69:  "Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate"

Perhaps it's worth waiting until I've had a go at mine, James?

2010-08-18 15:39:19Basic Rebuttal 85: It's not us
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221

The following basic rebuttal is a simplified version of John Cook’s “10 indicators of a human fingerprint” post. I hope he doesn’t mind that I’ve switched the order of numbers 2 and 3; I think that makes it easier to follow.

I'm intending to use this graphic in my rebuttal but I don't know how to add it at this point so I've just left a space for the moment.

The skeptic argument: It’s not us

What the science says: Multiple sets of independent observations find a human fingerprint on climate change.

When presented with the overwhelming evidence that the planet is warming, many people react by saying “But how can we be sure that we’re causing the warming?” It turns out that the observed global warming has a distinct human fingerprint on it.

In climatology, as in any other science, establishing causation is more complicated than merely establishing an effect. However, there are a number of lines of evidence that have helped to convince climate scientists that the current global warming can be attributed to human greenhouse gas emissions (in particular CO2). Here are just some of them:

10 Indicators of a Human Fingerprint on Climate Change
The first four pieces of evidence show that humans are raising CO2 levels:
1.    Humans are currently emitting around 30 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
2.    Oxygen levels are falling as if carbon is being burned to create carbon dioxide.
3.    Fossil carbon is building up in the atmosphere. (We know this because the two types of carbon have different chemical properties.)
4.    Corals show that fossil carbon has recently risen sharply.

Another two observations show that CO2 is trapping more heat:
5.    Satellites measure less heat escaping to space at the precise wavelengths which CO2 absorbs.
6.    Surface measurements find this heat is returning to Earth to warm the surface.

The last four indicators show that the observed pattern of warming is consistent with what is predicted to occur during greenhouse warming:
7.    An increased greenhouse effect would make nights warm faster than days, and this is what has been observed.
8.    If the warming is due to solar activity, then the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) should warm along with the rest of the atmosphere. But if the warming is due to the greenhouse effect, the stratosphere should cool because of the heat being trapped in the lower atmosphere (the troposphere). Satellite measurements show that the stratosphere is cooling.
9.    This combination of a warming troposphere and cooling stratosphere should cause the tropopause, which separates them, to rise. This has also been observed.
10.    It was predicted that the ionosphere would shrink, and it is indeed shrinking.

(References for all of these findings can be found here.)

Often one hears claims that the attribution of climate change is based on modeling, and that nobody can really know its causes. But here we have a series of empirical observations, all of which point to the conclusion that humans are causing the planet to warm.

2010-08-18 15:41:07Numbered list not working
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221
The points 1 through 10 are supposed to appear as a numbered list above, but for some reason it hasn't worked.
2010-08-19 03:27:23Is this the same as 69?
John Russell

jr@johnrussell...
82.70.63.102

Strikes me that this is the same argument (and, perhaps, answer?) as the one I've claimed...

  
2010-08-19 12:26:32Technical problems fixed (hopefully)
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221

There were some technical problems with my original post - some text had gone mysteriously missing and the numbered list wasn't working - but I think it's all fixed now.

I don't know what was causing the problem, though. I wrote the original text in Microsoft Word, then copied it into Notepad, then copied it from Notepad into here.

2010-08-19 12:42:16Not the same argument as 69
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221
John Russell, I think there is a subtle distinction. Number 69 is more along the lines of “Humans can’t change climate”, whereas this is “Humans aren’t changing climate”.
2010-08-19 16:48:39Distinctions
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
217.44.86.17

I'm with John R on this one - I don't think the distinction is great enough for clear but separate lines of argument to emerge. I wonder what John C's take on this is - is it possible we have two numbered items but only one real denialist argument to rebut?

I also feel this list doesn't really address the point. The list demonstrates evidence of effects we are witnessing, but does not ultimately prove we are causing these changes - climate change is an inferential science and the 'missing link' is unlikely to be discovered for CO2 any more that for evolution. What deniers argue is that we are not capable of causing the effects, which they largely do not deny - and that some natural agent is at work. The list doesn't really address this argument in my view.

2010-08-19 22:18:0069 v 85
John Russell

jr@johnrussell...
82.70.63.102

You're right; it is a subtle distinction. I find sceptics conflating the two -- "Humans aren't changing climate, 'cos they can't!"

Don't misunderstand -- I think your list is good. Maybe we need the headmaster to intervene?

Best wishes,

JR

2010-08-26 22:37:13Bump
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221
This thread has fallen to the bottom of the list so I'm just bumping it to the top.
2010-08-27 19:58:15Keep bumping
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
217.44.86.17
I keep checking in too James - I think JR and I are both waiting for John C to weigh in. My own feelings haven't really changed, so we'll keep bumping until we get somewhere...
2010-08-29 13:44:32Headmaster visit
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.125.135
Sorry it's taken me so long to get to this. I actually side with James on the debate. The "humans are too insignificant" is more general, an almost philosophical or arm waving position that nature is too big for us to influence. This argument is more specific - as James says, "we aren't doing it" versus "we can't do it". Yes, it's a subtle distinction. When I started the rebuttal list, I often had general rebuttals that covered a range of skeptic arguments. But over time, I've had to often split these up and have more narrow focus to particular lines of argument. So there is often overlap between different rebuttals but that's okay. This way, when someone is in an online discussion and need a rebuttal to link to, these more chance of a rebuttal that addresses specifically the argument you're countering.

As for James' rebuttals, I like what you've done in breaking up the list into 3 sections - appeals very much to my penchant of trying to lead the reader through logical steps to a conclusion. So thumbs up from me. I suggest having a look at the Welcome thread for tips on how to post an image - in this case, go to my original blog post, copy the image and paste here.

Graham, I don't understand how you say these lines of evidence don't show humans are causing global warming. Points 5 and 6 provide direct evidence of CO2 trapping heat and points 7 through 10 bring it on home.

2010-08-29 15:56:03Image added
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221
Alright, I’ve added the image. I wasn’t sure what size it should be so let me know if it’s too big.
2010-08-29 16:07:09On proofs
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
217.44.86.17

John - you asked "Graham, I don't understand how you say these lines of evidence don't show humans are causing global warming". I didn't quite say that actually - I said the evidence doesn't provide proof - as in the mathematical proofs of some classical science. What the list describes is a set of cause/effect relationships from which one can infer something else - something quite logical - but which isn't quite the same thing, and this crack is where deniers insert the can opener. (The same problem occurs with the reductionist aspect - we are left with ACC because everything else has been eliminated, but deniers just give us stick over that too because it is still, in the end, an inference). Will we ever have a 100% confidence level?

The analogy is evolution - there is no missing link fossil that connects all the dots up for the creationists, and I suspect there never will be. I'm just raising the pedant's point - a bit of devil's advocacy if you like.

2010-08-29 16:08:11Bugger
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
217.44.86.17
...but I did mean to give the post my thumbs up, and here it is now...
2010-08-29 19:54:17OK
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.45.10
Looks OK
2010-08-30 06:53:03
doug_bostrom

dbostrom@clearwire...
184.77.83.151
James would be nice if you could do something to make the enumerated list look a little less "grey" in terms of visual appeal. All the same, green...
2010-08-30 13:11:23Line spacing didn't work
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221

I wanted to have normal line spacing in the numbered list, but I couldn't do that without making it all one paragraph.

2010-08-30 13:15:30Line spacing fixed
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221
Okay, it seems to be working now. Not sure whether that makes it any easier to read, though.
2010-08-30 15:24:54Works for me...
Jim Meador

jimm58@gmail...
67.101.223.21
On thing..."CO2 are trapping...." ahead of point 5. Should it be "CO2 is trapping..."? 
2010-08-30 15:34:53Comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.188.138
Ok thumbs up
2010-08-30 21:46:25Published
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.125.135
I also converted the numbered items into a HTML ordered list as I think it gives some visual structure. Hope that's okay, James.
2010-08-30 23:44:00Technical problem
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221
There was a broken link in the published post which I tried to fix. I was successful, but somehow after I'd edited the post the numbered lists 5-6 and 7-10 now start again at no. 1. I had the same problem with both versions - why is this happening?