Climate book shelf

by Judith Curry

Over the last few months, I’ve received copies of several books on the topic of climate:

  • Adaptive Governance and Climate Change, by Ron Brunner and Amanda Lynch
  • The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming, by Roger Pielke Jr
  • Coming Climate Crisis?  Consider the Past, Beware the Big Fix, Claire Parkinson
  • The Weather of the Future, by Heidi Cullen
  • Computer Modeling in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, by Peter Muller and Hans Von Storch
  • The Climate Files:  The Battle for Truth About Global Warming, by Fred Pearce
  • The Hockey Stick Illusion, by Andrew Montford

A brief summary of each of these books is presented.  I tend to rely on journal articles, assessment reports and the blogosphere for information related to climate, more so than books. I tend to buy a book if I think it would be valuable as a reference (i.e. something I will come back to often for reference); I read a climate book when someone sends me a copy (typically the author or publisher).   I would be interested in hearing about others opinions on the relative value of books as a source of information on climate.  I would also like to hear about other books that people have been reading.

And dare we try again to have a civil discussion of the Hockey Stick Illusion?

Adaptive Governance and Climate Change, by Ron Brunner and Amanda Lynch

This book provides a perspective on the failure of international and national policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to open the established climate change regime to additional approaches to science, policy, and decision making.  In contrast to the scientific management approach (e.g. UNFCC emissions targets), adaptive governance is a bottom-up approach with a focus that is more local/regional and is focused advancing the common interests  on contested issues.  I read this book twice, taking notes the second time around.  This book has definitely changed the way I look at the policy challenge.  Brunner’s ppt presentation on this is here.

The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming, by Roger Pielke Junior

I haven’t finished reading this yet (its hot off the press), but so far I like it, a lot.  The blurb from Publishers Weekly:  “Pielke (The Honest Broker) presents a smart and hard-nosed analysis of the politics and science of climate change and proposes a commonsense approach to climate policy. According to Pielke, the iron law of climate policy dictates that whenever environmental and economic objectives are placed in opposition to each other, economics always wins. Climate policies must be made compatible with economic growth as a precondition for their success, he writes, and because the world will need more energy in the future, an oblique approach supporting causes, such as developing affordable alternative energy sources rather than consequences, such as controversial schemes like cap-and-trade, is more likely to succeed. Although some may protest on principle the suggestion that we accept the inevitability of energy growth, Pielke’s focus on adaptation to climate change refreshingly sidesteps the unending debate over the reality of anthropogenic climate change, and opens up the possibility for effective action that places human dignity and democratic ideals at the center of climate policies.”  Quotes on the back jacket cover include statements from John Marburger, James Baker, and Neal Lane, who are all major figures in national science policy.

Coming Climate Crisis?  Consider the Past, Beware the Big Fix, by Claire Parkinson

This could be the most balanced book on the topic that is written by a credentialed climate researcher, although the presentation is a bit uneven.  From the Library Express Reviews: “In this examination of the global warming debate, Parkinson, a NASA climatologist, notes that our planet’s climate made many transitions, some abrupt, before civilization emerged, so that could happen again. Human activities are likely partly responsible for the present warming trend. The author points out that the ‘earth system’ is extremely complex, still beyond our ability to model completely, so climate scientists can’t make accurate predictions. Although there is a scientific consensus on global warming, it could be overturned by new evidence. Parkinson’s main concern is that large-scale geoengineering projects will be tried with unknown consequences. An example would be fertilizing the Southern Ocean with iron to encourage phytoplankton growth and reduce carbon dioxide. She does laud many initiatives to reduce emissions and believes we should put a price on carbon, as well as reduce air travel. Verdict: This measured approach will appeal to readers who sense alarmism on the topic.”   If someone who is new to contemplating the subject of climate change asked me to recommend an overview book with a balanced treatment, I don’t think I could come up with a better recommendation than this book.

The Weather of the Future, by Heidi Cullen

This book addresses the weather and climate of the future, 40 years hence and considers the impacts in some of the most vulnerable regions.  Part I is about the climate science and weather extremes, and how these are predicted; fairly routine material.  The more interesting material IMO is in Part II, which includes place based chapters that address the regional consequences of climate change in the context of the region’s broader vulnerabilities and cultural values.  The selected places are: the Sahel, the Great Barrier Reef, Central Valley California, Northern Canada, Greenland, Bangladesh, and New York City.  These chapters are very well written and put a human face on climate change.

Computer Modelling in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, by Peter Muller and Hans Von Storch

This book is rapidly becoming one of my primary professional reference sources.  The authors have a deep understanding of the technical aspects of modeling as well as the atmosphere and ocean scientific domains.  What is of greatest value, IMO, is the perspective they bring on the value and limitations of complex system models.  The book is technical, suitable for people who have some background in computer simulations.  From’s Product Description: “This textbook is about quasi-realistic models in atmospheric and oceanic sciences. Understanding the basis and limitations of these models is important since far reaching decisions about the environment are based on these models. It is novel in that it goes beyond a technical discussion of these quasi-realistic models and emphasizes their role and utility in generating new useful knowledge about the system. The book is written in a generally understandable way, with technical details relegated to a set of comprehensive appendices. The line of reasoning is illustrated by numerous examples, from both applied and fundamental research. It is a source of information for graduate students and scientists alike working in the field of environmental sciences. The bad news is the price tag of $179, but IMO well worth the price.  Also check out the reader’s digest version published in WIRE.

The Climate Files:  The Battle for Truth About Global Warming, by Fred Pearce

From the Product Description: “One of the world’s leading writers on climate change tells the inside story of the events leading up to the much-publicized theft of climate-change related emails. He explores the personalities involved, the feuds and disagreements at the heart of climate science, and the implications the scandal has for the future. . . Although the scandal caused a media frenzy, the fact is that just about everything the public heard and read about the University of East Anglia emails is wrong. They are not, as some have claimed, the smoking gun for a great global warming hoax, nor do they reveal a sinister conspiracy by scientists to fabricate global warming data. They do, however, raise deeply disturbing questions about the way climate science is conducted, about researchers’ preparedness to block access to climate data and downplay flaws in their data, and about the siege mentality and scientific tribalism at the heart of the most important international issue of the age.”   This is a thoughtful book.  Pearce has a long and deep perspective on the public debate over climate change, and he has done his homework in terms of spending time actually reading the emails.   I found his historical perspective on the climate change debate to be quite good.

Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science, by Andrew Montford

From’s product description: “For anybody who wants to understand the scientific and psychological background to Climategate, there is no better read than Andrew Montford’s new book, The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science. The Hockey Stick Illusion leaves no doubt about Mr. Montford’s reporting abilities. He tells a gripping detective story in which the star gumshoe is semi-retired Canadian mining consultant Steve McIntyre. Mr. McIntyre, unfortunately for his opponents, happens to combine mathematical genius with a Terminator-like relentlessness. He also found a brilliant partner in Ross McKitrick, an economics professor at the University of Guelph. Their story is one of intellectual determination in the face of Kafkaesque peer review and Orwellian freedom of information.”   The controversy surrounding the book is summarized by the Wikipedia.  For a blogospheric take on the controversy, go to google blogs and search for Curry Montford;  I made a suggestion on Realclimate that people should read Montford’s book, which quickly went viral in the blogosphere.   The value of the book is this:  it is a well documented and well written book on the subject of the “hockey wars.”  It is required reading for anyone wanting to understand the blogosphere climate skeptics and particularly the climate auditors; it is needed reading for anyone confusing Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick with merchants of doubt.   The book is not a rant, but presents a well reasoned and well documented argument.  The book has been referenced in at least two scholarly (refereed journal) publications that I am aware of.   Apparently the book was completed before 11/19/2009 (the unauthorized release of the CRU emails); a chapter was tagged on at the end related to the emails, and the title was changed.  I suspect that if the the title didn’t include “Climategate and the Corruption of Science” that the book wouldn’t have encountered such controversy.

113 responses to “Climate book shelf

  1. Perhaps because of my background in space and planetary sciences, I recommend the book by the geologist, Dr. Ian Plimer, “Heaven and Earth: Global Warming, the Missing Science” [Quartet Books (May 1, 2009) 360 pages]:

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  2. Steve Fitzpatrick

    “And dare we try again to have a civil discussion of the Hockey Stick Illusion?”
    I think you have unchallenged power here; it is up to you how civil the discussion will be.

    • I will make sure the discussion is civil; I hope we can attract discourse here among individuals with diverse perspectives on the HSI (the civility requirement may keep many away :) )

  3. Let me just comment on one of the books, namely Computer Modelling in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, by Peter Muller and Hans Von Storch. I agree that computer models of world climate have many uses, but predicting the future is not one of them. The only way to validate any computer model, so that it can accutately predict the future, is to have it actually predict the future many times, with quantitative values and error bars, and have these predictions actually occur within the stated errors. Once is not enough; it could be coincidence. Words like “calibration”, “evaluation”, etc are merely weasel words to hide the fact that climate models have not, as yet, been validated. The predicitons for climate models are all so far in the future, that the crucial tests have not, as yet, been made.

    For some reason, which I do not understand, many scientists seem to believe that climate models can, indeed, predict the future. However, we have one example where a “mistake” has been made, and a climate model has been used to predict what will happen in the near future. Smith et al, Science Vol 317 10 August 2007 page 796. Here they predict that the year 2014 will be 0.30 C +/- 0.21 C, greater than 2004. Also that, after 2009, in half the years, temperatures will exceed that of 1998. All these are according to the HAD/CRU data.

    We will see. 2010 does not look like it’s temperature will exceed that of 1998.

    • FYI the Muller and Von Storch book gives a very balanced presentation on these topics, they definitely do not oversell the veracity or reliable applications of climate models.

    • JIm one other point, i am working on my first post related to climate models, should be ready by Thurs

    • The only way to validate any computer model, so that it can accurately predict the future, is to have it actually predict the future many times…

      If you are given the answer to a math problem, you will probably be able to produce the proof quicker than if you weren’t. Applied to modelling, does this not mean hindcasting as just as good as forecasting ? Or is there something about the elimination of possible surprises that argues No? Something for the forthcoming modelling post perhaps?

      being that

    • Hindcasting does not, and never will, validate any model. Almost by definition, models contain what we call “fudge factors”. For example, one of the problems with climate models is that they are unstable; left to themselves, the output becomes unstable. In reality, there are all sorts of interactions within the atmosphere to keep it stable, which we dont understand and cannot model. So fudge factors are added to keep the output stable.

      It is easy to reproduce any previous data by adjusting the fudge factors, and justifying these adjustments. However, this process does not, and never will, produce a validated model. To paraphrase John Von Neumann – Give me four fudge factors, and I will produce an elephant. Give me five and I will make it wiggle it’s trunk.

      If you want to see this process in the case of a climate model, take a detailed look at Smith et al, for which I have given the reference. Basically you cannot validate any model unless you have measured experimental data to compare with the output of that model.

    • Punksta said: (snip) Applied to modelling, does this not mean hindcasting as just as good as forecasting ? (snip)

      In the 1970′s, there was a lot of research on pattern recognition systems. It surprised many researchers at the time that their systems gave results far worse in practice than they expected, based on laboratory tests.

      It slowly dawned that the problem was that, in the lab, the systems had been tested on the same (or related) data to the data on which they had been trained. This error came to be known as “testing on the training data”.

      I think that attempting to validate climate models by assessing their ability to predict past climate falls into the same trap. They will have been tuned to be able to predict the past climate; they would be obviously useless if they could not even do that.

      Verifying that models can reproduce past climate simply confirms that they are able to do that not that the models are a correct representation of the physical reality and therefore capable of predicting future climate.

  4. Hi Judith,

    Thanks for the reviews. The link to Brunner’s ppt presentation is not working.

    A book that I would recommend as an overview of how scientists got to know what they know is Spencer Weart “a history of global warming”.
    ( )

    Very well written (it sometimes reads as a detective story) without technicalities (making it suitable also for newcomers to the science), while the historical perspective also provides very useful contextual information for those more immersed in the science. It shows “science at work” by going through the evolution of scientific insights, thereby doing more than just explaining the science: You get a better idea of how science works (trial and error; battle of ideas; best explanatory value, etc)

    • Bart, this link works for me

      i will check the main post

    • Bart
      Why should anyone, learn how science itself works, by examining of all things, the development of climate change/global warming science?

      It is largely an observational discipline, with a politically loaded recent past, whose proponents have been recently caught making false claims to influence societal goals.

      Not such a great model to study and understand how science works, one would think.

    • Shub,

      You obviously haven’t read/understood that book or studied climate science, else you wouldn’t have such contempt for climate science.

    • I agree with Bart. Spencer Weart has done a tremendous job outlining the controversy of various elements of the puzzle. What I try and explain (as patiently as I can) to “skeptics” is there are differing levels of the science of AGW:

      There’s a) the physical evidence for climate change, b) physical basis for anthropogenically driven climate change, c) the evidence for attribution of recent climate change to anthropogenic factors, d) ecological, sociological and political impacts of future climate change and e) policies for addressing/adapting too/ameliorating anthropogenically driven climate change.

      Weart could be 100% right in the physics descriptions in his book, you could agree with 100% of what he says, and still disagree with the prevailing wisdom on point (e), which as far as I can tell is the only place that politically orientation should really enter into the equation (mainly through the question of what type and level of government intervention is necessary to address (d)).

      Shub might claim (wrongly IMO) that a-c have been over-cooked to lend more credence to (e). Certainly this is the case by certain politicians, but I don’t agree that the science itself is tainted.

      Beyond that, politics and sociology play a huge role in the advancement of science. First of all, “science costs money”, and large projects necessarily include politicians (you won’t ever get a hadronic super-collider or a world-scale climate monitoring system just from a grant written to NSF). Secondly, with power over money comes prestige and that necessarily has sociological and political implications.

      That said, there’s absolutely no reason to have a close mind on a-c (or even d) unless you are doing what you accuse your opponents of, namely starting from the desired conclusion of (e) and working backwards.

  5. Except for the Muller / Von Storch book, I am reading the same list at this time.
    I would add to the list the only book that actually analyzes the leaked e-mails in depth, “Climategate The Crutape Letters”, by Steven Mosher and Thomas Fuller.
    I think it is always valuable to let evidence speak for itself. This is the only book that accomplishes that goal.
    I would suggest that what Montford has done in his Hockey Stick Illusion is to much more than to take the temperature of the blogosphere. He documents the conversion of climate science from a promising new science into a major social-political-financial movement.
    “The Climate Fix” may offer the most realistic path out of dead end AGW has brought us to. I seriously doubt if we will have the pleasure of the AGW movement melting down to zero. The faith it has attracted is too strong for the lack of ‘global climate disruption’ to seriously sway strong believers. Those who choose to will see an apocalypse in every storm, iceberg, rain fall or drought. So perhaps the best we can hope for are policies that do not sentence the developing world to poverty and the developed world to the shackles of wind power.

  6. Once again I’d like to plug Paul Edwards’ – A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming.
    It gives a great account of the development and functioning of what he calls the “global climate knowledge infrastructure”, from various forms of instrumentation to GCMs, with a keen eye on how these developments relate to the social-political context of their day – the emergence of meteorology and climate science as disciplines, the internationalization of science, inter-disciplinary conflict and “data friction”, the politics of the Cold War etc. Recent events and controversies do get some treatment (and rather fairly – though he’s both tentatively hopeful and suspicious of recent online developments) but it’s mainly an engaging lesson in history, and one I think would be helpful for anyone trying to approach the big question of how we supposedly know what we do about the climate.

    • Zajko, this book looks quite interesting. The link to Edwards book is here. Edwards’ web page is here

    • thanks for the links – the reason I failed to post it initially is because the Amazon/MIT outline paints the work as a “reply to the skeptics” which I don’t think is very fair. I think skeptics can find plenty in the book to reinforce their suspicions of modeling, politics, etc., and presenting the book in this way is more of an editorial decision based on when it was published (in the middle of the latest round of controversy). I think Edwards does a good job staying above the fray, though in the end he does make a case for his confidence in the science of global warming, in the general sense.

  7. Judith, on climate modeling and “governance”:

    Regarding the “measurable, observable, controllable, stable and robust characteristics of the dynamic, multivariable nonlinear atmospheric temperature control system under design by Kyoto Protocols”, reknowned chemical engineer Dr. Pierre R. Latour notes:
    “The tenuous link between CO2 greenhouse effects and the Earth’s temperature indicates humanity has no effective manipulated variable to control temperature; the steady-state gain dT/dCO2 is almost zero. If so, the system is uncontrollable. Kyoto will fail no matter what the political consensus may be.”

    See Sowell’s summary at: Chemical Engineer takes on Global Warming

    Latour further notes:
    “Review of control system engineering of Earth’s thermostat with anthropogenic CO2 in 1997 proved it will never work because it is an unmeasurable, unobservable and uncontrollable system.”
    Engineering Earth’s thermostat with CO2? Hydrocarbon Processing, Feb. 2010

    Very few even understand, let alone respond to the hard nosed expertise and arguments by which Latour critiques “climate control”. Much of his critique goes to the foundational issues of “modeling” let alone controlling chaotic systems.

  8. I highly recommend Aynsley Kellow. 2007. Science and Public Policy: The Virtuous Corruption of Virtual Environmental Science. Edward Elgar pub. His point is that when a group of people believe their position is virtuous, it can have a deleterious effect on both science and public policy. As a simple example, everyone was so sure that low fat diets were virtuous that the success of the Atkins diet (no carbs, lots of fat) in allowing people to lose weight was both denied and met with horror (“How can you promote eating FAT???”). This virtue corruption affects science by causing 1) individuals to cut corners, 2) funding to become one-sided, 3) journals to deny space to contrary views, etc. It affects public policy in a particularly pernicious way because the virtuous cause does not allow for debate and will not consider unintended consequences. There is data for example that the americans with disabilities act has led to fewer jobs for the disabled because employers are afraid of getting sued. Discussion of this law is forbidden lest one appear to anti- the disabled. Virtue driven legislation can often then be heavy-handed and destructive. This does not apply only in environmental science. Individuals have been trampled due to fears of child-predators (so that men alone may refuse to help a lost child), or run over by accusations of money-laundering or terrorism. The book is well-written and very useful.

    • I would recommend reading Kellow as some food for thought and a good counter-weight (he also has a book out with Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen which is more specifically about what might be called the virtuous corruption of climate policy) but as a “warning”, I think it has some dangerous implications. What Kellow calls “virtual science”, which includes all forms of modeling, may indeed be more open to interpretation and manipulation than some idealized objective science (which Kellow admits is never entirely possible, but approachable), and I think it’s useful to examine the values which have shaped ecology and environmental science, but he gets off easy by not proposing much of an alternative (especially for climate science, is it possible without modeling?) and risks dangerous uses of his critique by others.
      Sure, Lomborg was subjected to a political attack – but he is far from a victimized disinterested scientist. This chapter is maybe a good counter-weight to the narrative of a “coordinated skeptical political campaign of disinformation” and shows just how political the climate debate can be on both sides, but that’s about it.
      As for conservation ecology – it’s helpful to show how it is also a political minefield, with all sorts of model-based estimates of species loss being thrown about by interested actors, but can this diminish the fact of massive habitat destruction around the world? The fact that fishing nets keep getting emptier? Kellow non-reflexively provides fodder for those who would like these to be non-problems (while I agree the extinction of non-human species is largely a matter of moral valuation, fish stock depletion is a huge economic problem).
      And finally with climate science, there’s his account of the Mann vs. McIntyre battle, and the problems with modeling, but Kellow seems mostly concerned with restoring balance to the debate – since the corporate influence on climate science is apparently so obvious, he’s pointing out the more subtle and insidious contamination of science by the Left.
      Finally, his characterization of postmodernism and post-normal science as “anything goes” on p161 is a complete straw-man typically perpetuated by anyone who cites the Sokal hoax (which was a very clever hoax regardless).
      I would say Kellow provides a good counter-weight and some useful warnings, but I’m concerned that his failure to give a clear alternative to what he calls “virtual science” makes the book into a tool for those might want to argue that we are not wiping out entire species (even if we can’t accurately measure the loss) or that climate science isn’t “real science” because it’s based on models.

    • Zajko: the point is not that we can’t DO science with models, it is that you need to be extra careful. And if you think the characterization of post-normal science is over the top, consider the many loud claims that all chemicals must be banned because we are being poisoned, and so on, based on “feelings”.

    • “… the narrative of a “coordinated skeptical political campaign of disinformation” Hmm … that might be me, and a few others ;-)

      ” … for those who would like these to be non-problems … fish stock depletion is a huge economic problem).” Hmm … well …

      And also: “those might want to argue that we are not wiping out entire species ” Hmm … Willis, and a few others, might diagree with you there as well:
      Good luck with your skeptical thinking … and I too warmly recommend Kellow’s insightful book :-)

    • I would be skeptical of any fish stock projections or extinction attributions based on climate, especially on the basis of a single unexpected year. Overfishing, on the other hand, is relatively easy to observe, and can be a much more relevant factor to consider than climate change. No computer models are required to attribute the collapse of the Newfoundland cod fish stocks in the 1990s, or the current problems with bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean. I’m just pointing out that sometimes unrestricted economic exploitation of a resource results in a shortage of that resource. Alternately, destroying (or redeveloping) an animal’s habitat results in that animal not being able to survive there anymore, whether or not extinction is the result. No amount of spin from WWF is going to alter this fairly basic fact, and if you’re not compelled by the moral/ecological argument, well, there are some economic consequences as well (at least for the species we consider valuable).

    • Craig – well summarised. A scientist’s belief that he is not merely correct, but also virtuous, encourages neglect of the null hypothesis. When a large group of people share these (intensely gratifying) beliefs, the null hypothesis is all but extinguished. That seems to be what has happened to “climate science”.

      I also recommend Plimer.

    • Kellow’s book is definitely worth reading.

      A very well researched and reasoned book which, although published in 2007, is highly relevant.

      After reading it nothing will surprise you.

  9. Judith,

    Bob Carter’s The Climate Consensus is certainly worth adding to your reading list.

    • I agree that Bob Carter’s “The Climate Consensus” is well worth reading – it makes quite a number of valid scientific points and also puts the current climate changes into a historical context.
      Some of the anti-AGW polemics might not be to everyone’s taste, but the book certainly helps spur on the questioning of things that are too easily taken at face value in the debates over climate change.

  10. Thank you for this great thread. I must confess to being a great fan of Pielke Jr: although I’m fascinated by the details of atmospheric science I’ve longed for there to be a reasoned response to future climate change, whatever the underlying cause.
    IMHO Pielke Jr addresses this approach in a mature and attractive fashion. We are all far more likely to be engaged by energy solutions which seek to sustain and improve quality of life rather than being continually told that we need to dismantle the very process that promises to do the same for ever increasing areas of the worlds populace.

  11. Like yourself, most of my technical book purchases are for reference. The majority of my book purchases are for “entertainment), typically while sitting in a plane, or before going to sleep in some hotel.

    However, I did purchase Montford’s book. Not because I was unfamiliar with the topics he covered, but really to see how well he covered the topics, and partly because of the dirt being thrown. I wanted to see for myself if the book matched reality.

    I have to say that it was very well researched. I actually learned a few things by reading it.

    One of the things that I learned was that some of the people on the “other side” of the discussion seem to be either particularly ill informed, or distort what is in the book for some ulterior motive.

    Although its a book I am unlikely to read a second time, I consider the money well spent.

  12. I’d second Bart’s recommendation of Spencer Weart’s The History of Global Warming.

    Although it’s not yet shipping, a more technical companion to Weart’s book will be The Warming Papers.

    Publisher’s description:

    “The Warming Papers is a compendium of the classic scientific papers that constitute the foundation of the global warming forecast. The paper trail spans over 175 years, ranging from Fourier and Arrhenius in the 19th Century to Manabe and Hansen in modern times. Archer and Pierrehumbert provide introductions and commentary which places the papers in their context and provide students with tools to develop and extend their understanding of the subject. This book captures the excitement of fresh discovery, and reinforces the principles of climate science for modern scientists, historians, and their students.”

  13. Could I suggest that “Storms of my grandchildren” by James Hansen, is perhaps one only for those with an interest in “virtue science”. On the other hand, Hulme’s book “Why we disagree about climate change”, while (I think) flawed, provides a very useful way to start thinking about post-modernism in climate change science (with his famous quote “We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change can do for us”).

  14. Judy

    Thanks for the kind words once again. You are correct about the timing of the book and the change in its title, although up until the emails were released it was “Global warming and the corruption of science”, which would probably still have provoked aggressive responses.

    Nine months on, I think the book has stood up very well. Most of the critiques have been either ad-hom or, as PJP notes above, distortions. From where I stand, nobody has disputed the facts as presented in the book in a substantial way (if anybody feels otherwise, I’m keen to hear from them.

    In the meantime, I hope that reasonable people will move on to discussion of what these facts mean.

    • Andrew,

      Some, not me, might suggest that self-interest may be a confounding factor in an authors perspective on the validity of criticism.

      Passing it off as ‘ad hom’ doesn’t cut the mustard. Especialy when some (eg the post at Real Climate) dealth with the scientific (or rather, not) merit of the claims made in the book.

    • Michael

      Yes, you are right. It is terribly easy to delude oneself about one’s own writings. This is why I said I’m keen to hear whether anyone feels that some of the arguments hit home. Certainly some of the negative reviews of the book have been entirely ad-hom – The Scottish Review of Books piece took aim solely at my credentials, for example. Chemistry World seemed to agree with the main thrust of the book but appeared to argue that I shouldn’t be saying it.

      The Real Climate piece at least tried to take aim at the facts, but had to resort to quoting me out of context and putting Mann’s (incorrect) words in my mouth. I’m reasonably comfortable that the RC piece is rebutted, but I’m happy for people to point to anything that I haven’t dealt with satisfactorily.

    • Well, I do have a question.
      pp.27-29 describe the Deming Affair, in which Oklahoma geophysicist David Deming makes a claim about an email, in an article about Crichton’s book, in the fascinating Journal of Scientific Exploration (search for “HSI pp.23-30, 421 … dog astrology” here:
      (You will learn why I call JSE a dog astrology journal).

      HSI says (correctly) that Deming did not name Overpeck, but that Lindzen confirmed it was Overpeck.

      One way or another, this is what is often called “fabrication” in academe, because Lindzen did *not* confirm it was Overpeck, he claimed that Deming said so, in the article that HSI said did not (and did not).

      About the only evidence that Overpeck did it was his (non-public) email saying (p.421) that he did not.

      Since this topic got several pages in a key place AND THIS CONFIRMATION CLAIM IS A CLEAR, 100% UNTRUTH, perhaps a retraction, and explanation of how this happened (there are several obvious ways), and an apology to Overpeck would be in order?

      Also, it would be nice to know why JSE is considered a reasonable source, given dog astrology, UFOs, ESP, etc.

    • RC rebutted nothing, and only continued their long tradition of distorting and misrepresenting not only skeptics but the science itself.

    • These facts confirm the danger of government science becoming a threat to “the supreme goals of our free society.” [Eisenhower's farewell address to the nation (17 Jan 1961)]:

      “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.”

      “. . . public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

      “It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system – ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.”

      The Climategate scandal exposed an even more dangerous world-wide alliance of world leaders misusing science as a tool of propaganda.

      That is “what these facts mean” to me.

    • and your summary of the critiques you now mention is also a bit on the self-serving side. The ‘Chemistry World’ review did not “appear” to say that you shouldn’t have said what you did. Rather it’s summary of the book was that it was a pedantic quible about not very much.

      For my part, I have to say that I’m not quite finished reading it, but near enough.

      Being generous, I’d say that it raises some useful questions on methodology. On the less generous side they were questions that were interesting and relevant a decade ago.

      And this is the central problem with the book (so far) – it takes a very very narrow view of the issue. Steve McIntyre’s perspective is very well represented, but there is little, if any, critical assessment of it. A broader view would look at development’s since and would have to note that subsequent work in the field had addressed many of the questions and gone on to confirm the original findings. This would then place McIntyre’s contribution in perspective – it’s made a policital splash but has left the science unperturbed – and the central thrust of the book would collapse in a heap.

      As I’ve been reading a certain phrase has kept popping into my – can’t see the wood for the trees.

      In the end, it’s a book for the believers. A homage to a hero. Readers of CA will love it.

      I’ll keep wading.

    • Actually Chapter 12 ties it all together and puts it into perspective, takes a look at the forest.

    • Montford’s book seems to have plenty of discussion of more modern temperature reconstructions that the original MBH articles. Chapter 10 looks at quite a few alternative reconstructions (see Table 10.1 for the extent to which they use problematic proxies) and Chapter 14 deals with the most recent Mann attempt. Precisely which articles are you referring to?

    • Judith,
      Did you mean Chapter 15?

    • probably, i don’t have the book handy (i never have it when i need it :) )

    • The HSI has attracted vitriol purely because it so lucidly exposes not only the original hockeystick deceit, but the compounded mischief of attempts to defend it. And all this prior to the compromising emails confirming such. No book comes anywhere close to weaving such a rude exposure of the hapless and now trouserless team. Or with such literary finesse. The excreted bile has nothing to do with the title.

  15. Somehow I managed to get a signed copy of – Fred Pearces the climate files..
    But forgot to ask Steve Mcintyre to sign, The hockey Stick Illusion, at THe Guardain Climategate debate…

    I would recommend ‘The CLimate Files’ and ‘The Hockey Stick Illusion’ to any passing climate sceintist. Fred writes for the ever so Pro AGW Guardian, is even the’ultimate’ journalistic source of the ‘glacier’gate scandal. which he writes in some amusement.

    Heaven and Earth – Plimer is worth a read, just to see why it would have so much vitriol heaped onto it… When actually very interesting about geology.

  16. The Real Global Warming Scandal – Christopher Booker….

    He goes into the history of AGW theory, the IPCC and the politics… A veteran Telegraph journalist. Lots of vitriol has been directed at this book.

    From an environmentalist standpoint – Lawrence Solomon’s ‘The Deniars’

    An anti-nuclear campaigner, who writes a column. Started writing about the sceptical people called deniars by some, turned into a book, with chapters about Lindzen ,Wegman, et..

    So intwined is the politics and the science, it is nearly impossible to talk about one aspect without refrence to the other..

    Again, Booker’s book had a reception that was even worse than Montford’s.
    He writes for essentially a conservative newspaper, but the paper largely follows the cinsensus, with writers like, Geoffrey Lean, Louise Grey, getting more column inches, but please keep in mind, in the UK, unlike the USA, ALL main political parties are/were fully sgned up to the consensus on AGW for the last ten years…

    We even have a Department of ENERGY and CLIMATE CHANGE now. So in the UK it is not a party political issue as such.

  17. I have recently bought Roy Spencer’s “The great global warming swindle” and Andrew Montford’s “The hockey stick illusion”, but haven’t as yet started them, so alas can’t comment yet. Nearly everything else I have read *directly* relevant to AGW is available from the Internet.

    I find the controversy plugs into a bigger picture, not exclusively about AGW (which didn’t really interest me until Climategate). Since before then, for instance, astrophysics has intrigued me. That 96% of the stuff of the universe is undetectable seems to me to be unfalsifiable metaphysics, but, as for AGW, the establishment has sometimes sought to marginalize and even actively exclude dissenting views.

    Electric Universe (EU) theory may or may not be true, but, from the book I’m currently reading, “The electric sky” by Donald Scott, I’m finding it interesting and intriguing, and that it seems to avoid formulating unfalsifiable hypotheses. Indeed, it has made successful predictions that have nonetheless been handwaved-away by astrophysicists. It also has, to my surprise, a number of observations relevant to climate science.

    Someone like me, who isn’t an expert, can only be agnostic; which isn’t to say that experts can’t also be agnostic, but I suspect not all of them are, though maybe they ought to be. Agnosticism makes one free to explore many different ideas, and some of the best and most fruitful ones arise because something known in one field is serendipitously found relevant in another.

    The habit of forming a consensus tends to block off ideas from different disciplines, or even from minority areas in one’s own discipline. Astrophysicists apparently aren’t much interested in electrical engineering, believing it has no relevance; and so, in effect, ignore its peer-reviewed journals, such as IEEE Transactions on plasma physics. Likewise, geologists, geophysicists, and engineers in general, who are reportedly often sceptical of AGW, have their own journals which may not be pored over by climatologists.

    “Over-specialization is a syndrome which has reached such proportions in modern society that Field Control Therapy practitioners have adopted a term to describe it – The Over-specialization Syndrome.

    “This syndrome has been defined by Savely Yurkovsky, M.D., founder of Field Control Therapy, as one of the principle causes of a lack of scientific progress and resolution of many of our current collective dilemmas, including the health crisis afflicting society with many chronic degenerative diseases still considered conventionally to be both unexplained and incurable.”

    One may not be an expert, but scientific theories may predict or attempt to explain things that the non-expert can verify as true, false or moot, if not directly, then through individual research of available sources of information which the expert may not be prepared, or doesn’t have time, to explore. As Richard Feynman observed: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”, and: “There is no harm in doubt and skepticism, for it is through these that new discoveries are made”.

    People may not be able to understand a sausage machine, but they may be able to get a whiff of its sausages. Some don’t bother, and accept or reject a hypothesis according to whether it fits in with their preferred world view. Of the remainder, some think they smell fine, and others, fishy. That’s life: there are few things that everyone agrees on, and perhaps as well, because complete unanimity can lead to stasis.

    One book I’d recommend is “On being certain: believing you are right even when you’re not”, by Robert Burton. Nothing to do with the AGW debate? Whichever side you’re on, read it before passing judgement. It may be more relevant than a seemingly more focussed book pitched at a level beyond one’s ability to understand.

    Product description from Amazon:

    “You recognize when you know something for certain, right? You “know” the sky is blue, or that the traffic light had turned green, or where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001–you know these things, well, because you just do.

    “In On Being Certain, neurologist Robert Burton shows that feeling certain—feeling that we know something— is a mental sensation, rather than evidence of fact. An increasing body of evidence suggests that feelings such as certainty stem from primitive areas of the brain and are independent of active, conscious reflection and reasoning. In other words, the feeling of knowing happens to us; we cannot make it happen.

    “Bringing together cutting-edge neuroscience, experimental data, and fascinating anecdotes, Robert Burton explores the inconsistent and sometimes paradoxical relationship between our thoughts and what we actually know. Provocative and groundbreaking, On Being Certain challenges what we know (or think we know) about the mind, knowledge, and reason.”

    You can also listen to relevant podcasts below, and particularly the first one is excellent – maybe it will help people see the whole climate debate from a new angle and also discover more tolerance for differing views, as well as realisation of the possibility of error in their own:

    It’s possible widely-read laypeople, despite lack of expertise in any particular area of science, could have a better grasp of the big picture. Moreover, there’s much less possibility of being conditioned by an environment in which accepting (or at least appearing to accept) certain propositions is desirable for continued employment!

  18. Judith, could I invite you to address a few issues? For example, if you were to note that some items are NOT up for debate – CO2 IS a greenhouse gas, and there IS a greenhouse effect? You have a number of people posting who seem to think that all of climate science is based on a few 19th century notions that have never been tested, just taken for granted. It gets distracting and irritating, and contributes nothing to the discussion. It’s rather like reading a biology blog about tuberculosis, and having posters who don’t accept germ theory.
    If you had a sidebar at the side, or post, explaining briefly the scientific points that are utterly non-controversial, you could refer to that when nonsensical points get brought up. It might decrease readership slightly, but otherwise, you’ll mainly have readers who agree that 98% of climate scientists are fools, frauds or both, and those with interest in the factual background will stop coming by.

    • stewart says “If you had a sidebar at the side, or post, explaining briefly the scientific points that are utterly non-controversial, you could refer to that when nonsensical points get brought up.”

      Sorry. When it comes to AGW there are very few “scientific points that are utterly non-controversial”. Maybe that CO2 has absorption bands in the infra-red. But I regard just about everything scientific that has been written by the IPCC in the various reports of WG1 to be highly controversial.

      I do not regard 98% of climate scientists to be” fools, frauds or both”. I regard the physics that they have presented, as being unsubstantiated. I believe in Nullius in Verbia. I dont believe anyone’s opinion; just the physics they bring to the table. As Richard Feynman remarked “science is the belief in the ingorance of experts”. This applies, IMHO, specifically to climate scientists.

    • If you read a biology blog about pellagra and had posters who didn’t think it was caused by germs, (such as Joseph Goldberger,) would that be just as annoying?

      I agree that you want to keep discussion on topic, and I agree that such discussions are probably better dealt with on other blogs, but I’d be very nervous about declaring any scientific theory as beyond debate.

      The physics in detail is actually extremely complicated (as Weart’s book confirms) and it took scientists nearly a century to figure it out. It’s therefore not unreasonable for laymen to have misunderstandings, and it’s not unreasonable, in the spirit of scientific scepticism, for them to want to see the evidence for themselves. It does a disservice to both sides to pretend that the matter is easy or trivial.

      I would note that it’s very difficult to find books for the layman that explain the physics completely and correctly, (Weart doesn’t claim to do so) and the journals and expensive textbooks are comparatively inaccessible to non-academics. Do you think having some recommendations along those lines might be useful?

    • There is a real void in terms of explaining the basics in a way that is understandable to someone who has an undergraduate science or engineering degree. Radiative transfer and atmospheric thermodynamics are explained quite well (accessible to someone who has at least taken a year of undergraduate physics) by scienceofdoom

    • Thanks for the link to scienceofdoom.

      We could also do with some “black box” coverage of climate science that answers basic questions like:

      Have climate scientists made any specific and testable predictions that have come true? It would have to be something like: annual rainfall in region X will increase by Y percent in the next 5 years. Then we wait 5 years and see if it happens.

      All these vague scenarios about the year 2050 are just what anybody could say. Even worse is the afterwards style predictions that explain all kinds of events after they happen.

      This is important – not just snarking off. If you understand something you can make predictions. Otherwise you’re just fooling everybody – including yourself.

      If they can’t make specific and testable predictions then it’s OK so long as they admit this and come clean about the state of their science.

    • stewart – I am a CAGW sceptic, and have been an avid follower of this topic since Climategate broke. In particular, I have followed Judith’s excellent blog since its recent inception. I cannot recall a posting here, or elsewhere, that appears written by someone who disputes that “CO2 IS a greenhouse gas, and there IS a greenhouse effect?” Can you provide an example, so we can see what you’re on about?

    • Hate to be a pedant but pellagra isn’t caused by germs – its due to niacin defficiency. While it can be hard to get the facts right when you stray out of your area, sometimes it only takes minimal research.

    • Judith,

      Interesting that the ScienceOfDoom page which you linked to is the one that deals with one of the most complex aspects of the climate system – namely Clouds and Water Vapour.

      While most of us with an understanding of science can agree on the characteristics of CO2 and how that might help to raise global temperatures as its concentration rises, the behaviour of Water is anything but straightforward. Indeed, the real scientific doubts about the concept of increasing CO2 concentrations causing significant and harmful increases in global temperatures start with our (lack of) understanding of how our old friend H2O behaves.

      Curious too that the same ScienceOfDoom page references (Roy) Spencer and Braswell’s 1997 paper – which Roy Spencer uses in his more recent material to argue that more humidity in the low altitude boundary layer does not necessarily mean that the majority of the atmosphere will also be more humid – pointing towards his assertion that H2O feedbacks are likely negative and thus limiting the effects of CO2.

      This I think is one of the important debates on the science – which also touches on the climate models (do they contain the right model for water vapour) and also points out our painfully patchy data on the real atmosphere (we don’t have particularly good data on atmospheric water vapour concentrations on a global scale even today, in the “satellite era”).

      Roy Spencer goes into these points in a lot more depth in his book “The Great Global Warming Blunder”…

    • Judith:

      Regarding Science of Doom. It is an excellent site that should be read by everyone who doubts the impact of CO2. Though not a book, I recommend his section on the impacts of CO2. Regarding this explanation of CO2, I spent a few days there in a discussion regarding Ramanathan et. al. versus the engineering method of the path length approximation. I’ve recently started my own blog and have posted a paper there. I’ll not get into the details here as it is a bit off topic to your list. I’ve put together a forcing curve based on the path length approximation using Leckner’s curves. It is very close to 5.35 X ln([CO2]/[CO2]0). It is the difference that I find interesting.



  19. So Jim, do you accept the two points I mentioned? If not, why? As I said, the noise level will soon get overwhelming (I already fear it’s too high). Have you read “The Discovery of Global Warming”? Some points are so overwhelmingly supported that dispute reveals the ignorance of the disputant. Skepticism is a desire to see the evidence, not a denial that evidence exists.

    • stewart writes “So Jim, do you accept the two points I mentioned? If not, why?”

      I agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that there is a greenhouse effect. I even agree that the radiation balance in the atmosphere is changed as CO2 is added from current levels. The question is, how much do global temperatures rise from a doubling of CO2 from current levels? If this number is 6 C, then there is a problem. If the number is, as I suspect, only 0.1 C, then there is no problem. That is where the physics needs to be examined. Have the quantitative estimates for the effect on global temperatures of adding CO2 to the atmosphere from current levels been substantiated. I believe the answer to that is a very emphatic NO!!!!!

    • “I agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that there is a greenhouse effect. I even agree that the radiation balance in the atmosphere is changed as CO2 is added from current levels. The question is, how much do global temperatures rise from a doubling of CO2 from current levels? ”

      if you are not careful u might get labelled a lukewarmer

  20. Heaven and Earth – Plimer

    Climate did occur before 1000 year proxy constructions…….

    A geologists view, ie with respect to, it is the hottest year on record, it must be man made global warming (when the record is 30 years for satellite, and sketchy /low coverage of weather stations a hundred years ago..)

    What drove the climate, 1000, 5000, 1000,000, 500,000 years ago, what was the climate like then, is it unprecedented now, etc..

    Professor Ian Plimer!ProfessorIanPlimer!_7859.aspx

    Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Eureka Prize (x2), Fellow of the AusIMM, Fellow Geological Society, Centenary Medal, Clarke Medal, Leopod von Buch Plakette, Sir Willis Connolly Medal

  21. Dr. J,

    anything by the climate blacksheep, M. Leroux. Funny that his thoughts are still being ignored.

    his 2005 book, “Global Warming: Myth or Reality” –


    In the global-warming debate, definitive answers to questions about ultimate causes and effects remain elusive. In Global Warming: Myth or Reality? Marcel Leroux seeks to separate fact from fiction in this critical debate from a climatological perspective. Beginning with a review of the dire hypotheses for climate trends, the author describes the history of the 1998 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and many subsequent conferences. He discusses the main conclusions of the three IPCC reports and the predicted impact on global temperatures, rainfall, weather and climate, while highlighting the mounting confusion and sensationalism of reports in the media. After taking a hard look at the reality of the greenhouse effect, the ‘evidence’ from climate models, and the models’ limitations, Leroux postulates alternate causes of climate change and analyzes the trends for global temperatures, rainfall patterns, and sea level. He poses the ‘heretical’ question if warming may be considered a benefit in some regions. Finally Leroux suggests a number of priorities for climatologists to better understand processes of climate change, to integrate them into climate models, and to predict accurately future changes in climate. This timely and controversial book lays out the scientific case of the sizable skeptical scientific community who challenge the accepted wisdom.”
    Barnes and Noble

  22. Jim, it sounds like you are presenting this as a search for evidence, about calculations of climate sensitivity. the numbers I keep hearing are 3.0 +/- 1.5 C per doubling of CO2, taking all forcings and feedbacks into account. An NAS conference in 1979 first produced this estimate. More recently, you might be interested in this book, published through the National Academies of Science, from a workshop on calculating climate sensitivity.
    I’m not a climate scientist – but, I’d be wary about being more skeptical than the scientists who do this every day.

    • stewart writes “Jim, it sounds like you are presenting this as a search for evidence, about calculations of climate sensitivity”

      Absolutely. The methodology presented by the IPCC is just plain wrong. But let us wait until Judith introduces this sort of thing as a subject for discussion.

    • The problem is, as has been discussed at length here and in some of the books being mentioned here, that too many have dropped off their skepticism irt climate science.

  23. Judith Curry and bloggers – thanks for the reference sources. My reading list has doubled; hope I can finish before the science is settled. :)

    • I’d recommend The Climate War if you’re interested in a good inside account of Washington’s political battles over climate legislation. There’s very little in there regarding science’s intersection with politics, but there sure is a lot of politicking told in rich detail.

  24. Jim, I’d suggest the NAS symposium proceedings, then, to learn what those who work in the area think is appropriate with the data that’s available. I’d be interested in your thoughts afterwards.
    Judith, can I again suggest that you do a post or sidebar to identify what aspects of climate science can be taken as sufficiently well-demonstrated that to dispute them is to deny a common ground for discussion? I’d be interested in what you see these as being, and how they match to those of the various learned societies.

    • Stewart,

      A priore conditions always make me worried. While I understand the desire to keep from going over the same ground over and over, I think there are too many issues to be that easily resolved. For example, while I BELEIVE that the science has established that the bulk of the increase in CO2 in anthroprogenic, I tend to doubt the quanties and the impact on warming. So my comments get once I question the multiple factors I believe affect the impact of CO2?

  25. Another must read: Richard Feynman on cargo cult science.

    “…I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the
    apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but
    they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.

  26. Here is another book,
    John Mashey on Strange Scholarship in the Wegman Report (249 pages, ebook).

    The book analyzes the Wegman report and draws conclusions on its content.
    Same link above has the executive summary, for quick reading.

    • This is total nonsense. The ‘plagiarism’ claims invented by a blogger were widely ridiculed at the time and even withdrawn, since the book from which they were claimed to be plagiarised came out after Wegman. No evidence is given for the claim that it was written by a PhD student.

    • But did you actually read the document at John Mashey on Strange Scholarship in the Wegman Report?

      Having read the Wegman Report in detail earlier, and reading now John Mashey’s document, I can see that there are indeed big problems with Wegman.

      It becomes too easy to reject detailed and meticulous rebuttals.
      What we should not do is bury our heads in the sand like ostriches.

      I hope you know in detail the content of the Wegman Report. It would make easy reading the work of Jogn Mashey (8.6MB, 249 pages).

    • Paul,

      You are confused.

      I suggest you look at the actual charges made in *this* document, rather than responding to half-remembered ones not made in *this* document.

    • Wow! Janet, that piece is.. wow! I’ve rarely part-read a piece so dense with innuendo, conjecture, false premise and logical fallacy. If you have any more like that, I would love links!

    • What’s so resented;
      Allusion to illusion.
      Climate is, really.

    • The challenge the AGW promotion monsters are faced with is demonstrated here.
      When they could simply pretend that legitimate skeptics do not exist, they could ignore the skeptics. Now the promoters are trying to meet the skeptics on the battlefield of evidence and ideas and the weakness of their position becomes more and more clear. But the skeptics cannot be simply ignored and dismissed any more.

    • err.

      the first sentence .. the wegman report is a key part of skepticism?

      hardly. The hockey stick, as gavin notes, is not very scientifically interesting. So, how is a report, read by so few skeptics, about a topic that doesn’t matter, form the basis of a movement so dangerous. It beggars the imagination.

      Here’s a brain buster for you. The Wegman report is a mess & Mann is wrong & AGW is a threat.

      Oh my god. the laws of logic actually allow one to hold all those views. The laws of climate science debate, do not. In fact if you try to hold those three logically consistent views you will be attacked from all sides. Interesting. Quite telling. something somewhere was siad about truth being the first victim.

    • > read by so few skeptics

      Yet cited by so many.

      I don’t think it does particular service in educating a lay-audience to pretend that your own position (particularly compared to the highly vocal minority that does most of the work in shaping the public debate on these issues) is a representative one, nor do I think that is a valid route to rebutting the charges made in this document.

      In any event, the Wegman report is more than just an attack on the Hockey Stick. The social network aspect is an attack on the very nature of the relationships between scientists. It asserts a closed-shop, or clique mentality, with tight groups of authors all colluding to support each others work to the detriment of good scientific values.

      The linked document has some interesting critiques about this area, not least that the social network analysis was well outside their area of expertise, was plagiarised (with nonsensical errors), that the basic analysis itself was unsound and that the WR itself suffered from the very flaws it purported to criticise in climate science.

      Personally I think this document is well off-topic here though, and given the rush to dismiss it in such an offhand way I doubt its going to get any sort of useful detailed discussion. If you actually want to discuss the content I’d suggest heading over to:

    • This is an interesting view Steven.

      What do you think of the work that quote from the Wegman Report?
      Are they unreliable as well?

      By reading the earlier comments on this, I notice that others consider that the Wegman Report stands quite well and is good.
      If you really think that the Wegman Report is unreliable, then write a post on WUWT rejecting it.

    • You seem to think that truth is somehow preserved or destroyed through a chain of citation. This is actually a religious view about holy scripture.
      NOTHING follows logically from the fact ( if it is true) that wegman copied material from bradley. In fact one of the bradley quotes, looks like Bradley also copied it from someone else. What makes a report reliable or unreliable is not is lineage. That is the climate science version of moses’ tablets. I ask for code and data because i dont trust peer review, because we have empirical evidence that peer review doesnt work, and because I like to see for myself.

      I tell you 2+2=4. And then you find out that somebody else wrote that before me. Is it unreliable? how utterly retarded.

      And no, I wont be writing about wegman because the HS is scientifically UNINTERESTING. listen to gavin. if you like citing authority

  27. Gosh, what a list to start reading. I am thankful that I got a holiday coming up. Of course we can have a civilised discussion about “The Hockey Stick”. I think Mr Montford has set the tone. I thought it was an excellent book by the way and is glad that it was recommend to me so have in turn recommended it to lots of hapless people :o). Btw speaking of Lomborg, has anybody read “Smart Solutions to Climate Change”? Must be out around now. Read “The Skeptical Environmentalist” years ago and thought it thought provoking at the time. DeNihilist – yes, I really ought to get around to Kierkegaard at some point but now I have been sidetracked :o) Jim Cripwell – your website sets my day off with a smile :o)

  28. Dr. Roy Spencer’s “The Great Global Warming Blunder” puts the size and scope of “Climate” in perspective. I’ve always been a big fan of Mother Nature and I think too many of ‘the carbon units infesting planet Earth’ (always liked that line) think they’re the be all and end all to everything under the Sun. Anyway, for more balance –

  29. It is not a book I would mention first but a 3 years old blog article that I recommend : .
    This text by Terry Tao is one of the best and clearest presentation of difficulties with fluid dynamic problems, that everybody who works with Navier Stokes should read if he didn’t do so yet.
    Just one quote :

    Understand pseudorandomness. This is an incredibly vague statement; but part of the difficulty with this problem, which also exists in one form or another in many other famous problems (e.g. Riemann hypothesis , twin prime and Goldbach conjectures, normality of digits of pi, Collatz conjecture, etc.) is that we expect any sufficiently complex (but deterministic) dynamical system to behave “chaotically” or “pseudorandomly”, but we still have very few tools (emphasis mine) for actually making this intuition precise, especially if one is considering deterministic initial data rather than generic data. Understanding pseudorandomness in other contexts, even dramatically different ones, may indirectly shed some insight on the turbulent behaviour of Navier-Stokes.
    It is a pity that scientists of Terry Tao caliber are not interested by climate science because I am convinced that we’d do much faster progress.

    These questions about sound foundations of fluid dynamics are very relevant to both weather and climate because whatever the time and space evolution of the system is, one is sure – it has to obey Navier Stokes equations among others.
    Just an example – if F(x,t) is solution of NSE, are spatial averages of F solution of something?
    Well they are not solutions of NS (f.ex the spatial average of the velocity vectors of a circular vortex is 0) what is definitely a handicap.
    There is also this matter of “pseudorandomness” mentionned by Terry Tao which is directly related to the possibility to interpret fluid systems like ocean and atmosphere stochastically.

    Concerning books then there is definitely one that I like to reread :

    It is definitely a great read even if the price tag is dissuading.
    But it is worth every penny.

    • These look like books I need to read, i am trying to understand the broader context for climate models

    • Tomas Milanovic


      I think that this is a wise decision.
      I speculate that this is due to the fact that you seem to be one of the very few scientists who realized how closed the “climate” science was.
      It is dominated by numerical simulations via GCM.
      There’s nothing wrong with simulations provided that they are based on sound theoretical foundations.
      But clearly most people are interested by running their models and doing “statistics” on the runs instead of going out of that world and asking what justifies implicite assumptions.

      I would give an example from non linear dynamics.
      There are dozens of papers published on “chaos” in different climate subsystems – PDO, ENSO etc.
      They even use results from chaos theory like Takken’s embedding theorem, correlation dimensions etc.
      However most of them miss the fundamental problem – chaos theory works ONLY for purely time dependent systems described by a finite system of ODE.
      Its origins are not what many people believe, e.g Lorenz and meteorology but Poincare and Hamiltonian dynamics.
      Chaos theory deals with only time dependent orbits that live in the phase space.
      Problem with climate subsystems like ENSO is that they are extended spatio-temporal phenomena described by PDE.
      There are no “orbits” in phase space because there is no finite dimensional phase space for spatio temporal systems anymore.
      The established chaos theory simply doesn’t apply to such systems.

      So how do the people get the time series they analyse?
      Well by space averaging which magically produces only time dependent variables F(t) from the real local variables f(x,t).
      Now if you ask the simple question “What justifies using chaos theory on variables that have been obtained by space averaging of space dependent solutions?” you mostly get no answer because the question is not even understood even if every textbook on non linear dynamics and chaos strictly and strongly separates temporal systems (described by ODE) from spatio-temporal systems (described by PDE).

      The same distinction applies for stochastical interpretations.
      Chaotic orbits of purely temporal systems can be analysed and interpreted stochastically by the ergodic theory and here too, the origin is Hamiltonian dynamics. The robustness of statistical thermodynamics demonstrates the success of this approach.

      However there is no ergodic theory of spatio-temporal systems like weather yet.
      There are interesting approaches to tackle spatio temporal chaotic systems by f.ex coupled map lattices but that is by no means a fully developped theory with established results yet.

      Personnaly I am convinced that the biggest progress in the climate science will not be obtained by running Monte Carlos on numerical simulations but by thinking outside the (numerical) box and answering some basic questions like “What laws obey spatial averages if any?”,
      “How are defined the states of the system and can they obey some statistical distribution left invariant by the dynamics?”,
      “If we want to use an equivalent of chaos theory on the weather system by what should we replace the phase space (what metrics)?”

      Of course as nobody can know everything, there will be some stress on your time availability. I wish you success.

  30. The books that I’m currently reading and using seem to be outside the focus of this thread. However, I have found the following to be very useful for filling in some of the very numerous blanks in models and methods descriptions. Professor Curry can snip at will.

    David J. Stensrud, Parameterization Schemes; Keys to Understanding Numerical Weather Prediction Models, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007, Reissue Edition, 2010.

    Good discussion of the many physical phenomena and processes that are not described from first principles in NWP and GCMs.

    From the Amazon Web page:

    Editorial Reviews
    “While I enthusiastically recommend Stensrud’s book as a text for use in courses related to atmospheric physics and numerical modeling, I also believe that this book will quickly become the ‘go-to’ reference for those involved in NWP-related research and applications, as it is the most up-to-date and comprehensive reference of the disparate physical processes that are currently included in sophisticated numerical weather prediction models. I commend Stensrud’s efforts in bringing all of this varied information together in writing this book.” – Michael Baldwin, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

    Product Description
    Numerical weather prediction models play an increasingly important role in meteorology, both in short- and medium-range forecasting and global climate change studies. The most important components of any numerical weather prediction model are the subgrid-scale parameterization schemes, and the analysis and understanding of these schemes is a key aspect of numerical weather prediction. This book provides in-depth explorations of the most commonly used types of parameterization schemes that influence both short-range weather forecasts and global climate models. Several parameterizations are summarised and compared, followed by a discussion of their limitations. Review questions at the end of each chapter enable readers to monitor their understanding of the topics covered, and solutions are available to instructors at This will be an essential reference for academic researchers, meteorologists, weather forecasters, and graduate students interested in numerical weather prediction and its use in weather forecasting.

    Kevin E. Trenberth (Editor), Climate System Modeling, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992, Digitally printed version 2009.

    Discusses all aspects of the Earth’s climate systems, not just the atmosphere. Might be kind of dated as the content of the first edition was likely written in the late 1980s. Lot more information about lot more aspects than introductory texts; i.e. Washington and Parkinson, and McWilliams.

    From the Amazon Web Page:

    Product Description
    This interdisciplinary volume aimed at graduate students and researchers provides a thorough grounding in the tools necessary for an appreciation of climate change and its implications. It discusses not only the primary concepts involved but also the mathematical, physical, chemical and biological basis for the component models and the sources of uncertainty, the assumptions made and the approximations introduced. Climate System Modeling addresses all aspects of the climate system: the atmosphere and the oceans, the cryosphere, terrestrial ecosystems and the biosphere, land surface processes and global biogeochemical cycles. As a comprehensive text it will appeal to students and researchers concerned with any aspect of climatology and the study of related topics in the broad earth and environmental sciences.

    Judith A. Curry and Peter J. Webster, Thermodynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans, Academic Press, London, 1999

    From the Amazon Web page:

    Editorial Reviews

    “This is an excellent and well-written book . . . it will be very useful for students and for any environmental scientist.”
    –Hermann W. Bange, Mainz, Germany

    “. . should find its place in libraries of university Earth science departments, as well as in private libraries of students and researchers in the fields of meteorology, climatology and oceanography.”
    –Pure & Applied Geophysics

    “This book represents a serious attempt to combine the thermodynamics of air, water, and ice in a single text. The book is well written and most of the derivations of the equations are relatively easy to follow. Numerous diagrams and tables complement the text. References at the end of the chapters are also collected at the end of the book and provide sources for additional information. Problems at the end of each chapter and selected answers at the back of the book will be useful for those who use this book as a text. The appendices contain a comprehensive list of symbols that I found to be very handy, as well as other useful information.”

    Product Description

    Atmospheric and climatological studies are becoming more and more important in day-to-day living. Winds and ocean current owe their existence to the thermodynamic imbalances that arise from the differential heating of the Earth and air by the sun. Accounting for heat exchanges with the atmosphere and ocean is essential in any predictive model of the ocean and/or atmosphere. Thermodynamic feedback processes in the atmosphere and ocean are critical to understanding the overall stability of the Earth’s climate and climate change. Water and its phase changes make the thermodynamics of the atmosphere and ocean uniquely interesting and challenging.
    Written by leading scientists in the field, Thermodynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans incorporates all the relevant information from the varying fields of dynamics meteorology, atmospheric physics and cloud physics, into a comprehensive, self-contained guide ideal for students and researchers of atmospheric thermodynamics. At the moment, courses in atmospheric thermdynamics typically have to use one or two chapters in textbooks on dynamic meteorology, atmospheric physics or cloud physics. This book combines these topics in one text.

  31. I just spotted this essay in Science that reviews a number of climate books, many of which have not been mentioned here:

    Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming
    By Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.

    Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity
    By Mike Hulme.

    Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity
    By James Hansen.

    Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate
    By Stephen H. Schneider.

    The Lomborg Deception: Setting the Record Straight About Global Warming
    By Howard Friel.

    The Climate Solutions Consensus
    By David E. Blockstein and Leo Wiegman.

    Climate Change Science and Policy
    Stephen H. Schneider, Armin Rosencranz, Michael D. Mastrandrea, and Kristin Kuntz-Duriseti, Eds.

    The Politics of Climate Change
    By Anthony Giddens.

  32. Today’s trivia: Terry Tao was the youngest gold medallist in the Mathematics Olympiad (he was 13) and is one of those child prodigies who goes on and on in adult life.

  33. I would suggest Foundations of Complex systems by Nicolis and Nicolis .

    ( first chapter is available as a download )

    Gregoire was both a student and coauthor of Prigogine,and Catherine is a leader in climate entropy eg

    It is well set out and addresses a number of problems as it evolves by chapter to some very interesting to conclusions.

    • Very helpful, thank you! I’m struggling with writing my first modeling post, it will have a section on complexity, this essay will definitely help.

  34. Judith, you said somewhere above that a good primer was hard to find. It’s not a book, but this website I found terrific at explaining the consensus. Really good primer, good chapters etc. UK Government site.

  35. Professor, I don’t seem to find how to reply to a particular comment but never mind.
    ‘Carrick’ (?) replies early on that
    There’s a) the physical evidence for climate change, b) physical basis for anthropogenically driven climate change, c) the evidence for attribution of recent climate change to anthropogenic factors, d) ecological, sociological and political impacts of future climate change and e) policies for addressing/adapting too/ameliorating anthropogenically driven climate change.
    I don’t think a-c are well established, and, if believed, they are still very tentative. The argument I believe is about the science, an argument that can go both ways: If the evidence is strong that there is a dangerous anthropogenic signal in our climate, the affect of which is much more negative than positive, then we must design policies that might tackle this.
    I think if we had an ‘IPPC’ like report, telling us that some comet was about to destroy the earth, we could be very certain about the evidence. This is much more nebulous, much more uncertain and involves ( or calls for ) perspectives that maybe, how should one put it, ‘political’. For instance, a kind of reductionist, ‘anti-capitalist’ viewpoint. IF there is a real problem we must be extremely careful to avoid ‘politics’ or so called ‘opinion’. Hence, McIntyre, hence you.

    • Lewis, you are correct that the uncertainty cuts both way. We may have underestimated, or overestimated the risk.

    • I think your exactly right. Does anyone believe that, if the so called ‘sceptics’ were convinced by the evidence, that they would stand in the way of possible ‘solutions’. Of course, there would be arguments but I believe the good sense of good people would prevail.
      No, they need to be convinced and, as it were, ‘brought on side’. And, as you know, they are willing to accept the science. Oneness, clarity, and, in a certain sense, ‘charity’ is what is needed.
      But, it seems, correct me if I’m wrong, ‘Academia’ can be a very grubby world.

    • I think your exactly right. Does anyone believe that, if the so called ‘sceptics’ were convinced by the evidence, that they would stand in the way of possible ‘solutions’. Of course, there would be arguments but I believe the good sense of good people would prevail.
      No, they need to be convinced and, as it were, ‘brought on side’. And, as you know, they are willing to accept the science. Openness, clarity, and, in a certain sense, ‘charity’ is what is needed.
      But, it seems, correct me if I’m wrong, ‘Academia’ can be a very grubby world.

      PS I’ve heard of your ‘take-back’ system but how does one use it?

    • send me an email and I will do it manually. haven’t had any requests yet, although i’ve made a few minor mods to my posts by using the strike through

    • No, I meant, I had to double post ’cause of misspelling. Never mind.

  36. I forgot to say I’ve taken your list to my local library. I’m reading HSI at the moment but always want balance (I read the ‘nasty’ RC and CP, too) Thanks for the recommendations -I will try to read them all.

    PS Technically difficult books are not necessarily a turn off. I remember, when I was barely into ‘adulthood’, all the fuss over Hawking’s book, which I loved ( though I couldn’t stand him bringing in the ‘metaphor’ of God at the end). It was very easy to read and I never understood why people bought it but, as it were, ‘remaindered’ it! O well!

  37. I recommend:
    The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet, Indur Goklany, 450 pages, Cato Institute (January 19, 2007), ISBN-13: 978-1930865983

    Goklany clearly lays out how economic growth and use of fossil fuels has strongly improved human health AND the environment. Goklany’s perspective is needed to counter the strong worldview underlying the systemic “global warming” alarmism underlying the IPCC. Goklany documents how the consequences of modern development are directly opposite Dicken’s vision of the industrial wasteland.

    This radical dichotomy of world view underlies and charges and biases much of the “climate science” debate rather than objective scientific facts.

  38. Judith,

    If you are going to write on climate modeling, I hope you will read (if you have not already) the fine book by Duke Professor Orrin Pilkey titled Useless Mathematics: Why Environmental Scientists Cannot Predict the Future. He discusses the IPCC in passing and is not overly critical, but his arguments against certainty associated with modeling seem very strong.

  39. Judith,

    I would also recommend:

    * Human Impacts on Weather and Climate, a book by William Cotton and Roger A Pielke Sr.

    * Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies That Hurt the Poor by Roy Spencer.

    * The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled the World’s Top Climate Scientists by Roy Spencer.

    * Climategate: The Crutape Letters by Steve Mosher and Thomas Fuller.

  40. Where is the warming? How do we know? Ms. Curry we see the lies, deceit, withholding of information, dumping information fortunes being made, personal attacks, no debates, corrupted peer review, etc, etc you still believe the science is sound. That is faith.

  41. Obviously late to this party, but Real Life has been calling lately :)

    Judith, I’ve got a communication-book recommendation. Helpful for anyone who needs to present or write in the 21st century. One of my favorites of this decade: Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.
    It’s basically about how to effectively and honestly communicate today. And how to avoid some of the many traps. For scientists and engineers, I especially appreciate the section on the “Curse of Knowledge” — we who are immersed in our specialist worlds have a hard time escaping the assumption that everyone else understands what we already know to be true.
    A great read, very practical.

  42. I am also late to this particular party but I would strongly recommend a short book written by Henry H Bauer called Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method published by the University of Illinois.

    This is a very provocative but thought provoking book which describes the difference between the way scientists say that science works and the way that it actually works. One of the defenders of the content of the Climategate e-mails made the comment that “they simply showed how a bunch of scientists worked” I was appalled when I heard this but on reflection I think that there is a lot of truth in this.

    I also think that Climate Science is probably no different to most other disciplines. In the main they never get exposed in public, largely because most frontier scientific research has no impact on the general population, the impact occurs often many years later when the science is no longer at the frontier and when applications of the science become apparent. In the case of Climate Science the issue is alraedy up there in full public view with the possibility of it requiring dtmatic changes to everyone’s way of life. It is not therefore surprising that the detailed operations of climate scientists are being scrutinised in detail and that the “imperfections” (which are probably to be found in all brances of science) are causes for great concern.

    I thoroughly recommend that you read the book with an open mind, you will find that most of the current concerns about Climate Science will resonate.

    • Alex Heyworth

      I strongly second this recommendation. One of the key points Bauer makes is that science in any subject is at many different levels of “settledness”. Some science is sufficiently agreed that it is in high school textbooks (although even this gets overturned sometimes). Most current science is highly contentious, often speculative, and very likely to be disproved. There is a continuum between the two extremes. Given how young (relatively) climate science is, it seems probable that much of what is currently accepted will eventually be overturned.

  43. Alexander Harvey

    University of Chicago
    PHSC 13400: Global Warming
    Professor David Archer
    Based on his own book “Global Warming, Understanding the Forecast”
    September – November 2009

    (23 videos : approximately 16 hours)

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