Global Warming/Climate Change

Here is the course information from the Furman University OLLI brochure for the class offered autumn 2012.  I will again teach this course autumn of 2013.

Doug Allen begins his 4th year as an instructor in the Furman Univeristy Osher Life Long Living Institute. With his life-long interest in science, climate, and nature, he brings a unique perspective to the following 15 hour, 10 week class which begins September 18th. Doug has been a devoted conservationist, environmental educator, and wildlife photographer for many decades. He continues to contribute to ornithology and taxonomy studies with his most recent contributions in the field of lepidoptery.

CEO430 Global Warming/Climate Change The threat of global warming and climate change is called a catastrophe in the making by some and a hoax by others. This class will examine the science, but also the political narratives that drive the debate. Nothing in science has been this contentious since the eugenics debates of the 1920s and the heliocentric debates of the 1600s! There is a cast of unforgettable characters—scientists, green advocates, economists, politicians—and drama of leaked or stolen emails, warring climate web sites, accusations of tampering with data, conspiracy, even crimes against humanity. Bring an open mind to this class, and be prepared for some homework. Tuesday, 1:30–3 p.m., Herring Center, Graham (005)

Doug Allen has been fascinated by weather and climate since age 11 when his favorite Christmas gifts were the daily Department of Commerce weather maps. He has undergraduate and graduate study in the sciences and humanities, posts to several “climate” blogs, and has been an OLLI instructor for three years.


Here is the first day quiz I administered to determine the knowledge level and interests of the students. Based on the quiz results, I developed the course syllabus which will be posted in the near future. An informed conversation about global warming/climate change requires some prerequisite knowledge.  This course was constructed to provide that basic knowledge about the science and the controversies.

GLOBAL WARMING/ CLIMATE CHANGE – Initial knowledge and opinions Your answers will help me determine the structure and curriculum of this course!Please answer first six questions even if you have to guess. 1. How concerned are you about global warming and CC? Extremely____ Somewhat___ Not at all____. 2. Name any public figures or organizations that you think have been helpful in forming an opinion about global warming and climate change ________________________________________________________. 3. What are your main sources of information on GW/CC? Please name media, blogs, government or NGOs. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­______________________________________________________________________. 4. Do you study or follow climate science (atmospheric physics, empirical data such as the temperature, sea level, ice melt data, model projections, etc.)? Closely______ Somewhat ______ Not at all _______. 5. From what you’ve learned or heard, what is the global temperature increase the past- 15 years ­­­­_______, 50 years _______, 150 years _______, 300 years ________. Indicate in degrees C or F with your best guess or knowledge. 6. Two principal scientific problems in climate science are determining climate sensitivity and climate attribution. Do you understand the references to climate sensitivity and attribution? Yes____ or no ____. If you answered yes, what is your estimate for climate sensitivity? ________ And list what you consider the main forcings (attribution)- before 1900 ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­___________________________________________ presently __________________________________________________. 7. What are additional questions and your answers which might help the instructor create an interesting and informative class? ____________________________________________________________________.

SYLLABUS   posted  2/11/2013

GOALS- Because an informed conversation about global warming/climate change requires a significant knowledge base, this course includes study of climate science history, scientific method, aspects of atmospheric physics, meteorology, other related sciences, metrics, and data. The course was designed to give students knowledge of these basics and the resulting politicized controversies. The question most asked by students in number question #7 above was “Who can we trust?” My goal was that students become informed enough to answer it for themselves. Not everyone answered it in the same way!

CLASS #1 This class included student and instructor introductions, the seven question quiz, and an indication of how vast the subject matter is, and, using multimedia, an introduction to the global temperature record which shows 300 years of uneven warming,, the historical CO2 record, and the terms attribution and climate sensitivity. Home work – parts of the 1986 booklet by Crispin Tickell, Climate Change and World Affairs written before the significant recent warming began- This booklet gives a fair overview of climate history, climate science, and climate change as understood up to 1985.

CLASS #2 Discussion of the homework assignment including the work of climate scientist H.H. Lamb, including his well known temperature graph. Presentation and discussion of scientific method and how it might apply to climate science where hypotheses (called model projections) of future events can not be tested in laboratories or in reasonably short time frames.  Presentation of the relationship between global temperature, polar ice, and sea levels and a look at historic and recent sea levels and recent polar ice. Homework- read sections of online book The Discovery of Global Warming by scientist Spencer Weart. This 2003 online book is a a more detailed introduction to climate history and climate science and also introduces us to the significant warming of 1978-1998 and how most climate scientists, including the author, interpreted that warming.

Class #3- Discussion of homework assignment. Presentation of  temperature and CO2 level graphs  showing the significant warming of the 1978-1998 period and significant rise in CO2 levels. Presentation of climate scientist James Hansen’s 1988 address to the U.S. congress which marked the beginning of widespread knowledge, concern, and alarm that global temperatures are increasing rapidly, correlating to the accelerating rise in greenhouse gases, particularly increasing levels of CO2.  Presentation of the greenhouse effect as understood by most atmospheric scientists and the assumed positive feedback from water vapor which may increase climate sensitivity significantly. Discussion of several positive and negative feedbacks that are poorly understood. We watched the first half of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Class #3 homework – watch the remainder of An Inconvenient Truth and two reviews/critiques of it. Also, continued study of The Discovery of Global Warming. For those who wanted more information about atmospheric science, I suggested the Science of Doom blog “Roadmap” where there are dozens of very detailed articles-

Class #4- Discussion of An Inconvenient Truth, its critics, and how global warming alarm based on the 1978-1998 warming and Hansen 1988/IPCC 1991 model projections led to both the formation of the UN IPCC, autumn 1988, and endorsement of the catastrophic threat by virtually all Academies of Science.  Because there was no way to test the GHG warming hypotheses for many years, journalists, politicians and even some scientists talked and wrote about “belief” in global warming and the scientific “consensus,” terms not generally associated with science. Mistakenly, many or most journalists and politicians thought the models projecting warming were evidence of warming.  I showed articles of climate scientists, secure in their belief, who appeared to enable that misconception. We also looked at the Wood for Trees interactive graphing which allows anyone to easily graph temperature data and CO2 data from NOAA and six other sources over selected time periods. I again showed the significant increase in temperature from 1978 to 1998 and the very good correlation with CO2 increase, and also some other time periods with weak or negative correlation which led some scientists to question the GHG attribution, including the scientists in the film The Great Global Warming Swindle which we began watching.   Homework- Finish watching The Great Global Warming Swindle and some critiques of it.  Think about the “Inconvenient Truth” and the “Warming Swindle”  narratives and try to separate the science from the politics and come to some very tentative decision about the question many of you asked me- who should I trust and why. Also finish reading Climate Change and World Affairs and read some additional chapters in The Discovery of Global Warming.

Class #5- After class discussion, we examined the charter and First and Second  Assessments of the IPCC and the several British, American, and Japanese climate research units which together store, analyze and share all climate data. We used the Wood for Trees interactive graphs and other graphs  to look at more of that data including the dramatic reduction in Arctic sea ice, the slight increase in Anarctic sea ice, and the pause in warming after 1998. We examined the sea sea level data and hurricane data.  Some of the data seemed to support the alarmist narrative and some seemed not to. We then looked at the National Academies’ video presentation of global warming produced by NASA and others.  Homework- Look at the video which is a generic criticism of the National Academies’ alarmist presentation and consider both points of view in light of what we have learned in class with reference to the concepts of attribution and climate sensitivity.

Class #6- We examined how global warming alarm had elevated concern of CAGW to the point that Al Gore and the IPCC jointly shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, and how Al Gore’s film was also an Academy Award winner. Gore, and many IPCC scientists, claimed the moral high ground as well as the science, and they and reporters began calling skeptics “deniers” as in holocaust deniers. An important news item intervened just before class #6 diverting class from a mainly chronological study. Over the weekend, the British Climate Research Unit, the depository of all temperature records, released an updated temperature graph showing that there had been no warming in 16 years. Though this was well known to people following the global temperature records, it evoked a number of newspaper columns, one of which we read. Also, using graphs from NOAA, NASA, and Colorado University we compared the climate data to the 1988 catastrophic warming predictions of James Hansen and 1991 projections of the IPCC, and we discussed same. NOTE-  By 2013, due to the accelerating CO2 levels and 16 year pause in warming, statisticians were now claiming that the catastrophic climate sensitivity (4- 6 degrees C) of Hansen’s 1988 model projections and the slightly less less catastrophic (3- 4 degrees C)  of the 1991 IPCC  models have falsified at the 95% confidence level. The IPCC’s other models which project less than 3 degrees climate sensitivity have not been falsified at the 95% confidence level.  So finally, 25 years and 22 years after the hypotheses were formed, enough time passed to evaluate those early models based on statistics and scientific method. Homework- watch the PBS Fontline program on climate, read a British newspaper article about the above graph release, which is part of an article by climate scientist Judith Curry whom I described in class as neither an alarmist nor a skeptic, but a “lukewarmer.” Her article-

Class #7 “Consensus climate science” was riding high following the 2007 Nobel Prize despite some conservative and libertarian think tanks, in many cases funded by fossil fuel companies, claiming “their scientists” saw little evidence of anything unusual, let alone catastrophic happening with warming and climate.  The acclaim and confidence in climate scientists began to erode less than two years later because of the hockey stick controversy and “climategate emails.”  We examined the Hockey Stick controversy which involved a brief introduction to paleoclimate methodology and data. I presented information on the “hockey stick” author Michael Mann and how he, the IPCC, and other climate scientists reacted to it. Then, I introduced the climate-gate emails which showed Michael Mann, Phil Jones, head of the British Climate Research Unit, and other high profile climate scientists in a bad light, apparently conspiring to delete incriminating emails requested by FOI Acts and also acting as gatekeepers, by threatening climate journal editors not to publish articles by skeptics.  Critics of the IPCC or “the hockey team,” Mann’s phrase, are called deniers which shouldn’t be allowed to publish.  We briefly looked at the controversial investigations that mostly cleared the scientists of wrongdoing. Homework assignment- read some of the climate-gate emails and the several  free chapters of The Hockey Stick Illusion at Amazon.

Class #8- Discussion of homework assignments followed by a look at the IPCC Third Assessment (2001) and Fourth Assessment (2007) and their statements reaffirming climate sensitivity projections from 1991 and of increased confidence to “very likely (90%) that recent warming was attributed to accelerating green house gas levels. Importantly, the 2007 IPCC statement of increased confidence in prior predictions and projections became the basis of hundreds of thousands of newspaper and magazine articles that continue to this day and to the widespread belief that global warming, sea level rise, and catastrophic weather have accelerated. We looked at the Fourth Assessment (2007) graphs and noticed that most of them were for periods ending around 2000, only 2 years after the pause in warming began.  I asked members of class how they thought the IPCC Fifth Assessment,  to be published later this year, might deal with the unmistakable evidence of an over 15 years’ pause in warming despite accelerating CO2 emissions and concentrations. We also looked at the Doran/ Zimmerman Survey, a Master’s Thesis, used by alarmists to support the “97% of scientists say” consensus- and for homework we watched the PBS program Climate of Doubt.

Class #9- We discussed the PBS program, how it closely followed the IPCC 4th Assessment (2007) pronouncements and found the critics of the IPCC biased and a small minority. We discussed the role of confirmation bias in science, the concept of noble cause corruption, and we also looked at the role of money and the claims that skeptics were being financed by fossil fuel companies with almost unlimited funds and that alarmists were being financed  by government grants (NSF, EPA, DOE, the USA)  to the tune of several hundred billion dollars worldwide over the past 20 years, grants that favored the alarmist position. I showed a paragraph from President Eisenhower’s 1961 Farewell Address, and we discussed the polarization of climate science, how the narrative “catastrophic global warming” was, with no recent warming, morphing to “catastrophic climate change” and how the extreme skeptic narrative of “no global warming” led by talk radio conservatives and some libertarians was accusing the other side of fraud and collectivist world government objectives. We reviewed graphs from NOAA, NASA, and other institutions showing the unmistakable 300 year record of (uneven) global warming with most of the past twenty years the warmest in the historical record, and examined graphs from those same climate agencies showing no trend in catastrophic weather events- tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, and floods and how these records are somewhat less definitive then the temperature and sea level data. We discussed the precautionary principle and how to make reasonable policy decisions when extremists on both sides were controlling the narratives.   Homework assignment was to do individual research on the politics of global warming with the goal of rescuing the science from politics so that reasonable precautions could be taken.

Class #9- We discussed the homework assignment, and I told the class that their knowledge of climate science was now greater than that of almost all the journalists, politicians, pundits, alarmists and skeptics who write and talk about it. One student, said, “I know. Now there’s nobody I can discuss it with!” I said the upcoming IPCC Fifth Assessment was very important, and that they were between a rock and a hard place. Because of the 16 year pause in warming, either their attribution confidence of 90% was wrong or their climate sensitivity projections were wrong or both. With their model projections (hypotheses)  being falsified by the data, I noted that a significant number of previously alarmist climate scientists were becoming “lukewarmers.” NOTE: This has accelerated the 3 months since class ended. I introduced the solar attribution hypothesis and said that some climate scientists are predicting cooling based on the solar grand minimum that is occurring, similar to the Dalton Minimum when temperatures fell for several decades. I also introduced the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) which is an approximately 30 year cooling phase of the Pacific ocean which influences worldwide temperatures, and that many climate scientists think that the present cooling phase of the PDO  is offsetting the warming from greenhouse gasses. Both the present solar cycle and PDO are believed to have fairly short lifespans of only 10 to 40 more years. For almost the first time, I gave my own opinion- that whatever warming is “forced” by greenhouse gasses will likely resume and might possibly be catastrophic if climate sensitivity turns out to be fairly high, and forcings from PDO and solar become positive at the same time. That is why I think there is more than that one in twenty chance of catastrophic global warming suggested by the recent statistical analysis. I also opined that there is no need to rush to judgment and action this decade, incurring more of the kinds of tragic unintended consequences and opportunity costs I would speak of at our last class. I said it was important that the IPCC regain credibility with its Fifth Assessment or be replaced by some more credible climate science organization.  Homework assignment was to read  The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, most of it a free read at Amazon-

Class #10- For our last class we each summarized what we learned, who we thought we could trust, and what were reasonable measures to prevent climate catastrophes. I learned a lot from the students and from my preparation.  I also asked for a course evaluation, and lastly expressed how hard I tried to be fair and objective, and how difficult that sometimes was, feeling as upset as I do with our insanely polarized climate science which enables extremes of belief and perhaps corruption of the science. The skeptical side seems so burdened by distrust of government and liberal institutions that their political science and economic beliefs seem often to shape their climate beliefs. The alarmist side is burdened by radical environmentalists and activists who seem to delight in doomsday narratives and distrust of free enterprise.  I see no indication from them of good cheer that the projected warming is not occurring, just more hype and extreme statements about climate, the kind of alarmism which has led to tragic unintended consequences like the food for fuel (bio-fuel) program that raised food and fuel prices significantly, causing food poverty and fuel poverty with great suffering and even death for those already at the margins. Another tragic example has been the clear cutting of tropical forests for palm oil plantations. As a conservationist, I’m stunned by the perverse irony. Probably worse than the unintended consequences are the opportunity costs. Hundreds of billions of dollars flowed from governments throughout the world to climate agencies and academic science departments to confirm the occurrence and effects of CAGW.  I think this funding discrimination was partly done because world governments, almost all of them overextended and in need of new sources of revenue, saw carbon taxes as an answer.  Not only have the several experiments in carbon taxes (or cap and trade) failed to reduce carbon emissions, they’ve also failed to produce any significant revenue for governments, just increased fuel prices. During these 25 years of hype and tunnel vision, surprisingly little climate research occurred beyond predicting/analyzing the effects of global warming, and we know little more about atmospheric physics, attribution, and climate sensitivity now than we did 25 years ago; those hundreds of billions of dollars could have been used for climate attribution research and to solve problems that are well understood, like providing clean water for the world’s poor, and preserving biospheres of tropical forests. Worst of all- the claim that all warming and climate catastrophes are because of CO2 has led to a blaming and demonizing instead of taking reasonable, precautionary measures to protect our coasts, our agriculture, the world’s poor, and future generations from whatever climate changes occur for whatever reasons. The result is an IPCC that has not deserved our respect. After decades of “crying wolf,” climate science and the IPCC will become even less respected if the current pause in warming continues.  And no one knows the answer to that. The IPCC has an opportunity to redeem itself with the Fifth Assessment due late 2013. We shall see.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>