Monday, March 11, 2019

Curt Stager: What Climate Deniers Get Wrong

Temperature data from four international science institutions. All show rapid warming in the past few decades and that the last decade has been the warmest on record. Data sources: NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NOAA National Climatic Data Center, Met Office Hadley Centre/Climatic Research Unit and the Japanese Meteorological Agency. (Graph produced by Earth Science Communications Team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory | California Institute of Technology)In his recent essay for Adirondack Explorer’s column, “It’s Debatable,” that was later re-published in the Almanack, John Droz presented more than an opinion that wind energy is a bad idea for the Adirondack Park.

He also slipped in a mention of the “AGW hypothesis,” meaning that the scientific consensus on “anthropogenic global warming” is mere guesswork.

We should not be surprised that he did so, because Droz has been associated with ultra-conservative, pro-fossil-fuel organizations such as The American Tradition Institute, known for denying the reality of human-driven warming and harassing climate scientists, and The Heartland Institute, which has mailed climate disinformation to thousands of school teachers nationwide to spread confusion and doubt about the science.

Furthermore, despite the essay’s deceptive bio, he is not what most scientists would call a physicist because he lacks a Ph.D. or requisite peer-reviewed papers in physics, and he is certainly not a climate expert. I am, however, surprised that the Adirondack Explorer presented such a discredited claim from the denial-and-doubt network as one legitimate side of a scholarly debate. It is not, and here’s why.

The consensus position that global average warming during the last half-century is real and mostly caused by humans, shared by the vast majority (ca. 97%) of truly qualified climate scientists, is the result of huge amounts of peer-reviewed research from many independent branches of the sciences that have been conducted worldwide over many years.

In this country alone, highly reputable organizations such as the American Physical Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science agree with it, as do the insurance industry and the United States military. Even the fossil fuel industry is on board; Exxon researchers were among the first to document it with an eye toward exploiting an increasingly ice-free Arctic. What is this evidence that convinces all but those who don’t understand it or choose to ignore it? Here are some of the key aspects that have convinced me as a skeptical scientist.

How does it work? Basic physics. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide trap heat that rises from land and sea surfaces that have been warmed by the sun, through the “greenhouse effect.” Adding more heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere will of course warm it up, and the more of them we add the warmer it will get. We also know that carbon dioxide concentrations are rising because they are measured in detail at multiple locations. These points alone should lead a reasonable person to expect global warming to result from the burning of so much fossil fuel. But there’s more to consider if that’s not convincing enough.

How do we know that the carbon dioxide is increasing because of us? Basic physics and chemistry. We know about how much coal, oil, and natural gas we burn and how much carbon that should release, and it fits with the observed rise. Oxygen levels are declining as carbon dioxide increases, a clear sign that this is the result of combustion. And decreasing concentrations of carbon-13 isotopes in the air identify the carbon atoms in the excess carbon dioxide as coming primarily from fossil fuels. Any one of these points, each the result of rigorously peer-reviewed research, makes a strong case in its own right.

How do we know it’s warming? More physics. Greenhouse warming has made thermometers register higher temperatures at thousands of weather stations all over the planet. Deniers often blame the rise on a “heat-island effect” due to urbanization, as if real experts don’t know enough to take it into account. Most stations show no such effect, as our own rural Adirondack records clearly indicate, and the city-free oceans are also warming.

These records are far too numerous, well-documented, and widely dispersed to be due to some fanciful conspiracy or supposed incompetence among the scientists who analyze them, and nowadays satellite observations further support those data. Meanwhile the stratosphere has cooled while the lower atmosphere warmed, showing that the excess heat is being trapped from below by greenhouse gases rather than simply coming in from the sun. Again, this is abundant, powerful, peer-reviewed evidence.

How do we know it isn’t just natural cycles? Paleoclimate data from historical documents, ice cores, tree rings, and sediment deposits all over the planet. We know these cycles well, and none of them explain the warming of the last half century. The sunspot cycles are too fast and orbital cycles are too slow. Climate deniers often point to the so-called “Little Ice Age” and claim that we are simply recovering from that natural cool period, but it ended more than a century ago, well before the warming of the last half-century. Sediment cores from Arctic lakes show that the ice-free conditions they now experience in summer have not happened for thousands of years previously and are therefore not due to cyclic changes.

Each of these conclusions represents masses of peer-reviewed evidence that was gathered by sincere, skilled professionals, often at significant personal risk. I have faced my share of hazards during my research around the world and several of my colleagues have been injured or killed in the field, so I have little patience with armchair naysayers who disparage such hard-won science.

But… but… how do we know? If this much evidence doesn’t convince you, then there’s not much more I can tell you. Except that you’ve been watching the changes happen with your own eyes if you’ve lived in the Adirondacks long enough and paid thoughtful attention. Ice on our lakes has been forming later and melting earlier, as documented in local ice-out contests and nature journals. The main basin of Lake Champlain failed to freeze completely only 3 times during the 1800s. Now it is ice-free more often than not. Our wildlife is responding to earlier springs, from migrating salamanders to robins. Local weather stations show that our rainstorms are becoming stronger as we also learned the hard way from tropical storm Irene. Farther downstate, the Battery Park tide gage in Manhattan shows that sea level rose enough from meltwater and thermal expansion of warming oceans to increase the storm surge damage from Hurricane Sandy. Some of my conservative friends have recently considered lobbying the state to push deer-hunting season later in the fall because, they say, the rut is coming later. They might not call it “global warming,” but whatever they may call it they see it happening, too.

As one of many scientists who were initially skeptical of early claims that recent global warming is mainly due to human activity, I at first sympathized with those who called it a mere “hypothesis.” Back then, the honest skepticism was healthy because it encouraged us to re-visit the science and make sure it was sound. Now that we have done so and the various bits of evidence have become a massive interlocking structure, real skeptics have changed their minds and stand by that mountain of evidence.

The few detractors who still linger on the fringe are not operating in the best interests of science or society but are instead mistaken, pushing their personal or political agendas, or both. There is plenty for us Adirondackers to debate when it comes to the pros and cons of wind energy in the Park. But we all lose when science itself is abused in the process.

Graph of Temperature data from four international science institutions: NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NOAA National Climatic Data Center, Met Office Hadley Centre/Climatic Research Unit and the Japanese Meteorological Agency. Graph produced by Earth Science Communications Team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory | California Institute of Technology.

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Curt Stager holds the Draper-Lussi Endowed Chair in Paleoecology and Lake Ecology at Paul Smith's College and is a research associate at the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute. He is the author of four books, including Deep Future (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Still Waters (W.W. Norton, 2018).




105 Responses

  1. MITCHELL EDELSTEIN says:

    When will the trusted meteorologists that we watch on television start commenting on climate change? These are people trusted by non-scientists. Their recognition that climate change is real, could have a significant impact on people’s opinions on this subject.

    • JohnL says:

      Meteorologists on television are trusted? Really? How often have you heard people say of weather predictions that if you are batting .250 on weather you’re doing great. Weather and climate are 2 different things. If they can’t get weather right, why would you believe the computer models of politically motivated people that are trying to predict out 100 years.

    • Balian the Cat says:

      Mitch – TV personalities work for the company that broadcasts their segment. Perhaps you’ve noticed that each of these companies has a barely disguised agenda? Even a broadcast company that would be sympathetic to the notion of climate change (heaven forbid we simply live in a world where reality is, um, reality) they wouldn’t want to offend whichever industry sponsors their weather feature by riling anyone up with science. Lastly, scaring the poo out of everyone with “weather” is big business these days. No way they would injure that cash cow by announcing that there’s phenomenon afoot and we might be able to ameliorate it with constructive action!

    • Marisa Muratori says:

      Weatherman Steve LaPointe of channel 6 Albany did a climate change segment during his TV weather report the other day showing a graph of local temperatures steadily rising over a number of years despite the sometimes colder than normal seasons. He often posts about climate change on his facebook page, too. He’s got my respect.

      • JohnL says:

        Oh well, why didn’t you say so sooner. If I had known Steve LaPointe of Channel 6 in Albany believed in Global Warming, er, climate change, I would have deferred immediately to his judgement.

        • Bob Meyer says:

          John,
          you can keep you head in the sand all you want, but it’s just denying what is already happening. the human part of accelerated warming is scientific fact. … oh, but maybe you’ll just call it fake news like some others.

          • David Clevenger says:

            What i fine somewhat humorous is the fact that man is so arrogant as to belive he can impact the universe, this planet has and will continue to go through climate change as it has since the universe was formed with or without us. With all our genius and good intentions we can’t even manage to bring about peace on this planet, or solve our drug epidemic or homelessness, but by some miracle we can change and impact the entire universe by merely spending money. Am not a climate deniers am a slick wily ( politician ) denier.

  2. Mike Williams says:

    Curt Stager, my FAVORITE climate scientist! All well made and well spoken points. WAKE UP PEOPLE! We are melting our planet. Pleeeeease!!! Great article Curt!

  3. Curt Austin says:

    The hunting season should remain as it is until the NRA endorses climate science.

  4. Jim S. says:

    The people who know that Trump is a genius will never fall for climate science.

  5. adkDreamer says:

    “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” – Voltaire

  6. Ginger Storey-Welch says:

    The most disturbing thing to me about climate change, and mentioned in Stager’s books, but not here, is that climate change is a DELAYED reaction. The effects we witness today were mostly set in motion decades ago. The catastrophic effects we continue to set in motion today will not be fully witnessed for decades. Today’s members of Congress and the CEOs of fossil fuel companies will mostly all be dead by then, but my grandchildren’s generation will be front and center dealing the these escalating effects unless we drastically change today.

    Look into my grandchildren’s faces and tell them you have the right to do this to their future.

  7. Smitty says:

    Thank you Dr. Stager. Great article. Mr Droz needs to be held accountable for spreading nonsense and presenting it as physics. I remember many years ago studying glacial geology that atmospheric CO2 was used as a surrogate indicator for climate in ice cores because the relationship between CO2 and temperature was so direct. This was when we were at 250 ppm and no one even heard of climate change. Now we’re over 400 ppm.

    • rum says:

      an increase in CO2 directly FOLLOWS a rise in temp! I guess you took algore’s word for it?

      • Boreas says:

        No – just the opposite. Global temperatures have followed increasing CO2 concentrations due to the Greenhouse Effect.

        • Ginger Storey-Welch says:

          Rum—–Your peer-reviewed source from climate scientists for your claim disputing a rise in average global temperature follows a rise in CO2 in a somewhat delayed fashion? This isn’t about taking Gore’s or anyone else’s “word” for it. There is over 800,000 yrs of ice core peer reviewed data that says temperature follows CO2 rise in a delayed fashion. Do you have a more credible peer-reviewed source from experts in the climate field? If so, please share it, but only if it’s from experts in the field.

          • JohnL says:

            Question: How many times can you say “peer reviewed data” in one paragraph? And…Question: Why do you think that gives your comments any greater power of persuasion?
            One can find any amount of ‘peer reviewed data’ in any number of subjects that is pure gobbledegook (sp?).

  8. Boreas says:

    Thanks Curt. Deniers gonna deny, and Big Energy is going to keep encouraging them.

    • John says:

      Stager only makes passing mention of it, but Big Energy is actually a big developer of alternate energy systems. Look at the record of how much money Exxon-Mobil, Shell — you name them — have invested in wind and solar, and they have been invested in it from the very beginning.

      • Boreas says:

        John,

        You are correct! Big Energy didn’t get to be THE most profitable corporations in the world by being stupid. With profits to spare, these corporations expand into many varied methods of future profit – and not necessarily in the US. When (not if) alternative energy sources become major players, who do you think will consolidate and own them? In the meantime, Big Energy will keep drilling, mining, and denying – and using those profits to continue making out large checks to politicians of both parties and the lobbyists who steer them. Money talks – think Citizens United, Big Energy’s key to the government car.

  9. adkDreamer says:

    Climate Change exists! Always has. But Big Energy, Big Business, Big Pharma, Big Climate, Big Government, Big Banking and too Big to Fail et. al. are powerless to do anything about it. Someone please explain how the earth popped out of the last ice age and somehow magically provides for our current Holocene inter glacial period. Someone please explain what caused the Eocene epoch hot period lasting for the first 7 million years and way warmer than any of the IPCC models conjure for our future (Eocene from 56 to 33.9 million years ago) – wonder what kept all that hot going for 7 million years anyways. We didn’t do it. So glad this conversation is happening but more so for reducing pollution – that’s the clear and present hazard. Anything but return to another ice age, we won’t do very well that’s for sure.

    • Boreas says:

      adkDreamer,

      Agree! Climate change will always be ongoing. The last glaciation wasn’t a singular event but only the last of a cycle of many glaciations. Many atmospheric and oceanic factors are responsible for this glaciation cycle, and there is nothing to say this glaciation cycle has ceased. But looking at ice core samples (that include many glaciations), the atmospheric conditions we are seeing now are unique in the severity of change.

      The breakup of supercontinents causing major changes in ocean currents was one big change to global climate. Other major changes were caused by extreme and prolonged volcanic activity adding large quantities of greenhouse and other gases to the atmosphere. Other changes in our past were microbes over nearly a billion years that started to increase the oxygen concentration (and thus reducing greenhouse gases) causing the formation of an ozone layer (reducing lethal UV radiation)- thus allowing life to move onto the land. This change which produced land-based plant life helped stabilize these large swings by creating a carbon cycle between the oceans, land, and atmosphere.

      You are right, humans didn’t cause those changes, but most people who study those dramatic changes (and subsequent massive extinctions) recognize that certain tipping points do exist, and when those points are reached, climate change can be quite dramatic and rapid. Global temperature alone doesn’t cause the changes – changing atmospheric conditions, changing ocean currents, and the Albedo effect of polar and continental ice have always been major players. But the evidence of post-Industrial Revolution atmospheric changes is compelling and shouldn’t be ignored. Unless we invent a crystal ball, we have to rely on science to help elucidate these questions and answers.

      • adkDreamer says:

        Ha,ha ha. Looks like someone fell into a trap! All so-called statements about geological epochs and what the environment was at the time are theories – not facts. Suggesting extrapolations on theories does not magically morph a theory into a fact. No one was there.

        There are no known facts about past tipping points, past glaciations, past ozone levels, past CO2 levels, past anything – no one was there to observe it or measure it. It is all theory.

        AGW, global warming, global cooling, the big bang, our ancient history, et. al. are all theories – not facts. The 911 Commission Report is a theory on its face. The Gulf of Tolkin incident that predicated the Vietnam War was widely reported as a fact – until it was proven to be false.

        • Boreas says:

          Trap? Where did I say these were facts? Of course they are theories. Theories based on scientific evidence and commonly accepted. Do YOU have any facts to present to refute what I said? PLEASE add your knowledge of the facts to the conversation. The fact is, you can’t! Play your childish games with someone else.

          • adkDreamer says:

            Ha, ha, ha! I win again! Getting all mad as usual and calling names – now that is childish. Re-read what you wrote – the word theory does not appear anywhere in your comment. Get the painful knot out of your shorts.

            It was commonly accepted and scientifically proven that the earth was flat (flat earth theory) until the 16th century and Copernicus came along with the Heliocentric theory. But wait – now we have the flat earth theory popping up again. Heck the shape of the earth is even in question: Started out as a sphere (all the NASA pics still show a sphere and mercator projection-like continents), then an oblate spheriod, and the latest one – pear shaped. Whatever happened with the Gall–Peters projection anyways?

            Best to be skeptical of things unproven – all sides, all theories, all models.

            Here is a fact that is more than likely undisputed: Folks will argue about AWG until the end of time.

            Remember folks – this is an entertainment/social media forum. No touchstone subject will be adjudicated here.

            • Boreas says:

              “…the word theory does not appear anywhere in your comment.”

              True! The word “fact” was not in my post either.

              “Best to be skeptical of things unproven – all sides, all theories, all models.”

              True again! This is the purpose of science and peer-reviewed studies – to sort the wheat from the chaff. It isn’t a foolproof system, but what are the alternatives to science and the scientific method? Fox News? The vast majority of scientific principles and ideas on the past are unproven (and un-proveable) – so should we ignore them? We do so at our peril. Does the moon cause our tides? I can’t prove it, but I rely on scientists to supply the best data and opinion on the subject, and use that to formulate my thoughts. The Dark Ages and the Inquisition vividly illustrate the downside to stifling scientific thought. Skepticism is a good thing, but if taken too far it only interferes with advancing scientific thought. Believing nothing does not advance humanity.

              “Ha, ha, ha! I win again!”

              Winning?? Believe as you wish. I respect everyone’s opinions and their right to voice them, but should this forum be used as a gaming platform? There is no competition here and your attempts to make it so are falling on deaf ears. Arguments here are not won or lost – it isn’t a debating match. No one here is changing anyone’s opinions or beliefs – just stating their own. There is no won/lost column here other than in your own mind.

              • adkDreamer says:

                It is a false narrative to suggest the comments in this forum are not competitive and fall on deaf ears – otherwise you would not be commenting on everyone’s comments and certainly not my comments. Equally annoying is your incessant need to quote selected sentences, paragraphs or partial sentences of comments, as if you are the arbitrator and moderator of this forum. You are not the moderator or ombudsman of this forum. I don’t twitter but if I did: #annoying

  10. Martin says:

    Great to see basic global warming science delivered so forcefully.
    Sad to see such a need for it, 35 years after scientists laid out the scenario in the Villanch papers.
    Heartland Institute is a disgusting monstrosity – really informative post by Mr. Stager.

  11. Bob Meyer says:

    Thank you Curt for exposing this unqualified person for who he is; an agenda driven faker!

    I have also contacted The Explorer editor to complain about their apparent lack of vetting that enabled this “guest” contributor to have equal space. Even calling this “It’s Debatable” is ridiculous!

    • JohnL says:

      Very predictable Bob. Is he unqualified and agenda driven and ridiculous because YOU say so? When in doubt, your side always complains and tries to shut down the opposition. Always contact the editor when someone on an OPEN forum says something reasonable that you don’t happen to agree with. Typical .

  12. Bob Meyer says:

    John L.
    Because I say so? Did you read the article???
    Curt Stager a respected scientist who was skeptical about human caused climate warming says so. He was also surprised the Explorer gave equal credence to him. Science is almost totally unanimous in agreement. Do you think they are happy to be correct? I want my children and grandchildren to be able to enjoy the Adirondacks that I love. They will not be able to if the climate is like N Carolina, the evergreens are gone, the pristine natural lake my family has had camp at for 81 years eutrophies, killing all the game fish.

    I don’t know you but I know Dr Stager and I’ll take my cues from his knowledge not your opinion.

  13. adkDreamer says:

    Read Orestes (2004). It is the foundational basis for the 97%. Orestes makes it very clear that the 97% is based upon 97% of the 14% that responded (out of over 3,000 scientists -and/or- climatologists), that AGW is the predominant cause of any warming. Of that 14%, respondents were included even if they stated that some warming is probably attributable to mankind, but not the major cause. This was discovered later, but ignored. The agenda is set and anyone who opposes the agenda (carbon tax-money grab) will be ostracized and called names. This is simply a scare tactic. Anytime someone attempts to force another to believe something, well, it is not going to end well. If the science is so good, it more than likely does not require a consensus.

  14. Lee Keet says:

    Well done Curt. As usual you are lucid, fact-based, and persuasive. The problem is that our media wants to present both sides of an argument in the mistaken belief that that provides balance, when in this case the science is 99.9% on one side and 0.1% on the side of the deniers. This is what happened in the tobacco debate, when a few pseudoscientists were quoted as saying that tobacco smoking is not harmful and this position was for too long given equal weight to the overwhelming science that said it was.

    And, in the age of Trump, many policy debates are now about faith in his proclamations (e.g., southern invasion) versus science or facts.

  15. Peter Klein says:

    Wind and solar energy are ugly and will never provide the power needed to heat homes, run cars, trucks, buses, boats, airplanes and the equipment needed to farm the land and provide food.
    If you just want to destroy the USA, the New Green Deal is a great way to do it.

    • Boreas says:

      Ever see a coal mine? Mountain-top removal? A drilling rig? A refinery? People don’t have paintings of these things hanging in their homes. Energy acquisition is ugly.

      I don’t believe anyone is saying these energy sources are perfect, or will even replace extraction-based energy sources any time soon, but we must eventually evolve away from oil/coal/gas simply because they are not renewable. One day they will be too expensive to extract or be gone. The best answer over the long run is to REDUCE our dependency on energy and come up with clean, renewable resources. Wind and solar are merely a first step. They will evolve and new sources will be found as long as the research and evolution is not stifled by governments and wallets.

      • JohnL says:

        Reduce our dependency on energy? You’re kidding, right? Have you been paying attention to the rising population in the last 100 years. And, the hundreds of millions of people in developing countries are beginning to want to enjoy some of the energy sapping pleasures that we enjoy now. Are you going to give up yours so they can have it now? I think not. We have to develop new sources of energy for sure, but to stop using the energy that is NOW available is not the way to do it. The free market is the way to do it. Not having some gummint bureaucrat tell us he thinks wind or solar, or whatever method makes Al Gore richest, is the way to go.

        • Boreas says:

          No, I am not kidding. I agree we have an overpopulation problem. I agree everyone uses energy, and the US uses the most per capita. So think for a minute – where would be the logical place to start – sub-Saharan Africa? I didn’t say anything about stopping the use of the energy we have now – you did. My exact words were “eventually evolve away from oil/coal/gas”. I am saying we need to look at every available way of reducing energy consumption (dependency) of all types. That is done through efficiency. New forms of energy won’t do us much good if we continue to waste that energy.

  16. Boreasfisher says:

    Thank you Dr Stager for this clear and much needed corrective. More scientists need to come out from behind the curtain and contribute to the public discussion on these issues.

  17. Ken Kuba says:

    Climate change is a hoax !!! The religion of the left… Made Algore rich…

  18. Bob Hicks says:

    John, great article, as you are finding out, (coments) Againsters going be against, and if they are believers, they are going to believe.
    My comment is that I felt your article (not the first time I’ve thought this of writing ✍️ on many subjects and publications!) is too well written, way over the head of many readers. I had to read several passages more than once. I guess I just needed it to be “dumbed” down for me.
    I am a college graduate and I just think maybe a better understanding of your audience. (Or, In your cases audiences (plural)

  19. James M Schaefer says:

    It is always about the science, not the scientists. Remember Galileo. The 100,00 year natural cycle (Milankovitch–earth axis wobble) coupled with equatorial troposphere data and O2 satellite observations observations project a lukewarming of the planet (pace P. Michaels and P. Knappenberger). Their suggestion is that the climate change model does not fit the observation data from thousands of global weather balloons that measure temperatures from sea level to 40,000 feet. Nor does the climate change model fit the observed satellite bi-atomic oxygen molecule data at similar heights. Therefore climate change model projections of the anthropogenic contribution to temperature increases should be tempered by extant global data which suggest a LUKEWARMING pattern, not the end of the planet in a dozen years as the more radical climate change model advocates wish us to believe. It is the science that needs to count.

    • Scott says:

      bi-atomic oxygen molecule? What are you even talking about? Michaels and Knappenberger are in the Cato institute, a libertarian think tank that is about the last place I’d look for non-partisan scientific analysis. Enough with the copy pasta spam please. None of this in any way invalidates the current pool of data showing statistically significant correlation between atmospheric CO2 and warming earth temperatures.

      • James M Schaefer says:

        Just for fun, Google Patrick Michaels and take a gander at the short paper on the subject. And despite his Cato affiliation, Michaels ID a climatologist.

    • Suzanne says:

      I vaguely remember Galileo, but guess I’m not smart enough to figure out what “bi-atomic oxygen molecule data” actually means. It would seem to any sensible mind that dumping billions of tons of toxic fuel emissions into the atmosphere (we’re talkin’ about “the anthropogenic contribution to temperature increases”) surely can’t be a good thing.

    • Aaron says:

      “Lukewarming”, in other words, “warming”. Well good to see denialists are starting to catch up with the climate science of the 1960’s, though you have a long way to go to reach Exxon’s awareness of the correlation and trend at that time. Of course modern measurements demonstrate temperatures are rising at steadily faster rates as tipping points are approached and/or crossed, but don’t let the actual science interrupt enjoyment of your word salad (“bi-atomic oxygen molecule”….c’mon, man).

      Within the contiguous United States an Adirondacker need look no further than outside their window to see where the fastest temperature increases are happening. I don’t know what your psychological tipping point will be, perhaps when your electric bill in summer outpaces that of winter because you have to run the A/C more often than not, perhaps when disease-carrying ticks are found in greater numbers above 4000′, maybe when lakes freeze even later and thaw even earlier than they are now, which now is almost a month’s difference compared to the 1900’s. But rest assured, you will come around eventually as the evidence and challenges of the new reality overcome your ideological resistance.

      Thing is the physics and chemistry that drive our climate don’t care about your ideology, they don’t respond to whether you believe in them or not, they fundamentally change because they are forced to change. In the past massive natural forcings were the causes, but those aren’t at play this time around. We’re the forcing and there’s no denying it.

      • James M Schaefer says:

        Just for fun, Google Patrick Michaels and take a gander at the short paper on the subject. And despite his Cato affiliation, Michaels IS a climatologist.

    • Boreas says:

      “…not the end of the planet in a dozen years as the more radical climate change model advocates wish us to believe.” Can you name even one person or study that has said this? If not, your credibility is suspect as well.

      The planet is going nowhere soon. Humans, on the other hand, may get slapped down pretty hard. As with all animals (if you believe science anyway), populations hit a peak, then decline – often crashing.

  20. Bob Worth says:

    This is a very persuasive, well-reasoned article. No one who is open to rational analysis or science would not be persuaded. Unfortunately, many climate deniers are not interested in evidence or facts or truth. They wish to align themselves with a political group whose policies they admire. There is no reasoning with them. Alas.

    • Bob Meyer says:

      this about sums it up.. different subject, same dynamic: i have a friend who absolutely believes that Obama is a Muslim and was doing everything in his power to make Sharia the law of the nation… how do you reason with this kind of nonsense?

      can’t wait to see if someone takes off on this and tells me Obama is a Muslim, born in Kenya who wants…. well you get it. 🙂

  21. Wendy Taylor says:

    Thank you! Great article!

  22. rum says:

    “The consensus position that global average warming during the last half-century is real and mostly caused by humans, shared by the vast majority (ca. 97%) of truly qualified climate scientists, is the result of huge amounts of peer-reviewed research from many independent branches of the sciences that have been conducted worldwide over many years.” seriously???? the 97% thing is a bogus claim when 77 out of 79 papers claimed to agree while eliminating 100’s of other papers. AND WE DONT DO CONSENSUS and NAME IT SCIENCE!!!

  23. Keith Hofler says:

    Maybe the climate change millionaires ( al gore’s of the world) should stop putting doomsday dates out there. There is no denying humanity is having a tremendous impact on the natural world, common sense and prudence should be observed. Every action has a reaction and we should not create more problems solving existing ones.

    • Boreas says:

      Keith,

      “There is no denying humanity is having a tremendous impact on the natural world, common sense and prudence should be observed. Every action has a reaction and we should not create more problems solving existing ones.”

      Great comment! So where do you stand? What do you suggest we do or don’t do? What does common sense and prudence say – should we stay the course, or make changes?

  24. rum says:

    “The few detractors who still linger on the fringe are not operating in the best interests of science or society but are instead mistaken, pushing their personal or political agendas, or both.” the IPCC is a political organization. they are the ones pushing this agenda. agenda 21 actually.

  25. adirondackjoe says:

    Global warming is my fault. I cut down and remove 200 year old oak trees for a living. I’m probably going to hell.

  26. Curt Austin says:

    I wonder if when a climate change naysayer gets 100 opinions on how to plumb a new house, he’ll ignore 97 of them. “PEX tubing is a conspiracy of the plastics industry!”

    I shouldn’t be adding the PEX “agenda” to the mix here, but I bet there’s a correlation – fear of change has a role in both.

  27. Ott says:

    If the “Deniers” (sounds like a French name) have their way, then they will probably prove the “Gores” right, but if the “Gores” have their way, we might never know the truth. Now, who wants to be dead right (there will be no burials), and who wants to live without final proof (the argument will never die, but we will live to carry it on)?

  28. James Marco says:

    The earth is quite large. Never before have any group of scientists studied something on this scale in such detail. Is climate change happening? Yes. The “Why” is a different question. In rather gross terms, every Watt put into our environment from past sequestration means we are warming the planet. All of our energy comes from the sun. In essence, this says that we are simply balancing old deficits…100% natural.

    So, while believing in short term climate change, it is not inconsistent with saying that climate change is not man made. In that sense Mr. Trump and much of the republican party is not strictly wrong.

    But, he is failing to see the balancing act that the entire planet has adjusted to through out our evolution. Allowing things to change at the current rate will produce a place where our grandchildren will not be comfortable living on our planet. Even the atmosphere will change. The the very land will change change due to added pressure from sea water, plate tectonics, and so on. It is happening at a pace too fast for evolution to keep up with. As a species, homo sapiens needs to change with our planet. Without time to do that, we will have a problem with maintaining enough people to make the needed changes.

    Yes, we need to at least slow things down. This is where Mr. Trump is so wrong by ignoring climate change. These are long term changes that need to be kept on a long term basis. Not a 2-3 generation nightmare scenario that marks the BEGINNING of the nightmare. We cannot stop using fossil fuels. Industry and technology are built around it. But, we need to stop creating climate changing chemicals in the atmosphere, in the oceans, and in the land…stopping the bad and producing more of the good. And do it PDQ. We have passed the tipping point, it is just a matter of how fast, now.

  29. James m Schaefer says:

    I think you give the President short shrift. The tweets and bytes focused on by the left leaning media create doubt about his understanding which is really not known. So casting a net over all who question the radical climate change model wth it’s lack of acknowledgement of tropospheric data is short sighted.

    • Boreas says:

      Don Trump doesn’t believe in experts, studies, and data. He simply hires those that support his ideas and fires those who do not. He makes it perfectly clear that he makes his own decisions from what he “hears”. Daily intelligence briefings? Not for Don – he watches Fox news and regurgitates it in his tweets. If he spent his weekends reading and absorbing multiple lines of information about the world he lives in instead of golfing in FL, he might garner more respect. Yes, he could indeed be super-smart, but he certainly doesn’t make much of an attempt to show it.

      • James M Schaefer says:

        Amen. Wish it could be different. President’s are usually engaged and he appears to be aloof, however, we don’t know the consultative role all his advisors play. On the Climate he has to be listening to a variety of authoritative folks it is not something off the table according to everything we are allowed to see/hear given the limited press coverage of his own making.
        Moreover, I think we need to acknowledge that our planet has gone through a complex climatic history including recent Ice Ages. Since the scientific study of the planet and universe is evolving, we need to keep an open mind.
        My suggestion is to simply consider model criticism by climatology scientists that have been true to the data sources that contain facts. Their conclusion is that we look at the current situation of the Earth in Lukewarm condition — maybe getting hotter, maybe cooling off. Our time scale is so short to buy completely into one or the other (pace Heraclitus/Agassiz on gradualism, Milankovitch on Earth axis “wobble,” others on Solar flares) along with Co2 and O2 measurements at the equator. Our climate models are in their infancy. The IPCC one is not to scale of the last 25 years of data (weather balloon/satellite). Look at Michael’s and Knappenberger — ignore for a moment their institution and consider their scientific understanding.

        • Jim S. says:

          The earth is flat, vaccines cause autism, climate change is a hoax and step on a crack and you’ll break your mothers back.

        • Boreas says:

          “On the Climate he has to be listening to a variety of authoritative folks it is not something off the table according to everything we are allowed to see/hear given the limited press coverage of his own making.”

          Boy, I would like to believe this, but I see no evidence of it. Global warming is a pretty big deal and he rarely mentions it, let alone acting like he even cares. Don’t blame the media for that.

  30. Annie says:

    Geophysicists estimate that just three volcanic eruptions — Indonesia (1883), Alaska (1912) and Iceland (1947) — spewed more carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere than all of mankind’s activities during our entire history. Which of these powers of nature could be duplicated by mankind? For example, could mankind even come close to duplicating the polluting effects of the 1815 Tambora volcanic eruption? It is the height of arrogance to think that mankind can make significant parametric changes in the earth or can match nature’s destructive forces. Our planet is not fragile.

    • Boreas says:

      Annie,

      Good point! There were indeed short-term climatic changes and crop failures that resulted from those relatively short-term eruptions. Had these eruptions occurred simultaneously, crop failures and famine would have been more severe. Our post-industrial pollution is non-stop and increasing. The atmosphere, working with land and ocean cycles does have the ability to buffer short-term carbon and sulfur spikes. Volcanism is a natural phenomenon and cannot be stopped. Same with solar storms. But with any buffered system, once that buffer is used up, change is rapid. What is the point of pushing the system to find out its tipping point? It would seem the smartest path would be take steps to stress the system as little as possible.

      Will the planet still be able to buffer the next Tambora while we continue to stress natural global system(s)? Perhaps not. It is estimated Tambora particulates lowered the global temp by 0.4 to 0.7 degrees C contributing to the “year without a summer” that caused death and severe food shortages. How will we adapt to 2-3 years with drastically reduced food production? As climatologists have been saying, the effects of global warming isn’t just temperatures increasing gradually – a major consequence is more severe and dramatic short-term events (weather). We all agree that 7 billion people cannot suddenly stop stressing the systems and cycles that exist on the planet, but does it make sense to thumb our nose at Nature and say “bring it on”?

    • James Marco says:

      Yes. Very true. Add into them our activities…

  31. Roger Dziengeleski says:

    Carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere at a rate faster than it can be reabsorbed by plants. This is fact. If we were truly concerned about this (whether or not we believe in climate change theories) one thing we would do is start using trees to offset fossil fuels, keeping that carbon in the ground. This includes harvesting trees for biomass, firewood, wood pellets etc. It also includes harvesting trees to make wooden chairs (replacing plastic), to build buildings (replacing high carbon emissions in manufacturing steel and concrete). We would also be very careful about cutting trees to build windmills or solar arrays. Lastly, we would change zoning laws to encourage density rather than sprawl.

  32. Ken Coffman says:

    “How does it work? Basic physics. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide trap heat that rises from land and sea surfaces that have been warmed by the sun, through the “greenhouse effect.” Adding more heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere will of course warm it up, and the more of them we add the warmer it will get.”

    It surprises me that post-modern, pseudo-scientists like the Stager get away with asserting such nonsense. He didn’t mention how much he thinks the greenhouse effect (GHE) increases the Earth’s average surface temperature. 33C. He believes, without water vapor and carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, the Earth’s average surface temperature would be 33C lower or something like -18C.

    This is easy to verify. Put a bucket of water in your front yard. Now, using only cool, rarefied gasses and no moving parts, block the GHE and cool the water’s average temperature. Or, enhance the GHE and heat the water. If the GHE worked the way Stager claims, it would be a miracle for mankind and you’d be heating and cooling your house by modulating 40,000PPM of water vapor and 400PPM of carbon dioxide.

  33. george doctor says:

    you mention that “Sediment cores from Arctic lakes show that the ice-free conditions they now experience in summer have not happened for thousands of years previously and are therefore not due to cyclic changes” but I understood that the Vikings saw Greenland and green with not as much ice as today, That was 1000 years ago. What am i missing
    George

  34. Peter Taylor says:

    If I may add a comment from across the pond – as a landscape ecologist turned climate scientist at a conference last month in Prague on Global Warming – and some smoke and mirrors from the ‘97%’ consensus: that group, led by the UN’s spcecial panel on the issue (IPCC) states that ‘most of the post-1950 warming is antrhopogenic’. Most is not defined, bu logically runs from 51-99%. I reviewed evidence of the peaking of natural cycles in the post-1950 period – ie ocean oscillators releasing heat to the atmosphere – five such cycles peaking together, and I estimated contributed about half of the warming in that period. Total global warming since 1900 is about one degree Celsius. Half of that occurred prior to 1950 and is regarded by IPCC as not significantly affected by CO2, moreover it occurred at the same rate from 1920-1940 as 1980-2000. Estimates of the percentage for the post-1950 period are crucial, yet hard to find in the literature. I conclude from many data sets, that 51% AGW for post-1950 is generous. Then we do some simple math: 75% of the total warming to data is likely natural! If we reduce emissions globally by 50% we deal with only 12.5% of the ‘driving force’ – thus, the climate will do its own thing, whether further warming, or even cooling. That said – there IS a potential tipping point – not in temperatures (the Arctic was a lot warmer 8000 years ago, and summer ice was gone); but in acidification of the sea surface microlayer, which recent research shows could have a tiping point for extinction of plankton species at 450 ppmv (20 years away). Contrary to many views expressed here, the paleo-climate record shows no correlation between temperature and CO2 over most of the record; but good correlation over the 2 million year ice-age conditions but with CO2 rise following the temperature rises at the south pole; however, major extinction events DO correlate with CO2 levels – and this is not yet explained.

  35. Charlie S says:

    Suzanne says: “It would seem to any sensible mind that dumping billions of tons of toxic fuel emissions into the atmosphere surely can’t be a good thing.”

    The average narcissist will never comprehend the truism in your statement above Suzanne.. We’ve got more problems than most people realize and by what ranters say on this thread alone (never mind what they’re saying everywhere else) things are going to get worse before they get better. It is very sad the ignorance in this country!

  36. Charlie S says:

    Aaron says: “rest assured, you will come around eventually as the evidence and challenges of the new reality overcome your ideological resistance……”

    By the time reality sets in to your average “yes” man and/or woman it will be too late…as it always is. Just like Iraq is too late…the damage is already done and we will continue to pay!

  37. Charlie S says:

    “climate deniers are not interested in evidence or facts or truth. They wish to align themselves with a political group whose policies they admire. There is no reasoning with them.”

    There’s smart man on board!

  38. Charlie S says:

    “The American Tradition Institute has mailed climate disinformation to thousands of school teachers nationwide to spread confusion and doubt about the science.”

    If there was no such thing as campaign financing we wouldn’t have this. And now we have corporations, by law, being regarded as persons. So said the ideological right-leaning Supreme Court some few moons ago.

  39. Charlie S says:

    “you’ve been watching the changes happen with your own eyes if you’ve lived in the Adirondacks long enough and paid thoughtful attention.”

    Thoughtful attention! A rare bird! At the fast rate everything else is going we can figure it will be just another generation where thoughtful attention will be on the same list as the ivory-billed woodpecker.

  40. Charlie S says:

    “Paleoclimate data from historical documents, ice cores, tree rings, and sediment deposits all over the planet. We know these cycles well, and none of them explain the warming of the last half century.”

    I heard one report where they were saying that the cycles have always been a warming trend, then cooling down, warming up then cooling down…now the planet is warming up, and is cooling down less, gradually (rapidly) warming up faster than all records have thus far shown. Remember to leave your car engines running while you’re shopping ladies and gentleman.

  41. Charlie S says:

    “Oxygen levels are declining as carbon dioxide increases, a clear sign that this is the result of combustion.”

    The proof is in the pudding. Can this be proven locally to a non-believer? Yes! Park your car in your garage, close the door and leave your engine running. Come back tomorrow and let us know if your oxygen levels declined…or not!

    The garage is the earth.
    The garage roof is the earth’s atmosphere which nothing gets past. Every thing stays under that roof, carbon emissions stay under that roof! Am I smart or no?

    • Boreas says:

      Charlie,

      Good example! In a closed system, every parameter is part of that system. But many will say it proves nothing – the deceased died simply of natural causes while performing the experiment.

      • Bob Meyer says:

        Good one Boreas! We just have to have a little humor in response to the head in the sand [or elsewhere :-)] folks how don’t even seem to be able to observe whats in from of their noses, let alone give credence to science. It’s beyond amazing the length some will go to rationalize their beliefs.

  42. Karen Engstrom says:

    Sad to see Stager, who purports to be a scientist, abandon science and resort to
    ad hominem attacks on someone who is conscientiously examining an important issue regarding the future of the Adirondacks.
    “Ad hominem is a notoriously weak logical argument. And is used to distract the focus of a discussion – to move it from an indefensible point and to attack the opponent instead.” ~ Lord Aquitainus Attis
    It seems Curt Stager has little to say that is defensible and certainly his method undermines anything he does say.
    Considering the fate of the Adirondacks deserves a better analysis.

  43. Ralph B. Alexander says:

    Curt: For someone who holds an endowed chair in a branch of climate science, your views are stunningly biased and, might I say, ignorant. You should know better.

    Your piece is so full of errors that I hardly know where to begin. Like others who advocate an alarmist view of climate change, you mention the “few detractors who still linger on the fringe,” and quote the supposed 97% consensus among climate scientists that global warming is largely man-made. But this number is a gross exaggeration, mindlessly repeated by politicians and the media.

    The 97% number comes primarily from a study of approximately 12,000 abstracts of research papers on climate science over a 20-year period. What’s rarely revealed is that nearly 8,000 of the abstracts expressed no opinion at all on human-caused warming. When that and a subsidiary survey are taken into account, the climate scientist consensus percentage falls to between 33% and 63% only. So much for an overwhelming majority!

    And the fact that so many scientific societies and government organizations have endorsed the consensus position merely reflects the staggering amount of funding available for research supporting that position – approximately $2.5 billion in U.S. government funding alone in 2013. Likewise, many of the 195 countries that signed on to the Paris Agreement did so in the expectation of receiving hefty financial handouts from richer nations.

    Scientifically, the biggest shortcoming of the conventional wisdom on anthropogenic climate change is that it’s based not on empirical observations, but the projections of computer climate models. The models have acquired the status of quasi-religious edicts. Not only did the models overestimate the warming rate by two or three times for the last 20 years, they wrongly predict a hot spot in the upper troposphere that isn’t there, and are unable to accurately reproduce sea level rise.

    The concluding sentence of your article talks about the abuse of science. The reality is that the evidence and logic characteristic of true science are absent from a lot of so-called climate science, the actual empirical evidence for a substantial human contribution to global warming being flimsy. I have a whole blog devoted to abuses of science in many fields, including climate science: https://www.scienceunderattack.com/blog

  44. James M Schaefer says:

    Remember dear doctor that ALL the science you so eloquently unpack is based on computer models that project radical stuff happening 30-40 years from now. You/we are helpless to change much of THAT equation if the model is correct. A windmill here, a solar panel there, an electric car over there, a million trees planted every month are not going to make a dent. Your magic wand could never will a long lasting stratus cloud deck over the northern hemisphere to reflect back the solar energy. So from your mench-like perspective considering your classic “woe-is-us” model, what steps do you suggest? Specifically for the wilderness of the Northern Forest, or the Adirondacks — or say Panther Gorge?
    Of course you’d recommend sunscreen for the grandkids, right? Just “imagine” for other doctors…….OR maybe seriously consider contrary tropospheric data that (horrors) might modify THE “model.”

  45. R. T. Lindberg says:

    The problem is Dr. Stager, starts immediately by employing Saul Alinsky’s “Rules For Radicals”.  Rather than argue a point on it’s merits Dr. Stager immediately resorts to demeaning John Droz with whom he doesn’t agree.. Rule #13: 13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

    The following may make sense to many readers but you and I know “consensus” is NOT science.    “The consensus position that global average warming during the last half-century is real and mostly caused by humans, shared by the vast majority (ca. 97%) of truly qualified climate scientists, is the result of huge amounts of peer-reviewed research from many independent branches of the sciences that have been conducted worldwide over many years.” Also the average reader may not know but 97% figure is a HUGE distortion of the survey results..  Unfortunately you would need to go through the entire exercise of trying to correct propaganda which Joesph Goebbels correctly said; “If you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it.”

    Dr, Stager claims to be a “paleoclimatologist.” For those that don’t know paleoclimate is “the climate during a past geological age.”. That doesn’t mean last week or last decade or last century. That means many hundreds of thousands of years ago & millions of years ago!. Yes, the climate was warmer and the climate was cooler and CO2 levels were higher LONG before civilized man arrived with SUVs and thermal power plants.

    CONCLUSION: Wind turbines and solar panels are a fraud. In New York State the average capacity factor for ALL wind turbines arrays is 24%. They are a waste of money and a blight on the land. Wind is NOt reliable and NOT dispatchable.

  46. Conodo Mose says:

    Scientists can see through the fog of politics to the science itself. Well most of them can. However, Mr. Stager’s op-ed seems to miss the contribution made by John Droz op-ed, and rather than contribute value as Droz clearly does or debate facts for the good or bad or choices available for the park, Stager instead op-eds using the political strawman fallacy to attack Droz as an unqualified commenter rather than consider the best interests of the park. Clearly Mr Stager resorts to political and scientific slander of Droz rather than debating scientific issues, and in doing Mr Stager chose to dismiss himself from all traditional scientific circles, chucks aside any former credentials of himself as he self-qualifies in his new life as a political scientist.

  47. adkDreamer says:

    2002 Palaeo-3: 183: 169-178. “Cooling cycles, Heinrich event 1, and the desiccation of Lake Victoria”
    Author J.Curt Stager, Paul A Mayewskic L.David Meekerd

    From his abstract, last sentence (conclusion):

    “Dansgaard–Oeschger type cooling cycles registered in the GISP2 ice core record tracked major lake level regressions in East Africa and weakenings of Afro-Asian monsoons during the late Quaternary, possibly linking the desiccation of Lake Victoria to century-scale reductions in solar radiation output.”

    The Sun did it.

    • Boreas says:

      Dr. Stager states near the end of his article that he was initially skeptical of the data and conclusions drawn from them. But a lot has been elucidated since 2002 – more data, newer sampling techniques, more computing power offering more climate models, etc., etc.. Any scientist worth their salt will continue to look at new data and knowledge and change their conclusions accordingly. The scientists to be skeptical of are the ones that refuse to change their views despite overwhelming evidence.

      • adkDreamer says:

        Please provide link to article. Thanks!

      • Ralph B. Alexander says:

        You put a lot of faith in theoretical computer climate models, which so far haven’t proved to be a very good representation of reality. The models overestimated the warming rate from 1990 onwards by two or three times, wrongly predict a hot spot in the upper atmosphere that isn’t there, and can’t accurately reproduce sea level rise.

        • Boreas says:

          What are the alternatives to prediction models – wait & see? The DOD seems to be taking these models seriously (however imperfect they may be) because the sea has been rising, regardless of the ultimate accuracy of the models. Perhaps the government should be putting more money into research instead of simply calling it a hoax? Research jobs are jobs too.

  48. MITCHELL H EDELSTEIN says:

    Wow! The climate change deniers really came out of the woodwork. Climate change isn’t in the future. It is NOW. See this:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/20/opinion/ban-ki-moon-miami-climate-change.html

  49. James M Schaefer says:

    Wow! Some climate change advocates can’t get themselves to consider data sets that challenge the “model” they think explains global climate patterns. To me, that speaks volumes about their lack of predisposition to use the scientific method.

    Doesn’t scientific inquiry benefit from an open mind, with a willingness to be curious about alternative ideas, and the examination of the quality of data used to draw tentative conclusions? Replication and falsification are usually driving forces in true scientific inquiry.

    By contrast, reliance on “consensus,” judgmental discourse and “dogmatism,” interfere with scientific thinking.

    This thread has good examples of these telling traits.

    • Ralph B. Alexander says:

      Well said, James! The essence of true science is a combination of empirical evidence and logic – not artificial computer models or advocacy. Replication and falsification are indeed important elements of the scientific method, which is ignored in much of climate science.

      And even if one regards consensus as important, there are numerous examples in the history of science of the consensus of the day being wrong.

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