Cartoon: If Global Warming Were Real

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Transcript of cartoon

Panel 1
A white man wearing a collared shirt and glasses, sitting at a desk. He’s typing furiously on a laptop. In front of the desk, a dog watches him adoringly. Behind the desk, there are two windows; outside, it is dark and pouring rain, and the trees lean in the wind.

A caption tell us what he’s typing:

CAPTION: “Global warming” is FAKE NEWS! If global warming were real,

Panel 2
Glasses dude is looking out the window at the storm. Large objects – a boot, a coffee mug, a chair, a mailbox – fly by in the wind as the rain pours down.
GLASSES: Uh-oh! Look at that!

Panel 3
Glasses dude, now with a backpack and carrying a duffel bag, splashes through puddles as he walks away from his house, the dog following him.
GLASSES: This is AWFUL! Come along, Arf Rand!
ARF RAND: Arf!

Panel 4
A far shot of a car driving uphill through the storm. Glasses dude’s word balloon comes from the car.
GLASSES: Get upland get upland get upland get upland get upland…

Panel 5
High on a mountain, Glasses Dude has set up a tent. The sky is only partly cloudy here, and there’s no storm.
GLASSES: Phew! I think we’re safe here!
ARF RAND: Arf!

Panel 6
Glasses dude sits on the grass, next to Arf Rand, who is taking a snooze. Glasses dude is typing on his cell phone; a caption shows us what he’s typing.
CAPTION: As I was saying, if global warming WERE real, wouldn’t we see SOME sign of it?

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24 Responses to Cartoon: If Global Warming Were Real

  1. 1
    Gerald says:

    A great example …willful ignorance is anything but BLISSful… just plain stupid!

  2. 2
    Jokuvaan says:

    If you go enough but not too north you can actually see with the naked eye how the vegetation is creeping further north and how the Graylings and Arctic Char move ever further up.

  3. 3
    nobody.really says:

    I’m worried about your drawing skills, Amp. That’s gotta be the worst depiction of Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter I’ve ever seen.

    (Perhaps you were trying to split the difference…?)

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    You’re obviously blind – the character looks exactly like Rush AND exactly like Ann. Are you sure you’re looking at the right cartoon?

  5. 5
    nobody.really says:

    Well, God made us all in His image, so I guess that’s possible.

    Oh, I GET IT–this is one of those 3-D drawings! If I let my eyes go out of focus, it all becomes so much clearer …. so much deeper….

  6. 6
    Gracchi says:

    Ironically, the logic in this cartoon is actually a common argument against global warming: “It’s cold outside, how can there be global warming?”

    It’s equally fallacious if you use a similar argument in favor of global warming.

    The variation in weather on any given day is way greater than the effect of global warming, so the contribution of global warming is not actually noticeable by looking at the weather on any given day. It is noticeable in changes to weather patterns for longer periods and by looking at changes that are driven by climate change. For example: receding glaciers & animals and plants migrating north.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    Gracchi:

    You’re literally correct, of course.

    My intention is that in this cartoon, the storm shown would act as a stand-in for the increased frequency of extreme weather events, which scientists in the field believe is caused by global warming. As the IPCC put it, “A changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration and timing of extreme weather and climate events, and can result in unprecedented extreme weather and climate events.”

    But of course, my intention doesn’t matter as much as what readers get out of it. For you, at least, this cartoon did not work as intended.

  8. 8
    Gracchi says:

    Ampersand,

    I’m not a fan of cartoons that are deceptive when taken literally and may/can only be interpreted as intended by people who are already knowledgeable, because they at best do no harm and at worst cause it. So overall, I think that they do harm.

    A person who already knows the difference between climate and weather will not improve their understanding by looking at this cartoon. They end up no better or worse. A person who is unaware, is likely going to interpret the cartoon literally, becoming misinformed.

    Finally, these kinds of cartoon are also bad PR for global warming IMO, as skeptics can (and do) point to them to argue that the belief in global warming is based on falsehoods.

    Ultimately, the issue is that there is no indication that this cartoon is not to be taken literally. We live in a world where quite a few people do actually believe in the literal meaning and where many people base their beliefs on simplistic memes that float around in their bubble.

  9. 9
    Ampersand says:

    Would it improve the cartoon for you if I changed panel 4’s dialog to something like “Gosh, this sort of weather is happening a LOT lately”?

  10. 10
    Mandolin says:

    I think you need the upland urgency….

    Thinking.

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    Panel 3, change “this is awful!” to “Gosh, this has been happening a LOT lately”?

  12. 12
    Ben David says:

    Scientific theories must be “falsifiable” – a fancy way of saying they must be stated in a way that can be proven or dis-proven.

    So: what observable, quantifiable, objective climate phenomena would *disprove* your assertion that Global Warming (and I assume you mean the kind caused by humans) is actually real?

    The Global Warming crowd talks about how “weather is not climate” – but then blithely co-opts all types of “weather” – hotcoldwetdry – as evidence for their theory.

    But that is not the way science is “settled”.

    Please define:
    What “extreme” means in your discussion of “extreme weather events”.
    What weather patterns would you accept as disproving your theory?

  13. 13
    delurking says:

    For Ben David:

    Here is an easy to understand video about how climate change science works.

  14. 14
    Harlequin says:

    This article and the longer article linked in it are an interesting discussion of how much certainty we have in saying natural disasters are caused by climate change. (Hard to boil down into cartoon form, though, I’d think.)

  15. 15
    Charles says:

    AGW requires time to prove or disprove (since it is a slow process at the human scale). We’ve had time. 40 years ago, simple climate models made predictions of what the global average temperature would be now (pen and paper calculations from Arrhenius did so 120 years ago). Those predictions proved correct. They also predicted the specific patterns of warming: more warming in the winter, more warming in the arctic, more warming at night. Those have all been validated. They also predicted stratospheric cooling and tropospheric warming. That was correct. (Before you bring up “Global cooling” predictions from the 70s, those were two things: accurate predictions of what continued massive particulate and NOx pollution would cause, and very long term predictions that we were probably at the end of the warm phase of the Ice Age cycle and could expect global cooling over the next thousand years- maybe, maybe not, but not relevant to discussion of AGW model predictions).

    When global climate models are run in predictive mode (say, run in the 1990s for the 2000’s), they have incorrect forcings because we can’t predict when volcanoes will erupt or what the intensity of the solar cycle will be. Those errors in forcings cause errors in model results. When we rerun those models in retrospect, with the correct solar, volcanic, and particulate forcings, we get more accurate results for global temperature. This demonstrates that the models are accurately handling those forcings. Besides CO2, we don’t have any good theories for missing forcings.

    So we have a theory that has been repeatedly strongly validated. Once you have a strongly validated theory, one of the things you need to reject that theory is a different theory which does a better job of explaining things. It isn’t enough (as so many denialists and contrarians try to do) to find some timeseries that can sort of be fit to the global warming signal and claim that it is really just cycles of hummingbird populations (not a real example) that explain global warming. You actually have to have a coherent explanation of how decreasing hummingbird population changes cause global warming. While the shoddy curve fitting of denialists is generally pretty awful, there basically aren’t any attempts at providing an alternative coherent physical explanation for why we have seen global warming in these specific patterns over the past century. Even if AGW were the equivalent of phlogiston, to discredit it requires developing a theory of oxygen, not just saying “Nuh-uh, the global warming trend looks kind of like a drawing of this mountain range, maybe that’s what is causing it!”

    If CO2 levels continue to rise and nothing bizarre happens with the other things that drive the climate, and twenty years from now the decadal average temperature (2027-2037) is the same or less than the 2007-2017 global temperature, then that would suggest that there is something missing in the theory (perhaps a negative feedback loop that has not yet been observed or theorized). If we get to negative net emissions, and after decades more the global temperature keeps going up at the same rate as it has been, that would also show that something is missing (although probably it would just be that some of the positive feedback loops that are posited but not yet confirmed or well understood have kicked in). None of those would disprove the entire body of climate science, physics and chemistry that grounds the claim of AGW, but it would point to gaps in our knowledge, and it is conceivable that resolving those gaps would then completely transform our understanding in some significant way.

    And yes, nothing is going to happen quickly that casts doubt on the theory, because climate changes slowly even when it is changing relatively very quickly, but the theory is already well validated by decades of empirical evidence matching predictions, and the theoretical underpinings are also extremely well validated by controlled experiments. To reject AGW theory would require an explanation of how adding extra CO2 to the atmosphere somehow fails to capture more heat, even though what we know about CO2 means that it should cause the atmosphere to capture more heat.

    Moving to extreme weather events, more hurricanes aren’t proof of global warming, nor are more extreme rainfall events or repeated record setting fire seasons through out the world. Instead, all of those are evidence of the effects of global warming.

    Most of them are confirmation of the predicted effects of global warming. This isn’t a matter of someone discovering that there are worse fire seasons and saying “Oh, I bet global warming caused that! That proves that global warming is happening!” Instead, researchers looked at what the relationship between fire seasons and temperature were, predicted what fire seasons would be like under higher temperatures, and are now able to confirm that increasing temperature has indeed caused worse fire seasons.

    Some of them are examples of people seeing an unexpected series of events (like repeated massive snow storms in Washington, D.C.) and saying, “Hmm, why would global warming cause that?” and then investigating what climate features rising arctic temperatures would affect that would lead to that result (and finding them). That’s also good scientific technique, although not being able to find a link wouldn’t have invalidated AGW, it would have just shown that either there isn’t a link or there is a part of the puzzle we don’t understand. There are plenty of parts of the puzzle of climate science that we don’t understand.

    The question of whether stronger hurricanes or more hurricanes are caused by global warming is still somewhat uncertain. There is much more evidence that global warming causes stronger hurricanes, and the relationship of global warming-> hot ocean water -> hot ocean water + hurricane -> stronger hurricanes is relatively well grounded theoretically. More frequent hurricanes isn’t established, as the controls of hurricane formation are still not well understood, and there are actually competing theories for whether global warming should cause more or fewer hurricanes. See, science actually at work, producing competing descriptions for how the world works, which can then be tested against observations.

    As a side note, the fossil fuel companies in the 1970s and early 80s had some of the best climate scientists and best modelers looking at global warming. Those people, employed by people who dearly needed results that said that there wasn’t going to be AGW from fossil fuels, found the exact same thing as everyone else. Simple atmospheric models clearly showed that dumping CO2 into the atmosphere would raise temperatures. Vastly more complex models ever since have shown the same thing. There is no coherent, physically justifiable model formulation that doesn’t show global warming from increased CO2. If there were, Exxon and the Heartland Institute would be running it in a million variations and publishing disproofs of AGW in Nature and Science. Instead, Exxon and Mobile fired their climate researchers and hushed-up the results (didn’t matter, since they were the same results any other skilled researcher would produce).

  16. 17
    Ampersand says:

    Charles, I think you pasted in the wrong link? No Ben David on that thread.

    P.S. Re your long comment, great post, thank you.

  17. 18
    Ampersand says:

    Here’s the main climate change thread I cold find Ben David participating in.

  18. 19
    Ben David says:

    … and in that old thread I also asked for a falsifiable statement of the AGW theory.

    Still waitin’.
    The scientific method has not changed – although some corners of our culture have reached the point where science is shouted down as colonial/patriarchical/racist.

    Please define:
    What “extreme” means in your discussion of “extreme weather events”.
    What weather patterns would you accept as disproving your theory?

  19. 20
    Ampersand says:

    Bullshit, Ben David. You don’t get to slink away from a thread without comment, after arguing based on literally fake numbers (that your own source disproved), and suggesting that the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center’s basic data might be faked, refuse to address these problems, and then come here demanding that we answer your questions.

    You are not arguing in good faith. You make up lies – fake numbers, accusing real scientists of faking data – and then when it’s pointed out that your figures are objectively false, you ghost. (Those things may have been innocent errors the first time you typed them, but they became lies once you refused to either address the refutations or withdraw your lies).

    Why should I waste my time arguing with a proven liar? Literally all you will do, judging from your past performance, is say demonstrably untrue things, then ghost.

    Show me I’m wrong. Address those issues from the previous thread, either by showing that the numerous false statements you stated were actually true, or by withdrawing them. And either provide some evidence for your implication that CDIAC has faked data, or withdraw that. If you don’t address this, however, you can’t expect us to argue with you about climate change as if you’re arguing in good faith.

    And btw, Charles already responded to you on falsification.

  20. 21
    MCA says:

    Ben David – your “falsification” request is too vague to specify. The raw data of temperatures over time are just that, raw data, and cannot be falsified, anymore than you can falsify that I’m 5’10” tall or that I had a bagel for lunch.

    Now, as to the central claim of AGW, that human activities (particularly CO2 and methane release) have affected the climate, falsification is simple – build a better model.

    Any theory in science is only tentative, and can be replaced. But the replacement theory has to: 1) account for data which the prior theory could not, 2) account for the current data more accurately and/or precisely, or 3) both. Because the rise in temperatures is raw data, you cannot “falsify it” unless you prove it to be erroneous. Thus a falsification would be any alternative theory that accounts for the known data better than the current one, as well as any data which is not currently accounted for. So, for instance, if you could prove that changes in incoming solar energy perfectly accounted for climate change, you would have disproved AGW (spoiler: they don’t and there have been no substantial changes over the known time period). But that such a possibility exists means that AGW is indeed falsifiable, just that is has never been falsified.

    Similar claims are sometimes made by creationists about evolution. When asked what would falsify evolution, J.B.S. Haldane answered snarkily “fossil rabbits in the Precambrian”. But truth be told, that would only falsify certain parts (the geological history) not the fundamental theory (change in allele frequency across generations of a population due to differential reproductive output of certain genotypes).

    Specify what, precisely, should be falsifiable. Vagueness is never a virtue in science.

  21. 22
    Charles says:

    Thanks MCA, that’s much more concise than my attempt.

    Notably, multiple attempts (e.g. Berkeley Earth’s temperature reconstruction and Anthony Watts work on the urban heat island effect) have been made to demonstrate that the temperature record (or rather its reconstruction) is flawed and that there hasn’t been any global warming in the 20th century. Obviously, if those attempts had demonstrated significant errors that had that effect, then the climate theoretical model in which increased atmospheric CO2 leads to increased heat trapping, which leads to increased water vapor, which traps even more heat, which leads to further increased temperature (it really is that simple at its base) would have a serious problem to explain, and it is conceivable that the end result would have been not just a minor modification of the model, but a major change. However, none of those efforts have done anything but reconfirm again that global warming is taking place.

    Ben David,

    Here is a good brief description of the empirical evidence for anthropogenic global warming. I’m curious which piece of that you claim is either (a) unfalsifiable or (b) disproven.

    1) Is it the part where the amount of heat emitted by the Earth for similar levels of solar radiation is decreasing?
    2) Is it the part there CO2 levels are rising pretty much in step with humans emitting CO2?
    3) Is it the part where CO2 traps heat?
    4) Is it the part where increased temperatures cause increased water vapor?
    5) Is it the part where the specific fingerprint of the decrease in emitted radiation from the Earth matches up perfectly with the fingerprint of CO2 and water absorption spectra?

    Note again, because you insist on confusing this, none of the arguments for AGW depend on what hurricanes or extreme rain events or extreme fire seasons do in response to global warming. There is no weather pattern that would disprove AGW because the argument for AGW does not depend on the response of weather patterns to global warming.

  22. 23
    nobody.really says:

    On falsifiability:

    What weather patterns would you accept as disproving your theory?

    [F]alsification is simple – build a better model.

    Any theory in science is only tentative, and can be replaced. But the replacement theory has to: 1) account for data which the prior theory could not, 2) account for the current data more accurately and/or precisely, or 3) both.

    1. Or perhaps account for the existing data more elegantly. In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn noted that in the beginning, the theory that planets revolved around the sun did not produce more accurate predictions of celestial events, such as planetary positions, than the Ptolemaic system. But it just seemed so much simpler. It was the new system’s elegance that seemed to attack early proponents.

    2. I’m not sure how I could identify a phenomenon that would disprove a theory in the abstract. I might identify a phenomenon that I would have difficulty reconciling with a theory. But I’d be unlikely (unable?) to abandon a theory until I had a better substitute theory.

    For example, what phenomenon would you accept as disproving the theory of gravity?

    I understand gravity to imply that all things with mass tend to attract each other. Bet helium balloons and hot-air balloons have mass, yet move away from the mass of the Earth. Ha—we’ve disproved the theory!

    Maybe. Or maybe, upon analysis, we’d note that air also has mass. The phenomena of balloons moving away from the Earth is just evidence of the more-massive air moving toward the Earth, displacing less massive things—consistent with the theory.

    In short, we might identify a phenomenon that appears to conflict with a theory. But until we’d had the opportunity to explore the phenomenon, I’m not sure we’d be able to say whether the phenomenon disproved the theory.

    3. What phenomenon would you accept as disproving the general theory of relativity?

    I’m informed that that theory postulates that gravitational attraction would approach infinite levels when applied to objects in the proximity of subatomic particles—yet subatomic particles do separate. Ergo, the general theory of relativity is disproven!

    Well … probably. The general theory doesn’t seem to work well when applied to quantum events—things we currently explain with quantum mechanics. Likewise, quantum mechanics doesn’t seem to do a very good job of explaining the motion of planets. According to quantum mechanics, quantum fields carry a certain amount of energy (or mass), even in seemingly empty space, and the amount of energy gets bigger as the fields get bigger. Go big enough, and the amount of energy in the quantum fields becomes so great that it would be expected to create a black hole. Ergo, the theory of quantum mechanics is disproven!

    Yet we continue to rely on both theories—not because we think they are perfect, but because we currently lack any better models.

    4. Are current theories of climate change wrong? Well … probably. That is, I expect we’ll continue to refine them. As previously noted, any theory in science is only tentative and can be replaced. That’s not a bug; that’s a feature.

    But to really displace the current model, you don’t need to cite an anomalous phenomenon—you need a better model. That was the idea behind The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

  23. 24
    Charles says:

    On the other hand, an important part of the the theory of climate in which humans adding CO2 and methane leads to higher global temperatures is the part where it predicts higher global temperatures (and ocean acidification), so if those predictions somehow started seriously failing (on some other basis than countervaling vulcanism or low solar activity or geoengineering or a nuclear winter or some other unexpected event with a predictable effect), even without a new theory, we would know that the existing theory was weak in that particular area and that its predictions couldn’t necessarily be trusted. You don’t always need a better theory to know that the existing theory is inadequate.

    So proving that the historical temperature record is wrong (as Berkley Earth and Anthony Watts tried and failed to do) or having the temperature record over the next century fail to rise as the theory predicts would show that the theory was flawed in ways that made it not reliable for predicting global temperature. Just like how the Michelson-Morley experiment demonstrated that there was a serious problem with the theory of aether, even though there wasn’t a theory to replace it.

    Likewise for the hypothesis that global warming is making hurricanes more intense, if global warming were to fail to make hurricanes more intense, then we’d know that the theory wasn’t good for predicting that, and we’d know that we needed to improve on related aspects of climate science to figure out why, even before we had a theory that did a better job of explaining that. Or how we know that the global climate models struggle to accurately represent El Niño events (although we are getting much better at this!), partly because our theoretical understanding of El Niño is incomplete.

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