Scientists Answer the Wall Street 16

February 1, 2012

The following is a letter written by Kevin Trenberth and signed by a distinguished group of Earth and Atmospheric scientists in response to last week’s ridiculous “Don’t Panic over Climate Change” Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal.


Check With Climate Scientists for Views on Climate

Do you consult your dentist about your heart condition? In science, as in any area, reputations are based on knowledge and expertise in a field and on published, peer-reviewed work. If you need surgery, you want a highly experienced expert in the field who has done a large number of the proposed operations.

You published “No Need to Panic About Global Warming” (op-ed, Jan. 27) on climate change by the climate-science equivalent of dentists practicing cardiology. While accomplished in their own fields, most of these authors have no expertise in climate science. The few authors who have such expertise are known to have extreme views that are out of step with nearly every other climate expert. This happens in nearly every field of science. For example, there is a retrovirus expert who does not accept that HIV causes AIDS. And it is instructive to recall that a few scientists continued to state that smoking did not cause cancer, long after that was settled science.

Climate experts know that the long-term warming trend has not abated in the past decade. In fact, it was the warmest decade on record. Observations show unequivocally that our planet is getting hotter. And computer models have recently shown that during periods when there is a smaller increase of surface temperatures, warming is occurring elsewhere in the climate system, typically in the deep ocean. Such periods are a relatively common climate phenomenon, are consistent with our physical understanding of how the climate system works, and certainly do not invalidate our understanding of human-induced warming or the models used to simulate that warming.

Thus, climate experts also know what one of us, Kevin Trenberth, actually meant by the out-of-context, misrepresented quote used in the op-ed. Mr. Trenberth was lamenting the inadequacy of observing systems to fully monitor warming trends in the deep ocean and other aspects of the short-term variations that always occur, together with the long-term human-induced warming trend.

The National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. (set up by President Abraham Lincoln to advise on scientific issues), as well as major national academies of science around the world and every other authoritative body of scientists active in climate research have stated that the science is clear: The world is heating up and humans are primarily responsible. Impacts are already apparent and will increase. Reducing future impacts will require significant reductions in emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Research shows that more than 97% of scientists actively publishing in the field agree that climate change is real and human caused. It would be an act of recklessness for any political leader to disregard the weight of evidence and ignore the enormous risks that climate change clearly poses. In addition, there is very clear evidence that investing in the transition to a low-carbon economy will not only allow the world to avoid the worst risks of climate change, but could also drive decades of economic growth. Just what the doctor ordered.

Kevin Trenberth, Sc.D.

Distinguished Senior Scientist

Climate Analysis Section National Center for Atmospheric Research

La Jolla, Calif.

Kevin Trenberth, Sc.D, Distinguished Senior Scientist, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Richard Somerville, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Katharine Hayhoe, Ph.D., Director, Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University

Rasmus Benestad, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, The Norwegian Meteorological Institute

Gerald Meehl, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Climate and Global Dynamics Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Michael Oppenheimer, Ph.D., Professor of Geosciences; Director, Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, Princeton University

Peter Gleick, Ph.D., co-founder and president, Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security

Michael C. MacCracken, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, Climate Institute, Washington

Michael Mann, Ph.D., Director, Earth System Science Center, Pennsylvania State University

Steven Running, Ph.D., Professor, Director, Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, University of Montana

Robert Corell, Ph.D., Chair, Arctic Climate Impact Assessment; Principal, Global Environment Technology Foundation

Dennis Ojima, Ph.D., Professor, Senior Research Scientist, and Head of the Dept. of Interior’s Climate Science Center at Colorado State University

Josh Willis, Ph.D., Climate Scientist, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Matthew England, Ph.D., Professor, Joint Director of the Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia

Ken Caldeira, Ph.D., Atmospheric Scientist, Dept. of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution

Warren Washington, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Terry L. Root, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University

David Karoly, Ph.D., ARC Federation Fellow and Professor, University of Melbourne, Australia

Jeffrey Kiehl, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Climate and Global Dynamics Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Donald Wuebbles, Ph.D., Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois

Camille Parmesan, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, University of Texas; Professor of Global Change Biology, Marine Institute, University of Plymouth, UK

Simon Donner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Canada

Barrett N. Rock, Ph.D., Professor, Complex Systems Research Center and Department of Natural Resources, University of New Hampshire

David Griggs, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Monash Sustainability Institute, Monash University, Australia

Roger N. Jones, Ph.D., Professor, Professorial Research Fellow, Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University, Australia

William L. Chameides, Ph.D., Dean and Professor, School of the Environment, Duke University

Gary Yohe, Ph.D., Professor, Economics and Environmental Studies, Wesleyan University, CT

Robert Watson, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Chair of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Steven Sherwood, Ph.D., Director, Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Chris Rapley, Ph.D., Professor of Climate Science, University College London, UK

Joan Kleypas, Ph.D., Scientist, Climate and Global Dynamics Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research

James J. McCarthy, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Oceanography, Harvard University

Stefan Rahmstorf, Ph.D., Professor of Physics of the Oceans, Potsdam University, Germany

Julia Cole, Ph.D., Professor, Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona

William H. Schlesinger, Ph.D., President, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Jonathan Overpeck, Ph.D., Professor of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona

Eric Rignot, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Professor of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine

Wolfgang Cramer, Professor of Global Ecology, Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology, CNRS, Aix-en-Provence, France

87 Responses to “Scientists Answer the Wall Street 16”

  1. Peter Mizla Says:

    the TRUTH Hurts so much.

  2. Peter Mizla Says:

    should I put on my brown shirt and jackboots and join the rest of the extreme right in denying climate change then?

  3. Does anybody get the irony of the WSJ refusing to publish a rebuttal from a host of presitgious scientists, while climatecrocks tolerates trolls with all the debating patterns of playground schoolchildren? Neener neener neener.

  4. While the WSJ signatories lack the best credentials, I still think it’s just difficult to believe that climate change could “end the world” as we know it (see & Reasonable estimates for temp. increase are about 3 C at the high end of this century, i.e., 90 years from now, which wouldn’t be good but it’s hardly the end of the world. Same with rising sea levels: reasonable prediction suggest a rise by the end of the century that will be more than manageable.

    More to the point, if you’re really worried about the end of the world, it can easily happen, and not in 90 years but in less than 90 minutes. In 30 minutes in fact.

    20 years after the fall of the U.S.S.R. and the end of the cold war, 1000s of multi-megaton thermonuclear weapons remain on high alert. The chances of an accidental small or all out massive nuclear exchange are far from zero and we’ve had several very close calls w/in the last 50 years, the most serious in 1994 when Yeltsin actually had to open his nuclear football to enter launch release codes before they figured out that the missile their early warning radar was tracking was carrying a weather station into space.

    Today, the U.S. & Russia have a combined strategic nuclear force of about 3000 on each side, not counting reserves after a first strike or retaliation. An attack with just two 1-megaton nuclear warheads would unleash explosive power equivalent to that caused by all the bombs used during World War II. Today, there’s over 6000 on high alert, and most of these weapons are at least 1-2 megton, many are in the 5-10 megaton range (designed to obliterate large cities, e.g., NYC, Chicago, etc., and kill 10 million people in quarter of a second). works through the consequences of even a small exchange. Where as climate change predicts, at worst, a 2-3 C rise in global temp. over the coming century, a small nuclear exchange would drop global temps of at least that w/in 24 hours. An out all exchange would drop temps by up to 10 C. Basically, this will be a man made ice-age, and it would only take a few hours to create it, killing 100s of millions in the process and ending both civilization and history w/in the same time frame. Oh, radioactive fallout would blanket much of the planet.

    Steven Starr, senior scientist with Physicians for Social Responsibility, said research makes clear the environmental consequences of a U.S.-Russian nuclear war: “If these weapons are detonated in the large cities of either of their nations, they will cause such catastrophic damage to the global environment that the Earth will become virtually uninhabitable for most humans and many other complex forms of life.” And it would only take 24 hours to create these conditions.

    Climate change has nothing on accidental or deliberate nuclear war.

    Why haven’t we had an accidental exchange? We’ve been lucky, many times, but if you keep doing something dangerous, sooner or later, your luck runs out. We need to de-alert these massive weapon systems now. We need serious disarmament now. Those of us old enough to remember the cold war days . . . climate change is a problem but hardly the end of the world . . .

  5. “Reasonable estimates for temp. increase are about 3 C”

    Their conclusion: The climate appears less sensitive to greenhouse gases than prior estimates. Based on the computer runs, doubling carbon concentrations would likely increase the world’s average temperature from 3.1 to 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit over preindustrial levels, the study predicts.

    In a “perspective” article, also published online today by Science, two researchers from the University of Edinburgh not involved with the study praised it for tapping more ice age data than previous research, but pointed to significant caveats.

    Schmittner’s study used only one climate model, they noted. Other models do a better job of pinning down atmospheric variables that affect climate, such as cloud formation.

    Significant holes also remain in some of the ice age data. And using secondhand climate information — such as pollen levels — isn’t as certain as direct observations in modern times.

    3.1 to 4.7 is not 3. If the argument is so good why cherry pick a value lower than the citation? And from a citation that admits problems in accuracy? Grasping at straws, eh?

    3C wouldn’t be good. la la la. Uh, weren’t we discussing 16 scientists denying global warming? Why so hard to stay on topic? Sounds like a tacit admission that 16 “scientists” or dentists or whatever might be wrong and global warming is real. Citing Spencer and Braswell as a rebuttal, oh yeah. And my dentist told me …. what a tedious effort to get off topic and avoid the obvious. Yes its true, it really is a bunch of hapless happer geriatrics in WSJ fiasco. Scientifically proven by my own dentist!

    • climatecode Says:

      Sorry, Christopher, I had difficulty parsing that. Schmittner’s work is important but flawed, and comes out with a sensitivity of 1.7-2.6 K (per CO doubling). This is definitely on the low side, and is also not very constrained Your link is to a press report of Schmittner which (being in the benighted USA) converts to Fahrenheit Where is your “3C” from?

      • climatecode Says:

        Aaargh, blogging software messed that up properly. I’ll try again:

        Sorry, Christopher Arcus, I had difficulty parsing that. The Schmittner et al paper is important but flawed, and comes out with a sensitivity of 1.7-2.6 K (per CO doubling). This is definitely on the low side, and is also not very constrained (that’s a 66% likelihood range). Your link is to a press report of Schmittner et al which (being in the benighted USA) converts to Fahrenheit thus: “3.1 to 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit”. Using Fahrenheit often causes this sort of confusion.

        Christopher Skyi’s statement “Reasonable estimates for temp. increase are about 3 C” is a fair statement of the IPCC central estimate for 21st century warming, although it depends on your emissions scenario and I would note that there are credible studies producing numbers quite a bit higher than this (sensitivity is better constrained on the low end), and that common sense dictates that we should be much more concerned about those higher numbers, which are not yet ruled out by IPCC and which would have far more serious effects.

        This is not to say that I endorse Christopher Skyi’s ridiculous and transparent attempt to change the subject. I’m sure there are better places to discuss nuclear risks.

      • jasonpettitt Says:

        Just to put Schmitter into context of the WSJ op ed – its best figure for Climate Sensitivity is 2.5C per doubling of CO2.

        Which is exactly the same sensitivity assumed by the 1990 IPCC models that the WSJ Op Ed is encouraging us to ignore, lest we invoke far ranging policy prescriptions.

  6. Sorry climatecode, that was unclear. Skyi expressed doubts about Global Warming:

    “Christopher Skyi (@ChristopherSkyi) Says:

    February 2, 2012 at 4:36 am 0 1 Rate This
    While the WSJ signatories lack the best credentials, I still think it’s just difficult to believe that climate change could “end the world” as we know it (see & Reasonable estimates for temp. increase are about 3 C at the high end of this century, i.e., 90 years from now, which wouldn’t be good but it’s hardly the end of the world. Same with rising sea levels: reasonable prediction suggest a rise by the end of the century that will be more than manageable.”

    Your conclusion is correct.

    climatecode – “Schmittner’s work is important but flawed,”

    The two urls cited are from Spencer and Braswell ( a dubious source ) and Schmitter. Skyi, in an effort to downplay effects of Global Warming, stated 3C rise, Schmitter says 3.1 to 4.7. Every credible estimate gives a range of warming. The subject was WSJ fiasco, and we are lead on a Gish Gallup of extraneous facts.

    Thanks for the Fahrenheit catch. Converting, that is 3.1 to 4.7 F as you say. Only cthe lower estimate was chosen in comments. So we have a flawed paper and choose the lowest estimate. Hardly convincing.

    Meanwhile, we have natural disasters at a noticeably increasing rate all over the globe and increasing insurance premiums. What is the cost of the Texas, Australia, Russia, drought? The Midwest, Australia, and floods elsewhere? We are nowhere near doubling CO2, and yet it we get this. Doubling CO2 will be no party.

    The gist of this WSJ fiasco post by Peter, is that these are stale, debunked, if not facile arguments. The WSJ has tarnished itself by posting this feeble nonsense. Further, it has shown how desperate they are to paint a rosy picture on GW, by refusing to publish a rebuttal by a large list of distinguished climatologists.

    Jason, your comments are spot on. To distract from the WSJ fiasco, deniers fallback is to admit warming, but choose the lowest numbers, dismiss the impacts, and change the subject. Its a delaying tactic that helps to preserve the status quo of vested interests in industries with no future. How many of these denier posts are bots or paid shills?

    Best to respond only to facts, demand references, ignore opinions, and ignore the tedious gainsaying of some deniers. It reminds one of the Python argument skit. Look it up on youtube. Its a good example of the some of the deniers tactics.

  7. “Skyi expressed doubts about Global Warming:”

    Not at all. Just the alarmism. The alarmism is a big reason why public opinion has shifted to less, not more, concern:

    “Citing Spencer and Braswell as a rebuttal, oh yeah. And my dentist told me.”

    Lost me there. Pielke cites this work as an important contribution to the open question of how bad (or not) it’s likely to get.

    Sorry I’m not scared to death by this, but in the end, the alarmists have the PR problem (brought on by themselves), not us “moderates,” like Pielke.

    • Martin Lack Says:

      For “alarmists”read realists. Environmental alarmists warned us we were heading for an Ice Age 30 years ago. They were proven wrong when more information came to light – in that industrial pollution was identified as a cooling influence.

      Despite what I will predict will be your naysaying of this, the situation today is completely different: The longer we wait, the worse the news gets.

      Denying reality does not make it go away. The evidence of accelerating change is all around us. Saying all mountain glaciers could be gone by 2060 is not alarmism. It is based on extrapolation of ongoing bservation.

  8. astrostevo Says:

    Read this in The Australian newspaper the other day (2012 Feb. 3rd) – it was on page 14 – located immediately opposite it was the regular cut’n’paste column headlined “plagued by Climate doubt? Concerned about cooling?Suffering from an open mind’ pushing the climate contrarian line. Sigh.

    The Australian for those who don’t know is a Murdpoch press paperwhich frequently pushes the Climate Denier line and publishes many Plimer, Carter and Monckton articles. Plus to be fair the occassional rebuttal of those too.

    More info & a good source for what they’re up to & debunking it is here :

    Via the Deltoid blog.

  9. You guys are debating and taking an issue with a few +/- degrees of C as if that decides the entire issue, and you’re missing the forest for trees. Exactly where the low, high, and middle values are I’m not sure, but that wasn’t my point.

    The fact is, right or wrong, there is a broad and growing public perception that climate change / global warming is a worry, an issue, but not a world ending problem, essentially agreeing with the policy position/conclusion of the 16 in the WSJ.

    Dr. Judith Curry, Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology & co-author of Thermodynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans (1999), and co-editor of Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences (2002), and who has published over 130 scientific peer reviewed papers has this to say in her invited congressional testimony in 2010:

    “Based upon the background knowledge that we have, the threat does not seem to be an existential one on the time scale of the 21st century, even in its most alarming incarnation. It is now up to the political process (international, national, and local) to decide how to contend with the climate problem. It seems more important that robust responses be formulated than to respond urgently with a policy that may fail to address the problem and whose unintended consequences have not been adequately explored.”


    My point of bringing up the known consequences of even small accidental nuclear exchange was to illustrate what a real “end of the world” problem looks like, just to put climate change in its proper perspective.

    Once the world economy improves (slowly over the next 10 years), there will be action on climate change, but it’s sure seriously disappoint the alarmists (e.g., see Roger Pielke Jr.’s

    • greenman3610 Says:

      let me just say that I saw Curry speak at the AGU conference, and I wasn’t the only one that
      came away thinking she was a fruitcake.

  10. “let me just say that I saw Curry speak at the AGU conference, and I wasn’t the only one that
    came away thinking she was a fruitcake.”


    She is chair ( of a one of the top 50 graduate programs in the nation that train research climate scientists ( Presumably her department, alumni, and trustees & other stakeholders in the reputation of Georgia Tech and the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences are not in the habit of promoting “fruitcakes.”

    • Martin Lack Says:

      Christopher, no doubt you consider Peter Sinclair’s comment typically inflammatory. Maybe it is but, for the record, I find it typically amusing.

      He could also have chosen to point out to you that, however she came to be were she is, Judith Curry is out-of-step with the vast majority of speakers at the AGU meeting. However, I would dare to go further and predict that, within 5 years, she will have been removed from any positions of merit she may now hold (because she is almost certainly wrong).

      Feel free to take a screenshot of this post, and send it to your solicitor for safe-keeping or whatever, you will not worry me. This is because the probability that the consensus view of climate change is right is now so high, I would be willing to bet my house on it.

      This is not the same as people who send money to someone who tells them the world will end next month (N.B I don’t think anyone has said this), to make such a comparison is to fall foul of the fallacy of the marketplace of ideas (i.e. that all opinions are equally valid, etc).

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I call em as I see em.

      • Martin Lack Says:

        …and I ain’t the one who’s complainin’…

        • One for the history books

          I suppose it all makes sense, after accusing the WSJ 16 of senility. Wonder if one day I will be described as a womanizer?

          • greenman3610 Says:

            for the record, in common US english usage, for those without access to the urban dictionary, the general meaning of fruitcake is, well, like – batty, berserk, bonkers, cracked, crazed, cuckoo, daft, delirious, demented, deranged, dingy, dippy, erratic, flaky, flipped, flipped out, freaked out, fruity, idiotic, insane, kooky, lunatic, mad, mad as a March hare, mad as a hatter, maniacal, mental, moonstruck, nuts, nutty, nutty as fruitcake, of unsound mind, out of one’s mind, out of one’s tree, out to lunch, potty, psycho, round the bend, schizo, screw loose, screwball, screwy, silly, touched, unbalanced, unglued, unhinged, unzipped, wacky.

            just so I’m clear.

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