Standard deviations in climate change

by Eric Drexler on 2012/08/14

I found this data graphic entirely too interesting:

The graphic comes from The Economist, and is based on last week’s PNAS paper by James Hanson et al. (open access).

These observed, accelerating increases in the mean and variance of global temperatures are data, not theory.


See also: Greenhouse Gases and Advanced Nanotechnology

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

SOGTech September 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm UTC

Eric and others: I am not denying the reality of climate change, but, how do you respond to those who say these are natural cyclic effects, for example, there was a period of global warming leading up to the early Middle Ages, and this in fact led to a massive growth in crops and abundance in areas that later on re froze, such as Greenland and elsewhere? Those who are skeptical about manmade-climate change point out that volcanoes release more carbon than all manmade industrial processes combined, though I have not examined and analyzed the numbers exactly. Still, our cruder bulk industrial processes have released alot of excess carbon into the atmosphere, and we will be able to mine that carbon with nanomachines and form it into diamondoid, graphene, and fullerenes and other materials.


“…this in fact led to a massive growth in crops and abundance in areas that later on re froze, such as Greenland and elsewhere?”

To that, my response would be that this did not, in fact, happen. Some warming, yes, that much, no. It’s true that climate has changed for unknown reasons, but when we’re giving it a big kick, a history of instability isn’t reassuring. The arctic melting we see today was a surprise, way ahead of schedule, and that’s not good.

“Those who are skeptical about manmade-climate change point out that volcanoes release more carbon than all manmade industrial processes combined…”

This one is simple: They are making stuff up. The increase in CO2 comes from anthropogenic sources. There just isn’t any room for serious doubt, though there’s room in the internet for people to say just about anything, and repeat it endlessly.

Miguel Manley October 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm UTC

“Data not theory” : Famous last words of a gullible bystander who did not actually supervise the collection of data or chain of custody and is in no position to verify its reliability.

James Hanson is not a man from whom one would want to buy a used car, much less used data. NASA GISS is the epicenter of massaged and contorted data, if that is what you want to graph. They are full of it. They have to be. Future budgets and careers depend on it.


Regarding budgets, careers, and all that, here are a few questions worth considering:
Which side of this dispute has more at stake and more money to spend on influencing opinion and funding — academics, or industries invested in the status quo?
Are climate scientists disciplined and powerful enough to keep virtually all scientists in line, in every research center in every country, both within their field and in adjacent areas of competence?
Would the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change be able to twist the evidence, decade after decade, in order to tell the sponsoring governments what they don’t want to hear?
Have a bunch of academics duped China, too?

KH November 12, 2012 at 4:14 pm UTC

Where is the data? This is a summary of edited data. Where is the actual, raw data? Can I find it on the internet or GISS website? No. Why not?

These guys have been shown to collaberate with the University of East Anglia to hide the actual raw data, in flagrant breach with the Freedom of Information Act. Actually breaking the law. Why would they do that?

Nobody disputes that the earth has been getting warmer the last decades, but it is still colder than, say a 1000 years ago, 2000 years ago, 3000 years agt, etc. etc. according to ice core research. The variations are well within natural variations. And there is still no explanation, anywhere, why human activity has anything to do with it, except the lame “CO2 is a greenhouse gas” theme. No, it isn’t, not marginally. Which means that after a certain level of CO2 in the atmosphere, additional CO2 doesn’t increase earth’s temperatures. Even warming believers concede that, so they have instead conjured up a flimsy idea that extra CO2 in the atmosphere is somehow going to cause less clouds, so that it will be warmer because of changes in cloud formation. Utterly unproven theory. Just saying..


“…after a certain level of CO2 in the atmosphere, additional CO2 doesn’t increase earth’s temperatures. Even warming believers concede that…”
Sorry, but you have been misled. You may want to get your information from a more reliable source.

Univ Chicago July 17, 2014 at 9:02 pm UTC

He asks us to consider which side we trust more. Which side has more at stake? I think the side with the most at stake is the academics and all of the organizations downstream of their data who depend on funding from the government and from private citizens (many of whom have been duped into believing we’re on the brink of a catastrophe). Scientists (and I know this from personal experience) are pressured to conform to the zeitgeist of the moment, and that zeitgeist right now is global warming. Funding is denied, tenure is denied, even use of facilities is denied if a scientist is researching a conclusion that is deemed unacceptable by the majority, especially if their research leads to less funding for the university. There is tremendous peer pressure to toe the line.

Government funding is huge because of fear-mongering about global warming, and hundreds of environmentalist organizations and businesses depend on that fear to keep their funding (both public and private) flowing in. These organizations won’t just have to cut back a bit–they will actually lose their jobs and their organizations.

The above is definitely enough incentive for scientists to (even subconsciously) be biased in the data they look for, shaping statistics to fit disaster theories (if it bleeds it leads, even in scientific journals) and, on the part of all other organizations (including a panic-hungry media) to keep fear alive.

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