Great Oreskes Lecture Updates State of Climate Change Denial

Fri, 2008-02-08 10:48Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Great Oreskes Lecture Updates State of Climate Change Denial

Polls show that between one-third and one-half of Americans still believe that there is “no solid” evidence of global warming, or that if warming is happening it can be attributed to natural variability. Others believe that scientists are still debating the point. Scientist and renowned historian Naomi Oreskes describes her investigation into the reasons for such widespread mistrust and misunderstanding of scientific consensus and probes the history of organized campaigns designed to create public doubt and confusion about science.

*Thanks JM for the tip.


You're referring to this, right?

Back in 1991, before Al Gore first shouted that the Earth was in the balance, the Danish Meteorological Institute released a study using data that went back centuries that showed that global temperatures closely tracked solar cycles.

To many, those data were convincing. Now, Canadian scientists are seeking additional funding for more and better "eyes" with which to observe our sun, which has a bigger impact on Earth's climate than all the tailpipes and smokestacks on our planet combined.

And they're worried about global cooling, not warming.

Kenneth Tapping, a solar researcher and project director for Canada's National Research Council, is among those looking at the sun for evidence of an increase in sunspot activity.

Solar activity fluctuates in an 11-year cycle. But so far in this cycle, the sun has been disturbingly quiet. The lack of increased activity could signal the beginning of what is known as a Maunder Minimum, an event which occurs every couple of centuries and can last as long as a century.

Such an event occurred in the 17th century. The observation of sunspots showed extraordinarily low levels of magnetism on the sun, with little or no 11-year cycle.

This solar hibernation corresponded with a period of bitter cold that began around 1650 and lasted, with intermittent spikes of warming, until 1715. Frigid winters and cold summers during that period led to massive crop failures, famine and death in Northern Europe.

Tapping reports no change in the sun's magnetic field so far this cycle and warns that if the sun remains quiet for another year or two, it may indicate a repeat of that period of drastic cooling of the Earth, bringing massive snowfall and severe weather to the Northern Hemisphere.

Tapping oversees the operation of a 60-year-old radio telescope that he calls a "stethoscope for the sun." But he and his colleagues need better equipment.

In Canada, where radio-telescopic monitoring of the sun has been conducted since the end of World War II, a new instrument, the next-generation solar flux monitor, could measure the sun's emissions more rapidly and accurately.

As we have noted many times, perhaps the biggest impact on the Earth's climate over time has been the sun.

For instance, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar Research in Germany report the sun has been burning more brightly over the last 60 years, accounting for the 1 degree Celsius increase in Earth's temperature over the last 100 years.

R. Timothy Patterson, professor of geology and director of the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Center of Canada's Carleton University, says that "CO2 variations show little correlation with our planet's climate on long, medium and even short time scales."

Rather, he says, "I and the first-class scientists I work with are consistently finding excellent correlations between the regular fluctuations of the sun and earthly climate. This is not surprising. The sun and the stars are the ultimate source of energy on this planet."

Patterson, sharing Tapping's concern, says: "Solar scientists predict that, by 2020, the sun will be starting into its weakest Schwabe cycle of the past two centuries, likely leading to unusually cool conditions on Earth."

"Solar activity has overpowered any effect that CO2 has had before, and it most likely will again," Patterson says. "If we were to have even a medium-sized solar minimum, we could be looking at a lot more bad effects than 'global warming' would have had."

In 2005, Russian astronomer Khabibullo Abdusamatov made some waves — and not a few enemies in the global warming "community" — by predicting that the sun would reach a peak of activity about three years from now, to be accompanied by "dramatic changes" in temperatures.

A Hoover Institution Study a few years back examined historical data and came to a similar conclusion.

"The effects of solar activity and volcanoes are impossible to miss. Temperatures fluctuated exactly as expected, and the pattern was so clear that, statistically, the odds of the correlation existing by chance were one in 100," according to Hoover fellow Bruce Berkowitz.

The study says that "try as we might, we simply could not find any relationship between industrial activity, energy consumption and changes in global temperatures."

The study concludes that if you shut down all the world's power plants and factories, "there would not be much effect on temperatures."

But if the sun shuts down, we've got a problem. It is the sun, not the Earth, that's hanging in the balance.

How very charming...
Your post went downhill from there...

I just don't bother to read a post that starts that way.


You also might try sticking your fingers in your ears and going 'lalalalalalalalalala' really loud. That also might help.

You guys are too funny!!


Another typical troll response to criticism.
Incidentally, there has been only ONE solar minimum of a Maunder scale. The Sporer and Wolf Minimum fit into the 200 year time cycle, but do not match up in duration and/or scale. The Oort doesn't match at all.
Solar cycle 24 has just barely started as of January 4 and is predicted by most solar experts to be very strong.
Solar Physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center has said: "Looks like its going to be one of the most intense cycles since record-keeping began almost 400 years ago."
And check out SIDC at the Royal Observatory of Belgium ( and you will find they are predicting increased geomagnetic activity within the next 24 hours....

Over at the Deltoid site is posted what Dr Tapping ACTUALLY said.
It would appear that someone from Investors Business Daily deliberately took his comments out context to suit their own point of view.
That's not very nice...
The guy says hello by insulting people, then plagiarizes something from elsewhere, and to top it off the thing he plagiarized had not validity. Class act.

Hi, I'm reposting a url put up in one of John Mashey's comments on an earlier thread. 'Whipme' would do well to check it out.

Wow, Steve, This article is awesome!

So it was Bush senior that fixed the ozone hole!

Um, but what does this have to do with sunspot cycles?


November 7th, 1989

George Bush
1989: Book II

President Bush announced today that the United States has agreed with other industrialized nations that stabilization of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions should be achieved as soon as possible. The United States also agreed that it is timely to investigate quantitative targets to limit or reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The United States was joined by over 70 countries attending the Ministerial Conference on Atmospheric Pollution and Climate Change in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

In joining the declaration at the Ministerial Conference, the United States recommended that international funding be directed toward funding a chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) phaseout in developing countries and promoting efficient use of energy. In addition, the declaration:

urges all countries to take steps individually and collectively to promote greater energy conservation and efficiency;

recognizes the need to stabilize the emissions of carbon dioxide and some other greenhouse gases, while ensuring sustainable development of the world economy;

agrees that developing countries will need to be assisted financially and technically;

urges all countries to join and intensify the ongoing work in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with respect to a framework convention.

The President said: "I asked my EPA Administrator, Bill Reilly, and my Science Advisor, Allan Bromley, to continue the leadership role which the U.S. has performed since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was formed in 1988."

The President also praised the conference for providing the United States an excellent opportunity for useful consultations, both informally and formally, with many of the participating countries, including many countries that have not previously been active in the IPCC process. President Bush also noted that such conferences contribute substantially to the growing consensus among policymakers with respect to global climate change.

William Reilly, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Dr. Allan Bromley, Science and Technology Advisor to President Bush, emphasized during the conference that the United States currently devotes $500 million to the study of issues related to climate change and plans to increase this to about $1 billion in FY 1991. Additionally, through such measures as the Clean Air Act, more stringent fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, aggressive energy conservation, and reforestation programs, among others, the United States is already playing a leading role in reducing CO2 emissions. The President announced in March that the United States was committed to total phaseout of CFC's by the year 2000. CFC's account for about 25 percent of United States greenhouse emissions.

The United States delegates emphasized their support for the IPCC process, in which it chairs the Response Strategies Working Group, one of three such working groups. The IPCC will hold a plenary meeting in Washington, DC, in February 1990. Special reports on the science, effects, and responses to global warming will be available later in 1990.

In parallel with this work, a working group of the Domestic Policy Council, chaired by Dr. Allan Bromley, is undertaking an intensive program examining the potential impacts of climate change and their associated economic consequences. With the results of these working groups and the IPCC report in the fall of 1990, the United States expects to play a leading role negotiating the framework convention anticipated to be called for by the IPCC process. The United States is currently developing policies based on sound analyses to guide national and international actions directed toward eventual solutions to

"So it was Bush senior that fixed the ozone hole!
Um, but what does this have to do with sunspot cycles?"
Actually, I was trying to stick to the topic of the original post. I might ask, What does the Oreskes lecture have to do with your plagiarized and incorrect comment about sunspots? I was linking to evidence that worries about AGW were being taken seriously prior to when you say Al Gore started it all. (Do you see that in the first paragraph where Bush wanted industrialized nations to stabilize carbon emissions as soon as possible?) I was responding to your comment where you seem to attribute the idea of AGW to Al Gore. Your comeback regarding George Bush Sr saving the ozone shows that you're likely to see everything darkly through a partisan glass. Like CFC-ozone science->policy, CO2-AGW science->policy is not about one person. Do you get that? The former issue was dealt with successfully because partisan politics did not interfere, despite the efforts of a few jerks (who previously argued similarly on behalf of big tobacco) to denigrate the science because they didn't like regulation policies. The webpage to which I sent you makes it clear that partisan politics has had a much more deleterious effect wrt the latter issue. Get it?

But I don't want to be accused of ignoring sunspots. Here's a useful graph of recent sunspot activity:
Right, global temps have been increasing for the last 4 decades straight, and the sunspots may be a bit tardy and you're ready to worry about global cooling rather than warming. Or at least that's what AGW-deniers are trying to pretend is a supportable position. Hmph.
Perhaps you had to plagiarize that garbage because you thought the world couldn't wait (for a proper citation or summary) to hear the news about this little known phenomenon. You may be interested to know that the influence of the sun and the correlation with sunspot activity will be news to nobody who's been paying attention. [In fact just the other day I sent a colleague an old document (Gilhousen, IPSFC, 1960) discussing the historical relationship between the sunspot cycle and North Pacific conditions that promote migration of Fraser River salmon via the northern route around Vancouver Island rather than the more usual southern route. People not only know about sunspots and their environmental effects, they also know quite a bit about their effects on various species. Incidentally, the sockeye salmon have been migrating via the northern route much more frequently in recent years, even during the trough of the sunspot cycle. That's right, sunspots don't explain a lot of recent history. For example, see:
and links therein, or where ~1940 was hot but sunspots low, and ~1970 was cold but sunspots high.]
I have one more url for you, just to (hopefully) finally disabuse you of any notion that AGW is more Al Gore's invention than is the internet, or that AGW is a new-kid-on-the-block theory that is only popular for political reasons relative to things like sunspot theories: … or you could just watch the first part of the Oreskes video (did you watch it before calling us turd brains?).

Does this mean global warming could be over and we might have a worse problem to contend with? What kind of economic & political impacts could this have?

And I'm getting pretty dang confused now. I thought the sun's part in climate had been disproved. Is this story maybe just more propaganda from the denial machine? Also I read somewhere that the farmer's almanac, which bases their trend predictions on sunspots has a 80% accuracy rate. Is this better than the IPCC's?

What the heck is going on? What should I tell my students?

Also, what about the ozone hole? I heard scientists are wondering why it closed up so fast, so much faster than expected since it takes so long (decades?) for the CFCs to clear out of the atmosphere. So why did it 'heal' so fast?

I also did not know there was much of a connection between global warming/cooling and the ozone hole. I'm new here, help me out.

On the ozone-climate confusion, see #24 at

I haven't kept up quite as much on that particular issue, but last I read the Antarctic hole was still expected to mostly close by 2050. There are seasonal and inter-annual fluctuations, though, just as there are in weather despite the overall climate trend. Things don't always occur smoothly/at a steady rate.

The sun drives climate, but the greenhouse effect determines how much solar energy is radiated back to space and how much is retained. The sun's average irradiance isn't nearly enough to be playing a significant role in climate change. The main concern now is rapid warming that exceeds about 2 degrees C (globally averaged) before the year 2100. See for more.

The solar cycle is currently at it's decadal minimum, which has a slight cooling effect (along with the short-term cyclical la niña in the Pacific). Even if we were to have a "maunder minimum" type event on the sun (as occurred in the 1600's), the global average cooling would probably be offset by the amplified greenhouse effect. But such an event appears unlikely, since the sun is now showing signs of recovering from it's minimum:

"The main concern now is rapid warming that exceeds about 2 degrees C (globally averaged) before the year 2100"

My God! Only yesterday morning, when I got up for work, it was minus 45 degrees C, with windchill. Do you mean to tell me that on the same day, in 100 years, it may only be minus 43 degrees C??? Unbelievable! Horrendous!

At a torrid minus 43 degrees C, I'd be able ride a bicycle to work, wearing only shorts, flip-flops, and a jaunty sun hat.

Our grandchildren must be spared this horrific fate! We must act NOW! Public relations companies must redouble their efforts to control the weather -- BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!

Rob- read it again. It says "global average". Your point is infantile and irelevant.
Also, weather is not climate.

"Also, weather is not climate."

PHEW! I'm so relieved to know that although the "climate" will change -- the "weather" will miraculously stay the same, just as it appears to have been doing all along.

Maybe it'll even get colder?

Fool. You still haven't bothered to find out about La Nina, which explains the cold weather this year. Weather is not climate.

"Fool. You still haven't bothered to find out about La Nina, which explains the cold weather this year."

Huh, well what do you know? Here we rubes had thought the cold weather in February, in northern Canada, was always caused by, um ... winter.

I guess this year is an exception.

"Weather is not climate."

Yes, they're probably completely unrelated.

(But really, VJ, you should make up your own catchy slogans, instead of parroting everyone else's.)

May I intervene, Rob?

This year's La Niña event is indeed relevant if, for example, you happen to be south of about 54°N in the Americas. However, the whole bloody earth (most notably in China and South Asia) has been experiencing unusually bitter weather this year, and the wee girl isn't THAT powerful.

It's curious that the warmists are so eager to discount any La Niña related weather which upsets their pretty models but, they eagerly embraced the effects of the major El Niño of 1998. Science only matters when it fits their goofy religious parameters.

"The whole bloody Earth", eh? Seems pretty mild around here. But again, regardless of the global and/or regional cooling influence(s), one winter doesn't mean a trend reversal.

I suspect the only reason ENSO might upset a model (although I'm not sure that's broadly true) is because it's a relatively unpredictable weather event related to variability in ocean-atmosphere heat exchange rather rather than climate forcings. And It was well-acknowledged (at least among climatologists) that 1998 was also affected by a strong El Niño. That's what made it a useful point of comparison for later years, in the denialist "warming stopped in 1998" cherry pick.

ZOG, would you like to support that statement about people discounting La Nina and embracing El Nino? Or are you just yanking chains?

Come on Steve, that's a pretty silly comment. I don't believe that you've spent the last 10 years in a cave. Are you trying to maintain that you never heard the cant about 1998 being "the hottest year ever"? You're not familiar with some permutation of, "the extreme cold weather this winter has no significance because it's related to La Niña"? I suggest that you start following a couple of blogs. One is rather inappropriately named "RealClimate" and the other is ... oh, what's it called ... oh, yes, DeSmogBlog.

(If you're just pulling my chain as payback, it wasn't me that made you look foolish yesterday, it was somebody with the handle "Timothy G".)

The denialists like to trumpet 1998 as the warmest year, because then they can make the dishonest argument that the earth is cooling instead of warming. They conveniently ignore El Nino in that case, like they conveniently ignore La Nina when discussing how cold it is this winter.

1998 was one of the hottest years. So what? Pointing that out shows some kind of hypocrisy? As VJ notes, it's the AGW-deniers that like to ignore the fact that it was an El Nino year. Give an example of someone using the high temperature of the 1998 El Nino year, specifically, to say that the 'pretty models' of forecast temperature are correct. If so common on these websites, these statements should be easy to find.

PS. Regarding Timothy, he pretends he's a teacher trying to find out what to tell his students and says some terribly ignorant things, and I'm the one who looked foolish? That's as rich as 'Whipme' plagiarizing incorrect material and calling everyone else 'turd brains'.

Rob, don't you ever feel a pang of guilt, engaging in a battle of wits with warmist half-wits? (I still suspect that you're Rob from Dakota but, whoever and wherever you are, I tip my fur hat to you.)

"Rob, don't you ever feel a pang of guilt, engaging in a battle of wits with warmist half-wits?"

Negative. Low-hanging fruit.

"I still suspect that you're Rob from Dakota but, whoever and wherever you are, I tip my fur hat to you."

Hey, whatever works for you. Who am I to argue with rocket scientists like Fern Mackenzie, VJ, etc. And who dares argue with foaming-at-the-mouth gun nut Ian Forrester?

Quick! Separate the trolls before they procreate!

Yes, this story is largely propaganda from the denial machine, as you put it. Check it out at Deltoid.
As for what you should tell your students: What the heck are you trying to figure out what to tell your students by visiting blogs? What kind of teacher are you? Do some responsible damned research before you teach your students anything. You read somewhere that the farmer's almanac was useful? What are the components of their model? Do you think it surprising that an almanac predicting regional environmental conditions for the next year might do exactly that better than a series of models predicting changed global environmental conditions 50 years from now? Where did you read about this? Do you really want help?

Gadzooks Steve, lighten up. You've just had your chain pulled. Farmer's Almanac indeed!

NOAA's NWS staff shares the blame with the others for creating doubt and confusion about the science on climate change. National Weather Service (NWS) supervisors and meteorologists began their denial of global warming campaign, secretively, just after Al Gore became Vice President. NWS was a roadblock on climate change research and public education, 1993 to current. My NWS supervisor said in January of 2000 that NWS told national news media that no questions about a link between the heavy rainfall in 1993 and global warming would be allowed in public national media interviews with NWS.

I do believe the troll was/is trying trying to sidetrack our viewing of Prof Oreskes lecture.
I wanted to view it all at once and I finally managed to find the time....
It is well worth it.

"Know thine enemy"!

I think that you've hit the nail, as it were. The whole point is to distract attention from useful and informative dialogue by throwing absurdities into the mix. I suspect that they pretend to be even more stupid than they really are to get a fizzed reaction. It's the only way I can explain the posts above (can anybody REALLY be that dense?). The whole point of DeSmogBlog is to expose this kind of thing, so I suppose we shouldn't be surprised when it surfaces.

I haven't yet watched the Oreskes lecture, but plan to do so over my leisurely Sunday morning coffee a few hours hence.

Nighty Night
Fern Mackenzie

I watched and listened to the complete Oreskes lecture. Yet she never explains how it is that 1/3 to 1/2 of the public is still unsure about AGW.

She is hung up about the Marshall Institute, Fred Singer and even trots out the shaky Boykoff & Boykoff study.

Poor video, poor logic, unsupported conclusions. Too bad, I really expected a stronger arguemnt from Oreskes.

... 1/3 to 1/2 the public is still unsure about AGW"?

How much more detail do you need? Energy industry majors and their think-tank front groups spend a fortune hiring hacks like Fred Singer and Steve Milloy, whose pronouncements are then treated as fact by Fox news. Unsuspecting Americans then watch the "news" (rather than whiling away their evenings with dense and stultifying scientific journals) and come away with the impression that AGW is somehow a matter of legitimate debate.

Oreskes (as so mny before her) have laid out the logic and the proof quite elegantly: Exxon paid for that doubt fair and square. 

Ah yes, eeeeevil Exxon rules the world. Now, if the "deniers" could just get their hands on some of the proceeds of crime that keeps Hoggan's hookers in business, we'd have all the advantages in the PR wars!

Seriously, Richard, your one-note harping on the question of who gets "what funding where" is tiresome but, you're not the only one who can play that game. Methinks that your real beef with Singer and Millroy is that both are intellectually superior to you, and also better communicators.

Richard, Oreskes makes her case very poorly. Exxon has not spent a fortune, they have spent pennies. Oreskes never explains how pennies spent can so confuse the public. Instead, she gets hung up on Singer and second hand smoke and her lecture goes downhill from there.

It is simply an urban myth that Exxon has caused this "confusion" amongst the public.

You call $15 million which ExxonMobil spent on disinformation from 1997 to 2005 "pennies"? Are you daft?

Also, Oreskes' survey (not refuted by Peiser and Khandekar) showed out of 928 scientific peer-reviewed articles about climate change, a grand total of ZERO questioned the science of AGW. Oreskes' work is actually impressive to those who don't have ideological blinders on.

Yes Stephen, $15 million is indeed "pennies".

It amounts to less then 1 penny per American citizen per year. No matter how you slice it or dice it, you can't do propaganda with that kind of miserly budget.

Oreskes may be a genius, who knows, but if she is, she does an excellent job of hiding it during her lecture.

Her speech is pathetic. Her obsession with Singer and second hand smoke is such a tired and worn out cliche that I'm surprised she couldn't come up with something original.

The rest of her lecture would only be impressive to those who believe in AGW urban legends such as yourself.

^^ S/B "to those who believe in the Exxon urban legend such as yourself."

Who should be taken seriously: respected scholar Oreskes or an anonymous person who changes his internet persona? Well, I'm not one to support arguments from authority. But in this case, Paul G/S has been asked repeatedly for an original analysis, cite of a paper, or even a simple link to someone not named Paul G/S who supports the idea that the amount spent on propaganda (by Exxon et al) has not reached the minimum required to have an effect. Never a tidbit of supported information does he supply. Just the same old broken record.

Oreskes a "respected scholar"? HOLY SHIT! She's an unapologetic propagandist who, in the Suzukian mode, uses her academic qualifications as cover to promote her off-the-wall political views.

ZOG said: "her off-the-wall political views".

Translation: "she does not agree with my biased, right wing, neocon view of reality therefore she is wrong."

ZOG, grow up! You are being so infantile in your comments that it insults Grade one students to say that you are acting like one.

Ian Forrester

I notice that you don't dispute my observation that she abuses her credentials in an effort to give credibility to her extreme leftist political views.

Hey, knuckle-dragger, we haven't heard much from you lately? How's the uber-capitalistic biotech racket going these days? Loot rolling in? Not going to well? How sad.

No need to dispute your trash comments since it is well know around here that you have nothing of significance to offer. I've seen less filth on the floor of a parrot cage than what comes out of your mouth. I hope your family, friends and employer do not find out just what a disgusting person you are.

By the way what is the "uber-capitalistic biotech racket"?

Ian Forrester

What's all this knuckle dragger stuff? And exactly what "extreme leftist political views" was she demonstrating and how are these a threat to you, specifically?

Can you bring any contradictory evidence to bear on the research that she is citing? Can you deny that people have been speculating on the impact of increased concentrations of CO2 for more than a century? Can you challenge in any effective way the accumulating evidence that the predictions of the 1950s and 1960s have indeed come to pass? And more to the point, can you prove to me that you are not an idiot?

Fern Mackenzie

... too well ...