back to article Climate change: looking for a haystack, not a needle

Weather forecasting. It's the archetypal "science doesn't know jack!" cop-out for mystics who think climatology isn't a science. Amuse yourself. Google for "climate change" and "weather forecasts" together. Among the many rants with LOTS OF CAPITALS and many exclamation marks, you'll find over 1,000 comments to Heidi Cullen's …


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  1. Michael Sheils

    Now this....

    I liked, well done.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If you look at anything close enough you get an unrealistic image of the whole... take september 2001 for example - look at the number of people who died in tower blocks in days comparing the 10th and 11th and according to the forecasters, within months we would be having millions of deaths per day. That is, unless you realise that it was an anomaly. In the same ilk, we could claim that the last eg 100 years have been an anomaly in terms of climate.

    Also, the maths teachers' favourite... if you measure the coastline of <insert country name>, you will get x units of length. Zoom in and you will get a much longer length, zoom in further and it will be longer still, until you measure the exposed part of the circumference of each atom... coasts aren't smooth: _______________, they are bumpy: _._./\-,__/''''\_ for example.

  3. Bill

    Climate Forecasting

    While it is true that trends can be forecasted in coupled, non-linear, chaotic systems it sort of relies on observation.

    To take your example of the radioactive material that decays after an hour. If this was observed through experimentation and the experiment methodologies and results retested and peer reviewed then one can quite happily forecast that the half life will be 30 minutes.

    In climate science, direct observations and measurements (with varying degrees of accuracy) only exist for a few hundred years in a few locations for any particular indicator be it Sea level change, rain fall, temperature etc. All other, longer term measurements are indirect and, therefore, open to varying levels of interpretation.

    If the article is supposed to support the forecasting of the climate through the use of computer modelling then the author better explain on what observational criteria he is basing his belief that those models are accurate. Indeed, few, if any, models even represent what we know has happened, let alone what is to come.

    All we can really say with any level of certainty is that global warming is occuring (which isn't altogether surprising given we are entering an interglacial) and that the world warms and cools depending on factors that have yet to be determined.

  4. peter Silver badge

    Pathological case

    "you can be absolutely sure that after an hour half the atoms in a lump of material with a one-hour half life will have decayed."

    No, you can't. Given four samples each containing two atoms, then, at the end of your hour, it wouldn't be surprising if one "lump" still had all its atoms intact.

    Okay, that was unfair. But I was irked by the number of "absolutely sure"s in this column. And it's the statistically unlikely events that end up being used as ammo - "You said it could _never_ happen, and look - it has!"

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Either way, no-one has still explained how climate models can "accurately" predict weather patterns & temperatures decades away BUT cannot tell us whether or not it will be warm & sunny next week or next month.

    And if people say "But no-one claims the climate models ARE accurate!" then why are the results of the climate models used by both self-loathing greens & cash-hungry governments to bash the populace?

    It is all well & good the intelligentista having a pop at the lay man but even a basic level of education tells you that if it is an exact science then we should pay attention to the results, if it is not exact then proceed with caution.

    More wheat less chaff please.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It isn't quite that simple

    One reason the weather forecasters can't get it right is that weather is a chaotic system in which small changes can have extremely large and unpredictable consequences at all scales from the micro to the macro.

    Climate, which is looking at the large systems of weather on a global scale, is also chaotic and can be tipped into major variations by relatively small and unpredictable changes.

    So, is it unreasonable to say "you can't predict the weather, so you can't predict the climate"? I don't think so. You can use averaging and statistics to try and predict trends in climate change, but there is no way to predict whether a .1 degree change in average global weather will result in a huge change in major weather systems or not.

  7. Ted Sbardella

    I'm sorry all I heard was static...

    I could not begin to fathom anything you just said. It was as if you were speaking Tullagu while eating a peanut butter sandwich. What in heavens names does a haystack have to do with weather? I have heard that climate change for the warmer began about 1300 AD I have heard it began in earnest in 1930 when we had our hottest summer here in the US (bad for us) then of course the worst winters in Europe - (bad for Nazis). I am only begging to imagine that I need to lay naked on a glacier with a few dozen beautiful Scandinavian women, till that is over I am clearly going to need to educate myself more.

  8. John Greenshields

    Climate Change

    Weather/Climate is constantly changing, it has never in our entire word history stood still. What is changing is the rate of change.

    Are we really that arrogant to think that because we say so the world has to stop changing. How many ice ages has the world been through, wasnt the Sahara once plush green land.

    I think there are too many people who see this issue as a political stepping stone... be green get one step closer. Also it is too powerful, any dissenters are immediately shouted at.

    Where are the days when we could have a openended debate about what was happening without one side steam rollering the other. Maybe everyone needs to just take a step back and look at a much larger picture.

  9. Said

    This is a joke!

    The arguments presented there are the most ridiculous, preposterous, pseudo-pseudoscience garbage that I've ever heard! Here I thought sceince was based on empirical data, and repeatable tests with predictable outcomes. The happy-go-lucky false logic that you are trying impose on the subject is very akin to the false science that eco-friendly fascists try to shove down our throat! You make a fair point about trends continuing according to past data, yet how do you account for a change in trends? In the 1970s, 'scientists' were telling us that in 30 years' time England will be a snow-covered tundral country due to the dust that we create, that blocks the sun's rays (accompanied by out-of-context and dramatised pictures of course). What happened to that theory? Naturally, you'll say, "We didn't have the technology back then, that we do now. And besides, who cares about theories proposed back then?" Ad infinitum.

    It is interesting that you use the averages of the micro to figure out the macro throughout the article, I have one more to add: 1) Micro: Scientists get funds for obscure research; if said research has some potential, scientists asks for more (taxpayers) money; if politicians can spin scientific research towards election victory, scientists bribed (through research funds of course, but we don't consider it bribery) to create more exaggerated results. 2) Macro: in the forseable future we will continue to be screwed over by scare tactics from both scientists and politicians. This way, both politicians and scientists get to keep their posts and the taxpayer keeps on shelling out for manipulative research projects that merely add to their uncertainty.

    Finally, I'd like to thank the climatologists for trying to screw us over once again! Because we can never get screwed out of our money enough!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Climate Change, Yes; Global Warming, Dunno

    Personally, it's not the contention that global climate change is happening that raises my hackles. It's the assertion that "global warming" is occurring. Ok, so, yes, the current trend appears to be warming, but over what period of time?

    Using your arguments, my take is that the current alarmists are, in fact, still too micro in their predictions, relying on datasets that are on the smallish order. And, I often wonder about their conclusions.

    Take, for example, the chart that Al Gore famously includes in his "An Inconvenient Truth" - you know the one, where he has to get into the lift to go point to the top? I just don't understand the conclusion drawn from that chart: peak, valley, peak, valley, peak, valley, super-peak, <future>. Hmmm, I think the <future> will be <catastrophic destruction of the planet> and not <super-valley>.

    Also, I have to wonder, if the planet has survived for 300 million years (or more), then is 400,000 years of data from core samples even an adequate record for the macro view? For all we know, we're only the latest "advanced" life form that's about to wipe itself out in the history of the planet.

    To me, these are interesting questions, along with other climate-related questions, like "what impact do shifting magnetic poles have on climate?" and "how severe will the potential ice age be after this super-peak in temp and CO2?" and "if an ice age is a logical conclusion based on the 400,000 years of ice core data, then when will it hit?" and "given accelerating temps and ice melt-off, could we see a major climatic pattern shift sooner than predicted, such as in the next 10 years?".

    As a scientist, I wonder where the balance is in the discussion, and why it is that we've drawn conclusions first, rather than starting purely with the data.

  11. Steve

    Local weather is not 'micro'

    The flaw in the examples given is that, unlike the local weather, the precursors are not available for monitoring. We can, and have been, measuring and analysing the variables contributing towards the short-term local weather system for decades.

    Hence short-term weather can’t be considered as ‘micro’; perhaps it could if compared against the long-term trends, but certainly not in its own.

  12. Matt Siddall

    too much crap from both sides

    I have little hope of convincing anyone of anything (people seem to be very determined when it comes to Climate Change) but nonetheless, I may as well try.

    I have two main points:

    1) The climate is continuously changing. The temperature today is still well below historical temperatures. We know that the climate changes continuously, and thus far I have yet to see any evidence that the activities of man are increasing the rate of change, despite much hyperbole to the contrary.

    2) Even if the climate is changing, and mankind is contributing to it significantly, we have yet to see any evidence that this is a bad thing.

    Before crucifying our economies to conform to meaningless targets so that some imagined threat of global warming can be countered, I'd like to see proper scientific research (not sponsored by anyone with an agenda as all of it has been thus far, but completely independant) that not only quantifies the effects we are having, but that can accurately determine what best serves mankind. It could well be that we are better off if the temperature does increase - noone wants to do any studies, they're too busy running about shouting how the sky is falling.

    Give me proper independant research that shows me what I have to gain from towing the line, and I'll consider it - but the crap that both sides are putting out right now is ridiculous.

    Incidentally, every single example of the Micro/Macro problem is based on evidence that we have gathered and studied. We know that radioactive particles have a given half-life because we've studied them. We've seen that they behave in a certain way. We're not entirely sure why, and they could stop tomorrow for all we know. Climate is something we've been watching for a few decades, and we've been having to fudge our results for most of that time. Any predictions that look centuries into the future should be based on a more solid grounding than "it's warmer today than it was yesterday" and yet this seems to be how the climate scientists work. and give some indication of how the IPCC has had to revise it's predictions downwards. This will be because either (i) they got it wrong in the first place - in which case how can we be sure they're any closer now or (ii) we've already made that much of a difference to the climate - in which case it's trivial to deal with, why bother trying now rather than waiting until it becomes a problem, and we can use the intervening years to study it in more detail, so we can develop models that don't need to be revised every 5 years (and the revisions are not recent - the 1990 and 1992 reports from the IPCC suggested that the sea level would rise by up to 1.1m before 2100, whereas now they're saying 17 inches at most).

  13. Sam Penny


    Just a quickie, a radioactive element with a half life of one hour will take one hour (not half an hour) to lose half its atoms to decay, that's why it's called a half-life. Easy mistake to make, but then again an easy enough one to put right :)

    Cheers & God bless

    Sam "SammyTheSnake" Penny

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well Said ... (!)

    "scientists bribed (through research funds of course, but we don't consider it bribery) to create more exaggerated results"

    But even more truthfully, the reality as practised by politicians and marketeers the world over:

    a) fund some research

    b) pledge the researchers to secrecy, so that

    c) if the results of the research fit your objectives, publish them and

    d) if they don't, bury them and fund different researchers until one of them comes up with the result that you wanted.

    There's far more hot air in marketing and politics than ever came out of even the world's most inefficient industry, so we would probably stamp out global warming a lot quicker by abolishing politicians and marketeers ... and, essentially, insisting that all research results MUST be published whether or not they were favourable to those who commissioned it.

  15. John Miles

    "smart minds"

    smart people ask the question about climate predications is this a consensus of scientific minds or merely the view of the crowd? Are there scientists out there like Georg Cantor & Ludwig Boltzmann, who don't believe the same as the rest of scientific community but who's views will become the mainstream opinion long after the same community has vilified them.

  16. James Pickett

    Nice try

    These will be the same climatologists who claimed that last year's drought (in the UK) was the start of a trend? As Professor Philip Stott points out to anyone who will listen, climate change is normal and computer models are just that - models.

  17. steve f

    And that's the point.

    "it's probably pretty predictable within a range."

  18. Karl Lattimer

    I'm not one of those but hear me out

    I'm not a climate change denialist, however when you take into account the following.

    Couple that with the climate patterns of earth over the last oh I dunno, say 100 million years. It makes sense not to think that "climate change" is happening, but the climate stability is over.

    Yet another example of the human idiocy to equate the micro with the macro.

  19. Chris Morrison


    ...what a load of pee pee!

    This article is the poorest piece of scientific reasoning I have ever heard.

    Was it written by Al-Gores 5 year old son?


  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A timely quote:

    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” - H.L. Mencken.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes, global warming is real, and yes, it's bad

    The original article was clearly trolling for the kind of simplistic denials that have been rehashed in most of these comments.

    Which is annoying, but not nearly as important as global warming itself, about which there is no significant disagreement in the scientific community. There's no conspiracy to silence alternative theories--in fact, the "controversy" has been amplified in the media--but taken together they don't amount to a supportable alternative model, and considered individually many of them are bad science, like the "cosmic rays affect cloud cover" theory that fails to explain any data more recent than 1980.

    The most recent tack taken by deniers is reflected in one of these comments, that "no one has proven that global warming is bad." Well, that depends very much on what you consider valuable. Over the long term, human civilization fundamentally depends more on access to natural resources like fresh water and farmland than it does on derivative economic products like IT (sorry, me). No amount of money can produce a glacier to feed streams that provide drinking water; economically valuable crops cannot be grown at a reasonable cost in regions whose climate is no longer favorable. We can adapt to these and other disruptive changes, but no one should pretend that it's going to be cheap or go smoothly.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Quote: "Take, for example, the chart that Al Gore famously includes in his "An Inconvenient Truth" - you know the one, where he has to get into the lift to go point to the top? I just don't understand the conclusion drawn from that chart: peak, valley, peak, valley, peak, valley, super-peak, <future>. Hmmm, I think the <future> will be <catastrophic destruction of the planet> and not <super-valley>."

    Actually both are possible. A super peak continuing would mean constant hot weather which is bad for us because it would upset current agricultural systems. (aka. famine) A super valley is what the film 'the day after tomorrow' was about, except it could only happen under a century and not under a few days. Both options are bad. The question is what can we do about it?

    Some people say the so called 'global warming' is not bad because it's a natural process. So what? We should just accept it and die out because it's caused by a natural process? First we have to identify the cause, then do something about it!

    About the micro-macro scale problem: It's called probability theory and it's about the statistical analysis of _random_ data. Our daily wheater is the random data and the climate prediction is the result of the analysis. You can't truely predict random values, but you can be sure about the averages. The oldest data we have is around 12 million years (400 000 from ice cores, the rest from fossils) and according to these data the current human population is effecting the planet as much as any major disaster in the past that resulted in an environmental catastrophe. (and this time it's not a metor or something else, we are causing it because nothing else is around)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I once saw something insightful in a Slashdot post...

    I'm unconvinced by some of these examples but the argument is a good one. The best analogy for this I have seen was actually in a random post on Slashdot and observed that if you put a pan of water on a hot plate you can predict the general trend that the water will get hotter, but you can't predict exactly where each bubble will form as it heats up.

    What I don't understand is why so many people are embarrassingly desperate to reject the idea of climate change- what are they so desperately afraid of that they have to grab at every tattered hint of a counter-theory and hold it up like the sole banner of truth and light in a darkened world? Is it science that they fear or reasonable argument? Are they afraid that someone is going to take away their cars and all their other precious status symbols? Are they just anti-authoritarians determined to be a thorn in the side of "The Man" no matter who he is or what he has to say? And why do they have to keep making such a tiresome fuss about it?

    I cannot imagine that we will be able to counter Anthropogenic Climate Change - there is too much inertia in the systems we would need to change and nobody really wants to give up their luxuriant lifestyle. Our best hope is that something like the Hubbert Peak limits our consumption before we trigger too many cascade-failures in critical climate mechanisms and in all honestly that's no kind of best hope at all.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Mike Siddal

    "Even if the climate is changing, and mankind is contributing to it significantly, we have yet to see any evidence that this is a bad thing."

    Take out a map and mark the areas of population and agriculture. Now imagine the sea level was at the 100' contour. Is that a bad thing? Not in terms of the next 1000 years, no - we'll adapt. But in terms of the next 100 it represents a huge amount of death, poverty, and misery.

    Think 100' is more than we're going to get? Think again. Climatologists have been bending over backwards for 20-30 years to give the optimistic figures because they know there's little chance politicians will even manage to raise their snouts out of the trough long enough to deal even with that. The reality is that we are probably looking at large and fast sea rises within the lifetime of our children, and possibly us.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They can't even measure the parameters accurate enough to feed the models anyway

    I'll never forget some data I saw on of the earlier climate models. This particular model was being run on a Cray super computer in the late Eighties. About half way through the model, they saved the register values (intermediate results) to tape and ran the model through to the end.

    Later, for some reason I don't remember, they reloaded the intermediate results back in and restarted the model. Initially, everything looked like it should. and the output of the first pass tracked the output of the second pass.

    Then things began to change. Then it became COMPLETELY different!

    How could this be? They reloaded the exact same data into the model and there had been no changes to the code! One plus one still equaled two. Right?

    Eventually, they DID get to the bottom of the problem: The registers saved values as 64 bit floating point numbers. When they saved the intermediate results, they only saved them as 32 bit floating point numbers.

    And that tiny, fraction of a change in parameters was enough to COMPLETELY change their model! We can't even measure even measure a temperature or pressure with 32 bit accuracy (or even precision for that matter), let alone 64 bits worth of accuracy. Yet the models can be completely changes based on having or not having this accuracy! And they are only using a sample at each point of an 8 km grid (or have they got it tighter?) across the world to represent the earth? Right...

    They are trying to model chaos. Maybe when there model has a trillion times more data density and many magnitudes better accuracy on our temperature, pressure, etc. sampling can they actually model something that MIGHT represent our climate a bit. But even then, it is still chaos and they are STILL wasting their time and our money.

    One more tidbit: How many times have they reduced the hurricane forecast for the US this year? They are not trying to predict WHEN these hurricanes will hit or even where. Just how many will we have.

    You would think if there model is even the least bit close they should be able to get that right. Wouldn't you?

    But no. They can't even get that right. So they keep revising the "estimate" right up until the "estimate" has become fact and they can "claim" they got it right eventually! But by March 1st of 2008, I'll be able to tell you EXACTLY who will win the SuperBowl and what the point spread will be!

  26. David Leigh

    The real cause of climate change is.....

    Actually, solar activity. Now, you doom- and gloomsayers, ask yourselves how we can change the pattern of the sun's activity - hmm tough one that....

    Before you can say CO2 levels are increasing so it must be our fault, just remember that variations in CO2 levels in the atmosphere follow temperature change, ie cannot possibly cause temperature change. The reason for this is that the oceans of the world absorb and release CO2 after the temperature changes.

    Instead of wasting billions of dollars trying to change the unchangeable, we should spend a small amount on trying to cope with change (but think of all those lost 'research' grants!).

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Poor science

    First, let's acknowledge that you lifted this argument from RealClimate and substituted examples.

    Is it a good argument? No. It is a slight of hand act. You give a bunch of examples where you can use simple historical analysis of a static system to make predictions about the future. The whole point of climate prediction is that it is a changing system and we are trying to gage the effects of the changes.

    While it is true that the chaos of micro systems even out in the macro, you cannot say that climate models are the macro version of weather models. They are looking at vary different things. The weather model is trying to predict specific weather for a point in time for a specific locality. Climate models are trying to predict world-wide conditions.

    Finally, in all of the examples given, once you go to the macro level, all of the variables are known. With climate models we don't have the slightest idea of what the effects of water vapor in the atmosphere will be. Some models say that it will increase warming (this is known as enhanced greenhouse effect). Other models indicate that it will create more reflective clouds and act as a natural brake on warming. naturally, it is the more alarming models that get the publicity.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ I once saw something

    Very well done. I agree the desperation is the amazing thing. Global warming deniers possess a level of desperation that is almost as great as that which is shown by the evolution deniers.

    I think that the biggest source of the desperation displayed by both deniers derives from their feelings of entitlement. They believe very deeply that they are entitled to their position in the world, that it is owed to them. Most importantly, they believe that they are special. They believe that they were put here for a reason, and that their position in life was granted to them by some higher power for a purpose.

    These beliefs are very deeply held. When something comes along that threatens their core beliefs, (even if the threat is only tangential, as with global warming) they deny themselves the ability to even see evidence that supports the threat. To them, it's simply not possible.

    Their actions are driven by the fear that their core beliefs are untrue. They fear the knowledge that there is no higher power looking out for them, that their is no reason behind their existence, and they are not special.

    When you look at their positions within that context, their actions are understandable.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Statistics != Science

    That's all I really have to say. But for some reason, this basic tenet has gotten lost somewhere.

    Statistics is a good tool, but the best you can get from it is a statement like "Based on the data we have analyzed, there is 75% correlation between event A and event B." In this example, you can't use statistical methods to explain why there is a correlation between A and B in your sample and you can't use statistical methods to explain the correlation fails 25% of the time. Remember that it's just math and that the application of the math relies on certain key assumptions like a nice Gaussian distribution of the overall population and the use of a good sample set from the population.

    So you set yourself up for all sorts of fallacies like "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc" or "Non Causa Pro Causa." You have a correlation, but you don't know why the correlation exists. Science, on the other hand, is all about being able to explain why that correlation exists.

    For a refresher, here's ye olde Scientific Methode:

    1. Formulate a hypothesis about how something works. Usually in the form of "When cause A happens under conditions B then effect C will occur."

    2. Design an experiment to prove (or disprove) your hypothesis. The experiment also needs to isolate your hypothetical cause from all of the other possible causes.

    3. Perform the experiment.

    4. Analyze the results - do the results support or disprove your hypothesis?

    Then you need to go through a peer review process where other smart people think up other possible causes, attempt to reproduce your experiment, etc. all in an attempt to see if you're actually right. Once you're done with all of this, you may have added to our knowledge of the universe we inhabit.

    Now, take a deep breath and think about how much wonky "science" is all based on statistical analyses. Do you feel better now? I thought so....

  30. Graham Dawson Silver badge


    "Their actions are driven by the fear that their core beliefs are untrue."

    No, my actions are driven by a fear that the government is using this as a lame excuse to raise yet more taxes. And so it is. Shock horror.

    To me, the desperation appears to be in the other camp. The talk about "consensus" - which, excuse french, is just a pile of shit, frankly, because science doesn't work that way - the constant harping about the oil industry and the ad-hominem attacks against anyone who dares to question the alarmist paradigm. The fact that the Met Office has now essentially declared that global warming has stopped doesn't seem to have any effect on them... the presence of an increasing number of scientific papers debunking just about every claim of the alarmists doesn't phase them. The fact that the IPCC has, on each occasion of its full report (not the summary for policy makers, which is partisan crap and was disowned by about half the IPCC scientists anyway), severely downgraded every supposed effect of ours on the climate has no bearing for these people. We're BAD, so we have to be punished and to hell with the truth.

    The climate changes naturally all the time. The only people denying this are the alarmists, who appear to believe that the climate was steady and unchanging until mankind came along. It wasn't.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: The real change...


    About 40% of the extra CO2 entering the atmosphere due to human activity is being absorbed by natural carbon sinks, mostly by the oceans.


    The findings mean the oceans may continue to absorb human emissions of the greenhouse gas more rapidly and for longer, they say, reducing their impact on global warming. But the research is bad news for the marine organisms that are already suffering from ocean acidification.


    The thing is that homo sapiens is having a profound effect on the Earth eco-system. Any attempt to simply point a finger at something else and say its not Our blame is doomed to failure - as empirical evidence makes it quite clear.

    Just take any measurements of the CO2 released in the atmosphere due to human activities (ie burning of fossil fuels).

    What kind of effect and what will be the final result remains to be seen, but as any change it will be painful...

  32. Andy

    Close but no cigar!

    In the words of the the great Richard Dawkins from his recent TV series:

    'You are so close to being right, but yet you are utterly wrong!'.

    You seem to be making the point that micro changes in weather have noting to do with long term trends in climate. Good point. However, your definition of 'long term' is way off. The climate of the Earth changes over tens of thousands of years (or even hundreds of thousands of years), in the past the Earth has been much hotter than now and also much cooler than now, this will continue in complex cycles measured in the thousands of years. To look at temperatures over 10, 20, 50, even 100 years and try to draw conclusions about the Earths changing climate and make predictions for 20, 50 years in the future is meaningless and impossible (these are 'micro changes'). These are insignificantly small periods of time in the history of the Earth. It's like noticing the weather was hot yesterday but cooler today and stating that this means the next Ice Age is just around the corner! Yet climate 'scientists' are constantly making just such short tem predictions. Computer models will tell you exactly what the person designing them wants them to tell you, there is simply no way that these models can accurately model the enourmous number of factors that affect the climate of the Earth.

    It is wonderfully arrogant to think the humans that have only been on the planet for a few thousand years are now the most important factor in the Earths climate and further more that we can understand and control it!

  33. J


    "What in heavens names does a haystack have to do with weather?"

    Oh, my... do they teach abstraction skills or whatever is the name there where you live? Let me help you out here: macro = haystack, micro = needle. Read the text again with that in mind. Better now?

    "the presence of an increasing number of scientific papers debunking just about every claim of the alarmists"

    Ah, yes. Old strategy, "scientists say", but I don't say who they are. Now, if you are so sure, could you please cite all those papers, please? If it is an increasing number, I guess you could easily get 10 to us? (published in regular, peer-reviewed journals of course). Also, while you're at it, check who paid for the debunkers' work. It's usually quite "surprising", eh?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some background?

    Perhaps the deniers (and some of the supporters) of climate change might benefit from just a tiny bit of actual knowledge about the actual history of climate change, how it is constructed, how the climate works, etc.

    Too many errors in the above thread to point out, but all the usual denier BS is in there and all is based on an almost complete misunderstanding of how climate and natural systems actually work.

    Let's start at the very beginning - sun radiates short wave radiation, passes through the atmosphere, heats the earth, some of that radiating long wave radiation is absorbed by CO2, methane, water vapour, etc in the lower stratosphere. This is the greenhouse effect and is what makes the earth inhabitable. If you want to deny or doubt this, then you are an idiot and have forfeited any right to participate in the conversation further. I also have a bridge in London you may be interested in buying.

    Does the sun's output change? Sure, we can measure this right now and look for responses in the climate system and we see that this is not the forcer of changes in the recent measured record (see We also know that it has changed in the geologic record and that did cause climate change in the past, but that's a very different time scale. See, if you don't know about geology and different time scales, then almost all of these arguments break down. I know people like to think that this is just made up stuff by hippies who hate cars, but in fact it's science with a long history and peer reviewed literature and we have actually thought about all these things.

    So the earth is primarily heated by absorption of long wave radiation by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We have direct measurements of atmospheric CO2 dating back to 1957 and indirect measurements from ice cores going back hundreds of thousands of years. We can see that CO2 has increased in the atmosphere since the last ice age and has increased substantially since 1957. So is it likely the overall global temp will increase? Pretty likely. Will we have some cold rainy days next summer and perhaps some warm days next winter? Also pretty likely.

    Will the oceans absorb all the excess CO2? Solution of CO2 is the opposite to sugar in tea - cold water dissolves more CO2 than warm. So CO2 adds up in the atmosphere, there's a small amount of warming and the oceans warm up, leading to increased rate of build up of CO2 in the atmosphere. That's a positive feedback.

    There's a lot more to discuss (decades worth of study), but perhaps this is useful.

    Still, I guess I'm just a communist who wants to stop you driving your Range Rover, so of course all this science is made up junk and it's far more likely that this is all just natural variation and will all go away in a few years time.

  35. Jim

    Plenty of doubters here then…

    One of the biggest problem I see with the discussion here is that the neutrals actually aren’t. The denial plan is to maintain the status quo and the neutral viewpoint is…?

    Actually, the neutral plan is to wait for independent scientific research to provide repeatable, experimental proof. Two aspects of this statement are impossible.

    1. There is no such thing as independent scientific research. The funding has to come from somewhere and, no matter what safeguards are put in place, at least one person will claim that the source of the funding influenced the results.

    2. When dealing with global climate there is no way you can find repeatable, experimental proof. Even if you could find another identical planet that was a few centuries younger than earth, what level of chaotic variation is considered to be within experimental boundaries?

    @ Matt Siddall

    “Before crucifying our economies to conform to meaningless targets…”

    Many estimates of cost suggest that paying now would be much less painful than covering the charges accrued from doing nothing.


    “In the 1970s, 'scientists' were telling us that in 30 years' time England will be a snow-covered tundral country due to the dust that we create, that blocks the sun's rays”

    During the 50s smog was a serious problem. This was caused by particulates (dust) in the lower atmosphere and to counter this problem a series of acts were passed to improve the quality of the air. The main push of these acts was to decrease the amount of particulates (dust) produced from human sources. One could suggest that ‘clean air’ acts were what caused the scientists to get it wrong. If so, this would be the greatest evidence of anthropogenic climate forcing yet produced.

    To be honest, all current ecological problems (real or imagined) are caused by over-population. Clean water supplies are dwindling, as is useable topsoil. Without a fairly drastic decrease in global population, any action to counter global warming will be futile. Any followers of the church of Stein will no doubt be horrified by that analysis but, to be honest, if Islam wishes to conquer by numbers then let them. They will inherent a wasteland.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    @ Actually...

    "The talk about "consensus" - which, excuse french, is just a pile of shit, frankly, because science doesn't work that way"

    Actually, that is exactly how science work:

    - Scientist tests a theory with an experiment, and draws conclusions from that experiment.

    - Scientist publishes experiment and conclusions.

    - Other scientists then review the experiment and the conclusions.

    - Other scientists then attempt to replicate the experiment and the results.

    - If the experiment cannot be replicated, or if the conclusions are flawed, the theory is discarded or modified.

    - If the experiment can be replicated, and the reasoning of the conclusions is sound, other scientists develop more experiments to further test the theory.

    - Once a theory has gone through this extensive testing, review, and refinement by scientists across the world, the theory is accepted as consensus by the scientific community and the world is enlightened.

    The conclusions of global warming theory have passed very rigorous testing and review. The conclusion that man-made CO2 is warming the planet is not in doubt among the scientific community. The only conclusion that is in doubt is the magnitude of the effect.

    Regarding your comment that:

    "the presence of an increasing number of scientific papers debunking just about every claim of the alarmists"

    That is simply made up. There are some "scientists" out there who will dispute global warming, just as there are "scientists" out there who will dispute evolution. However, you would be hard pressed to find a scientist disputing global warming who doesn't fit into one of these 3 categories:

    a) has not been commissioned by a party with a financial interest in disputing global warming.

    b) has not had his/her conclusions or theories disproved during peer-review by other scientists


    c) is only disputing specific parts of the theory, not global warming as a whole.

    Global warming is happening. It is being caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

    Of course, I do realize that I am arguing in vein with you because, as I said earlier, your core beliefs will not let you see the evidence that is out there.

    @ the real cause

    "Before you can say CO2 levels are increasing so it must be our fault, just remember that variations in CO2 levels in the atmosphere follow temperature change, ie cannot possibly cause temperature change."

    That conclusion is incorrect. While it is indeed true that evidence has shown that CO2 increases in the past have been caused by increases in temperature, your conclusion that CO2 levels "cannot possibly cause temperature change" is incorrect.

    In the ice core records that I believe you are referring to, the CO2 level has indeed been affected by orbit-related temperature increases. However, records also show that the higher CO2 levels have increased the effect of these events. The elevated CO2 levels amplified the effect. Therefore, they did cause temperature change.

    Now, we are increasing CO2 levels artificially. The increased CO2 will cause an increase in temperature, which will (as you said) cause the oceans to release more CO2, which will increase temperature further. This causal loop will continue and the temperature will continue to rise until the returns on each loop diminish, and the temperature stabilizes (relatively speaking, of course).

    When all is said and done, we will have an earth that is measurably warmer than it would have been without the CO2 emissions.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    so what...

    I think I am about to give up hope that there will be any real science in climate research as it appears to be a religious war. I don't think any assumptions can be made because there just isn't good enough data over a good period of time.

    It's a pity because it's quite interesting, when you get a good signal to noise ratio. It's a shame the noise has now completely wiped out any worthwhile research. There are too many people lobbying for research $$ doing studies for there own agendas.

    In the end, does it matter?

    Climate change happens, it's been happening long before any human intervention in the chemistry of the atmosphere.

    Climate change won't hurt the Earth. It might be bad for current Human Civilisation, who can say? If it is; then we will adapt after the die back.

    Anyhow, given that you'll probably survive after learning some new skills and losing the fat, you should just think about who really has the most to lose? Not me, I'm just a wage slave, working for families, Corporations, whatever, who have been in power for a very long time.

    People who think they can some how control the climate or environment to save us from the impending doom they fear (and try to get the rest of us to fear) need to get a sense of scale and time.

    Just as a thought, life on Earth has changed the atmosphere completely (over millions of years BTW). The Earth's indigenous atmosphere had very little O2 and was mostly CO2 and CH4. Now where have I heard about those before? All you fear addicts can just think of it as a BRS reset, if you must. :)


  38. Grant Alexander

    Extrapolating trends is not much use

    Too much of the foregoing debate has overlooked the patent fact that weather and climate are the result of other inputs and are not a simple case of extrapolating a trend. Weather is not a 'random event' as some have asserted, but is the result of a number of inputs.

    The reason that weather forecasts are not accurate is that we have not determined the inter-relationships between all the inputs (and likely we have not identified all the inputs) that make up weather for the next week. So too with climate change. It is errant nonsense to suggest that extrapolating trends can predict what the global climate will be like in 100 or so years. So too, is it misleading to attribute all of the recent change and then predicate future change on anthropogenic activity.

    As has been pointed out, if the computer models that predict climate change were at all well constructed, they would be able to accurately 'calculate' past events i.e. we could confirm the model is accurate by having it predict the climate for say the 1960s. However, this 'reality check' has either not been done or has not proved the models correct, yet politicians believe these models (and when convenient deny the accuracy of political polls - irony).

    Climate models need to be based on 'cause and effect' rather than on extrapolated trends.

  39. Grant Alexander

    consensus does not prove a theory

    Somewhere I read the phrase "Scientific prediction or forecast by scientists?". There is a key distinction between predicting an event using scientific method and a bunch of people who have the same job title agreeing on something.

    Remember that in the past there has been consensus on e.g. the earth being flat, the sun revolving around the earth, plus many many more now debunked ideas.

    Even with an impressive resume a person can make a mistake and one of the mistakes that too many people make is that they are impressed by the resume.

  40. Steve

    This is so good I’m going to repeat it:

    The flaw in the examples given is that, unlike the local weather, the precursors are not available for monitoring. We can, and have been, measuring and analysing the variables contributing towards the short-term local weather system for decades.

    Hence short-term weather can’t be considered as ‘micro’; perhaps it could if compared against the long-term trends, but certainly not in its own.

    To extend:

    We can’t measure the drivers contributing to spontaneous atomic fission

    We can’t measure the factors driving paedophiles to strike at a certain time

    We can’t measure what drives ants to be at a certain place at a certain time

    We can’t measure what drives one horse to race faster than another

    We can’t measure the future state of the variables and uncertainties driving a business

    We CAN measure the factors driving weather, we’ve been doing that for decades.

    The Monsoon example is a nested argument, as are the hottest day and the storm examples (we are talking about predicting weather, you can’t use examples of predicting weather as support).

    The whole article is cack from start to finish, but what do you expect from someone who calls himself the ‘munchy rat’?

  41. Ole Juul

    What about reality?

    There is a dirth of personal observation reported here. How many of the people posting here spend any time outside? I don't mean on a balcony or the street in a city, and similar insulated inviroments but actually outside where the ants bug you and there's some real life going on. If they did, they would see something which has not been seen within written history. This is probably not something which many city folk would know anything about, at least not first hand. Someone who sits in an apartment and watches TV and then takes a bus (or car) to work in a building is effectively living on another planet. Would such a person even notice if there are less frogs eggs or less fungi of certain kinds? I don't think so. Perhaps humans play little role in these changes, I'm not the one to tell, but you have to wonder what is going on and if there isn't something which can, or should, be done. The micro changes should really make you wonder about the macro situation. I, for one, am glad that there are people who are willing to put some thought into it. Certainly there are things which some of us need to do to adapt, regardless of the cause.

  42. Ronny Cook

    Micro easy, macro hard...

    I'll largely ignore the arguments here about climate change except to suggest that those determined to deny anthropogenic climate change look for a broader overview than the movie and its critics provide.

    The "micro easy, macro hard" problem posed is more interesting anyway. :-)

    The most obvious example is technlogical change. Over the short term it's fairly predictable, and for the most part even the nature of new innovations can be predicted. Over the long term there are occasional major changes in direction that make predictions next to impossible. Early in the 20th century people were predicting atomic rockets and flying cars by the 21st century. Instead we have microcomputers and the beginnings of biotechnology.

    Another is the rate of extinctions events on a geological time scale. Generally it's fairly steady, but there are occasional huge spikes in extinctions (such as the Permian extinction and the lesser but better-known event at the end of the Cretaceous.) We're arguably in the middle of another such spike now.

    I would generalise to say that macro is hard where the micro is characterised by events with a predictable distribution except for occasional, enormous outliers.


  43. Robert Newby

    Call me a pseudo-scientist...

    ...but I enjoyed the economics lesson here.

    The interesting thing about all of the negative comments is that they are focusing on their own particular points without consider the whole story in context. Amazing that you can tell people to look at the bigger picture and they will tell you that there's a tiny piece of dirt obscuring it.

    Nice article, thanks.

  44. Steve Davies

    Title More hot air in the discussion than in the reality

    the whole MMGW CO2 hypothesis has been busted many times - and it only takes one to disprove a hypothesis.

    E.g read Gerhard Gerlich's paper linked here:-

    MMGW is a HUGE religous and political bandwagon and there are billions being spent on it. That is the real threat.

    Still, keeps the population's mind off the real issues eh

  45. Tom Hawkins

    So to summarise...

    Article: People who complain that we can't forecast the weather therefore we can't possibly predict the climate are mistaken because the two are different things. Lots of examples of systems that are impossible to predict on a micro scale but easy on a macro scale.

    Comments: yeah but no but yeah but how can you possibly say we can predict the climate when we can't even predict the weather stoopid? like duh?


  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    11 out of 12 startups: How many were planned?

    ``Start a business....year on year roughly 11 out of 12 startups die before they reach their birthday...."

    My business died before it reached its first birthday. But then again, I planned for this to happen! I wonder if I am included within your stats?

    @THE REGISTER: Why have so many URLs... When I want to post a comment, I don't enter my user/password (since I don't remember them), I simply hit preview. I am redirected to a URL where my browser suddenly recalls my password and I hit submit. Please use a single URL...

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The world is getting hotter?

    So the planet's temperature is on the increase...

    But how are you defining increase? How long have you been collecting data? A few hundred years? So the planet's temperature is increasing based on a few hundred years of data.

    What about a few thousand years? Do we have any idea? Maybe the temperature is actually lower than some point in the history of the planet. Do we know if this is or isn't the case?

  48. Steve Briggs

    Orbital precession - that's the ticket!

    When all is said and done, the precession of the earth's axis has more effect and correlates better with Ice Ages, and Global Warming than anything else. Changes in Coriolis effect due to the tipping will affect ocean currents, winds aloft, and probably other weather control effects that we haven't discovered yet.

    This has been known for at least 1 century.

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