USGCRP draft strategic plan

by Judith Curry

The public comment period for the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s (USGCRP) 2012-2021 Strategic Plan is open until November 29, 2011.  Lets take a look at the draft plan.

Background

Here is some background on the USGCRP from their web site:

OUR VISION:

A nation, globally engaged and guided by science, meeting the challenges of climate and global change

Our Mission:

To build a knowledge base that informs human responses to climate and global change through coordinated and integrated federal programs of research, education, communication, and decision support

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) coordinates and integrates federal research on changes in the global environment and their implications for society. The USGCRP began as a presidential initiative in 1989 and was mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-606), which called for “a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”

During the past two decades, the United States, through the USGCRP, has made the world’s largest scientific investment in the areas of climate change and global change research. Since its inception, the USGCRP has supported research and observational activities in collaboration with several other national and international science programs.

These activities led to major advances in several key areas including but not limited to:

  • Observing and understanding short- and long-term changes in climate, the ozone layer, and land cover;
  • Identifying the impacts of these changes on ecosystems and society;
  • Estimating future changes in the physical environment, and vulnerabilities and risks associated with those changes; and
  • Providing scientific information to enable effective decision making to address the threats and opportunities posed by climate and global change
Another useful background document is the 2003 Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) Strategic Plan developed under the Bush (43) administration [link].  The Strategic plan can be found [here].  To get a sense of what was covered in this document, see the Table of Contents:
You may be wondering why I list the table of contents for a 2003 document.  I provide this as a contrast to the content of the new USGCRP draft strategic plan, which is discussed next.
A primary product of the CCSP was the 21 Synthesis and Assessment Reports.
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USGCRP draft strategic plan

The announcement for the release of the new draft strategic plan can be found [here].  The draft plan can be found [here].

Table of Contents

I. INTRODUCTION

II. VISION AND MISSION

  • USGCRP Vision and Mission
  • Framework for the New USGCRP
  • UnifyingIdeas
  • Cross-Linking Activities

III. GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

Goal 1: Advance Science 

  • Objective 1.1: Earth System Understanding.
  • Objective 1.2: Science for Adaptation and Mitigation
  •  Objective 1.3: Integrated Observations
  • Objective 1.4: Integrated Modeling
  • Objective 1.5: Information Management and Sharing

Goal 2: Inform Decisions

  • Objective 2.1: Inform Adaptation Decisions
  •  Objective 2.2: Inform Mitigation Decisions
  • Objective 2.3: Enhancing Climate Services
  • Objective 2.4: Enhancing International Partnerships

Goal 3: Sustained Assessments

  • Objective 3.1: Scientific Integration
  • Objective 3.2: Ongoing Capacity
  • Objective 3.3: Inform Responses
  • Objective 3.4: Evaluate Progress

Goal 4: Communicate and Educate

  • Objective 4.1: Strengthen Communication and Education Research
  • Objective 4.2: Reach Diverse Audiences

Increase Engagement

Cultivate Workforce

IV. COORDINATING WITH OTHER NATIONS AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

V. IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY

——-

The entire document is 93 pages.    The objective “Advance the Science” is 25 pages long, with the goal “Earth System Understanding” being 6 pages.  A summary of the Goals encompassed in these 25 pages:

Goal 1. Advance Science: Advance scientific knowledge of the integrated natural and  human components of the Earth system. This goal identifies the research, including integrated  observations and modeling, that is necessary to better understand the behavior and interaction of  human and Earth systems and their response to global change. The Program will increasingly emphasize integrated physical, biological, and social science research, and developing reliable  knowledge of the causes and consequences of global change at regional and global scales.  USGCRP’s strong research tradition provides the foundation for the entire Program. 

Goal 2. Inform Decisions: Provide the scientific basis to inform and enable timely decisions  on adaptation and mitigation. USGCRP member and cooperating agencies will emphasize  translating research (from Goal 1) into formats and results that are policy relevant, useable, and  accessible to decision makers. The Program and its member agencies are also expanding their  ability to provide global change information, tools, and services the public and private sectors  need to make decisions. 

Goal 3. Sustained Assessments: Build sustained assessment capacity that improves the nation’s ability to understand, anticipate, and respond to global change impacts and vulnerabilities. USGCRP will conduct and participate in national and international assessments to evaluate current and likely future scenarios of global change and their impacts, as well as how  effectively science is being used to support the country’s response to change. It will also build a  standing capacity to conduct national assessments and support those at regional levels. Together,  Goals 2 and 3 will evaluate progress in responding to change and identify science and  stakeholder needs for further progress. The Program will use this regular assessment to inform  its priorities. 

Goal 4. Communicate and Educate: Advance communications and education to broaden  public understanding of global change, and empower the workforce of the future. As a  trusted provider of accurate information on global change, USGCRP will use its research results  to communicate with and educate stakeholders in ways that are relevant to their lives and needs.  The Program and its member agencies will adopt, develop, and share best practices in communication that enhance stakeholder engagement. Educational efforts will support  development of a scientific and general workforce able to use global change knowledge in their lives and careers. They will also help build global change literacy among the general public.

JC quick reaction:  Where’s the actual physical (and chemical) science?

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UCAR meeting

Some insight into the dynamics that resulted in a substantial change in emphasis in climate research is provided by a meeting that I attended earlier this week in Boulder:  the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Annual Members Meeting.  An overview of UCAR is provided at Wikipedia:

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) is a nonprofit consortium of more than 75 universities offering Ph.D.s in theatmospheric and related sciences. UCAR manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and provides additional services to strengthen and support research and education through its community programs. 

The link to the meeting web site is [here].  Of particular relevance to the topic under discussion are these agenda items:

Keynote: Michael  Crow, President, Arizona State University  “Universities and Transdisciplinary Education for Sustainability”

UCAR Members’ Meeting Forum: Panel Discussion

The nutshell of Crow’s presentation is this:

A + B = C

  • A:  scientific and disciplinary knowledge
  • B:  impacts of A, communication of A and impacts, and translation A for policy makers
  • C:  policy

Crow argued that the emphasis needs to be on B, which requires an entirely new structure for universities.

The panel discussion picked up on this broad theme, focusing on the communication issue, with Don Wuebbles from the University of Illinois describing their new interdisciplinary program on environment and society that was dealing with the A+B=C problem.

JC comments

Whereas I had suffered silently through all this, after the panel discussion, I had to make a statement.  Here is my general recollection of what I said:

A plus B most emphatically does NOT equal C.   A+B=C represents the linear, “truth to power” model of decision making that has been known for decades NOT to work for complex environmental problems.

Decision making associated with the issues of climate and global change can be characterized as decision making under deep uncertainty.  The deep uncertainty is associated with our reliance on projections from climate models, which are loaded with uncertainties and do not adequately treat natural climate variability.  Further substantial areas of ignorance remain in our basic understanding of some of the relevant phyiscal, chemical and dynamical processes.

If we as scientists are not humble about the uncertainties and areas of ignorance, we have an enormous capacity to mislead decision makers and point them in the direction of poor policies.  Uncertainty is essential information for decision makers.

Climate scientists have this very naive understanding of the policy process, which is aptly described by the A+B=C model in the context of the precautionary principle.  This naive understanding is reflected in the palpable frustration of many climate scientists at the failure of the “truth” as they “know” it to influence global and national energy and climate policy.  This frustration has degenerated into using to word “denier” to refer to anyone who disagrees with them on either the science or the policy solution.

The path that we seem to be on, whereby the science is settled and all we need is better communication and translation of the science to policy makers, not only has the potential to seriously mislead decision makers, but also to destroy atmospheric and climate science in the process.

There was applause.  Not a standing ovation, but applause from a substantial segment of the 200+ audience.

There were several other interesting comments in the discussion.  One person brought up the point that the U.S. land grant universities had a long tradition of working with decision makers in the context of agricultural extension, etc. Another person put up a new equation, something like this:

C = A + B + X(AB)**n + f(C)

which, to the extent an equation like this is useful, much better reflects the actual decision making process than A+B=C.

At the break, close to 20 people came up to me to thank me for what I said, “somebody had to say it,”  and few others who liked what I said but seemed to be hearing this kind of an idea for the first time (I of course steered them to judithcurry.com)

JC conclusions

Climate science in the U.S., at least at the institutional level, seems to have gone off the rails.    The difference in what is being emphasized in the Obama vs the Bush (43) administration is huge.  Going back to Bush 41, his administration supported a substantial increase in the relevant budgets supporting climate science.  When Al Gore was running for president, many climate scientists that I spoke with were concerned that Gore might assume that the science is settled, and move straight to the applications and ignore scientific research in this area.  We are now seeing this realized under the Obama administration.  In hindsight, the CCSP strategic plan was pretty good, and the issues raised in that plan are far from being “settled.”

So, who wrote the USGCRP strategic plan?  Their website says:

The new strategic plan is being developed by writing teams comprised of scientists and research program managers from the contributing USGCRP agencies, with input from federal and public stakeholders.  Stakeholder input will be gathered through a public outreach as well as a public comment period that will begin in May 2011. The document will then go through several rounds of review, including a review by the National Research Council, and a final version of the Strategic Plan is expected to be released in December 2011.

 

Looks like the team included zero input from independent academic scientists.

Moderation note:  This thread can potentially be important.  If the comment thread turns out well, i will submit the weblink to the entire thread as a public comment to the USGCRP.  So I will edit little “sniping” comments, and please keep your comments on the topic of of the USGCRP and U.S. climate research policy.

282 responses to “USGCRP draft strategic plan

  1. The A+B=C formula is incredibly naive. Given that A is a probability rather than a certainty and that the impacts of B can vary (winners and losers) from region to region, there is no way to solve that equation unless tolerance for risk and scope of concern are constants. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, the political sphere doesn’t play nicely with constants.

    • Such “leadership” led us into the maze in 1971 [1] and loss of:
      a.) Citizen control of governments and
      b.) Integrity in government science

      Can society now be salvaged after 40 years of insanity?
      a.) Save the environment: Drive an electric car!
      b.) Join the marathon race against racism!
      c.) End selfishness: Occupy Wall-street!

      We have been trapped like rats in a social maze chasing imaginary cheeses since the time of Kissinger-Mao-Nixon-Breznov secret agreements to save us from mutual nuclear annihilation by adopting:
      a.) The Bilderberg model of a stable Sun [2]
      b.) Induced climate change as a common enemy to
      c.) Unite nations in a one-world government [1].

      My 50-year career [3] as a researcher and teacher of science and engineering allowed me to see parts of the maze as it was constructed and put into operation.

      Other skills and talents are desperately needed to guide society, including many of its most conscientious citizens, safely away from foolish internal strife, revenge and punishment and restore science and constitutional governments to their pre-1971 state:
      a.) Statesmanship,
      b.) Wisdom, and
      c.) Unshakable Faith of
      Great world leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

    • The original formula has an inconvenient truth in it.
      If A+B=C, then
      It isn’t far from
      A = C-B.
      Given the desired policy, and the essence of the communication,
      It follows that the science settled.
      Which is what the drafters believe. Ergo JC’s “Where’s the science?” quick reaction.

    • I think a more accurate statement is as follows
      B(t) = C-A(t)
      A(t): Science changes over time.
      It is the POLICY (C) that is settled (and therefore constant).
      The communication B(t) is a function of time, whose purpose is to adjust to the changes in science to preserve the unchanging policy.

      • Not being personally acquainted with the individuals involved, I can’t say whether they’d agree with your two corrollaries above. However, I have no problems saying that the originator of the original equation has a poor understanding of how the political process works.

        Stepping into that process with such a flawed understanding is not likely to be successful.

    • Please excuse the following experiment in ASCII process flow diagramming:

      *—*
      |.A.|<+
      *—*.|
      ..|…|
      ..v…|
      *—*.|
      |.B.|.|
      *—*.|
      ..|…|
      ..v…|
      *—*.|
      |.C.|-+
      *—*

      Collection A of data and observations precedes communication B, precedes decision C, which has outcomes that may be observed.

      A(n)->B(n)->C(n)->A(n+1)..

      The problem C has is that until generation (n), the term ->A(n+1) either did not exist or was ignored.

      C(n) must now consider the consequences to climate of policy, a new factor nor present up to C(n-1).

      How C(n) adapts to (n+1) considerations is as great an issue as the quality of B(n) or the details of A(n).

      • I think the key lesson from observation is that
        the partial derivative of C(t) with respect to A(t)
        appears to be near zero.

        Whether the science is settled is irrelevant to those people who believe the Policy is settled regardless of what the science says yesterday or tomorrow.

      • Ouch.
        You are correct: Settled policy is much more dangerous than settled science.
        Actual settled science, like gravity or evolution, is not after our wallets.
        Settled policy leads to all sorts of needful regulations and laws and taxes.

  2. [ " Looks like the team included zero input from independent academic scientists." ]

    IMO this says it all.

  3. Is it just me or is all this, given the cratering of the US economy, some kind of fairy tale dream about how things could be.

    The whole global warming thingy only played in the western democracies – Euroland, North America, ANZAC land. The rest of the world couldn’t have cared less except if the figured they could get on the gravy train and con some $$$$ on some carbon credit scam.

    People in Greece aren’t rioting for less CO2. Worrying about Hysterical Global Warming only happens when people feel rich and complacent.

    That ain’t what’s happening now and nothing Pres. Hopey Changey, Fly Me in Private Jets Al Gore, or make $$$$Millions James Henson say will change the situation.

    It has been a great ride, but this Gravy Train has been shunted into a dead-end siding.

    • It has been a great ride, but this Gravy Train has been shunted into a dead-end siding.

      “Derailed” might be a better description.

      Max

    • Fred, I agree up to your final sentence.
      The train is not sidetracked. The train is motoring on, fueled by (A) government regulations that give it the power to draw (B) public money to pay (C) the Engineers driving the train and writing the draft reports on tracked laid by the EPA. Like any coal-ladden unit train, this beast has momentum behind it.

      The train is still highballing toward an inevitable train wreck that will do much damage to the economy. We need to set A=0, B=0, so that C=0. Only that will stop the train before all the C’s bail out clutching all the B’s, protected by all the A’s just before the crash.

    • Fred

      I’m thinking you’re tiptoeing around naming the principles you specifically mean in the ‘rest of the world’.

      China had the One Child Policy decades ahead of the west, in no small part due the belief of Chinese policy makers that their ecosystem could not support a more populous China. Even now, independent research just last week reported that China is significantly reducing GHG emissions per unit of energy produced (though of course not overall). Western democracies before Kyoto and since have little to boast of by comparison, and North America in particular is a backwards child relative to China’s performance overall. Certainly, the growth of coal burning in China is a grave concern not just in climate terms, and is an area Chinese policy makers are known to be legitimately intensively seeking alternatives for.. unlike North America.

      Or perhaps you mean Russia and other members of the former Soviet Union not allied with the Eurozone? The political and social chaos there makes declarations about policy there difficult, but perhaps your assertions have some substance.. if only there were any measureable way on the ‘global warmy thing’ North America outperformed Russia etc.

      India and region? In that there’s been such a dramatic shift from the particulate load of the practice of using dung as fuel (http://www.faculty.fairfield.edu/faculty/hodgson/Courses/so191/SouthAsReadings/IndiaEnergySuccess.html), to methane conversion is a leap forward unlike anything North America has attempted over the same span of time (unless you count the debacle that is ethanol as an excuse for farm-subsidy).

      Note the prominence of these three examples in the so-called BRICS group of high-performing economies. Perhaps what once made America great, ingenuity and ambition, is responsible for both qualities of these examples?

      So isn’t it possible Fred, that if we buy into your view, America will continue to plod further and further behind the world leaders?

      • “China is significantly reducing GHG emissions per unit of energy produced.” This is normal in economic development as initial energy-intensive heavy industry development is followed by an increased emphasis on low-intensity services and intellectual property. I assume that all IPCC projections take account of this well-known relationship.

      • Faustino

        Also, while we’re quibbling the tiny difficulties in my case, using manure for biogas instead of burning dung for fuel has health and economic benefits unrelated to climate, and the One Child Policy is an atrocity.

        In your quibbling, can you find something maybe worth talking about?

        Like what great things America is actually doing? (If only.)

      • Bart,

        True enough in a certain limited sense, though I think in almost all important respects you have the arrow of evolution pointing in the wrong direction, China, India and other quickly developing nations are now going through the evolutionary phase, economically and socially, that we in the now fully developed West went through a hundred years ago, but you only get to go through that phase once.

        Times have changed, technology has improved, China et al. continue to harvest the low hanging fruit of energy/carbon intensity with technologies developed mostly in the West at frightening ecological and social costs, which they may be able to pay for successfully with their dynamic and growing economies. Still, China faces the prospect of overtaking the worst of the West in terms of per capita carbon emissions within ten years and has already doubled its emissions between 2003 and 2010 these facts are very hard to sweep aside, just by noting with ‘grave concern’ China’s coal dependency.

        We in the West are faced with a much tougher row to hoe, there are few low hanging fruit left to pick for us to pick and the economic shifts from West towards East are making affording the changes a real challenge.

        China seems content to pursue a path of cheap energy and access to resources at all costs, and with a political policy internal and external that brooks no real dissent. It will be interesting if China will continue to continue to be able keep the lid on its many ethnic minorities and the types of social development that wealth and a middle class bring with it without massive repression, by merely continuing to censor their information access and promulgate the type of ‘return to the motherland’ nationalism, remanufacture veneration of its imperial past and rejuvenate thousands of years old of the meme of big-man-emperor at the top [how 1930's].

        Aside from the possibly very serious long term demographic repercussion of China’s One Child Policy I have been wondering lately what the impact of the [still] most populous nation on Earth of mostly male only-children will be on our global future [could you imagine that a society of a billion only-children?]. It could have some interesting repercussions, for example what would the social and political impact be of any potential Chinese military adventure be when every combat casualty would mean the likely extinction of a Chinese family line. How long would that operation last do you think?

      • w.w.wygart

        The situation is marginally worse than you paint it in most ways, and yet for all that, your greater delving of sociological details does not produce a clearer picture in terms of American GHG policy.

        It may be that lesser developed countries (LDCs) are leapfrogging the more developed (MDCs) because they have more advantage of the fruits of development by transfer, rather reliance only on innovation.. however it cannot be denied LDCs are also a vigorous and productive source of innovation far outstripping the MDCs too.

        The trend in MDCs appears strictly sociological, a return to rustic views toward technology and science without the same return to individual self-sufficiency; hatred of the very processes that create prosperity married to an unswerving avarice for more of it; isolationism at exactly the time when neighbors are most needed and neighborliness is granted sanctimonious lip-service in houses of worship while it is badmouthed from the same pulpits; protectionism at the very time increased trade is the only way to dig out of the hole being dug by the self-righteous antiscience heirs of the wealth of generations with better sense and better ambition.

  4. A question I would ask the group is this:
    Is “Global Change” going to be the latest marketing term for catastrophic climate change?
    The implication, that things on Earth have not changed until now is simply misleading.
    The attempt to imbed the policy demands of the AGW community in a larger context is only going to damage policy to deal with other pressing needs.
    This frankly seems to be a way to have tax payer funded special interest lobbying group within the federal budget process. No real value will be added. Money that could go to actual research will be spent instead on lobbying. Less, not more, will be learned at greater cost to the tax payer.
    Its work is redundant. The United States does not suffer from too few coordinating or lobbying group seeking federal money, or selling points of view to Congress and the public.
    This USGCRP will best serve science, the public and the tax payer by voluntarily disbanding.

    • randomengineer

      The implication, that things on Earth have not changed until now is simply misleading.

      That doesn’t appear to be the implication at all. It’s common knowledge that the climate changes for natural reasons, therefore the focus would be on determining human impact, if any, and to what degree.

      Pushing funds into research is proper. If humans are causing a change that’s harmful, it’s best to know this ahead of time and have some idea of how to deal with it. This is a great deal better than having our panties around our ankles, not knowing anything, and having a big mess to deal with. If it turns out that there is no harm forthcoming, we humans still are the beneficiaries of the knowledge base. Svensmark’s and CERN’s discoveries re cosmic rays for example are damned interesting and would not have been known if not for the climate research effort. For all we know this new knowledge is the catalyst to developing something really useful like spacecraft engines that require no fuel. One never knows.

      Where you and I *do* agree is that it’s obviously premature to recommend drastic and/or draconain action until we truly understand what we are doing. Invoking pascal’s wager (precationary principle) to enforce kinda/maybe silliness like expensive sequestration is irresponsible fiscal policy.

      • You obviously missed Judith’s “Quick reaction”: “Where’s the actual physical (and chemical) science?”

        Leaping to persuasion/policy pushing is naive and arrogant. Again I hearken back to uber-Lukewarmist Nordstrom’s global cost-benefit analysis of ‘mitigation’ vs. ‘adaptation’. Mitigation, even taking the fantasized costs of strong warming as given, is a major loser, especially the Gorian recasting of the economy into full “newables” mode. ‘Adaptation’ is almost tautological: adjusting to what happens. But thinking you KNOW what is going to happen and ‘pre-adapting’ is inane. The only sane policy is maximization of wealth and its consequent flexibility and increased options.

        And how will the policy pushers ‘adapt’ to the breaking tsunami of evidence that CO2’s climate effects, to the extent they are not benign, are swamped and virtually undetectable within the “noise” (natural variability and fed back responses) of the H2O cycle, amongst other natural processes that have locked the planet within a steady-state range of about 12K ever since the Oxygen Crisis almost a billion years ago? This premature power grab is an indication that the response will not be “scientific”.

      • typo: ‘the Oxygen Crisis almost 3 billion years ago?’

      • nordstrom? you mean wm nordhaus?

      • Sorry, got the names bollixed. Yes, Nordhaus, Yale.

      • randomengineer,
        but the entity in question is controlling to a great extent the research into what makes the climate tick.
        And since they have decided a long, long time ago CO2 is the point of obsession, CO2 it is.
        That is why I comment down thread that the USGCRP (which sounds like US General Crap, if spoken out) and its UN first cousin, the IPCC are actually lowering the amount of knowledge available.

      • randomengineer

        And since they have decided a long, long time ago CO2 is the point of obsession, CO2 it is.

        CO2 levels are rising and we do not know why. It is also warming. Whether this is wholly natural or not is relevant to ask. Whether CO2 is rising due to human technology is also relevant.

        Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation but we’re foolish not to investigate. Looking into the correlation is a good thing. Letting Al Gore loose upon the world haranguing the public is not. I think you’re conflating these things.

  5. Why do I always get the feeling that the uncertainties JC is always talking about would imply there is an overestimate of AGW risk when surely the opposite is just as likely, if not more so ?

    • It could go either way, that is my point. I have most definitely not underplayed the black swan/ dragon king risks on the high end, but these are at least as likely to be associated with natural variability as AGW (it is the combination that could more likely trigger such risks). The greater uncertainty is whether anything we might do in terms of CO2 stabilization would have much effect on the climate.

      • Judith Curry

        There was applause. Not a standing ovation, but applause from a substantial segment of the 200+ audience.

        Had I been there, I would have added my applause as well.

        Your add-on above:

        The greater uncertainty is whether anything we might do in terms of CO2 stabilization would have much effect on the climate.

        Would get a standing ovation.

        Max

      • Nonsense. It’s mathematically obvious that nothing proposed or practicable, not even “de-industrialization of the West”, will have more than a nugatory effect.

      • as likely to be associated with natural variability as AGW
        I think I see the point. We have a situation where we have added levels of CO2 to the atmosphere that have no parallels in paleoclimate history, re: the Vostok ice core data, so you suggest that the possible black swan events are at least as likely to be associated with natural variability as AGW (it is the combination that could more likely trigger such risks). So the question is what exactly is the natural variability expected in response to a fat-tail black swan of excess CO2 that will stay around for hundreds if not thousands of years?

        Or let me put it the other way. The excess CO2 is the definition of a black swan event. Black swans can either be bad or good. Past records of natural variability never would predicted a CO2 level this high. The black swans that come out of the woodwork will be due to natural variability, if natural variability is defined as the response function to some stimulus. In the case of an excess CO2 stimulus, this could be anything, changes in pH, changes in ecological diversity, and things that we haven’t even thought of yet.

        The greater uncertainty is whether anything we might do in terms of CO2 stabilization would have much effect on the climate.

        The uncertainty of course there is multiplied because the decision will have to be made by humans. Nature does not have to make decisions, it just does what the physics says it will do.

      • WHT

        I see, “as likely to be associated with natural variability as AGW” as unreasonable, with all available data considered.

        Perhaps it is true to say “within two orders of magnitude as likely to be associated with natural variability as AGW”,

        Perhaps if we shrug off the bonds of Occam’s Razor and assume unknowables that uniquely affect climate on a scale and in a way we have no prior evidence for, we might speculate on those natural unseelies having as great an impact as the anthropogenic.

        However, taking uncertainty into account, most of the obvious ways of measuring, and many inobvious datasets besides, correlate about ten times more strongly anthropogenic trends to climate than the net of all other trends combined on scales between 30 and 300 years.

        The likelihood of coincidental correlation all pointing independently to the same ratio of anthropogenic to natural causes is itself vanishingly small.

        While there is still a possibility the natural trends could explain the bulk of the 30-300 year observations, it is not the reasonable conclusion, though we may never be able to draw so much data to compelling decide.

        Further, the logic of failing to reduce risk that has a known multiplicative relationship to the frequency of significantly costly negative outcomes because such negative outcomes will happen anyway at the fractionally lower frequency rate is staggeringly incomprehensible. A 1,000 year event every decade is so much less preferable than every millennium, especially when the CO2 half life in the system is 44 years; you can easily graph what the additional cost of every year of delay to future generations is, once you establish how much CO2 it takes to increase the risk of extreme events by a factor of 10.

    • Why not call the new scientific group the ‘FBI’ (Federal Bureau of Intransigence). A quick mind-meld with the existing bureau and here we are…

      http://www.nextgov.com/nextgov/ng_20111007_6100.php?oref=rss

      & they can hardly wait, to keep us all ‘safe & sound’.
      Why, because they love us?:o)

    • Phil, the biggest risk we face from the AGW movement is the long list of bad policy demands the believers make. We are very good at dealing with Earth’s ever changing climate. This is the core fallacy of the AGW movement: that we need to spend our efforts and treasure on something we already do very well.

    • “Why do I always get the feeling that the uncertainties JC is always talking about would imply there is an overestimate of AGW risk when surely the opposite is just as likely, if not more so ?”

      It is more likely to go on the overestimate because a system such as our climate, which is prone to extreme changes, slow and fast, is most likely based on negative feedbacks, otherwise it would have gone off the rails ages ago.

      • Eyal

        A reasonable point. Uncertainty is on both sides of any prediction. A couple of key points.

        1. Over the last decade actual observance of impact has not been consistant with the AGW predictions so that tends to get people that the predictions were on the high side.

        2. Over longer time frames- the probability that predictions are simply incorrect for a wide variety of reasons becomes higher when estimating the potential change to any specific area.

        Bottom line- all of these predictions are based on climate models that have not shown the ability to predict anything meaningful, that can be validated for implementing policy. The question is do you want to implement government policy based on someones faith?

    • All else being equal, that would be true. That the vast majority of funding and publicity and policy pushing has been explicitly or implicitly directed towards proving and maximizing predictions of AGW, however, has heavily biased the literature and “consensus”.

      So given more balanced research in which the butcher’s thumb has been removed from the scales, the “uncertainties” are, with high certainty, very likely to be resolved by slashing AGW risk estimates. If the research and analysis ever actually became objective, the risk estimates IMO would go negative.

    • “uncertainties JC is always talking about ” ?

      I’m pleased that you’ve noticed too. I thought I was the only one! It gets a bit tiresome after a while especially as she puts the risk of CO2 sensitivity at 1-6 deg C at the 66% level. Which according to my arithmetic means a ~ 1/6 chance of AGW over 6 degC.

      Judith did challenge this interpretation saying I was assuming a normal distribution, but I replied I didn’t think it mattered what the shape of the PDF was, and that was the end of the discussion. So we didn’t resolve the point. But, if you’re interested maybe you could ask her, yourself, what she would say the correct figure should be?

      • Latimer Alder

        You can have all the uncertainties you like in your climatllogy.

        Since you have proclaimed that

        ‘experiment is not a mandatory part of the process’,

        you can sit in your ‘laboratory’ and declaim sensitivity to be 7 or e to the power pi or Manchester United’s goal difference at the end of the 11/12 season, or the Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything from H2G2 = 42. And if I were to say its -10, you have absolutely no way of distinguishing who is right and who is wrong. Perhaps we’d be just as well engaged discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

        Welcome to tempterrain’s climatology…a psuedoscience par excellence.

      • If you’re saying this about climate science then astronomy is pseudo-science too!

        Just to be clear on various terminologies, at least as far as I am using them:

        I must say that I do agree with objections which have been made against the use of the term ‘experiment’ outside of its normal meaning. For instance with a computer model, ‘simulation’ would be a better term. And neither is an ‘observation’ the same thing as an ‘experiment’.

        An experiment should be only something that is done for real when one or more parameters are deliberately changed in a physical system and measurements are made on others. The only experiments, on climate, of which I am aware are the measurements on the effect of vapour trails in the atmosphere, and, of course, the the measurements on the change caused by the increased level (40%) of CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

  6. I confess I hadn’t heard of the USGCRP until David Wojick’s comment several days ago. According to wiki, USGCRP was started in 1989. Yet the excerpts in Dr. Curry’s article suggest that it is only now getting up to steam to have an impact.

    What has the USGCRP been doing for the past two decades?

    • Actually, the USGCRP was pretty impotent during the Bush (43) admin, with the CCSP taking center stage. I suspect that David Wojick can provide us with an interesting history.

  7. Of course there is the problem anytime someone uses the word “global” and doesn’t really mean it. You know, Global Change, Global Climate, etc. Such things don’t exist, except for in someone’s imagination. So the USGCRP’s name probably doesn’t properly convey what the group actually does. The name has US (United States/national) and then Global at the same time. Doesn’t make any sense.

    Andrew

  8. Thank you for your prompt response. Your last point leaves me with much to ponder.

  9. Harold H Doiron

    Bless you Dr. Curry for having the courage to say what needs to be said to the climate research community by someone who might be able to get its attention!!!

    How would you advise the EPA Adminstrator who has already made a determination that CO2 is a pollutant, and that she and her agency need to control it with potentially devasting effects on the US population, especially our poor and least educated, without Congressional or independent scientific review? How long are you and your colleagues going to allow this public policy insanity, abusing and mis-using your scientific efforts, to continue? How long will you stand by while US government agencies continue to use the “hockey stick” temperature graph to brainwash our school children with the AGW mantra? (I witnessed this myself by a well-meaning US Forest Ranger in her presentation at Grand Teton National Park in August 2010…..she claimed to not know anything about the hockey stick graph controversy).

    Would you join me in asking the US Congress to create an independent commission with objective scientists, engineers and economics experts, similar to those commissioned after the Shuttle Challenger and Columbia accidents, to review this unilateral decision of the EPA? If NASA is expected to be held to this type of review standard, why not the EPA with its power to create much greater harm to US citizens? Such a commission would also be useful for other government agencies who continue to disseminate the AGW scare with their educational outreach programs. Why won’t the climate science community insist that we only use taxpayer funds to educate the truth about their science, and not a distorted political view?

    Climate science in the USA has definitely “gone off the rails” and it is rapidly losing credibility with other scientifically minded and educated folk in the USA.

  10. Quick post, b/c I haven’t had time to digest all this.

    JC: You say “where’s the actual physical and chemical science?”

    I say: It had better be here “Advance scientific knowledge of the integrated natural and human components of the Earth system. This goal identifies the research, including integrated observations and modeling, that is necessary to better understand the behavior and interaction of human and Earth systems and their response to global change. The Program will increasingly emphasize integrated physical, biological, and social science research, and developing reliable knowledge of the causes and consequences of global change at regional and global scales.”

    The way this is worded doesn’t give great confidence in that, but it does not exclude it.

    I am in the midst of the “Transdisciplinary Education in Sustainability” whirlwind. My understanding is that ASU (whose president spoke) is a heavy hitter here. The topic was the subject of a very good talk by Tom Seager of ASU (whom I respect and have met) regarding interdisciplinary “interactional expertise”, basically trying to set up a teaching/academic structure whereby discipline researchers on interdisciplinary projects can rapidly gain a high level yet thorough understanding of the work in other disciplines, while not participating in the details.

    I asked a question about the implications of trust, with an example of the climate debate.

    You need to get Brad Allenby to stop by. A+B=C is not how I interpret Dr. Allenby’s work.

    Finally, as an engineer who has always appreciated the traditional approach to disciplinary learning (first principles, equations, modeling, observation, verification etc. etc.) the contents of the below link are scary to me:

    http://chronicle.com/blogs/next/2011/09/27/if-engineers-were-to-solve-higher-eds-future/

    but I understand the goal with respect to industry. I would strongly caution against thinking that the same approach can work to prepare people to do a good job in academic science and the policy interface.

    So I am even more frightened by “the emphasis needs to be on B, which requires an entirely new structure for universities”.

    What is that structure?

    • There’s a list of six major components (Table 1 on page 19), which includes as first component:

      Climate variability and change:
      – Natural climate variability, including multiple space and time scales, deep-time events.
      – Aerosols and their radiative effects on the climate system.
      – Cloud and aerosol processes and cloud-aerosol interactions.
      – Climate change impacts on ocean-atmosphere modes of variability.
      – Ocean dynamics and sea-level rise, including regional variability.
      – Climate-change effects on the hydrologic cycle, especially extreme events (storms, droughts, floods).
      – Changes in temperature extremes.
      – Cryospheric dynamics: ice sheets, sea ice, permafrost.
      – Feedbacks and abrupt change.

      Two of the other major components are on Alteration of biogeochemical cycles and Alteration of hydrologic systems, which include also pure natural science.

      The overall emphasis of the report is not on these issues, and that’s fine as long as it’s understood that handling uncertainties is, indeed, something totally different from A+B=C.

      The most important and most difficult issue is the proper handling of uncertainties. That’s possible only, when the uncertainties are understood and handled at a level, where all input and all uncertainties are being taken into account simultaneously, not only from climate science, but also from proposed mitigation measures, real consequences of actual decisions as well as the possibility of getting the decisions made and implemented in our political systems. Combining all that knowledge is most certainly not the task of climate scientists.

    • Thanks for the link to the chronicle article, hadn’t seen that one before. Georgia Tech does a fantastic job of fostering interdisciplinary research/education/applications and innovation (of relevance to the private sector), while maintaining the strength of the core disciplines.

      The approach being followed at Arizona State University is quite different. I’ve tried to find an essay or something that really captures what they are doing, can’t find anything, but see this web site http://asudesignedbyyou.com/737420

  11. &JC, the chronicle blog link is a story about GA Tech.

  12. Dr. Curry: Thanks for speaking up against A + B = C.

    Not only are independent academic scientists left out of this equation, so are ordinary citizens, who only show up in Goal 4:

    Advance communications and education to broaden public understanding of global change, and empower the workforce of the future. As a trusted provider of accurate information on global change, USGCRP will use its research results to communicate with and educate stakeholders in ways that are relevant to their lives and needs.

    This is all too smooth for my taste. The smart scientists talk to the smart policy makers about what needs to be done and what money needs to be spent — including munificent funding for the scientists and policy makers — then the word will be passed down to the good little workers bees who will fail into line and pass the money back up to the government.

    It is assumed that the USGCRP is “a trusted provider of accurate information” — presumably the IPCC is another such trusted provider — but is such trust warranted? Not by the recent history of climate scientists.

    We are in a period where the shine is off the elite technocrats and their solutions. We have only to look to the failures in global economics: the mortgage failures, the derivatives failures, the Euro failure, the stimulus failure, and the upcoming Obamacare failure. These were brought to us top-down by the smart analysts and the smart policy makers.

    I’m not about to join the Occupy protests, but I have lost faith that our elites know what they are doing beyond assuring their own lives of privilege.

    A + B = C also fails because too many citizens no longer trust the scientists and the policy makers. We can’t fire scientists but we can fire policy makers.

  13. Judith

    I agree with your comments that A+B does not equal C and that there are great dangers in focussing more on B than A.

    My team at the Met Office Hadley Centre in the UK have started to provide consultancy services on climate risks (NB this includes natural variability not just AGW) and when we first started, the surprising thing was that most clients were convinced we had climate forecasts sitting on the shelf (eg: the IPCC AR4 projections) which merely had to be interpreted to their particular industry questions. So the first stage is re-educating the client so they realise that no, we don’t have the answer, but we can give them some advice on a range of possibilities which they can then use to inform their decision making – and, most importantly, while this advice will be based on the best current understanding, this understanding is evolving all the time so they need to be prepared for the fact that if they come back in 2 years’ time they may get different answers! Hence their decision-making must be resilient to large uncertainty and to changes in the science. So the reason we have started to do this consultancy stuff (your B) is *not* to replace A but to make sure that A is correctly communicated (because if we leave B to others then they will do it wrong because they don’t understand A!)

    Similarly, your B includes “impacts” and I would argue that much of the impacts stuff is actually part of the physical science in A. eg: hydrological impacts. There is a worrying tendency for meteorological outputs of GCMs to be used to drive hydrological models in a handle-turning way, often using techniques to adjust for biases in the GCMs etc, without really investigating the processes involved in a scientific way. Many hydrological impacts projections, for example, violate conservation of water by using a separate hydrological model which gives a completely different representation of evaporation to that used within the original GCM. Hence the final hydrological impact projection *must* be wrong because either (a) the GCM is right and the hydrological model is wrong, or (b) the hydrological model is right and the GCM is wrong, in which case the inputs to the hydrological model are wrong.

    There are similar difficulties with many agricultural impacts studies too. So a lot of the impacts work needs to become more scientific, rather than product-based.

    The thing that concerns me is that the simplistic messaging which has become prevalent in order to inform mitigation (with the sub-text that the details don’t matter as long as people are convinced that emissions cuts are needed) leads to the risk of mis-informing adaptation. If the risk of rapid sea level rise or drought is overblown, major decision-makers like governments or development banks etc could invest billions in new infrastructure well before it is actually needed (or indeed the wrong infrastructure altogether). There are too many people out there who think they can just re-package the AR4 projections into something that is useful for informing adaptation – they are wrong!

    In any case, many decision-makers focussing on adaptation/resilience/vulnerability actually need information on timescales of the next few years not several decades. They have become aware of their potential exposure to climate risks because of the high-profile of AGW, but in actual fact it is more natural variability that they need to know about. Much more science is needed there if this is to be forecast usefully, especially at regional scales.

    So I agree with you that A should not be eroded by increased focus on B, but I would also add that those doing A should make sure B is done correctly. (I think this may be the other person meant by C = A + B + X(AB)**n + f(C) , where f(C) includes an examination of how the decision-makers have misunderstood A through miscommunication in B?)

    • Richard, thanks so much for your comments. I particularly liked your statement:

      “So the first stage is re-educating the client so they realise that no, we don’t have the answer, but we can give them some advice on a range of possibilities which they can then use to inform their decision making – and, most importantly, while this advice will be based on the best current understanding, this understanding is evolving all the time so they need to be prepared for the fact that if they come back in 2 years’ time they may get different answers! Hence their decision-making must be resilient to large uncertainty and to changes in the science.”

      I have been branded as a “climate heretic” for saying the same thing.

      • Dr. Curry,

        I’m sorry. My eyes glazed over before I made it very far. Is there anything in the midst of that briar patch which requires someone or something whose job it is to play devil’s advocate and poke holes? Is there a role envisioned for knowledgeable outsiders to point out e.g. that the stats, software or forecasting might need a bit of cleaning up?

    • Richard Betts,

      You comments are on essential issues. I would only add that the comments do not apply only to adaptation, but also wise decisions concerning mitigation require proper understanding of uncertainties and of the continuing improvement in the knowledge of climate processes.

      Simplifying the message by reducing the information on uncertainties makes it impossible to reach the best decisions. Bad decisions can be made even with best information, but best decisions cannot be reached without the best information available.

    • Richard Betts: The thing that concerns me is that the simplistic messaging which has become prevalent in order to inform mitigation (with the sub-text that the details don’t matter as long as people are convinced that emissions cuts are needed) leads to the risk of mis-informing adaptation.

      Good paragraph. A supporting illustrative detail. With or without AGW, the whole world needs improved flood control and irrigation. The Indus Valley, to take only one of many important cases, will flood again and again, and have drought years in between. It would be a shame if money were invested in huge windfarms, so much that new flood control and irrigation in the Indus Valley were sacrificed; it would be tragic if the windfarm boom produced no net beneficial effect.

      Not impressed by the Indus Valley? consider the Irriwady drainage basin, or Eastern Australia, or Texas.

    • Richard

      it is indeed encouraging to see that the Met office acknowledges the existence of natural variability. My impression was and is that the Met Office is one of the reasons that the UK is saddled with the crassest piece of legislation the world has ever seen – I refer of course to the Climate Change Act – and to staements from illustrious British politicians telling their flock the ‘the science is settled’, non-believers are ‘flat-earthers’ and ‘we only have ten minutes to save the world.’

      You refer to ‘re-educating the client’. Assuming one of the clients is HM Government can you please hurry up before the lights go out forever.

      Judith apologies that this does not relate to the situation in the USA but believe me the situation in the UK is absolutely dire

      We are relying on you Richard to ‘re-educate’ your clients very quickly

      thank you

      Gary

      • Richard says:

        “it is indeed encouraging to see that the Met office acknowledges the existence of natural variability. My impression was and is that the Met Office is one of the reasons that the UK is saddled with the crassest piece of legislation the world has ever seen – I refer of course to the Climate Change Act …You refer to ‘re-educating the client’. Assuming one of the clients is HM Government can you please hurry up before the lights go out forever.”

        Couldn’t agree more!

        The Met Office, the BBC & the UK Governments’ climate communication process has created a deep well of superstitious beliefs on climate science in the UK population The inevitable social, economic and negative environmental consequences of the Climate Change Act will come to haunt the UK if the Act is not abandoned.

        Paul

    • Dr Betts
      Your comments, from the centre of the GW (or CC) establishment, are much appreciated. FWIW, I am, as a lowly lurker, particularly impressed that you have extended your contributions to other than the original (Bishop Hill?) blog.
      I was the first (under a different cognomen) to Google (actually Bing ;)) you.

    • Your discussion of customer needs is exactly on point relative to the previous discussions we have had about IV&V. From my perspective I see scientists working honestly and diligently to understand nature with the best tools they have. At the other end of the chain are decision makers who may have entirely different information needs. Matching the science we have with the needs of decision makers should start with the information needs of policy makers. If policy makers in the US need information about regional rainfall patterns, regional growing season information, regional sea level rise, then that information need, that requirement should drive the science. It needs to drive the data we collect and the the modelling we do. Up till now it seems the science has been driven by the perceived need to craft a global treaty. With that need you get a science that goes in a different direction, a science that doesnt really have regional relevance. With that direction we get models that might match global temperature average, but perform poorly on hydrology, as a simple glance at taylor diagrams will show. When the information needs of policy makers drives the process, then A+B=C will have a chance of working better

  14. Fine,

    Goal 1 to commence next year, followed by Goal 2 in 2021.

    Let’s get some ‘clean’ shared data, incorporate recently ignored solar/cloud information and measure and observe. Return ‘tampered-with’ data to it’s original state so that it is useable, otherwise destroy.

    The next 10-15 years will allow us to see the the expected ‘cooling’ predicted by solar/cloud and repeating la nina effects and incorporate them into our models so they can become more relevant. They can never be
    the perfect answer and there must be an admission that they can only indicate a trend.

    Only then will we be able to proceed with mitigation adaption, should it be needed. Until then funds should be reigned-in and concentrated in the area of observation and measurement. Better earth and sun satellites/Better ground stations.
    Too much of what has gone before is tainted by politics and a desire for a specific result.

    • Goal 2 in 2021…

      It baffles me how scientists can dance on pin-heads like this and not count the cost. Today we are going into debt to foreign nations and nationals to the tune of 3 Billion dollars a day. About ten dollars is being spent per person per day as it is borrowed, for our children to pay & deal with, in years yet to come. Tell me how we will pay for all of the ‘crap’ science & the police state created to enforce it upon the citizens of the world. E plebnesta or the Comms?… Tell U.S. the truth this time, ok?

    • Goal 1 to commence next year, followed by Goal 2 in 2021.

      I think that you have the time frame about right. I wrote that in my comments on the IPCC. I am heartened to find at least one person in agreement.

      How to persuade USGCRP? Emphasize the omissions, cavities, inaccuracies and uncertainties in the knowledge: data, statistical analysis, numerical analysis, and theory. Those to guide efforts toward achieving goal 1.

    • Jazznick said in relation to models with ‘clean’ shared data:

      “……there must be an admission that they can only indicate a trend.”

      A trend? I rather think that from what we know about shorter term negative feedbacks the models will only give us post hoc information about what has already happened and that any long term trend will be most difficult to interpret.

      This will be no real improvement on the models that are currently driving policy makers. Since the systems underlying climate/weather have non-ergodicity from external forcings, prediction and looking for trends would be unfruitful.

  15. A + B = C

    “A” makes sense – is represents the “what”
    “B” is the “how”, i.e. “how” to best get the desired message across, ostensibly in order to arrive at:
    “C”, the desired result (i.e. individual or collective behavioral change resulting from “policy”).

    Let’s look at “B” (which is what this is all about, folks, as Judith has picked up).

    Earlier regimes had the ”Agitprop” or ”Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda” (RMVP) – both worked very well.

    Today we call it “framing” the message (Axelrod).

    An example:

    A study related to motivating adolescents to sustainable behavior states:
    http://www.environment.uwaterloo.ca/ers/research/490s/documents/T.ChengD.Woon491.pdf

    Message framing, based on the prospect theory in psychology, is used in social marketing to manipulate perceived behavioural outcomes and has proved successful

    Under the rationalizations for the need for a social marketing campaign to engrain the principles of environmental sustainability into the behavior of adolescents, the report states:

    Rising awareness of the effects of human resource consumption on the biosphere has alerted humanity to our role in modern environmental problems, including climate change, deforestation, oil shortages, acid rain, waste disposal, habitat loss, and air and water pollution. As a result, the environmental crisis is becoming increasingly recognized as a social, economic, and political problem which requires a solution that involves actions and initiatives geared towards environmental sustainability at both the individual and collective level.

    and

    In terms of individual level factors, widespread behavioural change throughout the population is necessary to stem the environmental crisis

    Under “threats” (both social and physical) as a motivational factor, the authors write:

    The concept of social and physical threats is derived from similar threat types used in fear appeals. Fear appeals, a strategy commonly used in social marketing, have been studied for decades and have been supported by research that demonstrate the effectiveness of fear arousal in influencing behavioural change

    Move over, Big Brother…

    Max

  16. I think the USA standard is:

    A => Democracy => Independent Regulatory Agency = C

    Where Independent means independent in all aspects, including, especially nowadays, political. Self-review is never allowed for any aspects: none. Never.

    Democracy includes the Policy Makers, who are also representatives of the Stake Holders. Democracy sometimes results in no actual implementations of C.

    I strongly agree that the A + B = C approach is causing significant damage to Climate Science. Playing Politics with Independent Regulatory Agencies will also result in damage to Climate Science.

  17. Norm Kalmanovitch

    It is mindboggling that there is mention of models but no mention of actual global temperature trends and projections of these trends.
    We can play around with statistics and show that global warming ended as early as 1995 but statistics can lie so this is not valid for projections that can impact society.
    Without statistics we see no global warming since 2002 and the trend averaged over all five global temperature datasets is overall cooling since 2002.
    The only thing science is telling us about climate is that it is currently cooling and the only projections that we need to be concerned with is when this cooling will end.
    Until some estimate is made of when this cooling will end; addressing possible detrimental effects from computer projected non existent catastrophic global warming makes no sense!

    • Norm

      Pardon me for saying it, but you are stumbling over “A” (the “:what”).

      As Judith has noted, this has become much less important than “B” (the “how”) = how the message gets framed and communicated

      in order to arrive at “C” (the desired outcome).

      Just look at the “Table of Contents” (then and now) to get the trend here.

      Max.

  18. JC

    The deep uncertainty is associated with our reliance on projections from climate models, which are loaded with uncertainties and do not adequately treat natural climate variability. Further substantial areas of ignorance remain in our basic understanding of some of the relevant phyiscal, chemical and dynamical processes.

    Evidence supporting the above statement:
    …we are no where close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a travesty!

    Please no policy based on unverified science. To increase the cost of energy in a recession when millions are out job is callous.

    By the way, the globe has started a cooling trend: http://bit.ly/pMHO76

  19. It appears that the USGCRP is in a race to secure funding vs. actually advancing an through understanding of the science involved in the earth’s climate.

    The more I read about the details impacting the issue of climate change the more I come to the conclusion that MOST of the discussions are focused on other than the central issue(s). There are essentially two key issues – 1st if you believe the results of any, or a collection of climate simulations, and 2nd is if you accept the conclusions of those who have written papers about future conditions based upon the output of these models.

    There have been many threads at this site and others about the details of what should go into the models. There has also been repeated exchanges about the motivations of those proposing one position or another, as well as discussions of whether decisions should be made based on a national vs. global perspective.

    All of those exchanges are trivial when compared to the real key issue(s) described above.

    In the case of the USGCRP- it appears based on a review of their stated goals that they have answered “yes” to belief in the current models and they believe that they should be moving forward to how the world should adapt and mitigate. This conclusion seems very inappropriate based on the current modeling and an enormous waste of resources.

    Perhaps if the USGCRP started with a statement of what they needed a climate model to produce as results that can be validated before moving to the stage of implementing recommendations I would have more confidence. Currently my confidence is very low, largely because I do not think a large enough percentage of the population really understand the two key points described above.

    BTW-Regarding the GCMs currently in use for assessments, I was doing a bit of reading and read this paper that seems to point out a very major flaw in the current models. This is interesting, and also meaningful, but NOT really the key issue. Step 1 in model development- what results do policy makers need the model to accurately predict. How about having the USGCRP start with that and not move on to other steps before that is accomplished?

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2011/03/14/science.1201515.abstract

  20. Judy – I’ve looked through the USGPRC draft. I find it hard to disagree with what the USGPRC plans to do – the description is comprehensive and encompasses the major areas one would expect from a federal program aimed at improving our understanding of climate change and serving as a source of information for policy makers without dictating policy itself. I don’t think one can judge this type of description from the outline of contents or the number of pages devoted to individual topics. The scientific issues are well covered, including the interaction of natural and anthropogenic influences and the need to understand that interaction in greater detail.
    While I can applaud what is contemplated by the program, that applause must be tentative. The real test will reside in how the planned activities are actually conducted. I don’t believe that is something that can be gleaned from what is written in the draft, but is highly dependent on the qualifications, integrity, and independence of the scientists and other individuals engaged in the program.

    I’m not sure that any of this is relevant to a talk by Michael Crow in Boulder linking science, impacts, and policy in an A + B = C fashion. There is clearly a link between these variables, but the USGPRC draft appropriately, in my view, makes clear that its role would be to develop information on A and B useful for policy (C), but leaving the latter in the hands of others. If that mission is accomplished as planned, the results should be salutary. The draft is probably a good start, but only that, and what happens next will be the more critical test.

    On a side note, I was pleased to see a section addressing the issue of ocean acidification. Much climate change discussion focuses on global warming and its consequences, but ocean acidification (sometimes referred to as “the other CO2 problem”) probably deserves equal attention. Current evidence suggests that it is not yet a source of significant detriment to the functioning of human populations, but that consequence remains as a future possibility depending on how far atmospheric CO2 concentrations rise over the remainder of this century and beyond. It is also an area that requires much additional information as a guide to informed decision making.

    • Fred, the problem is with how USGCRP configures their end to end approach, which is very much A+B=C, and there is a huge emphasis on B.

      • I believe the USGCRP draft makes clear that it is not responsible for C. I do agree that if they deviate from that intention, it would be a mistake. I also encourage readers to go through the draft itself, which is actually quite detailed, because it’s not possible to gain an accurate perspective from the listing of contents alone.

      • C science gets less than 3 pages. B gets lots of pages.

      • Fred, you cant really do A and B effectively if you dont understand what the information needs of policy makers are. What do they need to know and how well do they need to know it.

      • That’s a good point, Steve. The draft already touches on this issue – for example, see page 71: “Effective engagement with a person, group, or organization requires a dialogue to better understand stakeholder needs, issues, understanding, and expectations. Transparency and openness in communication and education builds credibility and trust. USGCRP will seek to engage a broad array of stakeholders, both within the United States and internationally, to ensure that Federal science is effective in addressing their issues and needs. The Program is uniquely positioned to broaden and expand existing relationships with stakeholders as well as forge new relationships through the extension of participating Federal agencies.”

        The problem with this language is its vagueness, including ambiguity in the definition of “stakeholders”. It would probably be worthwhile for it to be spelled out more specifically. More importantly, a mechanism for continuing interaction between policy makers and the program should be established to ensure that the stated goals are achieved.

      • If they did a great job of taking care of A, B would be completely unnecessary and C should not require anything from them other than their basic participation as citizens in the political process.

        I understand what Mosh is saying about how the needs of the policymakers must inform the areas of focus for the research. That’s true to the extent that govt is the funding source. But the scientists would produce far better quality science if they focused more on A, none on B, and little on C. And they would be far more trusted when C happened.

        A great paradox in all this is that the more the scientists focus on B with the intent to impact C, the less they are trusted and the less effective they are in getting the C they want. They need to focus on their business and quit screwing up the areas where they don’t have any expertise. They and we would all be better off if they did.

  21. Thanks to Richard Betts for stopping by…

    The power of twitter strikes again.. I din’t think my little tweet would get such an excellent response..

    The media just seem to want simple answers from Hansen, Gore or Romm

  22. Two questions – with reference to the phrases I am highlighting below:

    Climate science in the U.S., at least at the institutional level, seems to have gone off the rails. The difference in what is being emphasized in the Obama vs the Bush (43) administration is huge. Going back to Bush 41, his administration supported a substantial increase in the relevant budgets supporting climate science. When Al Gore was running for president, many climate scientists that I spoke with were concerned that Gore might assume that the science is settled, and move straight to the applications and ignore scientific research in this area. We are now seeing this realized under the Obama administration. In hindsight, the CCSP strategic plan was pretty good, and the issues raised in that plan are far from being “settled.”

    1: – the first highlight:
    Do you think that there should be more federal revenue devoted to the study of the science?

    2: – the second highlight:
    Do you think that the Obama administration is “ignoring scientific research” relative to the previous Bush administrations?

    • re: question #2

      In particular, the Bush II administration?

    • Joshua

      No-I do not think more federal funding is required. I think that federal funding needs to have more focus and is currently wasteful.

      I do not care much about the politics but do not see a major change in what has been funded by Obama vs. Bush.

      • No-I do not think more federal funding is required. I think that federal funding needs to have more focus and is currently wasteful.

        That seems like a reasonable point to me. The problem that I see there, however, is the way that discussions about funding become a political battleground. I think that the ubiquitous assertions that federal funding for scientific research is inherently wasteful as counter-productive in that regard – as would be any assertion that increased funding is inherently productive.

      • Joshua

        I would advocate what I wrote previously, that policy makers need to define what results are needed from a models before it is useable for policy development. I would certainly defund writing reports based on the outputs of current models since the papers are little more than empty speculation.

      • I would advocate what I wrote previously, that policy makers need to define what results are needed from a models before it is useable for policy development.

        I’m not quite sure I understand what that means. Would that mean that policy makers need to define, for example, what level of climate change is harmful before funding models that determine whether anthropogenic CO2 is a climate forcing? That would be an interesting approach – but it seems to me that you could never precisely define what level of climate change reaches the bar of being harmful, and that the level of harm from climate change is inherently proportional. As such, the data on the probabilities of different degrees of forcing are necessary in order to make an informed “definition.”

        What am I missing here?

      • Joshua

        Policy makers could define criteria such as temperature and rainfall at a specific number of locations that would need to be forecasted accurately. How the model is developed is not important to the policymaker, but that it can forecast these two issues reasonably accurately is critical

      • In the hothouse Congressional hearing in 1988, in the midst of a Southeastern heat wave, James Hansen claimed regional capability for his model, skill no models yet have.
        ============

      • steven mosher

        Precisely. For Joshua’s benefit I’ll give a few examples. For policy makers in the US, for example, they may require the following kind of information.
        1. regionally accurate predictions of increased rainfall/ drought
        2. regionally accurate predictions of changes in growing seasons
        3. regionally accurate predictions of sea level rise

        Those data can drive decisions on mitigation versus adaptation. they can drive decisions on land management, water management, development restrictions. Without regional information policy makers are left with a hammer. cut emmissions and tried to spread the cost equally. However, we know impacts will vary region by region and some will benefit more
        while others will lose more. The probability of increased regional disparities is increased by the one size fits all approach. The top down
        approach assures winners and losers and an inequitable result.

    • good questions, i’ll make these the topic of a forthcoming post

  23. Judith,

    Your comments are exactly right. I wonder if this document is really a proposal for funding. If so, it may have been designed to please the new guard at the funding agencies.

    Just a note about uncertainty in the models and government funding priorities. As I’ve discovered over the last 2 weeks, numerical errors in the climate models are a lot larger than is usually communicated to policy makers. This is a problem in industry too where billions of dollars are at stake if the uncertainties are not properly communicated. Fortunately, industrial decisions tend to be driven by engineers and not scientists per se. Even then, there has been a tendency over the last decade for projects (including government contracts) to fall behind schedule by a greater percentage. I attribute this to an overemphasis on “communicating and selling” the projects and too little focus on the uncertainty and risks and the underlying engineering and science.

    In any case, it is a serious mistake to take funding away from the actual science. My conclusion is that we actually probably need a new climate model written from scratch by an interdisciplinary team involving not just climate scientists but mathematicians with a heavy emphasis on better numerics. As the accuracy demanded from the simulations goes up and as people ask for sensitivities of the outputs, better numerics becomes a limiting factor. This is easy to see just based on an analysis of the truncation error in these simulations. To get a 100 fold increase in accuracy, you need at least 10,000 times more computing, at least with the current methods. We can go through that calculation in detail sometime. It seems we need more investment in fundamental improvements to the models (or a new model computer code) as well of course improvements in the physics in the models (the subgrid processes if you will). My particular technical input is that it will be helpful for the modelers to start trying to use implicit time marching rather than explicit methods because of the better stability properties of these methods.

    Thanks for this blog. It is a great place to interact.

    • Harold H Doiron

      David,

      I like your suggestion of development of new models with interdisciplinary teams. However good better mathematics might be, better numerics couldn’t overcome the deficiencies in the modeling of natural physical processes that don’t seem to be good enough to project forward even 10 years, much less 100 years where better numerics might help out.

  24. I guess I’m going to put my Captain Obvious hat on again:

    A + B = C

    A: scientific and disciplinary knowledge
    B: impacts of A, communication of A and impacts, and translation A for policy makers
    C: policy

    They’re missing something critical. Policy has to be possible and feasible. There’s no such requirement in that model. This reminds me of the South Park underpants gnomes model for policy makers:

    1. Gather underpants
    2. ???
    3. Profit!

    Maybe they were created by the same people?

    • PE and MattStat.

      Thanks for your insights. Your comments had me searching my library for an oldie, but from recollection a goodie by Henry Mitzberg- “The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning”-

      “From Booklist
      It is with intended irony that Mintzberg, former president of the Strategic Management Society, proclaims the fall of strategic planning. Author of the seminal The Nature of Managerial Work (1973), Mintzberg traces the rise of strategic planning from 1965, noting the fervor with which it came to be embraced, and analyzes its origins and history. His main thesis is that planning and strategy making are mutually exclusive activities. While acknowledging a vital role for planning, he claims that the process can straitjacket an organization by stifling innovation and commitment. On the other hand, strategy making is a fluid, informal process requiring adaptability. Mintzberg includes an impressive amount of research in this scholarly, readable treatise, and he suggests how strategy making and planning can be implemented to complement each other. This should prove to be an important work. David Rouse
      Product Description
      In this definitive and revealing history, Henry Mintzberg, the iconoclastic former president of the Strategic Management Society, unmasks the press that has mesmerized so many organizations since 1965: strategic planning. One of our most brilliant and original management thinkers, Mintzberg concludes that the term is an oxymoron — that strategy cannot be planned because planning is about analysis and strategy is about synthesis. That is why, he asserts, the process has failed so often and so dramatically.
      Mintzberg traces the origins and history of strategic planning through its prominence and subsequent fall. He argues that we must reconceive the process by which strategies are created — by emphasizing informal learning and personal vision — and the roles that can be played by planners. Mintzberg proposes new and unusual definitions of planning and strategy, and examines in novel and insightful ways the various models of strategic planning and the evidence of why they failed. Reviewing the so-called “pitfalls” of planning, he shows how the process itself can destroy commitment, narrow a company’s vision, discourage change, and breed an atmosphere of politics. In a harsh critique of many sacred cows, he describes three basic fallacies of the process — that discontinuities can be predicted, that strategists can be detached from the operations of the organization, and that the process of strategy-making itself can be formalized.

      Mintzberg devotes a substantial section to the new role for planning, plans, and planners, not inside the strategy-making process, but in support of it, providing some of its inputs and sometimes programming its outputs as well as encouraging strategic thinking in general. This book is required reading for anyone in an organization who is influenced by the planning or the strategy-making processes.”

      From an old(er) product and process development guys perspective the lack of a feedback loop for time T+1, T+2, etc, to evaluate the changes in A and B to see if C is still valid seems a bit obvious. Thanks for the refresher on how to look at the problem of communication, science, technology, opportunity costs in a rather straightforward mathematical representation.

      Judith’s concern about coming clean on the uncertainties in the Science point out that without a robust feedback loop for T+1, and T+2 we are going to be spending a lot of resources on the wrong thing.

  25. A + B = C

    In this informal usage, “+” merely means “some aggregation of”, which should be written (if phoney math notation is used at all) as:

    C = f(A,B),

    where f is some unknown function.

    Since the document is 93 pp, anything written today is likely to be totally negligible.

    Thank you for the alert, and for the web page for comments.

    • If you want to be pedantic about that, the definition of B is even weaker.

      B: impacts of A, communication of A and impacts, and translation A for policy makers

      So if you led D = impacts of A, E = communication of A and impacts, and F = translation A for policy makers, you get C = f(A,D,E,F).

      Now read that with all substitutions:

      policy = f(scientific and disciplinary knowledge, impacts of A, communication of A and impacts, translation A for policy makers)

      That’s a pretty odd statement. They’re saying that policy depends on communication but not on economics or technology. Pretty bizarre, huh?

      • You are right to introduce D, E, F.

        I just wanted to point out the indefiniteness of “+”

      • That kind of usage of ‘+’ is something you would expect in a Powerpoint presentation. It’s the kind of thing that you’d expect out of organizational people, and not scientists. Viewed in that context, it’s not necessarily wrong, but you are astute to note what that says about the people involved. This hearkens back to the thread about climate scientists having different personality profiles from other natural scientists.

      • steven mosher

        whatever you do dont ask the monktopus to differentiate it

  26. “There was applause. Not a standing ovation, but applause from a substantial segment of the 200+ audience.”

    and

    “At the break, close to 20 people came up to me to thank me for what I said, ‘somebody had to say it,’ and few others who liked what I said but seemed to be hearing this kind of an idea for the first time….”

    And therein lies the rub. When government exercises control over an industry (and that is clearly what C is about, the energy industry and the “climate research industry”), the centralization of decision making authority leads to power being exercised by those who are best at accumulating power. The best scientists don’t run the IPCC, or the USGCRP. Those who fund the program, those they appoint to positions of authority, and those adept at acquiring bureaucratic power do.

    That is why there is no difference between the way the USGCRP plans to manage the “science,” from the way the IPCC does. Both see their primary function as changing communication (re-framing) to enable implementation of policy decisions they and their political patrons already “know” are necessary.

    Those people who applauded, and came up to Dr. Curry after her comments, do not have, nor will they ever have, the power to change the direction of such a large government agency. I know it is sacrilege to decry government funding (and therefore government control) of basic research, because so many are dependent on that funding stream. But the USGRCP is no more “off the rails” than is the IPCC. Both are working exactly as planned by those who fund and control them. Both should suffer the same fate.

    • Gary, you anticipate two of my follow on posts (forthcoming): Wisdom from the Backbenchers, and Following the $$$. stay tuned.

    • I think the issue is analogous to public funding of art. Once you get past the question of whether or not it should be done, you get to the issue of process. How do you hand out research funds (or funds for art) in a politically blind fashion? Is it even possible? I for one sure don’t see how.

      As an aside, the public funding for art analogy has another aspect that we see here: even artists with lots of private financing vie for NEA grants because they carry with them a certain prestige. A grant from the NEA is almost like a Nobel in science; it’s something you brag about, and it opens career doors. I think that, to a lesser degree, these funding grants have a similar halo effect in the sciences.

      • P.E.,

        And look at what has happened to the art industry (which it now clearly is) over the last several decades. Just look at the metal monstrosities with which publicly funded “artists” have littered the public squares of America.

        My all time favorite example of the demise of art was an exhibit in the Art Institute of Chicago I took my children to some years ago. One of the major pieces of “art” consisted of one entirely black wall, facing another entirely white wall. Brilliant. Michelangelo would have died of envy. The next room had only a pile of hard candies, in red wrappers, dumped in a solitary corner of the room. This was “art” because they had a plaque on the wall asking patrons to eat a piece of the candy and think of the artist’s partner who had died of Aids. (A sophomoric caricature of the Catholic Eucharist, that probably cost the artist 20 bucks for the candy, and another 20 for the plaque.)

        If you want your industry brought to ruin, just apply for government funding.

      • Entombed windmills are going to be very evocative art.
        ================

      • You jest, but windmills are considered great photography in certain circles.

  27. Judith: Excellent and gutsy summary:
    not only has the potential to seriously mislead decision makers, but also to destroy atmospheric and climate science in the process.”

    But I have the feeling that you are predicting yesterday’s weather.

  28. Corrected tags:
    Judith: Excellent and gutsy summary:
    not only has the potential to seriously mislead decision makers, but also to destroy atmospheric and climate science in the process.”

    But I have the feeling that you are predicting yesterday’s weather.

  29. Judy – Your comments at the UCAR Members’ Meeting Forum: Panel Discussion are right on target and very well said! My post on their request for Public comments will appear on Monday. I cannot, however, summarize the issues that the climate science is facing any better than you have.

    Roger

  30. The USGCRP program is a response to an Act of Congress, the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-606), which called for “a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” It is understandable that a federal mandate would include at least some attention to climate prediction and appropriate societal responses. Indeed, no federal program perceived as neglecting these areas would likely receive federal support. This begs the question as to how well one can predict and respond without attention to the first two listed variables – understanding and assessment. This tension – between basic understanding and its application – permeates program development and funding allocation over a variety of scientific disciplines, and is hardly limited to climate science. It is not an easily resolved issue, because understanding, prediction, and response interact. In general, extreme positions are untenable – we can’t respond without adequate knowledge, but can rarely wait for perfect knowledge when nature requires us to act on the basis of what we already know.

    The distinction between a basic understanding and an assessment of impact (“A” and “B” respectively in the cited paradigm), with their implication for policy embodies these difficult issues. In reading the draft, I perceived the A and B components to be thoroughly intertwined, and so it is impossible to assign emphasis by trying to divide them up. On the other hand, what will eventually count more is how well they are supported by the program. Page 81 of the draft offers a hint with a pie chart of budgeting priorities. Of these, 50% is assigned to “improving our knowledge of Earth’s past and present climate variability and change”. An additional 23% is devoted to “improving our understanding of natural and human forces of climate change.” Model capability and predictions receive an additional 11%. It appears from this at least that the “A” component is not neglected. On the other hand, there is much latitude in these descriptions, and it will be imperative to ensure that efforts not truly envisioned under these priority decisions are prevented from creeping into budgets where they don’t belong. This is not a shortcoming of the draft plan itself, but an alert to those who will monitor its future implementation.

    • Fred,
      After 21 years it is time to sunset the USGCRP. There is no shortage of agencies, study groups, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. studying exactly what they were set up to study.
      In a time of tight budgets, the last thing we need is costly redundant programs.

      • Certainly there’s a lot of redundancy. With NASA and NOAA shoveling the big money, what exactly is the role of this agency WRT all the others? Shouldn’t it all be under one roof? And then we have the EPA, and the DoE, and God knows what other agencies at this party.

      • The USGCRP is not an agency. It is just a small coordinating office plus the dozen or so climate research programs in the various science agencies, each with it’s own funding. The research is controlled by the program managers in these various agencies, like NASA, NOAA, DOE, NSF, DOE, etc. The $2 billion a year funding comes via the various agency appropriation bills, not to the USGCRP. However, the USGCRP does produce assessments, that are even more extremely pro-CAGW than the IPCC reports. But most of the drafting is done by the component science agencies. They are the real power, and the real problem.

      • And an infamous dictator started off in what everyone thought was a joke of a position- general secretary.
        We don’t need little groups of power hungry bureaucrats and opportunists hungry for power defining their roles at our expense.

  31. “Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.” Appears it already has.

    Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address.

  32. I am curious about the idea of assessment. I understand what that means as a teacher, but absent model validation, I have no idea what that means in this arena. All models agree?

    • assessment seems to be a consensus building process on the science

      • I’m sorry, and hesitate to be contentious, but ‘consensus’ and ‘science’ are not compatible concepts. It’s been said before, and by those much better qualified than I, ‘consensus’ is not ‘science’, and ‘science’ is not ‘consensus’.

      • Consensus is a political concept. It’s purpose here is political. And it has no utility separate and apart from the political. From a purely scientific perspective, it is actually harmful to progress and better understanding. But it’s never been about the science. Hence the emphasis on consensus.

      • Thanks, Dr. Curry. I find this idea very concerning. Assessment, to me, involves comparison to a standard. In that regard this is a pretty tortured interpretation of the word that may add some ‘gravitas’ to the concept that it may not deserve.

  33. If anything, these highly centralized top down clique-controlled groups have impeded the development of good research and science.
    Look at how the CERN data on clouds was sat on for weeks and weeks when it was clear it did not support the institutional consensus.
    Look at climategate and the recent debacle at Remote Sensing where the team that controls much of the central planning demands and gets editorial scalps when publications dare to disagree with their view.
    These groups that claim to be for the advancement of knowledge achieve the opposite.
    It is time to force a reshaping by cutting away that which is impeding progress. Ending the USGCRP is a great place to start.

  34. They must demonstrate goodfaith by stating the null hypothesis of AGW Theory and concede that it has never been rejected.

  35. Anthony Watts

    Dr. Curry, I’ve excerpted some of your commentary at WUWT. I’ll try to keep in with your

    Being in the news business for years, I find the constant focus on “B” in the vein of “if we just keep pushing the message, maybe in a different way” to be an indicator of the myopic viewpoint held by many int eh climate science and climate activism community.

    The public is burned out on the message, because the message being pushed today offers no hope nor workable solutions,

    I think George Monbiot summed up the communications failure pretty well back in May: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/05/04/monbiot-smacks-head-first-into-reality/

    I hope that by laying out the problem I can encourage us to address it more logically, to abandon magical thinking and to recognise the contradictions we confront.

    It is a campaign not for abundance but for austerity. It is a campaign not for more freedom but for less. Strangest of all, it is a campaign not just against other people, but against ourselves.

    Throughout human history, positive change has come to pass by improving the human situation, not by stifling it. IMHO until we have a better solution for our broad 24/7 energy needs (not just when the wind blows and the sun shines, Thorium power comes to mind), the best we can do is improve efficiency, make what we do now cleaner, and adapt (as we always have) as the climate changes from the wide non-linear variety of effects and feedbacks.

  36. If you are a US citizen

    Write your Congressman/woman today

    Tell him/her to stop federal funding for USGCRP immediately.

    It is worse than simply a waste of taxpayer money.

    Max

    • That assumes that your congressman isn’t a complete lunatic like mine is. What you need to understand about the way congressional districts are drawn in the US is that they’re gerrymandered to make as many “safe” seats for radicals as possible.

  37. bouldersolar

    Dr. Curry,

    I attended the Brune’s seminar at NOAA last week about the Mann Inquiry at Penn State. The moderator David Fahey, had this question to Brune:

    “Did Mike (Mann) ever reveal to you whether he would of done things differently? I say this as I am a student of these emails and the sense I get from them is that the scientists were baited by the deniers into seeking their own level. If you look at a plot with an outlier point the scientist would know why its there and I don’t need to make a new graph and use a trick to make it go away. But the scientists were incrementally baited into making their plots perfect or the deniers won’t believe it. That’s the trap they found themselves in”

    When I asked a question I found it important to note I support a carbon tax, vote democratic, and do not watch Fox news. Still I the audience thought I was a “denier” because I dared to ask a critical question.

    • John Carpenter

      Wait… what question did you ask that would earn you the label of ‘denier’? Am I missing something here? Isn’t the quote you provided a question/comment made by David Fahey? What did you say?

    • The AGW faith is a pseudo-religion, very immature and unable to withstand even trivial scrutiny.

    • To make that question any more softball, it would have had to be made of NERF.

  38. David L. Hagen

    Politically Correct Equivocation
    The USGCRP draft strategic plan uses “climate change” 153 times. The report frequently comments on likely harmful consequences of global warming. Yet only once does it mention “global warming”, and then it refers to: “such as extreme global warm”.
    This is blatant politically correct speech. This uses particularly offensive equivocation by stating “climate change” when what is meant is “catastrophic anthropogenic global warming”. This equivocation is commonly used as a rhetorical cudgel that if one does not swallow the “catastrophic anthropogenic warming” argument, that one must be “anti-science” as it is “obvious” that climate is changing – even though climate has been changing for billions of years. Using this equivocation immediately raises the caution that “there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. This causes the reader one to wonder what other slight of hand is being used to bias the presentation. This equivocation directly harms the clear open communication with the public.

    E.g., see Box 3. Shifting habitats poleward or upward is commonly attributed to “global warming,” NEVER to global cooling. Calling this “climate changes” equivocates, implying global warming.
    Recommend correcting this as follows:

    “Many plant and animal species have shifted their habitats poleward and upward in elevation in response to recent global warming climate changes.”

    Similarly change Box 7 to read:

    With Projected global warming would increase the likelihood of drier, warmer seasons with more and increased droughts in the future as a result of climate change,

    Visual appeal to emotion:
    Box 8, The Carbon Cycle uses a photo of dark clouds over a German coal fired power plant in an industrial region with seven dark plumes. (P 32, #1167-1181). This is a blatant appeal to the dark smoky overcast industrial images of Dickens’ England and William Blake’s “dark Satanic Mills”. See Gustav Doré Over London by Rail 1872.
    To provide an emotionally neutral objective presentation, I recommend using a photo of a coal fired power plant in the USA on a clear day with no plumes. e.g. View of coal power-plant Image ID: 16662007 at Shutterstock.com

    Errors:
    Duplication: Two definitions are given for “Climate scenario” in 3857-3859 and 3868-3871. The second longer definition should be used. “Climate variability” (3864) is out of order.

    Omissions: Global warming: No definition is given.

    • David L. Hagen

      Those proposed statements should read:

      “Some plant and animal species have shifted their habitats poleward and upward in elevation in response to recent global warming.”

      Projected global warming would increase the likelihood of drier, warmer seasons with more droughts.

    • good analysis, thx

    • This trick has been used since the beginning. The GCRP office’s primary product is an annual report summarizing the federal nonmilitary climate research programs and expenditures, agency by agency. See their website. This report iis called Our Changing Planet and that has always been code for AGW.

  39. Maybe we need a governmental agency to assess the economic impact of government assessments and their policy recommendations?

    ‘Cause the IPCC and USGCRP sure aren’t interested in addressing the issue.

    Here’s my equation:

    A (science) + B (communication) – C (cost of regulation and taxes) = D (disaster for the CAGW movement)

    Where do I send my bill?.

  40. My guess is that if governments split climate research funding into two categories and

    1. gave so many $BILLIONS$ to defenders of the consensus
    2. gave an equal amount to the skeptics

    we would see the number of skeptical scientists grow to absorb the newly found $BILLIONS$. They would, no doubt, develop their own myriad of models, their own ensembles of myriads of models, and set up their own peer reviewed journals. Seems fair to me.

    • No need to turn skeptics into fat cats. 10% of the amount given to the consensus would be more than enough to demolish the latter utterly and swiftly. It’s happening anyhow, with 0% funding.

  41. Easy solutions for our new Overlords.

    1. Follow China’s lead and ignore the IPCC

    2. Move UCAR from Boulder to Atlanta.

    3. Delegate the USGCRP to read ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’.
    ==================

  42. The USGCRP specifies areas such as the carbon cycle, natural variability, and ocean acidification as areas for further research. I am not sure why the skeptics would want to stop this research unless they are afraid of its results. On other threads they have kept saying we need more research in these areas. It is very contradictory on this site. I find it very frustrating trying to understand what they are saying exactly regarding whether or not research is needed in these areas.

    • The actual spending is heavily biased toward internal AGW issues, basically research that assumes AGW, and often CAGW. Carbon cycle and so-called acidification are prime examples. Where are the solar and ocean cycle programs? Even natural variability is studied in an AGW context, such as to explain away the lack of recent warming. Where is the nonlinear dynamics program?

      If some of the program managers who spend the billions were skeptics a different set of questions would be investigated. I will be happy to design such a program.

  43. Jim D,

    I believe the skeptics are saying we need more research that is not so heavily influenced by institutionalized confirmation bias.

    • Or are they saying ‘we need more research until we get a different conclusion’?

      • It seems pretty obvious that without the current bias, further research will come to a different conclusion. For some underlying thermodynamic errors, see Holdren’s and Erlich’s paper of 1970.
        ==============

      • Oops, 1980. ‘Availability, Entropy, and the Laws of Thermodynamics.’
        ==================

      • No, they are saying what I just said they are saying. Since your team has miserably failed to do anything substantive about the alleged CO2 problem, despite decades of lavish funding and a captive media and politicians, perhaps it would be a good idea to give a piddling $billion to the skeptics and let them have at it. What are you afraid of? If they fail to put any major dents in your thesis, maybe your case will be strengthened. As it is, you are getting your hind-ends kicked up between your ears by a handful of impoverished heretic scientists, Lord Monckton, and a ragtag band of bloggers. I repeat: What are you afraid of?

    • It comes down to whether or not you want the government to fund such research. If not, who? If so, with what priorities, assuming you don’t like these? Obviously the government is not in control of the results as all the AR4 report’s US contribution was funded during the G. W. Bush administration, and we know they didn’t like what they saw there. Science prevailed, thankfully.

      • Jim D,
        The record demonstrates that irt AR4, science did not prevail.

      • Bush did nothing to change the proAGW leadership of the GCRP, much to the skeptic’s outrage, including my own. All the Gore people stayed in place. Even worse, Bush created the CCSP as another level above the GCRP, then staffed it with CAGW types who began producing assessments that are more extreme than the IPCC. See the GCRP website for these.

        These CCSP assessments are the basis for EPA’s endangerment finding, and the subject of litigation. Like many skeptics, I commented heavily on the draft assessments, but as usual we were simply ignored. AGW is basically an interlocking federal directorate at this point.

  44. It’ll be truly ironic if the “Change You Can Believe In” Administration were to be remembered for its hysterical approach towards the one change they truly believed in.

  45. Judith,

    Have you tried applying your A+B =/= C argument to previous areas of public policy?

    For example you could start with the program to reduce SO2 emissions, which has been hugely successful using the concept of a “price on sulphur” and a C&T scheme.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_Rain_Program

    If your ideas had been applied to that would it have ever happened?

    • temptt,

      You might ask yourself why the program to reduce S02 has been hugely successful, yet the efforts to put into place programs to reduce C02 have so utterly failed.

    • tempterrain | October 8, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Reply

      Have you tried applying your A+B =/= C argument to previous areas of public policy? For example you could start with the program to reduce SO2

      IIRC People in area’s that were experiencing ‘acid rain’ or believed they were experience ‘acid rain’ were also witness to the paint on their automobiles prematurely ‘eroding’.

      Now it could have been there was no ‘acid rain’ and the paint problems on the cars were simply a quality control issue. But as far as most people in those area’s that experienced the ‘mysterious dissolving paint’ were concerned SO2 had a direct economic impact.

      So the equation was
      A(Science) + B (Informing Policymakers + D(public outrage over personal economic loss) = C (Policy)

      How the climate change debate has unfolded to date

      We have
      A(Science) + B (Informing Policy Makers) – D(public outrage over money wasted on poorly thought out mitigation strategies) =/= C (Policy)

    • Don,

      I would suggest you might put that question to Judith. As her if she’s working for success or failure.

      Harrywr2,

      If you read the scientific literature, you’ll know that the effects of long term climate change will be slightly worse than taking the shine of the paintwork of cars. Incidentally some of us had slightly more concerns about the effect of So2 on the environment generally than that.

      • Incidentally some of us had slightly more concerns about the effect of So2 on the environment generally than that.

        Indeed eg Le Chatelier
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Chatelier%27s_principle

        A policy solution in one area impacts on another eg Gauchi et al 2005

        Long-term suppression of wetland methane flux following a pulse of simulated acid rain

        http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2005/2005GL022544.shtml

      • I’ll be dead by the time the effects of climate change kick in.

        Even if I were to live to ‘witness it’,you can’t make the case that an individual living at latitude X,longitude Y will definitely be worse off or better off?

        The best case you can make is that ‘on balance’ the losers will outnumber the winners.

        So you can’t make a case that I will definitely be a loser(I might be better off), but you want me to agree to a policy that will definitely cost me now.

        Population statistics show ‘childlessness’ in the developed world to be trending at about 20%. They don’t have ‘children and grandchildren’ to consider. What portion of the population smokes? What portion is over weight? What portion is sedentary? What portion engages in ‘high risk’ activities?

        Do you really believe that you can convince them that they should make a substantial personal sacrifice now to forestall a sequence of events that will occur long after they are dead if you just ‘explain things better’?

        Sorry, policy might happen when people believe they will personally be negatively impacted. To paraphrase a famous purpose…’You make policy with the humanity you have, not the humanity you wish you had’.

      • “I’ll be dead by the time the effects of climate change kick in.”
        So why bother about subsequent generations?

        Yes, this is the one argument against taking action that I do have to concede makes any sense at all.

      • temptt,
        I am asking you. Why won’t you answer the question? Never mind, I will have to help you. It’s because you people have failed to make your case, period. the scare tactics ain’t working for you. Change tactics, or continue to fail.

      • I’m not the right person to answer a question on the allocation of $1billion. If you want a report on the climate just let me know the conclusions you want (as if I didn’t know!) and I’m sure I could quote a lot less than that!

        I suppose if you do get you wish, the Creationists will be next in line, which is one reason I expect you won’t!

    • Unfortunately the acid rain and ozone hole are examples where action wasn’t taken until the effects were obvious and scientifically explained. I give it 20 years and another 0.3-0.4 degrees of warming before CO2 reaches that level of obviousness in the global political community, but individual countries are acting more quickly in their own interests. It will be small comfort that the scientists can say they were right 20 years ago.

      • Jim D,

        The political community claims that it is convinced of the danger. What happened in Copenhagen? I will help you: nothing. That was your best shot.

      • Exactly, we are not going to see any global policy soon, but don’t blame the scientists for that. They have made their case, and now it is in the political court, as you imply yourself.

      • So how does the lack of action in Copenhagen and elsewhere square with your theory that AGW is a beat up by politicians to raise more taxes? What’s the point of governments bribing all those climate scientists with huge research grants if they aren’t going follow through in the end?

      • Those politicians lost.

    • 1. Was the uncertainty over S02 as great as the uncertainty we have today over c02.
      2. Were there any positive effects from So2, as there are from increased C02
      3. Where there enviromental winners and losers in S02.
      4. Was S02 ingrained in everything thing do?
      5. Where the sources of S02 well known and well measured?
      6. Was there any uncertainty about the origin of increased S02.
      7 you want me to go on?

      here is your problem. you have a hammer ( control emissions) you think that because that hammer worked on a nail before, it is fine to pound the screw of C02.

      • Was there a relatively inexpensive set of technologies to abate SO2?

        BTW, maybe somebody can explain to me why low sulfur diesel is necessary in road vehicles, and not necessary in off-road vehicles and home furnaces. Does the furnace flue go into a different atmosphere?

      • P.E. – huh? are you in the US? low sulfur diesel is now required more or less everywhere – maybe not in home furnaces. definitely in ORVs e.g. construction equipment etc. on road vehicles were a larger source initially b/c a higher % of the overall fuel is burned there, plus a slightly easier industry segment to go after first. made for a no brainer. why phase in anything?

    • John Carpenter

      temp,

      Tell me… do you think we no longer have ‘acid rain’?

  46. I have another very basic variant of the equation
    A +B= C + $ more^ins.prem.to.pay

  47. Don Monfort makes an excellent point … currently the vast majority of funding is going to those individuals, institutions and research that SUPPORT the AGW position. Despite this extreme imbalance the opposing side has made considerable headway in presenting excellent work refuting the claims of the AGW mainstream proponents, and doing some excellent new science as well.

    The mainstream AGW efforts have pretty clearly simply lost their scientific way …. they have become fixated in proving their position correct and not on doing basic science, regardless of where it leads. And when unfavorable results do surface, as Climategate etc have shown us, instead of embracing the differing results and working to understand why, they circle the wagons and attack the opposing side.

    This is not science. And it certainly is not climate science. When an entire field becomes fixated on proving a pre-determined conclusion, we have lost the crucial core necessary for real research..

    I think an excellent first step – if organizations like this one seek to actually find answers – and not simply support the status quo – is to take Don’s suggestion to heart – to commit to equal funding for both “sides” of the equation.

    I also believe there should be a clear process and rules implemented to require ALL data, formula’s etc necessary to duplicate to be readily available to those wishing to attempt to replicate the work.

    Last – I also believe there must be a standard uniform process adopted and agreed for peer review. If a publications refuses to adopt some clear, simple , standardized rules papers they publish should carry no scientific weight. These rules should require equal access, with common response and publication times for all. They should be encouraged to be inclusionary – towards accepting all reasonable responses (subject perhaps to a simplified peer review for responses to weed out irrelevant) – and letting the response process address the correctness (or not).

    Too much back and forth is never a bad thing in my opinion compared to too little. ,

    We SHOULD have as many people trying to question new science as we have creating it. Seems to me that is how we truly make new discoveries…. not the sadly dysfunctional and highly partisan (to each sides AGW beliefs) system we have now.

    We need the best minds addressing from all sides and perspectives. .

    The stakes are too high – and with a large contingent hell bent on forcing trillions in costs on the world economies it seems we should have a far far better understanding – at least a modicum of certainty – that the underlying science is at least remotely accurate and correct.

    • Scott Allan,

      Excellent comment. That is exactly how I would have put it, if I had more time and a better education.

    • Scott,
      Your idea that money should be handed out to ‘sides’ isn’t quite right. Scientific in the 70’s and 80’s wasn’t anywhere near as homogeneous as it is currently on the CO2 issue, so effectively both sides were funded. Maybe you disagree, but as a taxpayer I’d like my tax dollars to provide me not with the answer I want, and I don’t want to hear there is a CO2 problem any more than you do, but the answer which is most likely to be correct according to the available evidence.

      Don,
      “That is exactly how I would have put it, if I had …………… a better education.”
      With a better education I’d like to think you wouldn’t be in agreement with Mr Allen at all !

  48. Theo Goodwin

    Saint Judith, you have earned an additional halo. The following is the comment that I posted at WUWT:

    “A + B = C
    A: scientific and disciplinary knowledge
    B: impacts of A, communication of A and impacts, and translation A for policy makers
    C: policy”

    I have no argument with Dr. Curry’s statement and I take my hat off to her for her statement at the meeting. However, she overlooks climate science’s real problem and, in doing so, is far too kind to climate science. The problem with climate science is that there is no A, except for the work of people like Pielke and and Spencer. Climate science is in its infancy. As soon as it comes up with some new, reasonably well-confirmed physical hypotheses then it will have moved into the arena of science. Then the childish computer models will be dropped like last year’s popular toys.

    So, everyone, please note that the fundamental criticism of climate science applies to the linear thinking. You do not have to go elsewhere to find the problems. But the problems that Dr. Curry identifies are real problems too; however, they will not need addressing until there is a genuine climate science.

  49. Deserts have an albedo of about 0.28, whereas the Amazonian Rain forest has an albedo of 0.13.
    Now GHG are claimed to increase light flux from 340 to 344 W/m2.
    The Amazon represents 1.08% of Earth surface area, turning it to desert will off set 0.6 W/m2. However, if we just sprayed the Amazon with a mixture of Paraquat and TiO2, we could get the albedo up to 0.8 and get rid of 3 W/m2. Wouldn’t cost much.

  50. As a layperson, but one who studies the topic in some detail – including muddling through the various papers and trying to get at least a basic understanding of the science and the conclusion, it seems we have a highly fragmented and grossly self centered system of scientists narrowly focused on supporting their own niche and how it can support the larger AGW agenda.

    And to me as importantly – we don’t seem to have a lot of research – which perhaps I simply miss – into bigger picture … how all of it fits together. And then we also have a system that literally denigrates and attacks dissenting findings – vehemently and viciously in too many cases.

    As an example McKitrick & McIntyre in my opinion and many others, long ago proved they were skilled at what they do and legitimate players offering a positive contribution to the science. At worst they provide a check and balance – forcing others to do their best work. They add an extra insight – a different perspective, and that should be praised and welcomed.

    Another example – is, again in my opinion, a lack of attention and focus on secondary impacts – both positive and negative.

    In the case of CO2 and AGW – if it does truly exist and is having an affect on our atmosphere it seems from the well understood historical record we should be looking hard into how we continue it. By all indications we are long overdue for a rapid descent into a glacial period – if AGW is real it may very well be helping prevent us from tipping into that all but certain glacial minimum.

    The only thing troubling with that theory is that AGW is a recent – last 100 years – phenomenon. Yet we have experience near as I can see from the data a 12,000 or so year period of unusually stable temperatures. Something happened appx 12,000 years ago that stopped the temps from peaking and us falling into a glacial minimum. That to me seems a far more important question?

    Another similar issue – take the animus towards coal energy generation. A lot of folks running around – the President, who is happy to force those dirty old coal folks out of business, backed up by the EPA, attempting by executive fiat what the legislature would not – gunning for coal. We must clean up that filthy dirty business and stop polluting our world with their soot.

    Except what happens when we do?

    Eliminate all that airborne particulate and it seems to me we get an even greater problem – more global warming. And what about the feedback to that – I’m reasonably sure from what I’ve learned, that all that airborne particulate matter serves another important purpose – with creating clouds and resultant rain etc. To me it would appear less airborne particulate would gives us less clouds, and again more warming.

    These seem to be the kind of issues – looking at all the impacts negative AND positive – and encouraging equal research effort into disproving as proving relevant findings – that an umbrella organization such as this should focus on …

    Just my layman’s 2 cents …

  51. A + B = C

    I cringe whenever logic is abused, as it is frequently on both sides of the climate debate. Seeing the issue cast as an arithmetic equation like this does nothing to undermine my opinion that few skeptics and natural scientists are terribly good at statistics, and fewer yet are good at logic.

    The Global Change Research Program could do worse than to beef up their quota of statisticians, and add a logician or two, without which the reasoning is going to bumble along guided by equations of questionable relevance instead of inferences that with some work might have a chance of being made sound.

    Here’s a stab at improving on A+B=C.

    Observation ⊗ Interpretation ⊢ Science
    Science ⊗ Environment ⊗ Civilization ⊢ Impacts
    Impacts ⊗ Economics ⊢ Policy

    In plain English, from the interaction of observation and interpretation infer the science, from the interaction of science, environment, and civilization infer the impacts, from the interaction of the impacts and economics infer the policy. (Interaction is the plain English expression of Girard’s tensor product, which is the interactive form of conjunction in his systerm of linear logic.)

    • Vaughan Pratt

      Very nicely done, though I think incomplete, as it fails to capture the Policy-Civilization and the Impacts-Observation interactions, and so doesn’t represent the dynamic, or illustrate ‘Metapolicy’ issues and risks of continuing to apply an outdated policy mechanic to a system that is now operating in a different way.

      • Very nicely done

        Thanks. :)

        though I think incomplete, as it fails to capture the Policy-Civilization and the Impacts-Observation interactions

        Excellent point. It’s simplistic, though not as much as A+B=C. The trick is not to leave out the primary interactions; secondary ones can be added later. Getting people to agree on where the line between primary and secondary should be drawn is at least half the battle in getting these rules right.

      • http://judithcurry.com/2011/10/08/usgcrp-draft-strategic-plan/#comment-121323

        Looks like Tomas has found Galam’s sociophysics, and leapfrogged far ahead of my plodding approach to the B/C interractions.

        Which is not to say I’m certain Galam has all the rules right.

    • The example of having someone defend the ilk of Mann and pals by claiming skeptics are not good at statistics is not only a great example of projection but ironic, to be diplomatic.

      • having someone defend the ilk of Mann and pals by claiming skeptics are not good at statistics is not only a great example of projection but ironic

        Hunter, was this in response to

        my opinion that few skeptics and natural scientists are terribly good at statistics?

        If so then I’ prompted to ask, what kind of reading disability do you have?

        But since you bring it up, no, I’m not claiming every skeptic or every climate scientist is bad at statistics. That was the point of my “few.”

      • Thanks for the clarification.
        “Ready fire aim” usually does not work out so well.

  52. Dear all,
    lets face it:

    Plants need CO2 at least at a level of 180 ppm. Below this level, plants will die. Everyting will die, except some bacteria. We are at 380 ppm currently, and plant life seems to be thriving. The effect of CO2 on global warming is logarithmic amnd already saturated in most of its absorption bands. Doubling CO2 will do nothing to warming, but it will increase production by plants, as has been shown by the application of CO2 fertilisation in greenhouses in the Netherlands, (Currently, levels up to 1000 ppm are used for tomatoes).

    It is obvious that the entire GHG discussion is based on myths.

    • Also 500+ ppm was more suited to large dinosaurs than mammals, and it happened to be much warmer everywhere because of it. All of human evolution occurred only below 300 ppm, so it is new territory for us and most current species already, and we should expect a lot of ecological adaptation including extinctions in the next few centuries. Interesting times as we move towards a re-run of the Cretaceous climate.

      • Jim D,
        Your post is what is called in other arenas a SWAG: Sciencey Wild As* Guess.
        You have no friggin’ evidence at all for your assertion that all of human evolution took place below 300 ppm, since humans, as well as all life, have been evolving into our present forms since evolution began.
        But hey, it is typical for an AGW believer to respond with officious sounding nonsense when defending the faith.

      • It’s a good thing that Bart didn’t ask you for citations. Can you provide some evidence to support your contention that creatures that evolved into humans did not exist when CO2 concentration was over 300 ppm? Are you saying that when CO2 passes the 500 ppm mark (as it certainly will if your feckless team continues to fail at promoting draconian abatement efforts) the big dinos will make a comeback?

      • Don Mondfort

        I’d be delighted if Jim D provided citations; his figures differ slightly from what I’ve seen elsewhere, so I’d be glad of a chance to review them and judge for myself.

        I don’t disagree with his central point that we’re in new territory not seen in the lifetime of the human race, however more information and better understanding aren’t frightening to me.

        Why are they to you?

      • I haven’t seen anything accurate, but I use a 50 million year halving time for CO2 based on the middle of the range of paleo CO2 estimates I have seen. This gives about 4 ppm per million years for the recent era.

      • hunter and Don Monfort, The last time CO2 was around 300 ppm would have been about 5-10 million years ago. At that time, the human branch of the evolution tree was not yet separate from apes. That only happened about 2 million years ago when CO2 was low enough at 280 ppm for the ice ages to begin. I would further note that current values near 400 ppm were last seen around 25 million years ago, when the line was more monkey-like.
        Yes, Don, I am suggesting the dinosaurs will be back as a result of all this :-)

      • JimD,
        Are you actually
        1- pushing the idea that we know with the accuracy you are claiming for paleo CO2?
        2- asserting that CO2 significantly impacts evolutionary biology in animals
        3- that humans are not evolved from older forms of life?

      • 1. Paleo CO2 was dropping very slowly due to geological processes. It takes millions of years to drop by a few percent, so yes that is an estimate of when it was 300 ppm based on paleo CO2 reconstructions.
        2. No, I didn’t assert that. I said evolution takes different paths in different climates, and different species are favored. Feel free to disagree.
        3. No, I carefully used the words ‘human evolution’ so what I wrote is correct.

      • OK Jimmy,

        Monkeys survived 400 ppm C02, without air conditioning and fine old single malt scotch on-the-rocks, but us dumb humans are in big trouble. We better hurry up and devolve, so we can cope. Your friend Bart likes your citations, even though you have provided none.

        The fact remains, that despite the tens of $billion$ that your lot have spent on your consensus research and alarmist propaganda, you have failed to do anything significant to reduce our allegedly increasingly deadly emissions of C02. (OMG, it’s worse than we thought!) How does that make you feel about yourselves? Don’t you think it is time to change your self-defeating tactics? Maybe have an open scientific debate?

      • Don Monfort

        Jimmy provided me the well known 50 ma figure; from there it was easy work to track down reputable sources, check the math, and bing-bang-boom, accept the claim as having substantiation.

        Which took next to no time, and satisfied my skepticism.

        How do you validate and verify claims, if not by such means?

      • Jim D

        Thanks.

        Interpolation seems to yield results not so far from the various geochemical analyses I’ve run across (your 5-10 million years are lower by a factor of 2 compared the curves I’ve seen). A reasonable estimate, considering the difficulties. Nicely done.

    • Crackpot

      Could you provide citations?

      There is some evidence your claims may be faulty or inconsistent with generally accepted, peer-reviewed studies.

      180 ppm CO2 is a level measured by ice core to have existed on earth at least six times in the past 800,000 years, during times in which life thrived.

      The mean level of CO2 per the ice core record is plausibly 230+/-50 ppmv for practically the entirety of the ice core timespan, with enough good support from other studies as to be what is generally called statistical certainty.

      390 ppm is almost 70% above the 230 ppm mean of the lifespan of the human race, and by extrapolation from the best available data, likely the dominant mean of the past 10-20 million years.

      It is over 25% higher than the very highest spike in concentration of global CO2 levels of this extrapolated geological epoch, though of course local conditions in CO2-generating bogs and downwind of volcano activity ranged higher from time to time.

      It has happened at a much higher rate of change than we can decipher from the ice core record, and shows no indication of abatement; indeed all our best understanding points to the carbon cycle being incapable of digesting projected future emissions.

      CO2 is a nonsaturating GHG, further. This can be seen by looking at CO2’s absorbtivity lines in the lab. Sure, a few of the minor bands of CO2 are saturating, but your claim is like saying because Bill Gates’ left pocket has no cash in it, he’s broke.

      Also, comparing greenhouse conditions for plants (which by the way, routinely go upwards of 2500 ppm) for commercial growing is a useless simplification of the general conditions of botanical and microbiotic life in the wild. CO2 in plants beyond the 200 ppm level acts much like steroids do in athletes: they make big limbs and large fruit, deform sexual characteristics, and may shorten lifespan and reduce regenerative vigor. Further, CO2 has different effect on different species, which means we have no idea which species will be squeezed out by CO2.

      It is obvious that at least your portion of the GHG discussion is zealously and vividly myth-based. One detects some repetition of claims from groups and individuals known to actively promote CO2 by repackaging science for what seems to be an entirely non-scientific agenda.

      That doesn’t so much work in anyone’s favor, where the discussion is about strategies to communicate science for the purpose of policy.

      • Bart R,
        Since the good evidence (based on real world things like experiments)
        shows you are just blowing used cow food about CO2 dangers. I would suggest you could stop while you are not yet too far behind.
        But then again, this could be fun so do as your obsessions lead you.

      • good post I think you said everything I wanted to say even the things I couldn’t remember.

        “Further, CO2 has different effect on different species, which means we have no idea which species will be squeezed out by CO2.”

        That’s a point I think is much overlooked. If a doubling of CO2 from current levels does have a massive plant fertilization effect then that will result in ecosystems reorganizing. The risk to any plant species is that a competitor will take better advantage of the extra CO2 and drive them out. My bet is that aggressively reproducing plants, eg weeds, will be the winners.

        Coupled with warming at the same time – driving species polewards, the risk is pretty obvious given the short space of time, geologically, that this is occuring (merely 100s of years, I bet the planet is shocked at the idea)

      • lolwot

        “plant fertilization effect “ is not exactly what I believe is going on.

        CO2, for all that we’re adding every decade the equivalent of a fresh pencil worth of optical density scribbled across every 8.5″x11″ cross section of sky, for all that almost the entire mass of every plant and all the carbon in organic plant matter comes out of the air, is very rarified overall in the atmosphere when compared to true plant fertilizers like Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus, or the vital nutrients water and oxygen.

        Indeed, CO2 is distinct among macronutrients in that it is so strongly a plant hormone modifier in very low comparable concentrations.

        CO2 is to plants like a steroid to animals in a number of ways. It modifies most powerful plant hormone interactions, affects nutrient uptake and use, and changes gross plant biology very much like testosterone does in humans.

        This isn’t meant to be alarming, really, and is just a quibble for the most part, except that we do not well understand the mechanisms, have not well documented the effects for the majority of plants, and have multiple unmitigated levels of ignorance about such a potent agent.

        For people to be lauding the botanical benefits of increasing CO2 brings to mind for me the sort of pushing behind steroids for athletes. I’m uncomfortable with the wisdom of either.

    • The ” CO2 is saturated” argument. I haven’t heard that one for a while!

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/saturated-co2-effect.htm

  53. “Why do I always get the feeling that the uncertainties JC is always talking about would imply there is an overestimate of AGW risk when surely the opposite is just as likely, if not more so ?”

    I think this is wrong. Why? Because the warmists are serial exaggerators. They push the most dire scenarios imaginable because it’s in their best interests to do so. They lie about levels of relative certainty, and they’re always insisting that as bad as things appeared yesterday, today they’re even worse. Never better, always worse. Much, much worse. I ask you, how much worse can it get?

    • “I ask you, how much worse can it get?:

      “Things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse.” – Lily Tomlin

      • Fred,
        I am pleased to see the AGW believers relying on the great scientist, Lily Tomlin, for their understanding of risk.

      • That was back when you could be a nitwit with just a high school diploma. Now a college degree is required.

      • Dr Pangloss suggests otherwise eg Voltaire (Candide)

        “It is demonstrable,” said [Pangloss], “that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end.
        “… they, who assert that everything is right, do not express themselves correctly; they should say that everything is best.”

        There is a nice analogous argument by Gutteridge and Pierce PNAS 2006 , One suspects that Lamarkians will not understand.

        http://www.pnas.org/content/103/19/7203.full

      • I wish that just once hunter would put his best end forward.

  54. “Why do I always get the feeling that the uncertainties JC is always talking about would imply there is an overestimate of AGW risk when surely the opposite is just as likely, if not more so ?”

    I think this is wrong. Why? Because the warmists are serial exaggerators. They push the most dire scenarios imaginable because it’s in their best interests to do so. They lie about levels of relative certainty, and they’re always insisting that as bad as things appeared yesterday, today they’re even worse. Never better, always worse. Much, much worse. I ask you, how much worse can it get?

    But there a possibility that even though they imagine they over exaggerating they could missing something.

    One fear of the warmist is we if somehow reach a point with CO2 in which there “no return” or simply, we are doomed.
    This nonsense is mostly in response to idea of:
    “If there is a problem in fifty years, we solve the problem at that point in time 50 years hence.”
    And the rejoinder is it will be too late at that time.
    That is rather lame but if this were a concern one would look for dangerous elements.
    By which I mean- the atmosphere has about 3000 petagrams of CO2, you might look for something able of creating 1000 or more petagrams of CO2 in less than a decade of time. Human activity adding around 30 penagram per year and in 10 years less than 1/3rd of this amount- though only about 1/2 of human emission could possibly be added. So human emission is around 1/6th of 1000 or more petagrams added in less than 10 years.

    Or said differently one should look for something that causing an order of magnitude higher than what is added from Human emission and such emission occurring in a relatively short time frame [less than a decade].

    And upon finding such a thing mitigating such large results from occurring.

    We have actually such a potential threat and these are methane deposits
    in many locations in the oceans. And mitigating such a threat would be resolved by mining these natural deposits. And also thereby providing an almost unlimited supply of clean natural gas.
    So that’s what would do if you actually were concerned about a possibility of potential doom in the future.

    • If there were going to be dramatic bad effects form CO2, we would already be seeing them.
      Since honest appraisals of the historic record shows no discernible changes in the last 150 years, even though CO2 ppm has made its dramatic changes in % terms in that time, we can rest assured that once again apocalypse cults get it wrong.

      • Global temperatures have likely reached or even passed the highs of the “medieval warm period” in recent decades. The risk of the truely spectacular stuff is when we enter uncharted territory for millions of years. An atmosphere of 800ppm CO2, global temperatures 4C warmer, planet won’t have seen those conditions for tens of millions of years. Geologically speaking it’ll be like waking up to a different planet. There will be a massive fight for survival in the ecosystem for this new planet with winners and losers.

    • “We have actually such a potential threat and these are methane deposits
      in many locations in the oceans. And mitigating such a threat would be resolved by mining these natural deposits. And also thereby providing an almost unlimited supply of clean natural gas.
      So that’s what would do if you actually were concerned about a possibility of potential doom in the future.”

      I don’t think it would be that simple. I suspect the deposits are too sparse and widespread to preclude the success of any such project to eliminate them.

      I also wonder at what stage frozen deposits will start thawing out and releasing. Past temperature matters. Any deposits that could thaw out today in large amounts would have already gone during past warmer periods. So if 3000 years ago temperatures in a deposit area were 2C warmer than today for an extended period then presumably the bulk of deposits left in that area today won’t release unless temps rise more than 2C.

      So I suspect the hit the fan moment will be when temperatures in those regions extend above millions of year highs. If we push our interglacial far beyond previous interglacials that should do it.

  55. Bart asks Crackpot for citations
    Perhaps you might consider some citations of your own?
    For instance this –

    “It has happened at a much higher rate of change than we can decipher from the ice core record”

    and again this –

    “and shows no indication of abatement; indeed all our best understanding points to the carbon cycle being incapable of digesting projected future emissions”

    And your comparison to Bill Gates pocket, whilst amusing, exhibits something of the magician’s ‘nothing up my sleeve’ routine.

    “CO2 is a nonsaturating GHG” – OK

    “This can be seen by looking at CO2′s absorbtivity lines in the lab” – Sure.

    But when you say “a few of the minor bands of CO2 are saturating, but your claim is like saying because Bill Gates’ left pocket has no cash in it, he’s broke” the argument goes off the rails.

    The point is that the particular absorbitivity lines (for CO2) which are of interest, are only of interest because they coincide with ‘gaps’ in the absorbtion spectrum for water vapour. The IR radiation is already being absorbed by a highly efficient GHG.

    In terms of the analogy – Bill Gates’s left pocket is most decidedly NOT empty!

    • Kohl,
      In the bizarre-o world of AGW believers, the skeptics have to prove the negative. Any bogus cr*p believers spout is true unless skeptics can disprove it.

    • Kohl

      It appears we are at odds on which bands in CO2s absorbtivity are saturating and which are not, or which overlapping and which are not.

      The principle non-overlapping band is non-saturating.

      I’m citing the CO2 vs H2O absorbtivity spectra. Of the countless sources found with a quick Google search, Figs. 4-3, 4-5, 4.6 & 4-8 in http://geoflop.uchicago.edu/forecast/docs/archer.ch4.greenhouse_gases.pdf shows the no-feedbck effect. Your source is as good as mine. If yours differs, please provide it.

      Otherwise, we can stop staring at Bill Gates’ pockets.

      As for the ice core record citations, I could cite Climate Etc. The issue has been done to death here.

      Indeed, unless you’re providing a serious challenge to the statement that the carbon cycle cannot digest present CO2 emissions as evidenced by the increasing global CO2 level of the past quarter millennium, with some reasonable argument and citations, I’m disinclined to engage on such a silly claim.

      http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=ajiBydD5EHNs for rate of CO2 increase, to start. More like it — or better — if you’re unsatisfied.

      • That’s fine, but it misses my point somewhat.

        In relation to citations – I was not all that interested in your citations, rather I noticed, and was pointing out, that whilst you were asking Crackpot(?) for citations, you did not supply your own. That’s fair enough is it not?

        In relation to bands of CO2 saturation etc. I didn’t intend to change the physics, nor anything so radical. I was simply interested in looking at your analogy with Bill Gates’s empty pocket.

        A more accurate analogy would observe that although he may not have any cash in his pocket, nevertheless he has negotiable instruments, bonds, whatever….. most decidedly, none of his pockets are empty.

        It seems extraordinary that we are concerned about a portion of the spectrum in which CO2 absorbs IR and seem to ignore the implicationss to be drawn from the fact that there is a vastly more abundant GHG in the shape of water vapour absorbing across a much greater range of frequencies than does CO2. If there was ever to be a ‘runaway’ greenhouse effect, then surely it should already have occurred – a little warmth gets more water vapour, which absorbs more IR which gets more water vapour……you get the picture.

        Whatever…Bill Gates’s pocket is not empty.

      • Kohl,
        The sophistry of AGW faith is to pretend that H2O does not count unless CO2 is increasing.

      • Once i didn’t think so. But now? Well……

        The rhetorical technique appears to be to call for citations (as though quoting the Koran or the Bible) whilst not providing citations oneself; to put words into the mouth of one’s interlocuter so as to counter an argument not made; to fail to address points made ….and so on.

        These techniques were recognised by the Greeks more than two millenia ago and so, are nothing new. I guess we must put up with them.

      • Kohl

        I have no problem accepting figures fairly from people whose figures match those I can find myself by research with little difficulty, so I can judge the process whereby the figures were derived.

        I only seek citation where my research abilities fail to verify assertions, as opposed to the sort of irritating interloper who unfairly demands citations only because it prolongs the process or casts doubt where there ought in fairness be none.

        As it happens, I couldn’t find anything in the least supportive of Crackpot’s claims, nor of yours, after fair effort. It appeared to me as if he, and you, were asserting fictions with no connection to reality, and so I did you and he the courtesy of asking for supporting information, rather than concluding there was none. How is that unfair?

        As to the pocket analogy, my meaning appears to have gotten lost. CO2 has multiple absorbtivity bands. A few of these bands are ‘saturating’ and become inoperative after some level. Some of the CO2 bands are also overlapping with H2O. However, for your claim to have any truth, all the CO2 bands must all overlap less-saturating H2O bands, which is clearly untrue. You asserted a thing that was false. No amount of analogy extension by you makes your claim true or reasonable or anything but a bald-faced deception. How is that fair?

        Now, you might have a point about H2O, since its absorbtivity is by far so much more comprehensive than CO2’s. It would take a long time and significant study to disentangle all the various relationships and determine if CO2 rise would be important in an H2O world.

        Which we’re waiting on BEST to hear more of, and which is why there’s an IPCC and a USGCRP, and why uncertainty and progress in research are important.

        And why people asserting things that just aren’t true are disproportionately expensive to all efforts to improve the body of climate knowledge.

      • “I couldn’t find anything in the least supportive of Crackpot’s claims, nor of yours” – what claim of mine?
        “so I did you and he the courtesy of asking for supporting information” – where exactly did you ask me for anything?
        “you, were asserting fictions with no connection to reality” – exactly what fiction did I assert?
        “No amount of analogy extension by you makes your claim true or reasonable or anything but a bald-faced deception”
        “Now, you might have a point about H2O” – since that is the only matter I put forward, it is hard to see how I can both ‘have a point’ and be engaged in ‘bald-faced’ deception. In any event who do you think you are to make such insulting remarks? Seems to me that the effort of understanding whatever you may have to say just isn’t worth the effort.

        Apparently you are set upon a course of deliberate misrepresentation of other points of view in an effort to ‘win’. At first that is charmingly childlike, even vaguely amusing. But then….it just becomes boring.

        So, not content with being merely tedious, you have also succeeded in becoming a bore.

      • “It seems extraordinary that we are concerned about a portion of the spectrum in which CO2 absorbs IR and seem to ignore the implicationss to be drawn from the fact that there is a vastly more abundant GHG in the shape of water vapour absorbing across a much greater range of frequencies than does CO2.”

        We are concerned with it because scientists have run the numbers and there is a lot of extra absorption from a doubling of CO2 (~3.7wm-2). No-one is ignoring water vapor, but it’s not going to double.

        A doubling of CO2 (a 100% increase) in just a few centuries is a very unusual, if not a unique event on Earth. The glacial-interglacial cycles only changed CO2 by 50% and that took thousands of years.

        “If there was ever to be a ‘runaway’ greenhouse effect, then surely it should already have occurred – a little warmth gets more water vapour, which absorbs more IR which gets more water vapour……you get the picture.”

        No because there are diminishing returns. Each increase in temperature yeilds an increase in water vapor that provides an even smaller increase in temperature, which causes an even smaller increase in water vapor, which causes a much much smaller increase in temperature, etc. If you keep calculating the process then by the 10th or so iteration the numbers are approximately zero.

      • Norm Kalmanovitch

        It is not the absorbtivity of CO2 but the amount of energy remaining in the energy radiated by the Earth in tha band absorbed by CO2.
        This band is centred on 14.77microns and the Nimbus 4 satellite meaurements made back in 1970 when CO2 was at just 325.68ppmv (MLO) show that well over 80% of the energy in this band was already affected by this level of CO2 concentration.
        The other absorptive bands of CO2 are outside the range of wavelengths radiated by the the Earth si they don’t apply.
        For those incapable of subtracting 80% from 100% the answer is 20% representing the energy remaining in this wavelength band for CO2 to affect. This is what is meant by saturation and the 14.77 micron band is over 80% saturated!

      • Norm Kalmanovitch

        Interesting.

        Different from what Vaughan Pratt has explained elsewhere (http://judithcurry.com/2011/10/11/co2-control-knob-discussion-thread/#comment-121536), and a stretch on the capabilities and certainty of the FWS(?) feature of that particular orbiting astronomical observatory technology (due a number of difficulties from albedo through angle of incidence), but interesting.

        Are you speaking of 80% saturation of one particular band of the hundreds of increasingly opaque bands Dr. Pratt mentions, or activation of 80% of the hundreds of bands in that gap around 14.77 microns?

        Because either way, as I recall trigonometry working, surface area of a region is the product of the height by the width, and your figures appear alarmingly one-dimensional, even if 1960’s space technology and 1970’s ground correction of one of the more minor datasets of Nimbus-4 were reliable.

        By all means, if you have more details, I’d be pleased to hear.

      • For the math impaired, 80% x 80% = 64%.

        Since we’re describing a sharp spike that effectively turns into a wide column 20% taller and 20% wider and from concave to convex sides, (see the diagrams from http://geoflop.uchicago.edu/forecast/docs/archer.ch4.greenhouse_gases.pdf above), I believe I’m being generously conservative at suggesting Norm’s less-than-20% in 1970 is at most 34%, and more likely closer to 50%, with large uncertainty.

      • “at most 34%, and more likely closer to 50%,” don’t make no sense nohow.

      • Brian H

        You are quite right!

        100%-64%=36%. Sloppy typing on my part.

        It should read “at most 36%, and more likely closer to 50%,” meaning CO2 saturation in the gap non-overlapped by other higher power GHGs around the 15 micron band is less than Norm’s over 80% claim, unless I’ve misunderstood Norm and Vaughan or substituted a 4 for a 6 somewhere else.

        Good catch, Brian!

  56. The Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Advisory Committee released a report last month that the state by the end of the century could have 30-60 days of 90F during the summer and ocean temperatures could be 8 degrees warmer.
    The ocean 8 degrees warmer. Really? If I were a policymaker and believed that, then I could be railroaded into many dubious projects.

    • You don’t think they’re doing exactly that? King County, WA wants to demolish roads that run along the water because they’re sure that they’re going to be underwater in just a few years.

    • 4 degrees C (8 degrees F) warmer yes, and why shouldn’t thye plan for that under the assumption of high emission growth (seeing as there is nothing on the horizon to reduce emissions)?

      • Because something is on the horizon…it’s called ‘market forces’

        Domestic US and Global coal prices have been trending upward for 10 years which is a complete reversal of the previous 20 year trend. US coal mine productivity(tons per man hour) peaked in 2003 at 6.95 tons per man hour and declined to 5.61 tons per man hour in 2009. A 20% decrease in 6 years.

        In the US the amount of electricity being generated from coal has declined 9% between 2005 and 2010 even though the total amount of electricity generated in 2010 was slightly higher than 2005.

        In electricity generation the time lag between when the decision is made to build generating capacity and the actual online date is substantial. On the order of 5-10 years. Obviously, the decision is made based on the economic assumptions that existed when the decision was made.

        The economic assumption that coal will remain ‘cheap’ for the foreseeable future is no longer true. This is reflected in US EIA’s projection that no coal plants will enter service in the US after the year 2015.

        73% of US Coal fired generating capacity is 30 years old or older. With the largest share between 30 and 40 years old. At some point they will be retired. Coal fired plants don’t last forever.
        http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=1830

    • Here we go:

      http://www.mass.gov/Eoeea/docs/eea/energy/cca/eea_climate_adaptation_report.pdf

      Massachusetts‘ climate is already changing and will continue to do so over the course of this century—ambient temperature has increased by approximately 1°C (1.8°F) since 1970 and sea surface temperature by 1.3°C (2.3°F) between 1970 and 2002. These warming trends have been associated with other observed changes, including a rise in sea level of 22 centimeters (cms) between 1921 and 2006, more frequent days with temperatures above 32°C (90°F), reduced snowpack, and earlier snow melt and spring peak flows (Frumhoff et al., 2006, 2007; Hayhoe et al., 2006). By the end of the century, under the high emissions scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Massachusetts is set to experience a 3° to 5°C (5° to 10°F) increase in average ambient temperature, with several more days of extreme heat during the summer months. Days with temperatures greater than 32°C (90°F) are predicted to increase from the 5 to 20 days annually that Massachusetts experiences today to between 30 to 60 days annually; while up to 28 days annually are predicted to reach above 38°C (100°F), compared to up to two days annually today (Frumhoff et al., 2006, 2007). Sea surface temperatures are also predicted to increase by 4°C (8°F) (Dutil and Brander, 2003; Frumhoff et al., 2007; Nixon et al., 2004), while winter precipitation—mostly in the form of rain—is expected to increase by 12 to 30 percent. The number of snow events is predicted to decrease from five each month to one to three each month (Hayhoe et al., 2006).

      Much as I’m sceptical of predictions, as projections go for policy and planning purposes, the scenarios set out do not seem unreasonable to consider given the evidence and current state of the body of knowledge as cited in the reports 120+ pages.

      My question would be, why would any prudent state not have done this starting a century ago about climate in general and provided the information to its citizens and businesses?

      Imagine if flood and hurricane, drought and extreme temperatures were considered in planning and policy, prepared for to the extent possible by every family and neighborhood, township and county.

      And, as the cost for this exercise can be apportioned to a set of clearly identifiable industries, the liability for costs too ought be attributed, to reflect in the price of these free riders’ goods the risk their production creates.

      • Bart,

        Thanks for providing the link. I forgot where I had read the report.

        My issues include the one you suggest, that our science skill is not good enough for regional forecasts. But, the bigger issue is that , though I think there will be some warming, the state will only be wasting resources worrying about such a dramatic rise in sea temps. The sea level rise that would imply could lead to a vast expenditure on the order of a Holland-like seawall.

        I do not want state or federal government commitments of that size, though of course contingency planning is fine. The problem is that the bureaucrats who wrote that report actually want to act on the fat tail as though it were a certainty.

        The waste of resources would be truly monumental.

      • Rimshot

        That’s the problem with Uncertainty. Increased Uncertainty inevitably increases waste of resources.

        Because it’s uncertain, preparing for it is always more expensive than preparing for either certainty or mere Risk.

        Where certain, there is no waste necessary at all.

        Where actuarial Risk calculation is unavailable, there is no mean cost to balance against benefits, and no rational decision can be made.

        The optimal long run strategy in these cases is not like Risk mitigation, but reposturing, or buttressing positions, to diminish Uncertainty, even if it moves the entire system to a position of net lower potential rewards.

        So the economists who argue there is a great cost of reducing GHG emissions are failing to account for Uncertainty.. aside from generally having failed to prove their claims on any balanced economic basis at all.

        Our predictive skills will never be the equal of regional forecasts, though with known levels of Risk, means can be established and cost/benefit analysis used in regional planning with fair reliability.

        With substantial external forcings we move into unknown territory, cannot establish Risk properly, must prepare for or accept the unmitigated costs of new and unknowable conditions, and will have vast expenditures either in a somewhat vain attempt to buttress our core facilities or through meeting extremes unprepared.

        These vast expenditures will beggar the presumed and unproven third order benefits, as they certainly dwarf the first order benefit of energy from emission.

        This is true whether there is warming or cooling as a net outcome of the forcings, whether there is a level of natural variability higher than or equal to the variability of the new forcing, and regardless of the mitigation of symptoms we attempt if we do not also curtail the forcing.

  57. Rimshot,
    And here is our President, proving your thesis daily.

  58. Wow, it took a lot of courage Dr. Curry to stand up and say what you did. Thank you for defending science and speaking up for all of us who were not there. Excellent job!

  59. Moderation note: This thread can potentially be important. If the comment thread turns out well, i will submit the weblink to the entire thread as a public comment to the USGCRP. So I will edit little “sniping” comments, and please keep your comments on the topic of of the USGCRP and U.S. climate research policy.

    Seems to me you’re going to have to do a heck of a lot of editing of “sniping” before the USGCRP will find it worth their while to wade through this thread. Most of it’s at the level of YouTube links and “So, not content with being merely tedious, you have also succeeded in becoming a bore.” Only a few comments bear on policy, such as “If I were a policymaker and believed that, then I could be railroaded into many dubious projects.”

    Constructive comments R not us. If I were a policymaker I wouldn’t waste time with this thread.

  60. Vaughan Pratt proposed a better logic:

    Here’s a stab at improving on A+B=C.

    Observation ⊗ Interpretation ⊢ Science
    Science ⊗ Environment ⊗ Civilization ⊢ Impacts
    Impacts ⊗ Economics ⊢ Policy

    While I agree on the logic structure, I note that one very important peace is missing, the question of available options and their efficiency:

    Observation ⊗ Interpretation ⊢ Science
    Science ⊗ Environment ⊗ Civilization ⊢ Impacts
    Technology ⊗ Possible decisions ⊢ Available alternatives
    Impacts ⊗ Available alternatives ⊗ Economics ⊢ Policy

    Furthermore it must be noted that the factor Economics must be interpreted broadly, not as direct costs only, but as all direct and indirect effects of both the Impacts and the Available alternatives on the national and world economies and human well-being. (Some of this may get double counted in the above formulation on lines 2 and 4.)

  61. Hi Judy,
    Back in 1994 I wrote my dissertation on the creation of the USGCRP. Here are a few papers of possible relevance to this thread:

    Pielke, Jr., R. A. (2000), Policy history of the US Global Change Research Program: Part I. Administrative development. Global Environmental Change 10 (1) 9-25
    http://cstpr.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-56-2000.10.pdf

    Pielke, Jr., R. A. (2000), Policy history of the US Global Change Research Program: Part II. Legislative process. Global Environmental Change 10 (2) 133-144
    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-56-2000.10.pdf

    PIELKE, RA (1995), USABLE INFORMATION FOR POLICY – AN APPRAISAL OF THE US GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH-PROGRAM. Policy Sci. 28 (1) 39-77
    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/1995.07.pdf

    You will find in that 1995 paper a critique of the A+B=C approach (the so-called linear model). What is odd is that Michael Crow has a PhD in science and technology policy and knows the limitations of the linear model as well as anyone. Something went astray.

    We have recently completed a major NSF project in which we studied the design of science programs to contribute to the needs of decision makers related to climate. Your readers may be interested in this paper from that effort:

    Sarewitz, D., R. A. Pielke, Jr. (2007), The neglected heart of science policy: Reconciling supply of and demand for science. Environmental Science & Policy 10 (1) 5-16
    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/publications/special/rsd_for_science.html

    And this summary handbook from the project:
    http://cstpr.colorado.edu/sparc/outreach/sparc_handbook/index.html

    Thanks!

    • Roger, thanks very much for these links and the background.

    • Roger, your “neglected heart of science policy” model is quite interesting, as I also do science policy issue analysis and modeling. In the climate case there are several elements which may be important, but which I do not see addressed. First, the GCRP research was seen by the energy industry side as an important predecessor, or substitute if you like, for social action such as emission controls. This may be the main reason it mushroomed.

      Second, the fact that the scientific information coming out of the GCRP is contradictory may be a big reason why it has not been translated into social action. Instead of converging on answers it has diverged into a massive debate. This is normal for certain stages of science. You do not seem to include this kind of divergence in your discussion of why information is not used.

      Perhaps more deeply, I think the climate issue is intrinsically political. It is part of the environmental movement’s rise to power, perhaps the last part. As such it may not be a good model for the general issue of science and policy.

      • Thanks David, we discuss these points in several pieces, see:
        http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/2003.01.pdf

        And Dan Sarewitz’s excellent piece on how science makes environmental controversies worse:
        http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/publications/special/sarewitz_how_science_makes_environmental_controversies_worse.pdf

      • Thanks Roger, but it would help if you offered some thoughts, instead of just more citations. We are here to talk, after all, and before all.

      • Hi David, I’m happy to talk, but as these issues have been _extensively_ discussed in the literature, meaning that any such talk will be far more informed if we start from a common basis of that literature. If the papers that I’ve linked to could be summarized in brief blog comments then they probably wouldn’t have been written in the first place;-) The citations are offered simply for those interested in digging deeper, there is of course no need for anyone to do so …

        So what would you like to discuss? … All best!

      • Roger, I am moving backward in the nesting to make room for replies, but I am responding to your invitation for discussion, to be found below (http://judithcurry.com/2011/10/08/usgcrp-draft-strategic-plan/#comment-120176).

        To begin with then, in the Heart of Science Policy, you say this: “More information may not lead to better decisions for many reasons, e.g., the information is not relevant to user needs; it is not appropriate for the decision context; it is not sufficiently reliable or trusted; it conflicts with users’ values or interests; it is unavailable at the time it would be useful; it is poorly communicated.”

        I then raised the following alternative: “…the fact that the scientific information coming out of the GCRP is contradictory may be a big reason why it has not been translated into social action. Instead of converging on answers it has diverged into a massive debate. This is normal for certain stages of science. You do not seem to include this kind of divergence in your discussion of why information is not used.”

        Would you perhaps agree that this is a major factor in the climate debate? That is, the science is worse than not settled, it is getting less settled as we move forward. Thus there is little for decision makers to use. In short, you may be working with a ‘one pile’ model of information, while I am working with a ‘two pile’ model which includes internal contradiction (my pile versus some one else’s pile). Or perhaps this massive debate falls under your category of “not sufficiently reliable”?

      • Thanks David, some science issues have become more certain, some less. However, even if all questions about the physical science of climate change were resolved with 100% certainty that would not necessarily accelerate policy action to reduce emissions. Your claim that we do not discuss this is incorrect, though, it is the subject of much of our work. Thanks.

      • Roger, I am not sure what your “this” refers to in your statement to me that “Your claim that we do not discuss this is incorrect, though, it is the subject of much of our work.”

        If your “this” refers to my issue, which is that the climate science information is too inconsistent for policy makers to use, then I will be happy to look at your work. Please be specific as to where you address it.

        Or are you referring by “this” to your very strong claim that “even if all questions about the physical science of climate change were resolved with 100% certainty that would not necessarily accelerate policy action to reduce emissions.”? I seriously disagree with this claim, as it implies that the democratic decision system is irrational, which I do not believe.

      • David, On your first point, have a look at the citations I provided above. You might also take a look at my book, The Honest Broker. That issue is discussed in depth

        For a case where there is little scientific uncertainty yet decision makers decide to look another way, check out EU alcohol policy:
        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03324.x/full

        Your expression that if science were certain then policy would follow simplifies Judy’s A+B=C to just A=C. Science cannot overcome differences in values, and if people in Europe like to drink, despite evidence that it has large health costs, that is a choice that is perfectly legitimate in a democracy. Similarly, science will/can not resolve the values issues that are at the core of the climate debate.

        Democracies are perfectly rational, just not in heroic sort of rationality that many experts like to think about. Thanks.

      • Roger, you are still ducking my issue with citations so I give up. Blogging is about dialog. Ironically the scientific literature is not about dialog.

  62. Richard S Courtney

    Dr Curry:

    You say;
    “Climate scientists have this very naive understanding of the policy process, which is aptly described by the A+B=C model in the context of the precautionary principle. This naive understanding is reflected in the palpable frustration of many climate scientists at the failure of the “truth” as they “know” it to influence global and national energy and climate policy. This frustration has degenerated into using to word “denier” to refer to anyone who disagrees with them on either the science or the policy solution.

    The path that we seem to be on, whereby the science is settled and all we need is better communication and translation of the science to policy makers, not only has the potential to seriously mislead decision makers, but also to destroy atmospheric and climate science in the process.”

    Yes! Several people (including me) have been saying this for decades. And it is the reputation of all science (n.b. not only “atmospheric and climate science”) that is threatened.

    A decade ago, at a fringe event at an IPCC Meeting in London organised by Fred Singer, I said this;
    “When the ‘chickens come home to roost’ – as they surely will with efluxion of time – then the journalists and politicians won’t say, “It was our fault”, they will say “It is the scientists’ fault”, and that’s me, and I object!”

    So, Dr Curry, I thank you for your defence of science, and I hope you will continue to state that the most important information on complex issues that science provides is the limitations and uncertainties of our knowledge.

    Richard

    • Richard,
      I think many climate scientists have a very practical and effective handle on policy formulation:
      They know exactly what buttons to push on policy makers that induces the treasury to issue them large checks.

  63. Lolwot advises me that –
    “Each increase in temperature yeilds an increase in water vapor that provides an even smaller increase in temperature, which causes an even smaller increase in water vapor, which causes a much much smaller increase in temperature, etc. If you keep calculating the process then by the 10th or so iteration the numbers are approximately zero.”
    and –
    “No-one is ignoring water vapor, but it’s not going to double.”
    and –
    “We are concerned with it [CO2] because scientists have run the numbers and there is a lot of extra absorption from a doubling of CO2 (~3.7wm-2). ”

    I find this very informative – and I thank you for taking the time to set it out for me.

    However, I would like to know why you think that water vapour is not going to double under conditions of ever increasing temperature. It is not too difficult to engage in a thought experiment (Einstein loved them) in which, starting in the tropics, the cloud cover increases to twice its present extent – either spacially or over time. That might happen if, for instance, clouds had a net positive feedback effect on temperature. Of course, if clouds have a net negative feedback effect then my thought experiment can’t get going. But then there would be no problem anyway?

    The second point of clarification which you might provide me is in relation to the response of CO2 absorption. Why would that not be very similar in effect to the “ever diminishing” effect of water vapour increases? In fact, is it not the case that the response is indeed logarithmic?

    And finally, is not your figure of 3.7Wm-2 for a doubling of CO2 an estimate which is subject to considerable controversy? That is to say, that the range of values for climate sensitivity to CO2 is considerable and at the lowest estimates, is well below the figure you provide?

    Again, I thank you for your time in responding. But if you have better things to do, then please don’t feel obliged to take it further.

  64. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathological_science

    Strategically, Langmuir may have nailed in 1953 most of the considerations of distinguishing legitimate advancement of knowledge from delusion:

    *The maximum effect that is observed is produced by a causative agent of barely detectable intensity, and the magnitude of the effect is substantially independent of the intensity of the cause.
    *The effect is of a magnitude that remains close to the limit of detectability, or many measurements are necessary because of the very low statistical significance of the results.
    *There are claims of great accuracy.
    *Fantastic theories contrary to experience are suggested.
    *Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses.
    *The ratio of supporters to critics rises and then falls gradually to oblivion.

    The problem of course is to the pathological, everyone who disagrees appears pathological.

    Indeed, many well-meaning skeptics apply exactly Langmuir’s reasoning without fully grasping the subject of their skepticism, thus derive incorrect conclusions about the subject, dubbing the whole enterprise pathological, and walk away thinking themselves cunning.

    Also, Langmuir may have been somewhat naive in his characterizations.

    Ratio of support is a meaningless metric, for instance.

    Many more people casually accept most pathological claims without challenge than have appropriately reasoned their way through the traps and subtleties of all scientific knowledge at any point in history, every new generation discovers of all previous ones. Some people conversely reject true claims through faulty logic.

    Here is where expressing uncertainty is most valuable. Explicitly stating the confidence levels and considering both Type I & Type II errors at the outset when discussing results is the best anodyne I know for pathological outcomes. I’m open to hear more solutions.

  65. “The deep uncertainty is associated with our reliance on projections from climate models, which are loaded with uncertainties and do not adequately treat natural climate variability.”

    Is there any evidence this is actually true?

    Do models actually do a bad job of capturing natural climate variability (i.e. does real climate have significantly more or less variation than the models predict)?

    If that’s true, I’d think it would be big news.

    • pmp5

      I think it’s bigger news that, despite the acknowledged and substantial uncertainties and inadequacies of models, they perform fairly well as projections in several ways.

      Simulation has a life and logic of its own, little understood or appreciated by we who do not get up to our elbows in it.

      • Richard S Courtney

        BartR:

        You assert;
        “…despite the acknowledged and substantial uncertainties and inadequacies of models, they perform fairly well as projections in several ways.”

        Say what!?
        No climate model has existed for 25, 50 or 100 years and, therefore, it is not possible to know how well they perform “as projection” over such times. But those are the timescales of interest to climate policies.

        Your assertion not only has no foundation, it has no possibility of having any foundation.

        Richard

      • Richard S Courtney

        Check again. There’s been a basic model since 1981. You can read the details in Jim D’s post (http://judithcurry.com/2011/10/09/atmospheric-co2-the-greenhouse-thermostat/#comment-120455).

        Admittedly, not great evidence, and not entirely what I meant, but enough to open us to a sense of wonder at the lack of total and complete failure.

      • Richard S Courtney

        BartR:

        That “basic model” is not the same model as any of the several climate models used to make “projections” and each of those models differs from every other.

        Then, (2011 – 1981 = 30) so even if your daft assertion were right then my accurate rebuttal of your fatuous assertion would not provide a “sense of wonder” except at your gall in posting blatant nonsense.

        Richard

      • Richard S Courtney

        The blame is mine for giving half an answer and hoping for the goodwill of the reader to lead one to fill in the rest by imagination, investigation and logic.

        You appear to be using some standard to measure the effectiveness of projections that you are not explicitly stating, as if you expect me to fill in the rest from my imagination, investigation, and logic.

        Which, attempting to be a diligent reader, I did.

        We have a good opinion (discussed not so long ago by Dr. Curry) that a mere 17 years is enough time to distinguish signal from noise in a certain type of global temperature record.

        So the standards of 25, 50 or 100 years, while salutory, are hardly the minimum necessary. Where 16 years or less would provide too little data to confirm a projection, 17 years would be enough, mathematically, to admit a possibility of of foundation, despite your mere and unsubstantiated assertion to the contrary.

        Further, when I said ‘in several ways’, I of course meant ways that were possible to establish foundation for; ways impossible to draw conclusion from would hardly be capable of performing well.

        Here’s one way a model or simulation might perform well as a projection: the application of the model illuminates reasoning not considered by the model builder when the model was designed or the simulation carried out.

        For instance, suppose a new way of looking at temperature trends were applied such as counting upward and downward trends of a decade or less over the span of the run.

        It turns out rather amazingly that the distribution of upward and downward subdecadal trends is somewhat indistinguishable between the actual and the model runs. How cool is that?

        Also, the fact that the basic model at the core is not much revised after 30 years of challenges and simulations is pretty impressive.

        Adequate? Not by a long shot. But impressive.

  66. I did send in a comment.

    “The heading “Global Change” and most of the document is in a large degree political more than it is scientific based.

    Its seems to be mostly based on the the UNFCCC and claims from the UNEP/WWF/Greenpeace etc.

    So the feeling I get reading this document is that we will get more politically based science.

    But what we really need is political decisions based on science.

    Why not rename the heading of this document to “The EnviroScosialist doctrine for science”?

    ?

  67. Regarding the strategic push to make climate science “socially useful” (and even more fully funded), there is a monster conference later this month in Denver:
    WCRP OSC Climate Research in Service to Society, 24-28 October 2011
    See: http://conference2011.wcrp-climate.org/

    Here is an item from the NCAR press release that gives the flavor of the meeting:
    “DENVER — Climate scientists from more than 70 countries will converge in Denver October 24­28 to discuss the latest findings on climaate and identify pressing scientific questions and challenges. They will focus on how science can best serve society, particularly in minimizing the adverse effects of climate variations and human-influenced climate change. Among the key topics that scientists from numerous organizations, including the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), will discuss:
    – Extreme weather. To better understand possible links between climate change and extreme weather events, scientists will discuss the development of a regular service that would respond soon after an extreme event with reliable information on the factors contributing to the event and the extent to which human influence altered the odds of occurrence. Research is under way, coordinated as part of the international Attribution of Climate-related Events (ACE) initiative, to develop the science needed to underpin such a service.”

    Their idea of service is to say how much humans are to blame for every weather disaster.

  68. Judith Curry,

    First, regarding your response to Crow’s presentation of A + B = C, I hope you felt good saying it! Because it felt good to me hearing you say it! Thanks.

    The USGCRP 2012-2021 Strategic Plan draft has a section on Integrating Climate and Global Change Research. The integration will be lacking in that there has been restricted differentiation in the individual scientific research projects funded by the US government. That lack of sufficient differentiation of research exists because very few projects critical of the IPCC’s framework were funded or objectively reviewed. So any integration of insufficiently non-differentiated research projects will lead to a non-comprehensive and restricted overall assessment.

    John

  69. Tomas Milanovic

    Judith

    Do you know this http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0803/0803.1800v1.pdf
    and that http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/physics/pdf/0703/0703021v1.pdf ?

    S.Galam is a french physics professor at Ecole Polytechnique and he considers the propagation of opinions within a group as a physical, dynamical process.
    His model made some quite skillful and non intuitive predictions concerning different political or social results.
    Relevant to the climate change meme is a part of the conclusion of the second paper where he writes :
    It appears that the decisive goal (to win the public debate competition) should be to get a lead, even small, in the respective inflexible densities.”
    Galam defines as inflexible an element that doesn’t change his opinion regardless of the mode, frequency and content of interaction.
    The model then shows how strongly even a small proportion of inflexibles will affect the outcome of a democratic debate.

    It was this stupid equation A + B = C which inspired me to give you these few links to papers.
    Indeed Galam studies precisely how B and C interact and it is clearly in a highly complex, sometimes chaotic way which is very far from a naive linear vision of A+B=C.
    Actually the result (C) of a public debate is often rather independent of the opinion whether A or non A is “true” in some objective sense.
    It is enough to know that there is a proportion of people who believe A , another of people who believe non A and both categories interact recursively (B) untill a result (C) is reached.

    For anecdote I know personally S.Galam and he is a skeptic in my definition of the word – he considers that radiative physics is OK but doesn’t allow any useful predictions on long time scales and IPCC is therefore irrelevant for any political purposes.