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Weekend Reading: “What We Know About Climate Change”

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


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Over the long MLK weekend (in the US), I’ll be reading Kerry Emanuel’s new book “What We Know About Climate Change”. Dr. Emanuel, you might recall, is the MIT climate researcher who coproduced the video urging us to find common ground on climate change. His book, now in its second edition, is an everyman’s guide about the science of climate change: an overview of the stuff we do know (scientifically), while also being upfront about what we don’t know.

After I posted Dr. Emanuel’s video earlier this week, I was inundated with feedback – overwhelmingly negative – about climate change science and the role of humans in the whole thing. The comments and my inbox were full of conspiracy theories about how climate change researchers fabricate the whole issue to secure grant funds (for those cushy professorial jobs!), and a flat out denial of the greenhouse gas effect (!!).

So with this in mind, I encourage the reader to pick up this book with hopes that we can discuss it and climate change science with more civility and a basis in science. The book is short (93 pages) and inexpensive; Amazon has it in hardcover for about $10, and $8 digitally.

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? david.m.wogan@gmail.com Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

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





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  1. 1. tekkiguy 9:25 pm 01/18/2013

    After Sandy and all the worldwide floods, storms, droughts, and other weather anomalies this last year, It would seem that the climate change deniers would be having a hard time selling their nonsense. But it seems that the what they are actually selling is a worldview that is really a kind of religion. No amount of evidence would be sufficient to change that worldview. The true believers do not understand scientific evidence. And they are suspicious of those who do understand.

    Link to this
  2. 2. RSchmidt 12:42 am 01/19/2013

    @tekkiguy, you are right. Just like religious fanatics, the anti-science, anti-government psychotics start with an answer they like then look for confirming evidence. If there is no confirming evidence then that is evidence of the conspiracy to cover up the confirming evidence. If the pieces don’t fit together they use lies and distortions to fill in the gaps. The trolls that frequent here are perfect examples. The lies they spread are always the same even though articles on sciam have refuted them or other posters have directed them to the facts. They don’t care about the truth. They don’t care about the consequences. They don’t care about anything but themselves, and they have determined that if anything changes, the world as they know it will come to an end. So they apply the FUD strategy to slow or prevent any progress towards a solution. They embody all the worst aspects of humanity; greed, ignorance and corruption. They are the intellectual dead weight of America and they will drag you down unless you find a way to reveal them to the rest of the nation for what they are.

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  3. 3. Holly Louise 4:59 am 01/19/2013

    I don’t see people denying climate change. Everyone sees climate change. I see people arguing against “global warming” and blaming it on man’s activities and therefore promoting suppression of so much of our activities. This more recent change in definition, from global warming to climate change seems to me an attempt to invalidate those who want more than Al Gore’s propaganda science. Forty to fifty years ago we were being frightening in grade school by believers that we were going to be overtaken by another ice age. That didn’t happen either. Forget the grant accusations. Can anyone tell me honestly there’s zero politics in this subject?

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  4. 4. Fanandala 9:45 am 01/19/2013

    I know climate change is happening but I am not sure at all that it is man’s doing. After all, if there was no climate change we would still exist in the ice age. It would be easy to believe in AGW, but actually I am searching for the truth. Of course Mr. Schmidt, if he “honours” me with an answer will fly off at a dizzy tangent and call me some unflattering terms. I suppose that is what debate is for. As for tekkiguy: Climatologists and even staunch supporters of AGW do generally not tie the AGW theory to single weather events like “Sandy”, sensationalist reporters do. After all we had extreme weather events long before the industrial age. And many of them much worse than “Sandy”. The whole AGW debate is subject to opposing interests and heavily politicised. Scientists are after grants, Insurance companies use it as an excuse to up their rates, politicians raise carbon taxes to rip of the public. Third world countries want money for carbon credits etc.
    The oil and coal producers of course defend their sector against decreasing profits. And the “greens” are against everything human and want to leave the world to cuddly polar bears, cute baby sharks and the black and yellow dung beetle.

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  5. 5. Sciencefirstandforemost 12:12 pm 01/19/2013

    Interesting. Zero evidence provided in this blog. ‘Read the book’.

    Global warming is akin to most religius cults…’accept the word’ or perish.

    Reality…the world has never been a safer place for humans. Per capita few humans than ever die each year…WAY LESS…from climate related variables…drought, famine, disease, etc. BUT…the mantra of the cultists is still one of ‘Believe or else’.

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  6. 6. Sciencefirstandforemost 12:22 pm 01/19/2013

    tekiguy:

    “After Sandy and all the worldwide floods, storms, droughts, and other weather anomalies this last year..”

    What anomalies? There were no more major happenings in 2012 that 2002. 2012 was actually below average activity in most areas (and temperature) than the previous decade.

    hint…if there is a car accident on the corner of your block, it doesn’t mean that nation wide car accidents have increased. The reverse is also true…if there is no equivalent of ‘Sandy’ next year in the USA (a fraction of the Earth’s area) it also says zip about world climate.

    Anecdotal cherry picking of events in the USA to make generalizations about world climate is not science.

    Link to this
  7. 7. davidwogan 1:44 pm 01/19/2013

    Popping in for a second…

    Again, I encourage y’all to read the book and to keep it civil in the comments. Name calling and all that just derails the conversation. Let’s keep it to the science, k?

    Has anyone read the book yet? I’m interested to hear your thoughts/feedback. I’m in the middle of it right now…

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  8. 8. geojellyroll 9:51 pm 01/19/2013

    This is too funny.
    This is like asking an atheist, to read a book by the Pope because the Pope presents his case for ‘Yes, there is a God’.

    Gee, if you can’t believe the Pope about God (Emanual about global warming’) then you are a fool.

    Er, no thanks. No need to marinade myself in more so-called ‘evidence’ by a global warming cultist who has pre-determined ‘THE TRUTH’. Regurgitated agenda driven proof is the antithseis of scientific methodology.

    Link to this
  9. 9. jbohland 2:30 am 01/20/2013

    Everyone needs to see this: http://www.chasingice.com/

    Link to this
  10. 10. RSchmidt 11:32 am 01/20/2013

    @davidwogan, it’s a nice dream but the deniers that frequent sciam have no interest in science and would never read a book that went against their prejudices. As geojellyroll said, it is like asking an atheist to read a book about god by the pope (which is a wrong assumption BTW because, as an atheist I would read a book by the pope if he claimed it proved the existence of god). The deniers see AGW as an ideological struggle. They explain away any science as part of the global conspiracy. They have their tinfoil hats screwed on tight to keep out the corrupting influence of evidence and the scientific method. Sciam is merely a soapbox for them.

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  11. 11. geojellyroll 12:16 pm 01/20/2013

    What conspiracy? It’s just ignorance. GW is a bandwagon that builds it’s own momentum and reinforces itself like most belief systems.

    Participants in the belief system then run around salivating in glee everytime they find ‘proof’. The USA has a drought or hurrican and it’s ‘evidence’ of ‘the Truth’….’see, we told you so’.

    This isn’t science but the same group-think found in societies ever since folks cherry picked evidence to ‘prove’ the existence of their gods.

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  12. 12. RSchmidt 1:01 pm 01/20/2013

    @geojellyroll, that is quite simply a lie. But lying is what you do so no surprise here. What do you have to prove your hypothesis? What science have you done? The science that supports the AGW hypothesis is overwhelming, diverse and comes from all over the planet. All you have is an accusation that every climate scientist in the world is somehow ignorant about climate science but that you have it all figured out. That is nothing more than delusions-of-grandeur. You have proven your own ignorance over and over again by making inane comments, which are never support by evidence and which usually only involve you directly attacking the competence of the scientists involved. You are nothing more than a anti-science troll.

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  13. 13. Scienceneedsintegrity 3:42 pm 01/20/2013

    GEO: “What conspiracy? It’s just ignorance. GW is a bandwagon that builds it’s own momentum and reinforces itself like most belief systems.
    Participants in the belief system then run around salivating in glee everytime they find ‘proof’. The USA has a drought or hurrican and it’s ‘evidence’ of ‘the Truth’….’see, we told you so’.
    This isn’t science but the same group-think found in societies ever since folks cherry picked evidence to ‘prove’ the existence of their gods.”

    Ya, this it more or less. There’s not much actual science left in the AGW hysteria. The AGW is so cluttered with garbage pronouncements from ‘by 2010 kids in the UK will never see snow ‘ to ‘we’re all going to die from (fill in the blank)’ that the boy has cried wolf about 500 times too many.

    On a positive note, fewer people are drinking the purple Kool-ade.

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  14. 14. Scienceneedsintegrity 3:47 pm 01/20/2013

    “Anecdotal cherry picking of events in the USA to make generalizations about world climate is not science.”

    Ya, and get ready for more of this non-science nonsense. ‘Man bites dog’ is a story. You won’t hear about the tens of thousands of quite normal climate stories such as ‘average summer day in Cleveland’.

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  15. 15. ocschwar 6:00 pm 01/20/2013

    “This more recent change in definition, from global warming to climate change seems to me an attempt to invalidate those who want more than Al Gore’s propaganda science. ”

    This change in definition was there to appease morons who think that since the Greenhouse effect is likely to cause cooling in one corner of the world (northwest Europe), that therefore it’s wrong to say “global warming.”

    And moronic comments like yours show there is no appeasing morons.

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  16. 16. ocschwar 6:01 pm 01/20/2013

    “Ya, this it more or less. There’s not much actual science left in the AGW hysteria.”

    Said by someone who could not comprehend a single article in Nature Climate Change.

    Scienceneedsintegrity needs brains.

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  17. 17. RSchmidt 8:12 pm 01/20/2013

    Scienceneedsintegrity is denier troll who goes by a few names. He is essentially an idiot. He parrots B.S. he reads on denier blogs. He has nothing to contribute.

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  18. 18. Scienceneedsintegrity 10:33 am 01/21/2013

    So far the fist half of Januart/2013…cooler than average over most of Asia.

    No ‘headlines’ of this. Wonder why?

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  19. 19. RSchmidt 6:39 pm 01/21/2013

    @Scienceneedsintegrity, it takes someone of extreme ignorance to expect that every weather event must be hotter to support the AGW hypothesis. The subject has been addressed in depth. The fact that you have chosen to ignore it reflects on you.

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  20. 20. sofistek 11:23 pm 01/21/2013

    To the AGW deniers here, there was a hint in the article: “and a flat out denial of the greenhouse gas effect (!!)”. How can anyone deny the greenhouse gas effect, which has been known for over a century and is a proven phenomenon? Of course humans are having an impact on the climate because of greenhouse gas emissions. I just can’t understand how anyone who can think can deny that. The only real questions are how the earth’s climate and environment are reacting to, and will react to, those emissions and that greenhouse effect.

    Of course climate changes constantly but this is the first time that the release of greenhouse gases has preceded warming and feedbacks will likely amplify that in years to come.

    So, to deniers: read up on the greenhouse effect. Whatever else may be affecting the climate, human actions most certainly are, and not, ultimately, for the betterment of the human race (or for other species, which ends up affecting humans).

    Link to this
  21. 21. Postman1 9:24 pm 01/22/2013

    @sofistek said “Of course climate changes constantly but this is the first time that the release of greenhouse gases has preceded warming and feedbacks will likely amplify that in years to come”

    So, greenhouse gasses show up AFTER the warming. Exactly HOW does that prove that the gasses cause warming? Is there some sort of time warp going on here? If they caused warming, wouldn’t it occur AFTER the gasses are released? You know (maybe), cause and effect, in that order.

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  22. 22. RSchmidt 11:56 pm 01/22/2013

    @Postman1, what an incredibly ignorant thing to say. I understand that some people really don’t know anything about climate, but generally those people don’t come to a science site and demonstrate their ignorance to the world. There have been many articles about periods of warming causing the release of greenhouse gasses as permafrost melts and frozen organic matter starts to decay. You have to be completely out of the loop to be unaware of that which makes no sense because if you don’t care enough to understand the issue, why would you take the time to come here and make idiotic comments about it? Unless you are some mindless troll who really doesn’t give a toss about the facts and is only interested in advancing his anti-science agenda. What a surprise another low life denier with nothing better to do than spread lies and misinformation on the web. Why is it that the denier camp seems so crammed full of the worst that humanity has to offer?

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  23. 23. pietvo 3:32 pm 01/23/2013

    You can get the ebook in .epub form from Kobo for $4.85 with 40% discount code VoucherCodes40 until Jan 31. Be aware that they also have the older version for a higher price, but the above link should send you to the new version.

    Link to this
  24. 24. pietvo 3:36 pm 01/23/2013

    Sorry, the link disappeared. It should be at http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/What-We-Know-About-Climate/book-54vkEuuY80GMRwwtL53iQw/page1.html
    Hope it survives this time.

    Link to this
  25. 25. davidwogan 3:46 pm 01/23/2013

    Thanks! I finished it earlier this week – anyone else?

    Link to this
  26. 26. Postman1 5:15 pm 01/23/2013

    RSchmidt You didn’t answer the question. sofistek agrees that greenhouse gasses cause warming, then states that this is the first time they have shown up prior to the warming. This is a contradictory statement, which I pointed out. My question is: How is that asseertion not contradictory to AGW theory? Obviously, you either can’t or don’t want to answer, so thank you for your time. Maybe someone who has a clue will clear it up.

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  27. 27. Postman1 5:16 pm 01/23/2013

    @Postman1 to Postman1 ‘assertion’

    Link to this
  28. 28. RSchmidt 8:15 pm 01/23/2013

    @Postman1, “You didn’t answer the question.” What makes you think I was trying to answer the question? The answer can be found in many articles including here at sciam. If you are too much of a fanatic to read those, what will my post do to pursued you? As I have pointed out, this isn’t about a lack of information. There are mountains of it. This is about deniers, you specifically, choosing to remain ignorant about a subject of which you seem to think you have some unique knowledge.

    First off to address sofistek’s comment, “this is the first time that the release of greenhouse gases has preceded warming”, what he/she is referring to is climate change during the past inter-glacial periods which were triggered by changes in earth’s orbit, a phenomenon that is not happening now, and the subsequent release of CO2 due to causes I have already mentioned. That has no bearing on current AGW as it is a completely different event. It is like saying, people died of natural causes in the past therefore any claim that someone has been murdered is just a conspiracy by the criminal justice system to make money off of building prisons. In short, there is no contradictory statement just your complete ignorance of the subject.

    It is definitely a reflection on your level of scientific literacy when you suggest that past cause and effect relationships must always be the defacto nature of contemporary phenomenon. All one needs to do is find a similar effect and one can then assume the cause. No science required. Again, you have to be an incredibly ignorant person to make such an assumption.

    Now you didn’t answer my question; Why is it that the denier camp seems so crammed full of the worst that humanity has to offer? Maybe someone who has a clue will clear it up.

    Link to this

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