Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS AND BOILED FROGS

Credit: AZRAINMAN

Whatever you call it, a silly anecdote or imperfect metaphor, the boiling frog story serves a useful purpose, and it goes like this. If you place a frog in boiling water, it will immediately jump out; but if you place the same frog in cold water that is heated slowly, it will not notice the gradual rise in temperature but will stay in the water until it boils to death. No frogs were harmed in the writing of this post, but the boiling frog story is a useful metaphor to describe how people refuse to recognize a threat that occurs gradually.

Climate change deniers are akin to slow boiling frogs. For most folks, the climate change crisis is vague and impalpable. You cannot see it, touch it, or watch it happen on cable news. It lacks the immediate drama of a hurricane or tsunami. Climate change may not be noticed for a decade or even within a lifetime. Yet, it exists today as a set of observations and data points that are too arcane and abstract for most people to grasp. But make no mistake: Global climate change is here … a dark cloud hanging over the lives of our grandchildren and future generations. Despite the preponderance of data, there are skeptics, doubters, and boiled frogs. A case in point (source):

Double click on image to enlarge.

When a climate scientist looks at the above graph, the most obvious feature is the red [my addition] trend line. The above graph plots rising temperatures from different data sources. The skeptical boiled frog might look at these data and say: “So what! It proves nothing.”

There are two statistical concepts to bear in mind. Some data points conform to a pattern while others seem randomly spread. When data points fall outside a trend line, we call these “outliers,” a fancy word for random distribution. The skeptical boiled frog focuses on the random jitters and ignores the trend line. “So what,” croaks the frog, “Mother Earth has mood swings.” My point: Statistical outliers turn boiled frogs into outrageous liars.

Still skeptical? Next slide (Fossil fuel combustion as a component of total greenhouse gas emissions):

Double click on image to enlarge.

What this graph shows are the various types of greenhouse emissions, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorocarbons from various sources. Most importantly, the graph shows the source of each greenhouse gas: From forest fires, from natural decay, from agriculture, from waste, and from fossil fuel combustion. Notice the large red area dominating the bottom half of the graph. This represents carbon dioxide as a product of fossil fuel consumption. What does this mean?

It means climate change is a man-made phenomenon. People burn fossil fuels in their cars, homes, and factories. Skeptical boiled frogs have claimed that greenhouse gases come from natural sources ranging from forest fires to flatulence or from the rise and fall of some geologically unknown Dow Jones. These data tell a different story. It means that more than half of all greenhouse gases (56% of total emissions) have a human origin. Hence, the term “anthropogenic,” meaning “caused by human beings.”

One more slide for a skeptical boiled frog (Spatial distribution of greenhouse gas emissions):

Double click on image to enlarge.

This color-coded map shows the distribution of carbon dioxide around the world. Notice how concentrations of CO2 emissions correspond with areas of human population density and, most especially, with areas having the highest levels of industrial output. These data confirm the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and human activity.

Overall, the latest observations show that globally averaged levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have reached new highs in 2008: Higher than those of pre-industrial times (before 1750) by 38%, 157% and 19%, respectively. Within the past 10 years alone, levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased 26.2%.

Admittedly, the boiling frog story employs a flawed metaphor. Experience has shown that most frogs are too restless to sit still long enough for any pot of water to reach the boiling point. However, the definitive experiment was performed in 1869 by the German physiologist, Friedrich Goltz, who was searching for the location of the soul and demonstrated a fundamental truth. Frogs that have had their brains removed will remain in slowly heated water; whereas frogs with intact brains will promptly escape. Thus, I end my post on an obvious note: Climate change deniers, unlike their intact amphibian counterparts, are both brainless and soulless.

Cross-posted from The Swash Zone.

9 comments:

Jim said...

Just because you post graphs based on tainted data does not make for a good argument for "man made" global warming. I noticed you left out the "man made" part.

No one disputes global climate change. Of course the climate is changing. It is in continuous change. It's nature.

I said tainted data. NOAA and the NWS use surface temp stations to record the data in absolutely the most absurd locations. Go here to see a website on these stations and their locations.

Jim said...

I found this joke by doing a google search. Enjoy.


When President Obama asked Al Gore if global warming was real Gore replied

' Just ask the puddle that used to be Frosty the Snowman".
by K B(M), DailyComedy.com

I can envision your frog leaping out of the puddle left behind by Frosty! ;-)

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Jim, for a hostile and snarky wisecracker, you are not very clever. You said:

Jim: “ I said tainted data. NOAA and the NWS use surface temp stations to record the data in absolutely the most absurd locations.

If you followed the link and read the report, you would have found this:

WMO: “The measurement data are reported by participating countries and archived and distributed by the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases (WDCGG) at the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

Thus, NOAA data represents only a fraction of source data pooled from hundreds of observation sites run by dozens of countries. Furthermore, there is nothing in your background to suggest you are qualified to peer review anything, since your claim of “tainted data” is merely ventriloquism for right wing talking points. Furthermore, you said this:

Jim: “ I noticed you left out the "man made" part.

It seems you have a reading and comprehension impediment since you did not read this:

It means that more than half of all greenhouse gases (56% of total emissions) have a human origin. Hence, the term “anthropogenic,” meaning “caused by human beings.”

In other words, “man-made.” Jim, you are a poor imitation of a boiled frog: Over-opinionated, under-educated, and just plain stupid.

Jim said...

Talk about being over opinionated and hostile. What happened octopus? You go to bed stupid last night or did you wake up that way this morning?

What link are you referring to? Mine or ? So miss prissy, if NOAA uses tainted data and others in the world use that same data it seems to this uneducated frog that the whole data base is tainted. Why don't you follow this link.

OK, you caught me on the man made comment. Sorry. Sorry that I live and breathe. How it must pain you to know that I contribute to global warming.

libhom said...

The frog analogy is apt indeed. Part of the reason that average Joes and Janes are buying this is that they are being bombarded by propaganda by Big Oil and Big Oil as well as their pr people and bought corporate media. These days, corporations also have pr people going to the blogs spreading disinformation too.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Jim: “What link are you referring to? Mine or ?

Jim, Jim, Jim, this is getting sooo ridiculous, it hurts. The link was CLEARLY REFERENCED as a “WMO” link, the same link as in the body of the post. Look again.

Jim: “So miss prissy …

Ahem, for your information, I happen to be a male octopus. If you were not so tedious and tendentious, you would be hilarious.

Tom said...

Fire and Ice
by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Arthurstone said...

Jim's a 'histrorian'. What his speciaity is we'll never know.

Climate change is a little out of his elemet.

Steve said...

Though this debate is a couple of weeks old, I'm late because I just came across this blog today.

I had to pipe in; at least you folks are debating, as opposed to Algore's "The debate is over."

And yes, the question is how much does man-made junk contribute to climate change? And is climate change really all that bad? So what if we have more CO2? In the
10th century, which was much warmer than this century, the Vikings grew grapes in Greenland. When the climate changed, they moved on.

My problem with this whole debate is the focus on CO2. It seems we've forgotten it's the other crap that people on this planet are spewing by the millions on tons into our atmosphere. I can handle CO2, but breathing in the other crap ain't too good.

Algore's mission is to make money. Our mission should be toward a cleaner planet.

Algore can go kiss his own ass.