Global Warming: The Blog Epic, Part I: Forecast Earth
Global Warming: The Blog Epic, Part I
Posted on February 3, 2009 at 2:48 pm ET

ScienceBlogs.com, by Greg Laden


The IPCC report is out, "An Inconvenient Truth" has been honored by the academy, a sea change is happening in the way that climate change news is being reported, and you can bet the Right Wing and the Ree-pubs are as we speak working up new Talking Points and Spins to deflate the urgency of the issue. It is an axiom that in reporting science, there are two (not one, not three or four, just two) sides to every issue, and one side is the plank nailed to the Democratic Party Platform, and the other side is the plank nailed to the Ree-pub Party Platform. This is a truth as stable and reliable as the fact that Home Depot will always sell 2" X 4" studs and plywood in 4' X 8' foot pieces. We are already seeing the dubious dichotomies forming up. For instance, yes, the Antarctic Ice Sheet is sloughing off the continent, but it is opening new and wonderful opportunities for both shrimp and scientists. Yes, global warming is real and is anthropogenic, but the Average American thinks, according to Polls, that it is only the third or fourth most important issue. And so on.

This is a repost of the first in a series of entries on Global Warming.

The global warming debate has been running continuously since the now very obscure publication of Moment in the Sun: 1968" by Dr. Robert Rienow and Leorna Train Rienow. Most people think of the literary beginning of the environmental movement has having been "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson, and maybe so, but for me, it was Rienow. This is partly because "Moment..." was the first book I read on the topic, one of the first "adult" books I read at all, and on those early mornings before school I was able to watch Dr. Rienow on that crazy new fangled box ... the black and white TV my parents had just acquired ... on a thing called "Sunrise Semester" produced by SUNY-Albany. Rienow would lecture, and he and his wife and (I assume) the occasional student would put on skits lampooning industrialists and other polluters.

I remember one day, years after having last seen Sunrise Semester, having just acquired a car and a license (at a ripe old age of 18 or so) exploring the territory south of town, along the Hudson River. I encountered an old narrow road running down into the wooded valley from a minor highway, and took the turn thinking it would lead somewhere interesting. Soon enough there was another turn onto a narrow gravel way called "Holly Hock Hollow" ... that name sounded familiar, but I could not place it. So I made that turn as well. A mile and a half or so later, the road leveled off to join the floodplain of a small creek, and I started to see little wooden signs in the forest, extolling in a few words here and there the virtues of nature, and imploring the reader to "leave no trace of your visit" and "respect the trees and animals" and such. Eventually I spied, along side the road where a stone wall opened to a gate, a sign: "Holly Hock Hollow Farm ~ Robert and Leorna Rienow."

Holy Crap, I had found the very place where the professor and his wife lived. For me, it was like finding Gandolf's hideaway, or a really good used bookstore, or, well, I don't know what. Naturally, I did not have the guts to stop in and say hello, and although I drove by the place on my explorations several more times in coming years, I never bothered the couple. But my memory of that discovery will never fade (but details subject to random neural modifications, of course).

Anyway, at some point in time, I believe in the 1970s, many scientists realized that the greenhouse model was a powerful predictor, and started to believe that global warming was going to happen, even in the absence of enough clear empirical data. Keep in mind: Theories can be very powerful. A theory like the "Greenhouse Model" was very powerful, and had already been tested in a lot of contexts, including other planets. But the empirical data of change in the Earth's climate was not fully developed at that time. From this early speculative period into the 1980s (maybe the late 1980s?) the data started to come in line as well, and an increasing number of scientists were forced to conclude that global warming was underway and likely to get worse.

But we had Reagan/Bush, Reagan/Bush, Bush, (Clinton/Gore, Clinton/Gore), Bush/Cheney, Bush/Cheney in the White House, and a congress that I think on average was more often Ree-pub than DemocratIC. And Big Oil has always been powerful. So moving from informed speculation to virtual certainty by the early or mid 1990s, then to the point of hard and fast conclusions that not even dyed in the wool right wing yahoos could not deny, was delayed. It probably could have happened by the late 1990s or so, but we had to wait another seventeen years. In other words ... yes, had Al Gore been inaugurated rather than the Loser Bush, this would all have happened already.

Have I got this right? Remember, we were almost there. We were there at Kyoto but some bad decisions were made and we slid back a decade or so in terms of political reality. But I admit these dates are subject to revision after a closer look. I do recall writing an article for a monthly newspaper some time around 1988 (or maybe 1990?) that, in my view, summarized a number of lines of evidence and absolutely nailed down (for the readers of that fairly left wing publication) the fact that global warming was real and anthropogenic. I think a lot of us feel that we've been spinning wheels for many years, and that this planet, our civilization, the environment, have all been cheated out of a couple of decades of progress.

So what is this an introduction to? I plan to systematically go through a number of topics related to Global Warming (and more broadly climate change, to some extent) and provide up to date information and description. What are the components of "forcing," what are the greenhouse gases, and why do some matter more than others? Why is sea level so important, and so incredibly interesting? What is the link between overall climate pattern and important events such as hurricanes and tornadoes, or whether we have a lot of snow or very little in a given winter? And so on.


Read Initial Comments...

Posted on February 3, 2009 at 2:48 pm ET

I stopped reading your blog after the first sentence. When "An inconvenient truth" is touted as credible, let alone be honored by the "academy" says it all. There was a movie made a few years ago called, "The Day After". Why don't you greenies give that an award also as factual and representive of how the atmosphere works. Oh wait, your talking about global warming...use this movie as a reference a year or so from now when your all riding the global cooling hysteria bus. Better yet, have Al Frankengore create "An Inconvenient Truth II", showing polar bears locked in an icy environment, starving to death, because the ice is too thick for them get to those tasty seals. Don't forget your kleenex...John D.
JOHN D. | February 6, 2009
I am amazed at the pathetic articles TWC posts here. They are juvenile, uneducated and ridiculously biased. Without exception, they are pro-GW. Whatever happened to open debate among experts? Whatever happened to presenting both sides of the issue? What person is in charge of posting these articles? Do the people in charge ever wonder why the feedback is so unrelentingly critical? This blog is a joke.
RCS | February 6, 2009
This site was suggested to me a while ago to check out, but am only now looking it over. Wow. I have suspected that global warming was going to be a cash cow for a selected few, but after reading your blog Greg, my eyes have been opened to the politcal agenda as well. Is this the consensus of the people who post on this site? Hating, demonizing and insulting people or groups who do not agree with you? The green environmentalists seem, to me anyway, to be trying too hard and using any means to get attention about, and to get people to sign on to global warming. To have someone with supposed credentials in the field of your profession, to use terms like "holy crap", "loser Bush", "Ree-Pub" etc...casts serious doubts that your passion for global warming is a legitimate concern, but more of an uncontrolled emotional reaction to things that don't go your way. We have plenty of politicians on both sides of the aisle swimming in that pool. Also, to assume that if Gore would have won the 2000 election, we'd be surrounded by rainbows and unicorns by now is rediculous, and at best speculative. Using that logic, I can assume that Gore would not have been able to make the tough decisions when the terrorists attacked us, resulting in more attacks on U.S.soil to the point that global warming would not even be on the radar. You appear to deal in hypotheticals and draw the conclusions that fit your view of the world. I can read and process information like you can. As for gw? I am skeptical.
KURT D. | February 6, 2009
Comrad Greg (bin) Laden...Allow me to correct your last sentence in the bold face type: Yes, global warming is a farce and is not anthropogenic, and the average (thinking) American thinks that global warming is not an issue at all. Just wanted to correct that typo for you. Maybe you need to get more creative in your propaganda tactics heir Greg.
R.W.NUTJOB | February 6, 2009
Do you think Mr. Laden has a political leaning?
Mark in UT | February 5, 2009
I hope you will cover the lessons i learned in the 70-80's in public school about Global Cooling. I hope you will look at the change in the naming of the problem.. cooling to warming to change to ... what will be next. I hope you will be open to seeing the huge profits being taken through the green agenda. By putting big oil on one side you better be open and honest about big green. Frankly. I hope you will be open about your own interests. I see an aweful lot of careers right now dependent on speaking the party line about man made global *whatever* Is yours? I think we should all take note that government has a very bad track record at fixing ANYTHING. Freedom is the scarcest commodity in the history of mankind. Shall we give up another chunk in the HOPES of changing the climate? CHANGING THE CLIMATE? My god.. you people are filled with hubris. (is that proper use of the word that describes al gore and his ilk?) And what is your GOAL in stopping this horrible global wamring changing thingamajig... What is your GOAL? I still don't get it .... do you want to save people's lives? Their livelyhood? The planet certainly could care less.. it will go POOF in another billion years... less. POOF... explode.. burned to a crisp. What is the BEST hope of a few species existing to the end of the universe? Mankind. lets support free markets. Democratic Republics. Free Speech. Lets fight PC. Lets fight people using names like "Flat Earther" or Robots...FREEDOM .. get it
Kent J | February 4, 2009
It's sad to see the author thinks that people who don't agree with him are Ree-pubs. From this assessment I guess there are a lot of Ree-pubs living in other countries. I can assure the author, with great certainty that it's not just the Ree-Pubs who don't buy into the AGW theory!!! Secondly the author states, Average American thinks, according to Polls, that it is only the third or fourth most important issue. Sorry it just rated 20th (Last) in a recent published PEW poll. On the other hand, I welcome discussion on the issue. At one time I leaned towards the AGW theory. In all honesty it was reading blogs that clued me into the fact that so many people question the theory. (You would never get that from just reading articles on the subject.) It was at this point that I decided to do some personal research. Can't say I can prove anything, but I do find the fact that so much new information contradicts the Consensus that I have become a Skeptic at least.
Apprentice | February 4, 2009
The part about "started to believe that global warming was going to happen, even in the absence of enough clear empirical data" says it all about this true believer. Unfortunately, the empirical evidence is going against the AGW story line. See, for instance, http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/jan_co2_report.pdf. Just for starters: temps have been pretty much flat since the El Nino event of 1998, sea levels have been rising at 1 foot per century (half the IPCC�s projected maximum), Arctic sea-ice extent has scarcely declined in the 29 years since 1980, and hurricane/tropical cyclone activity reached a new low in 2008. Many other sources of realistic empirical climate data are easily found. Also, contrary to the true belief of the alarmists, there are many legitimate climate scientists who do not buy into the AGW line.
Bill K | February 4, 2009
Using words like "Ree-Pubs" and "DemocratIC" leads me to think this is a political blog, not a science blog. It initially diverts the discussion from science to politics. Then, the author uses the phrase "holy crap". It's hard to expect reasoned discussion with the phraseology Mr. Laden uses. Therefore, I've turned it off. Good luck with your blog. I think it belongs in a political forum.
louparte | February 4, 2009
Man I thought this was a weather blog I was clearly wrong I see now this must be the website you go too to find a good stand up comedian you guys are a riot on here this must be TWC True Weather Comedy Website my bad I was looking for facts and truth not political referances and theories.
Anonymous | February 4, 2009
Gee Greg...and your political agenda is? As neither a Ree-pub nor a Dem-O, I will still look at your upcoming articles on the re-hashed, spun around, ever changing pick and choose data you chose to believe. What is a right wing yahoo? Is it comparable to a socialist America hating left winger? Hardly. Is your comment that an, "increasingly number of scientist" were forced to conclude that gw is going to get worse, from some article published 20 years ago? I like the term "forced" you use. Synonomous with socialism. Probably more like "coerced" to join the green team. If you look hard enough,I'm sure you can find bus loads of unethical, unscrupulous scientists who can be forced,I mean agree with the gw garbage. This whole thing IS political, and is just one of many venues that you and the rest of freedom despising greenies use to bring this country down. As your religious leader Gore says,and I'm saying this in my best huckleberry hound voice, "The planet has a fever". Al needs to make another power point presentaion to put a jolt back into this dying non issue, and to revive your false perception of gw. You might try to train yourself to say "climate change", that way you can ride the hysteria train to which ever direction the temperature travels. As for "big oil",give it a rest. That blather suggesting oil companies are responsible for every thing from conspiricy to sun spots has outlived it's propaganda driven futility. Look forward to your random modifications. And so on.
J.R. | February 4, 2009
I sense a fair bit of desparation currently by the AGW nutter crowd. Why do they continue to be Global Cooling denialists?
Meh Meh | February 4, 2009
Beautiful article, comrade.
Hugo Chavez | February 4, 2009
Go to Artic Theme Page, Latest Surface Obs and see for yourself That Canada is faking their temp. recordings!
climate god | February 3, 2009
Systematically go through a number of topics? Sounds like you're just going to do a political rant about the mean old republicans, sorry "Ree-pubs" as you so moronically phrase it. You _are_ out of high school, right? You warmist alarmists are high camp entertainment. You think anybody cares about your breathless pilgrimage to some greenie shrine? Real scientists are finding their voice now and spreading the word that AGW is a scam and a hoax and Al Gore and Jimbo Hansen are bozo con artists. You are on the losing side of history, pal.
Anonymous | February 3, 2009
Global warming is happening at an alarming rate, my concerns brought me to a company that icompletely "GREEN" I read alot about this company and decided to join this company, they sell all natural vitamins, all cleaning solutions are completely green a matter of fact if you purchased there cleaning supplies alone you would save $3400.00 a year, also the waste of all those supplies that would not be used will also help clean up our enviroment "THIS COMPANY WAS ON THE OPRAH SHOW 4 TIMES AND ALL SHE DOES IS RAVE ABOUT HOW WONDERFUL IT IS. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS COMPANY ALSO PLANTS 5 TREES EVERYTIME A CUSTOMER BECOMES A GOLD AMBASSADOR. PLEASE CHECK OUT THE SITE I PROMISE YOU THAT YOU WILL BE VERY HAPPY YOO KNOW HOW WE CAN ALSO HELP THE EARTH FOR OUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN WWW.REVITALIZEYOURSELFNOW.COM
DAVE G. | February 3, 2009

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