“The House Is on Fire”: Belief vs. Data in the Climate Change Debate

A few months ago, blog reader, longtime friend and PhD scientist/oceanographer Walt McKeown asked me why I hadn’t written anything on climate change, given the clear threat it presents to everything we value in life and, indeed, to life itself on many parts of our globe. I answered that I didn’t feel I had much to add to a topic that has been exhaustively covered by others who have serious credentials in the matter.

So it is with some irony that I note recent comments by Senator Marco Rubio and others of similar bent who acknowledge they have no credentials or training in the matter either. Nevertheless, they freely dispense their opinions and “beliefs” on it, and then, to add injury to insult, actually have and use their legislative power to bend policy to suit those “beliefs.”

On one side of the debate about whether human activity is the chief cause of climate change stand educated, trained, expert scientists whose approach to all their work can be framed in four words: “Look at the data.”

Among them, a variety of studies over the years show an overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is a fundamental cause of global warming, with the obvious imperative that we do something about it—preferably starting 10 or 20 years ago, but at least tomorrow if we can manage it.

Two 2013 analyses of peer-reviewed journal articles are revealing. In the first, only one of the 9,136 authors were found to have rejected the notion of human-caused global warming. In the other, only 24 of 13,950 peer-reviewed articles rejected the connection.

On the other side, a few scientists, many of those, as some studies have shown, representing the oil and gas industries. And the likes of Senator Rubio, who recently told ABC News: “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.”

Simply framed, we see on one side: Data on which overwhelming scientific consensus is based.

On the other: Belief.

So when exactly did the latter supplant the former in shaping public policy on anything, much less on matters in which the fate of the earth is at serious issue?



The tragedy is that public debate on global warming tends to offer competing narratives in which “belief” and “data” are given equal weight. Inexpert politicians are not so much given as they simply take equal footing on matters they know next to nothing about, yet they cede no authority or power to those who do. So while scientists the world over sound the alarm, Senators Rubio, Inhofe, Paul, et al respond: “Sorry. I choose not to believe you based on…my belief.”

It is a kind of strange application of religious conviction, a “belief” unsupported by data, masked as a policy analysis.

In contrast, we will see below a rational, penetrating application of a theological imperative to this issue without intruding theology into the science. I am going to turn the rest of this space over to Reverend Marilyn Sewell, former pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Portland, Oregon. Sewell is now a writer and speaker who has gone all in on the climate issue and expresses it in a blog post originally published in the Huffington Post on July 23, 2014.

As apropos to her areas of expertise, she leaves the data-driven conclusions of science to scientists, and then speaks to their religious implications for people of faith from her own sphere of expertise and passion.


The house is on fire—this is what climate scientists have been telling us for over 20 years. We don’t want to hear them. Some people say the droughts and fires and storms are nothing unusual—weather has always been unpredictable, and warming has occurred in other eras. Other people say that technology will save us—engineers and scientists will fix the problem. Still others say that they are more concerned about matters closer to home—like getting a job or an education or health insurance, or all three.

When I talk with educated and politically active individuals about global warming, they mostly go silent. They are giving up hope. I asked a poet friend of mine if she thinks we will be able to change our ways in time. She shook her head sadly and said, “Humans are a very flawed species.”

We live in a democracy, a system which ultimately will respond to pressure from the people. But humans are hard-wired to respond most passionately to problems that affect them currently, not those that affect future generations. How much pain do we have to experience before we are willing to push our representatives in Congress to act?

Here in Oregon the farmers in Klamath County don’t have water for their crops. The land has suffered from the Western drought which continues to threaten the nation’s food supply. Surface temperatures have run 10 to 20° higher than the long-term average, and crops require much more water than in the past, draining the groundwater and pushing up energy costs. Last year more than half the counties in our country were designated national drought disaster areas.

The increase we have seen in droughts and fires and floods and storms is not an anomaly—it is the new normal. The damage already done cannot be turned. The ominous changes in our environment will be in place for at least 1,000 years, say the climate scientists. We must adapt.

I care about gay marriage. Gun control looms large in my thinking. But such concerns shrivel in importance when I consider the fact that our planet may soon no longer sustain life as we know it.

No one will escape harm, for we are interdependent—we all need food and water and protection from the elements. However, those of us who live in the most verdant areas and those of us who have financial resources will not receive the brunt of the changes, at least initially. The suffering will be most acute among poor people living in low-lying island nations and on eroding coastlines. Food shortages and infectious diseases will rise in underdeveloped nations, and waves of refugees will leave, trying to survive. Conflict will break out over scarce resources. Economies will be threatened, causing states to fail.

The crisis of global warming is the great granddaddy of all cultural crises. I care about gay marriage. Gun control looms large in my thinking. But such concerns shrivel in importance when I consider the fact that our planet may soon no longer sustain life as we know it.

Composting food scraps or driving a Prius doesn’t really make any practical difference at this point in time. The solution, if we are to find one, will be policy change at the national level. We have to act now, and change must be mandated. Most activists think that a carbon tax would be the most effective response. If the United States leads, other nations may very well follow.

So where is the parish church in all of this? Mostly silent, it seems. Churches continue to be concerned with individual sin as opposed to systemic sin, even in regard to climate change. Congregants may be admonished to recycle and change their light bulbs, but not to become politically active. The fact is we’re way beyond changing our light bulbs. We need to bring that unhappy, startling truth to the pulpits of our land.

If there’s any issue we could come together on, it seems this would be the one, for our actions will determine the future of the earth and the fate of our children and that of our children’s children. Churches are not allowed to support individual candidates, lest we lose our tax-exempt status. But we can and must address moral issues, and there is no greater moral issue facing us than climate change. There never has been, and there never will be.

We who call ourselves religious, of whatever faith, of whatever tradition, whether conservative or liberal, will be called to account by our God and by future generations. Our children will ask us what we were thinking when the world began to burn. How will we answer them?


Whether threshold or precipice, it is good to have great music accompanying us.

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Deep appreciation to the photographers:

Rotating banner photos top of page courtesy of Elizabeth Haslam, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/

Photo near top of page by Global Water Partnership, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/globalwaterpartnership/

Photo of dry Lake Folsom by Robert Kouse-Baker, Sacramento, California, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/29233640@N07/

Photo of night forest fire by Fremont-Winema National Forest, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fremontwinemanf/

For an incisive sendup of climate change denial, see this from New York Times columnist Gail Collins: http://google.com/newsstand/s/CBIw8IfB3R8

30 comments to “The House Is on Fire”: Belief vs. Data in the Climate Change Debate

  • Fred G  says:

    I couldn’t agree more. We need an evolution of consciousness if humans are to live in harmony with nature long-term.

    • Mary  says:

      HI Fred:
      “Reasonable minds differ”. Both deniers and blind followers want harmony between humans and nature long term. Both want to preserve water, land and air for future generations.
      The deniers argue the evolution of consciousness will be enhanced by getting the most current and accurate data on climate change. Deniers want the public to know the updated and recently tested facts. Good point. The blind followers argue that we need to just defer to the scientists, don’t question them, they are the final authority. Good point. Both groups are trying to live in harmony and evolve consciously. On this blog, lets hold that reasonable minds differ and keep the communication open. If we all agree on everything, Andrew has to keep bringing up new topics. If we can use this as an opportunity to have real dialogue on a tough subject, we can all learn and Andrew can have a break. He can sit back and watch the dialogue unfold! I hope to hear your response to “reasonable minds differ” .

  • Jay Helman  says:

    Among the most disturbing of recent trends is that “belief,” and/or ideology trumps and, in some cases, changes facts and data. Ideological positions have long ifluenced policy, but when those positions move into the realm of shaping facts we are in serious trouble of retaining thoughtful and meaningful discourse in our future.

    • mary  says:

      HI Jay: The conflicting facts and data seem to be the problem. I would assume we are all trying to get the facts correct. Unfortunately the majority scientists got a bit sloppy alowed themselved to be influenced by non science. As a result, now a whole group of deniers has emerged. There are 65,000 deniers (anti globalwarming) on twitter today. 22,000 blind followers(global warming). It is looking like the ones going on belief are the warmists because as the science is breaking down, they still hold on by faith. As the facts and data are being updated, it seems the blind followers have become the new Belief ideology.

      • Jay Helman  says:

        Hi Mary. Fair enough that ideology/belief systems can, and likely do, influence how one views data. I’m doubtful, as you no doubt are, that twitter feed volume informs us much in terms of credibility to a position or an issue. Following are sources more useful than twitter postings: According to W.R.L Anderegg in “Expert Credibility in Climate Change,” published in Vol 107 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “97% of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.” Further, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. Among those organizations are: The American Association for the Advancement of Science; the American Chemical Society; the American Geophysical Union; the American Medical Association; the American Meteorilogical Society; the Geological Society of America. The “warmists” have much on which to base their “new belief system?”

        • mary  says:

          Hi Jay, you are right, twitter was a low level source. It is fleeting also.

          I was sad to see the “97% of scientists agree” quote again. That comment has been completely debunked even by Cook the the author. It is just like the guy who wrote that immunizations cause autism and millions followed him. Even after he admitted he made it up, folks still quoted him, and still do. In Somona county some schools have 50% who still refuse immunization because they do not know he has been debunked.
          This is why we need to regularly track the science and not blindly follow it. The American meteorilogical society you mention just did a survey that showed 52% of scientists think global warming, if it does exist, is caused by humans. That is not 97%. The Australian Science Organization just pulled off their global warming policy. There is lots of evidence on both sides. Makes for good dialogue.
          Thanks for responding

          • Jay Helman  says:

            Thank you, Mary. Please view, if you haven’t yet, the National Geographic-sponsored documentary “Chasing Ice.” If the researcher is a warmist he has quite good visuals to support the position: A must see.

  • segraves42  says:

    The basic question you raise is one of “belief” or “faith” vs. data. Your premise is that the “data” is essentially on one side of the “debate” and that all scientists but those beholding to the fossil fuel industry are in agreement according to “studies”. You cite the Cook paper (peer reviewed journal papers) as an example of scientific unanimity. The post makes it clear that you and those you mention believe that this “data” makes it clear that the science wrt anthropogenic climate change is settled. But Cook, et. al. for example, is now well debunked. A subsequent polling of the actual individual members of the American Meteorological Society found no such unanimity. If the majority opinion of scientists was always assumed to be correct, then most major scientific advances would not have occurred. The appeal to authority is also a standard propaganda technique.

    It’s important to note further that the reason there is no actual debate between scientists on the warmist and skeptical sides is because warmist scientists have decided not to actually debate at all. They generally claim that to do so would simply give “deniers” credibility.

    Sewell’s comments are interesting…but she get’s off on the wrong foot if we are to consider your premise about data vs. belief. “The house is on fire—this is what climate scientists have been telling us for over 20 years. We don’t want to hear them. Some people say the droughts and fires and storms are nothing unusual…”.

    First, the International Panel on Climate Change makes it clear the “house” is not “on fire”. Changes are occurring and models predict certain changes will continue, but few scientists would make that exaggerated claim. However, some key climate scientists have suggested that more drama was necessary. From the late noted climate scientist Stephen Schneider of Stanford (subsequent efforts at misdirection notwithstanding);

    “On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”

    In her effort to set the stage, Sewell, in good Schneider form, mentions “droughts”. Many are fond of saying that the current drought in the SW US is the “new normal”. The actual data contradict that claim, however. For example, a recent paper published in Quaternary Science Reviews reconstructs droughts in California and the Southwest US for the past 3000 years. The paper demonstrates drought conditions were far more severe and persistent in the distant past than during recent history. In fact, the paper demonstrates drought at the end of the record (i.e., recent years) is at some of the lowest levels of the past 3,000 years. It’s clear from the actual data that far more extreme epic droughts in the US Southwest/California have persisted for periods of 300-500 years at least three times over the past 3 millennia.

    Sewell mentions “fires”. However, the actual data contradicts her.

    “Historically, fire has been a frequent and major ecological factor in North America. In the conterminous United States during the preindustrial period (1500-1800), an average of 145 million acres burned annually. Today only 14 million acres(federal and non-federal) are burned annually by wildland fire from all `ignition sources. Land use changes such as agriculture and urbanization are responsible for50 percent of this 10-fold decrease. Land management actions including land fragmentation and fire suppression are responsible for the remaining 50 percent.”


    And then there’s the mention of “storms”. From the exec summary, AR5;

    “Two recent reports, the SREX (IPCC, 2012; particularly Seneviratne et al., 2012) assessment and a WMO Expert Team report on tropical cyclones and climate change (Knutson et al., 2010) indicate the response of global tropical cyclone frequency to projected radiative forcing changes is likely to be either no change or a decrease of up to a third by the end of the 21st century.”

    Shall we say that there appears to be differing opinions in the peer reviewed work? One might not know that if they rely upon the MSM or blogs for their science. There is a powerful tendency toward confirmation bias among ACC believers. After all, what are the consequences for climate scientists, media types and politicians if they are forced to step forward and admit that “it’s not as bad as I thought”.

    WAIT! There is no question that it is prudent to control the impacts of human habitation on the planet. Putting the emphasis on CO2 and the possible impact on our future climate caused by human emissions, based upon models which have demonstrated little predictive skill, is worth questioning, however.

    Finally, I must comment upon Sewell’s mention “The suffering will be most acute among poor people…”. It’s important to note that fuel poverty is, here and now, far more impactful upon entire 3rd world populations than any perceived anthropogenic climate change.

    It’s a matter of belief/faith verses data…all the data. Andrew, “warmers” must consider all the data; not simply the data presented by the MSM and political blogs masquerading as science resources. Warmists claim data is on their side, the science is settled and that the house is on fire. Sceptics, on the other hand, maintain that the science is far more nuanced than the MSM leads us to believe as evidenced by ALL the data.

    Thanks for the opportunity to contribute.

  • Andrew Hidas  says:

    Many thanks for this thoughtful response, Segraves! While I would by no means claim to have conducted an exhaustive review of all the literature with a scientist’s eye, I did consult a fair amount of material through pages and pages of Google citations, and I believe the narrowest gap among all the studies I came across that showed percentages of scientists citing human involvement as significantly impacting global warming was around 75-25, with most of the studies closer to 90-10. It could very well be that the majority is wrong; has happened before, as you suggest. My bigger concern, not being a scientist myself, is with the consequences if they aren’t.

    Much of what I come across suggests we are already losing this battle and that further delay only makes our situation more dire. So if it turns out the skeptics are wrong and the alarmists are right, we may wind up with a permanently uninhabitable or at least severely constrained and problematic planet.

    Conversely, if we undertake appropriate mitigation efforts and curtail our carbon emissions but it turns out we are not the chief cause of global warming after all, what will be the effects of that? We’ll likely have spent more money (but stimulated/created more new industries?), and have a cleaner, at least somewhat cooler planet, perhaps?

    In significant ways, it gets down to what risks we are prepared to take, and with which course of action (or inaction) we are increasing that risk, no? It seems to me that the risks of the alarmists being wrong are far less than of the skeptics being wrong, so in that sense, undertaking mitigation efforts is tantamount to buying insurance—we hope we will not need it, but we will be glad for it if we do.

    Clearly, we face many environmental challenges, as we have my entire life. I grew up in Southern California where I could barely see the mountains just a couple miles away and could no longer fill my lungs past about noon on any given day without suffering a searing pain. Fifty-plus years later, LA air is much cleaner and healthier, despite millions of more people and cars. This is because we got serious about curtailing emissions and demanding that industry change. They fought every change every step of the way, claiming the sky would fall, they’d go out of business, California would hemorrhage jobs, doomsaying upon doomsaying. None of it happened, of course—none of it ever does. It turned out clean skies and water benefited everyone—including Exxon, Chevron, et al, who are doing just fine these many years later. Industry always adapts, new jobs get created by new regulations, and the world claws its progressive, more efficient way along, picking up ingenuity at every step. I hope and trust the same would be true if we manage to get serious about climate change. Thanks again for engaging this discussion. It’s an important one, as I think we both know.

  • mary graves  says:

    HI Andrew:
    You are courageous to take on global warming.
    Segraves above follows the science on gobal warming daily. He too grew up in LA and was horrified by the smog. He too is always looking for a solution. The problem here is not whether we need to curtail our mis use of air, land and water. We all agree we need to absolutely and now! You both came to the same realization.
    The problem came in exaggerating the problem as A HOUSE ON FIRE. Colleges, EPA and Greenpeace were able to get billions of dollars for solutions for the ill conceived houses on fire. Segraves wanted real solutions based on real and current unbiased science. So he started flowing the science by himself 10 years ago. When Segraves discovered that the climate science was being altered for “effect” it made him deeply concerned. A renowned scientist was found saying “lets skew the data so people will cooperate”. We believe citizens like you and SE deserve the correct data. You do not have to be tricked into being conscious of our environment.
    Since segraves is reading the science daily and dialoging with both the deniers and the blind followers, he is doing the research for us. He has the same goal as you and me…to protect the environment.

    It might be worth it for other bloggers to listen to him as you have done so well here. Today on twitter there are 65,000 followers on anti-global warming sites and 22,000 followers on global warming sites. Heartland institute or Watts Up websites can help warmists have a balanced view. The daily news and all government information and peoples daily comments can help give deniers some balance. Segraves is our hometown guy who is doing the research for us. “Don’t shoot the piano player , he is donig the best he can”.
    Thanks for listening. segraves does not know I am writing this about him!
    Hugs to you Andrew!

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Thanks much for your example of civil dialogue Mary, where we REFUSE TO SHOUT! :-) Let me just ask one question for now: Doesn’t it strain credulity to think that the 75-95% of scientists who to varying degrees cite human activity as a cause of climate change are all either perpetuating a scam for research dollars or self-advancement or else are hopelessly deluded and misled by the scammers? That seems to paint most climate scientists as either dishonest or naive, and while I suspect some are, them being human and all, it strikes me as unlikely that such a vast number would be.

      As someone not qualified to understand the hard scientific data, I need to make a bet on who is more likely to be right. However, I’m not doing that based on faith or ideology, as you seem to suggest, but instead on my own data crunching of the scientists who in seemingly overwhelming numbers suspect humans are a significant factor in warming. It’s pure statistical probability in my estimation! If 75% of scientists were skeptics, I’d be betting on them. Expertise and consensus matter to me, and this issue seems to point clearly toward consensus on the “warming” side of this debate.

      That, and the fact that from an insurance standpoint it still strikes as better to bet on them and thus do what we can to mitigate human causes of warming, than to bet on the deniers. If the latter are wrong, we’ll all be far worse off, seems to me. Do you or segraves have a take on that point?

      Anyway, I’d hug you back but it’s getting awfully warm around here! :-)

      • Fred G  says:

        Does anyone really believe that humans can continue to consume and pollute the natural resources of the earth in billions of ways every day and not face a variety of long-term negative impacts? No other species has such trouble living in concert with its environment. Even without agreeing on the extent to which increasing severity and frequency of fires, storms, spills, et al are man-induced, I hope that everyone can see value in reducing our consumption and dependence on non-renewable natural resources. Whether the current drought in California has anything to do with global warming or not, it has become very clear how dependent we are on nature (water in this case) and how important it can be to actively conserve. Lets not learn this lesson too late.

        • segraves42  says:

          No…no one with any sense thinks that. But that wasn’t the issue. Your argument and mine are actually in concert. The issues facing us are multiple and nuanced. Years ago CO2 and CAGW were selected as the poster twins for forming Progressive political action globally. Why…CO2 causes CAGW is relatively straight forward and easy to understand. That’s NOT how we should select issues by which to drive economic and social policy for our planet. Just my point of view, however.

          • segraves42  says:

            Edit: CO2 causes should read “caused”.

  • Mary  says:

    I am happy to answer your question: Does it strain credulity to think that the 75-95% of scientists who …cite human actitivy as a cause of climate change are all perpetuating a scam …….?

    Andrew, yes absolutely to think 75-95% of scientists are in scams would strain credulity. It would be nonesense to make such a nebulous claim. Where did the claim come from? If you think i made it, I did not say 75-95% of scientists were dishonest. I was referring to a small group who are polluting the integrity of science. 75-95% is too imprecise to have scientific meaning.

    There is a well known Cook et al paper that said there is 97% consensus by scientists that ther eis global warming and it is caused by humans. Maybe that is what you are referring to. That paper has been completely debunked. This article explains the problems: climatesudit.org/2013/05/24undercooked-statistics.

    Here is some better science. A survey of all members of the American Meteorological Society shows that only 52% claimed “mostly human” as the cause of climate change. A long way away from the 75% let alone 95%. This is why appealing to the misquoted and now debunked authority of scientists is dangerous in the context of policy making.

    Again, reasonable minds differ. You, Steve, Fred and I all want to evolve into conscious world citizens with harmony between man and the planet. Deniers way is to keep science honest because we need to defer to the scientists. Blind followers way is to trust science in the face of some doubt and go with the flow for harmony. Both are reasonable.

    Recently the Australian Science Organization just voted to revoke the country’s ‘ global warming policy. Deniers are getting credibility. This is not to say it is ok to polute, but deniers goal is to make sure we follow scientific method to reach our decisions about what policy to vote on for the planet. Data is showing the the house is not on fire. Even though it is not on fire, our planet needs much more awareness and care… dramatically and now.

  • mary  says:

    Fred, is the issue to discuss here pollution? Then lets discuss pollution. Andrews topic was global warming and now we learn there is no global warming. 30 years ago the scientists first used global warming to help people stop polluting and we all rallied around it. There wa ssome then. Then we learned there has been no global warming in 18 years. So does that mean we can now pollute? NO way! But being misled about global warming is why deniers first became skeptical. The renowned scientist Cook published that global warming was 95% caused by humans. Then we all panicked. Then when one after another scientist wrote him and said no no, I do not believe there is global warming. If no global warming, then we have cancelled our scientific argument to stop polluters. Deniers are trying to get a new scientific argument to use to stop pollution, one based on the real facts. Thanks for listening. you and I have the same goal

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Mary, I’d like to ask you to clarify your position for me. I have been under the distinct impression that your arguments center around the issue of what the main cause of global warming is: human activity in the form of CO2 emissions or just a natural recurring cycle that humans can do nothing about. But your comment above seems to challenge the notion that there is any warming going on at all. Is that correct?

  • mary graves  says:

    Yes, that is correct. And thanks for staying in a tough discussion. The global warming is just not happening as scientists predicted….not for the last 18 years anyway. While there were viral pictures of ice melting in Antartica, there was more ice than ever on the other side of Antartica. We were there, saw the ice, heard the scientist. Every weather situation, hurricaine Sandy and now the drought have all been blamed on the global warming. Who said so? What is the data? I started checking on the sources. These same scientists are now hiding their sources and their data. hey, no problem, they thought the Globe was warming and it is not. …no problem. That is the scientific method. But why are they hiding their data?

    Maybe humans are affecting weather, maybe not, but I sure want to find out. You and I do not need to be tricked about global warming in order to get conscious.
    I think unhealthy air,land and water are caused mostly by humans polluting and we need to stop that immediately and that is something we can do. But if we keep talking about global warming, then no one has to do anything. It is too big. But, if we talk about Santa Rosa Creek and the air in our town, then we can try to change our daily behavior and make a difference in our world here.

    Global warming to me is a distraction that led me and other people to follow blindly.When it changed to climate change I became skeptical of those we have been following. Now it was requiring faith now it was like religion. Nothing against religion, but climate science is not something I want to treat as a faith based. I need proof. But the majority of scientists who took the strong global wamring stand got caught hiding their methodology that led to their predictions. So, I became a denier, a skeptic. But I still love the environment and will do anything to protect it.
    Thanks for traversing with

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Mary, I didn’t get from the preceding that you deny warming exists at all; I thought even the deniers weren’t denying that anymore, and that their argument had shifted to what the cause of the warming has been. I also think that no “warming” scientist ever claims that any one event such as Hurricane Sandy can be traced to global warming or anything else in particular, but that the overall trend of increased extreme weather events would be one consequence of the earth heating up. And that does seem to be what we’ve got going now, if all these typhoons, hurricanes, early snowfalls and extended droughts are any indication.

      With the polar ice caps melting, polar bears and walruses looking for vanishing ice floes and Glacier National Park about to lose its last glaciers (soon to be renamed “Used-to-Have-Glaciers National Park”), :-) I’m frankly surprised to see even the premise of warming itself being denied. No data I consult on that matter or the causation question shows anything but a consistent majority of scientists citing both the reality of warming and humans as a significant causative agent. Whether that turns out to be your low of 52, or other figures of 75 or 95 percent, those figures hardly fit the picture of hordes of scientists caught cooking data, fessing up and converting to the other side.

      I’m sorry, but I do not find it credible that “the majority of scientists who took the strong global warming stand got caught hiding their methodology.” Surely, you will admit to overstatement and gross generalization there, based on a few media reports of scientists skewing their research findings?

      When I ran this discussion by my climate scientist friend who conducted research on ocean temperatures and their predictive capacity on weather for the Navy for many years, he was too exasperated at being referred to as either a naive dope or a data cooker to respond directly, but he did tell me that his and others’ research have long modeled the earth’s atmosphere with a wide variety of possible inputs, “but nothing fits the evidence except human tailpipes.” He then asked, “You know, there are millions of tailpipes shooting out CO2. Where do they think it all went?”

      He then left these reports, considered the gold standard in the discussion of greenhouse gases:



      Finally, I don’t see how being concerned about global warming affects in any way, shape or form one’s capacity or desire to be intensely interested in its local manifestations. The two are not mutually exclusive, but instead reinforce each other in that classic environmentalist’s dictum: “Think Globally, Act Locally.”

      Thanks again for an engaging discussion that has made me think and ponder and sift—never unproductive activities…

  • mary  says:

    HI Andrew: good point about my overstatement about scientists hiding their methodology. I admit I made a mistake there by exaggerating. I do not know how many hid their data but when I learned some did, I overreacted. I hope you and Jay will admit your exaggeration also, especially by using the debunked 97%. We both tend to exaggerate our point. Look how we all get. Why so much emotion about this? We all seem to be in a fight here, yet we all want the same thing.

    You are missing my point. I am not saying there is no pollution! Please let your friend know there is no need to arrogantly and contemptuously lecture me about pollution from cars. I am just as committed to ending pollution as he or you. I am saying global warming is not happening nearly as much as scientists have said. There is global warming and cooling all the time. I did not mean there is no global warming ever. I mean in the last 18 years there has not been any significant warming… some normal warming. There is no house on fire!!I

    Once you can admit global warming was not as much as originally predicted, then we can discuss pollution and see what we can do. Decreasing are the discussions of what to do locally for pollution. Increasing are the discussions of global warming. Global warming has taken us off track. No one cleans up the santa rosa creek to help global warming. Global warming fights can let poeple feel tough in the arguments on line, and insignificent in their daily environmental habits.

    Thanks for listening

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Mary, I’m going to engage in a thought experiment here. I’m trying to figure out what we’re respectively afraid of. What’s my fear thinking global warming and the human impact on it are real, and what’s your fear if it isn’t?

      My fear is that our planet will heat up and not be livable for our children. So when I hear a significant percentage of the world’s scientists saying that’s where we may be headed, I think, “Then we’d better do whatever we can to mitigate those effects.” If that includes curbs on auto emissions or industry, then so be it—they’ve survived and thrived through many previous regulations, and they will these, too.

      So what’s your fear? I know what Exxon’s fear is: they don’t want any regulations that will reduce use of gasoline. I get that. But I know that’s not your fear. Near as I have been able to tell, your fear is that we will have wasted time and energy chasing after the wrong things—that we’ll be focused on global warming but do nothing to save more modest but ultimately more important projects on the local level; that we’ll somehow spend ourselves in worry and work chasing phantoms of global warming that don’t really exist.

      I think this is where we’re just going to have to agree to disagree, because I see no danger in global warming acting as some diversion where we take our eye off a more important ball. In my world, the same people who worry about the planet at large worry about the slice of the planet in their backyards. They reduce, reuse, recycle, ride their bikes, all of which helps on both the local and global levels.

      Worrying about global warming doesn’t stop me from being OCD about turning off lights and hopping on my bike instead of my car to go to the store—it actually encourages it because they are the things I CAN do on my local level, in my life, to help clean up our planet AND reduce global warming. If it turns out those activities don’t reduce global warming after all, well, they are still good to do, yes? And they at least helped clean up the air and our communities a little?

      So as a conclusion to this thought experiment, let’s assume you’re right about everything and I’m wrong about everything with respect to warming and the impact of humans. What exactly is the problem you’re having with my mistaken and deluded state, given how I—and countless others very much like me—live our lives and where we spend our energy? Thanks for thinking this through with me!

      • mary  says:

        In response to your October 9, 2014 thought experiment: What is wrong with you living your life contributing to the environment daily as if there is global warming. Nothing is wrong with that. That is a great way to live!

        BUT, you posted on your blog “the house is on fire” and that puts you smack in the middle of the blind followers. It sounds like you did not mean to get in the middle. After all it was your friend who asked you to write about this. Lets ask your friend, who is passionate on the topic of global warming, to start posting his thoughts directly on the blog.

        Being your own blog master, you have a right to say what you want . Being a recipient of your blog, and one who you have invited to read it, I felt compelled to let you see the other side. Once you let your friend pushyou to take this strong stand on a very controversial topic, you invited the other side. I do not ask you to change anything in your life. You are a great person and definitely a friend of the environment. I love when you send beautiful photos of our area here. But I wish you said in the beginning you just want to live your life as if the house is on fire and are not interested in analyzing the opposing viewpoint right now.

        When National Geographic had an article about polar bears dying off, they were not asking for a response from me. like you did. It was later shown that their dying off was due to hunters, not ice melting and the population got down to 5,000. Global warming policy would not help that. Then they outlawed hunting. Now the polar bear population is 25,000. Global warming was blamed ,but it was not the cause. When National Geographic “Chasing Ice” shows polar bears in the water, it catches our hearts. But they forgot to tell us polar bears can swim up to 900 miles. National Geographic got on the GW bandwagon. It is cool and fun to try to photograph everything from a global warming viewpoint. Now you are quoting it on your blog to prove the house is on fire.

        So, if I can continue to show examples of how we have been misled by news stations , magazines, newspapers, senators and scientists and professors to think there is global warming, hopefully the thinkers of the world like you will help others try to see what is the problem and what is the cause and what is the solution. Global warming was not the cause and was not the solution for polar bears. Maybe the same is true for us.

        Thanks for the thinking experiment. The experiement revealed to me that your freind put you in the middle of the controversy and now hopefully he will take the discussion from here and not abandon you.


        • Andrew Hidas  says:

          For the record, the views expressed on my blog are very much my own, for which I take complete responsibility. No one “pushed” me to broach this topic, though the influences have come from many places, including my friend who is an actual climate scientist, who has conducted actual research of the type we are discussing here, and whom I know to be no one’s stooge nor duplicitous in any way, one or the other of which you suggest all “warmer” scientists are.

          I have my doubts and natural skepticism about most everything, including both sides in this debate, but in surveying the evidence en toto, I came down on living as if global warming is a reality—I think it’s a more prudent bet than betting on the opposite. We look at data, we consult our sources, we place our bets—and here, you and I differ. But I lack your certainty in this matter of the sort that has you calling me a “blind follower.” Could be you’re in possession of the one true data set, and all the data and people I consult are false. But I’m skeptical of that as well, as I’m sure you can understand and appreciate. And so the old saw returns: “Time will tell…” (Just not sure my time on this blessed earth will last long enough for this issue to be resolved once and for all…)

          • mary  says:

            Hi Andrew:
            Maybe we can try a word test. The words “denier” and “blind follower” are offensive to us both. We did not coin them. Lets call ourselves instead warmists and skeptics. And instead of using the word pushed which seemed to offend you, lets say that your friend Walt “asked why you had not written anything about climate change given the clear threat it is to everything we value.” Perhaps I should say he encouraged you. I am sorry you took offense. I should have said I would have felt pushed if he said it to me.

            I regret you see me as one who thinks I know more than the scientists. This means we are making this personal. So how can a warmer and a skeptic live in harmony as Fred suggests, or dialogue as I hoped to do, with out making this personal? Let me answer your original question, what is it I fear. That was a good question for dialogue.

            I fear that we will make policy based on misinformation. Big Misinformation like :a house is on fire. I fear that that policy, made on wrong information, will be off track and will harm us all because the data used to form the policy was off track. The example you gave of National Geographic’ s article ” Chasing Ice” cites GW as the cause for a dimishing population of polar bears. The photos were heartwrenching and got international attention. If we stayed with that story, the GW assumption, and stayed with their GW policy, there would be no polar bear left because the problem was not GW. The problem was hunters killing masses of bears, not bears drowning as we originally thought. When the new policy was “no more shooting”, only then did the polar bear population go from 5,000 to 25,000. I am normally not a skeptic. But too omuch exaggeration has me worried. So, I fear we will make a US policy that is based on error. So, I now track science and newscasters to make sure they give it to us right. I am not a scientist and never pretended to be.

            I had dinner last night with my Move on .org super liberal great friend who is a warmist and asked her what she feared if she learned there was no global warming. She fears that people will start to pollute more. In the end, she believes the government needs to be more invovled to save us. She fears people. I fear government. Maybe that is where you and I are too.Thanks for listening. M

          • Andrew Hidas  says:

            Hi Mary, no offense taken on the point of being “pushed” to write on global warming; just clarifying that it’s my blog, my thoughts, informed by my scientist friend, of course, but also by many other sources. I do sport a small bruise from being referred to as a “blind follower,” but I’ve been called far worse in my life and that bruise is already healing, I will say, so not to worry…

            On your end, I’m sorry that you think I made it personal by implying you think you know more than scientists; I certainly wasn’t trying to make it personal. But the fact is that you’ve pretty consistently claimed here that all scientists on the warmist side are either intentionally distorting data or are “blind followers,” and you have expressed tremendous certainty about your data being true and theirs false. Among that group are very many scientists, so if you think they’re wrong, so be it. And that’s pretty clearly what you’ve stated, seems to me. Right now, I’m still betting on them being more right than not, and I fail to see any catastrophic consequences ensuing even if they are wrong, as I’ve mentioned before.

            This discussion, as much as anything else, is yet another experiment on how people talk to each other across a divide of opinion, on issues where much is at stake and emotions run high. Over the years, I think I’ve grown increasingly dubious that much can come of written online debate, given the vagaries of human emotion, the challenge of maintaining good and respectful intentions while alone at your keyboard, outside your adversary’s warm and living (and inherently moderating) presence. Indeed, even for folks who know each other and intend all the best, it is difficult to avoid occasionally heated interchange, at which time it is very useful to renew intentions of patience, forgiveness (of both self and other), and taking a few deep breaths before hitting that ‘Send” button. It is all a mark of our imperfection, our struggle to relate to each other, examine our emotions & biases, adapt to change and to differing data and perceptual frames. All of which informs us in just how difficult it is out there in the larger world, across cultures and histories and civilizations, to come to rapprochement on even minor issues, much less major ones! We must be patient and appreciate how well we are actually doing, given the challenges we face, yes?

            In our own little laboratory here, we’re working out how we do it, and all the arduousness aside, I am happy for the effort and good intentions that abide (as challenging as those have at some moments been). Thanks to you and segraves both for considering it worth the effort as well.

  • Andrew Hidas  says:

    My scientist friend’s point regarding tailpipe emissions is not about pollution as such, but about such emissions increasing the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming.

  • segraves42  says:

    Sorry to hear about your friend’s response. It would be interesting to hear from him.

    He mentions tailpipes as a source of anthropogenic CO2. He was being sardonic? Symbolic?

    This is the sort of stuff that points up the problem with “data”, or the misreporting thereof;

    “…the overall trend of increased extreme weather events would be one consequence of the earth heating up. And that does seem to be what we’ve got going now, if all these typhoons, hurricanes, early snowfalls and extended droughts are any indication.”

    There is no trend in extreme weather globally. Global average surface temperature has not risen in a scientifically significant way in a decade and a half. Climate scientists are trying to explain the plateau. So far they have come up with some 50 explanations. Clearly, the science isn’t settled on the matter.

    As of last year Global Tropical Cyclone Frequency shows no increasing trend in Hurricanes. Last year saw two Atlantic hurricanes…average 5.. Neither of the season’s two hurricanes, Humberto and Ingrid, reached major hurricane status, a Category 3 or higher rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, for the first time in 20 years. This year we have had only 5 named storms (43% of average) and two hurricanes…one major… in the Atlantic basin…well below normal.

    Tornado intensity is trending down. The raw number of tornadoes recorded has increased in recent years. However, NOAA warns that improved technology and practices are relevant.

    “With increased National Doppler radar coverage, increasing population, and greater attention to tornado reporting, there has been an increase in the number of tornado reports over the past several decades. This can create a misleading appearance of an increasing trend in tornado frequency.”

    I’m not sure how early snowfalls indicate AGW nor have I seen any science indicating a global trend. Though more snowfall in certain regions and at higher elevations is indicated in some of the models, early snowfall would be counter intuitive. Maybe you know some science.

    A trend in global drought is questionable.

    From the Abstract: Here we show that the previously reported increase in global drought is overestimated because the PDSI uses a simplified model of potential evaporation that responds only to changes in temperature and thus responds incorrectly to global warming in recent decades.
    More realistic calculations, based on the underlying physical principles that take into account changes in available energy, humidity and wind speed, suggest that there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.


    As you said above, data is key to the debate. Unfortunately, the MSM and political blogs masquerading as science resources don’t always give us the real story. I agree with you that evidence tying any particular events to CAGW is sorely lacking in the science…but you wouldn’t know it by the stories in the MSM.

    If you have other concerns about extreme weather claims related to CAGW, I would be pleased to give you my two cents…using the actual science available to the public.

    Thank you Andrew for giving me a venue to express my concerns by hosting this very relevant and timely topic on your blog.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Point taken on the murkiness of extreme weather data, segraves. Let’s call that forecast “cloudy, with showers,” and see what the weather gods give us in upcoming years. Meanwhile, regarding your reference to tailpipe emissions, are you saying they’re of no account in this whole warming issue? Thanks…

      • segraves42  says:

        From Munich Re’s June report.

        “Comparatively few major natural catastrophe losses in first half-year

        The statistics for natural catastrophes for the first half of 2014 have been marked by pleasingly low levels of global claims. Overall economic losses of US$ 42bn and insured losses of US$ 17bn to the end of June were considerably below the average for the past ten years (US$ 95bn and US$ 25bn respectively). Thankfully, the number of deaths caused by natural catastrophes was also comparatively low. However, towards the end of the year the natural climate phenomenon El Niño may impact regions differently in terms of the number and intensity of weather extremes.”

        Munich Re is selling insurance. They believe the extreme weather disasters are just around the corner and suggest you insure appropriately….sort of the other side of the claimed fossil fuel coin.

  • segraves42  says:

    Yes…we are now acquiring significant data from technologies such as those employed in some of the new satellites for determining GHG content of the atmosphere, ARGO in the oceans, etc.

    Actually, I would hesitate to disagree with a Phd atmospheric scientist on the basis of that comment. That’s why I asked as I did. Certainly he is aware that tailpipes…all transportation…accounts for only a bit more than 12% of AGHG emissions. That’s about equal to the emissions from each of the categories agriculture, land use change and forestry, and manufacturing. Production of energy creates emissions more than twice that of any of the others.

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