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NCSE Picks Fight Against Climate Science Deniers

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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The National Center for Science Education is a wonderful institution dedicated to fighting junk science from entering our Nation’s schools and media. This is a tireless and often thankless job, yet there are so few “think tank” type organizations to promote science standards out there that they really stand out. I had the fortune 2 years ago to visit their offices and was impressed by how passionate the staff were and what they could accomplish out of a tiny office and a garage to store their immense archives.

NCSE is best know for fighting creationism in schools and provided crucial assistance during the landmark Dover Trial and battles over intelligent design legislation throughout several states. Now, they are turning their attention to climate change denial – a wholly other beast! See this brief video below.

The fight over evolution and intelligent design/creationism was essentially a legal one hinging on a loose definition of religion entering public school classrooms. Naturally, there is much more to it than that, but i want to make a point that the climate change denial fight is not necessarily a legal battle much like the the religious infiltration of ID was. This makes it a much more difficult fight! It is mostly an education campaign, not a legal campaign. Curiously, though, the tactics of climate change deniers are all too familiar! They have borrowed and mirrored many of the strategies (and in fact, people) from ID proponents.

I’ve long been a supporter of NCSE when I could afford membership. I think it’s time to make that small financial sacrifice once again to support their noble efforts at improving the standards of science education in America. If you think this is about single issues, like teaching evolution or climate change in grade school, then you are dead wrong. This is about the deceitful infiltration of an anti-science politico-cultural agenda into the most vulnerable sector of society, our nations publicly-funded schools. The country can regain its prominence as a science beacon in the world once again, but it takes organisations like NCSE to help and ordinary citizens like you and I to care.

UPDATE: Steve Mirksy has a podcast interview with Eugenie Scott about this new initiative from NCSE right here on Scientific American! Some really great points made by Eugenie by about parallels between evolution and climate change denialism.

*Earth photo credit: Modified from a NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Image by Reto Stöckli

Kevin Zelnio About the Author: Kevin has a M.Sc. degree in biology from Penn State, a B.Sc. in Evolution and Ecology from University of California, Davis, and has worked at as a researcher at several major marine science institutions. His broad academic research interests have encompassed population genetics, biodiversity, community ecology, food webs and systematics of invertebrates at deep-sea chemosynthetic environments and elsewhere. Kevin has described several new species of anemones and shrimp. He is now a freelance writer, independent scientist and science communications consultant living near the Baltic coast of Sweden in a small, idyllic village.

Kevin is also the assistant editor and webmaster for Deep Sea News, where he contributes articles on marine science. His award-winning writing has been appeared in Seed Magazine, The Open Lab: Best Writing on Science Blogs (2007, 2009, 2010), Discovery Channel, ScienceBlogs, and Environmental Law Review among others. He spends most of his time enjoying the company of his wife and two kids, hiking, supporting local breweries, raising awareness for open access, playing guitar and songwriting. You can read up more about Kevin and listen to his music at his homepage, where you can also view his CV and Résumé, and follow him twitter and Google +. Editor's Selection Posts on EvoEcoLab!

Follow on Twitter @kzelnio.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Comments 58 Comments

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  1. 1. Carlyle 4:50 pm 01/16/2012

    When you condemn unethical behaviour as exhibited in the email scandal, claims by the head of the IPPC that humans are causing tsunamis & many other scientific falsehoods in the climate science field, we will know you are genuinely pro science & not just swapping one belief system for another.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Postman1 10:38 pm 01/16/2012

    Carlyle- Remember the Brownshirts in Germany? It’s all about controlling the minds of the youth. You only teach what you want them to believe, and you keep them from hearing anything which doesn’t fit the dogma. If they can’t prove their theory (and they can’t), they will eliminate the alternatives and indoctrinate the youth first.

    Link to this
  3. 3. jtdwyer 11:22 pm 01/16/2012

    While teachers are often somewhat extreme liberals intent on achieving social change through the education of the young (a la Hitler Youth – at the other end of the scale), their efforts to teach science are sometimes conflicted with the teachings of fundamental religious beliefs.

    Having ties to the mid-West, I understand that communities in Kansas and Missouri, for example, have in the recent past passed or at least proposed laws requiring that teachers teach creationism as an accepted alternative to evolution ‘theory’ in science classes. Certainly the NCSE can support embattled educators in the teaching of generally accepted science.

    IMO, in comparison, there is a lot of ‘junk science’ on both sides of the climate issue, but at this point there should probably be some basic indisputable facts discussed in schools – it cannot be disputed that humanity’s industrial society can, has and does negatively impact the environment in ways that critically affect the survivability of life, for example.

    IMO, the enormous environmental impact and resource demands of global population growth should also be discussed as a critical factor effecting humanity’s continued survival, since it has indisputably nearly tripled in the past 60 years and still continues!

    However, I’m not aware of any laws being proposed to prevent the discussion of environmental impacts in public schools…

    Link to this
  4. 4. truittjs 12:04 am 01/17/2012

    The fact is, at least the only fact I’m sure of, both sides have made sure that the average person in the street has no chance of knowing what the truth is.
    Yeah I saw the clips on Rush and the other talk show idiots, but let’s face it their audience has already drank the cool aid. I’ve read the books from “Red Hot Lies” to “Flooded Earth” and heard the conspiracy theories from both sides. Bottom line is I don’t know who is right but I do know this while the argument continues nothing is getting done.
    We need to stop concentrating on drawing a line in the sand and reach an area we should all be able to agree on, we need to reduce the amount we pollute. All of us everywhere need to do this now before we poison our planet beyond repair.
    Let’s stop the name calling, politicking, finger pointing and instead work together and make it happen. Reducing pollution is also something each of us can make a significant contribution to ourselves in our homes and where we live.
    I support making sure real science is taught in our class rooms.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Kevin Zelnio in reply to Kevin Zelnio 12:34 am 01/17/2012

    Truittjs: “The fact is, at least the only fact I’m sure of, both sides have made sure that the average person in the street has no chance of knowing what the truth is.” This is the tragedy. It is not a scientific conundrum. Ocean acidification is real – an issue I am more personally familiar with as a marine biologist – it is a measurable phenomenon and we have seen change over time. So this is a media and political campaign, a communications campaign. Scientists and science communicators need to improve how they talk to the media and work harder to distill the science down for politicians.

    The sad thing is that whether or not it is human caused is irrelevant to the fact that decreased emissions is better for human health and the environment in every imaginable way.

    Link to this
  6. 6. sault 1:36 am 01/17/2012

    Wow, it took less than an hour for the crazy conspiracy theories to come out and the Reductio ad Hitlerum popped up on the second post!

    You “guys” are getting really good at your nonsense denier arguments. Forget about PROOVING any of your ridiculous theories, it’s just important that you inflict them on the public as often as possible, just so people keep thinking there’s really a debate going on. You want people to think, “Well, it sounds too crazy to be right, but if they really believe that intensely, then there MUST be something more to the story.” The goal isn’t to even present that other side of the story, hence why you never have real proof. However, as long as a little lingering doubt persists, especially in the minds of a lay public where %95 don’t know any better, then your master’s bidding has been done…

    Wonder why people call you deniers? Here’s why:


    - CO2 traps heat.

    - We’ve increased its concentration in the atmosphere by %40 in 150 years, the fastest increase in the geologic record.

    - That change in concentration has already led to the Earth retaining an extra 1.7 W/m2.

    - The extra heat associated with a doubling of CO2 concentrations will increase global average temperature by 2C – 4.5C with a most likely value of 3C. (You do know what “global” and “average” means, right?)

    - Even in the HIGHLY UNLIKELY ( < %1 cumulative probability) event that the Earth only warms up by 2C on average, that STILL means we need to cut CO2 emissions RAPIDLY. (Anyone disputing ANYTGING involving Climate Sensitivity needs some pretty extraordinary evidence to go up against the mountain of scientific proof in this area. Is this why deniers chicken out on this issue %100 of the time?)

    - Since we show NO SIGNS of stopping at 560ppm presently, we need VERY AGRESSIVE national, bilateral and global agreements to cut emissions.

    - Anybody saying that we don't know enough to act is being silly and reckless. Along with ocean acidification mentioned above (which if someone denies, then they're ideologically blind and aren't arguing in good faith), depleting fuel reserves, the ravages of pollution, the geopolitical nightmares involved with securing fuel supplies, oil spills, gas leaks, nuclear meltdowns, fracking-contaminated groundwater and earthquakes, there are PLENTY of reasons to move beyond the age of fossil fuels.

    - The direct and indirect subsidies we let dirty energy sources enjoy distorts the market in their favor. This includes everything from allowing them to use the air as their open sewer FOR FREE to government cash going directly to subsidize dirty energy companies. In the case of the Oil Industry, this is subsidizing the most profitable industry in human HISTORY.

    - Using pessimistic cost estimates, concerted action to reduce global emissions %80 by 2050 will reduce global GDP by %1. That means we'll have to wait until June 2050 to be as rich as we would be on Jan 2050 in a business-as-usual scenario. This assumes that there are ZERO costs associated with climate change and pollution in general, so it's extremely likely that we could break even or come out ahead by trillions in larger GDP.

    - Efficiency retrofits and new standards can slash CO2 emissions %25 – %40, pay for themselves in under 2 years, and have DEMONSTRATED Internal Rates of Return of %13 – %17.

    - Electric cars use less electricity to go 100 miles than gasoline-powered cars due to the electricity used in oil refining. In addition, cities can grow much more responsibly and offer a variety of transportation options. This reduces petroleum use and improves our health a great deal.

    - People don't need most of the junk they buy and many people are reducing the material intensity of their lives. If all that stuff isn't really making you happier, then why buy it? This is reducing the material intensity of our economy and is only just beginning.

    - The price of renewable energy is falling fast. Residents in Los Angeles are already getting solar power CHEAPER than grid electricity and the number of people that can do the same will only grow as clean energy becomes cheaper and the cost to maintain the traditional, dirty grid grows.

    So, what's the big deal? I don't know why we aren't jumping all over ourselves to claim the clean economy jobs and economic wellbeing of the 21st Century.

    Link to this
  7. 7. jdey123 5:57 am 01/17/2012

    It will be fine, if they present the facts about climate science in the classroom

    i.e. The world hasn’t warmed up since 1978:-

    Hansen’s 1984 climate model’s predictions for 2010 were 37% wrong (black line actual observations, light blue line Hansen’s scenario B):-

    The Arctic sea ice extent is more extensive today than it was for the previous 4 years:-

    In order for a hypothesis to become science fact, observations need to match predictions. With the global warming hypothesis that Greenhouse Gases are responsible for global warming, this is demonstrably false. Nonsense such as describing the reasons for the lack of warming as “climate noise”, and labelling people who present the facts as deniers, trolls and in the pocket of fossil fuel industries is not science. Scientists should always be open minded and examine evidence not engage in politics.

    Link to this
  8. 8. jdey123 6:01 am 01/17/2012

    Agree with truittjs and Zelnio above. I’m fully behind the need to develop alternative energy sources and reduce pollution. Just don’t claim that the discredited global warming hypothesis is science.

    Link to this
  9. 9. jdey123 6:19 am 01/17/2012

    Typo above, I meant “the world hasn’t warmed since 1998″, not 1978 *blush*

    Link to this
  10. 10. jdey123 7:36 am 01/17/2012

    Another piece of evidence against warmists, is that when they are cornered with overwhelming scientific evidence that global warming is a fraud, they fall back on a poll which alleged that 97% of climate scientists supported the notion that global warming was occurring and that it was “very likely” due to mankind. They then go on about how climate science is as a result of many papers being independently peer-reviewed.

    Link is to the UK Parliament’s investigation in to the peer review process, as a result of the Wakefield scandal where a scientist caused an MMR scare by publishing rubbish in the Lancet, a UK medical journal, which was peer reviewed.

    The criticisms outlined in the report put forward a strong case as to why reviews of scientific evidence should not be confined to the scientific community.

    Link to this
  11. 11. jdey123 7:43 am 01/17/2012

    The 97% concensus comes from a team of warmists who claim that they read through a large sample of papers written in climate science and determined whether they were pro or anti-AGW:-

    So, no opinion poll here, just warmists writing a paper purporting to be scientific, and no doubt peer-reviewed by their mates.

    Link to this
  12. 12. JamesDavis 8:02 am 01/17/2012

    Here is two or three little bits of information that you can check out yourself. SciAm even did several reports about how to recognize these people who deny everything: (1) The greatest majority of deniers watch Fox News and listen to Rush with a conviction and are republican. (2) The greatest majority of deniers are republicans. (3) The greatest majority of companies that create pollution and pollute are owned and operated by republicans or have a republican connection. (4) The greatest majority of anti-science and anti-environmentalists are republicans. (5) The greatest majority of people who make things up to justify their dark behaviors and blame their faults on others are republican. (6) Every time this country has went into a dark age of depressions and recessions, it has been caused by the republicans.

    The list can go on and on, but you get the idea of who the deniers are and with just a little investigation, you can prove it for yourselves and it will become very difficult not to see the facts and deny the facts when they are right in front of you.

    Another thing should be said in relation to this article; the republicans want to destroy the educational system and keep it dumbed down so the young can never realize what is being done to them and their environment by the republicans…just listen to the republican debates and they will verify everything I just said.

    Link to this
  13. 13. tucsonny 9:26 am 01/17/2012

    “The Arctic sea ice extent is more extensive today than it was for the previous 4 years:-

    any greater extent of ice is irrelevant. the ice is getting thinner and thinner. this extended ice is a mechanism to adjust whatever triggers we have contributed to. so please stop adding this to you’re denier bs. when there is no sea ice, you will probably say, “this was bound to happen every 100,000 years or so, we were going to have to deal with it anyhow right ?”

    its clear that we in our own bodies are an ever evolving enigma, take our understanding of our brains. but just because we don’t understand exactly how they work does it mean we can’t think.

    the earth is far more complex than our own minds. so to put anything in black and white with climate science is some ways off. there is so much at stake though, and so much in balance, why is it so hard to believe people could fuck it up?

    Link to this
  14. 14. infomebaby 10:09 am 01/17/2012

    Ironic. Darwin makes it to school and all of a sudden we have less scientists and control of science in the USA.

    Link to this
  15. 15. sault 10:19 am 01/17/2012

    How many times do I have to tell you jdey123, Hansen got the greenhouse forcing %5 too high and predicted a strong El Nino for 2010 – 2011 as well as average solar forcing. We have had 4 La Nina years out of the last 5 and solar activity has been very low. Asking climatologists to try and predict these random factors before you’ll believe them is asking for the impossible – and you know it. You’re only trying to spread doubt to keep the gravy train running for your fossil fuel paymasters as long as possible.

    Link to this
  16. 16. MadScientist72 11:52 am 01/17/2012

    @sault – “Asking climatologists to try and predict these random factors before you’ll believe them is asking for the impossible – and you know it.”
    -Climatologists can’t predict their way out of a wet paper bag.
    “You’re only trying to spread doubt to keep the gravy train running for your fossil fuel paymasters as long as possible.”
    -Unless you can produce solid evidence that jdey123 is getting paid by the oil/coal/natural gas industries, this is nothing but another ad hominem attack typical of the church of AGW. Tactics like that are why people don’t trust you.

    Link to this
  17. 17. Aqualung 1:25 pm 01/17/2012

    It is unfortunate that is has had to come to this. Post by so-called skeptics on this very thread show the problem we have with scientific understanding about the theory humna-caused warming (sorry “skeptics” is is a theory, not a hypothesis as asserted by some here).

    That we have “skeptics” bombarding this thread with misinformation and misleading comments demonstrates the vacuity of the “skeptic” arguments. Their goal is to focus on the noise, distort and cherry-pick. It is easy to make such assertions, it is not easy to refute them, and they know that. Onlookers get confused and see what appears to be a ‘debate’ and when people are in doubt they are reluctant to take action. This are all tricks used by big tobacco in the day and by creationists too.

    That ideological elements are taking this battle to the schools is scary and a similar tactic used by creatonists. Will we next be debating the value of pi, or the fact that the earth is round, or gravity?

    Link to this
  18. 18. Aqualung 1:36 pm 01/17/2012

    jdey123 makes some very confident assertions. some of them are half truths, others just wrong. I’ll do my best to set the record straight.
    Readers should know that “skeptic” spamming threads with such information is commonplace on the web nowadays. Also while it may look compelling to the untrained eye, the claims do not stand up to scrutiny.

    Claim 1: “i.e. The world hasn’t warmed up since 19[9]8:-”
    The planet is continuing to warm and accumulate energy:

    The trick used by jdey123 is an old favourite trick that requires cherry picking a particular start date and then calculating a trend for a period of time when it is not possible to obtain a statistically significant signal. The world is not going to warm monotonically, yet this strawman is built on that premise, that an d cherry picking and an ignorance about statistics.

    Figure 1 in the link below shows how this trick of deception by ‘skeptics’ works, they can be playing this trick all the while the planet continues to warm.

    Link to this
  19. 19. Aqualung 1:47 pm 01/17/2012

    “Hansen’s 1984 climate model’s predictions for 2010 were 37% wrong (black line actual observations, light blue line Hansen’s scenario B):-”

    This is a strawman argument and often used by “skeptics” to shed doubt on the utility of models. Models have advanced considerably since 1988, it is now 2012 folks (but some “skeptics” are still stuck in 1988) and the models featured in the 4th IPCC assessment report are doing a good job

    Jdey123′s myth has been dealt with here.

    Now making projections is difficult, but the projections are pretty good, certainly much better than projections made by ‘skeptics” as noted in the first link above .

    Why does jdey123 shy away from showing readers how awful the projections made by “skeptics” compare with those made by international modelling community?

    And ‘skeptics’ forget to say on good some of Hansen’s older projections have been, see here

    Link to this
  20. 20. Postman1 1:48 pm 01/17/2012

    jdey123- “New study: People with better knowledge of science are more likely to be sceptical of global warming” per Yale study

    NASA has their own doubts:

    Models are greatly overstating temp increases, satellite evidence shows:

    MadScientist72 – I sure wish we were getting paid to be sceptics. Where is my big oil check? :

    How they contrive the numbers to claim 97% :

    PS: Always check out saults links, sometimes they are good for a laugh.

    Link to this
  21. 21. Postman1 2:02 pm 01/17/2012

    Aqualung- “Will we next be debating the value of pi, or the fact that the earth is round, or gravity?”
    These things have been proven by direct observation, GWM’s have not. Those observations that have been done cast doubt on their validity.
    See my second and third links above in comment #18.

    There IS still a LOT of debate on what gravity is and how it works:

    But I digress.

    Link to this
  22. 22. Aqualung 2:18 pm 01/17/2012

    “The Arctic sea ice extent is more extensive today than it was for the previous 4 years:-”

    A red herring. Arctic sea ice and sea ice volume continue to decline at an increasing rate.

    This is what jdey123 should have shown readers:
    trends in September minimum extent [September 2011 was second lowest on record]
    trends in December extent [2011 was the third lowest on record]

    More information here.

    The trick used here by jdey123 is to try and distract us from the big picture by focussing on the details/the noise. The extent at any given time does not tell us much, if anything, about the long term trend, but that is exactly what we are interested in.

    Using jdey’s logic if today is warmer than yesterday, winter cannot be approaching even though it is November.

    It should be clear by now that, contrary to their claims, jdey123 is not interested in accurately presenting the facts or the science. They are free to delude themselves, but it is very unfortunate that they choose to try and deceive the public too.

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  23. 23. Shoshin 5:20 pm 01/17/2012

    The fact that the eco-corporations feel the need to “win the hearts and minds” of the youth is a disgusting and a blatant attempt at brainwashing.

    McCarthyism, Lysenkoism, Fascism and Environmentalism.

    The issue has never been about science; it has always been political, and therefore has no business in our nations schools.

    The issue really isn’t about the environment either. And it’s easy to prove it: When was the last time Greenpeace was out in the field cleaning up a mess and there wasn’t a camera or soundbite involved?

    Yeah, it was on the 5th of Never.

    Link to this
  24. 24. Aqualung 5:41 pm 01/17/2012

    Jee, conspiracy theorists are out in force and Godwin’s law was broken the second post in.

    If people want an example of mccarthyism look at Inhofe’s 17; 17 climate scientists that Inhofe has singled out for a witch hunt.

    The claims here by “skeptics” that they are advocating science and keeping the politics out of schools ring hollow when one reads the rhetoric and ideology in their posts (“fraud”, “eco-corporations”, “fascism”). In fact, they are falsely accusing those scientists who understand AGW is a legitimate threat of the very things that they are doing. A tactic right out of Karl Rove’s playbook.

    For example, is is those who deny the reality of AGW that are politicizing this issue and trying to brain wash and confuse young impressionable minds.

    And a note to the “skeptics”, the climate system does not care about politics, it simply responds to physics and chemistry, and we have fundamentally changed the planetary energy balance already and will continue to do so to ever greater degrees until we stop increasing CO2.

    “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is. You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot tell her that the oil companies say climate change is a hoax. No, Mother Nature is going to do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate” “Mother Nature always bats last, and she always bats 1″ — Rob Watson

    “Only the most naive gamblers bet against physics…..” W. Calvin, 2002

    “Skeptics” are willing to bet our childrens’ future against the physics being wrong, that is not only pure folly, but incredibly myopic.

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  25. 25. geojellyroll 5:47 pm 01/17/2012

    Science stands or falls on its own merits. Legitimacy is not obtained because some group outside of the discipline endorses it or not.

    These grouops are about agenda…not science in which results are independent of agenda.

    Link to this
  26. 26. Aqualung 5:47 pm 01/17/2012

    From the NCSE:

    “In order to develop effective solutions to the myriad challenges of climate change, particularly with respect to climate education, it is important to understand the arguments of the climate change deniers, which consistently employ three rhetorically effective — but false — pillars: that climate change is bad science, that acceptance of climate change is driven by radical ideological motivations and leads to undesirable social consequences, and that it is only fair to acknowledge a scientific controversy over climate change.”

    We see evidence of those tactics being used in posts made by “skeptics” on this very thread. Thank you “skeptics” for so wonderfully proving NCSE’s point. Case closed.

    Link to this
  27. 27. Glenn Tamblyn 7:19 pm 01/17/2012

    A few points for jdey123 to ponder

    What is the relevance of commenting on what Sea Ice Extent is today. Surely the relevant figure is minimum ice extent Each September. Secondly, the important metric when looking at Sea Ice is volume, not extent – when that reached zero, no ice. You might care to look at the mass data from PIOMass here Look particularly at the second figure – total volume rather than just anomaly. Since the big extent event of 2007, although extent has only changed slightly, the remaining volume has been cut in half. At the minimum each year volume is now down to 1/3 of the 1979/2010 average. Look at fig 1 and how the trend has fallen of a cliff.

    Warming has stopped since 1998? No it hasn’t! Warming is continuing in the place where it has always been mainly happening – the oceans. Warming here is 30 times the magnitude of warming in the atmosphere.

    And how about that, I didn’t mentions % of consensus at all!

    Link to this
  28. 28. albee 7:44 pm 01/17/2012

    It’s no wonder that education standards in this country are falling behind the rest of the world when the voices of legitimate science are being overwhelmed by disinformation and outright falsehoods perpetrated by right wing politician and right wing media outlets.

    Link to this
  29. 29. RangerNorris 7:48 pm 01/17/2012

    Could a climate scientist please tell me, what is the predominant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere of Earth? What are the next three greenhouse gases, and what are the relative per centages of the total greenhouse gas?

    Link to this
  30. 30. RangerNorris 7:51 pm 01/17/2012

    Could a scientist tell me, if ALL of the Artic ice melts, and there is no longer an Artic ice cap, how much will world sea level rise? Just a ballpark estimate, I will not quibble about centimeters.

    Link to this
  31. 31. Postman1 8:03 pm 01/17/2012

    RangerNorris- The answer to your #27 is ‘none’. Arctic ice is floating on the Arctic Ocean, if it melted it would be like if your ice in your drink melted, the total level does not change.

    Link to this
  32. 32. RangerNorris 8:08 pm 01/17/2012

    Did you know that the weight of the ice on much of Greenland, and Antartica depresses and displaces the landmass, transferring to these land masses, some of the same effect? As Antartic polar ice melts, the continent rises, so the net effect on sea level may not be as large as a computation that fails to account for this effect would ostensibly hypothesize.

    Link to this
  33. 33. RangerNorris 8:10 pm 01/17/2012

    Hmmm…. Number one greenhouse gas on Earth, I wonder what that could be?

    Link to this
  34. 34. Aqualung 8:17 pm 01/17/2012

    “Skeptics” continue to post off-topic posts trying to fabricate debate. Desperate times for them I see. Also pretty disingenuous on their part, trying to pretend that they are asking “innocent” questions.

    Link to this
  35. 35. Kevin Z 8:27 pm 01/17/2012

    Wow guys! I leave you along for a day while I work and come back to see you all have knocked the furniture around! Sheesh.

    Listen, climate change is real. The measurements we take all occur during peak carbon dioxide emitting times in our history. The physics and atmospheric chemistry of the so-called greenhouse gases are well-established. The fervor by which the contrarians on this thread are writing leads me to think not much is going to shift your point of view. But! Because I love my readers, yes even those who disagree with me, I will do my absolute to best to lay it all out there in easy to digest points explaining why the science backs it up.

    All I ask though, is that we stay on topic! Agreed? I’ll try to start it off next week as I’m at a conference all this week. For now, give me a few topics that you’d like to learn more about. And I mean, pointed, specific questions about the science of climate change that boggle your mind. Don’t get philosophical on me! This is science.

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  36. 36. RangerNorris 8:36 pm 01/17/2012

    Any scientist knows that the nature and composition of greenhouse gases and the physical properties of water are decidely on topic, and really the only thing this conversation should be about. Mr. Postman has advanced a hypothesis that the ocean level would not change if the artic Ice totally melts. He has advanced an analogy based upon ice in a glass. He has stated that the water level does not change when the ice in the glass melts. Only a measured observation can establish the facts. Many attentive students were taught some important facts about water and ice density in school by competent teachers. Come on now, has the postman embarrassed himself? Will he ring twice?

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  37. 37. RangerNorris 8:42 pm 01/17/2012

    Kevin, if you do not know the number one greenhouse gas in the atmosphere by name, will you please take the time to educate yourself and your readers? Taking time to cast aspersions on skeptics will only waste time. Hurry along now. Wikipedia is going to shut down for 24 hours to protest copywright legislation. Do not dissapoint. Skepticism is a powerful driver in the search for the truth. We all seek the truth with an open mind. Aqualung may come up for so fresh air, with your help. I am sure he will not take my word alone for anything.

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  38. 38. Aqualung 8:58 pm 01/17/2012

    Dear Sci. Amer. Readers,

    Ranger, is trolling and playing games. Their disparaging and arrogant tone is not helping their cause either.

    As evidenced by their posts, they have nothing but rhetoric– no
    surprises there there. They have provided no citations or links to the reputable, vetted scientific literature to support their assertions and strawmen arguments.

    And Postman did not embarrass themselves, they were simply addressing RN’s strawman. For those interested in some facts and real science:

    Updating the Climate Big picture”
    What would a CO2-free atmosphere look like?
    Climate and Sea Level: An Emerging Hockey Stick

    The above contain links to the relevant scientific literature.

    We need real climate scientists teaching our children climate science in schools, not self-styled fake skeptics like Ranger and jdey123 who are pushing an ideological agenda.

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  39. 39. Postman1 9:09 pm 01/17/2012

    RangerNorris – Your original comment, which was #27 (no longer there) asked ‘if the Arctic ice cap melted’, Greenland and Antarctica are not part of the Arctic ice cap. Changing the question after the answer does not make the answer incorrect.
    Also, the number one greenhouse gas is water vapor. Did you seriously not know that?

    “Greenhouse gases are those that can absorb and emit infrared radiation.[1] In order, the most abundant greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are:

    water vapor
    carbon dioxide
    nitrous oxide
    ozone ”

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  40. 40. Aqualung 9:18 pm 01/17/2012


    Ignore them, they are just trolling and baiting. It is what fake skeptics do.

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  41. 41. Carlyle 9:38 pm 01/17/2012

    Absolutely correct Postman1. The ignorance is appalling.

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  42. 42. RangerNorris 9:50 pm 01/17/2012

    Good, now we are getting somewhere. 95% of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is water vapor. Carbon dioxide, is a minor player, and only a small percentage of atmospheric carbon dioxide can be attributed to man’s activities. So let us stick to the facts gentleman, ad hominen arguments are invalid.

    No scientist has presented unequivocal evidence that such a small percentage of greenhouse gas contributed by men can provoke a tipping point of climatic change. This is merely a hypothesis, worthy of skepticism. The power of water vapor to trap and retain heat, irrespective of quantity, out weighs the power of the same quantity of carbon dioxide to trap and retain heat.

    With respect to temperature change, If you were really serious about keeping the atmosphere temperature static, would you not be arguing for removing excessive water vapor in the atmosphere? After all, that is 95% of the problem.

    Mr. Postman, I can specifically craft a question about Artic ice, and I can state facts about ice elsewhere on the planet, such as Antartica, or Greenland. The location of surface ice is not dependent on my point: ice has weight, and that weight has a float value in liquid water, and on dry land.

    Postman, Stop jumping around, you asserted that the liquid water in the glass, total level, would not change. Would you like to walk that back? Or would you prefer to conduct an experiment, like a scientist?

    Come, come, do not dissappoint.

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  43. 43. RangerNorris 10:03 pm 01/17/2012

    The issue of melting Artic ice is not inconsequential. Many climate scaremongers, professing the credentials of “educator” and/or “scientist” cloak themselves with sanctimonious concern for humanity, then propagandize schoolchildren and little old ladies with the threat of tsunami’s and tidal waves swamping the continents because “the planet has a fever.”

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  44. 44. Postman1 10:04 pm 01/17/2012

    RangerNorris Walking Nothing Back, You, on the other hand, seem to be talking in circles. Whatever you’re smoking, I think it’s time to step outside for a breath of fresh air (oxygen).

    Carlyle – Yes, sorry to say I wasted my time on that one. Just for a moment, I thought he/she might be sane. Possibly just sault in one of his alter-identities anyway.
    Getting late, think I’ll hang around a few more minutes then call it a night. Your turn at bat, buddy.

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  45. 45. Aqualung 10:23 pm 01/17/2012


    You see, you present some science and what do you get in return? Empty rhetoric and nonsensical comments:

    “…then propagandize schoolchildren and little old ladies with the threat of tsunami’s and tidal waves swamping the continents because “the planet has a fever.”

    They are not even making on iota of sense anymore. They are out of touch with reality.

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  46. 46. RangerNorris 10:27 pm 01/17/2012

    I am glad that this nation has dedicated Postman. Postmen who leave the science to people who actually know something, National Merit Scholars, for example, who studied hard and made good grades so that Postmen will have authority figures to look up to while they sleep, even in their dreams.

    One nightmare that the Postman, and schoolchildren need not fear tonight, is that melting polar icecaps will swamp the coast. Sweet dreams.

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  47. 47. Aqualung 10:29 pm 01/17/2012

    Sci. Amer. is there any way of deleting nonsensical, off topic and offensive comments such as the one at 10:27 pm 01/17/2012?

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  48. 48. RangerNorris 10:31 pm 01/17/2012

    In the movie, “An Inconvienent Truth” Tidal Waves were depicted swamping major cities due to Global warming, triggering polar melting. This film was shown to schoolchildren, even after many of the lies were exposed.

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  49. 49. RangerNorris 10:43 pm 01/17/2012

    This discussion is well beyond the ability of some who are easily offended, who cannot perform simple math and relate concepts to well known physical properties of water.

    But for those of you who are seeking the truth: When ice melts, it becomes actually MORE dense as liquid water, thus, melting ice in Artic, would cause the oceans to recede with respect to land masses, all other things being equal.

    Agreed, the effect would be small, but if all the ice ever did melt, it would not cause the seas to rise, it would cause it to recede.

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  50. 50. RangerNorris 10:49 pm 01/17/2012

    The attempt to paint Anthropogenic Global Warming skeptics with the label of junk science is simply contemptible, and ignores any rational search for the truth.

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  51. 51. Postman1 10:54 pm 01/17/2012

    Aqualung- Quote from a comment on J. Curry’s blog:
    “Since the AGW crowd control most of the funding and the peer review process, it would seem like a slam dunk, but now the facts are coming out. They have to choose to either stick with the lie and go down with it, or, as some have already done, jump ship and be converted. What happens to those who try and stick it out will not be pretty. Seems no one studies history these days and thus they are doomed to repeat it.”

    Seems the collapse of the AGW religion is driving some true believers right over the edge.
    You and Carlyle have a good evening.

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  52. 52. RangerNorris 11:02 pm 01/17/2012

    Another thing, labeling contributors to a science magazine blog as “trolls” is offensive to the dignity of the Scientific American. If opposing opinions are offerred, they should not be labeled with politically charged rhetoric. I have been a regular subscriber to Scientific American since the seventies. If the objective to promote a partisan agenda, and not science, then the comments should be directed to some other soapbox.

    The NSCE is clearly encouraging thought control, and not legitimate truth seeking science. The Scientific American should identify and admonish any hegemony that seeks to discourage a search for the truth.

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  53. 53. tucsonny 11:32 pm 01/17/2012

    texas ranger, chuck norris, machismo, red state ?

    here’s alan greenspan having a revelation that you will to some day have deniers.

    “ALAN GREENSPAN: Well, remember that what an ideology is, is a conceptual framework with the way people deal with reality. Everyone has one. You have to — to exist, you need an ideology. The question is whether it is accurate or not.

    And what I’m saying to you is, yes, I found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is, but I’ve been very distressed by that fact.

    REP. HENRY WAXMAN: You found a flaw in the reality…

    ALAN GREENSPAN: Flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak.

    REP. HENRY WAXMAN: In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working?

    ALAN GREENSPAN: That is — precisely. No, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well. ”


    “ALAN GREENSPAN: So it strikes me that, if you go back and ask yourself how in the early years anybody could realistically make a judgment as to what was ultimately going to happen to subprime, I think you’re asking more than anybody is capable of judging.

    And we have this extraordinarily complex global economy, which as everybody now realizes is very difficult to forecast in any considerable detail.

    And, Mr. Chairman, I know — I agree with you in the fact that there were a lot of people who raised issues about problems emerging, but there are always a lot of people raising issues, and half the time they’re wrong. And the question is, what do you do? “

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  54. 54. tucsonny 11:40 pm 01/17/2012

    don’t those same critical structural flaws in alan greenspan’s thinking mirror so perfect their folly ?

    one more time in case you missed it :

    “ALAN GREENSPAN: So it strikes me that, if you go back and ask yourself how in the early years anybody could realistically make a judgment as to what was ultimately going to happen to subprime, I think you’re asking more than anybody is capable of judging.

    And we have this EXTRAORDINARILY COMPLEX GLOBAL economy, which as everybody now realizes is very difficult to forecast in any considerable detail. ”

    just replace the money words with climate and its the same. you will be proven wrong, and of course it will be too late for you to reform your logic and admit failure. and instead of millions of people losing their homes, jobs, and futures, it will be hundreds of millions and possibly billions.

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  55. 55. DNY__ 11:45 pm 01/17/2012

    It would be a salutary event indeed were an influential organization to weigh in against pseudo-science in climatology. Alas, this is not what is happening here:

    The NCSE does not seem to propose teaching about chaotic dynamics and the futility of long-term prediction of chaotic dynamical systems by computer modeling. Nor do they propose to criticize the mixing of proxy data and actual measurement data. They don’t seem interested in critiquing the continued insistence on the correctness of models when some of their predictions (e.g. a hot-spot in the upper troposphere over the tropics, or the most elemental prediction of continued warming with continuing rises in CO2 levels) have been falsified by observation.

    We all agree that a) the earth’s climate changes over time, b) the greenhouse effect is real and what is more necessary to an environment that supports life, and c) that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. The problem is, these facts no more support the conclusion that fossil fuel use is or will cause mean earth temperature to rise significantly than a basic understanding of the physical laws governing gravity will correctly predict the behavior of a feather outdoors dropped on a windy day. The only basis for this conclusion are computer models of the earth’s climate system (note: a chaotic dynamical system) which have omitted (among many other things — Rumsfeld’s remark about known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns springs to mind) a realistic model of cloud formation.

    Real, empirical science out of CERN has confirmed Svensmark’s hypothesis that solar magnetism modulating cosmic ray impacts in earth’s atmosphere has a significant effect on cloud formation. This causal link finally explains the otherwise very strange correlation between the sunspot cycle and mean global temperatures.

    Quite frankly if one chooses a slightly longer time-scale than the AGW modelers prefer, it would be surprising were the earth not warming: we’re still coming out of the Little Ice Age. Of course, we’re overdue for a full blown ice age, but you won’t hear that from American or Western European climatologists, just Russian climatologists who don’t use computer models very much.

    But I am curious: has anyone done a study of the political leanings of folks who are very insistent that anthropogenic global warming is real? One might hazard a guess that they are the sort who reflexively think that government should do something to solve all manner of problems, since that seems to be the uniform reaction the perceived problem of fossil fuel use.

    Finally, before anyone accuses me of being an oil company shill, let me also ask: how does one sign up to be an oil company shill? I’d dearly like to be paid for posting my sober assessment of the sorry state of climate “science” in online forums, but I haven’t manged to get any offers.

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  56. 56. Kevin Z 12:40 am 01/18/2012

    Guys, seriously. Don’t you have better stuff to do?? Shutting off comments. Try to stay on topic next time and stop spamming my blog.

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  57. 57. Carlyle 12:41 am 01/18/2012

    I do not know what happened to your post #27 but it was in error as Postman1 states.
    When water freezes, it expands slightly, contrary to what happens to almost all substances. That is why ice floats on top of water. It is only if you push the floating ice under the water that the water level will rise. If you have 100 litres of water in a container & mark the water level, remove 10 litres of water from the container & of course the level will drop by 10%. Freeze the 10 litres & reintroduce it into the container & the level will return to the original & maintain that same level as the ice melts. Only by forcibly submerging the ice can you cause the level to rise. It is called displacement & was the cause of Archimedes running naked through the street yelling Eureka ! (I have found it) He had found a method of determining the purity of an irregularly shaped gold object suspected of having been alloyed with the lesser valued silver. By filling a container to the brim then adding another object to the container, forcibly submerging it if necessary, the volume of the overflow water can be measured giving the volume of the object. Thus if you know what the weight of pure gold is per square centimetre & you also have the displacement volume of the water, by weighing the object & comparing the weight of it to what pure gold weighs for that volume, you can determine if it is pure or not. I think the cheating goldsmiths were executed. By weighing & submerging an ice cube & measuring the displacement you can also calculate the density of the ice. The water would need to be at freezing point to get an accurate result.

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  58. 58. Carlyle 12:48 am 01/18/2012

    By the way, the discovery was made when Archimedes got into a full bath causing it to overflow. He was under threat of death if he did not come up with a proof. Understandably, as he rather enjoyed life, he was rather excited & his attire was of secondary importance to him.

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