My response to "The climate debate isn’t over" by Amanda Baillieu

Amanda Baillieu is the editor of "Building Design" magazine.  Her last two editorials have argued - to quote her twitter feed - that "Basically believing in man made climate change is a bit like hoping that fairies live at the bottom of the garden." I wrote the following response to her last editorial "The Climate Debate Isn't Over", published 13th Nov 2009.  I submitted my comment for moderation on 14th Nov 2009 but so far it hasn't been published on the BD site.

Here's my response...

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This discussion is becoming rather surreal.  Amanda, you appear to be attempting to have a conversation about science without referring once to any actual data.  Surely that's akin to wanting to play football without touching the ball; or building a house without using any materials i.e. it completely defeats the point.

Many of your claims are simply not supported by the data.  Making unfounded claims in no way qualifies as a rational debate.  If you want to debate the science then do so on science's terms: with the data!  Or, at the very least, tell us which websites / articles / books / films you're getting your information from.

Let's run through some of your claims and provide evidence which speaks to your claims:

1) "the science is far from settled"

(I'm going to quote from http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus.htm )

"The question of scientific consensus is posed in Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change (Doran 2009). The authors surveyed 3146 earth scientists, asking them the following survey question:  "Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?"

97.4% of expert climate scientists agree with the statement.  Let's say that one more time so it sinks in: 97.4% of expert climate scientists agree that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.

2) "...reliable forecasts of future climate are proving elusive."

ALL published climate models that I'm aware of predict an upward trend in mean temperature by 2100, almost entirely due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (and their feedbacks).  I repeat: ALL MODELS.  That hardly qualifies as "elusive".

Yes, the two research groups which have attempted to predict temperatures for the next 10 years have come up with different conclusions.  But that's because natural variation can overwhelm the CO2-forced warming on short time scales.  It is, in many ways, easier to predict what will happen to global mean temperatures in 50 years than in 10, because in 50 years the accumulated warming caused by man made greenhouse gasses will overwhelm the natural variation. This effect is clear in the historical data and also explains why it's not possible to falsify global warming due to a few years of cooling.

An illustration: my undersized central heating is programmed to come on in my living room at 9pm tomorrow night.  I can say with a very high degree of confidence that the room will be considerably warmer by 10pm because by that time the warmth produced by the radiators will have overwhelmed the cooling effect of any "natural variation".  But I can't predict so well what the temperature will be at, say, 9:15pm because I don't know whether the living room door will be left open by my wife, or whether the solid brick walls will be damp or dry, or what the external temperature will be etc etc.

3) "and a huge number of other independent factors that are making the earth warmer"

Examples?  You'll almost certainly find that all the "independent factors" you speak of have been researched and are either explicitly included in the models or are in some way accounted for.

Perhaps you're talking about the Sun.  You don't need a PhD in signal processing to understand that the following graph neatly falsifies the theory that the sun is responsible for recent warming trends:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Temp-sunspot-co2.svg

So... to summarise.  Those of us who are convinced by the evidence we've seen are not trying to suppress debate. The reason for the "othodoxy", as you call it, is because the vast majority of the evidence supports that hypothesis.

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