2010-08-20 12:45:32BASIC rebuttal #31. CO2 has a weak effect. REVISION 6.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

 See below

2010-08-20 17:45:31Analogies are good, but...
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
217.44.86.17

Hi Villabolo - the analogy is quite apt, but rather indirect. I wonder if a more 'scientific' argument - none the less put in simple terms - is to demonstrate the surprisingly big effect a tiny amount of gas actually has. Far less than 1% of the atmosphere increases climate average temperatures by 30 degrees C (approx) - and without these GHGs, we wouldn't be here. By making the point that CO2 is 'x' percentage of GHGs, responsible for 'y' increase in temperature, we make clear that these tiny trace gases provide a very important, and significant climate function. (You need accurate figures for X and Y).

The best bit - the take-home point - is this: if such a small amount of gas has such a powerful effect (turning the world from a freezing, uninhabitable ball of ice into the balmy place we largely enjoy now) then a very small increase, compared to the overall volume of the atmosphere, will also have a very dramatic effect. You could also mention a strange irony: deniers make a lot of fuss about how little CO2 there is, but then they also point out how good it is for plants. Funny how it's not enough to change the climate, but more than enough to provide sustenance for all the plants on earth.

The poison analogy can still be used, but you could cut it down to a single line i.e. a drop of Sarin the size of a pin-head will kill x number of people instantly (or something equally dramatic and horrid).

2010-08-20 19:28:56I worry about the poison analogy
John Russell

jr@johnrussell...
84.92.176.215

I worry about the poison analogy. While it's true and answers the question ,"can a small amount of CO2 really have a significant effect", it does run us straight in to another sceptic argument. "But CO2 is not a poison - it's a life-giving gas, indeed, it's plant food!?"  So how can such a small amount of a llfe-giving gas have such a significant effect?"  

There' an anology I like to use when discussing the 'small amount' of Co2 that humans add to the atmosphere.

Everyday a child takes a pound out of his piggy bank and every evening his dad puts £1 and 1 penny (£1.01) in. The penny seems insignificant -- I mean, what can you buy for a penny? Now think how much is in the piggy bank after just one year  (pause to do sums). See?

This analogy might be better in another rebuttal -- perhaps 'the amount of CO2 humans add to the atmosphere is tiny compared with natural emissions' but at least we've all got it in mind. I find this analogy stops sceptics in their tracks if deployed at the right moment.   

Best wishes,

JR

2010-08-20 19:31:38
John Russell

jr@johnrussell...
84.92.176.215
2010-08-20 20:54:36But the housewife will look bewildered.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

 

Hi gpwayne. Thanks for the feedback. There are two points I can identify on the issues you brought up. The most important one is complexity.   

Due to the complexity of the science; its alien nature to the mental landscape the public lives in; and the ability of our opposition to mindf*ck them, we have to re-think our approach. We have to reinvent everything into metaphors, analogies and even parables. You have to discard, to the greatest degree possible, every technicality or statistic no matter how simple.

It is not even a matter of whether or not they are capable of understanding whatever precise figures you present. Theoretically, if they put forth the effort, they could. Realistically they won't.

First, they are too busy in their lives to put in more effort in comprehension. Second, when they see a precise figure, they will think to themselves that the "scientists" on the other side can respond in similar fashion with contradictory figures of their own. To the public these arguments appear to be the equivalent of incomprehensible magical incantations. How do you judge a contest between voodoo priests?

So we should reduce the possibility of counter rebuttal from our opponents NO MATTER HOW RIDICULOUS THEY WOULD SOUND TO US! (Please excuse my manner of emphasis.)

Third, the most gifted and successful of our opposition, our beloved 'Lord' for example, are psychopaths in the strictest clinical and biological sense of the word#. This makes them supreme con artists who are far more capable than anyone else (That's us) in manipulating people. The only way to have a chance against people like these is to radically simplify our approach to the public, otherwise they will slip through any psychological (Not logical.) crack available.

The other point is, that if we emphasize how much the tiny amounts of GHGs contribute to our warmth, and also further warmth if slightly increased, that we will invite the old "CO2 only has 1/6 (or none) of the heat retaining ability that 'evil' scientists claim". That will unnecessarily complicate things by throwing a digression, and a complicated one as well, into the argument.

That is why I believe that the most direct way to help people comprehend this issue is to greatly minimize all explanations in order to avoid any counter rebuttals and digressions.

2010-08-20 21:00:47Schoolmaster Russell.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8


2010-08-20 21:05:28Worries about the poison analogy.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
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As soon as I get my 8 hours worth of coma, I'll meditate on that.

VILLABOLO

2010-08-20 21:12:54Spelling - upper or lower case?
BaerbelW

baerbel-for-350@email...
109.41.43.59

Hi Villabolo,

I'm not sure if these various words should really start with upper-case letter:

"...who do not believe in Man Made Global Warming is that, since Carbon Dioxide makes up such a small part of our atmosphere..."

Likewise, not sure if "Poison X" and Poison Y" should start with upper case.

And "man made" should be "man-made" with a hyphen.

Another word I have seen spelled different ways in different texts is the plural for "gas". It shows up both as "gases" and "gasses". According to the dictionary, both spellings are correct, I'm just wondering if we should (need?) to use a consistent spelling for this and possibly other words.

 

2010-08-20 21:27:13Spelling
John Russell

jr@johnrussell...
84.92.176.215

I prefer 'gasses' because theoretically 'gases' can be read as 'gazes'. It's one of those stupid English inconsistencies that confuse other-language speakers -- which is why we like them :-) .

Best wishes,

JR

2010-08-21 08:31:50Upper/lower case spelling.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

Hi BaerbelW:

I made some case changes. I have a tendency to over upper case certain words in order to emphasize them.

VILLABOLO

2010-08-21 08:38:48Poison analogy.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
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I am considering a revision of the poison analogy.

VILLABOLO

2010-08-21 09:24:51The Analogy is Good, but...
MattJ
Matthew Johnson
mej1960@yahoo...
64.105.35.191

as Villabolo points out, rather indrect and involved. I doubt our target audience will pay enough attention to it. It's a pity, because it is good.

Now on the other hand, it we tie it into some famous poisoning cases lately in the news, such as when Litvinenko was poisoned with an incredibly small amount of Polonium-210, that would grab their attention. But I am afraid that even that approch would only work well when the news is much more recent.

2010-08-21 09:27:48gpwayne's comment
rockytom

rockytom@comcast...
71.228.108.140

I agree with gpwayne.  We need to keep it simple, but we need to be factual and I think most people who would get to this site have a modicum of intelligence.  If I'm right, we don't need to insult them or drive anyone away.

I like the idea behind the attempt. An analogy is great and I go back to gpwayne's comment.  I can't do better than that.

Tom 

2010-08-21 16:47:53Sorry, but...
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
217.44.86.17

The line between simplification and being patronising is fine. I cannot agree with you, I'm afraid, that we need to "discard, to the greatest degree possible, every technicality or statistic no matter how simple". 

The real problem overall is education. Where it is possible, I believe we should use the 'real' information, but present it in an attractive, non-technical way. What you're suggesting is basically that people don't understand science, so it's best not to talk about it. I think the opposite: if they don't understand it, then that's what we should be talking about. My suggestion draws on this approach - instead of going off on an analogy (which, by the way, is much more vulnerable to distortion, misrepresentation and general tomfoolery), we stick to what the science actually says, and explain that in simple terms.

As for pre-empting the denialist attacks, don't bother. No matter how cunning we are, they'll stitch us (and science) up one way or another. I actually think the closer we stick to facts and science, the harder we make it for them to mess with us.

Finally, I would suggest that you underestimate those who will read these rebuttals. We are writing for the undecideds - not deniers, who are entrenched, or warmists, who are enlightened. Those who may be influenced at this stage are those with an open mind, real sceptics in other words. If they are interested enough to bother to read what we do here, then they are capable (and indeed displaying) sufficient application to learn a little, understand a little, and make an informed decision.

When we treat people like children, we should not be surprised if they act in childish ways. Paternalism is not a good thing.

2010-08-21 18:16:07More science please
John Russell

jr@johnrussell...
84.92.176.215

While the analogy certainly has a place, we do need also to address the argument in science terms -- it's the whole point of the site:  'Skeptical Science'.

Analogies are good as a summary -- the killer blow -- once you've explained the facts. This rebuttal seems disconnected from the facts at the intermediate level.     

2010-08-24 04:41:09An important point is being missed in the discussion
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.120.144

The first step in refuting the argument is making sure that you understand the argument that is to be refuted.

The argument that is to be refuted is that "CO2 is such a small part of the total amount of greenhouse gas, so it cannot be important."

Because of the logical structure of the argument, the statement that the greenhouse effect is responsible for some 30 degrees of warming is irrelevant: they are not saying that the greenhouse effect is insignificant, they are saying that the contribution of additional CO2 towards enhancing the greenhouse effect is insignificant, given all the existing water vapor.

To translate this to your poison analogy, you would have to convince the reader that taking 100 pills a day is OK, but taking 101 pills a day will kill you. It's not convincing.

There are two factors that make a better argument:

1) CO2 absorbs more strongly in the 15-micron wavelength band of infrared than anything else, including water vapor. So adding more CO2 absorbs outgoing radiation that is missed by all that water vapor.

2) Water vapor drops out of the atmosphere above about 10 km, but CO2 goes up to about 90 km. The way that the enhanced greenhouse effect works is by shifting the altitude at which infrared photons finally escape to space. Adding more CO2 will adjust the escape altitude (the altitude of the 15-micron photosphere) by an amount that will not be affected by the water vapor, because that altitude is already above the water-vapor level. Therefore, it doesn't matter how little CO2 there is relative to water vapor, it only matters how much CO2 you are adding relative to the amount of CO2 there is now.

So a better analogy would be the following:

CO2 is in a very high-leverage position with respect to absorption of infrared absorption, compared to water vapor: If you think of a see-saw with unequal distances of the two ends from the support, the CO2 is added to the very long end, whereas additional water vapor would be added to the very short end. What makes for the advantage are the very high altitude which CO2 can reach and the higher absorption at the 15-micron wavelength.

Because of these "advantages", a little additional CO2 is quite significant. Specifically, a doubling of atmospheric CO2 results in a radiative forcing of 3.7 Watt/m^2, a little over 1% of the average solar power beating down upon the atmosphere. 1% doesn't sound like much, but to keep a stable temperature, the radiative forcing should be 0%.

 

 

 

 

2010-08-24 13:32:37Nealjking. Thanks for the information.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

Just wanted to thank you for the information you provided.  

 

2010-08-24 13:59:14 REVISION II. Some feedback on new revision please.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

I know I seem to have a philosophical difference of opinion with many here as to how simple or complicated explanations should be. I'm trying to work on a compromise. It's just that I'm used to having quick, simple minded conversations with people on the street. That has shaped my philosophy of communication.

I hope that I'm guiding these rewrites in the right direction as far as this site's philosophy is concerned.

VILLABOLO 

 

2010-08-24 18:51:58Progress...
MattJ
Matthew Johnson
mej1960@yahoo...
64.105.35.191

Villabolo-

 

The revision is a big step in the right direction. I have two suggestions though: 1) "very simplistic", though accurate, might be too strong a term for it too soon in your article. I would go with "oversimplified" instead 2) Something is clearly missing from the sentence, "Carbon Dioxide has an ability that other gasses in our atmosphere, such as oxygen (21% of our air) and nitrogen (78% of our air)."

 The obvious fix would be, "Carbon Dioxide has an ability that other gasses in our atmosphere, such as oxygen (21% of our air) and nitrogen (78% of our air) lack".

But this is still too cumbrous a sentence. I would prefer: "Carbon Dioxides has an ability that the other gases lack: the ability to absorb a LOT of heat (infrared)".

You can also tell I prefer the spelling 'gases' to 'gasses', but I have to admit: every online dictionary I have looked this up in admits both spellings, without  any caveats. That is, I expected one to be British and the other American but no: both seem equally acceptable in either dialect.

I suppose I might also want to strengthen the conclusion by adding, "we already have too much."

2010-08-24 20:19:45more progress
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.29.177

villabolo:

I understand the need to simplify, but while simplifying, we shouldn't get the physics incorrect; incomplete is OK.

I believe the analogy to a poison has another problem: It feeds another denialist theme, "Those AGW alarmists think CO2 is a poison!". It's not, and we don't; but this analogy reminds people of that.

Can't we leave the "poison" out of this discussion, and just say something like this:

- CO2 is a trace gas, but very potent, because it captures a range of infrared photons that other greenhouse gases don't catch so well; and it can do this very high up in the atmosphere, where it can have maximal effect. (Whereas water vapor condenses much below that.)

- So CO2 has an advantage in GHG potency over water vapor, just as a man with a lever can bring more force to bear than someone without.

Can you present this story in a easy way?

 

MattJ:

- the issue is not the AMOUNT of heat that CO2 can absorb: all that is absorbed is re-emitted anyway. But CO2 interacts with a specific band of infrared that is less affected by other GHGs (essentially missed by them).

- and it reaches up to heights that the competing GHG, water vapor, does not attain.

 

I'm sorry to have to complicate matters: But I think we need to be careful not to say anything that is actually wrong. This could come back to bite us later...

 

2010-08-25 02:49:55Thanks.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

MattJ, thanks for the corrections.

 

VILLABOLO 

 

2010-08-25 02:53:57
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
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Nealjking. Do you know how high up in the atmosphere Methane reaches?
2010-08-25 11:53:19methane
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.29.177

According to the SpectralCalc data, methane starts out at about 1e-6 vmr at surface level, drops to 1e-7 at 60 km, and drops to 1e-8 by about 120 km.

You can look at the graphs for free:  start at http://www.spectralcalc.com/info/about.php , click on "Atmospheric Browser", and choose the viewing options you want.

2010-08-28 06:26:48BASIC rebuttal #31. CO2 effect is weak. REVISION 2.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8
See REVISION 2 at the top.
2010-08-28 06:51:12Response to nealjking.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

neal, I'm not ignoring your advice about CO2 and its interactions with water vapor. 

It's just that James Frank's BASIC Rebuttal #24 already mentions a synergistic relationship between CO2 and water vapor.

I do believe your suggestions should have a definite place in the INTERMEDIATE version of this rebuttal.

What I will do is to very briefly state that CO has a synergistic action with water vapor and then cross reference that statement with BASIC Rebuttal #24.

VILLABOLO

2010-08-28 16:56:01Where's the rebuttal, dude?
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
217.44.86.17
Something seems to be missing i.e. the text...
2010-08-28 17:28:51Hard to understand
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.114.10

"Even though Carbon Dioxide makes up .04% of our atmosphere, it has the ability to do what 99.93% of the other gases cannot*. It can absorb, the heat energy (Infrared) that the Earth emits when it is warmed up by the sun, and then reflects it back down to us, instead of just letting it escape into space**. So it has a huge effect  regardless of its tiny amount."

I have a hard time working out the arithmetic: 0.04 + 99.93 = 99.97, so? How other GHGs fit into this picture is unclearly presented. Maybe your footnotes provide additional information, but anyway it's not easy to follow: it should not be necessary to bounce around to footnotes to follow the basic reasoning.

 

2010-08-29 10:14:13nealjking
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

 

"Even though Carbon Dioxide makes up .04% of our atmosphere, it has the ability to do what 99.93% of the other gases cannot*.

I have a hard time working out the arithmetic: 0.04 + 99.93 = 99.97, so?

Neal, I deliberately separated the two figures in order to contrast how a minute amount of Carbon Dioxide can have such a disproportional effect relative to the huge amounts on non-greenhouse gases. 

I'm going to do some minor rewriting.

 

VILLABOLO

2010-08-29 11:24:17Neal, concerning footnotes.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

Neal, I included footnote #1 for the public's benefit. Many people are not even aware that Nitrogen exists. That's how basic I'm getting.

I realize that some would consider my level of communication to be patronizing to the readers of SS but it is not aimed at our regular readers. Instead, I'm assuming that John Cook wants these "basic rebuttals" in order to expand his readership and reach out to the general and uneducated public.

Footnote #2 was intended to back up the mere fact that CO2 has the ability to absorb infrared radiation.

We have to realize that the uneducated public has been told that CO2 has little or no effect whatsoever. By providing a footnote for such an elementary fact, I'm indicating that scientists believe otherwise.

That footnote was not intended to provide information on other GHG even though it gives some.

Footnote #3 is a cross reference to Frank's Rebuttal #24 which covers the water vapor issue. I thought it would be redundant for me to repeat something that was covered elsewhere. 

 VILLABOLO

 

2010-08-29 14:32:39See REVISION #3 AT THE TOP.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

 

SEE REVISION #4 AT THE TOP.

2010-08-29 21:12:48Not quite right
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.45.10

A) Vibration:

"When Carbon Dioxide absorbs this energy it vibrates causing friction with other molecules that make up our air. This warms up the atmosphere instead of just letting it that energy escape into space+. "

 There are a couple of problems with this:

- What is important is that the CO2 absorbs IR photons, not that it vibrates. The CO2 molecule undergoes some internal change as a result of absorbing that photon, but the manner of that change (mode of behavior) is unimportant, because that vibration has nothing to do with friction with other molecules or with warming up the atmosphere.

- What happens is that the IR photon is absorbed for awhile by the CO2 molecule, and then re-emitted. It can be re-emitted upwards or downwards; and the rate of re-emission depends on the local gas temperature. The "information" about local temperature is "communicated" through collisions with other gas molecules, not through friction/rubbing. And the issue is not that it is warming the atmosphere (although it is doing that) but that it is reducing the rate at which IR radiation is escaping to space.

I would prefer something like this:

"When Carbon Dioxide absorbs this energy, it then re-emits it, at a rate depending on the local temperature; and it re-emits it downwards as well as upwards. The result is that the upward flux of infrared radiation is reduced by the presence of Carbon Dioxide; therefore, adding CO2 has a warming effect on the Earth."

 

B) Infrared frequency band for CO2: I had the impression that the CO2 band of most significance for AGW, and that is partially shared with H2O, is at wavelength 15 micron = 15e-6 (m) => wavenumber = 660 (cm^-1) or 4100 (cm^-1) (depending on your definition of wavenumber). This doesn't show up in your figure for vibrational spectra.

I think it would be best to remove this figure; also because, as discussed in A), the focus on vibrational modes is not really relevant anyway.

 

C) Footnotes: I don't like footnotes because they break up the reading process, particularly if the reader has to scroll down, rather than just glance to the bottom of the page. I would prefer parenthetical remarks to footnotes.

2010-08-30 06:40:20
doug_bostrom

dbostrom@clearwire...
184.77.83.151

This is so close to being ready for votes.

W/regard to Neal's remarks, this description by the notrious Eli Rabett might be helpful:

"Any person, particularly a skeptical chemist, would expect that, with the nonstop emission of thermoradiation from Earth's surface, all CO2 molecules would soon be in the excited vibrational and rotational levels of their molecular energy states, and none would be left to absorb more outgoing energy. Hence, the greenhouse effect would be very limited.

"However, CO2 molecules do not exist alone in the atmosphere. The excited molecules can and do transfer their excess energy to other molecules and return to ground states and are therefore ready to absorb thermoradiation again. The transfer of the initially absorbed energy to other nonabsorbing molecules, called 'quenching' in photochemistry, enables a relatively small amount of greenhouse gases such as CO2 to continuously absorb the thermoradiative energy, which otherwise would escape into space, and to convert the radiation back to thermal energy that stays on Earth."

2010-08-30 12:15:48 Nealjking. Vibrations.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

 Apologies from the scientifically challenged. I was using another analogy for my fellow illiterates. Will correct.

VILLABOLO

 

 

 

2010-08-30 12:37:37BASIC rebuttal #31. CO2 effect is weak. Revision 6.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

A very small amount of Carbon Dioxide has a very large effect on our temperature.

A common argument made by those who do not believe in man-made global warming is that, since Carbon Dioxide makes up such a small part of our atmosphere, it cannot possibly have a major effect on our temperature.

This belief is based on the simplistic idea that if a substance exists in very small amounts, it is not capable of having a large impact. This idea can be easily proven wrong by using medicine as an example.

Suppose a doctor prescribes you some medicine and he tells you to take one capsule a day. You decide, on your own, that if one capsule is good for you then three capsules should help you recover three times as fast. After all, your idea of too much might be a hundred. What do you think might happen?

Carbon Dioxide is the same in that it has a powerful effect in very small amounts. It is beneficial in limited amounts since it helps to keep our Earth warm. However, too much of a good thing can be bad. But why is it so powerful in retaining heat in the first place? Because it can absorb energy from the sun that the overwhelming amount of other gases in our atmosphere cannot.

When the Sun warms the Earth, the heat that was absorbed goes back up into the atmosphere at nightime. This heat is referred to as infrared radiation. When a Carbon Dioxide molecule gets struck by this energy, it gets moved around. It then strikes any other molecule. This is what warms up the other gases in our atmosphere. Where it not for Carbon Dioxide, and other greenhouse gases, the infrared radiation would just escape into space.

Even though Carbon Dioxide makes up only .04% of our atmosphere it, together with other greenhouse gases, keeps our Earth about 300C (540 Fahrenheit) warmer than it would be. The other non-greenhouse gases; Nitrogen, Oxygen and Argon; are unable to maintain our warmth in spite of their making up 99.93% of our atmosphere. 

In conclusion, Carbon Dioxide, like other greenhouse gases, has a huge effect in retaining heat energy regardless of its small amounts in the atmosphere. We should never underestimate anything based on its small amounts. This is the reason why we cannot afford to be releasing large amounts of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere by the unrestrained burning of oil and coal.  

2010-08-30 13:45:37
steve.oconnor

steve.oconnor@hotmail...
124.171.104.220

I like that you're trying to simplify things, but for some reason i wouldn't be convinced by your argument if i were a climate skeptic.

Maybe you could talk about Tyndall's early experiments where he found out that certain gases (such as CO2 and water vapour) are more 'opaque' than others to the transmission of radiant heat, even in tiny quantities.

2010-08-30 16:21:48Steve. Recomendation contradicts another poster, gpwayne.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

Hi Steve. Thanks for the feedback.

I don't believe that convincing a 'skeptic' is possible, especially on the Basic level. I keep in mind that we are going to have three, not just two, but three different levels. That gives a lot of room for adding points, references and other issues to the core argument.

In my opinion, mentioning Tyndall's work may be more appropriate to an intermediate and/or advanced level for two reasons.

It's part of the history of Global Warming and is thus somewhat off the basic subject of Rebuttal #31, which is about the supposed impotence of CO2. It sounds like something that belongs in a synopsis of Global Warming as a general subject.

If a 'skeptic' uses the "CO2 is weak" argument, you can be sure he has heard about Tyndall and is as impressed with him as Monckton is with Hansen.

As for keeping things simple, my philosophy on that, as far as this site and our current mission is concerned, is to communicate with people who are at three different levels. My interpretation of those levels is this:

  1. Housewife. High School education. This is where almost all social and a lot of political power lies. Therefore, get down to their level, or you will get nowhere. In order to communicate with Jane and John Doe, I have had to evolve what I refer to as "conceptual tweets". These "conceptual tweets" do not have to skimp on words too much but I try to compress or reduce concepts and ideas to a minimum. I know that will make posters on this site gag but that's the only way I've been able to communicate with the general public.
  2. College education. These are the people that can benefit the most from both Basic and Intermediate levels. This assumes that they're neutral or have a shallow 'ego' attachment to 'skeptic' ideas.
  3. University education. Scientists, technicians and so forth who are used to both math and esoteric jargon. They will benefit from Intermediate and Advanced levels.  

Back to the issue of convincing 'skeptics', I was advised by gpwayne that:

"As for pre-empting the denialist attacks, don't bother. No matter how cunning we are, they'll stitch us (and science) up one way or another."   (21 Aug 2010, 4:47 PM)

2010-08-30 17:20:41
doug_bostrom

dbostrom@clearwire...
184.77.83.151

That's a pretty cogent and helpful summary, Villabolo. Most of all it's good to remember these rebuttals will never sway "skeptics" as we've come to use the term; the realistic objective here is provide people who are confused or simply curious w/some basic information and perhaps some shoring up of critical thinking skills.

For my part I think our (that is to say, this group of authors) perception of what the average person is capable of understanding is colored by our over-exposure to and disappointment  with so-called skeptics. The quasi-skeptical people we're used to talking with for the most part practice a form of cultivated, false stupidity and ignorance. When talking to other people not playing such games, if our language smacks too heavily of "talking down" or patronization we'll unnecessarily lose readers.

2010-08-30 22:51:09Complete scientific accuracy on this matter
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.29.152

is very difficult to attain, because the actual functioning of the enhanced greenhouse effect is quite complicated. It is not just a matter of increased absorption, unfortunately. Without doing a lot of math, you're never really going to convince a skeptic on this point. I think the best we can do is to avoid saying something that is wrong.

 However, I would be satisfied with the following change:

"When Carbon Dioxide absorbs this energy, it gives our atmosphere extra warmth instead of just letting it escape into space+."

=>

"When Carbon Dioxide absorbs this energy, it re-emits part of it back to Earth, instead of just allowing it to escape into space. And even the part that is emitted out to space has reduced intensity, because of the local gas temperature."

 

2010-08-31 12:08:51Doug. Perceptions.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

"The quasi-skeptical people we're used to talking with for the most part practice a form of cultivated, false stupidity and ignorance. When talking to other people not playing such games, if our language smacks too heavily of "talking down" or patronization we'll unnecessarily lose readers."

 

Actually, I've had the opposite problem. I tended to talk over their heads, not so much with techno-babble but with thorough and turgid explanations. On occasion I get mocked for using basic terminology.

Once, I was in a discussion with my University graduated, $100,000 a year, cousin. He surprised me with his knowledge of quite a few denier points. It was only at a rudimentary, read a magazine level, but more than I expected from a person who has no interest in science.

So we were discussing the winter of 2009/2010 and why we were cool but the Arctic and Canada were above average. I explained, in all simplicity, how the Arctic was giving us colder than normal temperatures while it and Canada were 100F+. 

Something slipped in my mind. I was trying not to say it because I knew better. But the word slipped out. After my usual simple explanation I said "This is known as Negative Arctic Oscillation". The look on his face. That of a giggle being stifled, 

Of course, I agree that we should avoid patronizing at all costs. I'm also aware that there is a difference between the interest of people who engage in casual discussions and those who actively seek out information. However many who actively seek that information are hoping for very "basic" explanations. Even though many posts that have been covered at SS are definitely readable by the type of person I'm simplifying for, most articles are too scienteese for them. I instinctively know that the moment they read anything that has the slightest and deodorized scent of Nerd

If some people would be patronized, it would be in my opinion, because they assume that the explanation they are reading is the only one available, suggesting what we think of the 'public' in general. Then, I agree, it would be insulting to many.

But they won't be insulted because they will know that we are speaking to three different audiences and could simply move up to the intermediate level. We can make that explicit by labeling the levels as 'Beginners', 'Advanced', and 'Professional' or whatever term one can think of. I really don't think those labels would be patronizing to anyone no matter what education they have.

In my opinion it will actually be appreciated because it sends the message that we made a great effort to talk to them in a way they could easily understand and is fine tailored to them. What do you think?

It seems to me that most people here, being professionals, suffer from the same bias that scientists do. They are underexposed to the majority of the population. Their bias is to socialize with people more or less at their level and or share their interests. That's normal amongst people. The very religious hang out with their church friends; athletes hang out with other jocks; birds of a feather, and so on. Unfortunately, this creates an unconscious distortion in our perception of others and how they think.

As a result I think we should realize that there is plenty of flexibility in reaching out to people with three levels. Those are the two points I stress even more than the 'proles are dumb' attitude that some believe I have. The reason for that is that even if I'm wrong about the issue of simplification:

  1. No one will care because they will have three levels available to them. If they gag at the 'childishness' of one level they will automatically go the next level. (Gag alert) In fact now that I come to think of it, I believe that they will actually be complimented by the fact that they are considered "Intermediate".
  2. In spite of what many may think, that would not make the effort of my minimalist rebuttals wasted. (2nd Gag alert) Has anyone thought of communicating to Adolescents? If a motivated high school student can be reached by this style of writing, we would have scored a major victory. We all know who the next generation will be.   

 

In any case I intend to do the following in order to improve my rebuttals:

  • Insert more pictures. One painting is worth a thousand words as the old saying goes. And I have some "beauties" on the "More CO2 for plants" meme.
  • I will put in more footnotes, unless I think that they are even slightly tangential to the subject. A maximum of 3 maybe 4 depending on the subject. I'm aware that some people on this site do not like footnotes but I intended from the very beginning to have hyperlinks in the main text, I just haven't learned how to do that yet.

 VILLABOLO

2010-08-31 15:31:06
doug_bostrom

dbostrom@clearwire...
184.77.83.151

All good points Villabolo. I well know the sinking feeling that comes when I realize somebody believes English should be limited to 6,000 words. We've such a bountiful and granular language, shamelessly assembled from borrowings and with a compact way of expressing almost everything. Such a pity not to exploit it. 

Let's trust that John can provide sufficient visual cues to the more advanced materials and then as you suggest there'll be no basis for complaint.

Meanwhile, I give this a vote. It's my observation that skeptics rip into analogies like dogs going after offal so as usual let's not expect they'll take the opportunity to be instructed by your pharmaceutical example. "Normal" people will understand the point, I suspect. 

2010-08-31 17:41:22Substance and accuracy
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
217.44.86.17

OK Villabolo - first off, keep up the good work. Your willingness to discuss these issues is commendable, as is your commitment.

That said, I almost feel apologetic about bringing up yet more issues, but I feel these points are important to discuss (what you do about them is up to you).

When the Sun warms the Earth, the heat that was absorbed goes back up into the atmosphere. This heat is referred to as infrared radiation. When Carbon Dioxide absorbs this energy, it gives our atmosphere extra warmth instead of just letting it escape into space+.

This bothers me a bit, because it's rather loose. It isn't 'absorbed' heat, it's all heat. It doesn't 'go back into the atmosphere' - part of it simply heats the air in the first place. Can I suggest the blanket analogy, which I think is more accurate while retaining the simplicity we seek (I've modified the statements to show what I'm getting at):

When the Sun warms the Earth, the heat - referred to as infrared, or long-wave, radiation - would re-radiate back into space if it wasn't for greenhouse gases like CO2, methane and ozone. These trace gases - less than 1% of the total, act like a blanket, slowing down this transfer of energy. Without this tiny amount of greenhouse gases, the global climate would be approximately 30 degrees C cooler, and the Earth would be largely uninhabitable.

The changes I'm suggesting help illustrate the tiny amount of GHGs, yet the potent effect - the point of your rebuttal. It also clarifies the nature of GHGs, thus sorting out this statement:

Carbon Dioxide makes up only .04% of our atmosphere, but it has the ability to do what the other gases, that make up the rest, are not able to...

This statement is simply wrong (to be pedantic about it - sorry about that). CO2 provides around 17% of the GHG temperature effect (that's from memory - worth checking). You go on to mention methane and water vapour, but you should not exclude them from the first statement as if they are in addition to GHGs - much more accurate to state it the way I've tried in my example, attributing the effect to the bundle of gases, not just CO2 (which gets a bit too much attention in my view).

Anyway, keep at it - you're very close now. It's a hard one...

2010-09-01 09:02:56A few questions and comments
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.186.162.78

Firstly, re "This makes Carbon Dioxide even more efficient in warming the Earth than if it were acting alone", I'm not exactly sure what this means and question whether it's necessary to mention. I think it's also worth mentioning that we can measure the amount of heat trapped by CO2 using satellites and surface measurements. So it's not just theory or guesswork or wishful thinking - it's been quantitatively confirmed by direct observations.

Also, which picture were you wanting to use from the elmhurst.edu website? Maybe I should reproduce the pic just to keep copyright issues simple.

2010-09-01 14:10:50John Cook.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

John Cook:

Firstly, re "This makes Carbon Dioxide even more efficient in warming the Earth than if it were acting alone", I'm not exactly sure what this means and question whether it's necessary to mention.

John, concerning your first question, I was attempting to incorporate the suggestions of Gpwayne right above your post (31 Aug 2010, 5:41 P.M.) as well as nealjking at 24 Aug, 2010 4:41 A.M. and also 24 Aug, 2010 8:19 P.M. (from paragraph 3 onward).

As you can see, I was being given multiple suggestions to incorporate CO2's interactions with other GHGs. I will gladly change that. It may take a couple days due to personal business.

I think it's also worth mentioning that we can measure the amount of heat trapped by CO2 using satellites and surface measurements. So it's not just theory or guesswork or wishful thinking - it's been quantitatively confirmed by direct observations.

I think that point digresses into the territory of #70 and #73 or should have a distinct thread of its own. This topic of "CO2 is weak" will be easily derailed by another range of subjects altogether.    

The mention of satellites, instead of reinforcing the rebuttal, will allow many, already brainwashed by a plethora of other cliches, to quickly digress into: "but those ground stations are . . .; 30 years of satellite evidence is not enough since increased warmth could be a multi-century cycle, etc. ad naseum.       

Also, which picture were you wanting to use from the elmhurst.edu website? Maybe I should reproduce the pic just to keep copyright issues simple.

It was recommended that I not use that picture and I agree. However, I'm sure you can use it. Just link to their site. Scroll down to bottom and you will find "Figures 1-4" with three charts for individual GHGs and one for four gases combined combined (It's not in their main text). 

 

VILLABOLO

2010-09-01 15:40:44Direct observations
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.186.162.78

By direct observations, I'm not talking about observations of warming. I'm talking about satellite measurements that measure less radiation escaping to space at CO2 wavelengths. And surface measurements of downward longwave radiation that measure more heat returning to Earth. These directly measure the amount of heat being trapped by CO2 (aka increased greenhouse effect) and match very closely with simulations/theory. This is direct observational proof that the CO2 effect is real and as much as we expect it to be. I discuss the empirical data in my intermediate rebuttal.

To me, who assigns great value to empirical evidence, this is the strongest rebuttal against the "there's no greenhouse effect" or "greenhouse effect is weak" arguments. We've directly measured the increased greenhouse effect using multiple independent measurements. End of story.

No need to include the link to that site if you're not using the pic. It's a little confusing.

2010-09-02 01:13:29Comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.188.138
John have you ever considered sending evans from the evans (2006) presentation that we use as empirical evidence, an email asking him if he would like to do a guest post. I think that would be something very tangible that could help resolve some of the issues with empirical evidence.
2010-09-02 06:23:54Focus on energy first, then CO2, etc
Jim Meador

jimm58@gmail...
67.101.213.215

Some thoughts:

The warming power of CO2 is due to the vast quantity of energy which the sun constantly delivers to one side of the planet. In order for the planet to remain at the same average temperature (all other things being constant) the energy arriving must balance with what is radiated away. The power of "trace" amounts of GHG's  to warm the planet stems from their ability to block some of the outgoing radiated energy. A slight decrease in the vast outgoing energy is a very large amount of energy.

I also think the medicine analogy is not right for this case. CO2 is not like medicine, because it is a natural part of the atmosphere. Medicine is something extra that does not normally exist in a system, and is introduced to cure an illness.

As to reaching the audience, I find these two ideas helpful: 1) Respect the basic intelligence of your reader. 2) Don't assume he/she has any domain experience.

2010-09-02 17:31:13
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

        

2010-09-02 18:12:43Contacting Evans
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.93.62

Robert, I have thought about contacting Evans before, there's some other recent presentation he did that sounded intriguing and I wanted to know more. I'll try to track down his email.

BTW, emailed John Harries earlier today, hopefully he might consent to write a guest post also.

2010-09-03 02:21:45
Jim Meador

jimm58@gmail...
67.101.209.184

Hi Villabolo,

"Instead, I am saying:  It is possible for tiny amounts of many things to have a major effect on other things." 

Yes, of course I understand that. I agree that the medicine analogy works that way. My point it that there may be a better analogy that is more robust...some tiny amount of something that has a major effect in a way that is more highly analogous to GHG's.

 "I can only suggest, respectfully, that you meet a few of the above."

It was my great pleasure to work for 15 years communicating science concepts to the general public, and I definitely encountered more than just "a few of the above". What I mean by "respect the intelligence of your reader" is to recognize that a "housewife in the supermarket" has a lot of innate understanding about how the world works, even though it is maybe not referenced to the same context that a physicist has. If your explanation can recognize and leverage this innate understanding it will be appreciated by the reader, and the explanation will resonate more powerfully with the reader. I think some of the skeptics are better at this that we are.