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Feb 2017: Book of 28 "elevator pitches" you can use with sceptical friends

Joanne Nova's Skeptics Handbook makes the "Burden of Proof" error, then homes in on four (actually five) points:

1. The Greenhouse signature is missing.

This is a reference to the "missing hotspot".  The argument is based on a misunderstanding of a set of atmospheric temperature patterns predicted by climate models. (Details)

2. In the ice cores, temperature rises precede CO2 rises

That's because those ancient temperature rises had different initial causes. (Details)

3. No warming since 2001

Given the jitter in the measurements, a ten year period is too short to be meaningful.  There have been other such brief plateaus in the last 100 years, yet the trajectory for the entire century is relentlessly up.  (Details)

4a. Carbon dioxide is already doing most of the warming it can do

No, it can do a lot worse yet, and it is already causing more warming than is acceptable.  Even if the CO2 levels magically stopped rising now the world would continue to warm for some time, and there is already more CO2 in the oceans than is good for some very important marine life.

The remark is probably a reference to the logarithmic relationship: each doubling of CO2 concentration increases the temperature by an equal amount.  This is agreed, but it still means that another 30% increase will lead to dangerous warming.

4b. CO2 levels were 10 times as high in the past, yet we had Ice Ages

Yes, but not at the same time!


The Galileo Movement

This is an unusual denialist website in that it seems to be appealing to New Age sensibilities: "Reclaim Nature's clarity, beauty, harmony, order and inspiration..."

Let's look at their five topics in order:

1. Corruption

All they offer is a long list of opinion, mostly from well-known denialists.  No evidence of corruption is given.  Eight official inquiries into "Climategate" have all cleared the scientists of any malpractice.  The worst criticism was that some statistical procedures were questionable, but the conclusions drawn were not affected.

Compare that with the money that flows to denialist organisations from the fossil fuel industry.

2. Science

"CO2 is 0.0385% of Earth's atmosphere. That's just under 0.04%"

Yes... so?  That's 4kg of CO2 sitting over each square metre of the earth's surface.  In 1750 it was only 0.028%, yet that was enough to stop the earth being a snowball.  Now it's 0.039%, so it has increased 28%.  As denialists are fond of pointing out, the effect is logarithmic, so it's the percentage increase that matters, not the absolute numbers.

"CO2 is a naturally occurring colourless, odourless, tasteless, invisible gas, non-toxic in concentrations many times levels in air, and essential for life"

All quite true and utterly irrelevant to the discussion.

"Earth's annual production of CO2 is almost entirely by Nature, 97%. Human activity including industry and transport produces just 3%."

This deliberately confuses two things.  There is a vast natural cycle of CO2 in the biosphere.  The problem is that we are adding to that cycle by burning carbon that was safely locked away underground.  Over time, the amount in the cycle gets bigger.  We've already increased the atmospheric CO2 by 28% since 1750.  More.

"CO2 is a consequence of temperature-not a cause"

It's both.  Raising the earth's temperature a little puts a little more CO2 in the atmosphere, which raises the temperature a tiny bit more, and so on.  It's a diminishing effect so it settles down at some point - unless you keep adding CO2 in some other way.  More.

 "Seasonal and other intra-annual natural variation in CO2 levels within each year is far greater than inter-annual variation between years."

Yes, but the year-on-year change is relentlessly up.  After five years it swamps the annual variation, as shown in their graph.

 "...  the human production of carbon dioxide (7.2 Gt C/year; IPCC, 2007) is more than four times less than the combined error (32 Gt) on the estimated carbon dioxide production from all other sources"

Almost all of that 32 Gt is part of the natural cycle; it is not 32 Gt being added to the cycle. 

"CO2 does not warm the oceans."

Everything not at absolute zero temperature radiates energy in all directions.  The CO2 in the atmosphere is warmed by heat radiating from the earth and its oceans, and it radiates some of that energy back down.  That is the greenhouse effect.

"Human production likely has no impact on atmospheric CO2 levels."

Levels are known to have risen 28% since 1750, the start of the industrial revolution.

"ice core data shows temperature increases lead increases of CO2 levels by 400-800 years"

No, they show that on most occasions it has led by up to 800 years.  If the initial cause of the temperature rise on those occasions was something else - solar activity, a gigantic release of methane, shifts in ocean circulation as continents moved - this is what one would expect.  The rising temperature drives some CO2 release, raising temperatures further.  In several cases we have a good idea what that cause was, and if any of them were the trigger for the current warming we would know.  But this time CO2 increased first, and we have no other credible explanation for the temperature rise.  More.

"CO2 is not a 'pollutant'"

Anything is a pollutant if there's so much that it's harmful.

3. Economics

As with the Justice section, most of this consists of what might go wrong if poorly implemented.  Some other points...

"If humanity had not replaced wood and whale oil for heating and lighting, what would now be the state of Earth's forests and whales?"

Quite so.  This neatly illustrates how humanity can now so affect the environment that we can wreak serious damage if we are not careful.  Now we need to take the next step and replace coal and oil.

 [A 5% reduction below 2000 emission levels in 2050 is 26% below business-as-usual projection] (paraphrased)

Quite so, and no secret.  This is why the government's target reduction is only 5%; it's still reasonably ambitious by their standards.  Sadly, it's still well short of what the world needs.

"- Savagely increase the cost of living because energy is vital in every aspect of our lives-transport, lighting, heating, air-conditioning, entertainment, industry, information, …"

Energy costs will increase, but not by as much as they're already increasing in NSW for infrastructure, once underfunded, now overfunded.  Even if we were to stick with coal-fired power, there are a lot of power stations that need replacing in the next 20 years, at a cost of billions.  Coal and gas will steadily become more expensive too.  Eventually renewables will be the only option.  Since it will take a huge investment of energy to develop the infrastructure for that, better do it while we still have enough fossil fuels to do it with.

Meanwhile, the money the government collects from tax / ETS doesn't disappear into a black hole.  It becomes available for extra services or reduced taxes elsewhere, whatever the electorate wants.

"- Reduce Australian jobs as overseas production using untaxed energy will be comparatively cheaper;"

As with households, it is perfectly possible to tax the energy but hand a lot of the money raised back to industry in other ways.  This makes the cost to industry quite small, while preserving an incentive to switch to greener energy.  It would also make sense to tax imports based on the carbon footprint and lack of carbon tax in the country of origin, though that will take some negotiation with the WTO.

In the energy industry itself, there are more jobs in renewables than in the equivalent fossil fuels.  That is why they're more expensive.

4. Justice

Most of this page consists of scary projections of how schemes to cut carbon emissions might be badly implemented.  Such fears can be conjoured up around anything new as an excuse to do nothing.  They're not injustices which will arise as a matter of course from reducing emissions. 

Here I'll just pick out some of the other statements.

"Carbon dioxide 'trading' schemes not market-based trading schemes"

Many human activities originally enjoyed what in economics is known as an "externality".  Hunting and harvesting from common land is a classic one; environmental damage is another.  When people don't pay for consuming a shared resource it is abused.  Progressively, societies have solved this by making the user pay, bringing the externality into the market equation: licences, quotas, resource ownership, taxes, fines.  We now understand that the biosphere's ability to hold CO2 without upsetting the climate is being exceeded, and the time has come to bring this resource into the market too.

"The injustice of being deprived of cheap, accessible, reliable and environmentally responsible energy"

Umm.. coal?  Environmentally responsible?  A US study showed that if the health costs borne by the taxpayer were sheeted home to the electricity generators it would triple their costs.

5. Freedom

This is Tea Party rhetoric, raising the spectre of communism.  It's fruitless to deconstruct it - you're either taken in by it or you're not.

Dr Roy Spencer

A creationist.   Why does Maurice Newman pay him any heed?

May 2017: Spencer's warming rate estimates inch up, but still guilty of data fudging