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‘But the glaciers are not melting’–Except … they are!

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: Sure, some glaciers are melting. But if you look at the studies, most of those for which we have data are growing. Answer: This is simply not true, rumors on "the internets" aside. The National Snow and Ice Data Centre and their State of the Cryosphere division, on their Glacial Balance page, report an overall accelerating rate of glacial mass loss. The World Glacier Monitoring Service has similar findings, the most recent data coming from 2004. While there surely are some growing glaciers, studies like these are …

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‘Global warming stopped in 1998′–Only if you flagrantly cherry pick

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: Global temperatures have been trending down since 1998. Global warming is over. Answer: At the time, 1998 was a record high year in both the CRU and the NASA GISS analyses. In fact, it blew away the previous record by .2 degrees C. (That previous record went all the way back to 1997, by the way!) According to NASA, it was elevated far above the trend line because 1998 was the year of the strongest El Nino of the century. Choosing that year as a starting point …

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‘Antarctic ice is growing’–Well, probably not, but even if it were, we are not off the hook

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: The Antarctic ice sheets are actually growing, which wouldn't be happening if global warming were real. Answer: There are two distinct problems with this argument. First, any argument that tries to use a regional phenomenon to disprove a global trend is dead in the water. Anthropogenic global warming theory does not predict uniform warming throughout the globe. We need to assess the balance of the evidence. In the case of this particular region, there is actually very little data about the changes in the ice sheets. The …

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October at APOD

A month’s worth of beautiful and/or fascinating astronomy photos from NASA

For your Sunday time-wasting pleasure, last month's selections from Astronomy Picture of the Day: Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Last Month | All Years |

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Possible futures and uncovered pasts

Sobering lessons from 250 million years ago

One of the very few reasonable points made by climate skeptics is that it's hard to have a great deal of confidence in computer-model predictions of a system as complex and varied as the global climate system. It is comprised of several subsystems -- the ocean, the atmosphere, the cryosphere, and the biosphere -- each extremely complex in its own right. There is some reassurance to be had in hindcasts and other modeling successes, not the least being the triumph of model predictions over the contradictory satellite records. But there are really so many unknowns, both the known unknowns and …

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‘What about mid-century cooling?’–No one said CO2 is the only climate influence

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: There was global cooling in the '40s, '50s, and '60s, even while human greenhouse-gas emissions were rising. Clearly, temperature is not being driven by CO2. Answer: None of the advocates of the theory of anthropogenic global warming claim that CO2 is the only factor controlling temperature in the ocean-atmosphere climate system. It is a large and complex system, responsive on many different timescales, subject to numerous forcings. AGW only makes the claim that CO2 is the primary driver of the warming trend seen over the last 100 …

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‘The satellites show cooling’–No, they don’t

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: Satellite readings, which are much more accurate, show that the earth is in fact cooling. I wonder how long before this one stops coming up? Answer: There are a few advantages to the satellite readings,mainly the more uniform global coverage and the fact that readings can be taken at different altitudes. However, it is an extremely complicated process which uses microwaves emitted by the oxygen in the atmosphere as a proxy for temperature. The complications arise from many things, including decay of the satellite orbits, splicing together …

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‘It’s cold today in Wagga Wagga’–Weather and climate are different

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: It was way colder than normal today in Wagga Wagga, proof that there is no global warming. Does this even deserve an answer? If we must ... Answer: The chaotic nature of weather means that no conclusion about climate can ever be drawn from a single data point, hot or cold. The temperature of one place at one time is just weather, and says nothing about climate, much less climate change, much less global climate change.  

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‘The temperature record is unreliable’–But temperature trends are clear and widely corroborated

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: The surface temperature record is full of assumptions, corrections, differing equipment and station settings, changing technology, varying altitudes, and more. It is not possible to claim we know what the "global average temperature" is, much less determine any trend. The IPCC graphs only say what the scientists want them to say. Answer: There is actually some truth to the part about the difficulties; scientists have overcome many of them in turning the hundreds of thousands of measurements taken in many different ways and over a span of …

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Climate change economics

The Stern report on climate change

While I hold firmly to my conviction that economic concerns are not the only or even the paramount considerations when charting a course through a changing climate, nevertheless: economics can't be ignored. Thus, it is very good news that a reputable mainstream economist, Sir Nicholas Stern, has presented a detailed cost-benefit analysis of climate change mitigation and adaptation to the British government. The report is here. There is a summary of conclusions, a short executive summary (which appears to be identical), a long executive summary (27 pages), and the report itself, which is 27 chapters divided into six parts (all …

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