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26 Common Climate Myths Debunked 998

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the poking-holes-in-the-holes dept.
holy_calamity writes to mention that New Scientist is revealing the truth behind the '26 most common climate myths' used to muddy the waters in this ongoing heated debate. "Our planet's climate is anything but simple. All kinds of factors influence it, from massive events on the Sun to the growth of microscopic creatures in the oceans, and there are subtle interactions between many of these factors. Yet despite all the complexities, a firm and ever-growing body of evidence points to a clear picture: the world is warming, this warming is due to human activity increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and if emissions continue unabated the warming will too, with increasingly serious consequences."
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26 Common Climate Myths Debunked

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @02:56PM (#19149195)
    Fact: Flamewars do, in fact, contribute to global warming. The increase in post count burdens servers and thus uses more electricity. Ad revenues increase allowing rich business men make more money to put gas in their hummers. Considering some 40% of the internet consists of flamewars of one type or another, the impact is rather significant.
  • Ugh - not again. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @02:59PM (#19149235)
    I'm a firm believer in verifying scientific claims, especially when they are used to drive policy on a global scale. I just think that a) the topic has been played out, and b) Climate change discussions on slashdot have moved from discussing the science behind it to silly flame wars (I know so, because I pretty much started one the last time around).

    I seriously would like to put a moratorium on these stories until there are some new and credible theories that come up. Relinking to the same old arguments (both ways) does nothing to advance the discussion, or the knowledge of the topic.
    • by MightyYar (622222) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:47PM (#19150107)
      But science doesn't come in leaps and bounds. Every tree ring or ice core that is analyzed either adds or detracts from the credibility of a theory. Every run of a computer model aims at matching it up a little bit better with the historical record. The science on climate change has ever-so-slowly morphed from the "global cooling" theories of the 1970's to the much more accurate computer models of today. We have much more data and a much better understanding of climate, and even a better understanding of what we don't know. To claim that we are still arguing the same science today as we were even 10 years ago is disingenuous... 10 years ago there were enough holes in the data to ask serious questions about the whole theory. Today, people still keep asking the same questions even though they've been answered pretty well.

      I'm sorry, but you are unlikely to get a "new and credible" theory, since the only 3 possibilities are that man-made CO2 increases global temperature, decreases global temperature, or has no effect on global temperature. All three have already been posited, and only the increasing temperature theory has a substantial amount of evidence to support it. Your comment is proof that we need to continue to talk about it.
  • by symbolset (646467) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:04PM (#19149329) Homepage Journal
    And not all change is bad. Yes, we should do something about pollution of all sorts. A clever observer will notice though that warmer climate equals more arable land at a time when there are more humans to feed than ever. Opportunities abound.
    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:19PM (#19149603) Journal
      Change is only good if you're okay with the fact that you will, like 99% of all the other creatures in the history of the earth, soon become extinct.

      It is, as they say, the natural order of things.
    • by TheAxeMaster (762000) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:39PM (#19149993)
      Look at the rainfall predictions.
       
        http://environment.newscientist.com/data/images/ns /cms/dn11657/dn11657-1_365.jpg [newscientist.com]

      Their best estimate is that there will be 10-20 inches less rainfall in some of the poorest areas of the world, not to mention most of europe. What exactly do you think less rainfall is going to do? People are going to starve. Maybe that's not a concern for you when you can drive down the street to the McDonalds and get a big mac, but for people who live by subsistance farming its really bad news. The whole "won't affect me" attitude is a lot of the problem. Crank up the A/C and keep watching Fox news.
       
      And by the way, the "more arable land" would be in areas that aren't currently farmed, so we'd be chopping down even more trees and compounding the problem by wrecking even more carbon sinks.
      • by brkello (642429) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @06:55PM (#19152999)
        I have lived in a desert all my life. Normally, this time of year every day is full of sunshine with not a cloud in sight. But this year, more than any other, it is cloudy, cool and rainy (this is really really strange). Who is to say that global warming won't actually increase rainfall in some areas? There is more water because the water from the polar ice caps are melting. There is more surface area for the water to evaporate from since the tide is rising. On a global level, it is warmer, so there should be more evaporation. Thus it is possible for it to rain more in these areas saving lives.

        Obviously, I am no expert. But I am extremely skeptical of these "experts". I can see how they can trend global climate change...but rainfall predictions in certain areas? Give me a break, we can predict that two weeks out with very much accuracy.

        Quite frankly, the climate is always changing regardless of what we do. Should we try to do less to pollute...absolutely. Is global warming a huge deal. Not as much as people are trying to make it out. We have less effect than people want to believe. In fact, a few decades ago scientists were predicting global cooling. And if the climate was always stable...explain the ice age.

        People like you make me sick. If you are so worried about people dieing than give up your house, your car, your friends, your spouse, and move to those countries with the extremely poor and work to help them. Just because you right some self-righteous post on Slashdot doesn't mean you are any better than the people who like cool A/C and watch Fox News. What the heck does that mean anyways? Does CNN give off less greenhouse emissions.

        This has nothing to do with politics for me. I can't stand the current administration and am a registered Democrat. I think Fox News is so horribly skewed to the right that it can only be viewed for entertainment purposes. My objection to the global warming hype is that it just doesn't make sense. They are only presenting one side of the picture and they are doing in a way that is wrong. Just like Bush uses the fear of terroists to win votes, it seems like these people are now trying to use the fear of global climate change to push their agenda. I suggest you try actually reading the counter-opinions instead of just reading the stuff that says the same thing. There are intelligent people who are unbiased that think this is overblown. At one time most scientists thought the sun revolved around the earth. Scientists are not always right...no many how big a herd of them there are.
  • by Sciros (986030) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:07PM (#19149381) Journal
    Having looked at the Firehose for some time now, I find it amusing that same-old, same-old (read: non-newsworthy) articles like this appear on the main page so quickly, whereas all articles that present a dissenting conclusion never get here in the first place. I doubt the "votes" have much of anything to do with that.

    Slashdot editors please give both sides a fair chance here; this isn't science vs. religion; it's [supposedly] science vs. science and people should be promoting that.
    • by Bearpaw (13080) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:25PM (#19149725)
      Peer-reviewed science and corporate-funded talking points should be equally represented.

      Then we can decide for ourselves whether there's any link between smoking and cancer.

    • by Shivetya (243324) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:42PM (#19150035) Homepage Journal
      try and post facts other than those supported by group think in relation to global warming and it will get editted out.

      Example, the section about glaciers retreating has its own page, go make one showing all the growing glaciers and watch it vanish. I seriously do not believe them anymore when the say pages don't vanish. Its even more fun when your id goes missing too.

      There is no place for intelligent discussion on global warming anymore. Too many of the people running sites have already decided and its evident in the stories that get posted and the comments that get nuked, stripped, or otherwise put into oblivion.

      any scientist who supports something other than man made global warming gets labeled as an industry lackey whereas the obvious government we need continued funding lackeys get respect second to God.

      The only science I trust now is that dealing with space. Too much of science about earth and mans effect is polluted by political ideaology.
  • by loafula (1080631) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:07PM (#19149387)
    I, for one, welcome global warming. See, I hate Massachusetts winters. And how cool would it be to pick coconuts in my back yard?
  • by flogger (524072) <non@nonegiven> on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:08PM (#19149413) Journal
    This appears to be "weather-Mongering." The only one of these that I didn;t know to be a myth was that "it is all a conspiracy"
    • Human CO2 emissions are too tiny to matter
    • We can't do anything about climate change
    • The 'hockey stick' graph has been proven wrong
    • Chaotic systems are not predictable
    • We can't trust computer models of climate
    • They predicted global cooling in the 1970s
    • It's been far warmer in the past, what's the big deal?
    • It's too cold where I live - warming will be great
    • Global warming is down to the Sun, not humans
    • It's all down to cosmic rays
    • CO2 isn't the most important greenhouse gas
    • The lower atmosphere is cooling, not warming
    • Antarctica is getting cooler, not warmer, disproving global warming
    • The oceans are cooling
    • The cooling after 1940 shows CO2 does not cause warming
    • It was warmer during the Medieval period, with vineyards in England
    • We are simply recovering from the Little Ice Age
    • Warming will cause an ice age in Europe
    • Ice cores show CO2 increases lag behind temperature rises, disproving the link to global warming
    • Ice cores show CO2 rising as temperatures fell
    • Mars and Pluto are warming too
    • Many leading scientists question climate change
    • It's all a conspiracy
    • Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming
    • Higher CO2 levels will boost plant growth and food production
    • Polar bear numbers are increasing
  • Laugh or cry... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BlueParrot (965239) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:14PM (#19149515)
    Having spent many hours arguing with people who will jump on any conspiracy theory they can find, and who will happily trust a 2 hour program on channel 4 instead of a plethora of peer reviewed scientific journals, I don't know if I should laugh or cry at the posts in this thread. Lets get this straight once and for all, you will not debunk anything with two sentences. Simply explaining what global average temperature is, or what is meant with a greenhouse gas, or what radiative forcing refers to, requires an entire article on its own. I don't know how many times I have seen some statement along the lines of "Solar radiation changes" completely ignoring matter of relative magnitude, time-scales, research on the topic, and whatnot. At the end of the day the issue is so complex that the only one-liner that has even the slightest legitimacy is "this is what the vast majority of experts on the topic believe" and even that one requires credible references ( as so many sceptics will contest it ). Anyway, the most useful bit of text that will appear in this entire thread follows: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming [wikipedia.org] There you go, it isn't perfect but it is the best that will appear on slashdot.
    • by wakaranai (87059)
      Absolutely.

      It's sad to read the short posts on Slashdot that glibly assert that anthropogenic climate change is untrue and/or a conspiracy.

      The wikipedia article (and the IPPC reports http://www.ipcc.ch/ [www.ipcc.ch] ) are good places to start to find out about the complex nature of this issue, and to see that there is a global scientific consensus (all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries agree) that there is a serious problem.
  • by iknownuttin (1099999) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:19PM (#19149617)
    and that is, There are many many variables to the causes of global warming and you cannot pin it on one variable.

    I hear so many times from folks, especially in the media, that the planet is warming because of 'X'. They always want to blame it on one thing. My favorite is that "the Sun is getting hotter! It's not the human race!" Or others love to blame the SUVs or coal fired power plants exclusively.

    What I'm getting at is the folks who reduce the argument to one variable, regardless of your point of view on the matter, are muddying matters even more and making is difficult to get folks on board to solve the problem. So by saying, "the Sun is getting hotter." tha just gives people the rational to throw their hands up and say "There's nothing I can do.

    My wife had a great answer to a neighbor who believes that global warming is myth. She said to him, "By taking the steps to reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming, we will be cleaning up the air. And I don't know about you, but I like clean air."

    Here in Metro Atlanta, most of the Summer is "Smog Alert Day" and it's miserable. Everybody, pro or con, wants clean air - even the global warming naysayers.

    • by duranaki (776224) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:55PM (#19150257)

      Just a side note... CO2 isn't dirty, and is typically named public enemy #1 of "greenhouse gases". If all our cars and combustion based power planets burned friendly carbs at 100% efficiency they'd still spit out lots of H2O and CO2. We'd have no smog, you'd breathe freely even on hot days, and the world would still get warmer (or at least the majority of scientist would predict it).

      I'm not trying to agitate, just hear this "CO2 is pollution" argument too often. But whatever shuts your neighbor up... :)

  • by aardwolf64 (160070) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:26PM (#19149749) Homepage
    Reading just one of them...

    Climate myths: They predicted global cooling in the 1970s
    "Indeed they did. At least, a handful of scientific papers discussed the possibility of a new ice age at some point in the future..."
    "This scenario was seen as plausible by many other scientists"
    "However, Schneider soon realised he had overestimated the cooling effect of aerosol pollution and underestimated the effect of CO2, meaning warming was more likely than cooling in the long run. In his review of a 1977 book "

    Ok... so remind me how this is a "myth" again? Scientists did predict global cooling in the early seventies, and the idea caught on. The fact that someone disagreed near the end of the seventies doesn't eliminate the fact that they did believe it would happen in the early seventies.
  • by epine (68316) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:27PM (#19149757)
    There's a lot that can be said about climate change, but that article was not it. I was disappointed in that publication. The most eggregious error from a computer science perspective is that it requires no great talent to train a model that predicts your training data, and even your withheld data, and still have the model prove worthless when confronted with unknowns from the real world.

    I read articles every week about major new terms being proposed or incorporated into these models, I hold about as much faith in these models as chess computers from 1980 that regard castling through check as a legal move. Three decades later, the progress with chess programs is a wonder to behold. Our present climate models are perhaps good enough to suggest strong grounds for concern, but looking back 30 years from now, they'll seem like toys.
  • by EMB Numbers (934125) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:39PM (#19149981)
    Article 2 http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/ climate-change/dn11658 [newscientist.com] states "The great majority of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was put there by the developed world, with the US alone responsible for an estimated quarter of emissions since 1750" right after the first article http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/ climate-change/dn11638 [newscientist.com] states "It is true that human emissions of CO2 are small compared with natural sources."

    Which it is ? How can anybody know what to believe in the face of such huge inconsistencies ?
    • by Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @04:16PM (#19150625)

      Article 2 states "The great majority of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was put there by the developed world, with the US alone responsible for an estimated quarter of emissions since 1750" right after the first article states "It is true that human emissions of CO2 are small compared with natural sources."

      Which it is ? How can anybody know what to believe in the face of such huge inconsistencies ?

      There is no inconsistency there, at most it was bad phrasing. What article to meant was that "Of all the carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere by humans, the great majority was put there by the developed world, with the US alone responsible for an estimated quarter of emissions since 1750." I admit that it was very badly stated, but anyone with the slightest reading comprehension would understand that they were talking about portions of human emissions. Especially when combined with the second half of the sentence which discussed the United States' percent of emissions.

      If you have actual evidence, please bring it up. I will promise (to try) to not nit pick at typos or badly phrased sentences.

    • by sheldon (2322)
      Isn't the entire quote, something more like this...?

      It is true that human emissions of CO2 are small compared with natural sources. But the fact that CO2 levels have remained steady until very recently shows that natural emissions are usually balanced by natural absorptions. Now slightly more CO2 must be entering the atmosphere than is being soaked up by carbon "sinks".


      How can I debunk your debunking, when you can't even be bothered to read the article?
    • by LadyLucky (546115) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @05:47PM (#19152047) Homepage
      It's a dynamic equilibrium, with large sources and sinks of CO2. Adding more from human sources will increase the total amount, even if net production is small compared to natural sources.
  • This is pointless (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheWoozle (984500) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:41PM (#19150029)
    Instead of listing 26 reasons that global warming is real and caused by humans, wouldn't we all be better served by a list of 26 things that a single person can do to improve our quality of life and the health of the environment (that just so happen to also reduce global warming) that aren't prohibitively expensive or that demand levels of sacrifice that we all know Joe Blow won't make?

    Oh wait...sorry. That would be productive and require more brainpower than the "yes it is! no it isn't!" shouting match.
    • Instead of listing 26 reasons that global warming is real and caused by humans, wouldn't we all be better served by a list of 26 things that a single person can do to improve our quality of life and the health of the environment (that just so happen to also reduce global warming) that aren't prohibitively expensive or that demand levels of sacrifice that we all know Joe Blow won't make?

      Exactly. In fact, if you read the article, you would have noticed a few that specifically are What Can I Do issues.

      Let's br
  • by DanielMarkham (765899) * on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:45PM (#19150073) Homepage
    I, for one, welcome our new scientist myth-debunking overlords.

    I enjoy my re-education and only wish to serve the greater good of mankind, as defined by those who know more than I do.

    I reject calls for understanding that science is about observation, theory, and reproducible results. Instead, I whole-heartedly accept that science is about consensus, caring for others, and saving the planet. As a computer expert, I give up my knowledge that computer models are almost pointless when dealing with ten-thousand variable systems and accept that scientists know what is important and what is not.I reject my selfish way of wanting to keep my rich lifestle. I understand that sacrifices must be made, mostly by me, in order for the poor to survive. I gladly give up my wealth to those central managers who will take my resources and apply them where they make the most scientific sense.

    Gosh. I feel so much better! This was a lot more fun than surrendering to the last overlords. Now that I've joined, do I get a brown uniform and a cool set of black leather boots? Is there a cool hand salute or anything?

    Apologies if I appear cynical in any fashion. I am sure some more re-education will fix me right up. We unwashed masses are in constant need of education.
  • by Mutatis Mutandis (921530) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:45PM (#19150083)

    The problem is that "global warming skepticism" already has developed into a fully-fledged pseudoscience, in the same league as creationism, astrology, homeopathy, crystal healing, etc., etc., etc.

    The core characteristic of a pseudoscience is that is carefully constructed to weave its way around the facts, and that is highly adaptable: Like a nasty disease, it will rapidly develop resistance to any argument used against it. Also, it is inherently unfalsifiable, because a pseudoscience is not a theory that can be used to generate predictions that can be tested (as a science should be), but a collection of objections and statements of ignorance that does not make predictions. Science predicts. Pseudoscience only objects.

    It is important to understand that distinction. If a scientific theory predicts, say, a temperature of 23C, and the measurement is 12+/-3C, then that theory cannot be correct -- it has been falsified, as Karl Popper argued. But if a pseudoscience claims that something cannot be right because the temperature is 23C, and you react by showing data showing that it actually is 12+/-3C, then that fails to destroy the pseudoscience, because that was just one of the potentially infinite number of objections that constitute the body of the pseudoscience. You can, therefore, spent an infinite amount of time carrying on counter-arguments.

    So although I applaud New Scientist for making the effort, sadly, it is a complete illusion that this will convince anyone. You cannot convince people who have already made up their mind to ignore factual arguments, by using factual arguments. As tempting as it can be to enter such a debate, I have to warn that almost every possible way to spend your time and energy is more rewarding and more fun. Most science students make that error sooner or later. Most will learn that it is just a pointless waste of time. Much better to work on the real scientific case, and ignore the loonies.

    My excuses for the 0.001% of climate change skeptics who are actually using a scientifically valid argumentation. I regret that they are getting the dog's fleas by involuntary association, but they still have their colleagues to find intelligent conversation and solace, even if they may not agree.

    And at the end of the day, it probably won't matter that much. I am confident that the majority of people is sane, and that democratic government will (slowly but with some inevitability) result in an acceptable policy. There may be some hold-outs, but in those cases there is always Sarkozy's suggestion of taxing the exports of countries that don't address global warming.

  • Computer Models (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rlp (11898) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @03:48PM (#19150119)
    From TFA: Finally, the claim is sometimes made that if computer models were any good, people would be using them to predict the stock market. Well, they are!

    A lot of trading in the financial markets is already carried out by computers. Many base their decisions on fairly simple algorithms designed to exploit tiny profit margins, but others rely on more sophisticated long-term models.

    Major financial institutions are investing huge amounts in automated trading systems, the proportion of trading carried out by computers is growing rapidly and some individuals have made a fortune from them. The smart money is being bet on computer models.


    There's a huge distinction between using software to handle stock trades and using software to model the stock market. The author blurs this distinction.

    A very large hedge fund tried modeling the market in the 90's. Hired a bunch of analysts and some Nobel prize winning economists to create the models. Bottom line - the fund went belly up. Almost took the rest of the market with it. (See Cramer's "Confessions of A Street Addict" for details. Note: it was not Cramer's fund). The stock market is too large, complex, and chaotic a system to accurately forecast.
  • by krunk7 (748055) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @07:31PM (#19153461)

    Where a bunch of people who have only a vauge idea of what it even means to qualify as "science" or "proven" argue with research done by experts in the field because a letter to the editor they skimmed in Readers Digest while waiting for the Dentist said "Global warming is a bunch of hipe".

    Any dissenters please prepend your objection with:

    • Citations from respectable science journals (you can't find many, they simply don't exist...yeah, it's that much of a professional consensus)
    • Your qualifications, e.g. education and/or experience. You don't have to be a climatologist, but something better then a high school education or liberal arts degree would help. Other wise you most likely don't understand the above citations.

    Of course, this is where you say "well who the fuck are YOU?". Well, I'm just a lowly computer engineer who tends to side with the experts in the field and the volumunous amount of research indicating we are experiencing abnormal temperature increases caused by man and primarily his entry into the industrial age.

    Thing is, if you disagree with the experts but you a) are not an expert and b) do not have the proven skills to comprehend the experts, then c) you don't think you believe gobal warming isn't happening. Yes, I just called you ignorant if you don't meet the above qualifications. I can do that. I'm on slashdot.

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