to decide what, if anything, to do about it.
 22 November 2012 08:42 AM
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geoffbenn

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Originally posted by: simongarrett

we should try to assess the reliability of it. Perhaps weight most strongly the evidence of experts in the subject?

If you take evidence only from climate science experts, and preferably from peer-reviewed sources, you'll find there really is a very strong consensus about whether climate change is happening, and whether human activities are a significant factor. See for example Doran 2009

Perhaps you think climate scientists are biased, naive or just victims of confirmation bias. But can you suggest a better source of evidence on climate change than from climate scientists? If so, please demonstrate to me that your source of evidence is more reliable than the evidence of climate scientists.


Spot on!

-------------------------
Geoff Benn BSc(Hons) CEng MIET
George Washington: Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.
skepticalscience.com: getting skeptical about global warming skepticism
sourcewatch.org: exposing public opinion manipulation
 22 November 2012 08:45 AM
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geoffbenn

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Originally posted by: johnbill

Unfortunately climate scientists seldom present evidence.

Really?

Originally posted by: johnbill

It neither supports nor denies the connection, but it does cast doubt on the certainty with which the carbon-reducers hold their views.

Does it really cast doubt? "carbon-reducers" = Emotional give away. Why can't engineers stick to the objective facts?

Geoff Benn BSc CEng MIET



-------------------------
Geoff Benn BSc(Hons) CEng MIET
George Washington: Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.
skepticalscience.com: getting skeptical about global warming skepticism
sourcewatch.org: exposing public opinion manipulation
 22 November 2012 08:48 AM
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geoffbenn

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Originally posted by: juliancable

A valid question is: 'Is there a plausible body of evidence that humans can affect the climate?'

That should have been the question posed by the IET, whose reputation must surely suffer as a result of this 'debate'.



-------------------------
Geoff Benn BSc(Hons) CEng MIET
George Washington: Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.
skepticalscience.com: getting skeptical about global warming skepticism
sourcewatch.org: exposing public opinion manipulation
 22 November 2012 08:58 AM
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geoffbenn

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Originally posted by: mpataylor It has nothing to with politics - it's a question of science. The politics only comes in when we need to decide what, if anything, to do about it.
Unfortunately it does have an awful lot to do with politics as I alluded to above. The scientists have indeed made it clear to the politicians that we need to act, and act quickly and decisively if we are to avoid dangerous climate change, and a general tipping to an uninhabitable planet. The problem is that the voting public also need to be convinced that we must make significant changes. If we'd started earlier then those changes wouldn't have seemed so bad. Albert Bartlett stated "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." I understand that Johnny Ball is a bit of a mathematician, but according to his piece above, he doesn't seem to understand "There was, and still is, nothing alarming about the trend at all." On Twitter? Search for #4degrees...

-------------------------
Geoff Benn BSc(Hons) CEng MIET
George Washington: Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.
skepticalscience.com: getting skeptical about global warming skepticism
sourcewatch.org: exposing public opinion manipulation
 22 November 2012 10:01 AM
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jmccabe

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Originally posted by: geoffbenn

The IPCC is not some distant organisation. It consists of scientists from all over the world. I don't have current figures to hand, but there were 2500 scientists from 113 countries, including countries which sought to dumb down the conclusions, and they still reached a conclusion... The Earth's climate system is unequivocally warming, and it is more than 90% certain that humans are causing it. Time to move on and deal with it while we still can...


2500 scientists? Are you sure? Are they 'climate scientists'? Have you read:

Link removed/ipccscientists.html

Have you also read:

Link removed/national...a8dd-1e3ff42df34f&p=2

It can't possibly have escaped your attention also that the IPCC's "Summary for Policymakers", the document used by governments around the world as an excuse for their anti-CO2 policies, is a collaboration between scientists (mainly lead authors from the IPCC working groups) and civil servants and has, on a number of occasions, been criticised for its use of emotive language and its exaggeration and prominence of worst case outcomes when compared to the scientific reports, which often emphasise the fact that many of the potential outcomes are uncertain.

Originally posted by: geoffbenn

Link removed is a useful way to research people who might be funded to speak out against the main-stream peer-reviewed science. For instance by the fossil fuel industry.


The question of funding is typical alarmist propaganda; failure to prove the claims they are trying to make and attempting instead to discredit those who try to create reasoned discussion on the issues. It's worth remembering Al Gore's connections with Occidental Petroleum (and his obvious hypocrisy regarding the use of energy), and Rajendar Pachauri's connections to Indian Oil and GloriOil.
 22 November 2012 12:03 PM
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geoffbenn

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JMcCabe:
 
- from your first link (unclickable but Google found the file) 20% of 2500, is still 500 climate scientists, how many would you want?
 
- "excuse for their anti-CO2 policies" - hearing your point of view loud and clear. Everyone makes mistakes, we should base our decisions on the overall picture.
 
- "alarmist propaganda" - please see my discussion of "alarmist" above.
 
- I notice that you have not responded to the 12 points directed specifically at your post...
 
-       My favourite item from posts above is that once a theory is disproven, then that's it. And once a person(/engineer!) demonstrates their lack of statistical understanding by claiming cooling since the 1998 temperature spike, then that clearly demonstrates their scientific unreliability. If you don't understand statistics then I guess you also don't understand the exponential function, ie. tipping points (think light switch...).
 
Geoff Benn BSc CEng MIET

-------------------------
Geoff Benn BSc(Hons) CEng MIET
George Washington: Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.
skepticalscience.com: getting skeptical about global warming skepticism
sourcewatch.org: exposing public opinion manipulation
 22 November 2012 12:49 PM
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jmccabe

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Originally posted by: geoffbenn

JMcCabe:

- from your first link (unclickable but Google found the file) 20% of 2500, is still 500 climate scientists, how many would you want?


Mmm - they don't seem to like my links. However - the point is that the IPCC suggests it represents 2500 of the world's greatest climate scientists (as you have essentially reiterated) which is complete and utter nonsense, whitewash, call it what you will but, basically, is lies. What's more, as I pointed out, there are very few scientists actually involved in the Summary For Policymakers, which makes many of the 'unstoppable', 'dangerous' blah blah claims that are exaggerations of the worst case scenarios of the scientific reports, removes any of the uncertainty described in the scientific reports, and allows political scientist like Trenberth to spout their opinions without any peer review.
 
Originally posted by: geoffbenn
- I notice that you have not responded to the 12 points directed specifically at your post...


Do you mean the ones where you've linked to numerous skepticalscience pages? I tend not to worry about skepticalscience; you can believe what's written on there if you like but I've read a number of items on that site and don't see it as any more definitive than sites like ClimateAudit, WattsUpWithThat etc.
 
Originally posted by: geoffbenn
And once a person(/engineer!) demonstrates their lack of statistical understanding by claiming cooling since the 1998 temperature spike, then that clearly demonstrates their scientific unreliability. If you don't understand statistics then I guess you also don't understand the exponential function, ie. tipping points (think light switch...).


"claiming cooling"; mmm - interesting. I presume here you're referring to the oft-claimed (by alarmists) "cherry picking" of start dates. What's the difference between "cherry-picking" 1998 rather than 1850 or so (as the alarmists do) from the point when 'reliable' (albeit potentially questionable) records of temperature measurements began. Either way these periods are a minute fraction of the earth's 4 billion year history.

As an aside; I noticed your comment on "The Great Global Warming Swindle". It's interesting that the link you provided showed very little evidence of any specific findings related to falsifying factual matters; rather it seems that the way certain people were portrayed was the main issue (c.f. the PBS Frontline "Climate Of Doubt" program which basically tried to do the same thing to sceptical scientists). On the other hand of course, you presumably are aware that your Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" was ruled by the High Court as containing nine factual 'errors' (or, for want of a better word, 'lies')

Anyway - whatever; I've got better things to do than argue with someone who's spamming a professional forum with alarmist views so you can say what you want in response to this.
 22 November 2012 01:25 PM
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simongarrett

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I've gone back and re-read Johnny Ball's article in the intro. I found it both accurate and relevant.

Unfortunately the parts that are accurate are not relevant, and the parts that are relevant are not accurate.

"Was the planet warming? Yes, it was, and by 1998 it had warmed 0.7°C in 100 years. But it had reached that peak in the 1930s and had been so much cooler in the 1960s as to suggest an oncoming ice age."

Not accurate. Temperature is continuing to rise. There was a slight peak around 1940, but by the mid 90's temperatures has exceeded that peak. Temperatures have continued to rise beyond 2000. See NASA GISS Surface Temperature Analysis .

"We now know that all those claims were exaggerations and their leader Rajenda Pachauri has said: There must be no more exaggeration!"

Accurate but irrelevant. Or, if you prefer, taken so out of context as to be inaccurate. What he actually said was that one mistake out of a thousand in a paper is used by opponents to trash the whole paper. Therefore it's important to ensure not a single mistake or exaggeration.

"In truth, there has been no sea-level rise, glacier depletion, ocean acidification or polar ice loss."

The mind boggles. Sea level is rising, and an accelerating rate. There is debate about the extent to which climate change is responsible, but to say there has been no rise, or even that none is related to global warming, is simply untrue. As for glacier, depletion, ocean acidification, polar ice loss - how much evidence do you want?

"Burn anything, including food, and hydrocarbons split with oxygen to produce CO2 and water with usually two molecules of water for every one of CO2."

True but rather too basic to be relevant.

"Less than 4 per cent of all CO2 produced is manmade."

True, but irrelevant. We're talking about an additional 4%. Climate models have taken natural sources of CO2 into account. Yes, and the volcanoes too.

"The answer is engineering greater efficiency."

Alright, that's both accurate and relevant. But insufficient, and it doesn't undermine the evidence for the impact of anthropogenic climate change.

"The day of the extreme, irrational, badly schooled yet powerful environmental lobbyists must come to a close, for all our sakes."

Amen to that. But most of the extreme, irrational and badly schooled stuff is arguing his way, I'm afraid.

 22 November 2012 02:04 PM
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simongarrett

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Originally posted by: jmccabe
A common claim is the "97% of climate scientists agree blah blah". There are, essentially, two original sources of this claim; surveys by Anderegg and Doran/Zimmerman. It's worth looking on the net to see a number of critique on how these surveys were carried out.

Can you cite evidence, please, that the Anderegg and Doran surveys were flawed?
Originally posted by: jmccabe
Ultimately though, in both cases, the gist of it was the majority of the small number of scientists sampled agreed there was a human signal in global warming (now known as climate change due to the lack of warming - see below). What's vitally important here is that, at no point, do either of those surveys show that:

1) The prime factor is CO2 emissions caused by burning fossil fuels (that is only one of a number of factors, including changing land use, that is cited)

2) the majority believe that the changes occurring will have catastophic effects within the next few (e.g. hundred) years. This is all made up by the IPCC!

Well, neither of the surveys asked those particular questions.

Anderegg aimed at finding out the number of researchers "convinced by the evidence of human caused climate change".

Doran & Zimmerman posed the question "Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?" This was the one that got a 97.4% "yes" from expert climate scientists.



Originally posted by: jmccabe
...the observations of the last 16 years or so that have shown no warming (in fact the trend over that period is one of cooling)...

Not true. Temperature is continuing to rise into the 2000's. See for example NASA, but there are many other sources.

Can you cite any original sources showing otherwise?
 22 November 2012 02:49 PM
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amillar

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Originally posted by: cmarkr
Like so many of those supporting action based on a consensus of the theory, you suggest that there is nothing to lose by not crossing the M1 and that if you were to cross it you would choose to do so blindfolded.

No, I suggest that you shouldn't refuse to take the blindfold off just because there's a tiny bit of evidence that there may not be a problem leaving it on. If the majority of the evidence suggests that climate change will cause wholesale destruction ,you shouldn't base your actions on a minority of evidence that says it won't.

nuclear power is currently in favour as a 'green' power source, however, in avoiding the release of a non-toxic gas that is abundant in the atmosphere already, we produce a highly dangerous waste product that we have no reliable way of storing which will not become safe for millions of years.

I am very surprised (as will my family and friends be) to find that apparentely I am in favour of mass introduction of nuclear power I'm honest enough to admit that I don't know what the solution is, but I hope it isn't that for exactly the reasons you describe. But just because I don't know what the solution is doesn't mean that I think it's ok to ignore the problem...

There is a massive price to close mindedly cutting CO2 emissions and the real risk is that the price will be paid unnecessarily because a theory was treated as unquestionable fact.

Once again, I don't see any of those seriously involved in this debate using the words "unquestionable fact", but high level of probability, yes. And that probability suggests that the price we pay now will be massively less than that which we would pay in the future.

I'll rephrase my anlogy since it clearly didn't quite work the first time: It is a theory that walking across the M1 blindfold will get you killed, but it is not an unquestionable fact. I still wouldn't do it though.

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 22 November 2012 03:54 PM
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jmccabe

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Originally posted by: simongarrett
Not true. Temperature is continuing to rise into the 2000's. See for example NASA, but there are many other sources.



Can you cite any original sources showing otherwise?


You could, perhaps consider this - from the site you, err, cite, (in case this link doesn't work, click on the charts link and look in there) which clearly shows the 5yr average trending downwards since 2002 or so. Also these ones, again from that site, which show similar trends for northern and low latitudes, only increasing for southern latitudes.
 22 November 2012 05:07 PM
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diviner

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At the risk of going off down a side track, can I suggest that people who think the last five years of global temperature data gives strong evidence of the overall trend should look carefully at the last six months worth of closing prices for shares in Tate & Lyle. Why? The overall trend has been upwards but with relatively short-term downturns.

If a share price can show an overall long-term upward progress with short-term downturns, why does a short-term (in global scales) downturn in temperature refute the notion that the overall long-term (i.e. over centuries) trend is upwards.

Note that I am not saying the trend is upwards, and I am not saying that it isn't, just that the last five years of data does not, and cannot, refute statements about the multi-century trend.

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 22 November 2012 06:18 PM
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simongarrett

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Originally posted by: jmccabe You could, perhaps consider this - from the site you, err, cite, (in case this link doesn't work, click on the charts link and look in there) which clearly shows the 5yr average trending downwards since 2002 or so. Also these ones, again from that site, which show similar trends for northern and low latitudes, only increasing for southern latitudes.
My goodness, the figures after 2000 are pretty hard to see on those figures. Try this one: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/me...3/12month-runav-w.gift. Some measures (e.g Hadley Centre) do show a slight dip after 2005. There are similar dips in the data since 1950, while showing a continuing overall rise. If the rising trend of the last 100 years is over (I hope so) it will take a lot more than 4 or 5 years worth of dips in only some of the temperature measures to be statistically significant. However the rise over the previous 100 years certainly is statistically significant.

Edited: 22 November 2012 at 06:59 PM by simongarrett
 22 November 2012 06:20 PM
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geoffbenn

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JMcCabe:

You're comparing http://skepticalscience.com with the following:

ClimateAudit:

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Steve_McIntyre

"Stephen McIntyre is the primary author of the blog Climate Audit"

"He does not have an advanced degree and has published two articles in the journal the journal Energy and Environment, which has become a venue for skeptics and is not carried in the ISI listing of peer-reviewed journals"

WhatsUpWithThat:

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Anthony_Watts

"Willard Anthony Watts (Anthony Watts) is a blogger, weathercaster and non-scientist, paid AGW denier who runs the website wattsupwiththat.com. He does not have a university qualification and has no climate credentials other than being a radio weather announcer. His website is parodied and debunked at the website wottsupwiththat.com Watts is on the payroll of the Heartland Institute, which itself is funded by polluting industries."

-------------------------
Geoff Benn BSc(Hons) CEng MIET
George Washington: Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.
skepticalscience.com: getting skeptical about global warming skepticism
sourcewatch.org: exposing public opinion manipulation
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