So I get this email from a colleague today offering me “proof” that global warming is a scam. His “overwhelming evidence”?

A letter from 49 former NASA Scientists. NASA is in open revolt over climate change!

Wow, 49 Scientists? That’s really impressive (at first glance!) Let’s see if it holds up to scrutiny.

Whenever I see a single number out of context, it makes my Spidey sense twitch. What is the significance of subset 49? What is the parent set –  50? 100? 1000? 18,000? 50,000?

To put this into some context, let’s look at the data. NASA currently employs 18,000 people. In the 1970s, half of their employees had professional degrees. Let’s ballpark it down to about a third of these folks today are scientists or engineers. Since NASA began in 1958 with 8,000 workers, they have many tens of thousands of employees. I can’t guess how many — 40,000, 50,000 people? And many of those were scientists and engineers.

Of all these people, living and dead, 49 got together and wrote a letter.

Now that we have some context, that strength of the initial participation looks rather silly. These 49 people — only one of whom is an actual meteorologist — are an extremely tiny percentage of current (or former) NASA Employees.

I am always suspicious when I see as single number out of context. It often serves as a tool for deception.

Just another example of confirmation bias at work.



Statistics: Scientific Consensus on Climate Change? (December 31st, 2009)

49 Former NASA Scientists Send A Letter Disputing Climate Change
Gus Lubin
Business Insider, Apr. 11, 2012

Category: Mathematics, Psychology, UnScience

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

78 Responses to “Innumerate Claim of the Day: NASA Scientists Dispute Climate Change”

  1. Note that this is not my issue.

    I have a giant carbon foot prints, own lots of cars and a boat — the smallest engine of which is over horse — I am not lecturing anyone on being green.

    But I can do math — and 49 former employees and 1 climatologist — out of 30,000 total NASA employees is not the sort of proof this person intially thought it was

    When you discussing sides, I am on the side of simple mathematics.

  2. PeterR says:

    Amazing that these folks are, apparently, basing their analysis on such a long-term timeline:

    ” . . . especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data . . . .”

    Wow, if we wait for the current spikes up in various data points to affect the Thousand Year Average, we might not even be alive to see that their argument is so wrong!

    And these people got us to the moon and so forth?




    PS — Are they collecting significant pensions, retirement benefits, and medical coverage by any chance (on OUR dollar)? No wonder the cynicism grows.

  3. tallbonez says:

    it wasn’t confirmation bias to run and look up stats in attempt to discredit 49 former NASA employees who signed a single letter rather than read their argument? (who were listed by Full name title and years in that role on the very link you provided). If your best point against the fact of 49 NASA folks signing this letter is how small a percentage of all NASA employees that is, and implying there were lower standards during the time period we landed on the moon, then you have proved their argument incorrect?


    BR: The claim was a) 49! Thats a lot! and 2. Its a revolt!
    The rebuttal was in response to the initial argument.

  4. dpharris says:

    Also these are “former employees” not “current employees” so your potential universe is not the number of people working there currently, but all the people who have worked there at one point but no longer do (and are still alive). Probably a much higher number.

  5. ironman says:

    Ummm, Barry – you might want to look a closer look at exactly which 49 former NASA employees…..

  6. Frilton Miedman says:

    The day I see that 49 former NASA scientists deny climate change is the day I see 49 former Scientists whom are now in the employ of Koch brothers, Exxon or BP.

    Rather than a focus on “carbon footprints” we should be looking at”Carbon neutral”, using materials/fuels that burn existing carbon already in the ecosystem.

    The oil lobby is picking fights they know they can win to sway attention from the obvious solutions, like publicizing the fact that if we cut fuel consumption will hinder economic growth, they’re right. it will.

    Chalk that up to “DUH”.

    There’s an answer to that, and it’s a realistic one, reduce dependence on fossils, when possible, replace with wind, solar, and even Nat gas, which if left unburnt is 400 times more dangerous as a greenhouse gas, the sea floor is absolutely loaded with it, in the form of methane hydrate….the stuff is waiting to melt and escape to the atmosphere.

    The whole notion of “carbon footprint” is silly, we should be looking at “carbon neutral” sources, like using methane from landfills & sewage to offset the ejection of millions of years of nature’s sequestered CO from fossil fuels.

    We should be honed on looking at innovators like Solazyme that converts solid waste into fuel, or Bloom energy, who’s technology now powers Google’s HQ, using sewage, literally poop, that’s converted to electricity and has a projected cost of $3K per household to install.

    There is no 100% cure-all, but there are dozens of existing technologies that will easily crush oil and fossil fuel CO output collectively.

  7. GeorgeBurnsWasRight says:

    The question is, what is the field of expertise of these scientists? The vast majority of scientists are not qualified to have a professional opinion on climatology because that’s not their field of expertise.

    I remember taking a biology course from a professor whose field was fruit fly oogenesis. In other words, he was an expert in the developmental process of eggs in a female fruit fly. That’s how narrow a scientist’s field can be.

  8. JimRino says:

    Do we have to pass a law that Heartland “Institute” be shut down?
    Do we have to require the Koch Brothers to spend at least 1% of their income on Solar and Wind, and make a Profit, instead of spending 200 Million a Year on Right Wing Nut political positions?

    Do we have to test the sanity of anyone putting 100 Million dollars into politics?

  9. Eric Berger says:

    Is NASA really in an open revolt over climate change?

    The letter raises several issues that I would like to address.

    First of all, that these men and women are skeptical about human-caused climate change is not surprising. I know a number of them and have interviewed several of them during the last five years in which I have covered NASA. Many, such as Walt Cunningham, Larry Bell and Harrison Schmitt, are well known skeptics.

    What these men and women are not is climate scientists. Most are not even scientists in the sense that they have pursued scientific research during their careers, in any discipline.

    What these men and women are are heroes. They are the space program’s greatest generation, which built the spacecraft that landed on the moon, first ventured into the heavens and laid the groundwork for the space shuttle and International Space Station programs. Many of them are also deeply unsatisfied with the current state of human spaceflight.

    But this, again, does not make them experts in the field of climate change.

  10. JimRino says:

    As Krugman has said, 6 Years, the clock is Ticking.
    In 6 Years, Solar will be cheaper then ALL Other Energy Sources.
    It’s time to admit defeat.
    Coal is Dead.
    Fracking is Dead.
    US in Drought Conditions.
    Food Inflation is the next issue, caused by global warming drought.

    Solar and Wind are the New Thing, with No Negative Externalities.

  11. Frilton,

    you seem to be a *smart boy, but you bring to new heights (or, is that ‘lows’?)..

  12. The letter simply chastised NASA for crossing the line between science and advocacy. They stated that:

    “We believe the claims by NASA and GISS, that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated, especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data. With hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists publicly declaring their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts, coming particularly from the GISS leadership, it is clear that the science is NOT settled.”

    There was no reference to a scam, only that they did not believe the science was settled and that NASA’s strident claims to the contrary were not consistent with an organization based upon scientific principles.

    In order for the science to be settled, you need an actual hypothesis to be tested. Then you need an actual system which when applied can prove the hypothesis true or false. The problem here is the hypothesis is morphing. Is that human activities are making the planet warmer? Changing the weather? Which one?

    Beyond there is no experimental system which can be used to test any of these hypotheses. Left with no system to prove predictions of climate catastrophe driven by human endeavors, it is perfectly reasonable to be skeptical of those who appear to be driven by advocacy, not science and apear to be oblivious to the unintended consequences such an effort might spawn.

    This is not about simple math. Science is not settled by political or democratic means. Consensus is not truth.

    Sorry to disturb the group think operating here.

    BTW – no money from the Koch Brothers.

  13. I though that was made clear in the intro that “the scam” reference was from the emailer to me, not in this letter.

  14. DrungoHazewood says:

    My Uncle signed this. And, of course they’re a lot more than 49 that agree with them and didn’t sign. NASA has politics just like any organization. I’ve told him to forget about this many times, but its hard to convince someone that was on a team that went to the Moon that he can’t make a difference. I don’t know about AGW (not a climate scientist) , but it is fun to ask all kinds of questions and find out how they did things. He was on the teams that investigated accidents from the Apollo fire to the shuttle failures. Why the US used pure oxygen and the Russians didn’t? He was on the team that drew up the procedure for Apollo 13 CO2 scrubbers. When he heard about the accident and that they were going to use the Lunar module as a life raft, the first thing he thought was they were going to have trouble with the canisters. Also how the suits were constructed and how they protected against possible micro meteor impacts, and how heating and cooling were done with the massive temperature contrasts. The surprising thing is the different projects he worked on, how they solved the endless problems, and the often time simple solutions and every day materials they used. Many NASA engineers were first generation college graduates: a bunch bright farm boys that went to the Moon.

  15. Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich’s Stunning Comments: ‘I Believe There Is A Problem’ With Our Climate

    Speaking to a group of Republican political donors last week, Ohio’s conservative Governor John Kasich called for action on climate change, saying he was “all for” developing clean energy

    At a time when climate change denial has become a de facto national platform for the Republican party, Kasich’s comments are a notable break from GOP rhetoric. The Columbus Dispatch reported on his statement to fellow Republicans:

    “This isn’t popular to always say, but I believe there is a problem with climates, climate change in the atmosphere,” Kasich told a Ross County Republican function on Thursday. “I believe it. I don’t know how much there is, but I also know the good Lord wants us to be good stewards of his creation. And so, at the end of the day, if we can find these breakthroughs to help us have a cleaner environment, I’m all for it.”

  16. woodhenge says:

    I just got back to the PNW from St. Louis where it was over 90 degrees for a few days in early April. Record setting mind you. 97 percent of American scientists say global warming is happening.

    Some of the three percent got together and wrote a letter.

  17. RW says:

    I followed “ironman’s” advice and the first name I came across was H. Leighton Steward, chairman of “Plants Need CO2,” a 501(c)(3) front group devoted to contesting the conclusion that global climate change is partially caused by fossil fuel burning that, in companionship with its ad-buying sibling 501(c)(4) group, “CO2 Is Green,” assists in promoting the petro-chem industry party line.

    Herr Steward was the gentleman who apparently “presented” to many of NASA’s former staff and and actually found 49 who believed he had any respect for the truth and were subsequently willing to sign the letter he drafted.

    This is not a scam, it is plutocratic agitprop but also agnotology — the purposeful promotion of ignorance — and fundamentally no different than the tactics the tobacco companies used to delay action on the large negative externalities their products produced. The difference here being that getting the climate change picture wrong if it is true is a potential species rather than an individual terminal event; e.g., Precaution, uncertainty, insurance, and morality.

    NB: The argument that these 49 individuals are merely expressing “skepticism” regarding NASA’s putative support for anthropogenic climate change — a red herring since the target is not NASA but James Hansen who really is an expert (backed by other experts but not NASA other than by employment) unwilling to be intimidated or silenced — or that the consensus of experts in the field does not constitute a more probably accurate picture of the domain of their discipline than the opinion of the ignorant …well, let’s be kind and merely state that such an argument does not itself stand up to scrutiny.

  18. A7L-B says:

    AGW models are imperfect, sometimes significantly flawed. This is a key reason why many reputable scientists, even climatologists, have concerns. Science is not about popularity, or feelings, rather, about facts.

    One need not be a climatologist to recognize flawed methodology. Like it or not, virtually every tenet of AGW can be reasonably challenged, and should be. If the AGW computer models withstand continued scrutiny, they will become accepted as mainstream.

    That’s what good science is about. Making your data available, and subjecting it to scrutiny, often from a wide range of scientific disciplines, including the astronomers and comparative planetologists, who have indeed found significant shortcomings in the models developed by earth-centric climatologists.

    You may want to believe in the popular theory du jour, but science is not a popularity contest, as Galileo sadly discovered, it about facts which withstand continued multidisciplinary scrutiny. Many early assumptions of the AGW crowd have been disproven. More will follow. As a reality check, which climate scientist can accurately predict climate conditions for even next week?

    Can even one of them? No. Food for thought… More and better research is needed, including an accurate accounting of the observed temperature variations seen on other planets and their moons.


    BR: As George Box pointed out: “All modes are wrong, some are useful.”
    My suspicions run against those “Skeptics” who are paid to be skeptical, funded by the Oil & Coal indusrty

  19. DSS10 says:

    I work with rocket scientists and rocket scientist like the general population are subject to the properties of a normal distribution. There are also a lot of employees at NASA who may have a degree in a scientific field who perform clerical or non-research functions. I think this is why they said “Scientists” as opposed to PhD’s or researchers.

    This letter is a non-issue.

  20. thetruthseeker says:

    As one who loves to just look at the data, you might want to look at the fact that Hansen, Phil Jones and others have been going back and changing data to fit their climate narrative. Talk about confirmation bias. They change the data to fit their bias. I’m just saying.

    Like you, I have no dog in this fight. However, the fact remains that far more money is spent on pro-AGW than against it. Furthermore, look at the solutions being proposed and who ends up benefiting financially. As they say, follow the money. Based on my research, the pro-AGW crowd is the group who most stands to benefit.

    I apologize in advance for the linkfest that is to follow.


    BR: “the fact remains that far more money is spent on pro-AGW than against it”
    You wanna source that whopper or just leave it out there like a giant meatball?

  21. techy says:

    How can man change climate of a world created by god? This is one of the favorite arguments I have heard from the religious right.
    such sad state the politics of this country….religious people in bed with corporations hell bent on screwing working people…i wonder what ever happend to that “you are thy brother’s keeper”. One thing I am aware of that happened was black people got promoted to human status which pissed off the southern states.

  22. MayorQuimby says:

    I have NO idea whether or not climate change is due to man-made pollution and activity and I don’t trust either “side” to tell me the truth since everyone seemingly has an agenda.

    But considering what is at stake, I think it is prudent for us to err on the side of caution.

  23. theexpertisin says:

    I appreciate contrarians.

    They teach us humility if correct.

  24. pacificbeach says:

    If you saw this chart and were unbiased about the issue, would you regard global warming as an undeniable, permanent, man-made phenomenon? I applaud the scientists for speaking up. 49 may not sound like a lot relative to all NASA employees, but sometimes going against the grain can be a damaging, if not fatal career move.


    BR: 1) Saw it? I posted it 4 years ago.

    Regardless, I am much more interested in the use and abuse of statistical data than I am AGW

  25. Randel says:

    Consensus is not impressive. At one point in time consensus had the Earth flat and at the middle of the Universe. Dissent is good for science; it actually drives it forward and is foundational to the scientific method of test, retest hypotheses, look for refutation, develop new theories etc. Climate science will always be the subject or skepticism because at its core it is non-linear computer model simulation using best inferences and deductions about numerous functional relationships, but it is not a method like in chemistry where you can test, replicate or not, other scientists claims.

    Did you read the climate report? It says very clearly that mitigation alone is not sufficient. In fact, it indicates that adapatation needs to be occurring. Folks should not be living near the coasts. Why rebuild New Orleans? Folks on Long Island are in harms way as the seas rise. Some decade those milions of folks will be a moving, to where? What new crops do we need? Are we developing appropriate hybrids ahead of time? The climate report leaves no doubt that mitigation alone will not succeed.

    The watch word here irrespective of climate modelling and scientific feuds fed by politics is that man should leave as small a footprint as possible. And we are not doing that! Prudence should rule at this point. I am all in favor of a major slowly phased in steep energy tax, and as the revenue comes in, do away with the income or payroll tax; yes there would be some equity effects that would need addressing too. BR would then get a price signal to help him decide how many cars or boats he wants to choose freely.

    The other thing to mention is that alarmism brings forth an equal and opposite natural reaction, skepticism. It is time for the alarmists to calm down. It just leads to fatalism and depression in the human psyche. Whether we tackle this problem in 2010 or 2015 in geological time, does not matter. What matters is that we take prudent action at some point both on the mitigation and adaptation side of the equation. I am actually optimistic for mankind here. The moonshot galvanized a nation, and proper leadership will galvanize all of us on our Big Blue Marble in a good and decent way. But alarmism is not that path.

  26. Frilton Miedman says:

    Mayor Quimby, you don’t have to pick a side

    The simple fact is that if we open the doors for alternatives, we both increase supply AND appeal to the scientific community/Liberals on carbon emissions.

    Reduce demand/increase supply, cheaper gas/fuel/utilities all around….who cares about conspiracies and politics?

  27. HCF says:

    Respectfully, Barry, I don’t think that this is an issue of innumeracy. A fundamental tenet of science is that the truth is the truth irrespective of the popularity . I don’t care if 99% of people believe in climate change, or 1% of people believe in climate change. It is what it is regardless of my opinion or anyone else’s.

    My problem is that the majority of climate change debate is focused in the political or economic sphere by people with zero scientific training (political “science” grads, politicians, business people, and lawyers). It is natural and healthy regarding scientific issues to be skeptical regarding the data collection, analysis, and conclusions. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the skeptic to question inconsistencies or logical failures in a scientific argument. Science should be freely debated in a civil manner and determined neither by special interests (on either side), policy wonks beholden to the whims of elected officials, or the tyranny of the masses.

  28. This argument reminds me of a similar debate that there is no scientific consensus — that there is actually strong disagreement.

    As it turns, out, that assertion was false.

    The basis of that argument was that 31,486 dissenting scientists have signed a petition against the belief that Global Warming is man made at the

    Same problem — a single, out of context, number. What does this number actually mean? Is 31,486 alot or a little? How many scientists are there in the US? etc.

    As it turns out, that was 31,486 out of 12 million

    See the chart here for more color

  29. Brendan says:

    I count exactly zero climatologists. To call a meteorologist a climatologist is like mixing up a day trader and a pension fund analyst. Yes, the two are related, but hardly required to be experts in the others’ field. While there is some cross-over, and the best sub-set would probably do well in the other job, very different sets of data, background knowledge, thinking styles and risk tolerance are required to excel at each job. On a venn diagram, a significant portion of meteorologists would sit outside of the “good at climate prediction” circle just like a significant portion of day traders would sit outside the “good at long term investment strategies” circle.

  30. A7L-B says:

    “BR: As George Box pointed out: “All modes are wrong, some are useful.”
    My suspicions run against those “Skeptics” who are paid to be skeptical, funded by the Oil & Coal indusrty”

    Failed models have very little use, and are soon generally forgotten.
    Like we all ‘knew’ there was an energy crisis in the 1970s.
    Then we all ‘knew’ global cooling was a threat. Etc.

    You do realize many “Alarmists” are paid to be alarmist, right?
    Currently, it’s comparatively easy to get research funding for nearly anything with an AGW theme;
    not so much without that theme. The research funding process is politically tainted; funding requests are ‘evaluated’ by funders who sometimes have their own agenda: go along with AGW to get funded. Scandalous, really, but another story. Follow the money-both trails.

    “As it turns out, that was 31,486 out of 12 million.”
    How ofen has the majority been wrong? Frequently.
    Science is not a popularity contest; there is no voting.
    Just a small handful of climatologists laid the groundwork for the “12 million” who followed.

  31. Jojo says:

    I don’t give a crap what these 49 “scientists” say. Whether they believe or not changes nothing. As BR points out, 49 is a rounding error on any count.

    BUT with 12 million+ scientists in the USA, many presumably working on science work, one might wonder what exactly they are all up to – because it isn’t like we are seeing a lot of innovation and new businesses from all the work they should be doing. Maybe we need some scientist head chopping? Let’s start with the one’s that don’t believe in global climate change…

  32. Frilton Miedman says:

    On a 6,000 year chart, temps are relatively stable, over the last 100 years they spike huge, at the exact time of the advent of the internal combustion engine.

    Recalling the big tobacco denial that took decades, the difference here is the end of life as we know it vs lung cancer for a cross section of the smoking population.

    However, if the Koch’s & oil co’s were willing to set me up for life, I’d deny the chart too.

    My biggest worry isn’t the CO, but slight changes in Oceanic temperatures that will release mass quantities of methane hydrate, methane being 400 times more potent than CO as a greenhouse gas.

    This is the prevalent theory on the cause of the Permian-Triassic extinction, the single most thorough extinction event of the planets history, a dense layer of C12 in the earth from that time leaves it fairly conclusive, C12 is a byproduct of methane.

  33. A7L-B says:

    Reread “The Folly Of Prediction”.

    Notice: AGW appears to be exempt from ‘the folly of prediction’.

    Public sentiment is very pro AGW, irrationally so. Time for a trend change?

  34. egockel says:

    What Ritholtz, are you a scientist now? Should I go find some meteorologist blog for trading insight?

    Do you have any proof this “trend” will reverse in the next 5-10 years? Or won’t? You can’t predict the markets, and meteorologists can’t even predict the weather. Case in point, this “winter” in Chicago was supposed to worse than last year’s. Nope.

    I hope you’re not posting this stuff just to drive up page views.


    BR: I thought this post was about statistics and cognitive bias, not climatology or AGW. Thank you for helping me prove my point

  35. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    You don’t get rich practicing most forms of science (theoretical physics or zoology, for example). You can get rich practicing some (chemistry or applied physics, for example).

    More to the point: what motive would either side in this debate have to lie?

    Plenty of physicians testified, under oath, that cigarettes did not cause cancer. Who was paying them — tobacco companies or lung cancer patients?

    Plenty of nuclear physicists said that nuclear reactors were completely safe. Try telling that to the people of Chernobyl or Fukishima. Who did these folks work for?

    Then, there’s the problem of speciality. Is a structural engineer a scientist? Does a chemist specializing in pharmacology have any valid opinion on hydrocarbon combustion? Does a neurosurgeon know how to remove a Plantar wart or visa-versa?

    I have to side with the specialists on this one.

    As for NASA naysayers, here’s NASA’s own web site on the subject, and it’s not too skeptical:

  36. thetruthseeker says:

    Clearly this is not a very scientific breakdown of total spending by both sides, but it it is all I have for now before I head off to bed. Get one of your crack analysts to research the numbers and I bet this is not too far from the truth.

    Solyndra alone surpasses the energy industry lobbying.


    BR: The discussion was how much each side spent arguing its case — not investing in companies.

  37. Pantmaker says:

    I’m with you Barry. I always thought “4 out of 5 dentists surveyed” looked a little too convenient…and why wasn’t it 5 out of 5?

  38. V says:

    Barry just wondering if you have watched any of Richard Lindzens presentations?

    He goes through the observable data issue by issue and breaks down these ‘climate catastrophe’ syncos quite convincingly.

  39. kirk elder says:

    your argument might be significant but for the fact that the 49 include 7 apollo astronauts and 2 directors of the Johnson space centre at Houston. How many apollo astronaut and directors of the space centre are there?
    Oh, on solar, Germany is shutting down theirs, so is most of the rest of Europe, and china have said that they are packing in because the daft europeans and yanks have given up buying!


    BR: “Germany is shutting down solar”

    Can you clarify this?

  40. Sechel says:

    There’s no doubt we’ve had warmer winters. And I’m all in favor of polluting less, but the global warming crowd has not proved a link. And if they had, why all the controversy about false statements and unsupported studies. Unfortunately the global warming debate is more political than scientific in my view.

  41. mathman says:

    Since, despite decades of evidence, the deniers prevented any change at all to the way we’re powering our lives, we have
    2C warming target ‘out of reach’ – ex UN climate chief

    Scientists warn of ‘emergency on global scale’

    ..Leading scientists on Thursday called on the upcoming Rio Summit to grapple with environmental ills that they said pointed to “a humanitarian emergency on a global scale.”

    In a “State of the Planet” declaration issued after a four-day conference, the scientists said Earth was now facing unprecedented challenges, from water stress, pollution and species loss to spiralling demands for food.

    They called on the June 20-22 followup to the 1992 Earth Summit to overhaul governance of the environment and sweep away a fixation with GDP as the sole barometer of wellbeing.

    “The continuing function of the Earth system as it has supported the wellbeing of human civilisation in recent centuries is at risk,” said the statement issued at the “Planet Under Pressure” conference.

    “These threats risk intensifying economic, ecological and social crises, creating the potential for a humanitarian emergency on a global scale.”

    The conference gathered nearly 3,000 environment scientists, economists, business executives and policymakers in the runup to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio.

    In a recorded message, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he welcomed the declaration, saying “its timing… could not be better.”

    “Climate change, the financial crisis and food, water and energy security threaten human wellbeing and civilisation as we know it,” he said.

    Ban added that he was considering appointing a scientific board or a chief scientific advisor to advise him and other UN organs.

    The conference declaration said humanity’s impact on Earth was now so great that a new era — “the Anthropocene,” a term derived from the Greek word for human — had emerged.

    Globalisation has shown that economies and societies are now “highly interconnected and interdependent,” it said.

    These changes have brought stability and innovation but created a system vulnerable to sudden stress, as the global financial meltdown and surge in food prices had shown.

    Tackling the problems of global environment change will mean major reforms, it said.

    One is the question of governance.

    “Existing international arrrangements are not dealing quickly enough with current global challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss,” said the statement.

    It called for a “polycentric approach” for planetary stewardship, meaning a diverse partnership between local, national and regional governments that also includes business and grassroots groups.

    But another need was to scrap obsessions with gross domestic product (GDP) as the only benchmark of progress. Governments should also include environment, health and social factors.

    “A crucial transformation is to move away from income as the key constituent of wellbeing and to develop new indicators that measure actual improvements in wellbeing at all scales,” the declaration said.”

    So let’s just keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing since the Industrial Revolution began and pretend we have no effect on our environment at all: ignore all our climate-related problems and “hope” they go away before we (as a species) do. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  42. mathman says:

    Here are a few more “yawners” for you to skip over:

    “Dealing with climate change is a moral issue on a par with ending slavery, the world’s most celebrated climate scientist, James Hansen, of Nasa, believes.

    Dr Hansen, who heads Nasa’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, will be making the slavery comparison in his acceptance speech for the Edinburgh Medal next Tuesday, when he will also be calling for a global tax on all carbon emissions. Nothing less will do, he will argue, so urgent is the challenge which climate change presents for future generations.”

    i can hear the Koch responses now: “Jim Hansen? Wasn’t he the “muppets guy”? What does he know . . .”

  43. Grego says:

    “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, by Thomas Kuhn. Basically, science baselines change by old scientists dying out. He wrote it in 1962; replace “Church” with “Koch Bros” and things haven’t changed much.

  44. Chad says:

    I will point out again for the 50,000th time (not all on this blog), that it doesn’t matter if climate change is real or not (it is but that’s not my point) as this is also a national security and economic issue. The solutions are the same for all three. The stupidity of arguing against alternative energy, and by association arguing against one of those 3 reasons, is beyond stupid.

    Getting back to Barry’s point that 49 people is a really small number in the greater scheme of things at NASA, I would like to point out that there are a small number of NASA personnel who claim to have seen UFO’s. This small number does not make UFO’s real. Just like 49 people do not invalidate climate change…just because they are skeptics. It would be better if they had done some of there own research and brought that forth rather than saying, “Ummmm…we don’t agree.” It’s useless. Invalidate these poor models with good ones if the current models suck so bad. Of course, they don’t.

  45. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    kirk elder Says:
    April 12th, 2012 at 3:59 am
    your argument might be significant but for the fact that the 49 include 7 apollo astronauts and 2 directors of the Johnson space centre at Houston.

    So, if all of these guys told you that the theory of evolution was a bunch of drivel, would you believe them, based on their credentials? After all, how many apollo astronaut and directors of the space centre are there?

  46. Old Rob says:

    Two points/cents:

    Point 1-The approach taken in this post leads one to conclude that SOMEONE is off the reservation. The NASA group may or may not be experts in climatology; that’s the important thing. The other thousand scientists may be rocket nozzle specialists. It’s kind of like listening to a movie celebrity commenting on politics. Sure they have their opinions, but who cares? They have a platform, but they may not be relevant.

    Point 2- There may be a direct correlation of global warming to carbon emissions, but there is not presently direct proof. By the way, that’s just my opinion. Maybe there is global warming due to the presence of humans; a better correlation and perhaps a little tighter. Maybe we should tax human existence.

  47. lippard says:

    The American Physical Society (50,000+ members) has a position statement affirming the reality and significance of anthropogenic global warming. When a group of its members led by S. Fred Singer put together a petition to try to reverse this position, they got barely more than 200 signatures. John Mashey did a social network analysis of the signers, and found them connected to Singer’s social network, and most were retired physicists with no expertise in atmospheric physics. (Singer *had* that expertise, but hasn’t done any climate science research since the late 60s or early 70s.)

  48. Orange14 says:

    For all the climate skeptics you should look here: Hansen published the hypothesis about rising temperature back in 1981 SCIENCE, one of the preeminent peer-reviewed journals out there. We now have 30 years of data to benchmark and guess what, it looks like Hansen was correct (no surprise to me). Just because a letter comes out from former NASA employees doesn’t mean anything. I’m a former National Institutes of Health employee and if I signed onto a letter saying broccoli causes cancer it wouldn’t mean anything!!! Good catch BR!

  49. Wait: The NASA letter is invalid because “only” 49 people signed the letter?


    BR: I am not discussing the letter itself — its the breatheless claim that this is a huge game changer because “49 people signed the letter!” — that is what I said is invalid.

  50. constantnormal says:

    Orange14 says:

    “… I’m a former National Institutes of Health employee … I signed onto a letter saying broccoli causes cancer…”


    OMG !!!!

    … running in circles, screaming and shouting …

    Ah, the perils of not getting The Big Picture … this pretty much typifies the status of the GCC “debate” … a debate that is full of partial statements and less-than-half-truths, but overflowing with baseless opinions opposing difficult to test notions, and an absolute dearth of testable theories from one side of the argument.

    I’m presently awaiting Koch Bros funding, via their anti-broccoli lobby … meanwhile, I’m enjoying a nice platter of broccoli …

    Apologies to Orange14 for my violating his written words, by appropriating them in a partial and misleading — but totally literal — manner. I’ll be sending him his share of the checks I receive from the Koch Bros …

  51. constantnormal says:,_Plagues_and_Petroleum

    Read the book, as an excellent introduction to how theories are developed tested and refined, when the thing being tested cannot be replicated in the lab and the mechanisms are too complex for simple models to explain.

    When the deniers put forth alternative theories that better explain the data, I’ll move them from the nutjob box into the sane box. Pointing out flaws in the accepted theories does not change them from being the best explanations that we have. And using specious arguments to demonstrate nonexistent flaws is despicable.

    Damn. I need a larger nutjob box.

  52. ES says:

    I don’t really care to hear arguments why the climate change is normal or not there at all. I can’t judge them on their merits. All I know is that the extreme weather patterns we experienced in the last 10 years are not normal and we have to deal with it. Just in Texas last year we had 1 in 100 years drought then we had no winter, 2 years back I was in Russia where they had the heat wave of the magnitude ever recorded in 1 thousand years of recorded history. I know arctic ice is melting. Europe had an extermly long and cold winter this year, 1 in 50 years. Asia had all sorts of floods last 2 years. The south of the US is running out of fresh water. So, why are we having allt hese extermly rare events in the space of 3 years, can they explain? We will have to deal with all of this one way or another. Putting you head in the sand doesn’t help.

  53. HCF says:

    Chad Says: “I will point out again for the 50,000th time (not all on this blog), that it doesn’t matter if climate change is real or not (it is but that’s not my point) as this is also a national security and economic issue.”

    I agree with you that there are national security and economic issues at hand but I think that the issue of whether or not climate change is real or not and if humans are the cause is ABSOLUTELY critical. Any issues of policy must be framed correctly.

    Frankly, I think 99.9% of us would agree that it is best to develop alternative energy sources. I don’t like our national security compromised by energy prices which driven by geo-political tensions in far-off, unstable places. Nor do I like breathing polluted air or clear cutting forests or anything else unpleasant. The policy debate should center on these issues, imho, because there is general consensus across the political spectrum that consensus should lead to debate and action (hopefully).

    Climate change may be an important issue and therefore should be studied, but the question is, is it THE issue of our day? The reason why its existence (or non-existence) and causality are so important is because our response affects policies outside of energy. Cynically speaking, what is the best way to ensure a green society? Keep the majority of the world in abject poverty! Have you ever breathed the air in Shanghai or Shenzhen? It is probably much like industrial revolution era London or Glasgow. However, this development has also raised the living standards of billions of people. Hopefully, this is only a temporary stop for most of the developing world.

    We live in a world of finite resources, of the natural kind, as well as time. I am naturally skeptical but not a denier of climate change. However, here are several issues “peripheral” to climate change that absolutely require solving in the meantime:
    1) Energy security, sustainability, and independence
    2) Clean water for people in the developing world
    3) Sustainable economic development of third-world countries to eliminate poverty
    4) Access to education for all children (boys and girls, rich and poor)

    I will leave it to others to prioritize their list of world problems to solve, but that is mine…

  54. MojaveMax says:

    So Barry, did you discuss your concerns with the colleague who forwarded the article? If so, was your colleague convinced to be more skeptical?

  55. willid3 says:

    does it really matter if we are the only cause? or just the last impetus to the climate change? i suspect that that the results will be the same. the earth’s climate is changing. it is warmer, and more energetic. and it wont just be the coasts that will be impacted. the whole country will be. as violent weather can impact any part of it (aka tornados). and lost of the country are subject droughts. both of which will get worse. not better. and what some take as disagreement in the science is just how it works. every theory is tested, and if needed, change. even the theory of gravity is tested. but i doubt any one truly thinks its not real. the downside to waiting s it will cost a lot more to get out of the problems. the upside to waiting is? other than allowing the current systems to make it worse, not sure. and true scientific debate would not need help from businesses whose existence depends on us not believing.

  56. willid3 says:

    and oddly enough we just went through an experiment as to whether we are the last impetus for climate change. the economic meltdown we just went through slowed our carbon output immensely. and low and behold climate change slowed down. but now that the economy world wide is off its back. we see climate is changing again.

  57. Disinfectant says:

    GeorgeBurnsWasRight Says:
    “The question is, what is the field of expertise of these scientists? The vast majority of scientists are not qualified to have a professional opinion on climatology because that’s not their field of expertise.”

    I agree that most scientists are not qualified on this topic. That’s what makes it so amazing that the overwhelming majority of non-scientists have such strong opinions on the matter. Less than 0.1% of people have done the necessary research, yet 100% are convinced that they know the truth. The reality is that we should all be very tentative in reaching conclusions about incredibly complex situations that we have neither researched nor have the comprehension to research.

    Not that that has ever stopped anyone…

  58. Chad says:

    I think you are being a little picky about my argument, but that’s cool. I’m more interested in answering your question.

    “I will leave it to others to prioritize their list of world problems to solve, but that is mine…”

    It’s “1) Energy security, sustainability, and independence”, though you have to add cheap, portable, and relatively clean to the adjectives. If we could have that type of energy all of your other issues would almost solve themselves.

  59. efrltd says:

    Incidentally, climate change scholars aren’t meteorologists either. They’re mainly a unique climate field dabbling with computer models and statistical methods though few have much training in the latter. Sort of the “quants” of the weather business. Meteorologists usually don’t touch more then a week or ten days, and only three with any accuracy. Climate changelings reach years and decades into the future with their, at best, extrapolations.

  60. HCF says:

    @ Chad:

    I am in agreement with you… I very much advocate for a combination of solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, and natural gas power to ease the burden on using oil or coal to fuel our needs as a modern society. Most of the world’s problems (and wars) seem to have roots in resource allocation in disputes, whether food, gold, diamonds, oil, etc. As far as I am concerned, the less we get ourselves in the middle of those fights, the better! Hopefully, there will be scientific breakthroughs in the efficiency/price of alternative energy sources such as solar, because unfortunately, at this point, from a purely economic view, it is not competitive in most applications.

  61. rootless says:

    And now let’s check what the ones who signed the letter have contributed to the science of Earth’s climate that makes them experts in the field to judge whether the statements made by climate scientists at GISS (and not just there for the matter of fact) on anthropogenically caused climate change and global warming are based on solid scientific evidence or not.

    I started with the last one on the list, Thomas Wysmuller, the alleged meteorologist. I did a search in Thomson Reuter’s Web of Knowledge, the probably most comprehensive science citation index, to see how many scientific publications he has authored in the field of climate science.

    Search result: Climate science: Zero; Any other scientific field: Zero

    I may have missed something, but I didn’t find any.

    Anyone who wants to continue with others on the list, do so.

    And what makes a program analyst a scientist?

    Everyone has the right to an opinion about the reality of man-made climate change. And, I guess, free speech even gives the right to lie up to a certain limit, but opinion is opinion, and expertise is expertise. Am I, as a climate scientist, competent to make an expert judgment about some theory in molecular biology? No, I’m not. Even as a scientist with expertise in one scientific field, I’m still a layman in other scientific fields, perhaps a better educated one than the average person, but still a layman.

    Thus, I consider the headline, “49 Former NASA Scientists Send A Letter Disputing Climate Change”, used for publishing the letter at “Business Insider” as deceptive and (presumable deliberately) misleading. Not just that none of the authors seems to have worked in the field of climate science, some don’t seem to have worked as scientist at all. Ever. The way the letter is published suggests expertise where there is none. They could have used “former NASA employees” instead of “former NASA scientists”. But then the letter wouldn’t have conveyed anymore what it was supposed to convey, would it?

    Jan P. Perlwitz

  62. Petey Wheatstraw says:



  63. johnnyA says:

    So you think a number like 49 NASA scientists out of 18000 NASA employees is a joke? But if 49/18000 (0.00272222222) is a joke, then the trace amount of CO2 number 350/1000000 (0.00035) is gonna kill us all?

  64. Orange14 says:

    ConstantNormal said: “Apologies to Orange14 for my violating his written words, by appropriating them in a partial and misleading — but totally literal — manner. I’ll be sending him his share of the checks I receive from the Koch Bros …”

    Way cool; I’ll be checking my mail box daily. Hey maybe you can get them to authorize a PayPal payment directly to me!!!

  65. Chad says:

    I’m not sure we will need a dramatic tech breakthrough. We seem to be steadily moving towards higher efficiency vehicles, appliances, etc., while steadily lowering the cost of wind and solar even when you don’t factor in subsudies.

    A side note: We need to remember that EVERY energy option is subsidized in one form or another. This includes oil. So, it is extremely difficult to price the differenct energy options.

    You are comparing apples to oranges. To demonstrate let’s use arsenic. Currently the maximum amount allowed in drinking water is .05 ppm. Essentially, that is 5 parts per BILLION. That is an incredibly small amount that is considered the maximum allowable dosage in water. Does it have anything to do with determing how many scientists supporting or not supporting climate change matters? No.

  66. rd says:

    If you look at the backgrounds of many of these individuals, you will find that they are not scientists. Instead they are experienced engineers who have spent decades making decisions based on the practical application of the combination of data and scientific theory. They have worked in an environment where reliance on an elegant computer model will get you killed because there are empirical factors that still defy precise modeling.

    Consider how well the fancy economic and VAR models developed by theoretical economists and mathemeticians worked over the past decade. They blew up the entire financial system once some of those ugly little empirical factors showed up – think O-rings in cold weather in solid rocket booster engines.

    I appreciate what the climate scientists are doing. While I personally believe that increasing man-made CO2 is having an impact on climate, I don’t believe that our ability to model either total magnitude of change or regional impacts are advanced to the detailed decision-making point yet. They are merely showing us a series of potential outcomes at this point. Many potential major feedback loops are still poorly modeled or may be entirely unknown.

    As an engineer, what I do know is that we are developing our urban and , agricultural systems in a haphazard manner so that their ability to survive past, known events is very suspect. The concept of robust design of these systems to allow for droughts, hurricanes etc. is sadly lacking. As a result, we get defective flood control systems that let us lose cities in “normal” major hurricanes, zoning policies that put many expensive houses along shorelines in known major hurricane paths, irrigation-dependent agriculture where the total theoretical water allocations exceed normal flows, and dams that prevent sedimentation in deltas causing “ocean rise” by allowing the land to settle without being replenished.

    The worlds’ leaders are incapable of deciding what to have for a group lunch, never mind massive joint re-tooling of their economies to reduce CO2 emissions. So practically, resources need to be focused on developing robust systems that will withstand change in general, similar to a well-diversified portfolio. Not building subdivisions in major hurrican storm surge locations would probably be a start.

    The shifts in the world’s climate over the past 25,000 years are unimaginable to the vast majority of people. The entire concept of a “norm” is poorly understand. The “normal” climate condition for the past million years in the Northern US is two miles of ice sitting on it. The “normal” climate condition for the area in the vicinity of the Mason-Dixon line is cold desert conditions like Mongolia and Siberia. The “normal” climate for the Gulf Coast is a USDA Zone 5 condition. These are the the “normal” conditions that have probably existed for over 50% of the past million years in the US. For the past 5,000 years most people have been agricultural relying on the crops they grew themselves to survive. It is only the past 75 years that has changed this in a signficiant way. Is our current way of living “normal”?

  67. DeDude says:


    “97 percent of American scientists say global warming is happening. Some of the three percent got together and wrote a letter.”

    I think you just nailed it.

    We have moved from the situation where there were as many scientist arguing against as in favor of AGW (as explaining the observed warming), to a situation where there is almost no climatologist in the world who argue against AGW (although the % of current warming caused by AGW is still subject to true scientific debate). This movement of opinion amongst those who have expertise in the field has come exactly the way it was supposed to – slowly as more and more data was collected to help build an understanding of reality. Those who claim “natural causes only” are extremely few because there are no longer any credible models that can explain the observed data without including a component of AGW.

    efrltd@11:23; that was a joke right? Or do you really think that climate prediction is done by taking the weather predictions and stringing them years or decades forward?

  68. murrayv says:

    Barry, you need to apply the same skeptical analysis to the scientific consensus on CO2 driven AGW.


    BR: I have.

    I come out skeptical of oil industry purchased agnotology, with a sense of sadness for the gullible souls fooled by them . . .

  69. Fredex says:

    A good deal more heat than light here.

    I see it as 49 to 1, let’s do science vs. the science is settled (James Hansen).

    I’m on the side of science.

  70. rootless says:

    DeDude, you quoted and wrote:

    “97 percent of American scientists say global warming is happening. Some of the three percent got together and wrote a letter.”

    I think you just nailed it.

    That would at least require that those 49 are part of the three percent, i.e., they would have to work and publish in peer-reviewed journals in the field of climate science.

    How many here in the comment section alone have fallen for the falsehood, that those 49 were actually SCIENTISTS who were competent to make an expert statement, instead of just LAYMEN who have nothing more than an opinion like everyone else can have an opinion?

    Now extrapolate how many people altogether have fallen and will fall for this deception?

  71. V says:

    I suppose all the clowns on here trying to analyse which sub-types of physists should be uniquely and solely qualified to analyse climate data, would also discount the fact that perhaps the greatest contributer to modern physics worked in a patent office at the time.

    Should be we dismiss him as unqualified, or perhaps actually look and repeat the experiments, rather than spend time trying to decide who has the best credentials.


    BR: He wasn’t full of shit or funded by oil companies

  72. V says:

    You have nailed it.

    I would also add how many $$$,$$$,$$$ has climate change hysteria diverted from prevention of deforestation, monitoring of fish stocks etc (i.e. things we can actually control).

    At a minimum billions, soon to be trillions and this is the sad unintended consequence unfortunately.

  73. rd says:


    I strongly recommend reading “Rambunctious Garden” by Emma Marris for some thoughts on your thoughts.

    Other interesting books from non-traditional perspective include “1491″ and “1493″ by Charles Mann. Ruddiman has also written some provocative things regarding pre-industrial anthropogenic climate change.

  74. ZedLoch says:

    Well BR, for what it’s worth, I just got a PhD from Georgia Tech in *gasp* “SCIENCE!” and I am on your side.

    So that’s 12 million nationwide including 30,000 at NASA + 1 against 31,486 (including 49 from NASA).

    So 0.26% of all scientists publicly disagree on AGW.

    I think in the investing world, yall call that “noise”

    Listening to Fox News on the subject, I am inclined to agree.

  75. DeDude says:


    I agree that opinions amongst those who are professionally qualified to develop an opinion are more important than opinion of “Scientists” as a whole. But is it is also quite interesting that 97% of all “Scientists” is behind global warming. It suggests that those who are familiar with how science works are not biting on all these wild theories postulating “alternative” reason for the professional consensus (rather than the scientific solidity of the data and models).

    The kind of development from fierce debate to complete consensus that has been seen over the decades amongst the real experts in climate science, is almost never seen in science. It only occurs when the evidence is so overwhelming that nobody can raise any credible objections, or create alternative models with scientific and factual basis.

  76. V says:

    “The kind of development from fierce debate to complete consensus that has been seen over the decades amongst the real experts in climate science, is almost never seen in science.”

    And yet doesn’t that make you suspicious? That idea that even with what is still a young science (climate science) with such a limited understanding of the complexities of the global climate system, somehow the evidence is overwhelming, despite not being able to explain the last x years of stable temperatures?

    What is consensus?
    A political outcome, nothing to do with science. You didn’t see Einstein working for a consenus.