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Why the Supreme Court case is not a really big deal

One way or the other, we’re waiting for the next administration

If the Supreme Court rules that CO2 does not have to be regulated, it will give the present administration cover to do nothing for two more years. However, most serious candidates for president support action to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, so regardless, I suspect you'll see action in the next administration. If the Supreme Court rules that CO2 can be regulated, the administration will ... do nothing for two more years. But again, the next president will likely take some action. If the Supreme Court rules that CO2 must be regulated, the administration will drag its feet and ... end up …

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Could the Sun be causing climate change?

It’s likely not the primary cause

In climate change debates, one hears a lot about the Sun. A favorite argument of those opposed to action is that the warming we're presently experiencing is due to increases in solar output, also known as solar brightening, and not from greenhouse gases. Before critiquing this argument, first remember what the IPCC says about human contribution to climate change: There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities. Note that the IPCC says most of the recent warming is due to human activities. This leaves as much …

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‘They predicted global cooling in the 70s’–But that didn’t even remotely resemble today’s consensus

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: The alarmists were predicting the onset of an ice age in the '70s. Now it's too much warming! Why should we believe them this time? Answer: It is true that there were some predictions of an "imminent ice age" in the 1970s, but a cursory comparison of those warnings and today's reveals a huge difference. Today, you have a widespread scientific consensus, supported by national academies and all the major scientific institutions, solidly behind the warning that the temperature is rising, anthropogenic CO2 is the primary cause, …

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'If we can't understand the past, how can we understand the present?'

Understanding what is happening right under our noses does not require paleoclimate perfection

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: Climate science can't even fully explain why the climate did what it did in the past. How can they claim to know what is going on today? Answer: There are two requirements for understanding what happened at a particular point of climate change in geological history. One is an internally consistent theory based on physical principles; the other is sufficient data to determine the physical properties involved. It is extremely hard, in some cases impossible, to gather sufficient data about every aspect of the climate system for …

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Brit's Eye View: Stern Review shakes up climate debate in the U.K.

Report spells out high economic costs of climate chaos

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. While the U.S. was absorbed in the midterm elections, a major report on the economics of climate change was launched in the U.K. The weighty "Stern Review" -- 700 pages in all -- was the work of Sir Nicholas Stern, ex-chief economist at the World Bank. Produced at the behest of the chancellor, Gordon Brown, it has had a profound impact on political and business attitudes in this country. This is not surprising when the headline message of …

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One week until global warming's Supreme Court debut

The line-up of legal issues

Lawyers and Supreme Court commentators hardly seem the type to camp out for tickets. But that's precisely what a line of expectant court-watchers will be doing one week from today -- braving early morning Capitol Hill in hopes of gaining entrance to oral argument in Massachusetts v. EPA. Like a pre-game sportscast, today's post will attempt to give a flavor for points of contention -- in this case, the legal issues before the court. It won't be exhaustive. If you're looking for greater detail, refer to either the briefs or to this recent report (PDF). The case involves a suit …

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‘Chaotic systems are not predictable’–Sure, but who says climate is chaotic?

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: Climate is an inherently chaotic system, and as such its behavior can not be predicted. Answer: Firstly, let's make sure we define climate: an average of weather patterns over some meaningful time period. We may thus discount the chaotic annual fluctuations of global mean temperature. That's weather, and one or two anomalous years does not represent a climate shift. Quite a few people believe that climate is a chaotic system, and maybe on some large-scale level it is. But it is not chaotic on anything approaching the …

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Green Day wants to Move America Beyond Oil

The pop-punkers team up with NRDC on a new campaign

Pop-punk trio Green Day has partnered up with NRDC to help with a new campaign to Move America Beyond Oil. Via the website, visitors can send personal messages directly to political leaders, asking them to get behind solutions like improving fuel efficiency standards and setting more stringent CO2 regs for power plants. And recognizing, perhaps, that "kids these days" are big fans of "the texting," NRDC has also added a new tool allowing messages to be sent to lawmakers and corporate leaders via cell phone by sending "GD" to 30644. (Standard text messaging rates probably apply.) Below the fold, a …

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The CO2-temperature correlation

It’s more complicated than you might think

Most people interested in climate change have seen the plots showing strong correlations between CO2 and temperature going back several hundred thousand years: FIGURE: Data from the Vostok ice core in Antarctica, from 410,000 years ago to the present. The top curve shows abundance of CO2 (in parts per million) from air bubbles in the ice core. The bottom curve shows the temperature anomaly in the Antarctic region, relative to the present, from isotopic measurements of the ice. After Fig. 3-6 of my book. Many advocates use this as evidence that our emissions of CO2 will warm the Earth. Skeptics …

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‘We can’t even predict the weather next week’–But weather is not climate

(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide) Objection: Scientists can't even predict the weather next week, so why should we believe what some climate model tells us about 100 years from now? Answer: Climate and weather are very different things, and the level of predictability is comparably different. Climate is defined as weather averaged over a period of time -- generally around 30 years. This averaging smooths out the random and unpredictable behaviour of weather. Think of it as the difference between trying to predict the height of the fifth wave from now versus predicting …

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