AGU Fall Meeting: Part II

by Judith Curry

I’ve spent the last several days at the AGU meeting in San Francisco.  With 19,200 participants, there is an overwhelming amount things going on all that the same time.   Here are some highlights of the meeting (some of which I witnessed first hand, others are based on second hand reports).  And also some comments on some of the controversies that are being discussed in the blogosphere.

Featured video lectures are now available on this website. Of particular relevance to climate, see

  • John Holdren:  Scientists, Science Advice, and Science Policy in the Obama Administration
  • Julia Slingo:  Society’s Growing Vulnerability to Natural Hazards and Implications for Geophysics Research
  • Michael Oppenheimer: Scientists, Expert Judgment, and Public Policy: What is Our Proper Role?
  • Tim Palmer: A Very Grand Challenge for the Science of Climate Prediction — Towards a Community-Wide Prototype Probabilistic Earth-System Model
  • Ellen Mosley-Thompson: Past and Contemporary Climate Change: Evidence From Earth’s Ice Cover
  • Didier Sornette:  Dragon-Kings, Black Swans and Prediction

The only talks on this list that I saw were Tim Palmer and Didier Sornette.  Tim Palmer’s presentation was superb and very relevant to our discussions of climate model uncertainty.  Sornette’s talk certainly had the coolest title of the conference.  It was very interesting and I learned a lot, but if you listen to the presentation, there is diminishing returns after the first 10 minutes or so.

My favorite talk in the regular sessions was “Power Law and Scaling in the Energy of Tropical Cyclones” by  A. Corral, A. Osso; J. LLebot. They have a recent Nature Physics publication with the same title that is behind paywall.


The AGU had a session on “Which of these books have you read?” which highlights popular books authored by AGU members, on topics related to global environmental change.  I didn’t see any skeptical books on the list, not sure how to interpret that.  I guess a number of people were invited to participate, not all accepted the invitation.

I didn’t attend the session, but received reports from several scientists, including several who actually walked out in the middle.  Overall, the session was rather lackluster.  Greg Craven made a presentation on his book “How it all ends”  that has been highly controversial.

This was followed by a panel discussion with the bestselling authors and Michael Oppenheimer on “What should be the role of AGU members in the current public discussion of climate change?” I did not attend this session, either.   From reports that I’ve heard, this session was aptly described by Steve Mosher at WUWT, including a good talk by Oppenheimer, and another bizarre performance by Craven.

A few words are in order about Greg Craven.   Before this meeting, I had never heard of him. Apparently he is a high school teacher, I am not exactly sure why he is a member of the AGU.  Apparently his book and youtube video are pretty good (I watched the youtube video).  I can’t imagine how to explain his behavior at AGU.  I have no idea how to explain how/why he was invited to participate in the AGU.  If I had been session chair, I would have interrupted his performances at several junctures (but that is said in hindsight, I can’t imagine what was going on in the session chair’s mind during this performance).

Update:   Greg Craven responds here.  Steve Easterbrook  has a different take on the session and Craven’s presentation here.

In any event, the AGU has a new emphasis on communication, which I think is a good thing, but they are still finding their way . . .  I suspect that they’ve learned not to invite Craven to speak at future meetings.

In a section on controversies, its difficult to leave out Mike Mann.  He spoke in a session entitled “Institutional Support for Science and Scientists in an Age of Public Scrutiny.”  Mann’s talk was entitled “Climate Scientists In The Public Arena: Who’s Got Our Backs?”  It seems that what Mann has learned from his experiences over the past several years is how to write op-eds for the Washington Post.

Conversation with Chris Mooney

I would like to address the post made at WUWT on the selection of Mooney and Floyd DesChamps to the AGU Board of Directors.  As per the AGU press release, these appointments were made to bring expertise in science policy and communication. “Their selection reflects AGU’s commitment to applying the results of scientific research to challenges faced by the global community, many of which are based in the geosciences.”  The article at WUWT describing this press release started with “Pigs have been flying at AGU, apparently. All hope is lost for this organization. Get out while you can.

I had an extensive conversation with Chris Mooney at the AGU meeting.  For background, I first met Mooney Jan 2006 at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society.  I had just read his first book The Republican War on Science, and was delighted to learn that he was working on a new book about the hurricane “wars.”  The eventual book “Storm World” is a superb piece of science journalism, which I reviewed at  I was also one of three people he asked to write a recommendation letter to support his application for Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT.

Mooney was aware of the WUWT piece, and said that it wasn’t receiving any attention at all by the AGU, as far as he could tell.  Politically, Mooney is definitely a Democrat.   He pointed out to me that Floyd DesChamps is actually a Republican, who was McCain’s staffer in the preparation of the McCain-Lieberman bill.  A “green” Republican, but a Republican nevertheless.

Mooney’s actual contribution to the AGU meeting included two very well received presentations (skeptic Jim OBrien mentioned to me that he wanted to buy Mooney’s book Unscientific America based on his presentation), one of which is described here.

I like Chris Mooney, and have learned a lot from him about communicating science.  Do I agree with everything he says?  Well, I don’t read everything he says, and I am sure there is much out there that I would probably disagree with.  But I think he is a good addition to the AGU Board.  Yes, he is an english major, but he is a science journalist, and spent a year at MIT (last year) taking science courses related to climate, energy, biotech.  IMO climate science gets a low grade in both communication and in interfacing with policy.  The AGU is trying to address this issue in a sensible and productive way.

FYI, Mooney blogs at The Intersection.

My presentation

My talk entitled “Climate surprises, catastrophes, and fat tails” is posted here.  Note, this topic will be covered in two forthcoming posts (before the end of the calendar year).  Some background info is provided on the Scenarios thread.

Slide 1

The subtitle of my talk is: How the decision-analytic framework is influencing the scientific interpretation and assessment of climate change uncertainty.

Slide 2

Many of you have seen this figure before, its from the IPCC 4th Assessment report.  The Figure provides the probability density of the equilibrium climate sensitivity to doubled CO2.  The curves in this figure are obtained from both model simulations and observations, including paleo.

Now when you look at this diagram, do you find yourself trying to identify some sort of “best estimate”, like 3C?  Or a likely range, such as between 2 and 4.5C?  Or are you intrigued by what might be going on at the tails of the distributions?  In my talk today, I argue that how most people look at this diagram, including climate scientists, is conditioned by the decision analytic framework associated with the precautionary principle and optimal decision making. The consequences of this for both climate science and policy making are discussed.

Slide 3

The precautionary principle states that lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing action to prevent dangerous climate change.  So how much certainty do you actually need to trigger the precautionary principle?  Well, that is fuzzy, but the issue seems to be identifying what constitutes dangerous climate change and eliminating the likelihood that the magnitude of the sensitivity will be small.  Apparently the level of certainty in the IPCC assessments has been deemed sufficient, since  the UN Framework Convention Treaty has established a goal of stabilization of greenhouse gases.

Slide 4

So now that the precautionary principle has triggered an international treaty, what should the CO2 stabilization target be?  The optimal decision making model works in the following way:  more research reduces uncertainty, which builds a scientific and political consensus that results in meaningful action. When uncertainty is well characterized and the model structure is well known, classical decision analysis can suggest statistically optimal strategies for decision makers. Climate models are used to optimize the stabilization targets. Do we really have enough confidence in the climate models to use them to set a stabilization target?

Slide 5

Optimal decision making strategies are arguably a mismatch for the climate change problem owing to the deep uncertainty surrounding climate sensitivity, among other sources of uncertainty.  Robert Lempert characterizes the decision making environment surrounding climate change as one of deep uncertainty, owing to long time horizons,  substantial uncertainty in our understanding of the climate system, and the potential for surprises. Does the deep uncertainty characterization mean that we should not act on the threat of climate change?

Slide 6

Not at all, but deep uncertainty changes the environment for making robust decisions, relative to optimal decision making.  Robustness is a strategy that seeks to reduce the range of possible scenarios over which the strategy performs poorly. Robustness is a property of both the degree of uncertainty and the richness of policy options.  Robust strategies consider unlikely scenarios and the possibility of surprise.

Slide 7

This brings us to catastrophes and surprises.  Low probability, high consequence events provide particular challenges to developing robust policies.  A recent paper written by economist Martin Weitzman used an expected utility analysis to argue that the fat tail associated with unexpectedly but not impossibly high values of climate sensitivity dominate climate change economics.

Slide 8

So lets take another look at this climate sensitivity figure. The issue with triggering the precautionary principle is arguing that low values of sensitivity are unlikely.  The issue with robust decision making is developing a sufficiently broad range of scenarios that include surprises, i.e. out there on the tail of the distribution.  The “best estimate”, which is the current focus of much scientific research, is less meaningful for robust decision making strategies than it is for optimal decision making.

Trying to generate a pdf from these distributions is not simple, and in any event would not be straightforward to interpret.

Slide 9

Possibility theory and the possibility distribution is arguably a better match for the scenario driven robust decision making process.   Possibility theory is an imprecise probability theory whereby the possibility distribution distinguishes what is plausible versus the normal course of things versus surprising versus impossible.

Slide 10

The possibility distribution can be developed in the context of scenario creation and assessment using modal logic, which frames possible versus not possible worlds. A recent paper by Betz, who is a philosopher of science, argues for a new principle for constructing scenarios of future climate.

He classifies the IPCC’s method for scenario creation as modal induction, whereby future scenarios are inferred from modeled emissions scenarios that force climate model simulations.  Betz argues for creation of future climate scenarios by modal falsification, which permits creatively constructed scenarios as long as they can’t be falsified by being incompatible with background knowledge.

Slide 11

Why do I think this idea of modal falsification is significant?  Our current focus on the “best estimate” has directed the scientific focus away from the possible or plausible worst case scenarios, and they are not considered if they are not inferred from the climate models.  Such scenarios are vaguely mentioned to provide a sense of “dangerous” in the context of motivating action under the precautionary principle.  But where you actually draw the line in terms of what is possible versus highly implausible over a target time range is very important in the context of robust decision making and the identification of possible catastrophes and surprises.

The cartoon illustrates this challenge in the context of a discussion among dinosaurs:  “I’m telling you we have to be prepared!  An asteroid or comet collision is inevitable, aid if we’re not ready we could be made extinct. Oh Pshaw!  We’ve ruled this planet for 160 million years and we will always rule it! Next thing you’ll be telling us to watch out for the mammals!  HA HA!”

Slide 12

Further, in constructing the possible worst case scenarios, we have focused on the greenhouse gases, with insufficient attention paid to natural climate variability and abrupt climate change, independent of or amplified by greenhouse warming.

Slide 13

I hope I’ve changed how you look at this diagram and how you consider the uncertainty associated with climate sensitivity.  As scientists, we should be exploring and trying to understand this uncertainty, particularly at the tails.  I am all in favor of reducing uncertainty through improved understanding and improving climate models, but the complexity of the system guarantees that uncertainty is likely to continue to dominate this problem for the foreseeable future.  By prematurely forcing consensus on a “best estimate,” we do a disservice to the science as well as to policy makers.

Slide 14

In conclusion: The drive to reduce scientific uncertainty in support of precautionary and optimal decision making strategies regarding CO2 mitigation has arguably resulted in:

  • unwarranted high confidence in assessments of climate change attribution, sensitivity and projections
  • relative neglect of defining and understanding the plausible and possible worst case scenarios
  • relative neglect of decadal and longer scale modes of natural climate variability
  • and conflicting “certainties”  that result in policy inaction

Slide 15

A way forward is the decision analytic framework of robust decision making under deep uncertainty, which emphasizes scenario discovery and uncertainty analysis and identifying a broad range of robust decision strategies.

Implications of such a strategy for climate research are an increased emphasis on:

  • exploring and understanding the full range of uncertainty
  • scenario discovery using a broader range of approaches
  • natural climate variability, abrupt climate change, and regional climate variability

243 responses to “AGU Fall Meeting: Part II

  1. Dr. Curry,
    Thank you. I hope to attend an AGU meeting some year. From Bear’s “Forge of God” to what several friends tell me to your report, it sounds like it would be worth attending, even as a lay person.
    While your impression of Mooney as a person is admirable, I htink you have missed the point: a climate radical who specializes in misrepresenting the political aspects of science is now on the AGU board. Good luck with that. I would say further that whatever good work you are doing here in terms of communication will be more than offset by Mooney, no matter how much you like him. And I will wager that while your loyalty to him will temper your comments of him and his work, he will feel no such restraint in dealing with you.

    • Nullius in Verba

      I have to say, I quite like Mooney as a person myself – I spend a fair amount of time over there and he’s been unusually tolerant of that – but he does have some very peculiar views.

      Here’s a video debate where Mooney explains some of his philosophy – it takes a while to get round to Mooney’s piece, but I think it’s worth it. It will perhaps give an insight into where the communication strategy of the AGU may be going.

  2. Very interesting presentation.

    One aspect of the decision making process that seems to get short shrift is quantifying the costs involved in mitigation and adaptation versus the potential costs of future events (obviously, the scenario discovery you mentioned would be the first step to quantifying the full range of possible outcomes). I often see handwaving about buying insurance, but that overlooks the fact that fire insurance is relatively cheap vis a vis the event insured against.

    • Insurance is a bad analog because we only insure against events that are sure to occur but to whom is unknown. Fire, collision, theft, illness, early death, etc. Generally speaking we take no steps to avoid low, or no known, probability catastrophes, because there are an endless number of these.

  3. Judith

    Did you get any informal feedback from colleagues concerning this blog? We would be interested to hear what people thought about it.

  4. RobB, actually a lot of the people that I ran into mentioned that they were reading the blog (including the AGU Union President Elect Carol Finn), and that they really like it. I didn’t get any negative feedback at all on the blog.

    • Dr. Curry,
      That is very interesting about your president-elect.
      Do you think that she would be willing, if the issue keeps developing away from supporting expensive mitigation, to see the alarmism that has characterized so much of climate science communication drastically reduced?

  5. The issues you took up in your talk are among the most important of all as basis for decision-making, but they are really difficult. From this point of view, it is not clear, how much effort should be spent in the basics of climate change discussed in recent weeks in your blog. These issues affect more the other wing of the PDF than the estimates of severe risks.

    There are many other problems that come up in estimating, how serious the consequences of climate change may turn out to be. One extremely important question concerns the natural adaptation of human societies to new conditions. How well we can adapt and how long does it take? What is the actual loss, when living conditions worsen, but societies adapt? The future world may be different, but how large is finally the loss?

    Another problem is, what can be done to influence the future. How much can technological change help and how much we can affect that change? What are other possibilities to reduce emissions or support adaptation? Finally: Even if we know, what should change, how can we lead the world to the right direction taking into account political realities?

    These issues have been discussed on a few other sites, but in my view, they have not received even close to enough attention.

    • We also have to consider the negative effects of mitigation. We have to try to compare both positives and negatives of doing nothing, mitigation, and adaptation in order to make a rational choice. Some climate scientists seem oblivious to the fact that mitigation will carry huge costs.

    • Jim,
      Yes, all decisions to do something or not to do anything have their own risks and the basic idea is to give more emphasis on all deeply negative outcomes than to those without serious problems.

    • How “deeply negative” would warming actually be? The disaster scenarios à la Gore have been readily shown to be arrant nonsense. Sea rise is a millennium-long process short of drastic Ice Age on/off flips, which are not at issue. Etc. And the “upside” of warming is considerable, by all historical precedent.

      So it is not acceptable to automatically characterize warming as disastrous. Yet this is the fundamental assumption and basis for all mitigation policies.

    • The difficulty of this problem is implied also in the Rio declaration, where the Principle 15 reads:

      “Principle 15
      In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”

      The requirement for prompt action applies according to this principle only to cost-effective measures.

      There are people, who have forgotten this provision or do not accept it.

    • There is nothing wrong with the precautionary principle per se; the problem has been linking it to optimal decision making (e.g. stabilization/emissions targets). If you combine the precautionary principle with robust decision making framework that also considers pink and black swans and unintended consequences, you have the basis for precautionary no regrets policies.

    • It’s all a fancy form of “expected return” analysis, in which you weight the potential change (+/-) by the probability of it happening. And since long-tail events have little or no frequency records, the “probability” part turns into arithmetic opinionizing.

      Which is most of where CAGW comes unstuck. The Warmists try to make sure “the fix is in” by repetitiously asserting high probability values for events which are much further out on the tail than they pretend. Combine that with massive (orders of magnitude) inflation of possible negative consequences, and you have the current “analytical environment”.

    • randomengineer

      Finally: Even if we know, what should change, how can we lead the world to the right direction taking into account political realities?

      Obviously in western countries one answer is nuclear energy. This however doesn’t translate well everywhere: I doubt there’s a lot of political interest in supplying despots in 3rd world developing countries nuclear generating capacity. Certainly the presence of a Chavez precludes much interest.

      The answer here is Spaceborne Solar Power, which we know how to do, and we know can work. For developing countries the US (or EU, etc.) capable of constructing these can sell capacity etc to other countries, thus solving emissions and nuclear proliferation issues simultaneously. Just park an SPS where it needs to be used. Sell it if they can afford it. Lease it. Doesn’t matter. Energy is supplied, jobs are created, and worldwide emissions are addressed. If we start on this path NOW then we can have operational units in place within 15-25 years.

      I don’t understand given technological options like this why we are always going around in circles figuring out how to tax carbon or otherwise penalise energy usage. Terrestrial renewables are a joke; they don’t scale, they don’t address storage, etc. And we can’t supply nuclear everywhere. Obviously this direction is of no value either.

      The only correct solution is to adopt technologies that supply the energy we know we’re going to need at the scale we need it and do so with minimal emissions. This solution needs to be applicable worldwide, and not subject to the whims of regional politics (e.g. coups.) Spaceborne Solar meets this requirement. Nothing else does.

      (end of sales pitch)

    • Western countries? Shoot, countries around the world are turning to nuclear. Even the Middle East who know the price of oil and, for them, nat gas will be going through the roof.

    • randomengineer

      Good point. I originally considered “developed countries” but reckoned that the majority of this would still apply to the west (i.e. the Chinese will do as they will for reasons of their own) where climate change is a topic that is actually discussed / taken seriously / etc.

    • NG will be going through the roof? Have you kept up in the last year or two? NG is in surplus, a glut which will likely last most of a century, maybe many times longer. The US is now the largest NG producer in the world, all of a sudden. This has knock-on effects (fungibility, technically) across the world’s energy markets.

      Many, many energy costing and generating assumptions are going to have to be rethought. And the economics of renewables, already terrible, will now become risible.

    • Space energy solutions = potential loose space weapons randomly spaying the surface of the earth with beams of microwaves in the 20-100GW range?

      It only takes a controlled beam of 2KW microwave energy to make crop circles, in a few minutes…..

      How long does it take to cook everyone on Manhattan or Long Island with a tightly focused 20-100GW beam with a lost position control problem from getting hit by some thing the size of a golf ball or a loose 2″ long X 1/2″ dia. bolt of space debris?

      With no on sight repair, poor cooling mechanisms, and a service life of maybe 6 months to maybe 20 years max….

    • randomengineer

      You might want to review how this all works. Birds can fly through the beams just fine.

    • But, but, but — it’s RADIATION! Like X-rays, and gamma rays, and radio, and heat, and sunlight, and ….

      Oh, never mind.

  6. The problem with advanced tests of uncertainty is that they eventually come down to experts or groups of experts to ascribe a likelihood to a scenario. And that is the rub. Whose picken’ the experts decides the outcome, no two ways about it. The other problem is the mathematics and equation derivation: what seems to be small and hence can be ignored, when dealing with huge numbers and events, such an assumptiom may no longer be valid. When predicting the future, particularly with unlikely events, no matter how catestrophic, all one can really do is say something is possible and we have to cool our jets until the situation becomes more clear. As to the costs of the precautionary principle, at least for climate disruption, they are very high. Such high costs, requiring sacrifices by the public at large, also require the public’s consent. It is immaterial whether one believes the general public can’t understand, you still have to communicate until you get it right. You may find that the collective wisdom of the general public is greater than your own, much to your own surprise. I think the blogoshere illustrates the latter points.

    • blogosphere.

    • randomengineer

      blogoshere is when you’re inadvertently blown into another paradigm, and this works equally well with your posting.

      Note that the founding fathers of the US decided that the collective wisdom of an informed citizenry was superior to that of learned specialists. They were correct. Ike’s famous speech was about this as well.

  7. Great write-up and an excellent addition to the undertanding and debate about about both climate uncertainty and implementation of the precautionary principle. Is there any further sensible debate that you are aware of regarding thresholds on PP use? I get the sense that you and Dr. Pielke Jr. are both contributing greatly in this area of decision making.

    It’s important that the message gets out as well. As in some other institutionally funded areas of research (agw research comes to mind), bureaucracies have a great deal of impetus to do their best to be prepared for most reasonably possible scenarios that pertain to them, and yes their funding. Basically, an Army with the potential to make decisions that can severely impinge on society for society’s own good but with what seems to be really sketchy Rules of Engagement.

    Where do we really stand in assessing the dangers of using the precautionary principle relative to the Scale of the remedy and the degree of uncertainty as to numerous unknown natural phenomena (ie. our models for instance don’t seem to even attempt to explain and illustrate by recreating many of the natural flucuations of the last say, 9000 years – they lack understanding of many of the known cyclics and how they and the less-understood undiscovered cycles effect and interact.) and seperately or inclusively.

    Ironically now my question seems just as relevant to the Michaels III thread. jrwakemen and Heikko’s contributions there yesterday and today come to mind as I write this.

    Just seems on top of the un/certainty pick-ems (uncertainty about negative or positive feedback) or the other of gritty hinges we see are at the ‘core’ of the issue that we’re almost assuming we can explain the last 14,000 years in climate history to a resolution of a decade and rule out all factors effecting all changes over that time prior to 1850 effectively when we hear statements ‘high’ (most, likely, probably, etc) certainties of understanding what we are seeing being used to support invoking PP. Being that the MDOs are a big discovery that are effecting our understanding climate modelling (No! It’s effecting our understanding of illustrating what’s wrong with CO2!! /sarc off) if you throw in the uncertainty of unknown MDs, MCs, Multi-Millenials and how they interact would certainly effect our models.

    Let’s just pretend the trunk is all there is and forget the rest of the elephant that AGW said died of CO2 poisoning. Afterall, CO2 saved us and ended the Ice Age we are hearing :D

    • And there’s a flip side to the Black Swan Precautionary Problem. Distributions have two tails, so I’ll call it the Pink Swan Surprise. Such things as the explosion of NG supply world-wide have pretty much ended the energy crisis:

      That’s an immensely successful businessman talking; he’s telling you that the supply-demand situation has just gotten hugely more favorable, and will remain so far into the future. For the CO2-ChickenLittles, note that burning NG generates ½ its energy from the 4 hydrogen atoms per CH4 molecule, and hence is a major “improvement” over burning coal (pure C). [One C and 4 Hs both combine with 2 Os, so the energy released is similar.]

      And there are a few other potential Pink Swans out there. After following it for years, I and others tracking the fusion project are now VERY hopeful, bordering on confident, that ‘scientific break-even’ is ~½ yr. away, and a total commercial revolution in energy production less than ½ a decade off. We may be wrong, but that’s a HUGE “lump” on the Pink Swan tail of the distribution, one which has been growing and moving median-wards rather rapidly lately.

      And so on. Of course, a Pink Swan potential doesn’t eliminate the possible Black Swans on the other tail, but they should attract attention and resources, too. The counter-balance of Mitigation is perhaps Aggrandizement or Exploitation or Enhancement, and the potential of a huge payoff should surely attract as almost much focus and expenditure as evading or preventing a low-probability disaster!

      Else what’s a heaven for? ;)

  8. The talk ■Julia Slingo: Society’s Growing Vulnerability to Natural Hazards and Implications for Geophysics Research
    seems like it is backwards. As society gets richer, it may incur more absolute damage, but the relative damage goes down for most natural hazards. A magnitude 6 earthquake will cause a stone hut to collapse, killing the inhabitants, but will only mildly damage the average US home, and not kill anyone. A modest storm can kill all the livestock of a small herder in the mountains of Asia, leaving him destitute, but won’t even take shingles off my house. On the other hand, pampered westerners have become more intolerant of even minor annoyances…if that is what she means.

  9. Dr. Curry before lauding that the appointment of Mr. Mooney as a great way for the AGU to help better their communications, you might want to read up on the history of his antics during the “Tom Johnson”/”Your Not Helping” affair this past year on his blog. In that instance he elevated a comment in one of his posts to a full post and claimed he verified that the information was real. When others pointed out that it wasn’t real he censored/banned them from his blog. Turns out the comment was completely fabricated and posted by a “socket puppet” of the author of the blog “Your Not Helping”.

    Read the article and the comments afterwards to see that Mr. Mooney is at best very gullible when some presents “evidence” that supports his own bias, at worst he is nothing but a propagandist. Does the AGU really want that as the face of their communications?

  10. Judith,

    ” He pointed out to me that Floyd DesChamps is actually a Republican, who was McCain’s staffer in the preparation of the McCain-Lieberman bill. A “green” Republican, but a Republican nevertheless.”

    More than anything else I have read of yours this shows your bias and ignorance of a real world.

    The idea that someone who is associated with a Politician of a particular party says much of anything about their actual beliefs, motivations, or knowledge is a stretch. The fact that McCain is a Rino (look it up if you don’t understand the term) , makes this incorrect assumption even worse.

    Your blithely ignoring that we ALL have biases and bringing in a young gun who has already exhibited STRONG biases in favor of AGW, CAGW, GCC, GCD to be an expert in COMMUNICATIONS and ASSUMING this is an improvement is simply a HOOTER!!

  11. Judy – I wish I had been present at your presentation, and I recommend that readers here click on the link to see the PowerPoint slides, although just reading your slide descriptions gives a sense of what you said. The slides convey a better picture of your sense of humor.

    I’m particularly impressed with your slides 11-14, which emphasize the need to evaluate probability functions for worst-case scenarios as well as mid-range outcomes, and recognizing that “worst-case” can involve both anthropogenic GHGs and also natural climate variations.

    In regard to the latter, I think it’s important to emphasize that just because something is not “our fault” (i.e., not anthropogenic), we mustn’t conclude that we are unable to mitigate it. Physicians would be out of business if they only treated diseases due exclusively to our own failings. I’m not advocating geoengineering, but it illustrates the principle that we can cool the planet (temporarily) regardless of what is causing it to heat up. Even those geoengineering solutions directed at mainly anthropogenic causes such as CO2 emissions – for example, extraction of CO2 from ambient air – would cool the climate regardless of how we divide up the factors contributing to its warming. Afforestation is another example.

  12. Ah, well that explains why Chris Mooney inexplicably avoided mentioning/discussing you on his blog this past year (unless I’ve missed those posts). I found this absence perplexing until now.

    • I have complicated history/relations with both Romm and Mooney. Which one has behaved honorably in the face of disagreements with me? (hint: initials are CM)

  13. In a section on controversies, its difficult to leave out Mike Mann. He spoke in a session entitled “Institutional Support for Science and Scientists in an Age of Public Scrutiny.” Mann’s talk was entitled “Climate Scientists In The Public Arena: Who’s Got Our Backs?”

    The strategy of circling the wagons is that someone always has your back.

    Some people never learn

  14. Probably the most distressing thing I notice about the issue of uncertainty is that the climate models show the earth will continue to warm but at the same time they are not intended to show regional trends. In spite of that, we are making the leap to assuming a negative outcome to all of the planet. That is unsound logic. You can bet Siberia and Canada would welcome a couple extra weeks of growing season.

    The state of the art of long term climate forecasting is not likely to improve radically any time soon. From an engineering perspective that is actually OK. We can start working with what forecasts we have now.

    The problem that folks have been creating is oversimplifying the problem definition and choosing a single solution to that simplified view. The problem presented is not global warming! It may be the reason we might expect changes in the future, but it is not the the problem.

    The problem is the potential for localized, individual problems such as sea coast land loss, increased or decreased precipitation in some areas, and a laundry list of other things. An important point to consider is that each has its own time frame and level of effort to counteract. That time frame is actually quite long for most problems. Sea coast problems are not going to be difficult to deal with at the expected maximum 20 or 30 centimeters per century sea level rise. It is not necessary to treat global warming or AGW as an all or nothing, must stop now, kind of problem.

    In looking at the AGW problem, we should note that the kinds of problems we are identifying are actually just more of the same kinds of things we are expecting to have to deal with even without global warming. Floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, and cold spell happen all the time. If we put all of our problem solution resources efforts one area, two or three degrees Celsius warming, we choosing to ignore and not deal with a wide range of other real and dangerous problems.

    It is not necessary to have a solid, certain prediction of future climate to take step to protect against potential problems. The solution is to add that information to our plans and efforts for handling the very real every day problems.

    My greatest discontent with the effort to reduce CO2 is that that effort is not only expensive but also blocks improvement in underdeveloped parts of the world. A solution that deals with regional problems can work directly to the benefit of that area. Building a dam to provide water and electricity to a region subject to drought is a far better choice than condemning the people there to having to denude their forests for fuel to cook their meager meals.

    Again, it is not necessary to have complete certainty of a problem to proceed in dealing with it. It is merely necessary to not fall into the trap of trying to over simplify a problem and then attempting to solve it with an over simplified solution. Engineers deal with uncertainty as standard stuff. Hand the problem to them.

    • Gary – the issues you cite must be addressed on a quantitative basis, and attempts have been made to do this, although with inevitable uncertainties. When the quantitation is applied, the best estimates indicate that in the short term, the balance between adverse and beneficial outcomes will differ by region. Over the longer term, continued warming will have adverse consequences almost everywhere. The long term (centennial) perspective is meaningful because of the very long persistence of elevated atmospheric CO2 levels, a fraction of which persist for hundreds of thousands of years (see David Archer’s work for details).

      These issues were addressed a few years ago by Roger Pielke Sr (in Nature, I believe, but it might have been Science). He pointed out that when the quantitation is considered, the earlier views of many climate scientists that we can forestall serious consequences purely by mitigation is unsupportable, but later challenges asserting that adaptation alone will suffice are also unsupportable – we need both, and both must ideally be applied vigorously and promptly. He could be wrong, of course, but given climate inertia, if he’s right and we fail to conform our actions to his assessment, it will be too late to rectify the mistake.

    • Fred,
      You say “When the quantitation is applied, the best estimates indicate that in the short term, the balance between adverse and beneficial outcomes will differ by region. Over the longer term, continued warming will have adverse consequences almost everywhere.”

      Are you saying that engineering teams have visited all these regions and evaluated possible adverse conditions from natural weather as well as theoretic adverse conditions due to a potential 3 degrees C warming? Have they quantified the cost delta between protecting from natural disasters and any potential increase from global warming considerations? I seriously doubt that. For a scientist or an economist to make a back of the envelope guess from his office is not an adequate study.
      Furthermore, that guess may be condemning generations of third world people to unnecessary poverty. That is an unconscionable choice to make without solid on site research.
      All respect to Archer but concern about a few molecules of CO2 produced today that may not have been recycled through the planet’s biological processes a hundred thousand years from now is quite a stretch in the concerns of human civilizations.

    • Briefly, Gary, the issue has been well researched, even if there are margins of uncertainty surrounding it. Here is one suggestion: review all the data and the hundreds of references in AR4, WG2 and WG3. You needn’t depend on the text if you believe you must read the references themselves for an accurate perspective. Also, if you are aware of relevant papers omitted from those reports, read those as well.

      I believe you’ll discover that my statements are documented by the evidence (again with an acknowledgment of uncertainty levels), but if your reading leads to a different conclusion, please let me know.

      I won’t delve into all the data, but regarding one of the points you address, it is the poor individuals in third world countries who will be the first to suffer, and perhaps suffer massively, if we fail to act to control both warming and its consequences by a combination of mitigation and adaptation. Millions (literally) of individuals are likely to find their lives and health threatened by rises in sea level that wipe out their livelihoods or threaten them with hurricane devastation, or by droughts and floods that threaten them with starvation, or with increases in disease spread, and so on. Affluent individuals in the developed world will be affected eventually, but in the meantime, they can afford to move, migrate, or build defenses. Indeed, in the short term, the cost of inaction in life and health to the poor may be balanced by the cost savings to the affluent. Ultimately, all will do worse based on reasonable projections, although I will concede that for best case scenarios, some parts of the world may remain unscathed indefinitely, even if those scenarios are relatively unlikely. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to take a wait and see attitude because reversing the consequences of climate change is a process that would demand centuries.

      Finally, it’s important to realize that not all consequences of warming and its effects remain in the future. It is possible to estimate, for example, excess deaths due to increased hurricane storm surges in places like Myanmar or Bangladesh due to the higher sea level on which the hurricanes “(typhoons” in oceans in those regions) have started. The estimated deaths number in the many thousands from direct effects, but the number affected by loss of farmland due to salt water contamination, loss of livestock, and other damages is greater.

      One point where we probably agree is that absolute certainty is impossible, and so I base my conclusions on probability estimates.

    • Fred,
      If you truly believe the references you site above represent serious engineering studies then there is likely little reason for continuing this thread of discussion. We would simply be talking past each other. Bandwidth on Dr. Curry’s blog is too valuable for that. Should you decide you would like to continue this kind of discussion, I’d recommend you contact people who work in the field of Civil Engineering, preferably outside the academic community.
      Best of luck to you and seasons greetings to all.

    • Nothing has ever been known to alter Fred’s repertoire of pro-CAGW messages, Gary. Don’t put yourself out.

    • Probability (and what to do about it) is an interesting area in every aspect of human relations and discovery, be it in science or anything else. It is, however, only a tangentital aspect and not the whole ball of wax. I personally fear that Climatology is sooooo absorbed in the aspects of the Rubic’s Cube of Probability that discovery and everything related to that which is unique to Climatology has become the tangent and the focus is on only “Probability” and the addictive and inevitable “Chicken Little Method of Political and Psyentific Problem Resolution and Frantic Swaking”.

      When one looks at the modern “Science of Climatology” one seems to find much on that which surrounds the subject but little beneath the surface. There was an old, and very popular commerical a few years ago of two old ladies at a hamburger stand. The server hands a big “hamburger” to one, she lifts the top of the bun, makes a grimace on her face and asks “Where’s the beef?”

      For Climatologists to be spending so much of their time and energy on how the HAL 2000 Computer, or the UN, or anyone else, should address difficult problems in the present and future, seems to have more to do with anything BUT climatology. Or did I miss something?

  15. I seriously doubt that we can do any cost-benefit analysis on the different climate change projections with any meaningful precision.

    Not only there are so many processes that need to be examined, but also there very different climate ‘projections’ – of which I would not rule out even cooling. As some previous posters pointed out, in reality there more than two options i.e. adaptation and mitigation, which are basically not mutually exclusive, and involve very similar steps. Some examples: conserving energy, which is required by both: I think most would agree that this is a good thing in general. Second, turn western, but increasingly global consumption-oriented lifestyle into something else, some say that this is good. Getting rid of oil dependency, good. Developing heat or drought resistant plants, yes, absolutely. Helping the 3rd world on their feet again (hopefully via some another way than pouring money), very good.

    Point above being that one could write a long list of reasonable initiatives without mentioning anything about greenhouse gases or climate change, which could arguably be good in general, but possibly also slow the change, should it happen in the first place of course. Personally I believe that given sufficient democratic oversee, the most economically viable ones will be generally selected after all.

    • There’s a decent effort, the DICE (and later RICE) 100-yr cost/benefit models by Nordhaus, available thru his site and reviewed by Dyson. He takes AGW as a given, and goes from there.

      Drastic mitigation comes out badly; Kyoto is about neutral, because ineffective. Doing nothing is about the same. A moderate “carbon tax” is moderately positive. The best is the “low-cost backstop”, an as-yet-unknown low carbon cheap energy source. By a huge margin. See my Pink Swan comment.

  16. Brandon Shollenberger

    I know it is probably the least important part of your post, but your Lunch section seems to have been partially lost. It is only two sentences, and the second sentence ends with “Peter We.”

    • I was going to write about lunch in the main post, then decided not to because the post was too long, but i do have a good lunch story. Steve Mosher told me he was at AGU, so we agreed to get together. We scheduled a lunch get together, and I brought along my conference buddies Peter Webster and Tim Palmer. If you don’t know who Peter Webster is, he is President-elect of the Atmospheric Sciences Section of AGU, first author of the infamous Webster et al (2005) paper on hurricanes and global warming, and the person who received data from Phil Jones summer 2009 that triggered FOIA requests from McIntyre et al. If you don’t know who Tim Palmer is, he is the modeling guru of ECMWF who is now at Oxford, President of the Royal Meteorological Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Society, he ranks up there with Sir Brian Hoskins in terms of leadership of the UK climate establishment. And if anyone doesn’t know who Steve Mosher is, he broke the climategate story and coauthored the CRUTape Letters.

      So lunch was entertaining, Tim Palmer got to develop some understanding the technical skeptical climate blogosphere, what motivates them, etc., and the history of the how the climategate story broke. Also lots of discussion about the surface temperature data records. All in all, an interesting and educational lunch, I’m sure Tim will have some interesting stories about that lunch to brink back with him to the UK.

    • Brandon Shollenberger

      I have a passing familiarity with all three, so I can imagine it was an interesting lunch. I’ve actually always found lunches and other social things to be the most interesting parts of any conference or large gathering. Speeches wear thin and technical details can be read, but you can only get to know people by talking to them.

      In any event, You probably should delete the lunch section in your post, as it really doesn’t make any sense as just:


      Steve Mosher contacted me to say that he would be attending the meeting. Steve went to lunch with me and my conference buddies, Peter We

    • I’m sure Dr. Palmer and all of you have heard of

    • A laudable attempt to – at some undetermined point in the future – start collecting reliable and robust weather data for climate purposes.

      Just a pity that all the debate so far has been conducted with data that has not had these essential characteristics.

      Still, its good to know that it’s been possible to arrive at a 97% consensus and that ‘The Science is Settled’ without it! And who needs data anyway – when we have perfect, but unvalidated models instead?

    • Wow, Latimer — amazing comment there. One might almost think you had some understanding of the issue — but then your recalcitrance at applying your vast intellect to reading would come to the fore and all assumptions about your intellectual honesty would be revealed to be false.

    • OK- maybe I have misunderstood – they are not attempting to start collecting robust and reliable data for climate-related purposes. Perhaps I misread this

      ‘The envisaged process includes as its first necessary step the creation, for the first time, of a single comprehensive international databank of the actual surface meteorological observations taken globally at monthly, daily and sub-daily resolutions. This databank will be version controlled and seek to ascertain data provenance, preferably enabling researchers to drill down all the way to the original data record (see Figure). It will also have associated metadata – data describing the data – including images and changes in instrumentation and practices to the extent known’

      If I have got it wrong, that’s a shame, as it sounds like a good thing to do. The casual observer might have though that such a thing has been in existence for thirty years or more, given the faith that the existing data generates, but clearly not.

      Perhaps you will explain where I have misunderstood? Your continually saying that I don’t understand anything is becoming rather tedious. Especially when you never seem to be able to point out what I am failing to understand.

    • The effort *isn’t* to “start collecting” – it’s to make the current collection of weather data *better* and more useful for climate studies.

      You seem to believe that there’s lots of things that the climate science community hasn’t figured out vis-a-vis the science or that there are activities they’re just now beginning to do. That’s far from the truth.

      How is your perusal of Weart’s work going? Read the critiques of M&W 2010 to which I pointed you? Seen if “A Vast Machine” is available at a library?

      Your list of reading assignments grows daily.

    • Those who attempt to assert the role of ‘teacher’ in open debate are nearly always the ones most in need of learning.

      Usually manners.

    • I’ve mentioned good sources to Latimer a number of times; he’s always declined to peruse them. What’s your take on someone who steadfastly maintains their ignorance?

    • I haven’t followed all of the to and fro between Latimer and yourself, but I gather he is unwilling to spend his hard earned on books recommended by you as “good sources”.

      Maybe he doesn’t think you’re a particularly good source for good sources.

    • There are many other avenues to learning the science than buying books. I’ve tried to accommodate him as best as I can.

    • I have no objection to spending my money on ‘good sources’, but every time I ask Derech064 to give me a quick summary (even a two sentence piece) of what particular points he thinks such sources make, and therefore why such sources would be a good use of my time and my cash he clams up.

      I had an employee like that once. I was hired to sort out a failing IT department, and she permanently told me that the answer to any of my questions was ‘far too complicated for her to explain to me’ and that I’d have to work it out for myself.

      Of course, after a short while it became apparent that her own knowledge was limited to the extent that she could barely identify the main server for which she was responsible and consistently put her backup tapes in a failed drive…so no backups had actually been taken for months.

      She resigned a few minutes before she would have been terminated with prejudice.

      I wonder why that little story came to my mind…..?

    • I didn’t realize RC or Weart charged for access to the material they provide, that I’ve passed along to you, Latimer.

      Been to the library yet?

    • Unless you give me a better reason to look at ‘The Vast Machine’ than you have failed to do so so far I am not inclined to get out my snow boots and walk the three miles through the snow to the library. For global warming has been good to Surrey today and we have now three inches with more to come tonight. Not much by NA standards, I admit, but a lot for a country as unused to snow as we are in SE England.

      You may recall that I wrote a reasoned piece about why I was not going to buy it some days ago, and you have not produced any reason why I should. Apart from. presumably, the fact that you like the 1980s pictures of the satellites and the punch cards and the big whirly tape drives like on early Star Trek.

      As to Weart, I think I’ll leave you to his ‘Saints of Climatology’ essay to you, Unless that is you can specifically point me to some particularly relevant piece that you think will give me new information.

    • You’re much too bothered to learn much of anything.

      Hasn’t kept you from pontificating. What’s the word or phrase the describes someone who’s taken your approach? Care to suggest a few?

    • So you have no good reasons why I should read either? I, however, have produced good reasons not to which you have not challenged.

      Go figure.

    • I guess knowledge is something you’re just not interested in acquiring. Pity.

    • I have very little interest in acquiring knowledge *for its own sake*. I don’t anticipate a further career as a geek on a quiz show who happens to know the currency unit of Kazakhstan or can name the 1974 lineup of King Crimson. Such knowledge seems to be academic and pointless.

      But knowledge that is useful to the problem one is working on is a different thing. I frequently sit down and work out where the gaps in my knowledge are …and try to work out where the best place to go to fix those is. Is it reading..a phone call, a F2F meeting, a course, or trial and error? Can I just bounce ideas off my trusted buddies? And so on.

      But I have very little interest in being given a reading list by someone who has failed to establish any credibility in my eyes and simply told ‘read that – it’ll be good for you’. When I was 16 I did when my highly regarded Physics master suggested good reading. But today, life is too short to indulge you in your little games.

    • I wouldn’t expound on a subject without knowing something about it, and, to reduce my ignorance about it, would enjoy receiving recommendations about how to learn.

      You don’t feel the same way – which is fine – but don’t expect others to take your views seriously when you’ve chosen to ignore my suggestions.

    • yawn…this exchange of fire is so boring. Can’t you go somewhere else and do this?

    • Your gambit is a common ruse D64. Instead of offering an argument you say “go read this and get back to me.” Latimer wisely declines the trick, asking you to actually say something, which you do not do. In the law this is called burying your opponent in paper.

    • For someone’s criticisms of a subject to be credible, they need to demonstrate some level of knowledge of said subject. Latimer has yet to provide this demonstration, and has actively resisted gaining the requisite knowledge.

      What do you call someone who passes judgement based on ignorance? Is there a law term for that? I believe the first letter is “B”, the second is “S”, followed by “er”.

    • Whatever.

    • It was a good lunch.
      I was honored to spend a short time with Dr. Palmer ( whose video at at Newton institute is a MUST SEE ) and Peter Webster was also fun to meet. I’d love to spend more time talking about ICOADS with him.

      If I were AGU I would extend an invitation to key skeptics, all expenses paid, to visit the conference, meet the people they talk about and spend a week with the experts in Q&A sessions.

      The talk on dragon Kings was cool ( as a former english major who also understand Zipf’s law I was interested for more than 10 minutes )

      The best session for me was the Phil Jones session. He had some very interesting things to say about uncertainty in paleo. Also the mixutre of GCMs and Paleo proxies was fascinating. Winner of the day goes to the last speaker caitlin ( girls rule). Judith you should have a look at her stuff,
      Emile was there but I didnt have a chance to say hello ( his work was cool as well) there was also a presentation on using perturbed physics GCMs
      ( part of the paleo psuedo proxy stuff) She was very very sharp. I was kind of surprised to find out that perturbed physics was more widely used in forecasts. The paleo/psuedo proxy/GCM intersection is fascinating. I even write fortran again to work on that stuff

    • When this long story’s
      Told its tale, listen to this;
      Mention Moshe more.

  17. As I remember from some quality management course, the worst possible motivator for action is a consequence that is negative, will occur in the future and whose magnitude is uncertain, NFU as opposed to PIC or positive, immediate, certain. Is it any wonder, therefore, that action on global warming doesn’t have much traction.

  18. At what point should the precautionary principle kick into action?

    It obviously need to be a gradual phasing in of policies, starting with those which are good policies even if CAGW is nonexistent.

    First up would be incentives for things like low-emission cars, which help reduce oil-dependency, reduces health problems in cities, etc.

    Then electric cars, research on alternative energy, etc, which have many of the same benefits, but are more costly.

    Last would be things like global carbon markets, capture and storage, and as a last resort – different types of geoengineering, which not only are extremely expensive and have no benefits if AGW is not both real and catastrophic.

    The problem is that there seems to be a push towards starting at the wrong end of the scale here – carbon capture, cap and trade, global carbon markets – the very instruments which have no merit, or are even harmful, and totally useless, unless we are facing a catastrophe.

    Norway is a good example, where hardly any low-key instruments are being implemented, but billions are being spent towards carbon capture and international grand financial schemes.

    Following the precautionary principle would mean increasing effort gradually as perceived risk increases, not going totally overboard at the slightest risk.

    • Look, if you are going to dress up Pascal’s wager, and hope to be credible, you should be able to show solid evidence that you are a Catholic attending at least weekly mass and doing confession every week or so.

    • Well, even the most hard-core skeptic must at least admit to a certain odd fraction of a slight possibility that AGW could have at least some remote merit.

      And if this is the case – how to react to that slight possibility? Obviously not by going all-in, wagering the well-being of whole nations on an odd chance.

      The only rational response would be to modulate the response in such a way that it corresponds to the perceived risk, at the same time producing as much alternative “good” (health benefits, etc) as possible while minimizing cost to society.

      And I am not a true-believer, as you suggest. And CAGW is hardly a case of paradise or hell. I believe the chance of CAGW is slim at most. Uncertainties heaped upon uncertainties. But I am still in favour of taking light measures which might be beneficial no matter if CAGW is proven to be real or not.

      For example providing incentives (carrots) to by a lighter and more fuel efficient car. It is better for your wallet, it is better for the nations energy budget, it is lighter and wears less on the roads, it requires less parking space, emits less pollution, which again creates less health problems. It might even be less noisy, which is great for all of us living in cities.

      So it is a win-win to take light measures.

      A loose-loose to take heavy measures at this stage, since f.ex carbon storage is extremely expensive, might create carcinogens, raise the price of electricity enormously and is a one-way-solution, totally useless if CAGW should be proven to be wrong.

    • Oslo, the general principle you are advocating is certainly a reasonable one which I can fully support, but the particular example of the light weight auto may not fully satisfy it. I cannot produce a reference, but I do seem to (vaguely) recall a recent study of mortality rates and car weights that is not a “win” for light cars. If this is the case then we have an example of the need to be really careful and cautious when making risk calculations. Maybe somebody knows of this study, or can offer evidence that my memory is being far too creative. In either case, thanks.

    • When discussing car safety, the mass difference is more important than the absolute mass of the vehicle. Modern steel alloys allow for much lesser body weight than before; a very small car, take for example a modern Fiat Punto, is much safer than 10-15 year old much larger car, say a Toyota Camry.

      Another point related to cars is, that the space required by the transmission and motors in electric cars is significantly less than in traditional cars, which further allows downsizing the car body. Of course batteries are and will remain a problem. I’ve found it ironical, that most of the advances in Otto and Diesel motor technology over the past couple of decades or so have been largely subdued by the increased body size, weight and for example catalysators.

    • I agree, it is ironic.

      It is baffling why we should need a one ton car to transport a 70 kilo person and his briefcase. A 200 kilo vehicle would do the job just as well.

      But part of the problem is the “arms race” on the roads. People keep buying bigger vehicles for safety, making roads less safe for everyone else, pushing others into buying still bigger vehicles, and so on and so forth.

      If everyone, say in a city, were driving 200-kilo vehicles, it would be just as safe, only more energy efficient, cleaner, cheaper, less congested, more parking, less noise, better health, etc.

      But it will not happen by itself..

    • Oslo,

      I would agree with your point if all the vehicles on the road were carrying the same payload. However, it must be understood that other legitimately larger vehicles (eg. trucks carrying goods) are out there as well. Until we can engineer 200 kilo cars that provide the same protection as the 1000 kilo alternative, it’s not an irrational choice to go with the larger one.

    • Thanks Oslo, anander and Gene. Today I checked Google under the heading “fatality rates of lighter vs. heavier vehicles” and got 28,800,000 hits. A little short of time so rather than summarize the lot here are excerpts from two on the first page.
      Are Smaller Cars as Safe as Large Cars?
      Published: 08/08/2005 Updated: 05/05/2009 – by Mike Hudson, News Editor
      “The keys to a car’s ability to keep you alive during a crash involve safety equipment, the vehicle’s weight and its resistance to rollover. While small cars don’t roll over easily, they lack weight and are less likely to have advanced safety features like stability control or full side curtain airbags….According to the IIHS figures, there were 96 fatalities per million registered vehicles for the small car category. That figure drops to 62 fatalities for the midsize class of cars and 64 per million for large sedans.
      In the SUV category, the numbers drop substantially across all size levels. Although there has been an increase in the fatality rate of passengers in very large SUVs over the past three years, it still ranks as one of the lowest among other vehicle types. Interestingly, the size of the SUV driven didn’t make much difference; the death rate for a small SUV (48 per million) was only a point higher than that of a very large SUV.
      The deaths in pickups are higher than any other category, even for the smallest pickups. This is because of their tendency to roll over.
      Meanwhile, the lowest death rate among all vehicle types, 35 per million, belongs to very large sedans, which are both heavier and better equipped. So as a general rule, larger cars do tend to have fewer fatalities (with the exception of pickups). But remember to put these figures into perspective. These figures are comparing the differences per million registered vehicles.
      “Crash rates for all vehicle sizes are dropping from year to year,” said Russ Rader, director of media relations for the IIHS.”

      Oslo, this one may relate to your second point:

      “In single-vehicle crashes the fatality rate was more than three times that of mid-size cars. Almost half of all crash deaths in minicars occur in single-vehicle crashes, they [the IIHS] point out, and this number wouldn’t be affected if other drivers were all driving vehicles that size.”
      Cheers, Ron

    • +1
      Hear, hear.

    • I agree. But it’s “lose-lose”, please! Unless you’re talking about diarrhea.

    • The world needs to make a novena.

  19. Didier Sornette has acquired a bit of disprepute for his stock market predictions. See more here and here .

  20. The issue with triggering the precautionary principle is arguing that low values of sensitivity are unlikely.

    I don’t know why it is but people are constantly talking about the precautionary principle, but hardly ever mention the law of unintended consequences. Both can result in Black Swan events and the latter is particularly evident in attempts at Climate Mitigation.

    But the even greater problem here is that if you’re going to consider policy in terms of Black Swans, i.e. low frequency events, there will be no end to your mitigations, much like in the UK at the moment there is no end to the form filling you have to do to satisfy the “health & safety” gurus. There is a risk in everything and nature long ago found an optimal way of dealing with it: adaptation.

    The conceit in the mitigation argument is that the facts are known, the variables quantifiable and that the results of any actions will have predictable or desirable results. For balance, you also need to consider the positive benefits of a warmer world. To make me believe there aren’t any and that they don’t offset (considerably) the downsides, would be asking a little too much.

    • The Law of Unintended Consequences is sitting right out in the open, slavering and cackling, when it comes to mitigation. Slashing of living standards, mass starvation, and acceleration of sovereign debt default come immediately to mind.

  21. Dear Professor Curry,

    Please communicate the following to AGU leaders:

    The late Dr. Dwarka Das Sabu and I attended the 1976 AGU Meeting in Washington, DC with our families in April – “Cherry Blossom time”.

    We went to present surprising new evidence that the Sun itself exploded ~5 Gyr (5 x 10^9) ago and gave birth to the solar system:


    We made a more stunning discovery at the meeting:

    AGU scientists did not know that Science is a continuous journey of “truthing”; They wanted the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

    Of course we did not have and could not give them more truth that what had been revealed in 1976.

    So they rejected what had been revealed in 1976:

    Every atom of primordial helium was tagged with excess Xe-136 at the birth of the solar system! Failing to understand the ancient teachings of Lao Tzu:

    “To know that you do not know is best,
    To pretend to know what you do not know is a disease.”

    I.e.: Truth is an illusion; Truthing the joyful path of life.

    AGU and NAS (National Academy of Sciences – AGU’s mother institution) have been sidelined from science since 1976:

    1. Seven years later solar mass fractionation was revealed ["Solar abundance of the elements", Meteoritics 18 (1983) 209-222].

    2. Twenty years later the Galileo Probe confirmed solar mass fractionation by showing that the primordial helium in Jupiter is also tagged with excess Xe-136 ["Isotopic ratios in Jupiter confirm intra-solar diffusion", Meteoritics and Planetary Science 33, A97 (1998) abstract 5011].

    Thus the interior of the Sun consists mostly of Fe, O, Ni, Si, S, Mg and Ca from the deep interior of the supernova – the same elements that comprise >99% of the material in ordinary meteorites.

    These elements are the ash of nuclear reactions: The Sun couldn’t shine if made of these elements. More was revealed as the universe continued to unfold.

    3. Twenty-five years later in 2001, neutron repulsion was revealed as the energy source that powers the Sun and the cosmos ["The sun's origin, composition and source of energy", in Lunar and Planetary Science XXIX (2001) Abstract 1041; "Attraction and repulsion of nucleons: Sources of stellar energy", Journal of Fusion Energy 19 (2001) 93-98].

    As the universe unfolded and more was revealed during my career,

    1976 Data => 1983 Iron Sun => 2001 Neutron Repulsion

    AGU and NASA would not accept the 1976 data. Their efforts to use public funds to promote “consensus science” have failed.

    AGW, SSM (Standard Solar Model) and OSSN (oscillating solar neutrinos) are the products of this misadventure.

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

  22. In your interesting presentation you ask “Does the deep uncertainty characterization mean that we should not act on the threat of climate change” (slide 5). In the next slide you answer “Not at all, but deep uncertainty changes the environment for making robust decisions, relative to optimal decision making”. Is’nt your answer (Not at all)simply an act of faith governed by your subjective guess of the risks of catastrophic climatic events and your general avertion to risks?
    In the debate between Tim Palmer and Jonathan Rougiers at the CRASSH Institute regarding the need for either more simulations using current climate models with 200 km grid size or new simulations using finer grids, Tim Palmer mentionned that the current models cannot model monssoons, huricanes, precipitation or extreme regional temperatures since all the physics occurs between 100 km and 0 km. Since climatologists cannot model these phenomena how can they predict the probability of catastrophic events in 100 years. Why not admit that we simply don’t have the tools required to apply the precautionary principle ?

  23. Judith,
    I am currently composing an open letter regarding my self-implosion and how it should in no way reflect on the AGU’s competence, judgment, or integrity. They were surprised as anyone (including myself) to hear what came out of my mouth that day, and I am desperately hoping that they distance themselves from me and my presentation ASAP, as I am already being trumpted by the skeptic’s echo chamber (see WUWT, SPPI, UtahClimate, et al.) as the nutjob poster child of “the new AGU.” I may indeed be a nutjob, but the only thing AGU had anything to do with me was to not verify what I was going to say before giving me the stage. They should have cut me short, but it is a testament to their commitment to open dialogue that they didn’t.

    I have also sent a letter to the session convener urging the AGU board to publicly disavow me and my speech if they feel doing so would be helpful.

    I will send you the open letter as soon as I have finished it, and I ask that you publish at least some representative excerpts from it (as it is characteristically long-winded). Given the mischaracterizations and flat-out misquotes (including your surprising choice above to give an incorrect quote from a session you did not attend), I ask that you send any excerpts you plan to print first to me to get my confirmation that they are correct, per the audio recording I will be posting as soon as I get my HD fixed. (It crashed 11 hours before my presentation, containing the only copy of my prepared speech–the catalyst for my unfortunate rant.)

    My quest here is not redemption for myself (I am beyond it, and care little), but twofold:
    1) justice for AGU that they not be characterized (as they are already) by my self-implosion on stage (mine was, after all, but one presentation out of some 14,000 given that week),
    2) a desire that the message not be judged by the messenger. Perhaps my basic message was worth consideration (I believe so). But it will not even be considered if it is mischaracterized or misquoted.

    Thank you for your careful attention to accuracy.

    Greg Craven

    • Hi Greg

      Old IT manager’s saying:

      ‘You never get fired for having too many backups’.

      An HD crash is unfortunate but a professional communicator (?) should have lots of backups. Even a speech printed out. Especially for an important contribution to a high-powered audience.

      Useful old saying:

      ‘Sorry for writing such a long letter. I did not have time to write a short one’

      If you can’t be bothered to spend the time editing your long letter for conciseness, why should your audience spend their extra time reading it?

      Last old saying:

      ‘When in hole, stop digging’

    • Mr Craven,

      Firstly I think it’s very big of you to apologise in this fashion – I’m sure many of us have said and done things we’d rather forget. The measure of one’s integrity is not whether one makes mistakes: it’s how one deals with the aftermath that’s important. On that front I think you have emerged firm your comment above with your integrity intact…..although I do think you should “care” about it!

      However I should point out to you that there are a number of breathless advocates in this debate who have IMHO done far worse than you, without even the wit to realise that they may have overstepped the mark.

      You have rightly realised that to do as you did at AGU does nothing but damage for your cause. Perhaps you could copy your remarks to the likes of Joe Romm as he has already done far more harm than you could possibly do.

      Finally I would recommend this site to you as an example of how a reasonable debate can be achieved, to the ultimate betterment of both science and the understanding of science.

    • Greg,

      You obviously have a lot of passion. That works in the classroom. I know, I’ve been there. it doesnt always work for every crowd. But when you said that there were not more republican scientists because republicans were irrational, I think you kinda screwed the pooch. ( some who left the session at that point said that comment was just a warning sign that a train wreck was coming) When you were chastised for over generalizing and the audience clapped that Should have clued you in that you were out of sync with a portion of the crowd. ( and well beyond your scope of expertise) I’ll suggest some media training. the USC offers media training. Also, spend some time talking to hostile crowds. Practice by writing on hostile blogs.

    • Richard S Courtney

      Greg Craven:

      I write to comment on one statement that has been attributed to you. Before doing that I make some other remarks in hope that they will explain why I am making the suggestion.

      I was not at the event which you regret and I have not read a full text of the event so I am not willing to comment and/or judge that. But your post states that you regret the impression you gave at the event and the effect that seems to have had.

      Please do not get too upset about that apparent effect. Everybody makes mistakes and every honest person can recall having said or done something they regret. The important thing is to learn from mistakes. And, in this context, I commend to you the response to your post from Latimer Alder: his comments usually provide sound and logical observations that have practical application, and his response to you is an example of this.

      The statement which I write to comment on was;

      “Basically, it goes like this. As a scientist you have to decide at some point that enough is enough. You have to put your scientific commitment to the discipline of doubt aside and “blow past” your boundaries. Say what you feel, not what you can prove. ”

      If that statement was not made by you then please repudiate it in a very public forum; e.g. WUWT.

      And if you did say, it then please reconsider it as a matter of urgency. That statement is an attack on science, it is a denial of scientific ethics, and its mere assertion undermines public confidence in science.

      The overselling of AGW by ‘climate scientists’ has already harmed public confidence in all science and in all scientists. “Say what you feel, not what you can prove” is an absolute denial of a fundamental scientific principle. Indeed, it is call for scientists to abandon the scientific method and to return to pre-enlightenment thinking.

      This attack on science and scientists is so serious that all scientist should be disassociating themselves from you unless and until you make a clear public statement that you did not intend to assert to scientists “Say what you feel, not what you can prove” and that you completely and unequivocally reject that assertion.


    • ““Basically, it goes like this. As a scientist you have to decide at some point that enough is enough. You have to put your scientific commitment to the discipline of doubt aside and “blow past” your boundaries. Say what you feel, not what you can prove. ”

      That is NOT a quote. Let me be clear about that. Greg, as I wrote, made an argument of the form if not now, when. basically it goes like this…..
      Basically , it GOES LIKE, this. I can see how people would think the bolding { not my choice} indicates a quote. But it is not a direct quote.

    • Greg, thank you for posting here, I will provide a link to your message in the main post. I encourage you to engage in a dialogue here, I think you will find the Climate Etc. community to be thoughtful and intelligent.

  24. Re Greg Craven, opinions seem to differ wildly. Steve Easterbrook e.g. writes about the same AGU session:
    ( )

    “He gave an impassioned speech, more like the great speeches of the civil rights era – a call to arms – than a scientific talk.

    His point is that we’ve been using the same communication strategy, giving them straightforward scientific information, and that strategy isn’t working. Therefore it’s time for a radical change in approach. It’s time for scientists to come way outside of their comfort zones, and to inject some emotion, some passion in to the message.

    Greg’s advice was to stop communicating as scientists, and start speaking as human beings. ”

    This is exactly the kind of advice that Randy Olson also gives, who I believe you have some respect for. But this advice, and Greg’s acting out this advice (his first video went viral; for all its simplicity it was very succesful), clearly makes many scientists uncomfortable.

    In a way though, they’re doing the same as you are: From diagnosing that the traditional ways of science communication no longer work, they’re searching for new ways. Their way is different from yours though, probably because of the different audience they have in mind (Olson and Craven: The uninterested masses; you: The interested, well educated and skeptical segment).

    • Bart I know in the session I attended ( not the book session) Greg did seem to get that his rhetoric was over reaching. He explained that we are creatures with hearts and brains. With reason and feelings, but he framed the situation as one where you had to choose. He wanted to know at what point, how bad a predicted future would have to be to get scientists to be more emotional ( I guess that means talk about your grand children or children)
      It was clear to me and to Oreskes that Craven’s view was at odds with Oppenheimers view. Oppenheimer gave some pretty sound advice with pro and cons. he is obviously a man who feels strongly about these things. he’s dedicated a lifetime to it. Openheimer in a nutshell told scientists to be clear about where their expertise was and wasnt. he was also pretty clear about people delineating what was science versus value.
      Greg seemed to be advising people to blur these distinctions. Hence, Easterbrook’s question.

      So here is a problem.

      Scientist A says: As a scientist I know that global warming will cause huge harms to future generations. I’m an expert, trust my view on that. As a human being, I have children and grandchild I care for so I believe that we should take action even if it is painful to preserve the planet for them.
      No problem. what about this
      Scientist B says: As a scientist I know that global warming will cause huge harms to future generations. I’m an expert, trust my view on that. As a human being, I think we have no obligations to future generations.

      I will suggest that when your values that differ from the global warming activists, they accuse you of being anti science. When you say that money is better spent on the problems of poverty and health ( even though AGW is true) you are branded as a denialist.

    • Steven,

      I concur with most of what you say, and from your retelling what what said, I think Oppenheimer made some very good points indeed, with which I agree. While I wasn’t there so can’t be sure, I don’t agree with your take that “Greg seemed to be advising people to blur these distinctions”. I take his message to mean to blur the boundaries between communicating like an archetypical rational, distant, dispassionate scientist vs communicating with more emotion and empathy. That is not necessarily in contradiction with what Oppenheimer said, though it sure is a difficult balancing act.

      I like your examples of A and B. The problem is that people with the B argument are extremely rare; Far more common is argument C:

      “I know that global warming will not cause any harms to future generations. I’m an google-expert, trust my view on that. As a human being, I think we have no obligations to future generations. ”

      where the last part is usually omitted.

    • When it comes to publishing extremely alarming, but quite uncertain or even outright insane outcomes, the reality is that the MSM has been unanimously drumming the worst possible outcomes for quite a while now. Actually, it has been done so widely and uncritically that quite many don’t buy it anymore, including me. This is the situation in Europe, and my home country in particular, in addition on most prestigious science magazines published worldwide. Personally I believe this is mainly due to lacking scientific education of the journalists, and the continuing degradation of journalism. The sceptics or critics haven’t been heard practically at all; some main stream medias even refuse to publish letters, now matter how balanced, from the critical point of view in their public forums. I can imagine that the situation can be the opposite in US though. Or is it?

      For the discussion above, I’d suggest adding one more, say scientist D saying: “Frankly, we don’t know that much right now. It is possible, yes, that climate will change, and it might be partly due to our actions. What we do know for sure is, that we are consuming our natural resources too fast, and there will, sooner or later, also be too many of us sharing what is left. That is, if we continue without doing anything.”

      For me, that would be a really honest and responsible statement, that I’d consider a preferred way for climate scientists when reporting their findings to the public.

    • It seems to me that both Steve and Bart have omitted the argument which the vast majority of careful, ethical and diligent scientists would make:

      The complexity of the climate system and the uncertainty around our understanding of its mechanisms and the feedback interactions of it’s components, along with the uncertainty around our measurements of its activity mean that at this stage we cannot be sure global surface temperature will trend up or down, or even whether surface temperature is the most useful metric for the throughput of energy in the climate system.

    • Richard S Courtney


      Yes. I completely agree, and I want to add the following.

      The proposed actions to mitigate the putative AGW would cause immense harm if implemented. Therefore, those actions should be opposed unless and until the certainty of harm from AGW becomes sufficient for us to know that it will outweigh the certain harm from implementation of the proposed actions.


    • Richard, thank you for adding the policy dimension to my science orientated point. Your long experience in the policy field puts you spot on the mark as usual. I would only add that even if by some breakthrough in understanding and measurement we were all suddenly convinced AGW were real, and dangerously powerful, we may still come to the conclusion that adaption was a better proposition than mitigation if the merits of those two strategies were properly weighed in the balance of all known consequences.

    • tall bloke,

      If more energy is retained in the system (which there is, based on e.g. satellite measurements of the radfiation budget, OHC changes, temp measurements, cryospheric meas) it stands to reason that as a response the system will probably warm up. To assign equal probability to warming or cooling in such a situation is to ignore what we know.

      The situation is not unlike someone who eats (in calories) more than their body needs (in calories). It’s likely that they’ll gain weight.

    • Hi Bart,
      Could I just point out that Ocean Heat Content, given that the oceans represent the largest thermal mass involved in the climate system by far, is the right metric to use as a bellweather for future surface temperature trends. Given that OHC has been declining these last seven years, this ought to give pause while we answer the question:

      “Which natural climate factors are responsible for this, since in concert, they are obviously more powerful than the radiative effect of additional co2? How much of the warming might they have been responsible for during the positive phase of their oscillation, which can obviously operate over terms as long or longer than seven years?”

      Could it be that the ocean has maintained surface temperatures at a high level these last seven years because it is dissipating heat it gained while the sun was very active and cloud albedo was reduced in the later C20th? Clearly, that energy is not currently being replaced by additional radiative forcing due to elevated co2 levels.

    • Tallbloke,
      No one has given any thought to the surface ocean salt changes or what caused it. Cerainly NOT AGW or their would have been mass evaporation for that to occur.

      Water is an extremely facinating piece of engineering that has developed survival mechanisms to try and stay as a large mass.

    • Bart,
      I’m not sure which of my assertions or questions your one word reply is a response to. If it is somehow a response to the entire comment I made, perhaps you’d be a little less eliptical and kindly expand on it for me, because I don’t get what the thrust of your response is.


    • Bart.

      Well, Oppenheimer spoke abou clearly establishing a line between your expertise on science and your values. A very impassioned questioner called for more more passion. Greg basically made an argument that amounts to this. We are humans with hearts and minds. AT WHAT POINT, how bad does it have to get, before you blow past your boundaries, get out of your comfort zone and speak about what you feel.

      In this context easterbrook at a question which Opposed oppenheimers view and Cravens view.

      1. He apparent saw a difference.
      2. Oppenheimer tried to say there was no difference
      3. oreskes says there was.

      So, I think there is room for your interpretation. I came away from the talk ( as I’m sure others may) that greg thinks there is a line in the sand where you put your doubt ( science is always uncertain) aside and speak from the heart, without doubt, with passion.

      If greg thinks that a scientist should always express his scientific views with appropriate mentions of the uncertainty, then he should say so. How do you express the proper amount of doubt in the facts and CERTAINTY about your feelings about what should be done.
      When I compare the certitude I have about the science and the certitude I have about moral statements, I’d say that moral certitude almost never trumps scientific certitude.

    • Mosh,

      See Greg’s open letter (new thread) for the passage where he writes:

      “Instead, go out and tell the public in any forum you can find: “As a scientist, here is what I know. As a citizen, here are my concerns, and my thoughts on what we should do. And as a father, a mother, a grandparent, here are my fears, even my terrors, and my backup plans to safeguard my family.””

      That sounds surprisingly similar to your “scientist A” which you provided as an example of proper communication. I.e. you two agree on this distinction to be made between a scientific statement and a personal value and/or emotion statement, and so do I. And I guess so does Oppenheimer.

      Of course there are important differences too, and the way you phrased it over at WUWT makes that clear. Perhaps I’m focussing here on the agreement, whereas you’re focussing on the disagreement. And perhaps we’re both right.

      You see, I’m a very agreeable person.

    • I think on reflection greg will come around to Oppenheimer’s view of things. That AS AN EXPERT you have an ADDITIONAL obligation. That obligation is to CLEARLY state where your expertise starts and stops. Oppenheimer was clear about that. As experts run the risk of having people take their personal views as EXPERT VIEWS. So oppenheimer was clear. he was also clear on the question of how you determine if your ARE an expert: “have you published. So oppenheimer gave good operational advice to scientists.
      Craven, perhaps inspired or challenged by the passion of the lady from Oakland who said scientists were not doing enough,
      Seem to be encouraging scientists to make the decision based on their FEAR. He suggested that there had to be some individual criteria, some line where each person decided that the consequences were going to be so bad that they ought to speak out. As I noted before, this position was seen by Oreskes and me as being different from Oppenheimer’s. Oppenheimer offered scientists 3 ways they could engage their public selves.
      1. run for office.
      2. speak to the press.
      3. Work through organizations.
      He gave clear guidelines and good advice. Its the place a new AGU ought to start. Craven, on the other hand, responded with “challenges” and sign the petition, basically asking people to identify the point at which they would speak out in a personal way.

      I see a conflict between those two. At the fundamental level Oppenheimer recognizes that the choice to engage the public is a personal choice. there is no moral dimension to his advice. At worst he suggested that you might not have a choice about coming out of the lab or staying in. frankly there are some people who should stay in the lab ( they are valuable there) Craven, however, was making it an obligation to engage. That was the thrust of his challenge. He’s gunna post a challenge to scientists. Basically, is there a point where even the most reticent will feel compelled to speak about their personal feelings. I find that bullying tactic to be counter productive and it gives cover to those less thoughtful than Oppenheimer.

    • Bart:
      “I take his message to mean to blur the boundaries between communicating like an archetypical rational, distant, dispassionate scientist vs communicating with more emotion and empathy. That is not necessarily in contradiction with what Oppenheimer said, though it sure is a difficult balancing act.”

      I took his argument to mean that. Since steve easterbrook asked a question “one one hand we have oppenheimer saying X and on the other hand we have Craven say This”. I think its fair to say that he took it ( at the time) to also be a sticky point.Its fair to say Oppenheimer saw no direct conflict. Oresekes did. I did.

      I think its a fruitful place for people to have discussions. In the end I think the difference is this:
      Oppenheimer suggested a BRIGHT LINE and a proceedure.
      The brightline was, you can claim expert status is you are published in the field. And then you clearly indicate to your audience the difference between your expert opinion and your “human” values.
      Craven suggested a PERSONAL bright line. He suggested that people ask them selves to determine the line. He also demonstrated the dangers of being a self appointed expert

    • Emotion also drives objectivity. Some get a bigger charge out of acting rationally and excluding identifiable bias than out of persuading people or getting high on grand visions and ambitions. There are all degrees of mixture and pied, mottled territories and subjects where different priorities drive emotions.

      Getting fulfillment out of being fair and scientific is not for everyone, and definitely doesn’t make the world go round. Feynman was a pretty good example, but he had “outside” obsessions, like exploring a tiny inaccessible culture locked behind the Iron Curtain. (I’m serious! He spent much money, time and effort trying to get there and find out about the people and their lives. Never really succeeded before he died, but it was a Grand Passion of sorts for him.)

      So the question we all have in dealing with each other is, “What’s your actual motivation?”

      So far, the Warmists and their scientific apologists don’t have a persuasive case that they’re into fairness and objectivity. Especially given the background policy statements and plans of their high mucky-muck UN sponsors. And the utterly appalling misanthropism of the Greens and Uber-environmentalists. Trust will not be forthcoming, guyz.

  25. Just to add to my previous comment: I wasn’t at AGU this year, so am not opining on Greg’s presentation. I’m basing what I wrote on the different ways different people have perceived what he said and how he said it (where some people focussed more on the ‘what’ and some more on the ‘how’) and on his videos.

  26. @bart verheggen

    ‘His point is that we’ve been using the same communication strategy, giving them straightforward scientific information, and that strategy isn’t working. Therefore it’s time for a radical change in approach. It’s time for scientists to come way outside of their comfort zones, and to inject some emotion, some passion in to the message’

    Very difficult for me not to interpret that as you advocating

    ‘The pure science isn’t scary enough. The public aren’t wetting their knickers. There is no ‘climate crisis’. Copenhagen was a flop, Cancun was a flop. Nobody outside climatology gives a tinkers cuss about a small rise in temperature however caused. Many think it would be a Good Thing.

    We’ve tried to frighten people with ‘Catastrophic Global Warming’ (failed), ‘Ocean Acidification’ (failed), ‘Biodiversity’ (Yawn..failed), ‘Global Climate Disruption’ (Borrrring!). And ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ (so accurate that it has to have a government health warning and have nine factual errors pointed out before showing in UK schools) was an Inconvenient Flop.

    So now we’re going to start lying properly. Not just a teensy weensy bit like before. This time we’re going to wave our arms about passionately too. That’ll show the public just how serious we are!’

    Wise Expression: Don’t put lipstick on a pig.

    PS – here’s the latest UK attempt to introduce some passion and commitment about AGW into the public discourse.

  27. Latimer,

    - I was quoting Steve Easterbrook’s impressions of the session.

    - I don’t share your interpretation at all. Olson’s and Greg’s point is that just providing facts will not necessarily do much to change someone’s (erroneous) opinion on a subject, at least for most laypeople.

    • Fine. My bad. The words were Steve Easterbrook’s.

      But I think the fact that you chose to quote them suggests that you don’t find them absurd or unrepresentative.

      And thanks for the link to your own writings. They seem to say little other than that the general public aren’t disposed to believe what you’d like them to believe. Which is tough from your perspective. But to my mind shows that their BS detectors are in full working order.

      But if they don’t believe you when you are supposedly being ‘calm and rational and scientific’, how will you persuade them by leaping around like beings possessed with more passion and emotion outside of your comfort zone?

      It is surely the previous wild overstatements of the case like ‘The Science is Settled’, ‘There is no debate’, Gore’s Doomsday scenarios of NYC under water and cuddly polar bears about to drown in manipulated images that has set off the public’s distrust in your message. And they distrust bigtime.

      As well as the sheer bloody incompetence shown in The Hockey Stick, Climategate’s Harry_Read_Me and the Himalayagate/Pachauri farcical voodoo fiasco.

      Shouting more passionately that ‘we were right all along, you’re all going to fry’ – even if it were to be set to music by a combination of Lady Gaga, John Williams and Jim Steinman – is not a winning strategy.

      Perhaps you have no winning strategies left to try…after 30 years Thermageddon has still not arrived….and judging on today’s weather in UK it ain’t going to anytime soon.

    • Nullius in Verba


      It’s not the facts/passion axis you have to move on, it’s the facts/explanation axis. There are more than enough passionate advocates.

      I have tried often, with some difficulty, to diagnose what it is about the usual AGW approach that fails to convince. Much of it is the attitude, some of which comes from people’s politics. But on the content, the problem has always seemed to be that people are very good at reciting the conclusions – the “facts” as one might say – but when it comes to the argument and evidence in favour of those, most advocates for AGW are woefully uninformed. Their beliefs are based on simplistic, incomplete, even fallacious arguments – that they nevertheless think ought to be totally convincing, because they themselves were convinced by them, because they happen to suit their preconceptions.

      Now it may well be that the scientists themselves have good and solid arguments (I don’t know, I’ve never managed to get that far), but most non-technical ‘lay’ sceptics judge AGW by the people who they meet arguing for it. Greg Craven, for example, who rediscovered Pascal’s Wager, and was so impressed with its logic that he made a video about it that he thought could convince even the sceptical. I’m sure Pascal would have been just as disappointed that the science-minded have not been turned thereby to the worship of God.

      (Pascal was a scientific genius, so it is no shame to fall into the same trap as such a clever man.)

      Your point about politically-correlated cognitive biases is a valid one – Chris Mooney often brings it up as well – but both of you seem to fail to recognise the obvious corollary: that it applies to Democrats too! You always write about how Republicans are being inclined to disbelief by their politics. Has it ever occurred to you that your belief/acceptance might be partly the result of your own politics? That this could apply to the whole Green/AGW movement, just as much as it applies to the whole Republican/Sceptic/etc. group?

      That’s the insidious thing about cognitive biases – even knowing about them, you’re always convinced that you’re nevertheless being perfectly rational. It seems rational. You can only really tell by listening to other people.

      Thus I would say that more passion isn’t the answer. To start with, you have to admit the possibility of error and bias in your own thinking (as must we) and sit down with your opponents to understand why they doubt and to work out how you can figure out who’s right. You have to acknowledge mistakes and shoddy work when they’re revealed, not doggedly defend them to the death. (The stubborn defence of the Hockeystick and over Climategate has done more damage to belief in AGW than any simple acknowledgement of error could possibly have done.)

      If an argument doesn’t convince – then re-work it, fill in more details, try it a different way, ask what the problems with it are. A teacher must understand the nature of the student’s misperceptions before they can work out how to correct them. And it has often been said, you can often learn a subject best by trying to teach it. It forces you to fill in all those gaps your cognitive biases skip over. (Note, this doesn’t mean you have to persist forever with the hopeless cases. Some cognitive biases are irremovable.)

      Finally, on Greg – I’m enormously impressed at the courage and integrity that has led him to write the note here. I’ve seen many people doing immense damage to their own side in similar ways, and it’s very rare for them to ever recognise the fact. He deserves high praise for that. I don’t think he’s a nutjob, I think he’s just being very human. That said, his apology and repudiation seems to be not for holding those opinions, but for having said them out loud, in that forum, in that way. The opinions and the attitude to the participants in this debate are a problem too. Maybe he’ll say so in his open letter.

    • Nullius,

      Good point about the facts/explanation axis.

      Of course you’re correct that everybody, not just people of one specific political leaning, are liable to have their outlook on the world coloured by their ideological glasses. But physical reality couldn’t care less about our ideologies or worldviews. It is what it is. Science is evidence based; not ideology based. Criticisms on the science should likewise be evidence based, in which case they can provide a constructive contribution to our knowledge base.

      I deem it extremely unlikely that the vast majority of climate scientists have been delusional for so long, and those before them too, all in a similar direction, to exaggerate a problem they knew to be not problematic. Why on earth would so many scientists invent or exaggerate a problem that they know to be false? Even if they favour government action to tackle big communal problems, is it really logical to make up such a problem? To me it doesn’t, and I wager that counts for most scientists, be they right or left leaning.

      More about my views on how ideology intersects with science here:

    • Nullius in Verba

      I agree that physical reality (at least in climatology) doesn’t care about our worldviews. But for Science to be evidence and not worldview based is an ideal, an aspiration, that human scientists inevitably fall short of. In the long run, Science corrects its mistakes, but progress on the way is stumbling and with many wrong turns.

      This is not just me criticising – this is what I’ve been told by those defending AGW. I’ve objected to the argument from authority implicit in unquestioning reliance on peer-review, and been reminded that no scientist has the time to chase everything they rely on back to first principles. You have to trust your colleagues to some degree. I’ve argued against the sloppy work shown in Harry’s read me, and been told that busy scientists are under pressure to get results, they don’t have time at the cutting edge of academe for the careful software engineering and quality control of industrial science. And I have to acknowledge, their point is not entirely without a sad truth to it.

      You say “Why on earth would so many scientists invent or exaggerate a problem that they know to be false?”, but in the main, this isn’t what we believe scientists are doing. They’re just being sloppy. They think the sloppiness doesn’t matter, that it’s safe to let the rigour slide a little, because they’re sure the conclusions are right anyway. It’s just normal human behaviour, and has happened many times before – both inside science and outside it. The history of science has dozens of examples of widespread beliefs that were only overturned after a long time. (Pellagra, black holes, the Mpemba effect…) And if you read some of the earliest scientists, you’ll see they faced exactly the same problem.

      “This principle of nature being very remote from the conceptions of Philosophers, I forbore to describe it in that book, least I should be accounted an extravagant freak and so prejudice my Readers against all those things which were the main designe of the book.”
      Isaac Newton, Opticks, 1730.

      Argument ad populam is a popular mode of reasoning. If so many people believe it, they can’t all be wrong! Yes they can, and it requires no conspiracy or malice on their part. They just have to do exactly what you just did – maybe they’re not sure where they’re going either, and are just following the herd too?

    • ‘busy scientists are under pressure to get results, they don’t have time at the cutting edge of academe for the careful software engineering and quality control of industrial science’

      For a short while I used to have a boss like that.

      ‘I don’t care whether what you do is right or wrong…just be seen to do something!’

      Thankfully my then employer (a household name in IT) was as quickly disenchanted with him as I was, and his managerial services were not further called upon.

      And that was in a company where success or failure was measured every 92 days when Wall Street had to be shown the books and the profit/loss figures. They had no time for shoddy work even with such stringent (and unforgiving) deadlines.

      I see no reason why the relaxed lives of academe should be exempt from similar expectations of high quality. They are quick enough to assert themselves as being somehow ‘above the grubby considerations of commerce’, while adopting work practices that would get them thrown out on their ear from most commercial organisations as being lax , sloppy and bordering on the deceitful.

    • Nullius in Verba

      Yes, it’s one of the problems with pure research. Nothing much depends on it being right.

      In industrial science, if you get it wrong it’s going to cost your customer money. Sometimes a lot of money – eye-watering amounts that give you nightmares just to think about. And the PR-consequences of having fudged or messed up the science are sometimes even more expensive. So they’re naturally a bit fussier about quality control.

      If our auditors had found something like the mess Harry was trying to sort out, more than one person would have been out on their ear – if they still had any ears after the boss had done with them. There’s absolutely no need for it – we’ve had the technology and techniques to do better for decades, and it ought to be a basic element of scientific training – like making lab notes or calibrating instruments.

      But the results are a consequence of the environment, and the publish-or-perish, grant-chasing atmosphere that has caused the problem here has its own reflections in industry. We can make allowances for the human dimension, so long as the issue is acknowledged and we don’t keep getting sold this idealised image of perfect and pure-minded scientists who we are not worthy to question.

    • Bart says:
      physical reality couldn’t care less about our ideologies or worldviews. It is what it is. Science is evidence based; not ideology based

      The evidence science produces to support its current conceptualisation of reality reinforces belief in that conceptualisation because the questions set by scientists are framed on the assumption that the conceptualisation is correctly describing reality in fundamental ways.

      Anyway, I won’t lecture you about Kuhnian philosophy of science since I know you’ve read him.

      The important point is that the conceptualisation is not identical with reality, and it rests on assumptions the scientific community in a particuar field of enquiry takes as ‘given’.

    • Here’s a problem your very sane recommendations face, Nullus:
      The stranger and stronger the rationalization, the more extreme the acts that must be performed to express and validate it; the more extreme the acts performed, the stronger and stranger the rationalizations become.

      This vicious circle is very hard to break.

  28. Bart, regarding your comment: “I’m basing what I wrote on the different ways different people have perceived what he said…”

    It is precisely because of this that I am so deeply distressed to find myself so badly misquoted here in a blog of such influence (read by the president of AGU!). It’s hard to put into words the despair I feel when I see how representations of what anyone said can become so badly skewed if the reporter doesn’t do due diligence to get the statements straight, because it can so easily be used to damage an innocent and upstanding organization such as the AGU (see below regarding Mr. Mosher). If people are to arrive at sound conclusions, they must have sound information. What the speaker said, rather than what they heard someone thought of what the speaker said.

    Frankly, I was surprised and disturbed to find that Ms. Curry was so sloppy in her reporting. Giving a quote that is undoubtably inflammatory (the original is my responsiblity, the misquote the reporter’s), from a session she didn’t attend, and not even checking its veracity is frankly alarming. Especially since this topic is already so rife with incivility and misunderstanding. To paraphrase Latimer’s observation (which I agree with and didn’t fulfill): “If you’re too busy to verify the basic facts, you’re too busy to run the quote.”

    Particularly in such a place of influence! Great influence demands great responsibility and care, especially on topics of great import. And this is just such a case, as my impropriety is already being actively used to malign the AGU itself and its reputation as an outstanding professional body. I urge all of you to go to Mr. Mosher’s posting about me at Watt’s Up With That—which has already, predictably, been reproduced lockstep at several other prominent skeptical blogs–and see the great damage that such sloppiness can have on an innocent and upstanding organization.

    Judith, if this is the quality of the information and analysis you provide for the president-elect of AGU, then I surely despair that the debate will remain futilely gridlocked in deliberate confusion until the game has already played itself out. Since we only get to run this experiment once, god help us all if we are determined to simply squabble until the result is revealed. I get the very strong sense that no one seems to realize that as we have our little back-and-forths, we are currently running the experiment. And we’re in the test tube!

    AGu pres: are you content to have the denial machine paint that characterization of your organization? If not, please publically disavow me and my remarks immediately. And then either stop reading Judith’s apparently unreliable blog, or hold her to account. Your organization deserves better.

    Ms. Curry, your readers and the AGU deserve better. And Mr. Mosher, you deserve shame for your posting, and I hope others find the honestly and fortitude to give it to you. For anyone who gives credibility to Mr. Mosher, I encourage you to go read his post about the session at Watt’s Up With That, where my nutjob head is featured at the top with “The face of the new AGU, seriously” next to it. And then listen to the audio of my speech (when it becomes available) and re-examine your assessment of his reliability and objectivity. Perhaps it won’t change. But you deserve to have the information to examine it.

    It is just such calculated disinformation that has this debate remains so gridlocked, while the laws of physics march inexorably toward us. It doesn’t matter what any of us believes will happen. In any conflict between belief and reality, physics wins every time.

    And that’s not fearmongering. I don’t know what’s really going to happen either! I pray to god that I’m wrong, and that all the national academies of sciences are wrong, and that the national intelligence community is wrong, and that the military’s think tanks are wrong, and that the panel of 8 generals who wrote a study of the risk assessment is wrong. It would tickle me pink and drinks would be on me. But I’m not going to bet my daughter’s lives on that dim hope. (I’ve got to go home—it’s 3:45 am and I’m still at school—so I won’t post those references. You can find them all in my book if you want to waste a good $10.)

    I am a gnat, with no influence, screaming in desperation to be heard because I think I have an insight no one else does about how the average American thinks about climate change, and how they react to different messages. Judith is in a position of great influence. It’s hard to put into words the level of despair I feel when I see that someone of such influence, and followed and respected by so many, would do such recklessly sloppy reporting.

    I care not for how I am judged–I’m quitting the debate after what I learned at AGU and heading off to build my lifeboat for my family–but such fast and loose reporting can seriously damage the reputation of AGU, as can easily be seen my Mr. Mosher’s quick, opportunistic, and sickly calculated disinformation displayed by his posting of my face with the caption of “The new AGU” by it.

    If any of you think I’m overreacting, I’d point out that WUWT is the single most read climate blog in the world, with tremendous influence. President Elect Carol Finn, are you really content with having my nutjob face up there with “The face of the new AGU”??

    I certainly don’t defend all of my actions. But Mr. Mosher, if you can find the phrase “Say what you feel, not what you can prove” that you attribute to me anywhere in the transcript of my talk, I will retract. But until then, I hope others can see how disingenuous and manipulative you seem to be. I am greatly agitated at the deliberate harm you are trying to do to AGU because of my overwrought ranting. I would find your advice to me to take some communications course laughable if you were not such a danger to rational debate.

    And don’t worry, Mr. Mosher. My reason for posting here, despite the grief it causes my family in taking the time, was to defend the good name of AGU. I’ve done what I can, and hope AGU and its supporters do what they need to. I’m gone, and won’t be reading this thread or this blog again, so have at it. I’ve got reparations to make to my family.

    Go ahead and have at it if you wish. I’m heading for the lifeboat with my family if this is the direction that people are content to continue in the debate. I grieve for where we been willing to come.

    Halfway to China,
    Greg Craven

    • If the audio of your speech is a long as your advert for it, I fear that the gap between now and Christmas may be too short to listen to the full version…..maybe I’ll just sit and watch today’s snow melt instead.

      As to

      ‘I am a gnat, with no influence, screaming in desperation to be heard because I think I have an insight no one else does about how the average American thinks about climate change, and how they react to different messages’

      There are at least some parts of that statement we can both agree on. But sadly the evidence that you are right runs out after the word ‘heard’. The quality of your supposed ‘insight’ is clear from the fact that you feel the need to apologise for it.

      Another helpful saying (from Latimer’s List of Old Saws)

      ‘It is better to keep your mouth shut and look like an idiot, than to open it and confirm it’

    • You would have thought, given the number of words in Greg Craven’s missive, that he could have simply righted whatever he believes to have been misquoted and left it at that for us to chew on until the audio becomes available. Launching into an attack on Steven Mosher without substantiating his accusations of misquotation by asserting what he actually said hardly strengthens his position.

      So far as the question of the caption on WUWT being a mischaracterisation of AGU’s intention in inviting him to speak is concerned, perhaps he should reflect on the continual mischaracterisation of sceptics as oil industry shills by those on his own side of the debate these last 20 years and acknowledge that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

      Perhaps WUWT was saying what it felt rather than what it could prove?

    • interesting that he doesnt deny the only thing I actually say is a quote.
      “republicans are irrational”

    • Why things happen is the stuff of science. Moving on after they happen is the stuff of life. We are here to teach and learn. Not everything is intentional. Accidents happen. Sometimes they leave scars.

    • Richard S Courtney


      Well said!

      Nobody should gloat because everybody has made mistakes and it is a great error to want to ‘cast the first stone’. It seems that Greg Craven made the mistake of over-enthusiasm in the wrong place. There are much worse errors.

      However, Greg Craven is reported to have said:
      “Basically, it goes like this. As a scientist you have to decide at some point that enough is enough. You have to put your scientific commitment to the discipline of doubt aside and “blow past” your boundaries. Say what you feel, not what you can prove. ”

      Did he really say that? Did he intend to say that or was it a ‘heat of the moment’ statement? Does he repudiate it?

      “Moving on” requires that he put the record straight on this or his “scars” will fester to cause him much harm.


    • However, Greg Craven is reported to have said:
      “Basically, it goes like this. As a scientist you have to decide at some point that enough is enough. You have to put your scientific commitment to the discipline of doubt aside and “blow past” your boundaries. Say what you feel, not what you can prove. ”

      Did he really say that? Did he intend to say that or was it a ‘heat of the moment’ statement? Does he repudiate it?

      richard, like others you have mistaking bolding by the editors for quotation. It’s not a quote. It a paraphrase of the argument. i think the best thing for greg would be for him to make his argument clearly and in writing.

    • Michael Larkin


      I think your issue is that you know you are right. More havoc, personal and public, has been created by total conviction than pretty much anything else I can think of.

      However, I don’t believe you can possibly *know* you are right. Even if in due course things turn out in accord with your convictions, I still don’t think you will be able to say that in present circumstances you were, evidentially speaking, correct.

      I’m not trying to get at you or insult you. I’m just trying to point out the perils of conviction, and to ask you to take a long hard look at things. Ask yourself if they have the same status of fact as, say, the sky appearing blue to normal human vision.

      Few things are certain to that standard. And I fear for your wellbeing if you are going to proceed as if CAGW is already a done deal. Whether it will eventually turn out to be that way or not, my advice would be to take a sabbatical on the whole global warming thing for your own sake and that of your family.

      My views might differ from yours, but I haven’t lost sight of the fact you are a fellow human being and hope that soon you will reach more equanimity – as has been said, we’re all fallible, and I too have made enough mistakes of my own to empathise.

    • Michael Larkin,

      Far be it from me to answer in somebody else’s place, but based on Greg’s first (and also subsequent) videos, I’m fairly sure that he wouldn’t claim to *know* he is right.

      His claim ( ) centres on comparing the false negative and the false positive: What if the science is right and we don’t act, versus what if the science is wrong and we do act. Without knowing for sure whether the science is right, he sais taking worst case scenarios into account for both scenarios, the risks of acting is smaller than the risk of not acting.

    • I concur with your take on this, Bart. Greg’s argument has been compared to Pascal’s Wager, but on that point at least, I think Greg comes out better than Pascal. Pascal’s logic was impeccable, but his premise was dubious – that God would punish unbelievers with eternal damnation. Greg’s premise can be interpreted as stating that if the worst-case climate scenarios are realized, the harm will be devastating. That can be disputed, of course, but it’s a more defensible argument than Pascal’s – at least from the perspective of modern day theology.

    • That “the harm will be devastating” is not only unproven, but lacks any serious foundation whatever. On the historical evidence, positives from warming will vastly outweigh the costs of adaptation, especially since, except in asteroid-strike-level likelihood, there will be time and more than time for thorough and more than adequate adaptation.

      You sound like those foolish rent-seeking Maldive cabinet ministers performing for the sponsors in SCUBA gear. While their island grows faster than the miniscule measured rises actually happening.

    • Brian – I have a question for you. If station data from low latitude stations are eliminated, how will that affect the reported temperature trends?

    • The divil is in the details, but variability would increase, since the tropics are very stable and repetitious. Probably the net temperature would rise, but it depends on what’s left; the coldest 40% + of Russia’s stations are now being ignored, to their considerable disgust, e.g.

      But non-random elimination of any data sources is pretty hard to distinguish from data-massaging and fudging.

    • “Coldest” is not the same as “cooling”. Most high-latitude stations are showing greater warming. If Russia’s coldest stations are “ignored”, then the global signal is probably a little too small.

    • The warming signal, I gather, was strongly negative. Hence their banishment.

    • Your evidence? Try to avoid using the Russian equivalent of the Cato Institute as a source, please.

    • Michael Larkin

      Bart and Fred,

      You are both civil, but with respect, I think you also both know you are right. I did not specify precisely what Greg thought he was right about. I just read his writings here and recognised the symptoms of conviction – about something, whatever it might be. Been there and done that myself, and I’ve given it up for Lent because it’s so internally destructive.

    • Bart,

      One factor left out of his “analysis” is that of time. The worst case scenario in the top left (spend money for no problem) occurs much quicker than that of the lower right (do nothing in the face of a real problem).

      Another hole is the faith that the actions taken successfully mitigate the problem (spend money and live happily ever after).

      All in all, his video is a little too binary and and too lacking in substance to appeal to anyone capable of real consideration.

    • Gene,

      Good point about the different timescales of each, and that’s where the value of future generations comes in (a highly personal judgment). His analysis surely is binary and simplistic. That’s a drawback and a good thing at the same time. Perhaps you’re part of the audience for who it’s mostly a drawback.

      Brian H, check his video, and you’ll see that he starts by predicting economic doom and gloom in the top left scenario (spend money/no problem), i.e. he takes a subjective worst case scenario for both corners. Most serious analyses of mitigation come at a few % of GDP total costs.

    • Bart,

      It’s not just a value judgement…the differing timescales mean that more time is available to determine how much of a problem actually exists and how to best address it.

      One thing I missed on my earlier comment was that he also left out that the lower left column could include the worst of the upper left. In fact, the worst case of the costs could impede our ability to address the problem over the long term.

      I’m curious as to who would actually benefit from the simplistic presentation. Leaving out key information doesn’t contribute to good decision making.

    • That more time is available to deal with the slowly occurring climate change is only very partiallyh true, due the stronjg inertia in the energy system, in the carbon cycle and in the climate system. When the going gets tough, “normal” mitigation measures may be inadequate because their effect on the climate only materializes very slowly (much for the same reason that climate change itself occurs slowly). So pro-active decisionmaking is required.

      Compare it with a physician telling you to stop smoking. Will you take their advice or will you wait until you’re at the IC?

      If a problem is cumulative in nature, you better act with foresight, as imperfect as it may be.

    • Bart,

      Point taken re: inertia. That inertia needs to be factored in to determine exactly how much time is available (perhaps extending that time by other factors like methane and black carbon reductions).

      Smoking cessation is a poor analogy in that nearly all the effects are positive (even the withdrawals are a net positive in that when they’re over a substantial part of the addiction is abated). A more apt analogy might be preventive mastectomies. You have a radical treatment with fairly certain risks and costs used to prevent a relatively less certain risk. The magnitude of the respective risks may well make it a good bargain for a given individual. In our case, however, to steal from Greg, we have only one experiment and “we’re in the test tube”.

    • Gene,

      I’ve never been a smoker, but those who have and have stopped, may not glide over the difficulties of withdrawl all that easily. But of course, any analogy fails at some point, or it wouldn’t be an analogy.

      To factor in the economic costs of mitigation, perhaps the best analogy would be a costly medical treatment ythat the doctor deems necessary for your long term health, and which costs a few % of your yearly income.

    • There is a third scenario.

      What if the various policies being proposed to address climate change result in increased CO2 emissions?

      I.E. Japan off-shored it aluminum industry in order to comply with Kyoto. Aluminum smelting requires huge amounts of electricity. 25% of Japan’s electricity comes from coal, 80% of the electricity in China comes from coal. CO2 emissions went up as a result.

      The ‘precautionary principal’ applies to climate policies as well. We have to consider the risk that policies designed to address CO2 emissions could result in more, not less emissions.

      There has been no historical shortage of policies designed to address various problems that ended up making the problem worse.

    • So, in the end, as expected, your apology is really a self-justification, lamenting the dimness, thickness, and malevolence of your detractors.

    • randomengineer

      From Easterbrook’s site, Craven speaks:

      The message that I (all too) desperately wished to convey was that the scientist’s power in the debate lies not in becoming better communicators—in which they will never be able to match the skill of the skeptic’s messenging machine–but it would be the public merely seeing the fact that they are participating and that they are concerned, or even terrified.

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but anyone who in 2010 believes the notion of a “skeptic messenging machine” is either seriously deluded or simply incapable of thought (or both.)

      In the US alone there’s been 79 Billion USD spent on climate change since Hansen’s 1988 testimony. God knows how much elsewhere. The IPCC report reads like a testimonal from greenpeace (itself funded to the tune of hundreds of millions in the same time period.)

      Yet it’s the skeptics with the megaphone? Please. That’s simply insulting.

      And this appears to be what the AHU leaders think, too, else why would they invite this individual to speak and why would they feel the need to obtain the services of “republicans are irrational” Chirs Mooney so as to “help communicate?” This is utterly oblivious. We have been communicated at for well over 20 years now. Nobody’s buying it. Must be that skeptic messenging machine.

      Hey AGU leaders: rather than futilely bash your heads into the same brick wall repeatedly, consider hiring the skeptic messenging machine since apparently it’s the only one that actually works.

    • Greg, I heard these reports from about 20 different people.

    • Greg, I have edited the main post to highlight your statement. I have also changed the text in the main post to read:

      “I didn’t attend the session, but received reports from several scientists, including several who actually walked out in the middle. Overall, the session was rather lackluster. Greg Craven made a presentation on his book “How it all ends” that has been highly controversial.”

      We are interested in engaging in a dialogue with you at Climate Etc.

    • “I certainly don’t defend all of my actions. But Mr. Mosher, if you can find the phrase “Say what you feel, not what you can prove” that you attribute to me anywhere in the transcript of my talk, I will retract. But until then, I hope others can see how disingenuous and manipulative you seem to be. I am greatly agitated at the deliberate harm you are trying to do to AGU because of my overwrought ranting. I would find your advice to me to take some communications course laughable if you were not such a danger to rational debate.”

      Greg, perhaps you and other misunderstood the formating that the editors enployed. As I wrote, you gave an argument that BASICALLY GOES LIKE THIS. That not an indication that a quote follows. If you like i can request that they indicate that in the original piece.

    • “I certainly don’t defend all of my actions. But Mr. Mosher, if you can find the phrase “Say what you feel, not what you can prove” that you attribute to me anywhere in the transcript of my talk, I will retract. But until then, I hope others can see how disingenuous and manipulative you seem to be. I am greatly agitated at the deliberate harm you are trying to do to AGU because of my overwrought ranting.”

      If it’s any help to you Greg I have added a comment to the post, indicating that the section the editor choose to bold was not a quote. Please read the footnote to the text and perhaps that will clarify things for you.

    • “as can easily be seen my Mr. Mosher’s quick, opportunistic, and sickly calculated disinformation displayed by his posting of my face with the caption of “The new AGU” by it.”

      Couple points.

      1. I don’t choose the picture that goes with the text I submit
      2. If the AGU decides that it needs to engage the public and if Oppenheimer suggests that scientists have to engage the public, then you got a problem houston. How do you keep clowns from speaking?
      3. There are plenty of people ( real scientists with real expertise) who I would prefer to hear speak from their human side. I would have liked to hear more from heidi cullen, more from hansen, more from anybody on the panel. I would prefer that you let that lady from Oakland finish rather than cut her off.

  29. Judith,
    You are trying to focus on factual science and it’s causes and effects.
    Yet you are still focused on temperatures that really is not a factor except to tell if you need a coat or shorts. Temperature is not an energy, just cause and effect indicator.
    Being focused just on temperature difference of CO2, you miss any physical effects to current physical changes.
    Science has forgtten that we were a migrating species before the creature comforts allowed us to stay in one area.
    We are at the tail end of planetary warming and current science does not investigate physical changes. Only global temperature changes. Does that make any sense?

  30. Judy, I’ve asked Chris Mooney if the title of his next book will be ‘Calm World’ in view of Ryan M’s ACE record, or if it will be ‘The Democrats’ War on Science’ considering this Administration’s Energy and Climate Policy. I get back the sound of crickets in a cold Chinese place.

  31. Didier Sornette name is sure not flattering.

    The name sornette in french means “saying absurdities”. So at first I was wondering if the guy was real. School must have been a hard time for that guy.

  32. Judith

    congratulations on another first – a real ‘soap opera’ of a blog. Very entertaining and ideal for a quiet pre-Christmas Saturday in a completely frozen UK. Great posts from Uncle Latimer who I am beginning to think may have been responsible for HAL in 2001: a Space Odyssey.

    Another of my favourite sayings which is completely inappropriate:-

    ‘you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make a monkey out of King Kong’

    warm wishes Gary

  33. There is a really interesting post at Bishop Hill, about an interview with Mike Hulme.

  34. You do not explain what you mean by “robust decision strategies.” Do you have an example? Are these different from so-called robust policies? I think you will find that in cases of speculative threats the robust policy strategy is to do little or nothing, which is roughly what we are doing.

    Also, in the case of climate one has to add the threat of a new ice age, which statistically may be due. At the regional level one cannot reasonable prepare for drought and flood, heat and not, etc. Contradictory science is simply no basis for action. Advanced logic is not required to see this.

    • Just to elaborate, I don’t know what you mean by a decision strategy. If it is a strategy for making a decision then flipping a coin would seem to be very robust, as you almost always get a quick decision.

    • Nullius in Verba

      The description given was “Robustness is a strategy that seeks to reduce the range of possible scenarios over which the strategy performs poorly.” This fits with what I would have assumed the phrase to mean, which is one where the cost is insensitive to errors in the data on which you base a decision.

      For example, if you have two boxes, one of which contains a hundred angry scorpions and the other $1, the strategy of flipping a coin and sticking your hand in one based on the outcome is not a robust strategy. The penalty is very sensitive to the coin coming up the wrong way. The strategy of not putting your hand in either box is robust, having identical costs whichever way it turns out.

      In my view, when you have a high-stakes decision to make with insufficient information, very often the robust strategy is to gather the resources ready to jump either way, and to jump as late as you possibly can so as to have the most complete and accurate information possible when you have to respond. That’s not the same as doing nothing – it requires contingency planning, stockpiling, over-engineering, using system redundancy and diversity to make your infrastructure more robust and your ability to respond to the unexpected more flexible. There are a lot of catastrophes that can (and will) occur, and we don’t know what we will have to face. Improving general prosperity and technological capability is probably a good move, whatever happens. This recommends adaptation as a strategy.

    • That’s not the same as doing nothing – it requires contingency planning, stockpiling, over-engineering, using system redundancy and diversity to make your infrastructure more robust and your ability to respond to the unexpected more flexible.


    • Doesn’t get much plainer and clearer than that.
      Double Bravo!

    • You seem to be interpreting a “decision strategy” to mean a strategic decision, that is an actual action, such as stockpiling, as opposed to a strategy for making decisions. Well and good. However, I don’t understand the concept of “jumping either way” in your analysis. In the case of CAGW one of the ways is that nothing happens. How is your “stockpiling, over-engineering, using system redundancy and diversity to make your infrastructure more robust and your ability to respond to the unexpected more flexible” a case of preparing for nothing to happen? It sounds very much like preparing for CAGW, which is only one of the two ways. The other way, where nothing happens, requires no preparation at all.

    • Nullius in Verba

      We have lots of catastrophes to deal with. Some of them are happening now. Poverty, malaria, bad air, dirty drinking water, … Which are the most urgent? Which can we get the best bang for our buck solving?

      Because you see, that’s the fundamental problem with Pascal’s Wager, both in Pascal’s original form and in the modern environmental variant. It offers a false dichotomy. It offers two alternatives – and implicitly assumes that the alternatives and their costs are not in doubt, only which of them is true. For Pascal, it is not simply Christianity versus atheism, it is every actual and conceivable religious system positing infinite rewards or punishments for any conceivable combination of behaviours, and Christianity, and atheism. Becoming a Christian does not help if God is not. If on dying one finds oneself face to face with Mictlantehcuhtli, Aztec God of death, you get the worst of both options. Similarly with environmental disaster – you might find it is a new incurable plague we face, or a crop disease, or an asteroid, or the rise of a new global dictatorial cult, or an invasion of vampire moths. Or most likely, something we haven’t even thought of yet.

      Cutting energy use 80% right now to deal with just one possible crisis out of many, and thereby cripple any response we might make to all the others, is not a robust strategy. Giving ourselves the capability to switch more quickly, and the spare capacity to tolerate the loss of part of our energy infrastructure could help with many more possibilities, and if nothing happens (and we should be thankful if it doesn’t), can still be used to our benefit. Stockpiles can be used, modular infrastructure lets us take advantage of new technology more quickly, over-engineered systems last longer before replacement, etc.

      By decision strategy I mean something like the general approach of as much as possible planning for contingencies without committing oneself. By strategic decisions, I would mean those specific preparatory decisions like what to stockpile.

      And I’d like to note that I’m only defining it here, not advocating for it.

    • “Cutting energy use 80% right now to deal with just one possible crisis out of many, and thereby cripple any response we might make to all the others, is not a robust strategy.” I can’t decide if this is classic understatement or just wimping out on stating the truth: it’s an insanely stupid and suicidal strategy.

    • Who said anything about “[c]utting energy use 80% right now”?

      Names, quotes, and references, please.

    • Nullius in Verba

      Whoever said anything about sticking your hand in a box full of angry scorpions?

      I didn’t say anybody had said it, I said it was not a robust strategy. It was merely an illustrative example of an obviously non-robust strategy, to explain the concept. This fetish for demanding citations as a way to distract attention from the essential point is tiresome. You don’t win any points if people can’t be bothered to play your game.

      But as it happens, it only took me a few moments to Google “Greenhouse gases must be cut 80 percent by 2020, not by 2050 as U.N. countries propose, to preserve life as we know it, the head of a global conference said.” from the website of Act For Climate Justice.

      So from mere explanatory illustration to an actual demonstration of the crazy world of Deep Green. Thanks Derecho64, I couldn’t have done it without you.

    • I agree – given that carbon-based energy sources are finite, and mostly located in highly politically unstable and actively hostile nations, the best bet is to aggressively develop non-carbon based energy which is not dependent on the political whims of the leadership of other nations.

      As for mitigation – even though the US is the far-and-away leader in cumulative emissions that have led to anthropogenic climate change, we can build a Fortress America to withstand the onslaught of the other ~6.7 billion people on the planet because we refuse to sacrifice our lifestyle on the alter of mitigation.

    • Deep Green indeed! Which politically unstable and actively hostile nations are you referring to, where we get our fossil fuels? Canada, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait? Or perhaps West Virginia? (Most of our US energy is from North American sources.) And of course all resources are finite, including the sun. This is no reason to do anything. But they need a good speech writer in Bolivia. I’d say you will do well.

    • Here are the top oil producing nations as of 2008, in rank order:
      Saudi Arabia, Russia, United States, Iran, China, Canada, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Venezuela, Norway, Brazil, Iraq, Algeria, Nigeria.

      How many do you consider to be democratic, just, and that follow the rule of law? Out of those 15, I count 4. Great way to run a civilization!

  35. Oddly enough, my big gripe with Greg’s session wasn’t his book talk (which I think was a bit over the top for the audience, but had some reasonable arguments about how people respond to communication). Rather, it was during the Q/A sessions when you answered the question of “why are so few scientists republicans” be remarking that it is because republicans are fundamentally irrational.

    While a certain partisan part of me can appreciate the sentiment (being a liberal myself), I think it is fundamentally both incorrect and deeply counterproductive to the goal of climate science communication. The politicization of climate science (due in part to having Gore as the public face for so long) is one of the primary reasons why there is so great public doubt even over the basics (leaving out areas like sensitivity where there are large and real scientific uncertainties). Furthermore, the majority of those in the general public who do not believe that mankind is altering the climate identify as republicans. If you want to muster effective action, especially in the current climate, you cannot just make emotional appeals to wavering democrats or independents while further alienating the right by embracing partisan rhetoric. Rather, you need to work on fundamentally depoliticizing the science. A critical part of this is avoiding caricaturing republicans as irrational beings. While our ideological preconceptions undoubtedly affect how we synthesize information, and even “objective” science is not immune from confirmation bias, this does not mean that folks are unable to reason or change views. Rather, it tasks us to examine why exactly parts of the science have become so tied up with ideology, and how to re-frame and depoliticize the physical science itself (the policy response, alas, will always be somewhat hostage to ideology, but a better acceptance of the basic science will at least engender a more meaningful debate).

    • The longer this whole blog continues, the more it is apparent that even the basics of ‘the science’ aren’t clearly and unequivocally understood.

      All credit to Judith for providing such a forum for debate.

      But when even the fundamental greenhouse effect can take days of debate to sort out (if indeed that has been achieved), Joe Public might reasonably take the view that an awful lot of his money has been spent on climatology for very very little actual return.

      Apart from giving a bunch of emotional political advocates like the hapless and hopeless Craven the opportunity to lecture him on his evil ways. Over here (UK) there are plenty of religious organisations who are willing to do that for free. No need to spend ginormous amount of public money to get it.

      And the more extreme fire and brimstone preachers are also far better communicators than Mr Craven.

    • The reason why climate science became so political is because it was taken up by a political movement — environmentalism. That nexus is not going way anytime soon, not until the political battle has been won or lost.

    • Nor is there any basic science to accept, such that it settles the issue. The science is divided, hence the debate.

    • What of the “basic science” is still in dispute?

      That CO2 is increasing?

      That CO2 is opaque to LW?

      Do you have examples?

    • CO2′s role in the greenhouse effect does not settle the AGW issue, it merely raises it. For example, there is no evidence of GHG warming in the 30 year satellite record. There is no way to rule out natural warming, etc. I repeat, there is no basic science that settles the issue.

    • > For example, there is no evidence of GHG warming in the 30 year satellite record.

      You’re wrong. See Tamino’s comparison of the five major temp datasets (including UAH and RSS). Please.

    • You have missed my point, which is that there is no basic science that settles the debate. Tamino’s argument is still an argument. It settles nothing, rather it simply continues the argument.

    • By the way, it is far from settled that the CO2 is increasing because of human emissions.

    • David Wojick-
      By now everyone should understand the unamiguous evidence for fossil fuel burning as the primary cause of the observed increase in atmospheric CO2.

      1. The total amount of CO2 emitted by anthropogenic sources (mainly burning fossil fuels) is more than enough to account for the measured increase in atmospheric CO2.

      2. The oxygen content of the atmosphere is diminishing at a rate that corresponds to the increase in CO2, so the increase in CO2 is due to oxidation of carbonaceuos material of some kind, eg., burning, decay, etc., and not from, say, the oceans, volcanoes or some other geological process.

      3. As you no doubt know, all carbon is a mixture of three isotopes: 12C (the most abundant), 13C (the next most abundant), and 14C (the radioactive form, made by cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere, and which decays in several thousand years, and so can be used for radiocarbon dating). Associated with the increase in atmospheric CO2, there is an observed decrease in the ratio 13C/12C in atmospheric CO2. This decrease can be explained if the stuff that is oxidizing went through the photosynthetic process, i.e., came from plants. Photosynthesis causes plants to be deficient in 13C (compared to rocks, the atmosphere, etc.), so when the plants burn, the CO2 so produced is deficient in 13C, and the result is to diminish the 13C/12C of the atmosphere, as is observed.

      4. The atmospheric 14C/12C ratio is also decreasing, and much faster than by any such fractionation effect as described in 3. This can only be explained if the burning “plants” have no 14C, i.e., they are fossil plants, old enough for all their 14C to have decayed (older than tens of thousands of years). The carbon in coal and oil, which were once plants, have no 14C. So the current increase in CO2 is indeed due to burning fossil fuels.

      The statements in 1 – 4 are quantitatively consistent; that is, the numbers make sense. Sometimes there are complications and ambiguities in relevant data, but the results given above are the product of many careful analyses of many data sets.

    • These isotopic numbers merely show that we are emitting CO2, in increasing quantities, which no one denies. They do not show that our emissions are causing the increase, which is the issue. The close correlation between ocean temperatures and CO2 levels strongly suggests that the former are causing the latter, not vice versa. CO2 is only one of many supposed warming agents so if it were causing some of the warming the correlation should not be this close.

    • Your first two sentences contradict each other.

    • Not at all. Given mixing, the % of C14 in the atmosphere will asymptotically approach the % in the total input stream over a longish period of time, regardless of removal rate.

      E.g.; if the input C14 ratio was 100%, over time all the other isotopes would be removed, leaving the atmosphere’s CO2 with only C14. If none of the input was C14, all the C14 would gradually vanish. And so on. EVEN IF REMOVAL ALWAYS MATCHED INPUT EXACTLY.
      The removal rate only determines how fast the matching occurs. If it was 100%/day, the matching would be very fast (but longer than a day — still an asymptote).

    • David Wojick -

      “These isotopic numbers merely show that we are emitting CO2, in increasing quantities, which no one denies. They do not show that our emissions are causing the increase, which is the issue.”

      No. They show unequivocally that the carbon dioxide being added to the atmosphere is characterized by oxidized ancient plants, i.e., coal and oil. Think it through.

      “The close correlation between ocean temperatures and CO2 levels strongly suggests that the former are causing the latter, not vice versa.”

      Read my point “2″ above.

      David, this is long-established stuff. Hans Suess identified the increasing fossil fuel signature in the atmosphere in the 1950s. There are many things to debate, but you should get past this one.

    • randomengineer

      Interestingly what’s not shown is that all of this increase when meaured is fresh; i.e. not oceanic re-emitted victorian era molecules the previously were pulled into the ocean years back.

      Not that it matters. That one though has always fascinated me. Nobody seems to know the answer. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • See above. There’s no way to know the source of a C14 atom. The ratios of input and atmospheric isotopes converge over time.

      Especially given the very low extant % which is C14, a net ratio of all inputs higher than the preceding level will cause a rise.

    • randomengineer


      The question I had also has implication regarding how much time CO2 is claimed to float about in the atmosphere before it is “sunk.” If this is a timescale of a couple of decades (as I think I read as being the case) then it stands to reason that a goodly portion of the interesting isotope is that which was first emitted 150 years back, 130 years back, 110 years back, etc.

      The notion that we see isotopes and these are *always* “freshly” emitted annually seems wrong.

      The ocean should act like a LIFO buffer — last molecule IN when cold is the FIRST molecule back out when warm.

      The ratio we see then ought to represent the CUMULATIVE effort of humans, not just this year’s emissions.

      If this is correct in whole or in part then much of the emissions calculations are very likely incorrect.

    • I don’t think it’s necessarily a LIFO situation. The biosphere has to be considered:

      “quote from a royal society document which is no longer at the link I had for it:

      “In the deep oceans, the CO2 concentration increases as sinking organic matter from biological production (which varies seasonally) is decomposed. These additions of CO2 to the deep oceans cause its pH to decrease (causing acidification) … When this CO2-rich deep water upwells to the surface, it creates regions with lower pH in the surface waters”

      However, since this cycle takes hundreds of years, it could be that the current slow and small change in pH in the near surface waters since 1700 is due to the Medieval Warm Period rather than human co2 emissions.

    • Nullius in Verba

      Some of the CO2 being added to the atmosphere is unequivocally from fossil fuels, but that does not (on its own) imply that fossil fuel burning is the cause of the increase.

      An illustration – the classic tank full of water. The tap feeding water in is being turned up and down at random by one agent, the plug letting water out is being opened and closed randomly by another agent, and a third agent, us, spills some ink into the water.

      (About 210 units of water in and out to every 6 units of ink, for a sense of scale.)

      The level goes up, and the water turns blue. Does the colour change prove that it was the added ink that caused the rise, and not the agency of the taps and plug holes? Or does it just prove that ink was added?

      I think that to prove the ink responsible, you have to understand the behaviour of the taps and plug hole precisely.

      I’m not myself saying that it hasn’t been proved in the case of CO2, but whatever the real argument, the isotope stuff isn’t it.

    • randomengineer

      Please see above re LIFO buffering.

      Do you have data etc regarding this?

    • Greetings Nullius in Verba, randomengineer and tallbloke -

      Yes, Nullius is quite right that imbalances in taps and plugs (analogous to, say, progressive deforestation) can contribute to the rise in water (CO2) level. But if the rate at which you are adding ink exceeds the rate at which the volume of water is increasing (point 1 in my first comment above), and the concentration of ink is increasing commensurately with the amount of ink added (analogous to the decline of 14C), one can then conclude that the increase in water level is dominated by the addition of ink.

      The quantitative details can be used, I imagine, to constrain exchange rates with the ocean, soils and biosphere.

      randomengineer and tallbloke raise interesting questions which I have not had time to think about, but I don’t see how they would substantially impact the issue of the cause of CO2 increase.

    • Given that the “tea party” folks are in the ascendent (for now) in the US, how should science deal with the following kind of Republican?

      “Climate change is real, and man is causing it,” Mr. Hill said, echoing most climate scientists. “That is indisputable. And we have to do something about it.”

      A rain of boos showered Mr. Hill, including a hearty growl from Norman Dennison, a 50-year-old electrician and founder of the Corydon Tea Party.

      “It’s a flat-out lie,” Mr. Dennison said in an interview after the debate, adding that he had based his view on the preaching of Rush Limbaugh and the teaching of Scripture. “I read my Bible,” Mr. Dennison said. “He made this earth for us to utilize.”

    • The same way we deal with a green fool.

    • Of which there are many.

    • Mr. Dennison (and his ideological brethren) not only dismiss AGW, they dismiss science in its entirety. In short, no reality-based argument will sway them in the slightest. Perhaps you can abandon fact, reason, logic and evidence and still make a convincing case, but I’d prefer not to.

    • Strawman. Nothing to do with disputing the sloppy and arbitrary practices of the ATW promoter-scientists.

      I personally have no doubt that the Earth is ~4.5bn years old, that evolution drives speciation, that science (properly performed) gradually closes in on reliable generalizations, etc. What disgusts me is the arrogant appropriation of the “lab coat” mantle of the scientist stereotype by those who show no sign of willingness to do the actual work of exploring all hints and clues given by the evidence available, and expanding the range and depth of that evidence as much as possible.

      If you think AGW-promo-scientists are doing that work in good faith, then you are burning many calories deceiving yourself, or are incapable of observing the obvious.

    • IMHO, doubting AGW is like doubting evolution or gravity.

      How many climate scientists do you know? How many have you spent time with?

    • Your (not so) humble opinion is mistaken. This is a genuine scientific debate.

    • This from the person who claimed that “no evidence of GHG warming in the 30 year satellite record”. I’ll take that blatant falsehood into account when I consider your views.

    • That is precisely your problem. What I am saying is true but you see it as a “blatant falsehood.” Your inability to understand skepticism renders you intellectually impotent.

    • I’ve pointed you to a source that shows your claim to be false; have you investigated? If so, show me where the analysis is incorrect.

      Skepticism is healthy – untruths are not.

    • randomengineer

      We probably agree. AGW is real enough. We won’t agree on the relative amount of “A” but… so?

      The question I have for you is whether you’re willing to channel your knowledge into positive action. Whipping Latimer isn’t a productive use of your time, and belittling nonbelievers gets nowhere.

      Where’s your POSITIVE game here?

    • What’s the “skeptics” “POSITIVE game”? Or is taking cheap shots at the climate science community about it?

      Hint: Calling an entire group of people “shysters”, “frauds”, “liars” and so on, and supporting the kind of political showmanship that Inhofe and Cuccinelli are playing, is not helpful.

    • randomengineer

      Skeptics aren’t making claims, son. They’re SKEPTICS, meaning they’re wanting you to prove your claim. They don’t need an A game.

    • In case of any doubt, I do not consider myself to have been ‘whipped’. Pestered by a persistent toddler perhaps.

    • Coming from someone who glorifies his lack of knowledge about climate science, and who has a litany of excuses to explain why his ignorance is strength, I’ll take his beliefs with those truths in mind.

    • Whatever

    • randomengineer

      Latimer! Good heavens, will you please stop whipping on derecho64? Neither of you are getting anywhere. Same flipping question: where is YOUR positive game in this?

    • How many do you Know?

    • randomengineer

      Who cares? The evangelical vote was 17% of the GOP in the 2000 election and has been headed downhill.

      The media who ins’t republican fixates on obvious imbeciles and paints these as “typical” and you lap it up as if it’s fact and then regurgitate on cue.

      The cherrypick ain’t your mainstream republican.

    • Given that the majority of the selected “tea party” GOP candidates ranged from somewhat doubtful to downright dismissive of AGW, I didn’t cherry pick the typicality of Mr. Dennison.

      When we have Rep. Shimkus holding up the Bible and mentioning the story of Noah as to why sea level rise is irrelevant, we got big problems.

    • We don’t got big problems, you got big problems. If you actually read Shimkus you will find he understands the science quite well. Your attempt to paint your opponents as stupid is stupid. Get over it.

    • Explain, then, why he holds up the Bible during a Congressional hearing and uses it to “explain” why sea level rise as the result of AGW isn’t a problem?

      Is he just playing to his presumed base (in which case he’s a con man) or does he honestly believe that the Bible is a document that holds scientific truths?

    • randomengineer

      Context? Does this exist in your world?

      If some advocate was whining re sea level rise and how we had to spend big $ now and oh my the panic and… yeah I might pick up a prop myself to get across the idea that if the advocate wants SCARY, then one of stories everyone in the western world knows has plenty of that. And I’m an atheist.

      You can’t read anything into what Shimkus did or didn’t do sans context.

      It would be immensely helpful if you were to get a grip.

    • Explain to me what relevance the Christian Bible has in the context of science. Please.

    • David L. Hagen


      Re: Relevance of the Christian Bible to modern science.

      There is increasingly detailed scholarship showing how the Bible was foundational to modern science. The translation of the Bible into English, German and other vernacular languages coupled with Gutenberg’s printing press caused a rapid distribution of the Bible. The desire to read it drove literacy and the standardization of languages. Then came an understanding that there were “laws of nature and of nature’s God” (in place of greek pantheism.) Thence came searching for those laws etc. Almost every founder of a major discipline of modern science was a Christian or Jew. All but one of the first 123 universities in America were established by Christians.

      Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts and the End of Slavery (Princeton University Press; illustrated edition edition, August 9, 2004) ISBN-10: 0691119503
      See extracts on Stark re “bible science”

      Peter Harrison, The Bible, Protestantism, And the Rise of Natural Science (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press (August 13, 2001) ISBN-10: 0521000963
      See Harrison extracts on bible science

      See essay by Loren Haarsma, Christianity as a Foundation for Science, Part 1: Science & Religion in Conflict? a href=”
      “>Part 2: Where is God in science?

      See Vishal Mangalwadi, How the Bible changed your world, Nelson May 2011 (in press) ISBN: 1-5955-322-3

      Happy hunting

    • This item is clearly from a green source, as it refers to the “preaching” of Limbaugh. Rush is an analyst, not a preacher. In any case it touches on the interesting theological dimension of the climate debate. On the green side we have what I call the stewardship doctrine, which is popular with some Evangelicals. This doctrine says that there are two creations — man and nature, and God loves each separately. On this doctrine man has a duty of stewardship over nature. The implication is that if necessary man will sacrifice to protect nature.

      The other doctrine is that of dominion, which Dennison is alluding to. On this doctrine God loves mankind and nature exists merely as an instrument for man’s use. It is a fascinating debate.

    • The source was the NY Times.

      That said, there are a non-neglible number of folks like Mr. Dennison – whose sources of information extend no further than a hard-right talk-radio blowhard and the Bible. Are those people reachable in any realistic sense, or are they mere writeoffs, not worth the time and energy? What happens when their numbers are sufficient to effect genuine political power? What then?

    • Did the NYT actually refer to the “preaching” of Limbaugh? Or were they quoting some green? It is not like them to make that silly a mistake, unless this was an op-ed. The NYT is left wing you know. Your rhetoric is even more reprehensible of course. There are fools on both sides but you don’t have to be one.

    • Of course, given your previously-admitted bias towards industry, happy that it was finally getting back at the environmental movement, any comment you make about the NYT need to take that prejudice into account.

      That said, do you claim that even if the NYT didn’t quote this Mr. Dennison, folks of his believe system don’t exist? Do tell.

  36. How can we access the proceedings of this conference? Lots of interesting stuff to read.., if I can access it thru the Cal Tech Library.

  37. The conduct of climate “science” has for two decades constituted, not in a truly scientific enquiry, but in the Trial of Carbon, with its twin premises that

    a) a crime is being committed, and
    b) that if so, the culprit is Carbon.

    Now your uncertainty analysis may be perfectly well suited to such a scenario, although it can’t avoid large dollops of subjectivity. But I still struggle to see how it could work AT ALL if the Trial of Carbon were to be aborted in favour of a properly scientific enquiry into the workings of the climate. Your own excellent blogging has produced a welter of perfectly scientifically framed arguments, yet to be rebutted, which entail some or all of:

    a) No “crime” being committed, by carbon or any other culprit.

    b) Other offenders (note the plural, and think what this implies for your uncertainty paradigm) capable of, and possibly perpetrating, other “crimes” (e.g. onset of next ice age), and whose “conviction” MAY exonerate Carbon.

    c) Other offenders, whose conviction MUST exonerate Carbon.

    It gets to be a pretty complicated game of Cluedo – will it be playable at all? More to the point, will it be needed, once climate “science” loses its scare quotes, and starts doing a proper job of researching climate, instead of trying to convict Carbon?

    Lastly, on the matter of the PP. I have never – that’s never – seen this wretched “principle” argued without its succumbing to the reverse precautionary argument. In the case of climate, the fact that we are historically “overdue” for an ice age must render it all but useless.

    • sorry, my second premise should have read

      “b/ that being so, the culprit is Carbon.”

    • Well, well said. “wretched principle” indeed. And given the near certainty of the vast harm entailed by the demanded “solution”, except to the select few implementing and forming the policy, the reverse principle is elevated to “Prevention of application of the mitigration strategy, at all costs!” I.e., imminent threat to survival stuff.

    • thanks Brian – I keep seeing “uncertainty analysis” being, as it were, groomed as a substitute for the null hypothesis, the better to put the latter out to pasture!

    • Yes, there’s something twisty about the phrase. As though the pea is already palmed, while we studiously examine the shells.

  38. I just spotted this comment on my AGU talk over at James Annan’s blog,
    apparently he was in the audience and was the person who asked a question about Bayesian analysis (I’ve never met him in person before).

    Too bad Annan didn’t understand my talk, since it was targeted particularly at people like him who are pushing the idea that CO2 sensitivity is 3C
    and think that Bayesian analysis can actually provide such an answer in the face of such large uncertainty.

  39. Steve Easterbrook has posts on Palmer’s and Slingo’s AGU presentations:

    The summaries are good, and more efficient than listening to the entire presentation if you are time limited.

  40. Addendum to
    Oliver K. Manuel | December 17, 2010 at 7:47 pm:

    Dear Professor Curry,

    . . .

    3. Twenty-five years later in 2001, neutron repulsion was revealed as the energy source that powers the Sun and the cosmos ["The sun's origin, composition and source of energy", in Lunar and Planetary Science XXIX (2001) Abstract 1041; "Attraction and repulsion of nucleons: Sources of stellar energy", Journal of Fusion Energy 19 (2001) 93-98].

    4. Thirty-five years later on 13 Dec 2010, NASA reported global solar eruptions across the photosphere!

    My friend, Cliff Saunders in the Neutron-Repulsion Group described it as:
    A whole hemisphere erupted simultaneously in an avalanche effect that had been triggered in the tiny solar core and propagated outwards; like the sandpile effect in Self Organised Criticality.

    Thus, as the universe has unfolded since 1976, more has been revealed:

    1976 Data => 1983 Iron Sun => . . . . .
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2001 Neutron Core => 2010 Global Solar Eruptions

    AGU and NASA would not accept the 1976 data. Efforts to use public funds to promote “consensus science” produced 35 years of “astonishing new discoveries” but no advancements in knowledge .

    AGW (anthropologic global warming), SSM (Standard Solar Model) and OSN (oscillating solar neutrinos) are the products of this misadventure.

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

  41. Iron Age Copper Reveals Earth’s Stronger, Faster Magnetic Field

    But a new study of ancient copper mines in southern Israel found that the strength of the magnetic field could double and then fall back down in less than 20 years.
    “The magnetic field reached an intensity that was much higher than anyone had ever thought before,two and a half times the present field,” said graduate student Ron Shaar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, lead author of the new study. “And you can have dramatic changes in the intensity of the field in periods of less than decades.”

    As I understand it, the earth’s magnetic field could affect cosmic rays, and thus clouds and climate.

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