Opinion polls of climate change

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 15:04 GMT je la 28an de januaro 2009

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According to a 2007 Newsweek poll, 42% of Americans believe that "there is a lot of disagreement among climate scientists about whether human activities are a major cause" of global warming". I posed the same question to members of the wunderground community on Monday, and even higher 56% of them thought so. However, the results of a poll that appears in this week's edition of the journal EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, reveals that the public is misinformed on this issue. Fully 97% of the climate scientists who regularly publish on climate change agreed with the statement, "human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures".



Figure 1. Response to the question, "Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?" The general public data come from a 2008 Gallup poll (see http://www.gallup.com/poll/1615/Environment.aspx). Image credit: EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union.

The anonymous poll was performed in late 2008 by Peter Doran, University of Illinois at Chicago associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, along with former graduate student Maggie Kendall Zimmerman. Doran and Kendall Zimmerman sought the opinion of the most complete list of earth scientists they could find, contacting more than 10,200 experts at universities and government labs around the world listed in the 2007 edition of the American Geological Institute's Directory of Geoscience Departments. The 2-minute, two-question poll had 3146 responses (30.7% of those polled). Approximately 90% of the scientists who responded were from the U.S., and about 90% held a Ph.D. degree. Of these scientists, 5% were climate scientists who published more than 50% of all their peer-reviewed publications in the past five years on the subject of climate change. The authors noted that the survey included participants with well-documented dissenting opinions on global warming theory. Question #1 was, When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?" About 90% of all the scientists and 97% of the climate scientists said temperatures had risen. Question #2 was, "Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?" About 82% of all the scientists agreed, and 97% (75 of 77) climate scientists agreed. This contrasts with the results of a recent Gallup poll that suggests only 58% of the general public would answer yes. Interestingly, petroleum geologists and meteorologists were among the biggest doubters in the new EOS poll, with only 47 and 64 percent, respectively, believing in human involvement.

In a press release on the study, author Peter Doran commented, "The petroleum geologist response is not too surprising, but the meteorologists' is very interesting," he said. "Most members of the public think meteorologists know climate, but most of them actually study very short-term phenomenon." He was not surprised, however, by the near-unanimous agreement by climate scientists. "They're the ones who study and publish on climate science. So I guess the take-home message is, the more you know about the field of climate science, the more you're likely to believe in global warming and humankind's contribution to it." Doran and Kendall Zimmerman conclude that "the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes. The challenge, rather, appears to be how to effectively communicate this fact to policy makers and to a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate among scientists."

Commentary
The scientists most involved in assessing the current state of the climate are the most likely to have the "pulse of the planet"--a deep understanding of how the climate works and where we are headed. If 97% of these scientists believe in significant human impact on the climate, then it is probably so. Why is there such a disparity, then, between what they believe, and what the public and other scientists, such as petroleum geologists, believe? Dr. Ricky Rood has some excellent commentary on this issue in his latest wunderground Climate Change blog, and I offer these three reasons:

1) There are a few good climate scientists (3%) that believe humans are not significantly impacting the climate. One tends to hear the beliefs of this tiny minority a disproportionate amount. This is primarily because the fossil fuel industry pumps millions of dollars into PR campaigns to make sure you hear these dissenting views. That's not to say that these scientists are paid lackeys of the fossil fuel industry--that is not the case. These scientists' point of view happens to coincide with arguments that would protect the profits of the fossil fuel industry, so naturally the industry spends a lot of money making sure you hear these points of view. The fossil fuel industry PR campaigns also emphasize the contrarian views of a handful of non-publishing scientists working for private think tanks, who provide a distorted, non-objective view of climate change science (e.g., the attempt to hide summertime Arctic sea ice loss by quoting irrelevant statistics about wintertime global sea ice). These efforts have been highly successful in casting doubt on what is an overwhelming (though not unanimous) consensus among climate scientists. The fossil fuel industry PR campaigns are similar to the ones run by the cigarette industry to cast doubt on the harmfulness of smoking. "Doubt is our product," a cigarette executive once observed, "since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy." I recommend a reading of the 2008 book, "Doubt is Their Product", which discusses the many efforts by industry over the years to cast doubt on established scientific facts in order to protect industry profits.

2) The media contributes to the disproportionate coverage of the dissenting views, since one can make a news story more compelling by dramatizing conflict and giving equal weight to both sides.

3) Many people have a deep-seated belief in the relative insignificance of humans on a planetary scale. Geologists, who take the long view of time over geologic history, are particularly prone to this. Indeed, the planet is vast, and we are but tiny ants crawling upon its surface during a brief moment in geologic time. However, when one works regularly with the data, it becomes apparent that human activities are beginning to substantially impact weather and climate. When presented with facts contrary to ones beliefs, a good scientist will check the facts extra thoroughly to verify their validity, but then abandon those beliefs that don't fit the facts. The facts as accepted by 97% of our top climate scientists are that atmosphere is but a relatively thin, fragile layer of volatile gases beginning to show unmistakable changes due to the geometric explosion in human population over recent centuries. Those effects are only now beginning to be detectable, which is why human-caused global warming is so controversial in the public's eye. I predict that twenty years from now, climate change will be so obvious that the controversy regarding human responsibility will be gone.


Figure 2. The atmosphere viewed edge on from space. Tall thunderstorm clouds can be seen on the right side of the image, silhouetted against an orange layer of lower atmospheric gases (the troposphere) back-lit by the sun, just below the horizon. Above this layer is the clear blue of the stratosphere and the blackness of space. Seen from space, one can appreciate the thinness and potential vulnerability of the layer of gases that make up our atmosphere. Image credit: NASA Space Shuttle Flight 6 on 4 April 1983.

How representative is this poll?
The findings of another, more in-depth poll of scientists done in 2007 pretty much agreed with this week's Doran/Zimmerman poll, but were much more interesting. The 2007 poll, conducted by Fergus Brown, Roger Pielke, Sr., and James Annan, attempted to assess whether "a significant set of climate scientists agree or disagree with the perspective of the role of humans within the climate system as reported by the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report". Out of the 1807 scientists in 53 countries who were contacted, 140 responded. Almost all respondents (at least 97%) concluded that the "human addition of CO2 into the atmosphere is an important component of the climate system and has contributed to some extent in recent observed global average warming". Among the other findings:

1) No scientists were willing to admit to the statement that global warming is a fabrication and that human activity is not having any significant effect on climate [0%].

2) The largest group of respondents (45-50%) agreed with the 2007 IPCC report.

3) A significant minority (15-20%) concluded that the IPCC overstated the role of the human role in affecting the climate.

4) A significant minority (15-20%) concluded that the IPCC understated the seriousness of the threat from human additions of CO2. Ten of the 140 respondents (7%) took the most pessimistic view that we are "seriously damaging the climate" and face "devastating consequences".

Here's the full text of the poll, which I've also put up on my latest wunderpoll to vote on, if you're a Weather Underground member:

Which one statement most nearly matches your personal opinion about the physical science basis of global warming, as exemplified by the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group 1 (WG1)? [If your personal opinion falls between two adjacent statements, please mark both]

1. There is no warming; it is a fabrication based on inaccurate/inappropriate measurement. Human activity is not having any significant effect on Climate. The data on which such assumptions are made is so compromised as to be worthless. The physical science basis of Anthropogenic Global Warming theory is founded on a false hypothesis.

2. Any recent warming is most likely natural. Human input of CO2 has very little to do with it. Solar, naturally varying water vapor, and similar variables can explain most or all of the climate changes. Projections based on Global Climate Models are unreliable because these are based on too many assumptions and unreliable data sets.

3. There are changes in the atmosphere, including added CO2 from human activities, but significant climate effects are likely to be all within natural limits. The 'scares' are exaggerations with a political motive. The undue emphasis on CO2 diverts attention away from other, important research on climate variability and change.

4. There is warming and the human addition of CO2 causes some of it, but the science is too uncertain to be confident about current attributions of the precise role of CO2 with respect to other climate forcings. The IPCC WG1 overestimates the role of CO2 relative to other forcings, including a diverse variety of human climate forcings.

5. The scientific basis for human impacts on climate is well represented by the IPCC WG1 report. The lead scientists know what they are doing. We are warming the planet, with CO2 as the main culprit. At least some of the forecast consequences of this change are based on robust evidence.

6. The IPCC WG1 is compromised by political intervention; I agree with those scientists who say that the IPCC WG1 is underestimating the problem. Action to reduce human emissions of CO2 in order to mitigate against serious consequences is more urgent than the report suggests. This should be done irrespective of other climate and environmental considerations.

7. The IPCC WG1 seriously understates the human influence on climate. I agree with those scientists who say that major mitigation responses are needed immediately to prevent catastrophic serious warming and other impacts projected to result from human emissions of CO2. We are seriously damaging the Earth's climate, and will continue to face devastating consequences for many years.



Figure 3. Results of the 2007 opinion poll by Fergus Brown, Roger Pielke, Sr., and James Annan of climate scientists, organized by question number (one to seven). In the USA, the mean response was 4.8, compared to 5.2 in all other countries, and 5.6 in EU countries.

Commentary
The majority of climate scientists polled believe the 2007 IPCC reports essentially "gets it right", which is in part why I like to refer to the IPCC report as representing "the official word" on climate. This report concluded that there was a greater than 90% chance that most of the observed global warming in the past 50 years was due to emission of greenhouse gases by human activity. However, there are substantial minorities that believe the IPCC underestimates or overestimates the potential impacts, and these voices need to be respected, as well.

Dr. Ricky Rood talks in greater depth on this issue in his latest wunderground Climate Change blog: "There are many thousands of scientists, and while large groups of individuals often share many like-minded values and beliefs, they are never in lockstep on the details of all aspects of their beliefs. It is not expected that in a community of thousands of scientists that there is a uniform chant of doctrine. This is especially true given the very nature of scientific investigation of an enormously complex system."

Other voices on climate scientist polls
Dr. James Annan's blog
Planet Gore
Realclimate.org.

Jeff Masters

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Dont worry about the climate--

Worry about the large asteroids coming -- they will change your climate, echosystem and lifecycle.
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Nobody never axd me nothin
Quoting furstie:
When 30% of all those asked responded, how do we know that those 30% do not represent a biased sub-set of the total sample space?

I assume that someone in the climate community knows something about random survey sampling theory...you can't just send out questionnaires and wait for unbiased results to trickle in. Survey sampling is shakey at best from the start - if you really want an unbiased sample, you need to select your 30% randomly up front, then make damn sure you get their answers.

Otherwise, only people who care enough to face the rabid fundamentalist opposition to their personal views will reply.

And one more thing...you mention the fossil fuels lobby.

If there were no global warming...who would fund these climatologists' research? How many professional climatologists would there be if there were no doomsday to soothsay?

Lets look at both sides of the motivation coin.



Nobody never axd me nothin -- I guess I did not qualify because I had differing opinion.
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125. Inyo
Quoting furstie:
When 30% of all those asked responded, how do we know that those 30% do not represent a biased sub-set of the total sample space?

I assume that someone in the climate community knows something about random survey sampling theory...you can't just send out questionnaires and wait for unbiased results to trickle in. Survey sampling is shakey at best from the start - if you really want an unbiased sample, you need to select your 30% randomly up front, then make damn sure you get their answers.

Otherwise, only people who care enough to face the rabid fundamentalist opposition to their personal views will reply.

And one more thing...you mention the fossil fuels lobby.

If there were no global warming...who would fund these climatologists' research? How many professional climatologists would there be if there were no doomsday to soothsay?

Lets look at both sides of the motivation coin.


usually the influence goes where the money goes. The fossil fuels industry has a HUGE amount of money and influence over the government. Climate scientists? Well, if global warming were disproven, there is still a ton of research that needs to be done on NATURAL catastrophic climate change, which also is a real possibility seperately or associated with human-caused change... also on trends such as droughts affecting the United States right now. It is an important field of research regardless of global warming, because our everyday life is so dependant on climate.

97% consensus is VERY rare in science.
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Quoting atmoaggie:


Stop moon?...stop planet from orbiting sun? I hope no one thinks that...


Well, actually the moon is slowly moving away from the earth and in a couple of million, maybe even billion years we will lose our satellite which will then drift off into space. There is nothing we can do about it. Processes of this scale are beyond human intervention.
Earlier this month I saw a documentary programme on a project get exact results and here is an article about how these measurements are made.

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When 30% of all those asked responded, how do we know that those 30% do not represent a biased sub-set of the total sample space?

I assume that someone in the climate community knows something about random survey sampling theory...you can't just send out questionnaires and wait for unbiased results to trickle in. Survey sampling is shakey at best from the start - if you really want an unbiased sample, you need to select your 30% randomly up front, then make damn sure you get their answers.

Otherwise, only people who care enough to face the rabid fundamentalist opposition to their personal views will reply.

And one more thing...you mention the fossil fuels lobby.

If there were no global warming...who would fund these climatologists' research? How many professional climatologists would there be if there were no doomsday to soothsay?

Lets look at both sides of the motivation coin.
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Here's another one. Perhaps the reasoning for trying to define this problem so quickly is also due to this fact. If the academic community doesn't form a consensus on causes of climate change and possible effects in order to steer well informed policy decisions. Those decisions will be made just as hastily be government around the world that really don't have a clue.

The reason that this is true. World governments are seeing the broader scale of societal impacts of climate change(warming in this case) that none of us have to deal with on a day to day basis.
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Quoting barryweather:
Here's another funny logic observation. Many of the people here who think the data isn't good enough also seem to take exeption to better funding of climate science.


Not all, though. I say it needs funding. A lot of funding. Enough to keep at it for a hundred years so that it can have been an actual discipline for 130 years (by that time).
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120. Inyo
Quoting Seastep:
113. barryweather

I don't think that is an accurate statement at all.

Very few are suggesting that we not "check to see if there is a fire."

Rather, make sure there is a fire before turning on the firehose and ruining everything in the house.


A lot of people on this blog are science phobic and ARE suggesting that. I'm not talking about well-informed skeptics either, there aren't too many of those here (or elsewhere).

Scientists are in general ornery and stubborn and love to argue. There is no way that they are all going to get behind some big conspiracy, regardless of which party supports it. ANyone who thinks that, doesn't know anything about science.
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No dixie pic mr. poet -- its blank --
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118. Inyo
Quoting Ossqss:


Who actually pays you to do that? What exactly are the prereq's for that ? Seriously.


I have a degree from U.C. Davis. I've worked for the Park Service, the Forest Service, and private companies. I love what I do but yeah it can be a competitive field.
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116. IKE
Quoting Inyo:


The whales are not going to be the ones dying from climate change, the humans are


And we'll all be long gone by then.

Now, back to the weather........

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113. barryweather

I don't think that is an accurate statement at all.

Very few are suggesting that we not "check to see if there is a fire."

Rather, make sure there is a fire before turning on the firehose and ruining everything in the house.
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Quoting Inyo:


I'm not a hippie, I'm a plant ecologist. There is no bias to the fact that smaller, denser trees are prevalent throughout the country. Believe me, if you find a logger and ask them about this they will agree and won't be happy about it either... sick straggly trees make poor lumber.


Who actually pays you to do that? What exactly are the prereq's for that ? Seriously.
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Here's another funny logic observation. Many of the people here who think the data isn't good enough also seem to take exeption to better funding of climate science.
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112. Inyo
Quoting Ossqss:
Save the whales, the bales and the snails and the hell with the humans. But, I do smell something.


The whales are not going to be the ones dying from climate change, the humans are
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111. Inyo
Quoting Seastep:


Just having some fun with the analogy here, Inyo.

I check it out... and every time I have in the past, it's been a false alarm. ;)


I sure hope anthropomorphic greenhouse warming is, too.
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Quoting Patrap:


Ohhhhhhyyyyyyeahhhhhhh
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109. Inyo
Quoting Ossqss:


You have got to be kidding me. No wonder this country is in the shape we are in and 99.9999999% of the species that every existed are now extinct.


I'm not a hippie, I'm a plant ecologist. There is no bias to the fact that smaller, denser trees are prevalent throughout the country. Believe me, if you find a logger and ask them about this they will agree and won't be happy about it either... sick straggly trees make poor lumber.
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Join the National Teach-in on Global Warming, Feb 4-5!

Link

As the last bits of confetti settle to the earth, the real, much more sober party begins: a convening conversation on one of the most important problems confronting humanity. President Obama has vowed to address climate change, but how we do so will determine our success. And this is where you come in.

Beginning February 4th, over 600 groups so far, mostly from academic institutions all over the US, will gather to partake in a truly national conversation on how the US will address global warming. This is not limited to academic groups, though. Want to get your book group, faith group, or local civic group in on the action? This is your conversation, too.
Member Since: 03-a de julio Posts: 415 Comments: 125681
Save the whales, the bales and the snails and the hell with the humans. But, I do smell something.
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.
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Quoting Inyo:


If you smell smoke while in bed, you only have a 'theory' that your house is on fire. Do you get up and check to see if you left the stove on, or do you roll over and go back to sleep?


Just having some fun with the analogy here, Inyo.

I check it out... and every time I have in the past, it's been a false alarm. ;)
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You should stop smoking that stuff, it is affecting you perception.
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Quoting Inyo:


More trees or more biomass? There are millions upon millions of stunted sick trees in the West due to fire suppression. But pound for pound we almost certainly have less trees (except maybe in the New England area). Number of trees is a meaningless measurement. Besides, all those sick trees are dying now due to drought, bark beetles, etc


You have got to be kidding me. No wonder this country is in the shape we are in and 99.9999999% of the species that every existed are now extinct.
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102. Inyo
Quoting Ossqss:
No emperical data = no difinitive answer only theory


If you smell smoke while in bed, you only have a 'theory' that your house is on fire. Do you get up and check to see if you left the stove on, or do you roll over and go back to sleep?
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No emperical data = no difinitive answer only theory
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99. Inyo
Quoting Ossqss:
Did you know there are more trees in the USA than ever before? yep we put out the fires before they burn millions of acres now. Wow


More trees or more biomass? There are millions upon millions of stunted sick trees in the West due to fire suppression. But pound for pound we almost certainly have less trees (except maybe in the New England area). Number of trees is a meaningless measurement. Besides, all those sick trees are dying now due to drought, bark beetles, etc
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98. Inyo
Quoting help4u:
Dr.Masters must not read the papers,allyou here is global warming and the end of the world.The 97%of the science that say's their is global warming get huge funds and grants from federal government.Those that disagree don't.It is a political hoax to control our lives by taxing and spending us to death.The only one's that will be able to use energy in the coming year's will be the politician's and sciencestwho promote the hoax.ME AND YOU WILL SUFFER!!Get aboard the global wagon now and you could be a rich man.Remember science also tells us we came from monkey's and fish,also remember science said we were entering an ice age in the 70's.What a joke this whole thing is.


wait so you are saying 97% of the scientists get 97% of the money? OH NO!!!

taxing and spending to death? OH NO!!!! climate research gets what, .0000000001% of the budget devoted to bombing iraq each year? What will we do???? also it is spending without taxing (or at least irresponsible spending) that is largely responsible for our economy crashing.

Descended from fish and monkeys ? OH NO!!! Actually we aren't. We are descended from a common ancestor. The fish and monkeys on earth now couldn't possibly be our ancestors unless they invented time machines and flew back in time millions of years. Fish with time machines? well, it sounds about as feasible as the rest of that post.
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97. IKE
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Did you know there are more trees in the USA than ever before? yep we put out the fires before they burn millions of acres now. Wow
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94. Inyo
Quoting Ossqss:
I put more CO2 into the atmosphere = tree prospers ?


it is true that it can increase the growth of trees a little bit but the amount is pretty insignificant compared with the amount of CO2 being released. Also, the trees need to get buried under mud or turn into peat to truly sequester the carbon. (and, huge areas that are currently unforested need to be allowed to regrow to dense old growth forest) If the tree burns, is eaten by termites, or is used by humans, the CO2 just goes back into the atmosphere.
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Quoting GulfPoet:


You are not diverting energy you are using the existing kinetic force to generate energy.

for the tiny itsy bitsy little teesny weensy size of the tidal turbing for example... trust me on this one... the worst thing that will happen is a school of fish clogs it up.

it is NOT going to alter the mystical balance of power on the planet


That is the question that was asked. And, again, my thinking is more with wind turbines.

Solar and tidal energy is so vast that, I agree, the transfer would be minascule compared to the overall energy.

But, what about wind? I have no idea what the overall energy of that is. Thereby can't compare.

For wind, not talking about a few turbines. If you replace fossil-fuel energy entirely with wind.... that's a lot of energy.

Regardless, just a thought and a question. Very well may be that overall wind energy, too, is so vast that it wouldn't matter.

I wouldn't have asked the question if I knew the answer. ;)
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Dr.Masters must not read the papers,allyou here is global warming and the end of the world.The 97%of the science that say's their is global warming get huge funds and grants from federal government.Those that disagree don't.It is a political hoax to control our lives by taxing and spending us to death.The only one's that will be able to use energy in the coming year's will be the politician's and sciencestwho promote the hoax.ME AND YOU WILL SUFFER!!Get aboard the global wagon now and you could be a rich man.Remember science also tells us we came from monkey's and fish,also remember science said we were entering an ice age in the 70's.What a joke this whole thing is.
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Some fun and done. CUL8R
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I put more CO2 into the atmosphere = tree prospers ?
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LOL, but the "science is in" right? Sure doesn't sound like it!

Ke Akua Ho'omaika'i Oe!

Probably be a good idea to go and read KeleHawaii's blog! Now, that's science in a pure and present form! It's about "gravity!"
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Example, my game boy gets the energy instead of a tree = tree dies
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Give them a call Gulf..

2401 Tulane Avenue
New Orleans LA 70119
Telephone: 1 504-822-8711
Brewer: Kevin Stuart
[Map] [Update]
Notes..........................Link



Updated: August 3, 2008

Opened: 1907

Annual Production: 300,000 bbl

Hurricane Katrina flooded Dixie with ten feet of water in 2005. Owners Joe and Kendra Bruno plan to reopen the brewery in time for its 100th anniversary in 2007. In the meantime, their beers are being brewed by Minhas Craft Brewery in Monroe WI.




Blackened Voodoo Lager
American-Style Dark Lager
[ ] Tasting Notes (14 points)Link
Member Since: 03-a de julio Posts: 415 Comments: 125681
Quoting GulfPoet:
what you are suggesting is that wind and solar turbines will stop the moon from orbiting the planet. The planet from orbiting the sun. The sun will stop shinning.

seriously now you need to go understand the physics of these power sources and stop looking at your gameboy as the example.


That is not the suggestion at all. Not even close.

Simply put, it is that energy created from those sources would be diverted to places where it would not otherwise be.

The source of the energy is virtually unlimited and does not change. Only difference is where that energy goes when transferred.
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I completely agree with you poet person.
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That gameboy keeps my typing skills at a marginal level. Tunnel carp fish thing.
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Local refineries near Lake Pontchartrain ,,emit steam and Heat which many times during the Summer,produce cloud seedlings that go on to develop into even Damaging Thunderstorms.

Even Large Cooling Towers can do the same...

Its not a Butterfly effect..its a direct effect.



Member Since: 03-a de julio Posts: 415 Comments: 125681
Quoting GulfPoet:
what you are suggesting is that wind and solar turbines will stop the moon from orbiting the planet. The planet from orbiting the sun. The sun will stop shinning.

seriously now you need to go understand the physics of these power sources and stop looking at your gameboy as the example.


Stop moon?...stop planet from orbiting sun? I hope no one thinks that...
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Its not about gravity, its about weather and diminishing low densite flow of energy that keeps you alive and well.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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