Foxes, Hedgehogs and Prediction

by Judith Curry

Robert Ellison sent me a link to a review of a book entitled “Future Babble:  Why Expert Predictions Fail and Why We Believe Them“, by Dan Gardner, which describes the research of UC Berkeley Professor Philip Tetlock.

A good summary is provided by a reviewer at Amazon.com:

This is an extremely readable and thought provoking book. Gardner’s exhaustive research builds an extremely persuasive case for the book’s sub-title. He also explains why we keep coming back for more useless forecasting babble. Although some of his examples could be more succinctly summarized, most are very entertaining and enlightening. Gardner illustrates the book’s core message around the dismal failure of expert predictions with examples of both overly rosy predictions and darkly apocalyptic forecasts missing the mark by miles. He’s especially effective at pillorying the many bestselling prophets of doom. These include the authors of such pessimistically dire works as, The Population Bomb, How to Prosper in the Coming Bad Years, The Limits to Growth, The End of Affluence, An Inquiry into the Human Prospect, and Blood in the Streets.

Future Babble cites numerous studies showing the repeated and colossal failure of expert predictions in every field (except for short term weather forecasts). He quotes Scott Armstrong “an expert on forecasting at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania” on his “seer-sucker theory: No matter how much evidence exists that seers do not exist, suckers will pay for the existence of seers.” Here’s another of Gardner’s examples: “The now-defunct magazine Brill’s Content, for one, compared the predictions of famous American pundits with a chimpanzee named Chippy, who made guesses by choosing among flashcards. Chippy consistently matched or beat the best in the business.”

Future Babble draws heavily on the comprehensive research of Philip Tetlock, professor of psychology, business, and political science at University of California Berkeley. His authoritative study encompassed 284 experts “giving 27,450 judgments of the future.” Tetlock concluded that the experts would have been beaten by “a dart-throwing chimpanzee.” Gardner observes that “the simple and disturbing truth is that the experts’ predictions were no more accurate than random guesses.” An especially interesting finding in these days of media sound bites, blogging, and viral videos is Tetlock’s use of Google hits to determine the fame of each of the 284 experts. His findings: “the more famous the expert, the worse he did.”

What caught my interest about this is the discussion of foxes and hedgehogs.

Hedgehogs and Foxes

“The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” – Archilochus

While in general predictions are usually no better than chance guesses, Tetlock’s research revealed that some people are better than others. Tetlock identified two types of predictors: Foxes and Hedgehogs.

Hedgehogs look for a single grand design and once they have found it, they look no further. They feel that they can predict with confidence, and they do.

Foxes, on the other hand, are sceptical of grand theories. They continually incorporate new information into their understanding, and as a result, are less confident about their predictions.

Tetlock found that Foxes, although much less confident of their predictions, were more likely to be correct in their predictions.

Prediction is Hard

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” – Yogi Berra

Gardner points out that one reason that pundit’s prediction are wrong, is that prediction is often hard to do. In fields like economics and politics, forecasters face very complex situations, where random events can radically change the outcome.

Other barriers to successful prediction lie within us. As Gardner observes: The mind is an impressive organ of thought, but it has its limitations. We are handicapped by cognitive biaseslogical fallacies and other fallacies that undermine our ability to see clearly. Pundits who predict are just as vulnerable to these as anyone else.

An example the author discusses is Confirmation Bias , where, once a person has made a choice, they only accept evidence that supports their decision and reject evidence that does not. When evidence that contradicts a prediction is found, a typical pundit will find an excuse to disregard it.

Why We Believe Pundits, Even When They are Wrong

“He is often wrong but he’s never in doubt” – Norman Lamont, a British politician, on why he trusted a particular pundit.

Why, if pundit’s predictions are often so wrong, do we still turn to them for advice?

Gardner points out that the future is uncertain, and few people are comfortable with uncertainty. People are risk adverse and fear uncertainty. When someone comes along and promises that can put an end to uncertainty, most people will jump at the chance. Certainly, in my own experience, people are far more willing to take the advice of some one who sounds confident than someone who seems unsure. This is despite the fact that the less confident person is more likely to be right.

People are vulnerable to the same cognitive biaseslogical fallacies and other fallacies that bedevil the pundits and predictors. These flaws in thinking undermine our ability to evaluate the predictions of pundits.

The Answer: A Better Way

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”  – John Maynard Keynes

Toward the end of his book, Gardner considers how we can get better predictions. He makes four suggestions.

  • Accept that the world is complex and uncertain.
  • Look at a wide variety of information and combine that information to gain deeper understanding.
  • Think about thinking: be aware of the biases and fallacies of thought.
  • Strive for humility.

Gardner goes on to suggest that we should look for courses of action that are good, what ever happens. Although this is easier said than done, I do believe this is the wisest approach to take. What I would add, is we should continue to seek out new information and revisit our decisions in light of what we have learned.

A final bit of advice, be doubtful of people who are confident of the correctness of their own predictions.

Louis Menard also reviewed this book in the New Yorker, some excerpts that caught my eye:

The expert also suffers from knowing too much: the more facts an expert has, the more information is available to be enlisted in support of his or her pet theories, and the more chains of causation he or she can find beguiling. This helps explain why specialists fail to outguess non-specialists. The odds tend to be with the obvious.

Tetlock’s experts were also no different from the rest of us when it came to learning from their mistakes. Most people tend to dismiss new information that doesn’t fit with what they already believe. Tetlock found that his experts used a double standard: they were much tougher in assessing the validity of information that undercut their theory than they were in crediting information that supported it. The same deficiency leads liberals to read only The Nation and conservatives to read only National Review. We are not natural falsificationists: we would rather find more reasons for believing what we already believe than look for reasons that we might be wrong. In the terms of Karl Popper’s famous example, to verify our intuition that all swans are white we look for lots more white swans, when what we should really be looking for is one black swan.

Also, people tend to see the future as indeterminate and the past as inevitable. If you look backward, the dots that lead up to Hitler or the fall of the Soviet Union or the attacks on September 11th all connect. If you look forward, it’s just a random scatter of dots, many potential chains of causation leading to many possible outcomes. We have no idea today how tomorrow’s invasion of a foreign land is going to go; after the invasion, we can actually persuade ourselves that we knew all along. The result seems inevitable, and therefore predictable. Tetlock found that, consistent with this asymmetry, experts routinely misremembered the degree of probability they had assigned to an event after it came to pass. They claimed to have predicted what happened with a higher degree of certainty than, according to the record, they really did. When this was pointed out to them, by Tetlock’s researchers, they sometimes became defensive.

And, like most of us, experts violate a fundamental rule of probabilities by tending to find scenarios with more variables more likely. If a prediction needs two independent things to happen in order for it to be true, its probability is the product of the probability of each of the things it depends on. If there is a one-in-three chance of x and a one-in-four chance of y, the probability of both x and y occurring is one in twelve. But we often feel instinctively that if the two events “fit together” in some scenario the chance of both is greater, not less. The classic “Linda problem” is an analogous case. In this experiment, subjects are told, “Linda is thirty-one years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice and also participated in antinuclear demonstrations.” They are then asked to rank the probability of several possible descriptions of Linda today. Two of them are “bank teller” and “bank teller and active in the feminist movement.” People rank the second description higher than the first, even though, logically, its likelihood is smaller, because it requires two things to be true—that Linda is a bank teller and that Linda is an active feminist—rather than one.

Plausible detail makes us believers. When subjects were given a choice between an insurance policy that covered hospitalization for any reason and a policy that covered hospitalization for all accidents and diseases, they were willing to pay a higher premium for the second policy, because the added detail gave them a more vivid picture of the circumstances in which it might be needed. In 1982, an experiment was done with professional forecasters and planners. One group was asked to assess the probability of “a complete suspension of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, sometime in 1983,” and another group was asked to assess the probability of “a Russian invasion of Poland, and a complete suspension of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, sometime in 1983.” The experts judged the second scenario more likely than the first, even though it required two separate events to occur. They were seduced by the detail.

With more insights on hedgehogs and foxes:

Tetlock uses Isaiah Berlin’s metaphor from Archilochus, from his essay on Tolstoy, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” to illustrate the difference. He says:

Low scorers look like hedgehogs: thinkers who “know one big thing,” aggressively extend the explanatory reach of that one big thing into new domains, display bristly impatience with those who “do not get it,” and express considerable confidence that they are already pretty proficient forecasters, at least in the long term. High scorers look like foxes: thinkers who know many small things (tricks of their trade), are skeptical of grand schemes, see explanation and prediction not as deductive exercises but rather as exercises in flexible “ad hocery” that require stitching together diverse sources of information, and are rather diffident about their own forecasting prowess.

A hedgehog is a person who sees international affairs to be ultimately determined by a single bottom-line force: balance-of-power considerations, or the clash of civilizations, or globalization and the spread of free markets. A hedgehog is the kind of person who holds a great-man theory of history, according to which the Cold War does not end if there is no Ronald Reagan. Or he or she might adhere to the “actor-dispensability thesis,” according to which Soviet Communism was doomed no matter what. Whatever it is, the big idea, and that idea alone, dictates the probable outcome of events. For the hedgehog, therefore, predictions that fail are only “off on timing,” or are “almost right,” derailed by an unforeseeable accident. There are always little swerves in the short run, but the long run irons them out.

Foxes, on the other hand, don’t see a single determining explanation in history. They tend, Tetlock says, “to see the world as a shifting mixture of self-fulfilling and self-negating prophecies: self-fulfilling ones in which success breeds success, and failure, failure but only up to a point, and then self-negating prophecies kick in as people recognize that things have gone too far.”

Further reflections on this are provided by T. Greer:

Humans beings naturally seek out one or two “Hedgehog” ideas to incorporate into their world narrative. This is but one destructive inclination of the many to be found in the untrained mind. Luckily, there is no reason any mind must remain untrained. Many schools and educators stress the need to develop “critical thinking skills”; helping students develop the mindset of a fox should be a central part of this development. This suggests that there is a serious flaw in the structure of modern post-secondary education, which not only allows but promotes academic specialization to the point where hedgehog attitudes become automatic. In contrast, a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary curriculum has the potential to expose students to enough contrasting viewpoints and approaches that students will easily see the folly in accepting and promoting theories fit for all sizes.

This is not to say that educational reform will be able to completely eliminate the hedgehog pattern of thought. Certain academic disciplines promote great-theory thinking as a matter of course. Social scientists are perhaps the easiest to castigate on this count, for much their work demands that reality be simplified into simplistic and (supposedly!) predictive models or paradigms.  As long as we expect our experts to be experts in fields that valuetheory more than contingency, hedgehog thinking will continue to play an important part in our assessments of the future.

218 responses to “Foxes, Hedgehogs and Prediction

  1. David L. Hagen

    Conventional wisdom predicts:

    Ozone is lost when breakdown products of anthropogenic chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are turned into aggressive, ozone destroying substances during exposure to extremely cold conditions.

    However, Q.-B. Lu predicted this would happen due to Correlation between Cosmic Rays and Ozone Depletion

    This Letter reports reliable satellite data in the period of 1980–2007 covering two full 11-yr cosmic ray (CR) cycles, clearly showing the correlation between CRs and ozone depletion, especially the polar ozone loss (hole) over Antarctica. The results provide strong evidence of the physical mechanism that the CR driven electron-induced reaction of halogenated molecules plays the dominant role in causing the ozone hole. Moreover, this mechanism predicts one of the severest ozone losses in 2008–2009 and probably another large hole around 2019–2020, according to the 11-yr CR cycle.

    PRL 102, 118501 (2009) PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 20 MARCH 2009 DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.102.118501

    The unusually low solar cycle transition between Cycles 23 – 24 may have further contributed to this. This and the next solar cycle will provide a good test of these opposing predictions.

  2. Schrodinger's Cat

    Future Babble, based on reading the above, exhibits shrewd observation and good sense. I could recognise many traits relevant to the climate debate.
    It also made me wonder if climate models may trap the mindset. The more complex the model, the more it becomes the perceived reality and there is more difficulty in making fundamental changes. Building on an existing model perpetuates the original assumptions. Because of the huge reliance on models (in view of the difficulty in doing earth-lab experiments) this may be a further ‘forcing’ of climate scientists towards the hedgehog mentality.

    • I couldn’t agree more.

      “Truthing” is like the behavior of a fox, a continuous process of searching for a better understanding and always knowing that one will never have the whole truth.

      “Search for truth” is like the behavior of a hedgehog, dogmatically believing that the whole truth can be known and when discovered the search is over.

  3. Jeffrey Davis

    Since 1980, every time something boneheaded and simplistic needs a rhetorical shot in the arm, someone trots out that poor hedgehog. Had he known he’d be used as a stanchion for all manner of nonsense, he’d have gone into knitting.

    • Jeffrey, as a remedy to this rhetorical shot in the arm, perhaps the view of Umberto Eco – “the more strightforward the communication, the greater the risk of telling the recipient something he already knows”

      http://mitigatingapathy.blogspot.com/

      • Jeffrey Davis

        Paul, that’s a nice blog. and your day job doesn’t look too shabby either.

        I’m not a scientist — just a technoprole — so I have to rely on scientists to explain what’s what. And I trust the scientists over the mining execs.

        One of your blog entries suggests that 4C looks likely by 2070. I’ve always thought that my grandmother’s life was just a blur of marvels to her. She was born in an era of candle-lit rooms and outdoor plumbing, and the nearest telephone was probably 100 miles away. Automobiles and airplanes were far in the future. And yet, when she died it had been a dozen years since men first walked on the moon. Her life was 93 years of whoosh.

        If we get to 4C of warming by 2070, as your Feb 7 post suggests, the changes she experienced will be like child’s play. As far as the right-wing’s fondness for the hedgehog, it’s probably because the animal is almost blind and curls up when poked.

      • “And I trust the scientists over the mining execs. ”

        Trust isn’t even appropriate for the discussions. Things are either demonstrable or not. As much as people may like it to be, science is not a religion.

      • NO – to paraphrase (the other) Steve Jones (the geneticist), science depends upon trust. It seems obvious that people can fake their research, but as an institution, university research takes a lot on trust (for better or for worse).

        As for the figures, I spoke with Kevin Anderson when he came to my centre and he explained in detail the limitations (and over optimistic assumptions) of the models he examined, but nevertheless this is his best guess. I read his paper with Alice Bows and it reiterates and supports the “judgements” he made. I agree that if you have stats from a university department and conflicting stats from a lobby group, the reliability of the second set of stats would be the first I’d examine in detail to find why they were different (but they might be accurate, but framed differently).

        As for an animal, I think the goldfish is missing. There are 3 animals – foxes hedgehogs and goldfish. The first two we have covered, but the goldfish is different. Its orange, so looks a bit like a fox, and it opens its mouth but neither produces anything but a bubble, and when its bubble busts and is told that its bubble has burst, it quickly forgets and just produces the same thing over and over again, no matter how good the debunking.
        Now some goldfish might think they are foxes, but they are not. The moral is that just because you are not a hedgehog doesn’t mean you are a fox.

        One final point, thanks Jeffrey for your kind words. The link to the blog isn’t primarily to attract people there but is here to show who I am, what I do, where I work, what I think (even what I look like) so that I can engage with people who know where I’m coming from and that I take the views of different people seriously – I think there are a few foxes here!

        http://mitigatingapathy.blogspot.com/

      • Paul
        “NO – to paraphrase (the other) Steve Jones (the geneticist), science depends upon trust. It seems obvious that people can fake their research, but as an institution, university research takes a lot on trust (for better or for worse).”

        One of the reasons why I think at least some researchers from academia are not as good as industrial researchers. As a simple point, when running a single experiment, analyzing it, and reporting results, it’s a logical fallacy to say more than “we did this, analyzed it this way, and got these results”, although this is done all the time. Without replication, there is no basis for believing someone else doing the same thing somewhere else would get the same results and come to the same conclusions. Context is used to generalize, but context isn’t data and it isn’t part of an objective scientific process. There are plenty of examples of experiments and conclusions which can’t be replicated.

        Do journals trust that there wasn’t fraud? Of course. If you want to use the results for something important, you better do your own checks on the work – not just because of possible fraud, but interpretation erros creep in , and the self indicated reliability of the work may not be applicable for what you intend.

        If you’re getting research grants to extend work in an area, it doesn’t really matter the quality of what came before, you can trust it all you want. But to say that trust is a necessary element is incompatible with skepticism, which actually is a key part of the scientific process. I’d argue that the people saying this are researchers, as opposed to scientists.

      • Harold, interesting point, but I’m sure there is a lot of cross over between the type of research and researchers. Replication is only apropriate for very few areas of innovation let alone science.
        Journals have to trust that things aren’t fraud, and from time to time we find out there were problems, but on the whole reviewers and referees ask the right questions during the review process (giving the benefit of the doubt doesn’t mean that when something is suspicious it isn’t used as the basis for a rewrite or further evidence). I think scepticism in the sense of asking tough questions and having to be reassured id part of the process of science, sure. In the sense of questioning the basis of the paradigm that you are working in, it has a place only on the margins, otherwise there can be no problem solving in science, just endless boundary marking. In this sense I would say that science IS research; dividing scientists from researchers (in scientific fields) seems to me to be an impossible task.

        http://mitigatingapathy.blogspot.com/

      • Paul – couldn’t reply directly to you

        you said:
        “Replication is only apropriate for very few areas of innovation let alone science.”
        In response to:
        “As a simple point, when running a single experiment, analyzing it, and reporting results, it’s a logical fallacy to say more than “we did this, analyzed it this way, and got these results”, although this is done all the time. Without replication, there is no basis for believing someone else doing the same thing somewhere else would get the same results and come to the same conclusions.”

        Since you didn’t disagree it’s a logical fallacy, I can’t see how you come up with replication being inappropriate – it’s pretty much the experimentalists’ credo. I’ll give you a contemporary broad example. Some nanotechnology depends on electron flow or surface plasmon flow in films that have finite roughness within an order of magnitude or two of the overall structure size. The roughness can cause significant deviation from ideal properties, particularly with surface plasmon flow. While the theoretical calculations can be replicated by anyone with the right software suite, getting the same (or close to the same) results off of two seemingly identical experiments can literally be impossible, and none may match up to the naive theoretical models. It’s kind of the hallmark of an innovative, developing field – theoretical predictions are checked with experiments, reality is fed back into the theory to improve prediction, more experiments are run, etc. As an aside, if you can’t reproduce your results in detail, commercialization is pretty much out of the question. That leaves you with a neat innovation without much real value, because it can only be used in the theoretical sense.

        “In the sense of questioning the basis of the paradigm that you are working in, it has a place only on the margins, otherwise there can be no problem solving in science, just endless boundary marking.”

        I guess Kepler, Newton, Einstein, etc had this part wrong? It’s tough to have a paradigm shift without questioning the existing paradigm.

        “In this sense I would say that science IS research; dividing scientists from researchers (in scientific fields) seems to me to be an impossible task.”

        I thought I just did this, but I’ll try again. A researcher is someone who does research. A scientist is someone who follows a skeptical, critical thinking scientific method. Others are free to make the distinction however they wish.

      • Harold – this is a response to your post beginning “Paul – couldn’t reply directly to you”

        You example is an interesting one and I don’t disagree that there is no room for replication, its just that that isn’t what scientists spend their time doing. If it were it would contradicts your point that science is about paradigm shifts – looking to overturn existing paradigms doesn’t happen by attempting to reproduce existing results, and you would then need to keep finding ways to reproduce the results under different circumstances.
        In any case science is 99%+ of the the time NOT about paradigm shifts but about normal science. The fact that we can list the scientists who helped to shift the paradigm illustrates how rare an event it is. This is one of the problems with how science is (mis)conceptualised along with the Popperian idea that they spend most of their time attempting to falsify hypotheses. If you ask 50 scientists what they do it becomes evident that amid the diversity of mathods, approaches, practices and assumptions, its not what we are told they do in high school. Science is much more subtle and I suggest you read Woolgar and Latour, who wrote fantastic studies of science practice in the 1980s.

        As for your distinction:
        “A researcher is someone who does research. A scientist is someone who follows a skeptical, critical thinking scientific method”
        sentence one is a tautology, the second is either false or trivial, depending on what you mean by scientific method. None of the (many) scientists I know follow the “scientific method” because there isn’t one, though most have some scepticism and are very careful that there cliams do not go beyond the data they generate. Science these days is a group process, so being critical and having an agreed mathodology is a part of the process. I don’t see why researchers don’t count if they are part of an experimental research group.
        I think we’ve moved on and are a bit off topic.

        http://mitigatingapathy.blogspot.com/

    • Jeffery– A report by a climate scientist is suggesting that the earthquake near Japan was potentially increased due to human caused climate change. In your mind is that reasonable?

      • Rob – Yes, it’s plausible but unproved. The mechanism involves increased seismic stress on the sea floor due to an increased weight of overlying water, the latter due to sea level rises over the course of many decades. Sea levels have risen due to increased inflow from melted ice and thermal expansion, but only the former is directly relevant to the increased weight.

        If you are asking whether the possible effect of climate change will have a large effect on earthquake frequency, no effect, or a small effect (conceivably in either direction), the answer is we don’t know. But the possibility of an increased frequency is reasonable.

      • Fred– You disappoint me in your conclusion. I thought you were more of a scientist who wanted evidence before reaching a conclusion.

        I find it absurd that anyone could seriously believe that climate change resulted in an increase in the magnitude of the Japanese earthquake. It is an amazingly silly hypothesis to suggest that the increased volume of water due to climate change would have contributed to this earthquake.

        I promise you that it is really only an example of something much different. What is different is that many (like you) are willing to believe that additional atmospheric CO2 will lead to a multiple of worldwide calamities regardless of the lack of reliable evidence. They are willing to believe that almost any potential harm to humanity can be the result of additional CO2 released into the atmosphere.

        How can I make this promise? Because, in this specific case guess what—no climate scientist suggested that the earthquake increased in intensity due to climate change. I just made up a dumb quote to see if Jeffery would jump in to defend the argument. He didn’t, but Fred you did.

      • Well you could have been quoting the great prophet. Pachauri has stated this himself.

        http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-03-14/coimbatore/28687815_1_harmony-green-drive-renewable-energy-sources

        Of course there are dozens of other quotes from climate scientists directly blaming global warming on the Japanese earthquake. Crazy as it is, but unfortunately your quote isn’t just plausible, it’s actual.

      • Nano –
        I’ll say “thank you” even though I didn’t really want to know about that. :-)

        And Rob is still right that no climate scientist has said that. Yet. But it’s still early – give it some time.

      • Sorry, you’re right. No scientists are promoting this view, just politicians and political advocacy figures.

      • It’s just business as usual, Nano.

      • Rob – I’m unaware of anyone who suggested that climate change increased the intensity of the Japanese earthquake. I’m not sure what mechanism would do that. As to an increase in probability, I’ve already addressed that issue, including references and uncertainties. Given the uncertainties, it’s probably not worth pursuing further until more evidence is available, because the current evidence is too fragmentary. What should not be done is to dismiss the entire possibility as absurd rather than gather data.

      • Fred,

        If I may paraphrase: WE DON’T KNOW whether CAGW will have large effect, no effect, or a small effect (in either direction) on earthquake frequency. But you bookmark this eminently reasonable comment with – it is “plausible” that the Japan quake was made more likely by CAGW; and at the end, the possibility of increased quake frequency being caused by CAGW is “reasonable.”

        Why is it so hard for CAGW proponents to just say I don’t know, and stop there. “An increase in the frequency of earthquakes is consistent with anthropogenic global warming” just doesn’t really tell us anything about the certainty or risk of CAGW. (I think the original question was really about intensity but I assume your answer would be the same.). It does however demonstrate quite nicely that its proponents are loathe to dismiss any comment that supports their view, however absurd.

        The attempt to immediately attribute the quake, in whole or in part, to CAGW was not science. Nor is the defense of such a nonsensical claim, however qualified. The fact that one can imagine something does not make it “plausible” or “reasonable.” I am reminded of the musings as to whether the CERN particle accelerator would destroy the universe:

        “Some scientists – among them Frank Wilczek of the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, New Jersey – have said that, in theory, RHIC could trigger the runaway formation of a poorly understood breed of subatomic particle known as a strangelet, which ‘eats’ all matter it encounters, a chain reaction that would consume everything everywhere. Fortunately, most experts aren’t worried.”
        (Fortunately the experts weren’t worried. Whew!!!)

        The Greeks called this habit of man thinking of himself as a god – hubris.

      • Gary – A couple of points. To say “we don’t know” would also be reasonable, but I’ll defend my comment by pointing out that it was in response to a direct question and not something I volunteered unsolicited. Given the fragmentary evidence, I would not have done that. Even so, we do know a little bit more than nothing, and so pointing that out was, I hoped, informative.

        I would like to ask you to refrain from using the term CAGW. I believe you know that within mainstream climate science, impacts from unmitigated future warming are thought to span a range from mild to very severe or even catastrophic, but with the catastrophic outcome considered much less likely than more moderate impacts. To me, use of the CAGW straw man comes across as an invitation to argue rather than to discuss. Those arguments rarely accomplish anything other than some kind of emotional release, but without any enlightenment.

      • Fred,

        I will not use the CAGW descriptive term for anyone who disagrees with the following statement.

        (1) Catastrophic damage is a likely result in the near future of current (2) Anthropogenically caused (3) Global scale (4) Warming. Tell me which part of that sentence you reject and I will not use the term with respect to you. It is however an accurate, descriptive term of the “consensus” science/advocacy. It is not disliked by its proponents because it is false or inflammatory. It is disliked by them precisely because it is accurately descriptive, and thus makes conversation on the topic much easier.

        I do not allow others to redefine words or limit the range of accurate descriptive terms for me, particularly on a blog where others regularly use the term “denier,” which was coined precisely to be insulting, and is not accurate. I find the latest iteration, “deniers of climate change” even less acceptable. It combines the insulting association of Holocaust denial with the Orwellian phrasing “climate change.” I know of no single living human being who denies that the climate changes. But I don’t try to tell anyone else not to use either term.

        But I will also not surrender my own vocabulary to the corruption of our language simply because those currently losing the public debate find it expedient.

      • No Gary, it is not an accurate description of “consensus science”. but you are welcome to use it for the small minority of individual climate scientists who fit the description. Jim Hansen is probably one, but it is hard to name many others.

        Actually, you are of course free to use for whomever you want, but not if you try to be accurate.

      • Fred,

        Which part of that sentence do you disagree with? And which
        part is rejected by consensus scientists?

      • Fred,

        To put a finer point on it, my whole issue in this sub-thread has been your statements that you “suspect” and find it “plausible” that “the earthquake near Japan was potentially increased due to human caused climate change.”

        Your later defense of this comment indicated that your basis for this “suspicion” is that melting sea ice could have increased the weight over the tectonic plates.

        Forgetting the contentless euphemism “climate change,” my limited understanding of science suggests that it is an increase in temperature (warming), over the planet on average (global) that was caused by man (anthropogenic) that you “suspect” may have caused or increased the severity of the Japan quake. I believe we can all agree that the 9.0 Japan earthquake that moved the island 8 feet would qualify as catastrophic?’

        So I wait with bated breath your reconciliation of your denial of being a CAGW proponent with your suspicion regarding the attribution of the quake.

      • Climate Science explained:
        Anthropogenic + No Disaster = No Funding
        Anthropogenic + Disaster = Funding
        Natural + No Disaster = No Funding
        Natural + Disaster = No Funding

      • I’m somewhat surprised by the controversy this has raised, but also by the extent that disagreement with me requires some of the commenters to attribute views to me that I didn’t express. I haven’t yet seen anything that contradicts what I actually did say, including its very tentative nature, based on very conjectural studies, and including the fact that I would not attribute a specific catastrophe of this type to climate change. I would remain interested in any comments about specific points I made, but I hope the comments won’t misrepresent those points.

        I’m guessing some of this has to do with the fact that people were surprised to find out that a possible connection between climate change and undersea seismic activity is not an absurdity. I hadn’t expected to read about a connection either, but having done so, I have reported it when asked about it, along with the a caution about the high level of uncertainty that’s involved.

      • Fred,

        ‘But the possibility of an increased frequency is reasonable.’

        I think it’s sad that someone who obvious takes a reasonable stance on all the science discussed here would make such a statement.

        I mean, to claim that excess water that’s caused a 50 mm sea level would affect strain forces between two of the largest of the earth’s tectonic plates is most definitely not reasonable.

      • To all- My conjeccture (only that) is based on analysis reported in the Abstracts section of Volcanic Forcing.

        I agree it’s tentative, but given the magnitude of effects, it shouldn’t be dismissed prematurely.

      • If that link doesn’t work, try the link to JCL3 CD within Hazards

      • Fred—you post further evidence of the problem….a link is posted to a site showing the names of many “scientists”. This appears to try to demonstrate credibility for your position.

        There is absolutely no a defendable case to show that there is a reasonable likelihood that additional atmospheric CO2 caused the Japan earthquakes. Or that the additional mass of the increased sea water due to climate change caused the ocean’s plates to shift and cause the earthquakes.

        There is as much evidence to support the proposition that outer space aliens originated human life on planet earth. (I am not defending that proposition however)

      • Fred,

        Glacier covered volcanoes are driven by very different geological processes than what happened in Japan. On top of that, most of the work relating to earthquakes in your linkdeals with rebound from melting glaciers. In this case in Japan, that’s not part of the equation.

        Furthermore, much of the work from the JCL3 you point to are forecasts of the geological response to ‘rapid climate change’, whatever that means.

        Like many other fields, I’m sure these researchers are taking selected scenarios (which is ironic given the context of this thread) in order to show that under ‘interesting’ climate change (ie dramatic climate change) there could be a geological response.

        Since we’re speculating on the topic of this thread so far, I’ll go ahead and speculate that the vast majority of those researchers find that there is not a significant impact from ocean volume increases on the frequency or intensity of subduction zone earthquakes. But even if they do, such predictions are fraught with assumptions and presumptions about the physical processes that lead to earthquakes in subduction zones, which are not completely understood even in the scenario w/o ‘interesting’ climate change.

        Again, I would have thought you would have been much more careful with this type of information given your past encounters here.

      • Fred–btw–you can not read the links without a password

      • Fred– The real macro point is that you and others far less reasonable than you have been able to convince themselves and others of similar views that almost anything remotely plausible can and should be attributed to human caused climate change UNTIL IT IS PROVEN NOT TO BE THE CAUSE.

        This is the same problem as is shown in the IPCC’s 2007 report summarizing potential problems due to human caused climate change. None of the problems are unavoidable, or definite, but many listen to a person such as yourself and now believe that they are inevitable. In reality, they should be thought of as …..Low probability potential situations that should be dealt with and mitigated by nations over time.

        You have to admit that is a common practice among those believing that additional CO2 is a dire problem….and why others do not believe them

      • One could also say that removing all the oil from land masses and transporting it on the oceans, i.e. increased mass in the oceans contributed. Heck, maybe the last guy that jumped in the ocean to surf caused it. These are all plausible aren’t they?

      • Again in response to above comments, I’m struck by the fact that I’m being criticized for statements I haven’t made. The evidence I linked to, in the case of one or two of the abstract, supports the plausibility that increased ocean weight can affect submarine seismic activity. It doesn’t tell us how likely a large effect will be, or indeed if there will be any effect, and I was careful to point that out. However, I do think it’s unwise to dismiss the possibility as quickly as some might want to, because very low probability, very high impact events are an important element of risk assessment. I’m guessing that the possibility of a future Japan-like catastrophe that might not have happened without the climate change factor may be at least as likely as a catastrophic impact from an asteroid. The latter is generally considered very unlikely over coming centuries, but dangerous enough to justify extensive R&D efforts aimed at prevention.

      • Fred,

        I think you’re digging yourself deeper in this hole.

        ‘However, I do think it’s unwise to dismiss the possibility as quickly as some might want to, because very low probability, very high impact events are an important element of risk assessment.’

        I’m not dismissing the likelihood of of a low probability, high impact event. I’m dismissing the magnitude of a a very small effect on highly likely events.

        Very large earthquakes are going to happen in/around Japan. That is a certainty. There will be an earthquake larger than the one we just witnessed in the same. That is a certainty.

        That is what the earth does.

        The question becomes whether or not we can attribute the effect of a heavier ocean on such an event. Like other attribution studies, we will likely find out that because earthquakes are natural process in the absence of human emitted CO2, there is no human-induced ‘signal’ in such an event.

        You’re having the exact argument here that has been made this respect to hurricanes or droughts or any other natural disaster, except with earthquakes inserted instead of weather-related phenomena.

        No one has been able to attribute a specific event, independent of its relative magnitude in the history of such event, to human-induced emissions. With our emissions, we do not produce events that nature would not produce without these emissions. Because of this fact, we can simply focus on what nature would do without our influence in terms of making ‘wise’ decisions.

        As a more general point, you have made it very clear the past few weeks that you feel that in order for someone to make a significant contribution to a scientific discussion, knowledge of pertinent literature is a pre-requisite. I would imagine that reading the abstract of a paper on a topic of science not fully understood physically wouldn’t qualify as the pertinent basic literature on a subject. You can correct me if I’m wrong on this point.

        But because you have repeatedly made this case, I have to insist that you apply this standard evenly and accept the fact that basing your opinion on one abstract of one paper is not a very good method of determining what should and should not be considered in any meaningful decision making process.

      • I tried to address most of these points in a comment at 8:53 PM that happened to have landed upthread from here. I have not implied attribution to specific events, nor do I believe it unreasonable to derive very tentative conjectures from abstracts of papers I don’t have full access to, particularly in response to a specific question about the issue. Firm conclusions would be a different story, and I’ve emphasized that they are not justified on the basis of very tentative evidence. I also don’t believe we should actively resist the idea of a possible connection between climate change and undersea seismic activity, even as we demand much more evidence before accepting it. I’ve made as clear as I can my view that this is something that needs to be looked at while we remain appropriately skeptical before deciding it is a serious possibility. I’m still puzzled why anyone would disagree.

      • As a percentage of total, how much has the mass of the oceans increased over the past year? Over the past century?

        As a percentage of total, how much has seismic activity increased over the past year? Over the past century?

        What is the average seismic activity per year? What is the standard deviation?

      • Fred,

        The last event as great in magnitude as this seismic event at this location in Japan took place in the year 869. If paleoclimatology can in any way be considered a serious science (which is debatable) this event took place during a time in which (according to Briffa and Osborne, 1999) the climate was significantly cooler than now and a climate which, according to their reconstruction, had not significantly changed in the previous 500 years. So why should we in any way even consider that this event had ANYTHING to do with recent increases in global temperature, some of which likely has been the result of human activity?

      • JT – I have no idea whether the Japan earthquake had anything to do with warming and sea level rise over the past century. My personal speculation is that it probably had little or nothing to do with it.

        What I do believe, based on the papers I’ve cited and others in regard to sea level, tides, and other variables, is that is likely that sea level rise has contributed to the deformation of the underlying plates, and has sensitized them to other stresses, so that even a minor stress (e.g., from ocean tides) might trigger a seismic event. The approximately 15 cm eustatic sea level rise of the past century is certainly a very minor contribution, but I think we need more data before concluding that it has been completely inconsequential. I also think that this can’t be decided exclusively by a reasoning process based on a simplistic visualization of two rigid plates sliding over one another, because the reality of how the plates interact is more complex.

        I don’t think the absence of such a serious event between year 869 and 2011 tells us much, because many tectonic changes in the plates have occurred since then, and the recent event reflects the combined effect of all variables. I’ll end this comment as I have others further down the thread- I don’t think claims of absolute certainty are justified in the absence of definitive evidence. There is not nearly enough evidence to link the Japan earthquake to sea level, but without more data, the possibility of a link between future major earthquakes and a minor contribution from future sea level rises should not be dismissed prematurely. We might consider sea level rise as a major factor to be very unlikely, but for it to play a minor role sufficient to make a difference every one or two centuries is not impossible.

        The tsunami, incidentally, involves a somewhat different calculation. The devastating effects of tsunamis and hurricane/typhoon storm surges are likely to be greater if they are generated on top of a sea level that is higher to start with. In the case of the Japan tsunami, a rough calculation indicates that millions of tons of extra water may have come ashore as a result of a century’s rise of sea level (eustatic plus steric) of about 30 cm. That would also have been a very minor fraction of the total, but not inconsequential.

      • Fred, your unshakable (no pun intended) belief in AGW is cute. I wonder, if you got the time of course, if you want to shed your light on these AGW effects, you find these plausible too?

        http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm

      • Hoi Polloi – Your list brings up a salient point relevant to the possible relationship between climate change and submarine seismic activity. Questions such as the latter are sometimes raised in an adversarial mode, not out of curiosity, but to suggest that some individuals are so fanatical that no possibility, however absurd, is beyond their belief system. The questions seem aimed at proving a point about other people rather than at gaining knowledge.

        I am not one of the putative fanatics. It turns out that that the climate/seismic connection might have been interpreted as absurd, and as recently as a week ago, I would have seen no reason to suspect a connection, but the papers I linked to suggest otherwise. They also suggest that the evidence is very fragmentary and inconclusive, which is why I would never have volunteered the information except in direct response to a question.

      • You “suspect a connection” and find the attribution “plausible.”

        Therein lies the rub. It is a leap of faith, and nothing more, to say that because something is possible, you therefore suspect it to be true.

        Assuming that a rise in sea water level could cause effects on tectonic movement, before one could reasonably “suspect” it caused (or increased the intensity of) a particular earthquake, wouldn’t one have to have: a study of the amount of sea level change in the affected area; a detailed history of the seismic activity in that area; a detailed understanding of the type and directions of the movements of the plates at issue; and probably a dozen other issues I do not know enough to even think of, before we can even begin to suspect causation?

        Do we have all that two days after the event? If not, then the issue becomes (in my best William F. Buckley voice) whether your willingness to “suspect” CAGW as at least in part the cause of the Japan quake is…well…a classic example of the type of cognitive bias that is discussed in the above post.

      • Here’s a full-length paper on the same subject. I wouldn’t suggest it proves much about the truth of a climate change/seismic relationship, but I do interpret it as supporting the plausibility of a connection, as well as the appropriateness of gathering more data -

        Ocean Loading Stress Relationships

      • Here’s the reference: Luttrell, K. & D. Sandwell, Ocean Loading Effects on Stress at Near Shore Plate
        Boundary Fault Systems. J. Geophys. Res., 115, B08411,
        doi:10.1029/2009JB006541, (2010).

      • The loading on the techtonic plates due to the miniscule annual sea level rise is greatly exceeded twice a day by the tidal action of the moon, sun and planets. Like the footsteps of soldiers marching in step on a bridge, this phased deformation of the crust of the earth has much greater capacilty to free locked plates than simple loading. A bridge that can resists the weight of 10,000 troops added slowly can be brought down by the marching of 1,000.

      • Ferd – Why don’t you write to Karen Luttrell at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and explain why she’s wrong? Then, if she responds, maybe you could share her response with the rest of us.

      • The study talks about the last marine transgression – 120m of sea level rise. Not 50mm. 120 tonnes/m-2 at worst not 50kg/m-2. It seems to be drawing a very long bow indeed to infer a potential climate change impact on earthquakes.

      • I have no stake in the strength of the climate/seismic relationship, but the authors do discuss possible changes related to sea level rise over short intervals, including those related to polar ice cap melting. They speculate that these effects may be greater when sea levels are generally higher than during glacial periods of low sea level. The shorter the interval and the smaller the sea level rise, the less will be the expected impact, but I think the main point is that more data would be useful.

      • Fred,
        You may have exceeded here the limits, where your own background knowledge is sufficient for choosing a stance even on the level of your statement “Yes, it’s plausible but unproved.”

        My knowledge of earthquakes is also limited, but based on basic physical arguments, I cannot understand, how any significant effect could form. Adding the extra water suddenly would certainly cause stresses, but how the slow rise of sea level would have any significant effect compared all those stresses that are based on tectonic motions and that are behind the major earthquakes is beyond me.

        Furthermore, releasing some stresses a little earlier would not add significantly to the number of very large earthquakes. If the earthquake would occur a little earlier, it could be also smaller. The worst earthquakes are the consequence of building up of extremely large stresses, and there has been discussion on, how they could be avoided, if there would be a way of making small earthquakes more frequent and releasing the stresses through them. Of course trying to do that would be too risky, but the idea tells that it is not even clear, whether the minuscule changes caused by the sea level rise would be to the bad direction.

        As I started, I am not a specialist on this, but to me this is a case, where a scientific paper can be referred as a paper leaving all comments of its plausibility to people with understanding of the particular field of research. My comments above are not on the paper, but they explain a reasoning that must be widely shared among physicists and engineers.

      • Chief , Fred, Pekka-
        Here’s a pretty good simulation of glacier formation and melting effects. Here’s the link:
        http://www.uni-muenster.de/GeoPalaeontologie/Geologie/Endogen/pdf/Hampel_etal_JGR_2009.pdf

        I’d say it’s pretty conclusive on the main features of loading and unloading mass close or over various types of faults. It’s written for glaciers (much much thicker than the few fett we’re talking about here), but the main features are instructive:
        The effects on slip rate depend on fault type, location relative to the load, and fault dip angle. The Japan quake corresponds most closely to Figure 3d. From this, you can see that even for a huge mass being added, there may be no major increase in slip rate, depending on fault dip angle.

        I think this is the kind of analysis which is helpful – I haven’t seen how well it matches to actual slip rate data, and I’m not sure how well this can be done, since the model parameters would have to be derived from probably the same data set, unless they are assumed. In any event, I don’t see why Scripps Oceanography researchers are involved in facile earthquake statements, other than they received grants to do the work.

        Hampel and crew are very busy 3D/4D modeling all kinds of quake related things, including the stress effects of evolving topography due to erosion.

      • “Yes, it’s plausible but unproved.”

        From a simple magnitudes point of view, the ocean is thousands of feet deep in that area, the sea rise is insignificant in the overall scheme. I don’t know which scientist(s) said this, but IMO, they should be ignored on everything else.

      • I suggest once again that the interesting point here is that those who believe in cAGW (Fred is only an example) are initially willing to attribute almost any potential negative condition to human caused climate change, and then support things like higher taxes on CO2 to try to prevent their fears for coming true.

        That example/problem is a key condition in the discussion of climate related issues. It is one that seems very difficult to overcome. Very similar to other prejudices imo.

      • Rob, you seem to be attributing too much to Fred, but in general you’re right, and one reason appears to be that today’s plausible hypothesis is tomorrow’s factoid. Nowadays any (remotely) plausible hypothesis that can support the idea of restricting CO2 seems to become a factoid within days or weeks. The most recent example is the idea that recent snow and cold is caused by global warming. Kevin Trenberth is skeptical, NOAA has debunked it, but I don’t think the mainstream media or climate bureacrats have noticed.

      • To Pekka, Harold, Rob, and others – I will leave the strength of a sea level/seismic relationship to the experts, some of whom believe a relationship exists. I cited one reference and there are others. This exchange started when Rob asked me a question, and I answered based on the existence of literature on the topic that proves very little but suggests a relationship that deserves to be considered.

        Is it plausible? Others can disagree, but based on what I read, I would say it is. Once a critical level of stress builds up, it is plausible that a small increment might trigger a major seismic event. For example, if a rising sea level has brought a region in the Pacific to that critical level, a torrential rainstorm or some other seasonal event might supply the trigger – these are examples mentioned in the paper I cited. If the sea level had been less, the same storm might have had no effect.

        I don’t know enough about the subject to say anything further other than it would be a good idea not to dismiss the possibility but to gather more data, since even a very low probability of a large impact even needs to be evaluated. If it turns out that the data are reassuring, that would be welcome, because, Rob, I had no agenda on this topic when you asked the question other than to answer you with information I had encountered. I don’t think the information should affect our tax rates.

      • The Lutrell and Sandwell paper was clear about the state of things:

        “For the time being, however, the question of “was ocean
        loading important” remains unclear”

        They also note they don’t analyze in absolutes, so they have no baseline stress level to compare the stress increase to. In other words, a perhaps as high as .1% increase in stress (and I doubt it’s anywhere near this high) is not going to be a significant factor.

  4. Regarding the validity of the Gardner/Tetlock chronicles, my instincts are those of a denier, but since I haven’t read the book, I would have to call myself merely a skeptic. What would convince me of validity is evidence that it is as feasible to identify predictions that have come true as it is to identify those that have not. The failures often stand out, while the successes are typically so ordinary that they are forgotten and unretrievable. In my own experience, I estimate that the large majority of predictions I’ve read or heard have proved rather accurate. I would be interested in the perspective of insurance actuaries on this point.

    Of course, if the claim is that predictions often fail when they are spectacular or apocalyptic in their departure from ordinary expectations, I can buy that, but that principle shouldn’t be extrapolated to prediction in general. There is also a critical time element involved. It would be worth comparing predictions within scientific and academic disciplines that have persisted over long intervals with predictions made as one-time endeavors by one or a few experts and not necessarily widely endorsed by other experts. I expect we would see a very large difference in favor of the persistent and widely shared predictions vs those of individuals.

    In fact, I would suggest that as a rule, the failure of apocalyptic predictions by one or a few individuals is predictable. However, I might turn out to be wrong.

    Overall, I see the message from the book as probably more pedestrian than the book cover is likely to proclaim. It’s probably unfair, and yes, I should read the book first, but I can’t resist recounting a quip made a long time ago by the late actress Tallulah Bankhead, on watching a very elaborate but not too convincing perfomance of King Lear.

    She said, “There’s less to this than meets the eye.”

    • Fred,

      The ideas don’t seem that remarkable to me, but perhaps it’s because the historical examples resonate with me (“supersize the confirmation bias, please” ;-) ). Historians who try to shoehorn human events into some grand theory eventually fall flat, dealing as they are with the ultimate chaotic system. It doesn’t seem to be that much of a stretch to infer that the more pragmatic approach to prediction will score better.

      • Gene – I really can’t judge the book without having read it, but like you, I don’t it’s remarkable that spectacular predictions by individual “experts” are often wrong. However, as I suggested above, the failure rate is probably much lower when a majority of experts in a scientific discipline are consistent in the direction of their predictions over long intervals.

        The more important caveat, I believe, is that the message of those authors not be interpreted as ammunition to be used in climate science debates, because that would be an unsupportable extrapolation. Prediction in climate science faces hurdles, to be sure, but the evaluation of climate models, for example, and the principles on which they are based, deserves to take place within the realm of that science if we are to make the most accurate assessments possible about successes and failures.

      • No, I’d agree that in and of itself, it’s not an indictment of any branch of study. More of a caution that each of us should bear in mind.

      • as I suggested above, the failure rate is probably much lower when a majority of experts in a scientific discipline are consistent

        When I lived in Japan I found myself frequently socializing with non-Japanese currency traders. They either made huge sums in a day, which was a cause for celebration or they lost huge sums in a day in which case a ’round for the house’ wouldn’t make any difference.

        In any case, the reason the Japanese employed ‘cowboy’ money traders is that the normal cultural style of the Japanese was ‘decision by consensus’.

        The problem in money markets is that by the time a ‘consensus’ was reached, the facts the consensus relied upon had changed.

        Here are the EIA energy price projections from December 1999.
        http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/ftproot/forecasting/03832000.pdf
        Highlights -
        Crude oil rising gradually to $22/barrel by 2020.
        Natural gas rising to $2.81/thousand cubic ft by 2020.
        Coal prices dropping to an average of $12.51/ton by 2020.

        At least they got the sign right on their oil and natural gas projections.
        They didn’t even get the sign right on coal.

        Whose numbers do we use for future emissions projections?

    • “I expect we would see a very large difference in favor of the persistent and widely shared predictions vs those of individuals.”

      I would expect the opposite unless the experts arrive at the predictions independently of each other.

      • One reason for that being the fact that the experts themselves tend to believe that “widely shared predictions” are more credible.

  5. Schrodinger's Cat

    He didn’t predict it then?

  6. thinkers who “know one big thing,” aggressively extend the explanatory reach of that one big thing into new domains, display bristly impatience with those who “do not get it,” and express considerable confidence that they are already pretty proficient forecasters, at least in the long term.

    ooh, I know this one, the name’s on the tip of my tongue…

    • Oh look I can’t quite place it either – who could that be?

      “The now-defunct magazine Brill’s Content, for one, compared the predictions of famous American pundits with a chimpanzee named Chippy, who made guesses by choosing among flashcards. Chippy consistently matched or beat the best in the business.”

      I think the bottom line is none of us are as good as Chippy – but there are ways of thinking about things that improve the chances. On the other hand – perhaps it is just better to be lucky than smart.

      • Paul the Octopus (reportedly hatched January 2008; died 26 October 2010)[1][2] was a common octopus from Weymouth, England. Paul lived in a tank at a commercial attraction, the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany[3] and became internationally famous after his feeding behaviour was used to correctly predict the winner of each of the Germany national football team’s seven matches in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as well as the outcome of the final.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_the_Octopus

        Even more so, these predictions would be especially valuable during catastrophic events like earthquakes, tidal waves, or a one-in-a-million natural disaster, like the tsunami that smashed into Southeast Asia on Dec. 26, 2004.

        One of the things we will examine is a widely observed (though scientifically unproven) phenomenon — even though the tidal wave killed more than 200,000 people, almost no wild animals perished (with the exception of caged or confined animals within the wave’s path). Observers report that the animals seemed to have some warning, whether by several hours or just seconds, that allowed them, and the people who heeded those warnings, the chance to find safety.
        http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/climate-weather/storms/animals-predict-weather.htm

      • There are all sorts of strange animal behaviour – but I will stop short of claiming physic ability for Chippy or Paul.

        Birds know without fail where there is recent flooding in Australia’s outback and make themselves scarce when a cyclone is coming.

  7. Personally, this seems to be another meaningless discussion of philosophy as it relates to potential climate change vs. a discussion of practical, implementable actions.

    Then again, since actions will only be implemented by individual nations and while the cost and benefits of those potential actions are worthy of discussion within the individual nation contemplating the actions, they really are also not really a relevant topic of discussion here I suppose.

  8. “Strive for Humility”

    Cannot stress this too much. Cannot stress this too much. Cannot stress this too much. ;-)

    The first step on the path to wisdom is the recognition of our own ignorance.

    Fred, I found your response interesting. They show studies where predictions of experts were carefully chronicled and reviewed for accuracy. You, on the other hand, assert that the book is wrong on the basis of your memory that predictions seem to have proved accurate quite often. Hmmmmmm. Oh wait! They talk about that, too. Something about confirmation bias, etc.

  9. John Carpenter

    I will now trot out another great quote from Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace:

    “The combination of phenomena is beyond the grasp of the human intellect. But impulse to seek causes is innate in the soul if man. And the human intellect, with no inkling of the immense variety and complexity of circumstances conditioning a phenomenon, any one of which may be separately concieved as a cause of it, snatches at the first and most easily understood approximation, and says, ‘here is the cause.’”

    This quote was shown to me by my technical mentor when I first came to work, 20 years ago, and I frequently reflect on its message while problem solving.

  10. [Gardner] quotes Scott Armstrong “an expert on forecasting at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania” on his “seer-sucker theory: No matter how much evidence exists that seers do not exist, suckers will pay for the existence of seers.”

    Armstrong is also the author/researcher (along with Kesten Green) of the “Global Warming Analogies Forecasting Project – Applying structured analogies to the global warming alarm movement”.

    http://kestencgreen.com/green&armstrong-agw-analogies.pdf

    Excerpt:

    Here is how we posed the question to the experts:

    “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other organizations and individuals have warned that unless manmade emissions of carbon dioxide are reduced substantially, temperatures will increase and people and the natural world will suffer serious harm. Some people believe it is already too late to avoid some of that harm.

    Have there been other situations that involved widespread alarm over
    predictions of serious harm that could only be averted at considerable cost? We are particularly interested in alarms endorsed by experts and accepted as serious by relevant authorities.”

    This is still a work in progress, and the authors do invite peer-review and challenge; however, their conclusions include:

    Using structured analogies, we forecast that the global warming alarm movement, like the previous alarmist movements that we were able to identify and analyze, will continue to produce poor forecasts and cause harm to people. Resources will be used inefficiently, and most people will be worse off than they would have been had the alarm never been raised.
    [...]
    The dangerous manmade global warming alarmist movement will ultimately fail, but as in the past, there will be similar alarms in the future. Many people will be ready to expound on and believe in forecasts of new disasters. Proper science, which requires fair testing of reasonable
    alternative hypotheses and reproducible evidence, is the best defense against such false forecasts.

    • Wow!

      Is that the kind of “science” that you would propose as the antidote to the “unscientific warmists?”

      Here’s a cute excerpt:

      Although the alarmists claim that their position is based on science, they do not follow the scientific methods when forecasting. For example, they do not provide full disclosure of methods and data, they do not consider competing hypotheses, and they draw conclusions that go
      beyond the evidence. There are documented cases of alarmists falsifying data and of ignoring relevant data in their analyses. Corrections to their errors are typically ignored and the alarmists resist citing contrary findings. The public release of email correspondence between leading IPCC
      authors provides some evidence of these behaviors (e.g., see Johnson 2009).</i?

      So, all "warmists" don't follow scientific method, and the supporting evidence is documented cases (according to the authors) that a few scientists "ignored relevant data" and …. "Al Gore stated,…."

      I particularly like the section where they denounce the deleterious effects of "adocacy" on science. The sad fact is that the irony of this "science" is lost on the authors.

      • It really is astounding how much bad science passes under the radar of AGW skeptics who so violently decry the “unscientific” work of “warmists.”

        More from the absurdly inaccurate article referred to in Dr. Curry’s post:

        … For example, theAdministrator of the EPA banned DDT in the U.S. in 1972. The U.N. and W.H.O. withheld financial aid from developing countries to force them to stop using DDT. There has been no evidence found of any link between DDT and cancer in people but—without DDT and with substitute insecticides being more toxic and less effective—insect-borne diseases have increased leading to millions of additional deaths and widespread sickness. Government policies have, as a consequence, been very expensive without any benefits accruing. Some restrictions and bans on DDT use continue to this day.

        This was the example used by the authors as the proof of validity of their entire analysis. Yet,

        (1) DDT was not banned by in the U.S. for vector control purposes, but for agricultural purposes. The authors neglected to mention that DDT resistant mosquitoes were found as early as the late 50s. While they talk about the DDT “scare” being an outgrowth of Rachel Carson’s writing, they neglect to mention that she wrote about the dangers presented by (1) overuse for agricultural purposes and, (2) the problems presented by resistant strains of mosquitoes developing.

        (2) The U.N. and WHO did not refuse aid on the basis of DDT usage (they maintained that it was effective when used properly) , and in fact, DDT continued to be used for vector control although its use for agricultural purposes was widely diminished.

        I find it absolutely stunning to run across blatant advocacy such as this, and then read claims of “skeptics” about the “advocacy” being disproportionately evident among “warmists.”

      • Joshua,
        You were unlikely to have been there at the time.
        You can quote what people said after the event all you want, but the fact is that DDT left the market place, under enviro and regulatory pressure.
        In those days, if the US did not do it, it was unlikely to get done.
        DDT went away, thanks to the enviro movement policy demands, around the world.
        Millions died as a result.
        That is the way it is, and you can deny history all you want, without changing that reality.

      • So, in other words, factually incorrect statements should be disregarded because of unsupported assumptions about what might have been better had the U.S. not banned DDT usage for agricultural purposes? No matter what other factors contributed to the increase in malaria, no matter what the likely outcomes would have been from continued widespread usage of DDT for agricultural purposes, no matter that malaria was increasing in some areas prior to the reductions in DDT usage – none of that matters when someone writes an error-filled pseudo-scientific analysis?

        Because in a classic case of post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of it), said analysis serves the political goals of libertarian extremists?

        Hey, if that’s how you want to approach science, be my guest. I maintain that Judith should be held to a higher standard.

        Hey – if that’s how you want to approach science, be my guest.

      • Joshua,
        No, small facts and the omission of the important facts and context, as you are doing here in your bizarre defense of DDT should not be represented as the full story.
        You are operating at the level of Trenberth climaing that all that needs to be done to prove the AGW calamity is to show that humans influence the climate.
        IOW, a childish, low level that is only making you look foolish.

      • No, small facts and the omission of the important facts and context, as you are doing here in your bizarre defense of DDT should not be represented as the full story.

        hunter, when did you stop beating your wife?

      • The ban on DDT for agriculture was a de facto ban for other purposes. The difference is this. Before DDT was banned, it was dirt cheap. Anyone could get DDT, even dirt poor people in the developing world. Use it once and it killed mosquitos for 6 months. It didn’t matter if it rained, because DDT isn’t water soluble.

        After it was banned, those same dirt poor people in the developing world couldn’t get DDT. You needed to fill out forms, which needed to be approved. So it didn’t get used. The alternatives were much too expensive and needed more frequent application which also takes money, so they didn’t get used. Instead what we got was an explosion in malaria, dengue and other mosquito and fly borne diseases. But, since they didn’t kill anyone in the developed nations, it was rarely reported.

      • After it was banned, those same dirt poor people in the developing world couldn’t get DDT.

        A bit of an oversimpliciation, ferd, but still an interesting point:

        –snip–

        The ban in America and other wealthy countries has, first of all, turned poor nations’ agricultural sectors against DDT for economic reasons. A shipment of Zimbabwean tobacco, for example, was blocked from entering the United States market because it contained traces of DDT, turning Zimbabwe’s powerful tobacco farmers into an effective anti-DDT lobby.

        Then there are chemical companies. ”I get asked all the time — are you being paid by chemical companies?” said Thomas DeGregori, a professor of economics at the University of Houston and an advocate for DDT. The question is amusing, because the corporate interests in this issue are actually on the other side. DDT is no longer on patent, and it is known to be made only in India and China — and the price has soared since the rich-country ban put manufacturers out of business, making it harder for poor countries to buy. Janet Hemingway of the Liverpool School, who advises African governments, said that she and the officials she works with are often lobbied by chemical companies selling more expensive insecticides, telling her about DDT’s evils. ”Clearly, they’d like to see DDT banned — it cuts into their markets,” she said.


        –snip–

      • Joshua –
        I find it absolutely stunning to run across blatant advocacy such as this from someone who claims to be unbiased. You DID claim that, did you not?

        Now – wrt DDT –
        The ban –
        An end to the continued domestic usage of the pesticide was decreed on June 14, 1972, when William D. Ruckelshaus, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, issued an order finally cancelling nearly all remaining Federal registrations of DDT products. Public health, quarantine, and a few minor crop uses were excepted, as well as export of the material.

        http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/ddt/01.htm

        The number of deaths due to malaria is estimated to have decreased from 985 000 in 2000 to 781 000 in 2009. Decreases in malaria deaths have been observed in all WHO regions, with the largest proportional decreases noted in the European Region, followed by the Region of the Americas. The largest absolute decreases in deaths were observed in Africa.

        http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2010/malaria_report_20101214/en/index.html

        Hmm – 985.000 deaths in 2000, 781,000 in 2009 – how many others in between? How many preventable? And mosquito resistance, like tobacco and Big Oil, is an overused and under-effective argument.

        There are also credible reports of countries being pressured to give up the use of DDT by the threatened withdrawal of grants from USAID. That was actually admitted on national TV by an EPA administrator. What – you didn’t see that? Several million other people did.


      • I find it absolutely stunning to run across blatant advocacy such as this from someone who claims to be unbiased.

        Jim, when did you stop beating your wife?

      • Jim, if you’re interested in a full assessment of the complicated issue of DDT usage, you need to account for information like the following:

        When it was first introduced in World War II, DDT was very effective in reducing malaria morbidity and mortality.[16] The WHO’s anti-malaria campaign, which consisted mostly of spraying DDT, was initially very successful as well. For example, in Sri Lanka, the program reduced cases from about 3 million per year before spraying to just 29 in 1964. Thereafter the program was halted to save money and malaria rebounded to 600,000 cases in 1968 and the first quarter of 1969. The country resumed DDT vector control but the mosquitoes had acquired resistance in the interim, presumably because of continued agricultural use

        or this:

        Resistance has greatly reduced DDT’s effectiveness. WHO guidelines require that absence of resistance must be confirmed before using the chemical.[90] Resistance is largely due to agricultural use, in much greater quantities than required for disease prevention. According to one study that attempted to quantify the lives saved by banning agricultural use and thereby slowing the spread of resistance, “it can be estimated that at current rates each kilo of insecticide added to the environment will generate 105 new cases of malaria.”[21]

        Resistance was noted early in spray campaigns. Paul Russell, a former head of the Allied Anti-Malaria campaign, observed in 1956 that “resistance has appeared [after] six or seven years.”[19] DDT has lost much of its effectiveness in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Turkey and Central America, and it has largely been replaced by organophosphate or carbamate insecticides, e.g. malathion or bendiocarb.[91]

        In many parts of India, DDT has also largely lost its effectiveness.[92] Agricultural uses were banned in 1989, and its anti-malarial use has been declining. Urban use has halted completely.[93]

        or this:

        DDT can still be effective against resistant mosquitoes,[97] and the avoidance of DDT-sprayed walls by mosquitoes is an additional benefit of the chemical.[95] For example, a 2007 study reported that resistant mosquitoes avoided treated huts. The researchers argued that DDT was the best pesticide for use in IRS (even though it did not afford the most protection from mosquitoes out of the three test chemicals) because the others pesticides worked primarily by killing or irritating mosquitoes—encouraging the development of resistance to these agents.[97] Others argue that the avoidance behavior slows the eradication of the disease.[98] Unlike other insecticides such as pyrethroids, DDT requires long exposure to accumulate a lethal dose; however its irritant property shortens contact periods. “For these reasons, when comparisons have been made, better malaria control has generally been achieved with pyrethroids than with DDT.”[91] In India, with its outdoor sleeping habits and frequent night duties, “the excito-repellent effect of DDT, often reported useful in other countries, actually promotes outdoor transmission.”[99]

        or this:
        On June 14, 1972, the EPA Administrator announced the final cancellation of all remaining crop uses of DDT in the U.S. effective December 31, 1972. The order did not affect public health and quarantine uses, or exports of DDT.

        Or this:
        “indoor residual spraying is an effective intervention, provided a programme infrastructure can be set up and maintained to include trained sprayers, supervisors, managers, stocks, equipment, and vehicles, that roads allow access to every village at the right time at least once a year, and that insecticides are not diverted to agriculture. … In view of the difficulties encountered in maintaining indoor residual spraying, WHO has invested substantially in exploring other methods, especially insecticide-treated bednets. These nets have been effective in many rigorous trials, especially to reduce childhood mortality in Africa. Few trials have compared insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying, but results so far suggest that the methods are more or less equal in efficacy. … In the choice between indoor residual spraying and insecticide-treated nets, a WHO study group convened in 2004 noted that the decision should, in most cases, be based on operational factors.

        DDT continued to be used for vector control in the United States after 1972. The problems of using DDT for vector control arose because of unregulated overuse for agricultural purposes.

        Answers to the complicated question of the benefits/costs of diminished use of DDT are not well-served by advocacy disguised as science.

      • DDT continued to be used for vector control in the United States after 1972. The problems of using DDT for vector control arose because of unregulated overuse for agricultural purposes.

        Don’t get silly on me. You weren’t here, I was. By 1973, there was no DDT available to anyone for any reason – except the government – which had stockpiles of it. By the mid-70′s no country was immune to political and financial pressure from WHO and the US to stop usage. Not that it was that hard, cause the price had shot up like a rocket.

        Your sources don’t actually “tell all”, babe. Not by half.

        Oh, yeah – what was that number – 781,000 deaths in 2009?

        You have lots of words about the resistant mosquitos – but apparently no practical experience. When was the las time you were in Haiti – or Vietnam or Panama?

      • Last time I was in Vietnam was in 1996. Haven’t been to Panama or Haiti. Here’s some more information you can use your “practical experience” to evaluate:

        –snip–
        Although the publication of Silent Spring undoubtedly influenced the U.S. ban on DDT in 1972, the reduced usage of DDT in malaria eradication began the decade before because of the emergence of DDT-resistant mosquitoes. Paul Russell, a former head of the Allied Anti-Malaria campaign, observed in 1956 that eradication programs had to be wary of relying on DDT for too long as “resistance has appeared [after] six or seven years.”[13]

        [...]

        According to a pesticide industry newsletter, DDT is obsolete for malarial prevention in India not only owing to concerns over its toxicity, but because it has largely lost its effectiveness. Use of DDT for agricultural purposes was banned in India in 1989, and its use for anti-malarial purposes has been declining. Use of DDT in urban areas of India has halted completely. Food supplies and eggshells of large predator birds still show high DDT levels.[16] Parasitology journal articles confirm that malarial vector mosquitoes have become resistant to DDT and HCH in most parts of India.[17] Nevertheless, DDT is still manufactured and used in India.[18]

        [...]

        The initial appearance of this resistance was largely due to the much greater quantity of DDT which had been used for agricultural spraying, rather than the relatively insignificant amounts used for disease prevention. According to one study which attempted to quantify the lives saved due to banning agricultural use of DDT and thereby slowing the spread of DDT resistance: “Correlating the use of DDT in El Salvador with renewed malaria transmission, it can be estimated that at current rates each kilo of insecticide added to the environment will generate 105 new cases of malaria.”[4]

        Advocates for continuing use of DDT against malaria state that “Limited use of DDT for public health has continued to be effective in areas where it is used inside homes. As DDT’s chief property is repellency, mosquitoes often avoid the DDT treated homes altogether. In so doing, they avoid the exposure that promotes resistance as well. DDT resistance exists in West Africa and in other malarial areas, such as India. Isolated occurrences of DDT resistance have occurred in South Africa, and South Africa continues to monitor for resistance. As the various Departments of Health that use it carefully control DDT use, it is unlikely that resistance will emerge as a major problem.”[20]

        [...]

        In some areas DDT has lost much of its effectiveness, especially in areas such as India where outdoor transmission is the predominant form. According to one article by V.P. Sharma, “The declining effectiveness of DDT is a result of several factors which frequently operate in tandem. The first and the most important factor is vector resistance to DDT. All populations of the main vector, An. culicifacies have become resistant to DDT.” In India, with its outdoor sleeping habits and frequent night duties, “the excito-repellent effect of DDT, often reported useful in other countries, actually promotes outdoor transmission.”[14]

        [...]

        In areas where resistance from residents prevents a high percentage of the homes being effectively sprayed, the effectiveness of the intervention is greatly reduced.[15][13] Many residents resist spraying of DDT for various reasons. For instance, the smell lingers,[24] and DDT leaves a stain on the walls.[25][23][15][24][26] While that stain makes it easier to check whether the room has been sprayed it causes some villagers to avoid spraying of their homes [13][26][27][15] or to resurface the wall, which eliminates the residual insecticidal effect of the spraying.[23][26][27] “Pyrethroids such as deltamethrin and lambda-cyhalothrin are … much more acceptable to householders because they leave no visible deposit on walls… therefore rates of refusal of spraying by householders are lower with pyrethroids than with DDT.”[15]
        In addition, DDT is not suitable for this type of spraying in Western-style plastered or painted walls, only traditional dwellings with unpainted walls made of mud, sticks, dung, thatch, clay, or cement.[21][24][27][26]As rural areas of South Africa become more prosperous, there is a shift towards Western style housing, leaving fewer homes suitable for DDT spraying, and necessitating the use of alternative insecticides.[27]
        Other villagers object to DDT spraying because it does not kill cockroaches[15] or bedbugs;[23] rather, it excites such pests making them more active,[24][27][26][25][13] so that often use of another insecticide is additionally required.[27] Pyrethroids such as deltamethrin and lambdacyhalothrin, on the other hand, are more acceptable to residents because they kill these nuisance insects as well as mosquitoes.[15] DDT has also been known to kill beneficial insects, such as wasps that kill caterpillars that, unchecked, destroy thatched roofs.[13]

        As a result, says Dr. Avertino Barreto, chief of infectious disease control in Mozambique, resistance to DDT spraying is “homegrown”, not due to “pressure from environmentalists”. “They only want us to use DDT on poor, rural black people,” he says. “So whoever suggests DDT use, I say, ‘Fine, I’ll start spraying in your house first.’ “[24]

        –snip–

        Also, please consider:

        –snip–

        … DDT didn’t wipe out malaria in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control’s door-to-door DDT spray campaign of 1947-1951 was not about eradicating malaria in the United States, because malaria was already gone. The US Public Health Service had noted the “diminishing menace” of malaria in the United States by 1928–seventeen years before DDT showed up on the scene. The pockets of malaria that persisted in the South until the late 1930s were finally vanquished by the swamp-draining, electricity-giving activities of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which cut down on mosquito breeding sites and enabled locals to start living in well-screened houses. The rationale behind the DDT spray campaign was to prevent the re-introduction of malaria from troops returning home from World War II. About the best one CDC physician involved in the campaign could say about it was that “we kicked a dying dog.”

        The second problem is that the world did try to wipe out malaria using DDT. That campaign, launched by the WHO in 1955, eradicated malaria from a few marginal areas in Southern Europe and a couple of islands. But in places where malaria reigned supreme, it failed miserably. That isn’t because they didn’t have enough DDT but because the stuff stopped working. Malarial mosquitoes resistant to DDT cousin Dieldrin emerged in Nigeria as early as 1955. Malarial mosquitoes in Venezuela had learned to simply avoid DDT-sprayed walls and bite people outside by 1957. By 1972, when the United States finally banned DDT, nineteen species of malarial mosquitoes had already become impervious to the toxin.

        –snip–

        Note – with carefully controlled usage, resistance would be unlikely to emerge as a major problem. When usage for agricultural purposes was banned in the U.S., it was as a result of imprudent usage for agricultural purposes. Many of the countries which diminished their usage of DDT lacked the appropriate infrastructure to control its usage. Even after the diminished usage, it was used ineffectively.

        The question of causation between the U.S. ban on DDT usage for agricultural purposes and deaths and illness from malaria is an interesting one; however, getting to the answers is ill-served by advocacy (on either side). Obviously, along with examining the potential causality, a scientific approach would necessitate an extensive evaluation of what would have been likely to happen absent a ban; with a commitment to extensive funding and careful control, perhaps a judicious usage of DDT for vector control would have resulted in considerably less suffering from malaria. On the other hand, the commitment to funding was lacking – and further, the existing control mechanisms were not sufficient; thus, it is important to consider the likelihood of increased resistance
        and significantly deleterious environmental impacts.

        No doubt, the argument that there is an at least partially causal relationship has plausibility, but when people make charges – as was done in the article excerpted – without any attempt to deal with easily available and clearly plausible conflicting information then they become advocates and promoters of bad science.

        Rather ironic, I’d say.

      • At the risk of multiple posts (this is the fourth time I’ve tried), I’m going to repost this in segments as the original post got snagged by the blog’s filter.

        part 1:

        Last time I was in Vietnam was in 1996. Haven’t been to Panama or Haiti. Here’s some more information you can use your “practical experience” to evaluate:

        –snip–
        Although the publication of Silent Spring undoubtedly influenced the U.S. ban on DDT in 1972, the reduced usage of DDT in malaria eradication began the decade before because of the emergence of DDT-resistant mosquitoes. Paul Russell, a former head of the Allied Anti-Malaria campaign, observed in 1956 that eradication programs had to be wary of relying on DDT for too long as “resistance has appeared [after] six or seven years.”[13]

      • Part 2:

        [...]

        The initial appearance of this resistance was largely due to the much greater quantity of DDT which had been used for agricultural spraying, rather than the relatively insignificant amounts used for disease prevention. According to one study which attempted to quantify the lives saved due to banning agricultural use of DDT and thereby slowing the spread of DDT resistance: “Correlating the use of DDT in El Salvador with renewed malaria transmission, it can be estimated that at current rates each kilo of insecticide added to the environment will generate 105 new cases of malaria.”[4]

        Advocates for continuing use of DDT against malaria state that “Limited use of DDT for public health has continued to be effective in areas where it is used inside homes. As DDT’s chief property is repellency, mosquitoes often avoid the DDT treated homes altogether. In so doing, they avoid the exposure that promotes resistance as well. DDT resistance exists in West Africa and in other malarial areas, such as India. Isolated occurrences of DDT resistance have occurred in South Africa, and South Africa continues to monitor for resistance. As the various Departments of Health that use it carefully control DDT use, it is unlikely that resistance will emerge as a major problem.”[20]

        [...]

        In some areas DDT has lost much of its effectiveness, especially in areas such as India where outdoor transmission is the predominant form. According to one article by V.P. Sharma, “The declining effectiveness of DDT is a result of several factors which frequently operate in tandem. The first and the most important factor is vector resistance to DDT. All populations of the main vector, An. culicifacies have become resistant to DDT.” In India, with its outdoor sleeping habits and frequent night duties, “the excito-repellent effect of DDT, often reported useful in other countries, actually promotes outdoor transmission.”[14]

        [...]

        In areas where resistance from residents prevents a high percentage of the homes being effectively sprayed, the effectiveness of the intervention is greatly reduced.[15][13] Many residents resist spraying of DDT for various reasons. For instance, the smell lingers,[24] and DDT leaves a stain on the walls.[25][23][15][24][26] While that stain makes it easier to check whether the room has been sprayed it causes some villagers to avoid spraying of their homes [13][26][27][15] or to resurface the wall, which eliminates the residual insecticidal effect of the spraying.[23][26][27] “Pyrethroids such as deltamethrin and lambda-cyhalothrin are … much more acceptable to householders because they leave no visible deposit on walls… therefore rates of refusal of spraying by householders are lower with pyrethroids than with DDT.”[15]
        In addition, DDT is not suitable for this type of spraying in Western-style plastered or painted walls, only traditional dwellings with unpainted walls made of mud, sticks, dung, thatch, clay, or cement.[21][24][27][26]As rural areas of South Africa become more prosperous, there is a shift towards Western style housing, leaving fewer homes suitable for DDT spraying, and necessitating the use of alternative insecticides.[27]
        Other villagers object to DDT spraying because it does not kill cockroaches[15] or bedbugs;[23] rather, it excites such pests making them more active,[24][27][26][25][13] so that often use of another insecticide is additionally required.[27] Pyrethroids such as deltamethrin and lambdacyhalothrin, on the other hand, are more acceptable to residents because they kill these nuisance insects as well as mosquitoes.[15] DDT has also been known to kill beneficial insects, such as wasps that kill caterpillars that, unchecked, destroy thatched roofs.[13]

        As a result, says Dr. Avertino Barreto, chief of infectious disease control in Mozambique, resistance to DDT spraying is “homegrown”, not due to “pressure from environmentalists”. “They only want us to use DDT on poor, rural black people,” he says. “So whoever suggests DDT use, I say, ‘Fine, I’ll start spraying in your house first.’ “[24]

        –snip–

      • Part 3:

        Also, please consider:

        –snip–

        … DDT didn’t wipe out malaria in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control’s door-to-door DDT spray campaign of 1947-1951 was not about eradicating malaria in the United States, because malaria was already gone. The US Public Health Service had noted the “diminishing menace” of malaria in the United States by 1928–seventeen years before DDT showed up on the scene. The pockets of malaria that persisted in the South until the late 1930s were finally vanquished by the swamp-draining, electricity-giving activities of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which cut down on mosquito breeding sites and enabled locals to start living in well-screened houses. The rationale behind the DDT spray campaign was to prevent the re-introduction of malaria from troops returning home from World War II. About the best one CDC physician involved in the campaign could say about it was that “we kicked a dying dog.”

        The second problem is that the world did try to wipe out malaria using DDT. That campaign, launched by the WHO in 1955, eradicated malaria from a few marginal areas in Southern Europe and a couple of islands. But in places where malaria reigned supreme, it failed miserably. That isn’t because they didn’t have enough DDT but because the stuff stopped working. Malarial mosquitoes resistant to DDT cousin Dieldrin emerged in Nigeria as early as 1955. Malarial mosquitoes in Venezuela had learned to simply avoid DDT-sprayed walls and bite people outside by 1957. By 1972, when the United States finally banned DDT, nineteen species of malarial mosquitoes had already become impervious to the toxin.

        –snip–

        Note – with carefully controlled usage, resistance would be unlikely to emerge as a major problem. When usage for agricultural purposes was banned in the U.S., it was as a result of imprudent usage for agricultural purposes. Many of the countries which diminished their usage of DDT lacked the appropriate infrastructure to control its usage. Even after the diminished usage, it was used ineffectively.

        The question of causation between the U.S. ban on DDT usage for agricultural purposes and deaths and illness from malaria is an interesting one; however, getting to the answers is ill-served by advocacy (on either side). Obviously, along with examining the potential causality, a scientific approach would necessitate an extensive evaluation of what would have been likely to happen absent a ban; with a commitment to extensive funding and careful control, perhaps a judicious usage of DDT for vector control would have resulted in considerably less suffering from malaria. On the other hand, the commitment to funding was lacking – and further, the existing control mechanisms were not sufficient; thus, it is important to consider the likelihood of increased resistance
        and significantly deleterious environmental impacts.

        No doubt, the argument that there is an at least partially causal relationship has plausibility, but when people make charges – as was done in the article excerpted – without any attempt to deal with easily available and clearly plausible conflicting information then they become advocates and promoters of bad science.

        Rather ironic, I’d say.

      • So, I isolated the part of the original post that got snagged on the filter.

        Basically, it was an excerpt that explains that:

        The pesticide industry has stated that DDT has largely lost effectiveness in India – even though use for agricultural purposes there was banned in 1989. Journal articles document resistance in malarial mosquitoes to DDT.

      • Joshua –
        Although the alarmists claim that their position is based on science, they do not follow the scientific methods when forecasting. For example, they do not provide full disclosure of methods and data, they do not consider competing hypotheses, and they draw conclusions that go

        Unless you can refute that passage, your indignation is nothing less than hilarious. You claim to be unbiased – and you can’t stand to see simple – and provable – facts? Heh!!

      • Jim,

        The claim they make is easily refutable, because they make such a broad categorization. It lacks specificity, and generalizes about a large group based on characterizations that, at best, can be documented in only a few cases. It’s advocacy pure and simple. If that is lost on you, so be it.

      • Mmmm – you mean it’s non-refutable because you lack the knowledge to do so. Weaseling again, huh?

        Never mind – we’re done here. Hate to leave you like this, but you don’t get to hijack this thread anymore than I can help. The only part of this conversaton that matters has been 781,000 deaths in 2009. And your advocacy is so blinding that you don’t seem to understand that.

      • Oh. And Jim, when did you stop beating your wife?

      • So you can quote Wikipedia. And we all know there is no chance that Wikipedia could be wrong.

        If quoting Wikipedia is all you have, then I would stick with your obsession with questioning the continued existence people’s domestic violence situations.

  11. We should do an informal poll. Without reading the book, just taking the fox/hedgehog suggestion at face value, what will be the proportion of CAGW supporters who dismiss it, vs. skeptics who find value in it? Early returns before this post are suggestive – though I certainly wouldn’t want to be accused of predicting the outcome.

    “Strive for humility” indeed.

    • Gary – I don’t see how anyone can dismiss the book without reading it. I do think, though, that since the casual take-home message seems to be to distrust predictions by experts, we can predict who will most want to apply that message to climate science, whether or not that is justified.

      • It’s justified on the face of it. A field with a worse record of blown projections, and of then desperately clutching for more complications and distractions, would be hard to find. The fundamental practice of “averaging” computer models is a perfect example of the error of “piling on” of variables and parameters to bolster “confidence” — when in fact each additional probability factor slices away at the product of all.

        A worthwhile prognosticator is one who’s right several times in a row; given a large enough sample, someone is going to be right in each instance, regardless of their basis for forecasting. But even following the “make lots of predictions; tot up the hits and bury the misses” policy isn’t working for Warmistas.

    • Fred,

      I wasn’t suggesting anyone dismiss (or accept) the book without reading it. I was wondering more about the fox/hedgehog suggestion of reliance on “a single grand design.”

      But notice who is first willing to make a prediction? :-)

  12. I have always understood the Hedgehog differently. The Hedgehog goes to the root of the question and recast and overturns some basic assumption leading to a large change in the general theoretical conception ala Kuhn. Hence his analysis is philosophical and deductive. If this is not the appropriate definition, then the dichotomy fails for lack of inclusion of this type of thought. The aspersion of “brittle impatience” is beside the point and amounts to a broad type of the argument ad hominem .
    I think the fox would alternatively be described as a polymath and as such creates his theoretical structures from a diversity of observations and thus his hallmark is the use of inductive reasoning.

  13. A few more adages:
    “All design is a trade-off.” (Except for those who apply the “precautionary principle.)
    “For every complex problem there is a solution which is simple, neat and wrong”. — H. L. Mencken
    “There is no there there.” — Gertrude Stein

  14. From T.Greer’s reflections:
    “Many schools and educators stress the need to develop “critical thinking skills”; helping students develop the mindset of a fox should be a central part of this development. This suggests that there is a serious flaw in the structure of modern post-secondary education, which not only allows but promotes academic specialization to the point where hedgehog attitudes become automatic.”

    Just so.

  15. The thesis here appears to be an extension of “the wisdom of crowds.” According to that theory, no expert can outpredict a sufficiently large group of motivated laymen. Which is very attractive to us libertarian, market fans. But if Gardner is correct, that’s missing the point, because experts are just so aweful that it doesn’t require the wisdom of a crowd to outperform an expert, because “expert predictions” can’t even outperform a chimp pointing at index cards.

    The problem, of course, is that we know this is not generally true. I don’t mind being the first one across a new bridge if the college of engineers tells me its safe, but I’m not so sanguine about trusting Koko and her flashcards. Likewise, if a doctor prescribes me a medication, I’ll take it, but not if Koko tries (even if the pharmacy would fill that prescription).

    I raise the issue, because I believe there are two general classes to which problems might belong, and if one can accurately gauge which class a problem belongs to, it’s a pretty reliable indicator of how much sense it makes to believe expert predictions (and prescriptions).

    I leave to the reader the problem of deciding into which class climate predictions fall, and why.

    • Perhaps the obverse is true – it is unlikely that a single person is correct how much less likely for a mob to get it right. Something I ascribe to Voltaire in my failing memory.

      As an engineer – I would say that a bridge is not a prediction at all. It is in fact steeped in precedent – more like a meal cooked from a recipe passed down from generations before. You don’t predict you’ll have tortellini for dinner – you grab a recipe and cook it.

  16. It seems to me that blog denizens act sometimes like hedgehogs and sometimes like foxes, depending on the subject. I conclude that there aren’t two different types of people, they just move from hugely-skeptical to easily-convinced on any issue according to their preconceived worldview or hidden agenda. Thus, I observe, they can very often argue exactly the logical opposite of what they argued the day before, merely by switching subjects.

    I also find it fascinating how the same person can be ridiculously pessimistic about a problem but equally ridiculously optimistic about an overly simplistic (to the rest of us) solution to the problem.

    I won’t bother with examples as that would cause divide and offense. I trust people can recognise themselves and their behaviour patterns from the excellent post above. Alas they will only identify their opponents and not themselves.

    Gardner strikes me as a 3rd animal, rarer than the rest, who has the capability to observe from above without entering the maelstrom of contradictory false certainties – an owl perhaps.

  17. Schrodinger's Cat

    The predictions of the many climate models are quite clearly all wrong because the global temperatures are not roaring away as we have been promised. (stir, stir…)
    We were told that the models all predicted huge increases in temperature and this would happen unless some currently unknown negative feedback had a large effect.
    So, which is it? Are the models wrong or is there a negative feedback we didn’t know about, but do now?

  18. I can offer another couple of books with similar topics, analysis, and conclusions:

    Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell, which I have read the first couple of chapters of before I had to return it to the library. I have re-requested it, and am waiting for it to arrive. This discusses how “intellectuals” – people that deal only in ideas (his definition) – are so often wrong. The first chapter or two dealt mostly in anecdote while advancing the theory, and I can’t comment on the rest (yet).

    The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb, which I read cover to cover. Very engaging and backed up with lots of research, it focuses on economics and finance rather than climate, but comes to the conclusion that economists are particularly hopeless at prediction. Interestingly the shortish timeframes involved means that falsification of predictions is possible (unlike climate change). One of the observations are that predictions by so-called experts are typically clustered together, with the actual results far away from the mean of the predictions and many standard deviations. Definitely a worthwhile book to read and to mentally replace references of economies with climate, and economists with climate scientists. Nassim Taleb’s website is here, although it is not nearly so well put together as his books.

  19. PREDICTION

    Here is my argument for a cyclic global mean temperature pattern

    1) The globe has a long-term warming of about 0.06 deg C per decade as shown in the following chart
    http://bit.ly/icVi7k

    2) When the above long-term warming is removed from the global mean temperature anomaly, what is left is a nearly cyclic pattern as shown in the following chart
    http://bit.ly/ePQnJj

    3) From the above chart, the two global warming periods were from 1910 to 1940 and from 1970 to 2000, and both periods have a global warming rate of about 0.15 deg C per decade as shown in the following chart
    http://bit.ly/eUXTX2

    4) From the above results, we see that during the global warming phase, the total global warming rate is 0.15 deg C, and when we subtract the long-term warming of 0.06 deg C per decade, we get 0.09 deg C per decade for the cyclic warming/cooling rate.

    5) As year 2000 was the start of the cooling phase (Chart 1 above), the global cooling rate from 2000 to 2030 would be about 0.06-0.09=-0.04 deg C per decade.

    6) We will see whether the 0.2 deg C per decade of the IPCC, or the slight cooling of –0.04 deg C per decade for the period 2000-2030 is realized.

    • Oh Girma,

      You are such a persistent hedgehog. You are right in that the residual warming is about 0.06 degrees C /decade. Would this be a problem if projected into the 21st Century as many have done? Not at all.

      However, I would still be inclined to manage for uncertainty.

      Cheers

  20. I think a great advantage of being a geologist is that with scant evidence, we make up a great story. Of course, we don’t believe the story and will change it at will.

    Then we drill and find out what mother nature really thinks.

    I think this is why the certainty of the CAGW IPCC Hockey-Team consensus stinks like an anaerobic swamp to most geologists.

    • Here here. Engineers are trained to proceed with rules of thumb, empirical approximations and factors of safety. If you don’t have enough data – use expert judgement. This is pretty much the case for all numerical models. The one constant is the default value. Have I given away too many secrets?

      A factor of safety of 2, 3 or 4 – is always a handy backstop.

      • CH –
        A factor of safety of 2, 3 or 4 – is always a handy backstop.

        Unless you’re building aircraft structures and want to actually get them off the ground someday. Then the safety factor is a lot less. :-)

  21. To be provocative, I am going to say that the scientists are the foxes, and most skeptics are hedgehogs. The reason being that scientists are in possession of a wider range of facts to come up with their conclusions than skeptics, who usually believe in one big thing (PDO, anti-GHG, negative cloud feedback, cosmic rays). It is wrong to think that scientists only have one big thing, when they have the body of science at their disposal and have in most cases individually come to their own conclusions about which things are more important considering all the factors, including the best ones the skeptics can throw at them.

    • Good science is skeptical. A good scientist knows that almost every past theory of “how things work” has since proven to be false. It is very likely that everything you and I have been taught about science today will in 500 years be laughed at.

      The people of 2511 will wonder how we could have been so naive and foolish. It was not so long ago that people believed the earth was fixed in space. There was no end of clever rationals to prove this. Yet we know now this is not true. History tells us most if not all of our present beliefs will suffer the same fate.

      A scientist that isn’t skeptical isn’t practicing science. They are practicing religion, some form of belief system.

    • I can quote peer reviewed science at you all day long and it makes no difference at all.

      http://judithcurry.com/2011/03/11/talking-past-each-other/#comment-56285
      You are a hopeless case – here is a realclimate post that suggests the potential no warming for 10 years (and this is minimum) and shows that the underlying warming in recent decades is 0.1 degrees C no 0.2 degrees C.

      http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/07/warminginterrupted-much-ado-about-natural-variability/

      You’re foolish (hedgehog) certitude is part of the problem – not the solution. The chickens will come home to roost over the next 10 years when the planet still hasn’t warmed.

      I patiently explain things and reference peer reviewed literature extensively – but you simply persist in your one big and authoratative argument. Not a doubt at all – science is homogenous and authoritative.

    • You may be partially right. But you ignore that many sceptics have much if not all of the same knowledge at their disposal. And in many cases, have knowledge that the scientists do not have. Or are capable – and willing – to get that knowledge.

      You also ignore that many of the climate scientists, in particular, have settled on ONE GRAND EXPLANATION and have no interest in alternatives even though their explanation fails to meet the criteria for good science.

      Not saying that either scientists or sceptics are universally either foxes or hedgehogs. I’m saying that it’s not nearly that clearcut.

      I will say that there are obvious hedgehogs who post here – and obvious foxes as well. I will also say that some of the hedgehogs think they’re foxes.

    • Also from the post “Why do we believe the pundits even when they are wrong?” We need to ask the skeptics that. They continue to believe Spencer after his Spencer and Christy “world-is-not-warming” satellite blunder, and in Lindzen, even when he agreed his recent LC09 paper had errors that he called silly. That might shake your faith as a skeptic, but it doesn’t. So this is a good question indeed.

      • Doesn’t shake anything, Jim. It’s a normal part of scientific progress. What shakes my faith in science is when scientists are obviously wrong and refuse to admit it. Only needs two words: hockey stick.

    • An old story.
      A student and his professor went for a walk in the morning. The sun was a bit above the horizon.
      Said the student: “Look at the sun. It is obvious that the earth goes around the sun. The ancients thought the sun went around the earth. They must have been dolts.”
      Said the professor: “Yes, the earth really does go around the sun. I wonder what it would have looked like if the sun really went around the earth.”

  22. Fred Moolten.

    The threads above got rather disjointed. I have asked you a couple of questions that I will condense to one comment.

    You objected to my use of the term CAGW, and asked me to stop using it. I agreed if you could show me where the term is inaccurate. I posited the following as the common meaning of the term:

    “(1) Catastrophic damage is a likely result in the near future of current (2) Anthropogenically caused (3) Global scale (4) Warming. Tell me which part of that sentence you reject and I will not use the term with respect to you.”

    You indicated that my description is not accurate, and that the position I outlined was held by only a small minority of the “consensus.” I repeated my question in light of your comments regarding attribution of the Japan Earthquake as follows:

    “Your later defense of this comment indicated that your basis for this ‘suspicion’ is that melting sea ice could have increased the weight over the tectonic plates.

    Forgetting the contentless euphemism ‘climate change,’ my limited understanding of science suggests that it is an increase in temperature (warming), over the planet on average (global) that was caused by man (anthropogenic) that you “suspect” may have caused or increased the severity of the Japan quake. I believe we can all agree that the 9.0 Japan earthquake that moved the island 8 feet would qualify as catastrophic?”

    I’ll take one more stab at it. I read your position above as follows: The rise in global average temperature, caused by man, has resulted in melting of sea ice, which has increased the level of the oceans, which you “suspect” may have contributed to the cause or intensity of the Japan earthquake. I think that is a fair recap.

    I would like you to explain, if you will, how my description of CAGW differs from the “consensus,” or your position. If you claim that only a small number of the consensus scientists think that catastrophic results are NOT likely, I think the summary for policy makers of the AR4 would show the contrary. Your finding the Japan quake plausibly can be attributed to AGW already, also suggests you are a CAGW proponent. And having read many of the articles at RealClimate, they too foresee a unacceptably high probability of catastrophic results of AGW. ()I would be happy to post examples if you like.) I know the word has fallen out of favor with them, but that does not mean it is not an accurate, descriptive term.

    So where then is the inaccuracy of the term?

    • Gary – You have put too many words in my mouth for me to digest. Briefly, I have not attributed the Japan catastrophe to global warming, nor have I suggested anything other than a possibility that such events might be affected by global warming. I have certainly not suggested that this is likely, only possible. I have put a link to a full length paper on the topic at the end of the thread on the subject, but again, it does not try to prove anything other than the possibility of a link.

      Regarding CAGW, the issue is probability. Many climate scientists agree that global warming might progress to a point of catastrophic consequences, but very few believe that to be likely, and that is why CAGW should only be applied to the small minority who think otherwise. On a small point, a catastrophic event (e.g., the Japanese catastrophe) that might (or might not) occur at an extra frequency of perhaps once every two centuries is not the same as CAGW. The latter refers to a catastrophic change in the entire behavior of the climate system as it affects us. Even if 20,000 extra deaths occurred every 200 years (ie. 100 extra per year), that would be catastrophic for the victims but it would not be CAGW.

      Finally, regardless of how you interpret my citation of the seismic data, if you want to apply CAGW to climate scientists, you should first identify those who predict the likelihood of catastrophe and not merely the unlikely possibility. You should then name them and apply the term to them, acknowledging that very few fit that description (unless your list of names is very long).

      • Fred,

        Fair enough, the IPCC AR4 identifies these as very likely consequences:

        “Increased risk of deaths, injuries and infectious, respiratory and skin diseases .”
        “Reduced yields in warmer regions due to heat stress; increased danger of wildfire.”
        “Increased risk of heat-related mortality, especially for the elderly, chronically sick, very young and socially isolated.”
        “Increased risk of deaths, injuries and infectious, respiratory and skin diseases.”
        “Disruption of settlements, commerce, transport and societies due to flooding: pressures on urban and rural infrastructures; loss of property.”

        The SPM identifies these as likely consequences:

        “Increased risk of deaths, injuries, water- and food- borne diseases; post-traumatic stress disorders.”
        “Disruption by flood and high winds.”
        “Increased risk of deaths and injuries by drowning in floods; migration-related health effects.”

        Death, disease, water shortages, floods, droughts, and you just found attribution of a 9.0 earthquake to be “plausible” and reasonable”, and indicated that you “suspected” that the attribution was correct.

        I haven’t put a single word in your mouth. The words “reasonable,” “plausible” and “suspect” are all direct quotes, and they are the only words I attributed to you.

        From RealClimate on AGW and hurricanes:

        “Hurricane forecast models (the same ones that were used to predict Katrina’s path) indicate a tendency for more intense (but not overall more frequent) hurricanes when they are run for climate change scenarios.”
        “The current evidence strongly suggests that: (a) hurricanes tend to become more destructive as ocean temperatures rise, and (b) an unchecked rise in greenhouse gas concentrations will very likely increase ocean temperatures further, ultimately overwhelming any natural oscillations.
        Scenarios for future global warming show tropical SST rising by a few degrees, not just tenths of a degree (see e.g. results from the Hadley Centre model and the implications for hurricanes shown in Fig. 1 above). That is the important message from science. What we need to discuss is not what caused Katrina, but the likelyhood that global warming will make hurricanes even worse in future.”
        http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/09/hurricanes-and-global-warming/

        My favorite line from RealClimate showing the non-catastrophic reasonableness of the consensus:

        “Perhaps closest to our hearts is Kristof’s cogently stated theme that uncertainty is in the nature of the science, and is no excuse for inaction — indeed should be a spur to greater action. ‘The White House has used scientific uncertainty as an excuse for its paralysis. But our leaders are supposed to devise policies to protect us even from threats that are difficult to assess precisely — and climate change should be considered even more menacing than a nuclear-armed Iran.’”
        http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/04/kristof-on-the-apocalypse/

        More menacing than a nuclear armed Iran….but not catastrophic.

      • That list of plagues reminds me of a biblical list of plagues visited on the Egyptians when they failed to comply.

      • Rumor has it adding earthquakes into the mix will be voted on for inclusion in the ar5.

      • “Catastrophic” is too vague to be useful. It spans the gamut from one single natural disaster to the collapse of civilization and the radical decimation of the human race. “Increased risk” means almost nothing unless we now by how much the risk will increase. The skeptics, in general, have missed an opportunity by not using the IPCC against the CAGWers.

        Also remember that the IPCC summaries, in contrast to the full reports, tend emphasize the negative impacts of climate change and ignore the positive ones.

      • GaryM,
        IPCC AR4 presents the list that you quote, but it doesn’t present claims of very likely catastrophic consequences.

        The list “increased risk of heat-related mortality” as very likely, but it lists also “reduced human mortality from decreased cold exposure” as virtually certain. It doesn’t tell that either one of these effects would be very large, let alone catastrophic.

        Claiming that IPCC would present near term CAGW as a consensus is totally against the content of the reports. There are people at both sides who give systematically a wrong picture of, what IPCC really represents. On one side the misrepresentation is used to justify extreme actions, on the other side it is used to discredit science.

      • Pekka Pirila,

        You ignore the list I also quoted from the AR4 of “likely” consequences of AGW, as well as the articles on RealClimate. (Those examples I posted after all of five minutes reviewing the AR4 and RealClimate index. There are more.) And frankly, if the “consensus” scientists don’t believe catastrophic consequences are likely, you would think they would say so. We could end the debate right now. No cap and trade, no EPA regulation of CO2 emissions, no central planning of the energy industry, no shuttering of the entire coal industry. Zero carbon? Who needs it?

        Where were the consensus scientists who read the exaggerated claims of the AR4 about imminent disappearing Himalayan glaciers, impending desertification of the Amazon, the coming extinction of the polar bears? Why was there not a word when the AR4 came out, until skeptics not only pointed out these blatant exaggerations, but showed there was no peer reviewed science behind them? Where were the consensus scientists telling progressive politicians to back off, it’s not as bad as Al Gore claimed in his movie? To the contrary, RealClimate gave An Inconvenient Truth a strong positive review.

        You are right that “one side” is using warnings of catastrophe “to justify extreme actions.” It is the AR4 consensus predictions of drought, floods, hurricanes worse than Katrina, disappearing glaciers and forests, drowning of the coastlines.

        The “consensus” advocates only really started complaining about the C in CAGW toward the end of 2009. 2009 brought climategate, the collapse of Copenhagen, and the increasing prominence of skeptics reminding the public of prior warnings of doom and gloom by Hansen, Ehrlich and many others. All of a sudden, the predictions of impending doom that led to Kyoto, and almost succeeded at Copenhagen, were being used against them.

        So now we have the poll tested, focus grouped, innocuous “climate change.”

        I guess the new consensus refrain is: “It’s not as bad as we thought?” Hardly.

      • GaryM,
        The essential points are:
        - IPCC emphasizes strongly great uncertainties in most essential factors, like the climate sensitivity.
        - The main stream view, which is largely in agreement with the IPCC assessments, sees very severe consequences possible in more distant future and cannot exclude with certainty even catastrophic outcomes.
        - Because the possibility of “CAGW” cannot be excluded fully, its significance for the decision making should be analyzed further.
        - The main stream view is also that the balance of evidence tells that significant mitigating policies should be employed, but there is no consensus on, what this requirement really means in practice.

        All this really something totally different from the claim that there is a consensus among main stream scientists on CAGW.

      • “Environmentalists are warning that the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas could spell disaster for millions of people living in the region. “We urgently need to update our glaciological data,” said Dr Bhakta Shrestha, “otherwise we won’t have any warning when disaster strikes.”
        British geologist John Reynolds, of Reynolds Geosciences Limited, agrees.”
        “There has to be a fresh look at the entire issue because we may be running a risk of great magnitude,” he said.
        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3998967.stm

        “Balanced against this, higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm centre.”
        http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n3/abs/ngeo779.html

        “An 11 percent increase in wind speed translates to roughly a 60 percent increase in damage, said study co-author Kerry Emanuel, a professor of meteorology at MIT.”
        http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35506750/ns/us_news-environment/

        “This time around, rising greenhouse-gas concentrations driven by human activity will very likely override any natural cooling trend. Scientists fear that the Southwestern climate may in fact switch to an extended dry mode such as the ones that occurred during particularly warm Pleistocene periods.”
        “We won’t know for sure if it happens again until we get there,” says Fawcett. “But we are certainly increasing the possibility of crossing a critical threshold to severe and lasting drought conditions.”

        “The scary thing is that we seem to be very close to this point again,” he says.
        http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110223/full/news.2011.120.html

        “Scenarios of future global warming suggest that North American wildfires are likely to become more frequent, and could thus have an increasing role in the Arctic climate.”
        http://www.nature.com/climate/2008/0809/full/climate.2008.79.html

        “Rises in global average temperature are remote from most people’s experience, but two studies in this week’s Nature1,2 conclude that climate warming is already causing extreme weather events that affect the lives of millions. The research directly links rising greenhouse-gas levels with the growing intensity of rain and snow in the Northern Hemisphere, and the increased risk of flooding in the United Kingdom.”

        “An earlier study3, for example, found that global warming has at least doubled the likelihood of extreme events such as the 2003 European heatwave.”
        http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110216/full/470316a.html

        Disaster, risk of great magnitude, intense cyclones, lasting drought conditions, frequent wildfires, doubled likelihood of extreme events. But no CAGW. No sir.

        You can’t make this stuff up. Well, I didn’t anyway.

        And those are just from Nature.

      • There are so many people in the world and they are making all possible wise and stupid comments. News media pick often the most dramatic claims. Even journals like Nature and Science publish views partly for their newsworthiness, and are also influenced by policy choices of their publishers and editors.

        That is not a way of finding out mainstream views any more than picking the most extreme people to represent all skeptics.

      • Pekka,
        Yet mitigation of ‘climate change’ by way of CO2 management has been shown to be a complete failure, terribly expensive, and dubious even if it could be implemented.

      • GaryM,

        I think you have a point, but it’s not quite what you think it is. My impression is that there is an increasing distance between the actual consensus and the pseudo-consensus that’s being sold by activists (including activist scientists such as the RealClimate gang) and politicians. The science has failed to deliver on its “promise” to provide increasing certainty of increasingly catastrophic outcomes, but some clearly have a need to make it seem so anyway. There’s a minority that believe, or pretend to believe, that “it’s worse than we thought”.

        Whatever you do, don’t assume that the RealClimate scientists say what they are actually thinking. Consider the expression “climate deniers will have a field day with this”. In other words, don’t say anything that could make people skeptical. It’s deliberate spin, and RealClimate is their spin machine.

      • Funny, I thought I made the point I was trying to make. But thank you for agreeing with a point I didn’t make. I guess.

        So now the IPCC and RealClimate and Nature do not represent the consensus. I bet that’s news to them. That isn’t moving the goal posts, that’s relocating the stadium.

        So who and where are the consensus scientists? Is there now a secret, non-CAGW consensus held by climate scientists who aren’t telling anyone about it? Do they meet in secret in their parent’s basement and publish their papers on a mimeograph machine only for each other to see? (Are there still mimeograph machines?)

        But this line of comments has gone on long enough. I will allow all the CAGW proponents to explain how there is no CAGW, but that we still need the drastic taxes and economic central planning that CAGW would have required, if it existed, which it doesn’t.

        But the term is still descriptive and accurate, so I think I’ll keep using it anyway.

      • As far as I can tell, the IPCC is pretty much the consensus, the AR4 itself more so than than the summaries.

        The RealClimate gang probably don’t represent the consensus position. If they do, they are deliberately not telling us, spinning their message to be more politically “useful” to the current climate policy. Or you could call it an alarmist version of the consensus position. All of this is approximate.

        I am not claiming that the consensus position has any validity because it’s a consensus position. I’m just trying to clarify, if possible, what it actually is.

      • Gary,
        A better interpretation of Dagfinn’s point using your metaphor is that the IPCC & gang are playing a game in a stadium that is emptying out due to it sbeing seen as a very poor quality, rigged game.

      • Fred- to complain of to many words in your mouth is beyond the pale. You have yet to directly answer a question tonite. You claim to desire open and honest dialog but offer the party line, evasion, and spin in return. Should it be so difficult for an informed mind as your to answer directly first then qualify? I have enjoyed reading your comments for some months now but lately you have sounded more politician than scientist.

      • R.Murphy – I made one more try upthread at answering the question about earthquakes, if you want to take a look at it. I’m beginning to regret I answered Rob Starkey’s question in the first place, although when asked a question, it’s my usual wish to respond.

        I’m not sure what you mean by “the party line”, but if it is to object to the use of the term CAGW to characterize mainstream climate science, then it’s a line I agree with. Several others have made the same point above.

        I’ve tried to steer clear of political advocacy, although no interpretation of evidence is entirely free of policy implications.

        If there is something else you had in mind, could you specify?

  23. HANSEN’S PREDICTIONS

    We are handicapped by cognitive biases, logical fallacies and other fallacies that undermine our ability to see clearly. Pundits who predict are just as vulnerable to these as anyone else.


    Dr James Hansen of the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Institute for Space Studies said research by his institute showed that because of the “greenhouse effect” that results when gases prevent heat from escaping Earth’s atmosphere, global temperatures would rise early in the next century to “well above any level experienced in the past 100,000years”

    Average global temperatures would rise by one-half a degree to one degree Fahrenheit from 1990 to 2000 if current trends are unchanged, according to Hansen’s findings. Hansen said the global temperature would rise by 2 to 4 degrees further in the following decade.

    http://bit.ly/hwGXex

    Let us verify the above Hansen’s predictions.

    FIRST PREDICTION

    His first prediction for 1990 to 2000 was a warming of 0.5 to 1 deg F (5*0.5/9=0.3 to 5*1/9=0.6 deg C).

    Here is the data for the warming for 1990 to 2000, which is about 0.25 deg C, which is just below the lower range of Hansen’s prediction. This is not a bad prediction.
    http://bit.ly/fSf87N

    SECOND PREDICTION

    His second prediction for 2000 to 2010 was a warming of 1 to 2 deg F (5*1/9=0.6 to 5*2/9=1.1 deg C).

    Here is the data for the warming for 2000 to 2010, which is about 0.03 deg C, which is 1/20th (0.6/0.03) of the lower range of Hansen’s prediction. This is a very bad prediction.
    http://bit.ly/hZMla1

    Do you agree?

    • No, I don’t agree. I think you used the wrong figures in your F to C calculation for the most recent decade.

      You originally said Hansen predicted 2-4 degrees for the most recent decade. If that is true then 2F = 1.11C and 4F = 2.22C

      His prediction was even worse than you thought. :)

  24. It’s interesting that that most of the discussion isn’t about hedgehogs and foxes, the metaphor but more about which commentator here is which. Then the head spinning, turn the tables rationalization that it’s deep believers that are the real foxes for their superior knowledge of the literature.

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so damn serious when applied to policy making from ignorance. Based on Dr Curry’s summation of the book reviews (is that a thrice removed meta analysis?) the hedgehog and fox analogy appears to skillfully , kind of make sense.

  25. I have been working with large scale energy system models for years (since 1980), sometimes very closely hands on, sometimes through contacts to people more directly involved in the practical work. From the beginning the problems of making useful scenarios for distant future have been apparent and all experience over these years has confirmed, how the extensive uncertainties influence the outcome. Trying to put firm limits for the range of plausible futures leads to such spectrum of possibilities, that almost any view can be supported – or none.

    In spite of these problems I believe that such models are useful, when understood properly. They give insight to many mechanisms and they can be used to summarize knowledge better than other methods available, but they do not produce predictions. Scenarios used in them are just scenarios used to make the analysis possible. None of the scenarios is likely to be close to the actual future. We have only limited power to choose between the scenarios, which are largely controlled by factors beyond our influence.

    Going through analysis of the type of Stern Review, I cannot avoid concluding that they are doing quantitative economic analysis of future alternatives that they cannot describe at all. It doesn’t really make much sense to calculate a discounted sum of damages in a way dominated on what happens 100 or 200 years from now. The result is an almost random number determined by methodological choices that cannot be justified. They can argue with some reason about the social discount rate and its relationship with intergenerational justice, but the actual numbers from future that they are discounting and summing are not really based on anything justifiable, because they cannot describe the influence of future choices by people making the decisions then based on the information available to them. The role of the small discount rate is to make the result dominated by these unjustified numbers.

    My conclusion is that an economic analysis of the type of Stern Review is of very little value unless it gets its result from so near future that the economic calculation makes sense. By this I do not want to say that putting weight to the future generations in ethical considerations would be unjustified. My claim is only that the approach of the Stern Review is doomed to failure from a technical point of view, when looking more than 50 years to the future, and of limited value already in the time range of 20-50 to the future.

    I have written something related to this in my blog a couple of days ago. The text may be too short, technical and uninformative as it stands, but I hope to return to these issues again in later postings.

  26. On Hansen’s Prediction

    Gavin:

    My assessment is that the model results were as consistent with the real world over this period as could possibly be expected and are therefore a useful demonstration of the model’s consistency with the real world. Thus when asked whether any climate model forecasts ahead of time have proven accurate, this comes as close as you get.

    http://bit.ly/9iIe6Y

    Hansen:

    Average global temperatures would rise by one-half a degree to one degree Fahrenheit from 1990 to 2000 if current trends are unchanged, according to Hansen’s findings. Hansen said the global temperature would rise by 2 to 4 degrees further in the following decade.

    http://bit.ly/hwGXex

    Actual observed warming for the period from 2000 to 2010 was 0.03 deg C (=0.03×9/5=0.05 deg F).
    http://bit.ly/hZMla1

    That is, the predicted warming for the period 2000 to 2010 was in the range from 2 to 4 deg F, but the observed warming is only 0.05 deg F.

    Gavin, is Hansen’s prediction consistent with the real world?

  27. A picture is always worth a least 1,317 words at +/- 2 Sigma Confidence.

    With the intensity of the information on this very fine blog, the ability to post images would help the discussion, and expose the morans more quickly.

    Don’t you think?

    • No! Nein! Nyet! et! et! No pics please! To many jokers spoil the broth! If a pic is worth 1,317 words at +/- 2 Sigma Confidence than someone who wanted to post a pic would only be able to have one post.

      (Links are soooooo much better than pics, Ya?;-)

  28. Judith,

    Do you know how hydro power generation determined the per cent age of efficiency?
    This per cent age was past down generations and NO ONE knew how they came up with that figure. From engineers to CEO’s no one could tell how that per cent age was arrived at just the formula of how it was arrived at. But still they needed to know the efficiency of the turbine first. NO ONE looked at that determination.

    I calculated it out from what was determined needed for the blades to turn by the gap from blade to housing. This had absolutely nothing to do with angles of blades or how much energy actually touched the blades.

    There was many inconsistencies of how much energy was actually being pulled out of the flow stream of energy. Plus the fact an engineer can grab the blade and moved it while the pounds per square inch was massive compared to an engineer moving the blade.
    Hydro powers claim was 92% efficient, the real determination is less than 2% energy actually being taken from the flow stream.

    Who really cared?

    • Joe,
      Efficiency of a hydro plant? Easy to figure. Mass of water moving through turbine and height the water drops versus megawatts out. This is high school physics. It is not necessary to know the specific design of the turbine to calculate the efficiency. Anyway, a big Francis turbine can be very efficient.

      • A look at PG&E power company on the US west coast and I believe they are predominately hydro. It has made them a VERY wealthy company. Other than upkeep on the bearings and negligible wear on the turbines, it’s almost free power. I know if you have a pond on your land fed by a stream that doesn’t dry out in the summer, and a 40′ drop, some 4″ PVC pipe you could very easily get off the grid and then some. This is probably not on topic but I find it interesting :)….

      • You also need to consider the cost to build and maintain the actual dam. The non recurring cost to construct the dam is much higher that the cost to build other types of electricity generating facilities. the cost of the electricity depends on the expected life of the dam.

        Please remember that there are many who protest againest building these dams as they displace the animals (and humans) that used to live on the ground that would be flooded.

      • That being said, the “fuel” is free and will always be free and non toxic unless the powers that be decide to make water a pollutant. It may displace some folks and animals but other types (fish, turtles, frogs,ect. ) will take their place. Also, LOTS of folks like lakes for recreation :) That and dams have the inherent ability to manage floods if managed correctly.

      • PG&E has 3.8 GW/hr of hydro generating capacity.
        Total production from those hydro plants is 8.8 TWh/year.
        The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Facility also owned by PG&E produces 16.2 TWh/year. California consumes 265 TWh/year.

        If you had a pond on your land fed by a stream with live fish/bugs/cockroaches in it and you put in a dam the environmental study to determine whether or not your dam might harm an endangered species or harm someone either upstream or down stream would probably cost a million dollars.

      • Sounds worse than changing a curly light bulb :) Approx $800 if you break one in Calif and are required to call hazmat to clean it up because of the horrible mercury that you used to roll around in your hand as a kid. Make your real silver dimes pretty :)

  29. So, it’s NOT the “Science” that we have a problem with. It’s the age old rivalry between Hedgehogs and Foxes. I can buy that! Yes! That distinction pretty much says where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. I like it!

  30. The agenda of agw came long before decades of failed IPCC manipulations;

    http://nofrakkingconsensus.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/epa_1983_climate_change_report.jpg

  31. Jeffrey Davis

    My knowledge of this factoid is absolutely recent and comes from one of my wife’s hobbies: bird watching. We’d been tracking the advance of the hummingbird in its migration (http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html) when I happened to note the linnaean double of the ruby throated hummingbird: Archilochus colubris. Now, Archilochus isn’t traditionally associated with hedgehogs or hummingbirds and I’ve no idea how its latin name came about. He was a satirist, and his grave is said to have warned the unwary of stirring up the wasps which guarded the area. His flower is the thistle, and despite his thorns it was an honor to be slammed by one of his satires.

    Here’s a strangely confused picture:A hummingbird killing a yellowjacket. It may be apt: Archilochus was a mercenary soldier as well as a poet.

    Since there aren’t any intact poems from him, it’s impossible to get a clear picture of what he may have had in mind in his fable of the fox and the hedgehog. One of his most famous fragments involves his soldier’s shield. He’d thrown it under a bush in an earlier battle and run away. Now one of the enemy had it. He sounds warmly like Falstaff, a man who scoffed at irresponsible bravery. Another of his famous fragments is frankly erotic: he had deflowered a young girl who was more attractive than the bony woman he’d narrowly missed getting married to.

    As for the thread, I just find it funny to find the words of such a disreputable guy get hauled along into political discussions. It’s like blessing some political movement with “Why this is Hell nor am I out of it.” (Christopher Marlowe. Another Bad News poet.)

  32. Judith
    “Gardner goes on to suggest that we should look for courses of action that are good, what ever happens. Although this is easier said than done, I do believe this is the wisest approach to take.”

    As a nuance, actions which are difficult to reverse should be decided upon much more carefully than ones which are very easy to reverse – if you find out later you had it wrong, you’d like to be able to change course without lasting major consequences.

    ” What I would add, is we should continue to seek out new information and revisit our decisions in light of what we have learned.”

    Presumably a path was chosen that works for the “don’t know” range. Much can be dealt with quantitatively, but in the end there is still a lot of judgment involved, which gets back to one of your earlier questions about what is an expert, or perhaps who are the best people to provide that judgment>

    • As a nuance, actions which are difficult to reverse should be decided upon much more carefully than ones which are very easy to reverse – if you find out later you had it wrong, you’d like to be able to change course without lasting major consequences.

      I’d say it’s more than a nuance. I would consider that principle a key concept for decision making under uncertainty.

      It also makes the fox/hedgehog characterizations very important in that those seeing “one true way” are unlikely to come to the table with alternate plans or be willing to jump to them when Plan A fails.

      • Gene-

        “I’d say it’s more than a nuance. I would consider that principle a key concept for decision making under uncertainty. ”

        Unless the decision regards AGW, then it’s a nuance…

  33. Philip Finck

    Woa! Freds referenced paper is talking about 125 metres of sea level rise since around 18,000 years ago. Think of the volume and weight. Compare that to a rise of a few centimeters over say the last decade in that part of the world (just pulling a average number out of my head). Then consider that 125 m of sea-level rise was accompanied by rapid unloading of the crust by say, 4 kilometers of ice. This was then followed by rapid uplift of the crust and rapid back collapse of a glacially induced forebulge.

    Now that is the scenario in Maritime Canada. And with all of that, there is very little (I know of possibly one example) were there is observed post-18,000 year old faulting in the glacial sediments, and onepossible observed movement on a bedrock fault zone. This, in an area where the crust is still actively moving and bending like a pretzel over a distance of sever hundred kilometres.

    And some idiot scientist suggests that a few cm of sea level rise initiated the largest measured earthquake in recorded history in Japan.

    Such a claim is beyond farsical. Any, and I mean any geologist, should understand this given the nature of the subduction zone in question. If they don’t, then I would respectively suggest that they are incompitent(sp?).

    • Philip – I’m not sure any scientist has suggested that a few cm of sea level rise initiated the Japan earthquake – at least, I haven’t seen that claim. Initiation is a separate issue from the concept that sea level may play a role in determining susceptibility to an initiating event.

      On a more general level, the paper addressed both short term and long term influences on ocean loading, including the likelihood that small changes could have more impact when sea levels are already high. If you disagree, you should probably contact the authors to discuss your concerns. I don’t think the topic is urgent enough, or that we have enough evidence, to get involved in long debates here that are likely to remain unresolved. I certainly don’t feel able to draw firm conclusions on the issue.

      • Fred,

        I’d be more than willing to talk to the authors of that paper if you can provide proof that these authors agree with your interpretation of the paper’s results.

        I did not see anywhere in the paper you cite above where the authors investigate the effect of a typhoon or hurricane on a 5 cm elevated ocean. The one case study the paper investigates deals with the rapid change in seal level of the Black Sea due to glacier retreat, which could have been a several meter increase in just decades. That’s a very different scenario than the one in which we find ourselves now.

        So again, once you show me that the authors of that paper agree with your interpretation of their results in light of subduction zone earthquakes and ‘torrential’ rain, I’ll have no problem discussing their results and whether or not they make sense. I’ll even make a blog post out of it.

        As of right now though, you’re digging a deeper and deeper hole with a smaller and smaller shovel.

      • On page 15, the paper suggests that at times of higher sea levels, faults may be more vulnerable to added stresses. On page 5, the paper suggests seasonal changes as possible triggers. The authors do not specifically mention hurricanes, but the principle would be that a fault, if already poised for a seismic event, requires little added influence for the event to occur. In the Heki 2003 reference, snow melt might be a factor.

        I accept the plausibility of the general principle that stress accumulated over time from rising sea levels might increase the potential for a triggering event to generate a major seismic shift. I don’t want to be seen as claiming this is likely to be important contributor to seismicity, because I have no idea whether it is, or even whether it has any relevance at all. Given the information, however, I don’t think it’s wise to dismiss the idea as absurd, but rather to acquire more data.

      • IMO, It is absurd to attribute harm until there is sufficient evidence to support such a claim.

        It is one thing to believe that outer space aliens started life on earth. It is quite another to begin implementing economic actions based upon that belief and trying to force others to do the same.

        I am not writing that Fred is personally advocating a specific additional tax policy, but others here certainly have. There is as much evidence to support that the earthquake in Japan was increased by global warming (absolutely zero evidence) as there is to support some of the IPCC claims of potential future consequences to humanity of additional CO2.

      • Fred,

        as soon as you can get the authors to tell me that your interpretations are consistent with their results, I’ll be willing to discuss the paper with you.

        Your response here is the exact same point I made yesterday, however. You seem to be changing your story somewhat.

        You’re saying that it’s worth while to take note on whether small, human-induced changes ‘trigger’ earthquakes that would happen in the absence of ‘ocean loading’. But those earthquakes are going to happen whether they are triggered by ‘ocean loading’ or seismic activity from below. Some have even speculated that the moon can caused these types of events.

        I don’t think looking it moon-related triggering is worth investigating personally.

        The whole point is this, from a decision making perspective we know very large, high impact earthquakes are going to occur. Many of them along subduction zones will create tsunamis. We have to be prepared for those events NO MATTER WHAT TRIGGERS THEM. They are going to happen UNDER ALL PHYSICALLY FEASIBLE SCENARIOS.

        So I say no, it doesn’t matter what ‘ocean loading’ does because it’s not creating new phenomena even if it’s having a measurable effect on actual seismic activity. Such an effect has only been hypothesized at this point. Major seismic events will happen if such an effect is real or not and people will continue to be in the path of destruction. The most robust decision to make at this point to be prepared for the worst possible earthquake in subduction zones because they will happen. If we are prepared for the worst, then it doesn’t matter what causes it.

        On the point of seismic research, it seems to me that money spent toward researching climate forcing is money wasted from research on better predictions of these types of events. So whether the idea is ‘absurd’ or not is irrelevant to me. As far as saving people’s lives is concerned, ‘ocean loading’ doesn’t matter.

      • Fred,
        A fault, some several kilometers below ground level or sea bottom level, is not going to be triggered by some tiny change in sea level caused by a storm. Certainly not by the milimeter range annual changes we have experienced these past many decades.

      • Hunter – Please see the referenced paper addressing the effect of ocean loading on fault deformation.

        You used the word “certainly”, but I would be reluctant to apply that word to this particular issue. There is a case to be made that a fault stressed by accumulated sea level weight might give way sooner rather than later if impacted by even a very minor additional weight, including the very local impact of an increased water load of the seasonal type described in the paper. I’ve tried to emphasize that there is currently no convincing evidence to support a discernible effect of the past century’s sea level rise (or future rises) on seismic activity, but only that there is enough tentative data to justify gathering more data. As late as a week ago, I would have been dubious about even going that far, but the papers I’ve seen since then suggest that this is something to learn more about.

        If your suggestion is that we have no reason yet to change our general perceptions about climate change on this basis, I agree. I feel a bit chagrined, however, about how these exchanges have proceeded. The sequence as I see it is that before this thread came into being, I had become aware that the scientific literature was addressing this topic. When Rob Starkey asked a question, I responded on the basis of my prior knowledge, careful to emphasize the preliminary and uncertain nature of the evidence. I regret that my response has been interpreted as an attempt to pin the Japanese earthquake on global warming, because my motive was simply to answer Rob’s question as accurately as I could.

      • Fred,
        What is passing for ‘scientific literature’ irt climate science these days is not infrequently bs.

      • Fred,

        ‘…because my motive was simply to answer Rob’s question as accurately as I could.’

        ‘I don’t know’ would have sufficed. I think that’s the point you’re missing. And because you keep beating a dead horse, the thread is beating back.

      • Let’s get a bit of perspective here. A 1cm rise in sea level would create an increase in pressure on the sea bed of literally 1 gram per sq cm. This is rendered totally insignificant (if at all measurable) by large, rapid, localised changes from tides, winds etc, not to mention dynamic pressure changes from ocean currents, as well as tiny changes in water density.
        The idea that a small change could result in some ‘tipping point’ being breached in the face of all these comparatively huge oscillations, and without any prior warnings is, quite frankly, ludicrous. Even if it could be said that small changes made such an event slightly more likely, that in itself wouldn’t have made any discernible difference. Perhaps it would have meant that the earthquake might only have happened in 1, 10 or 1000 years, or perhaps it would have delayed it (or advanced it) by mere microseconds.
        Or perhaps the effect of the extra weight of water made the plates shift slightly slower, making the resultant quake less severe than it would have been. Nobody knows, nobody can even hazard a guess.

      • Not to mention that, up to now, most of the sea level rise has been down to thermal expansion. In other words, the sea level rise has not meant a commensurate rise in weight of water.
        Not that it makes any difference even if it were.

      • Fred M: Count me in with maxwell. “I don’t know,” “I doubt it” or “It’s not really significant” would all have been better answers.

        The oceans average ~3000 meters deep. Sea level has been rising ~1.8 mm/year for the past century. Since 1993 it’s been measured at 2.9 mm/year, so chalk up 1 mm/year to global warming. Call it a couple of extra centimeters of sea level due to AGW. So we are talking about an increase of less than 1/10,000 sea depth as a cause for the earthquake.

        To me this is like arguing for gun control because an extra homicide in the US could trigger World War III.

        I think that there are serious arguments for concern about ACC, but this is not one of them. To the extent that ACC scientists and advocates tug their chins and intone that ACC could be the cause for almost every negative event imaginable makes them look credulous and desperate.

      • Maxwell – I responded to a comment by Hunter addressed to me. Peter – about half of the sea level rise has been eustatic, and so about 15 cm over the past hundred years has increased the weight that started to climb since the last glacial maximum. The referenced article provides good reason to think that the stress has made the faults more vulnerable during times of higher sea level. The question is to what extent a fault under stress will be triggered into a slip by a small extra push. We don’t know, but the principle of a small change triggering a large effect is valid, even though it may turn out to be insignificant in this case. My suggestion is to wait for more data before deciding anything.

      • As a reference point — if only I could find the reference — it has been asserted that there is a detectible somewhat less than 1% variation in tectonic activity correlated to lunar (distance and) position.

        The tidal pull of the moon produces somewhat more than 15 cm rise in sea level, and tidal pull itself on the mantle must be at least as great as that on the oceans in some measure, so it is likely that the tidal effect is some orders of magnitude greater than any current weight of ocean due climate effect.

        As oceans are much nearer to the mantle than is the moon, though the difference in weight between oceans a century or more ago and now are vanishingly small compared to the mass of the moon, the inverse square of distance implies not just the weight but also the pull of oceans (like the pull of the moon) could be a factor. Still, it has to be tiny.

        So, could global climate shifts resulting in redistribution of the weight of the waters in the seas also result in tectonic changes?

        The odds are strongly against this being significant, perhaps astronomically so; however, they are not zero if the lunar correlation to tectonic activities is verifiable.

        As the odds are not zero, and there are so many uncertainties, this remains in interesting intellectual puzzle especially due the immense costs involved.

        Any puzzlers want to take on the challenges of scoping weight and effect of moon vs weight and effect of water, and finding the lunar-tectonic correlations research for reference, might be edutaining.

      • Come on Fred, we’re disappearing down the rabbit hole here. Sorry, but it’s just absurd.

      • Bart – Regarding your comment, the following
        excerpts are from an article by Kasahara, entitled Tides, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes, which appeared in Science 297:38-349, 2002

        The elastic strain resulting from Earth tides is extremely small, on the order of 10−8, which seems too small to trigger earthquakes and volcanism (2). Nevertheless, the idea that tides may influence these geophysical events has been discussed since 1930, when an interesting earthquake sequence was observed during an earthquake swarm east of Ito on the Izu Peninsula, central Japan.

        The effects of tides on submarine volcanism were not observed until the summer of 1994, when the U.S. Navy Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) array identified intense earthquake activity around Axial Volcano on the Juan de Fuca Ridge (11). The ridge is located about 400 to 800 km west to southwest off the western coast of North America. The data showed a clear correlation between tidal change and earthquake activities on two occasions (1, 12).

        The Ito swarm was thought to be related to volcanism, although magma was not identified at the time. Nasu et al. (3) observed that for several days, the hourly numbers of earthquakes were higher during low tide than during high tide. They suggested that the swarm was triggered by the ocean tide, but did not offer a convincing triggering mechanism.

        But at least one other example of semidiurnal variation in earthquake swarm activity was detected near Ito in 1978 (4). Analysis of stress due to ocean loading effects suggested a strong influence of ocean tides.

        By themselves the tidal forces are too small to generate earthquakes, but in the critical stage of faulting they can trigger volcanic earthquakes.

      • Fred M: Furthermore in earthquakes zones like Japan or California, the question is not if there will be an earthquake, but when.

        The tiny change (not small, tiny) in sea level due to AGW might trigger an earthquake some weeks, months or years sooner than otherwise, but that earthquake would still be coming even if humans had never invented fire.

      • Fred –
        You keep talking about eustatic pressure and that’s largely wrong – at the very least. This was a subduction quake and the force vector was not vertical but rather mostly, if not entirely, horizontal. Vertical pressure has little or nothing to do with the mechanics of what happened. It was a matter of plate mechanics and the forces involved were many orders of magnitude greater than even the 120 m sea level rise could have generated. Yor comparison is equivalent to saying that a flea on the dog that died in the Galloping Gertie collapse caused the collapse itself.

        If you need a reference for Galloping Gertie, try this –

        http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/tacoma-bridge-collapse/04ae0066b5d6a625cdc804ae0066b5d6a625cdc8-535493346336?q=galloping%20gertie%20video

      • Fred,
        One question is, whether weak influences may trigger a seismic event, when it about to happen anyway. This might be possible.

        Another question is, whether such influences can affect the number of severe seismic events or trigger an event, which would not have occurred soon even without this additional influence. This appears to me really implausible.

      • Jim – The paper I cited describes the stress on the faults due to ocean loading. The trigger itself need not be vertical, because the trigger would be something other than the loading itself.

        Pekka – I agree that the small additional weight of about 15 cm of water would not make the difference between the occurrence or non-occurrence of an event, but I don’t think we can be sure that it might not have significantly advanced the timing. At the risk of belaboring the point, I’m not suggesting that we draw conclusions, but only withhold judgment until we have further data.

        My personal conjecture is that the effect of the past century’s sea level rise on the timing of major seismic events is probably miniscule, but it might not be.

      • A small addendum. If any of this affected decision-making, it might be worth continuing these speculations despite the paucity of data. I don’t believe this issue will or should have any influence on policy, which is why I would be happy to stop discussing it unless something important beyond the material already discussed is brought up.

        I agree with everyone who doubts that these effects are likely to make a discernible difference.

      • Fred –
        I never assumed that the trigger would be vertical – rather that additional vertical loading would tend to retard the subdduction – IF it were of sufficient magnitude. But I don’t believe the additional water loading for whatever the additional sea level rise since – when – 1850? 1950? – would have made any difference even in retardation. The relative forces are on entirely different scales of magnitude.

      • Jim -I can’t say that we know for sure, although you may well be right. Remember that even small forces can exert great leverage when they are far from a fulcrum. In this case, they might open a crack of a few millimeters in a vulnerable area, allowing water to seep in and initiate a process that loosens a critical connection keeping two plates from sliding; the papers I’ve cited are not inconsistent with that conjecture. Highly speculative? Yes, but stranger things have happened. As I mentioned, this shouldn’t affect decision making, so why not wait for more evidence before making judgments of absolute certainty?

      • Fred –
        You’re really stretching, but I’ve done the same thing sometimes so – no complaints here. Imagination is a good thing. :-)

        Bottom line is – we don’t know.

      • This line of comments is STILL going on?

        Fred, you started with an answer in which you said:
        “Yes, it’s plausible but unproved.

        If you are asking whether the possible effect of climate change will have a large effect on earthquake frequency, no effect, or a small effect (conceivably in either direction), the answer is we don’t know. But the possibility of an increased frequency is reasonable.”

        Later you said: “It turns out that that the climate/seismic connection might have been interpreted as absurd, and as recently as a week ago, I would have seen no reason to suspect a connection, but the papers I linked to suggest otherwise.”
        A week ago, before you read the paper, you would not have “suspected” a connection. This a meaningless statement unless you do now suspect that connection exists.

        Thus this whole loooong kerfluffle was not caused by your “answering a question” or stating that there is research that suggests there a connection between sea ice rise and earthquakes is possible.

        This whole two day long argument is not about what is “possible,” but in your choice of words that you found a connection, “reasonable,’ “plausible,” and in effect you “suspected a connection” between the two. You made those comments two days after the quake with no relevant data or research. You engaged in the type of reflexive attribution without evidence that drives skeptics nuts.

        You have now said “I agree with everyone who doubts that these effects are likely to make a discernible difference.”

        Doubting something is of course the exact opposite of suspecting it to be true and finding it plausible. We all misspeak at times. So while I still find your initial comments telling, I would respectfully suggest the skeptics declare victory and move on.

        I enjoy beating a dead horse as much as the next guy. But we are now down to a pile of horse hamburger.

    • Jeffrey Davis

      And some idiot scientist suggests that a few cm of sea level rise initiated the largest measured earthquake in recorded history in Japan.

      It’s a strange part of the world that has never heard the expression “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

      • Jeffrey–You need to read more carefully the thread.

        No climate scientist actually suggested that. (that I am aware of) I am the one who wrote that a climate scientist suggested it in a reply to a message of yours.

        I was trying to point out how people like yourself will tend to agree that almost anything negative can be attributed to global warming if someone wrote the suggestion down somewhere. In this case the climate scientist was me, and there was absolutely no valid data to support what I suggested.

      • Jeffrey Davis

        I’ve poked about the thread, but the sentiment holds.

        There are thresholds passed all the time by seemingly insignificant forces. I’ve always been the schlemiel holding the egg when it breaks for no reason so I’m real familiar with this notion.

      • By the way, eggs do not break for no reason.

      • Jeffrey Davis

        eggs do not break for no reason.

        Take a long strip of paper. Maybe 9-10 inches. In very small, almost microscopic script, write out this thread on one side of the paper. Now, give it a half twist and paste the ends together.

        Mobius Thread!

      • Jeffrey,
        You are over your head, and yet you never leave the shallow end.

      • Jeffry

        “the straw that broke the camel’s back” is a misleading expression, especially in this context. A single straw could never break a camel’s back, and a foot of water could never cause an earthquake. We get changes in atmospheric pressure that large, for heavens sake. I suppose the real straw as not the rise in sea level, but the flock of ducks that lit on the water.

      • So do we find that straw and burn it or burn the whole straw pile to be safe?

      • No, because you’re too busy clutching at said straws.
        Try thinking for more than 5 seconds before posting.

      • I tried Peter, I really did, but with everything bad being caused by global warming, it is tough not to grab a straw before they are all gone. :)

      • Dallas, I’m sure you know my remark wasn’t directed at you ;-)

  34. I’ve poked about the thread, but the sentiment holds.

    However in life most sensible people know that it wasn’t a particular straw that broke the camel’s back but the pre-existing situation and that the camel’s back was due to be broken one way or another.

    Passing laws against straws — and in this case, given the scale of tectonic forces and the weight of the oceans, it’s more like passing laws against dust motes — is absurd.

    • Jeffrey Davis

      There’s a saying, “When you’ve only got a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

      Passing laws against straws — and in this case, given the scale of tectonic forces and the weight of the oceans, it’s more like passing laws against dust motes — is absurd.

      As is inventing stuff that people didn’t say.

      • Jeffery–if you are reasonable, you will have to acknowledge that many who believe that AGW is a dire problem are excessively quick to believe that any potential negative situation might be linked as a effect of AGW. The thread is a pretty good example.

      • Jeffrey Davis

        Can I get a ruling here?

        Is “If you are reasonable” an Appeal to Pity, Appeal to Common Sense, or Pious Fraud?

      • Jeffrey,
        Yes, you regularly invoke all three.
        Or is that what you were asking about?

      • As is inventing stuff that people didn’t say.

        Jeffrey D: “Passing laws against straws” is poetic and broad, but if your side is not about regulating carbon severely, what are you for?

        I find debating ACC folks is a lot like playing Whack-A-Mole.

  35. Thomas Brown

    “Tetlock found that his experts used a double standard: they were much tougher in assessing the validity of information that undercut their theory than they were in crediting information that supported it.”
    - This is reminiscent of Richard Feynman’s famous 1974 address about ‘Cargo Cult Science’.
    http://www.gasresources.net/Cargo%20Cult%20Science%20-%20by%20Richard%20Feynman.htm

  36. Dr. Jay Cadbury, phd.

    In my opinion, the reason people believe false predictions is because they want a feel good moment that they can hold onto. My personal predictions about numerous topics have been very accurate. I predicted that the Iraq War would be won and I also predicted that global warming was a hoax. I predicted the Gulf oil spill to be overblown and I predicted widespread resentment over the socialization of healthcare. Regarding Japan, I am predicting the nuclear meltdown fears to be far overblown. I recommend that people read the work of the great Julian Simon. Many of his predictions have been extremely accurate, demonstrating he was far ahead of his time. In fact, Simon has been ahead of time as compared to people born after him, who had time to research and dispute his claims. I believe this is quite remarkable.

    • Jeffrey Davis

      In fact, Simon has been ahead of time as compared to people born after him

      I think you’ve got to give him that.

  37. I am glad to see that my review has generated so much discussion:
    http://www.bukisa.com/articles/448289_a-review-of-future-babble-why-expert-predictions-fail-and-why-we-believe-them-anyway

    I would encourage people to read the book and watch Tetlock’s video. They explain their ideas much better than any review can.

    I fear that many people will choose to see the hedgehog/fox metaphor as a way to justify their preconceived ideas and attack the people they disagree with. Some of the comments above come across as “I’m a Fox and you’re a Hedgehog, so there fore I’m right.”

    I suspect that a real fox would be somewhat uncertain about whether or not he was a fox. I would guess that a hedgehog would be quicker to claim foxhood.

    I did write a short story about global warming.
    http://www.authspot.com/Short-Stories/The-Parasol.587225

  38. ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future’ – is a quote variously attributed to Neils Bohr or to Yogi Berra.

    ‘You can find plenty of “missing links” on the internet that seem to trace this evolutionary history — citations quoting both Bohr and Berra, generally giving precedence to Bohr. This abstract of a scientific paper puts it nicely.
    Yogi Berra once observed, apparently paraphrasing Niels Bohr, “Prediction is difficult, especially about the future.” Berra’s and Bohr’s backgrounds, respectively, in baseball and quantum mechanics, probably prejudiced them, since recent studies show that, at least in geophysics, not everything is as difficult to predict as the path of a knuckle ball or an electron through a double slit.’

    In a comment on the post above – Dr Diablo said…
    ‘It’s easy to understand how this confusion arose. Bohr was named MVP (Most Valuable Physicist) in 1951, the same year that Yogi won the first of his three MVP (Most Valuable Player) awards. Furthermore, Bohr was left-handed; Berra, although no lefty, swung the stick from the portside. And to top it off, both spoke clumsy English!’

    I wouldn’t get too carried away with being either a fox or a hedgehog if it is statistically better to be a monkey or an octopus. Gardner’s four suggestions seem useful precepts.

    - Accept that the world is complex and uncertain.
    - Look at a wide variety of information and combine that information to gain deeper understanding.
    - Think about thinking: be aware of the biases and fallacies of thought.
    - Strive for humility.

    • Prediction is only hard until you get the hang of it.

      Look at that Isaac Newton fellow.

      Before Newton, the means to accurately predict where a cannonball might land was out of reach of the common military man.

      Sure, we can’t predict where a three body orbital cannonball in some cases might land, or when, or if, but we can predict that we can’t predict that.

      Our ability to not predict is becoming more and more curtailed as we progress in our mathematical understandings.

      One day at this rate we may not be able to not predict at all, though I predict not.

  39. “read the work of the great Julian Simon”

    His ideas were an eye opener at a time when we all believed the problem was too many people. Few believed his at the time, but he has proven right. The more people, the faster the rate of innovation, the richer we all are.

    The Club of Rome and the Doom and Gloom ideas they spewed have proven wrong, time and time again. They completely miscalculated the force of human desire to improve and the effect this has on the future. They saw human beings as victims of their circumstance, rather than the architects of their future.

  40. NASA FACTS – Global Warming – April 1998, NF-222

    …in the early 1970’s, because temperatures had been decreasing for about 25 to 30 years, people began predicting the approach of an ice age! For the last 15 to 20 years, we have been seeing a fairly steady rise in temperatures, giving some assurance that we are now in a global warming phase.

    http://bit.ly/ehUDkB

    Dear NASA, because temperatures have been increasing for about 25 to 30 years, why are people now began predicting catastrophic global warming?

    Note: That fact article has disappeared from NASA database.

  41. There does appear to more foxes than hedgehogs in this part of the forest.

  42. The following conclusion on detection by the IPCC could not have been written better by a sceptic.

    Detection of the Greenhouse Effect
    in the Observations

    8.5 CONCLUSIONS
    Because of the strong theoretical basis for enhanced greenhouse warming, there is considerable concern about the potential climatic effects that may result from increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations. However, because of the many significant uncertainties and inadequacies in the observational climate record and our knowledge of the causes of natural climatic variability and current computer models, scientists working in this field cannot at this point in time make the definitive statement:
    Yes we have now seen an enhanced greenhouse effect.

    It is accepted that global-mean temperatures have increased over the past 100 years and are now warmer than at any time in the period of instrumental record. This global
    warming is consistent with the results of simple model predictions of greenhouse gas induced climate change. However, a number of other factors could have contributed
    to this warming and it is impossible to prove a cause and effect relationship. Furthermore when other details of the instrumental climate record are compared with model predictions, while there are some areas of agreement there are many areas of disagreement.

    The main reasons for this are

    1) The inherent variability of the climate system appears to be sufficient to obscure any enhanced greenhouse signal to date. Poor quantitative understanding of low frequency climate variability (particularly on the 10-100 year time scale) leaves open the possibility that the observed warming is largely unrelated to the
    enhanced greenhouse effect

    2) The lack of reliability of models at the regional spatial scale means that the expected signal is not yet well defined. This precludes any firm conclusions
    being drawn from multivariate detection studies
    3) The ideal model experiments required to define the signal have not yet been performed. What is required are time-dependent simulations using realistic time dependent forcing carried out with fully coupled ocean-atmosphere GCMs
    4) Uncertainties in, and the shortness of available instrumental data records mean that the low frequency characteristics of natural variability are virtually unknown for many climate elements.

    Thus it is not possible at this time to attribute all or even a large part of the observed global mean warming to the enhanced greenhouse effect on the basis of the observational data currently available. Equally however we have no observational evidence that conflicts with the model based estimates of climate sensitivity. Thus because of model and other uncertainties we cannot preclude the possibility that the enhanced greenhouse effect has contributed substantially to past warming nor even that the greenhouse gas induced warming has been greater than that observed, but is partly offset by natural variability and/or other anthropogenic effects.

    http://bit.ly/fOyLIV

  43. SIMPLE PREDICTIONS OF GLOBAL MEAN TEMPERATURE

    From the historical global mean temperature data shown below

    http://bit.ly/bUZsBe

    the following patterns can be established:

    a) 30-years of global cooling by 0.2 deg C.
    b) Followed by 30-years of global warming by 0.5 deg C.

    VERIFICATION

    Let us start from the global mean temperature anomaly (GMTA) for the 1880s of -0.3 deg C, which was at the beginning of a cooling phase. As a result, we have:

    1) For 1880s, GMTA = -0.3 deg C
    2) For 1910s, a GMTA of -0.3 – 0.2 = -0.5 deg C
    3) For 1940s, a GMTA of -0.5 + 0.5 = 0 deg C
    4) For 1970s, a GMTA of 0 – 0.2 = -0.2 deg C
    5) For 2000s, a GMTA of -0.2 + 0.5 = + 0.3 deg C

    These results approximately agree with the data given in the link above!

    PREDICTION

    6) For 2030s, an approximate GMTA of 0.3 – 0.2 = + 0.1 deg C

    CONCLUSION

    Slight global cooling until 2030!

    • The subtitle on the cover on Amazon is different; I guess they decided to emphasize the positive:
      “Why Expert Predictions Are Next to Worthless, and You Can Do Better”.

  44. “And I trust the scientists over the mining execs. ”

    After them guy at East Anglia lost his data and his efforts to suppress discussion I would go with the mining execs. Lefties falsify stuff like the doctor who said vaccines were causing autism. Remember Rahm, “Never Let a Crisis Go To Waste”, Emmanuel? Maybe in fifty years we’ll know the truth if the hedgehogs of the left let us live that long.

    Why do I think Lefties are hedgehogs? 1) Big government will fix whatever is wrong. Their raison d’etre (big idea). 2) Socialism has failed every time it has been tried, but they’re still at it.