A sceptical consensus: the science is right but catastrophic global warming is not going to happen

The Scottish Climate & Energy Forum has been conducting a survey on the background and attitudes of participants to online climate discussions. The survey had a massive response which will take time and resource to process. However initial analysis already shows that the actual views and backgrounds of participants are in sharp contrast with some high-profile statements being made about the participants. Therefore I felt we should make these initial results known as soon as practical to avoid further damage, both to the reputation of those involved in the online debate, as well as those making the unfounded and presumably mistaken accusations of “denial”.

As such, I am releasing the following statement regarding the survey.

 

A sceptical consensus: the science is right but catastrophic global warming is not going to happen

A recent survey of those participating in on-line forums showed that most of the 5,000 respondents were experienced engineers, scientists and IT professionals most degree qualified and around a third with post graduate qualifications. The survey, carried out by the Scottish Climate and Energy Forum, asked respondents for their views on CO2 and the effect it might have on global temperatures. The results were surprising. 96% of respondents said that atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing with 79% attributing the increase to man-made sources. 81% agreed that global temperatures had increased over the 20th century and 81% also agreed that CO2 is a warming gas. But only 2% believed that increases in CO2 would cause catastrophic global warming.

So what’s going on?

Above all, these highly qualified people – experts in their own spheres – look at the published data and trust their own analysis, so their views match the available data. They agree that the climate warmed over the 20th century (this has been measured), that CO2 levels are increasing (this too has been measured) and that CO2 is a warming gas (it helps trap heat in the atmosphere and the effects can be measured). Beyond this, the survey found that 98% of respondents believe that the climate varies naturally and that increasing CO2 levels won’t cause catastrophic warming.

What next?

Overwhelmingly participants in this large scale survey support the science, however this is not how they have been portrayed in the media and this has led to deep and bitter divides between those who hold different viewpoints. This debate should be based on the evidence and that not only includes the scientific evidence on the climate, but also the evidence of the real participants involved in the debate. Given the huge number of responses and detail of questions a full assessment will take up to one year to complete. This is a huge commitment from an organisation that has no outside funding and is reliant on one full-time volunteer (Mike Haseler). We will therefore be approaching the Scottish and UK government with a view to obtaining funding to complete the analysis.

 

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34 Responses to A sceptical consensus: the science is right but catastrophic global warming is not going to happen

  1. ”scientific data” is NOT scientific. All your scientist are basing their beliefs on that ”shonky scientific data” Nobody takes in consideration what oxygen & nitrogen / the horizontal & vertical winds are doing in regulating the overall temperature = that’s not a science !!!

    1] the planet is not warmer now than 100y ago: nobody is monitoring on the whole planet NOW, it’s a joke to clime precise temp on the whole planet for 100y ago…The planet is not as human body, WHEN IS UNDER THE ARMPIT ONE DEGREE HIGHER = THE WHOLE BODY IS WARMER BY A DEGREE, in atmosphere changes independently on every 100m

    2] the minuscule amount of CO2 cannot prevent the horizontal & vertical winds, made from O2&N2
    that are regulating the overall heat. Expansion / shrinking of O2&N2 in change of temp is conveniently overlooked = the precursor of all evil. The truth will win on the end!!!: http://globalwarmingdenier.wordpress.com/climate/

  2. Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter) says:

    Take your time. Nail it down.

    ‘This is a huge commitment from an organisation that has no outside funding and is reliant on one full-time volunteer ‘

    Say, maybe Dana could contribute towards this…. never mind. Then people would be yelling about ‘Big Oil’ involvement ;)

  3. When will the data be available?

    • Kit, I approached several large polling companies to find out whether they might be interested in taking over the survey and processing the data. They said know and gave a rough estimate of £100,000 for them to do the work. That should give you a fair idea how much work in involved.

      To put it another way there are half a million “slots” in the database for answers. Just to read each answer (at one a second) would take 139hours. So, it is impractical to check the figures manually.

      So, what I need to do is to employ someone to work on the survey. A university doing a similar survey would probably have a researcher working for a couple of years plus the full resources of the University behind them.

      So, I’m now going to have to work for several months/year in order to try to secure funding for something that the government should have funded long ago.

      • Make the data public and I’m sure there’ll be people who’ll have the (spare) time to do something with it.

        The data crunching I’m sure will not take a huge amount of time to someone familiar with statistics software, but the interpretation and writing up a report on the results might.

        • Unfortunately too many fields contain an “other” column in which there is a lot of incidental personal data. Put together I think some entries would/might be enough to identify some individuals.

  4. No! No! All sceptics deny basic physics and the greenhouse effect and hate science and are anyway not real people but funded by oil companies which are still making a fortune out of renewables and subsidies… oops, ran away with myself there.

  5. JohnWho says:

    “The results were surprising. 96% of respondents said that atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing with 79% attributing the increase to man-made sources.”

    That surprises me. I would expect about 80% would agree that atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing partly to the increase of man-made sources, but completely?

    I, too, would like to see the exact wording of the survey.

      • JohnWho says:

        Thank you.

      • JohnWho says:

        I see this:

        “Man-made sources have increased global levels of CO2″

        It does not imply that the increase is due solely to man-made sources.

        Is there something else I’m not seeing?

        • No you are not missing anything as that appears to be an accurate summary.

          • JohnWho says:

            Ah, then I would respectfully request that you change “…79% attributing the increase to man-made sources.” to “…79% attributing at least part of the increase to man-made sources” since the survey line item is not specific.

            Otherwise, thank you for your efforts and this information.

          • I can see your point, however attribute does not mean caused and it certainly does not mean “wholly caused”. It is already a vague term.

            However you do raise the important point that a full analysis would have to be checked word by word and this is why it will take quite some time to do and why I would have to employ someone to work with me.

            There’s no short-cut approach. It’s going to take time and at least two people and so someone is going to have to fund this analysis. My view is that it should be either the Scottish or Westminster government. So, the sooner they realise that the onus is on them to put up the cash, the sooner we will have the quality of wording that you desire.

          • JohnWho says:

            I understand and agree that further analysis should be done.

            However, you said: “The results were surprising. 96% of respondents said that atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing with 79% attributing the increase to man-made sources.” Maybe as an American I interpret the words differently than you, but your phrasing strongly implies that the CO2 level increase is due to man-made sources. “attributing the increase” is straightforward.

            The line item in the survey:

            “Man-made sources have increased global levels of CO2″ does not imply that man-made sources are the only source of the increase. Were I taking the survey, I would have said “strongly agree” to this line item because I feel that we are having some level of contribution.

            Many people may quote from your post here and at WUWT. I believe the wrong impression is being given by your interpretation of this line item.

            Perhaps best would be:

            “The results were surprising. 96% of respondents said that atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing with 79% agreeing that man-made sources have increased global levels of CO2.”

          • John yes that would be clearer. Now I’ll change the text if you are willing to spend 10 hours sending the slightly revised version to all the 800 recipients.

  6. Derek Alker says:

    Ok, I am paraphrasing as such, but it is what it seems to me you mean to convey, namely that –

    “Above all, these highly qualified people – experts in their own spheres – look at the published data and trust their own analysis, so their views match the available data. They agree that CO2 is a warming gas (it helps trap heat in the atmosphere and the effects can be measured).”

    How? By what “mechanism”?
    Heat can not be trapped, that is physically impossible!!!

    To be physically correct, the gases in question should be called radiatively able gases, NOT greenhouse gases. They merely increase the atmospheres ability to redistribute energy, THAT is NOT trapping heat…..

    I had great problems with the way the surveys questions were phrased, and I think I was not alone. It will have effected the results the survey gives too. For instance, do the majority of experts think heat can be trapped??????? I think (hope…) not. So, that may be an example of the issues the surveys questions and how they were phrased caused and helped produce what appear to me to be some peculiar results.

    Just out of interest, to any experts reading this post. Do you think heat can be trapped? Please note, I do not mean delayed, I mean trapped, permanently. Please just answer Yes, or No.
    Hint – It would be unphysical to answer Yes…

    • Yes it sucks … or should I say there’s a partial vacuum whose pressure differential results in a displacement force directed toward the lower pressure?

      • Derek Alker says:

        Err, more like you can keep a bag of stored energy indefinitely, but you can not keep a bag of heat.
        Because, the energy is already in transit.

        • Trap is a word that the public are familiar with when applied to insulation. As such like any insulation there is no suggestion of heat not continuing to escape. What is being trapped is the same as water trapped behind a dam. The dam does not stop water, as the water must continue to flow otherwise it will overtop the dam and continue anyway. Likewise with CO2, it does not stop heat flowing altogether.

          I suppose one could say “dam the heat”, but for reasons I do not know, the term for such a situation is “trap the heat”. The question that one has to ask, is not whether someone who knows the subject well thinks it is entirely accurate, but whether someone who is totally ignorant of the supposed effect of CO2 will be reminded of what CO2 is supposed to do.

          The purpose of the bracketed items is not to express sceptic views, instead it is to translate a specific term: “rising CO2″ into a concept that is more familiar “trapping heat”.

          Does heat get trapped – of course not – do people understand what is meant by “trapping heat” – yes it helps keep things warm.

          • Derek Alker says:

            How does a radiatively able gas, which increases the atmospheres ability to redistribute energy, do that I have to wonder? Oooops, it can not, obviously.

            BTW – The only thing that can “trap” heat within earth’s climate system is water and water vapour because of the energies of change of state.

            Strictly speaking, CO2 does a bit of it too, as it dissolves into the oceans and is later degassed (a negative feedback incidentally). But, that is not “in” the atmosphere really.

          • Isn’t it very similar to the question of what turns a Crookes radiometer?

            The idea is about absorption on the black and … emission on the black. Whichever way it goes around, the explanation based on picking one or other and (falsely) giving it as the obvious answer. CO2 is very similar – you can analyse the effect in several different ways and come out with different answers.

            In the end, one can only tell which is right from whether they predict the evidence – and as none of them seem to have any predictive power, I can’t possibly say which is right.

          • Derek Alker says:

            I have not heard of the “Crookes radiometer”. Although, yes, most things can be spun, or presented differently, depending upon one’s view point. However at the overall level of climate then surely we can rely on some basic physics to help us decide.

            You use the words predictive power, that made me think. Ok, THE radiatively able gas is water vapour. Let us just forget CO2 at only 0.04% of the atmosphere for the time being. Water vapour is commonly between 2% and 4% of the atmosphere. Humid places have a far lower temperature range than arid places. ie, tropical latitude deserts are hotter by day, and colder by night than tropical rain forests. So, in humid places, a negative feedback is reducing warming when warming is occurring, and reducing cooling when cooling is occurring, compared to arid places. Plainly, water vapour in earth’s atmosphere is a negative feedback. Water also has energies of phase change that also act as a negative feedback, and it has a high specific heat capacity that also acts as a negative feedback. Clouds, act as “parasols by day” and as “blankets at night”, also plainly a negative feedback.

            The above is all very basic stuff, Plainly THE radiatively able gas of earth’s atmosphere (water vapour) is a negative feedback. Does this fit in with what the description of a radiatively able gas would do, ie predict? Yes.

            Does the above fit in with the notion that CO2 is a heat trapping gas? No. That has no predictive power at all. Nor any proposed “mechanism” by which it could trap heat.

            Mike writes –
            “In the end, one can only tell which is right from whether they predict the evidence – and as none of them seem to have any predictive power, I can’t possibly say which is right.”

            I beg to differ as explained briefly above. One description, that there are radiatively able gases does have a very strong predictive power, the other, that CO2 is a heat trapping gas, has virtually none. Unfortunately the current dominant paradigm within climate science is based upon the later. Is it any wonder then that the UN / IPCC climate models have no predictive power at all? No, they model the wrong paradigm.

            “We” appear “trapped” in a false, GH “theory”, CO2 “traps” heat paradigm, that is plainly at odds with the basic physics we can observe in reality all around us.

          • Derek Alker says:

            I wrote –
            “We” appear “trapped” in a false, GH “theory”, CO2 “traps” heat paradigm, that is plainly at odds with the basic physics we can observe in reality all around us.

            Just in case some may be under the mistaken impression I am expressing some minor and / or lunatic fringe point of view.
            http://globalwarmingsolved.com/2013/11/summary-the-physics-of-the-earths-atmosphere-papers-1-3/

            I am also not alone in stating that the main stream skeptics HAVE become the gatekeepers for the GH “theory based false orthodoxy. They actually always were, now it is just beyond reasonable doubt. Why else would Christopher Monckton try to redefine feedbacks as if the climate system were an electrical circuit, other than to not have to admit water vapour is a negative feedback, and his missing fingerprint of AGW actually shows that?

            Not everyone is aboard the GH “theory” based AGW politics and policies coming train wreck. More are leaving every day due to basic physics. Politics has divorced itself from reality, and therefore the people it was supposed to serve. “Us and them” now refers to the people and politicians.

  7. JohnWho says:

    @ Scottish Sceptic

    Sure, I’d be glad to help.

  8. Thanks for the offer, however I need to talk to government first to find out who they would find acceptable. If you think about it, they are spending £billions on this – so money is not a barrier (for government). So, I’m going to have to spend the time talking to civil servants, finding out what they would deem an acceptable way to process the data and then and only then could I consider hiring someone as there has to be a contractual basis for the work and an employment contract will make a confidentiality agreement enforceable.

  9. D o u g   C o t t o n says:

    Loschmidt was the brilliant 19th century physicist who was the first in the world to successfully estimate the size of air molecules – within a factor of 2 or so anyway. We can assume Loschmidt thought about what those molecules did, and, with the knowledge of the fact that gas molecules were far smaller than the space between them, the world saw the beginning of Kinetic Theory being applied to “ideal” gases with documented assumptions that I encourage you all to read, because Kinetic Theory was successfully used by Einstein and others, and from it we can derive the well known ideal gas laws. We can also derive (in just two lines) the magnitude of the so-called dry adiabatic lapse rate without using those gas laws or any pressure data.

    It’s not hard to visualise what Loschmidt did, namely molecules moving around at random and colliding with others rather like billiard balls. When they collide they share their kinetic energy, and as a result, we see diffusion of kinetic energy which results in a tendency towards equal temperatures in a horizontal plane. We have all observed such diffusion in our homes when warmth from a heater spreads across the room.

    But, when those molecules move in free frictionless flight between collisions the assumptions of kinetic theory include the “classical treatment” of their dynamics, noting that “because they have mass the gas molecules will be affected by gravity.” And so Newtonian mechanics tell us that the sum of kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy remains constant.

    But, as a gas spontaneously approaches thermodynamic equilibrium it is approaching a state in which there are no unbalanced energy potentials. That state is isentropic, having (PE+KE)=constant at all heights, and this means that KE varies and, as Kinetic Theory tells us, temperature also varies in proportion to the mean kinetic energy of the molecules.

    It does not matter that the final state is never completely materialised, and so entropy will still be increasing. We are considering what happens as we approach a limit, just as in calculus. Entropy will keep increasing until that limit is achieved, but it never is because, with a new day dawning more solar energy is added causing a significant disturbance to the process and moving it further away from equilibrium. Never-the-less, by the following night if there are calm conditions, the state of thermodynamic equilibrium will again be approached.

    Over the life of the planet the temperature gradient has obviously evolved on all planets with significant atmospheres, and it also occurs in sub-surface regions such as Earth’s outer crust and inside the Moon.

    The empirical evidence is that Loschmidt was right and that Maxwell erred on just this particular issue wherein molecular studies were perhaps not his specialty. The huge significance of this is that there is no need for any greenhouse radiative forcing to explain planetary atmospheric and surface temperatures. These cannot be explained at all by radiation calculations – only by the gravity gradient. The trillion dollar question is thus, was Loschmidt right?

  10. I’m not sure what you are describing is incompatible with the conventional idea of greenhouse warming or if it were we’d be another 30C warmer.

  11. C3 Editor says:

    Hello, Mike.

    Your survey results suggests 5,000 survey respondents but one of your own comments above states “800 recipients”. What’s the best means to reconcile these two vastly different numbers?

    Second, if the survey represents ‘sceptics’ alone, how could any answer (those 2%) that CO2 will cause catastrophic global warming? If the 2% are true sceptics, then what exactly are they sceptical of? Is this a case that the the 5,000 respondents include non-sceptics as well? If so, can it be determined what percentage of the 5,000 are those?

    Is it possible to restate your survey results with using only answers from the 800 recipients originally invited (I assume those are actual sceptics you identified prior to the invite.)

    ‘C3′ editor

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