The wrong(?) conversation

by Judith Curry

I’ve been meaning to  write a post on the recent “Open Science Conference” organized by the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP).  A post at RealClimate entitled “Conference Conversations” provides a starting point for my post, with this concluding sentence:

The contrast between the conversations in this meeting and what passes for serious issues in the media and blogosphere was very clear.

The WCRP

First, some background on the WCRP.  Snippets from their website:

The WCRP was established over 30 years ago (in 1980), under the joint sponsorship of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) , and, since 1993, has also been sponsored by theIntergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO.

The main objectives, set for the WCRP at its inception and still valid today, are to determine the predictability of climate and to determine the effect of human activities on climate.

In 2005, after 25 years of serving science and society, the WCRP, in collaboration with the broader scientific community, developed and launched the WCRP Strategy Framework 2005-2015

WCRP organizes meetings, workshops and conferences to coordinate and facilitate climate research. The research itself is done by individual scientists working in national and regional institutes, laboratories and universities. WCRP committees, working groups and projects, assisted by the Joint Planning Staff (JPS), are the main vehicles for setting the research agenda and mobilizing the broader research community on specific activities.

During the period 1994-2003, I was quite active in the WCRP:

  • Global Energy and Water Experiment (GEWEX) Radiation Panel (1994-2003 )
  • GEWEX Cloud System Studies (GCSS) Science Steering Group (1998-2003 )
  • Chair, GCSS Working Group on Polar Clouds (1998-2004 )
  • Chair, GEWEX Radiation Panel SEAFLUX Project (1999-2004)
  • Science Steering Group, Arctic Climate System (ACSYS) Programme (1994-2000)
I found the WCRP to be quite useful, in terms of coordinating model intercomparison  and evaluation projects, increasing integration of the international geoscience satellite assets, and international coordination of large field programs.  Not to mention engaging with international scientists (I met my long standing collaborator Vitaly Khvorostyanov at a GEWEX meeting).  During this period and in the Programmes I was involved in, it was all about science; societal issues never really came up.  (Note, when I moved to Georgia Tech, I began focusing more on national programs, rather than WCRP). 

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The alphabet soup associated with the WCRP acronymology is described by this NYTimes blog post.

Open Science Conference

There has been surprisingly little written about the Conference, as per google news and google blogs.  This summary draws from the Conference web page and the RealClimate post:

Goals and vision:  A better understanding of the behaviour of the climate system and its interactions with other Earth system components is critical to predict its future evolution, reduce vulnerability to high impact weather and climate events, and sustain life. 

This need is perhaps greater than ever before given that humans have emerged as the dominant agent of future change.  Progress will require, moreover, an increasingly holistic approach across scientific disciplines, as well as an unprecedented commitment to the development of a diverse and talented future workforce. (WCRP)

It is timed to provide strategic input into the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. (WCRP)

The OSC will appraise the current state of climate science, thereby making a measurable contribution on the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It will identify key opportunities and challenges in observations, modeling, analysis and process research required to understand and predict responses of the Earth as a system. (WCRP)

More the 1900 participants from 86 countries, are attending the WCRP Open Science Conference. (WCRP)

the speakers included the biggest names in climate research and many past and present IPCC authors. (RC)

The focus of the conference was on how climate research should be done in order to be of service to society. Hence, a fair bit of focus was given to how to create useful climate information, or ‘actionable science’. This is supposed to be part of a global framework for climate services (abbreviated as GFCS to make it a bit more cryptic). But there is a lot of discussion about exactly what form of information this would be, and there were many (not necessarily exclusive) ideas around. (RC)

Bruce Hewitson’s presentation

With regards to climate services, Bruce Hewitson gave a very good presentation entitled “Meeting user needs: climate service limits, ideals, & realities.”  Some excerpts:

Expressions heard/seen during this week:

  • “end-to-end user-needs driven”
  • “right-scaling”
  • “actionable science”
  • “co-production of services”
  • “most critical need is not more science, but translation”
  • “the need to provide reliable assessments of future climate changes has never been so high”
  • “new confidence in regional temperature projections despite model deficiencies”

The resultant “community confusion of information”:  A proliferation of portals and data sets, developed with mixed motivations, with poorly articulated uncertainties and weakly explained assumptions and dependencies, the data implied as information, displayed through confusing materials, hard to find or access, written in opaque language, and communicated by interface organizations only semi-aware of the nuances, to a user community poorly equipped to understand the information limitations.  (JC comment: gets my vote for quote of the week).

  • What are the consequences of knowledge gaps?
  • How best does one inform decision-making under conditions of incomplete information?

Concluding thoughts:

  1. Climate services bridge communities, language, and value systems
  2. Scientific products are miss-aligned with most user’s decision risk framework, in which climate is only one factor
  3. Uncertainty language casts doubt; likelihood messages inform
  4. Information on the exceedance in time, space, and frequency of user-defined thresholds is powerful
  5. The issues of responsibility, accountability, credibility and values is largely missing from the climate services dialogue.

Point #5 is really key.  The issue (#4) of  user-defined thresholds is also very important, and addressing issues related to such thresholds (with historical and paleo data and models to create scenarios whereby critical thresholds might be exceeded) can actually be more straightforward than most of what is currently being provided by climate scientists.

The changing conversation

The conversation that we have been having for the last two decades is about mitigation: stabilization of atmospheric CO2 in the context of global treaties on energy policy.

The new conversation being generated by climate science organizations seems more focused on adaptation and climate services, which is associated with the seasonal to decadal time scale.

The mitigation focus is on global climate and the century time scale, whereas the adaptation focus is regional and on timescales from the seasonal to decadal.

The mitigation focus and the century time scale has sapped the community of much resources in terms of manpower and computer time.  I have talked with people in leading positions at several modeling groups, and the effort that is put into the simulations for the IPCC saps 50-70% of the total manpower time and resources of the modeling center.

What if we had devoted all of those resources to making better probabilistic predictions on timescales of 2 weeks to 3-4 months?  Farmers would be able to make better choices about what crops to plant.  Water resource managers could make better choices.  Energy generation and demand could be made more efficient.   Etc.  Most of the developing world doesn’t have weather forecasts beyond two days, and often these forecasts do not anticipate extreme weather events (think Pakistan floods, Severe Cyclone Nargis).   Anticipating extreme weather events by a week or two, or even a few days,  could make an enormous difference in the developing world.

In terms of longer timescales (decadal to century), once the focus becomes regional rather than global,  historical and paleo data becomes more useful than global climate model simulations (no matter what type of “right-scaling” methods are attempted).    Searching for past regional extreme events through the historical and paleo records should be the focus, rather than working to air brush the past global variability.  IMO the most interesting thing from the BEST data is the large trend during the 19th century.  Can we truly infer  meaningful global averages from these data?  I don’t know, but it provides a heck of alot of interesting information for the U.S. and Europe.

On the weather time scale and maybe out the seasonal timescale, creating pdfs from ensemble forecasts and making decisions based upon expected utility is justified.  When using climate information to support decision making on decadal to century timescales, we are in a situation of “deep uncertainty;” see the previous post on Can we make good decisions under ignorance?  Attempting to use climate information  in the context of expected utility can lead to bad decisions; there are much better ways to approach the decision making under conditions of deep uncertainty.  The expected utility approach to decision making has led climate scientists to produce pdfs that are unjustified and misleading.  Looking at other decision making frameworks that are more suitable under conditions of deep uncertainty motivates a different type of analysis and emphasizes assessment of uncertainty and areas of ignorance.

IMO, the emphasis on “translation” is misguided.  Clarifying the areas of ignorance and knowledge gaps and uncertainty in predictions is the absolutely first step before “translating” anything.  But actually understanding the concerns of individual decision makers and broader decision making context  is key to doing anything useful. IMO, academic researchers funded by NOAA or whoever is not the best model for matching useful forecast information to user needs.

An example of success in this regard is the weather risk management industry, of which the energy sector is the largest customer.  A plethora of weather risk companies provide forecasts on timescales of hours to months, focusing on energy demand, wind energy generation, etc.  The most competitive of these companies are identifying niches that target specific needs with innovative forecast products.  Those companies that make consistently poor forecasts don’t retain their customers.

I can easily envision a broadening of the weather risk management industry to include the shorter term climate risks, but a barrier is lack of a track record for the seasonal forecast products.  NOAA NCEP has a new version of its seasonal forecast product CFSv2, which is substantially improved over its predecessor.  ECMWF has its new version System 4, which will release its first seasonal forecast Nov 8.  So the tools are getting better, and a serious focus on making better forecasts on timescales of weeks to 3-4 months could make an enormous difference to the economy, security, and humanitarian concerns.

And finally, Hewitson’s statement: “The issues of responsibility, accountability, credibility and values is largely missing from the climate services dialogue.”  At the RC post, rasmus and gavin state:

However, communicating that understanding to people who might benefit from it remains a work in progress. Communication involves an end-to-end two-way process, as opposed to simply sending off a message hoping that the recipient will understand. There are also ethical concerns linked to the context – what are the consequences of an incorrect forecast? Are there inequities in who benefits and who doesn’t? Scientists, on their own, are not necessarily well-equipped to deal with this.

Good to see “ethical concerns” mentioned in the RC post, but the RC statement does not capture Hewitson’s concern.  Hewitson raises the issue of responsibility, accountability, and credibility.  It was exactly these issues that Climategate called into question in the context of behaviour reflected by the emails.  Scientists, and particularly the institutions that support science, should have as its top priority dealing with responsibility, accountability, and credibility.  Without dealing with these issues, the concept of climate services is doomed.

In conclusion, I think the institutions that support climate science haven’t been having the right conversation over the past two decades.  In contrast to the implications of the closing sentence of the RealClimate post, the blogosphere, with its diversity of venues and perspectives, is fostering a much broader conversation that has the potential to send climate science and its applications on a more useful track.

Note to gavin and rasmus:  Re your statement: The contrast between the conversations in this meeting and what passes for serious issues in themedia and blogosphere was very clear.  The point is that people and decision makers care more about climate on the time scale of a season and ~10 years than they do about the century time scale, which is reflected by many of the articles in the media and the blogosphere.  A different conversation.

217 responses to “The wrong(?) conversation

  1. Judith,

    You end close on the idea of responsibility and accountability by saying,

    ‘ Without dealing with these issues, the concept of climate services is doomed.’

    which seems a bit harsh and probably not right.

    Our economic history is riddled with stories of companies who were very successful precisely because there was no accountability for their negative actions. The 2008 economic collapse and subsequent ‘bailout’ is a perfect example of this. Companies cooked their books to the tune of several tens of billions of dollars, destroyed trillions of dollars in wealth worldwide and are still working and making more money than we’ll ever see in our lifetimes.

    The real issue is the quality of the product. You, I am assuming, correctly pointed out that the products of the short term climate forecasts are not of good enough quality to make them useful for economic interests. Weather forecasts are better and therefore provide a useful product.

    It may be some time before climate services are in the mainstream as far as companies are concerned, but no one is going to care about Climategate if a climate scientist can help an energy company make more money.

    • True: “The 2008 economic collapse and subsequent ‘bailout’ is a perfect example of this. Companies cooked their books to the tune…” played by US Congress, forcing banks to accept ‘sub-prime,’ low- and no-document applications.
      Mis-governance and pandering interference led directly to our current condition.

      • John,

        are you really arguing that the government ‘made’ banks take specific loan applications? Was there a bureaucrat in every bank across the country with a gun to every loan officer’s head ‘making’ them accept people’s applications?

        Of course not.

        The government certainly had a role in all of this, but it was not to ‘make’ companies do anything. It loosened rules that allowed banks to take on financial roles that they had been not allowed to do in the past, making it easier for them to hide the nature of specific investments, how those investments were being rated and how money in the investments was being used by the company. These changes only really helped big banks, however. The Goldmans and Bank of Americas made out like bandits, especially executives at those companies.

        But smaller banks, who were scammed as much as anyone else, didn’t have the capital or access to control of those types of ‘financial innovations’ and lost out. And it was because they gave loans to people who couldn’t pay them. And they did that because they had been making tons and tons of money of that system. Not because anyone ‘made’ them.

        I don’t know what your specific politics are, but in capitalism there is an inherent risk. Smaller banks who decided to give loans to people who historically could not get such a loan took a risk and many of them lost that bet. My contention is that places like Goldman cooked the odds against these places, ending in a destruction of several trillion dollars worth of wealth all over the world. And there is no accountability for their actions other than a side show Congressional hearing in which contempt for any sort of accountability was totally transparent in the men running those companies.

        We got hosed precisely because people would rather blame the government than accept the fact that capitalism is not perfect.

      • maxwell,
        My understanding is that Congressional legislation & FED actions over twenty years enabled the US consumer extract value from his home to buy and transfer our wealth to China, for a bunch of beads.
        Cause & Effect.

      • Tom,

        yes, federal policy incentivized specific financial actions by both corporate interests and individuals. As I said above,

        ‘The government certainly had a role in all of this…’

        The larger point, however, is that specific groups told the consuming public and governments that their ‘financial innovations’ reduced risk for the public, which was a blatant lie. They increased risk for the public while simultaneously increasing profits for the largest financial institutions in the long run and smaller ones in the short run.

        So again, I don’t disagree that the government had a role in these shenanigans. But to make to seem like it was the government who pulled the wool over our eyes is just flat out wrong, however. Everything the government did was right in front our eyes. While all the legislation was being passed and debated, not very many people cared.

        In fact, it was idealogues who conception that unabated capitalism, with as little government ‘intervention’ as possible, would work best for the average American who pushed those bills as much as anyone else. They told the world that using the financial system as the engine for economic growth would work most effectively for spreading opportunity. As it turns out, we’ve (the US) been deregulating our economy, especially the financial sector, for 30 years and since that time the average American is poorer, working more, less healthy and in more debt. Not a great track record for such a philosophy IMO.

        And we’ve continued to see as little accountability for this reality as possible either in the markets or in the courts.

        Which is why I had made the original statement that Climategate will have no effect on the profitability of ‘climate services’ if those services turn out to make money for someone. With green in one’s eyes, the past seemed to fade away rather quickly.

        I think the government deserves lots of scrutiny for what transpired. But they are only part of the story. Even though the government can create incentives via policy, when a person or corporation uses those incentives to scam someone, they have to accept responsibility. So far, the private culprits behind the financial meltdown have yet to do so.

      • They published the rationale in books about the ownership society. Lenders were looking at a market where white ownership was nearing saturation. It was a marriage made in H.

      • maxwell,
        It looks as though we have become well versed, in educational derivatives as well.

  2. I’m glad to see that the conversation in academia has changed.

    In the end, the original AlGore/AGW/Mann Hockey Stick media/political activist model was counter-productive to the cause of environmentalism for many, many reasons. The only “upside” was to encourage us to do what we’ve already known to do, since it is scarcely possible to do the international things dreamed of in Kyoto and Copenhagen. The downside was that bad science — or bad uses of good science in the media and politics — threatened to derail doing those very things.

    Now, let us move on to things that we can do, and discussing ways we can cope.

    • Latimer Alder

      ‘In the end, the original AlGore/AGW/Mann Hockey Stick media/political activist model was counter-productive to the cause of environmentalism for many, many reasons’

      The major numero uno 100% reason in my mind is that they were a bunch of shysters whose claims did not stack up when examined under conditions more rigorous than fawning acceptance.

      Simples.

      • I agree. Now is the time to start over with the right conversation:

        Is there any evidence of global climate change from some cause other than Earth’s variable heat source – the Sun?

        http://www.omatumr.com/Photographs/Suns_surface.htm

        http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110918.html

        http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0501441

        http;//www.griffith.edu.au/conference/ics2007/pdf/ICS176.pdf

        http://www.mitosyfraudes.org/Calen/Landscheidt-1.html

        Did the original AlGore/AGW/Mann Hockey Stick media/political activist model reflect new insight?

        Did they improve or impede our understanding of reasons for changes in Earth’s climate?

      • Vince whirlwind

        Latimer Alder said:
        “they were a bunch of shysters whose claims did not stack up ”

        And you evidence for this is what, precisely?

      • Evidence #1 — What they predicted 10+ years ago flat out didn’t happen. Shall I recite for you the dire predictions? IF anything, the climate seemed to flatten or even lower in temps for a short time. (Disclaimer — yes, I know it’s dependent on which time period you measure!)

        Evidence #2 — the Mann hockey stick thing has spawned a host of serious statisticians who debunked it pretty well. Mann was exonerated of academic malpractice by the same people who we now know turned a blind eye to child sexual abuse — they obviously had a bias towards protecting their famous people in both. I believe that the main work is over on climateaudit.org, and their conclusions, as I recall, was that the phone numbers in a phone book input into Mann’s “correction” software would produce a hockey stick.

        Evidence #3 — Far from sticking with the research, most moved on to the next big fad. Those that remain studying climate history and climate change are singing a much different tune, which is the thing that this whole thread is about.

      • Vince whirlwind

        Evidence #1 – “What they predicted 10+ years ago”. What? Who is they? That’s not evidence, just a vague assertion devoid of facts.

        Evidence #2 – Completely untrue. BEST has just proven, yet again, that the hockey stick is real, just like every other reconstruction that has come before which all show exactly the same thing.

        Evidence #3 – What? You’ve not stated any facts here, just some weird assertion that makes no sense. How about some actual facts – you do know what they are?

  3. ‘What if we had devoted all of those resources to making better probabilistic predictions on timescales of 2 weeks to 3-4 months?’

    A bit difficult to think of yourself as a Saviour of the World if all you are doing is mundane mid-range weather forecasting, however useful. Takes all the sexiness of being at the cutting edge of politics and science away. And you have the horrific prospect of being proved wrong. by events. What self-respecting scientist wants a bad dose of experiment/observation to ruin their predictions?

    Far far better to continue worrying about the effects in the next century. You can have all the self-worth and peer-regard of working to save the human race with none of the tedium of having to justify your work to anybody. Nor of being tested by reality. Your papers can be as fantastical as you like with no threat of actual challenge.

    And that is why they haven’t done it. In a hundred years time they’ll all be dead and nobody will remember what they predicted anyway.

    • BlueIce2HotSea

      Latimer Alder –

      Tim Palmer has suggested that we especially pay attention to model performance vs. reality for the few several hours>. Those models which diverge most wildly should be the ones to be viewed with the most suspicion wrt to long term projections. It turns out that the earliest diverging models tend to be those with extreme climate sensitivity.

  4. “I can easily envision a broadening of the weather risk management industry to include the shorter term climate risks, but a barrier is lack of a track record for the seasonal forecast products.”

    1000 years from now this will still be an issue — it has nothing to do with better programs, better models, better data or faster computers.

  5. Judith, I support your comments under “The changing conversation”. Perhaps climate scientists would take up your challenge to develop the skill to predict the weather on timescales of 3-4 months. I propose a concentrated pilot project using Florida as the region of study. It would test the climate science community’s ability to understand the interface between sea and land as well as the dynamics of hurricanes. The benefits would be significant to the agricultural sector. Also the skill would be measured very quickly giving us the accountability we so badly need. Or is this too pedestrian?

    • This is the kind of thing people actually want. Which may be too pedestrian for the “the biggest names in climate research and many past and present IPCC authors.”

      • Vince whirlwind

        Maybe, or just maybe there’s the small detail that predicting weather is a complete irrelevance to questions of predicting the effects of climate change and therefore likely to be a distinct line of research involving different people?
        The farmers in South Australia don’t need to told what the weather’s going to be like in 3 months, they want to know if their cultivable land is likely to be constrained even further to the south, or whether at some time in the future the land they’ve had to abandon over the last 30 years will become cultivable again so they can move their operations North again.

        Farmers in temperate zones all over the world already know that the planting season is coming weeks and months earlier than it used to – they would benefit from knowing how this change is going to pan out, and they will get far better answers when people stop muddying the waters by promoting obfuscatory nonsense from the same professional liars that spent years trying to delay anti-tobacco legislation.

    • I propose a concentrated pilot project using Florida as the region of study.

      That is an intriguing proposal. I hope someone takes that up.

    • steven mosher

      Just the opposite
      start with something easier. a big flat desert. where getting the answer wrong isnt that big of a deal.

      • It would be an easier task to start with a more homogeneous region, for sure. Then gradually enlarge the scope.

      • For some reason I really liked this comment.

        It sort of catches both commons sense and a bit of smart assedness.

  6. I wasn’t aware that “humans have emerged as the dominant agent of future change.” I thought it was the sun thet controlled the climate! Silly me

    • Steeptown, the quote you give clearly uses the words “agent of future change”. This is not a contradiction to “it was the sun thet[sic] controlled the climate”.

      Please explain how the sun is the dominant agent of future change. (I’d itallicise the word change if I knew how).

      • Tell me why the sun won’t be the dominant agent of future change? I’ll give you a couple of other game-changers you might like to use – a super-volcano; a meteor collision.

      • 40 days and 40 nights of rain…

  7. Dr Curry – as your post quotes quite an amount of text published at real Climate and then goes on to discuss that (including paryicluar points to gavin and rasmus), why didn’t you post over there?

    Did you put a one line “I’m discussing this on my blog” like you do for WUWT?

    • Judith isn’t likely to get her comments posted at Real [sic] Climate, based on past form. “paryicluar” [sic]

    • She probably did.

      But what would you expect the RC halflife of a pointer to a blog where some sceptics are known to hang out to be?

      Remember that unlike here where all sorts of views are tolerated, Real Climate is heavily moderated to keep the discussion within very narrow bounds of True Belief.

      • latimer,

        I have yet to experience that. I’ve gotten responses I consider to be a bit condenscending or which breezily dismiss complex issues with simple responses. But I don’t believe I’ve ever had a comment excluded.

    • steven mosher

      Is Judith on the blog roll there?.

      You will note the protocal. If you list me on your blog roll that means you refer people to me. It gives me confidence that you will not mind if I come to your comments section and shill my site.

      If you dont list me on the blog roll, then shilling my site is bad form.

      Does RC have Judith on the blog roll? I dunno, have a look

    • Based upon recent experience, my posting at RC is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. I refer people to my blog by making a post on another blog for one of two reasons: 1) I want to attract people from that blog over here because I find some of the people interesting (which is why I often comment at collide-a-scape); or 2) I want my post to reach a bigger audience (which is why I often include a pointer over at WUWT).

    • I agree that Real Climate sometimes posts some interesting stuff that is worth reading (with a skeptical frame of mind). The problem really is the arrogance of a self-anointed elite that is all too common there. Bear in mind, the good climate scientists are the vast majority, its those who choose to make “communication” their priority who tend to overestimate their own rightousness and to call other scientists names, intimidate editors, etc.

      I’ve seen this in my field too. There are some spectacular failures of the elite in fluid dynamics. One example is the continuous adjoint method developed by the leading person in the field about 20 years ago. Basically, this idea was a very suboptimal approach and everyone in the field implicitly knows that and uses the discrete adjoint method or the sensitivity method. They just never mention their reasons for rejecting the continuous version in print or compare methods carefully for fear of offending the leaders unnecessarily. The behind the scenes thinking goes something like this: “The originator of the flawed idea created the field by being expert at public relations and selling the benefits. Do not bite the hand that feeds us.” For those who are interested, the literature on this is interesting and someday someone will write a survey paper on it that goes into the background issues. By the way, for controlling numerical error and estimating parameters, climate scientists should get serious about numerical optimization, but that’s another story. They are 25 years behind the fluid dynamicists.

      You know, I’m not saying the people are bad people, just that the dynamics of an important field can lead to the attitude evident on RC. Because of the fact that climate elites have appointed themselves the final arbiters of not just science but policy, they tend to be worse.

      • From the very beginning, RC wasn’t structured as a discussion group. It was always a little different from any other blog that I’m familiar with, in that the board ops behaved like teachers and the participants were treated like students. They didn’t debate, they dictated.

      • False impression. Science isn’t a debate since reality isn’t a rhetorical construct. “The world is independent of my will.”

        There are often actual scientific discussions at RC, and commenters often correct the mods. (And this is the best part.) When the corrections are merited, the mods accept it! Science at its best.

      • I’ve noticed that sense of arrogance as well. But the internet is not the best means for determining tone. I like PE’s analogy below (or probably above, now that i think about it). I sometimes feel like I’m being talked to by a professor who thinks I’m particularly dim.

  8. “humans have emerged as the dominant agent of future change”
    so that is why the Roman and Minoan warming periods occurred. Probably all the methane from the horses used in chariot races.

  9. Piers Corbyn does a damn fine job of predictng the weather on timescales of 3-4months. But he doesn’t need a supercomputer and a big budget, so he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Also he doesn’t accept AGW, so he is a pariah. But he makes money from getting his forecasts right. Who else does?

    • Heh, Judy.
      ======

    • “But he makes money from getting his forecasts right.”
      Hmmm…. Just a thought, but do you think this might be a reason for him being so eager to convince people that he is getting the forecasts right?

      • You might be right, and he certainly comes across as an odd ball. But he has had some intriguing and sometimes very public successes, and he has an extremely interesting modus operandi behind how he constructs his forecasts, the details of which seem to be a business secret. He tends to be very successful with very extreme weather events. The more extreme, the further back and the greater the accuracy. He assigns probabilities to the forecasts, so they are not deterministic. He even discusses some of his errors which is also interesting.

        I dunno. I think there might something to his methods. Supermarkets, energy suppliers and farmers are his main customers. Presumably he wouldn’t still be in business if his forecasts were no better than the met office. He is an intuging character. Look him up.

    • Vince whirlwind

      “Piers Corbyn does a damn fine job of predictng the weather on timescales of 3-4months”

      Yep. He’s about as good at convincing some people of this as a medium is of convincing similar people of her ability to speak with the dead.

      No objective analysis of Corbyn’s information gives any indication that he is successfully predicting anything as well as anybody else can do it.

      Like a medium, he sprays out a large number of predictions and then gloats over the small number that turn out to roughly resemble reality. Most of what he says is wrong. Occasionally, he is right.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Vince whirlwind | November 10, 2011 at 1:18 am | Reply

        No objective analysis of Corbyn’s information gives any indication that he is successfully predicting anything as well as anybody else can do it.

        Cite? I’d love to see the studies you are referring to … you can point to them, yes?

        w.

      • Vince whirlwind

        Do you need “studies” to tell you that a medium is a fraud?

        Where has Corbyn published his methods? What science backs his (hugely innacurate) weather-guessing? Has anybody successfully replicated his (hugely innacurate) results, thus proving that his methods are truly capable of providing (hugely innacurate) weather predictions?

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Vince, you are the one who claimed that there were “objective analyses” that showed Piers’ forecasts were no good.

        Not me. You. So I asked you to cite those analyses.

        From your response, it appears that there were no such analyses, you just made them up. So now you have decided to string together a bunch of questions in the hope that people don’t notice you were just pulling these imaginary studies out of your asparagus.

        Nice try.

        In answer to your question about his methods, Piers Corbyn is a private businessman selling his weather expertise to his customers. So he is under no obligation to reveal a damn thing about his methods to nosy parkers like yourself, no matter how you puff yourself up.

        If Corbyn’s forecasts were inaccurate, I’m more than certain that his customers would let him know by deserting him in droves. People who pay for things are funny that way. Since his customers have not done so … you can finish that sentence, I’m sure.

        w.

        PS—when you are hand-waving about things accurate and inaccurate, spelling it “innacurate” doesn’t increase your credibility.

      • People in the commercial sector don’t publish their methods, since they have commercial value. The proof is in the pudding with forecast methods. Commercial customers will pay money for one of two reasons: 1) the forecasts are good and they are making money off of them; 2) the forecasts aren’t very good (or are no longer good), but somehow (maybe for historical reasons) the forecast producer has established a dominant position in the market, and their forecasts move markets (e.g. commodities, energy trading).

  10. Gosh.

    If you have a process that is driven by user needs and requirements you can actually do verification and validation. and if you track performance you can actually improve it.

    you cannot improve what you do not measure.

    • BlueIce2HotSea

      Steven Mosher –

      you cannot improve what you do not measure

      BAM!! (emphatic agreement)

      This is what ISO 9000 & Continuous Process Improvement try to achieve at an organizational level; that which individuals pursuing excellence must themselves do – constantly root out errors in work and thought by observing performance of results with changing inputs.

  11. I find that scientists cheapening their message in order to talk to the unwashed masses of policymakers do just that, i.e. they cheapen their message. I don’t think this (or anything else for that matters) has been understood at RC and most likely never will be. Those guys run a huge superiority complex, and will never fail to remind themselves how lowly the rest of the world is.

    • Interesting point.

      In the aerospace industry I have found that when dealing with the most complex systems engineering issues, when one of our teams is unable to clearly summarize the issue(s) in direct understandable terms (to other engineering management) it usually means the issue is not fully understood.

      • I’m not a modeller, though I did some economic modelling from 1966 and later directed a computable general equilibrium modelling team and commissioned modelling. My main contributions, as an economic policy adviser, were three-fold: to help ensure that the model was correctly specified to address the issue in question; to understand the economic policy significance of the results; and to present them cogently to decision-makers (ministers, heads of department et al.) The modellers themselves weren’t always too good at (2) and (3). In the climate change field, it may be that the modellers, who in some cases appear to try to drive policy, need someone in my kind of role, with enough comprehension to assess the validity of the models but with a better understanding of, and ability to communicate, the policy relevance of the material.

        And, no, I never, ever, fudged the uncertainties or reported results with low confidence levels.

    • >I don’t think this (or anything else for that matters) has been understood at RC and most likely never will be<

      Oh yes it is – you underestimate their marketing operandum, as did Judith C for some time earlier

  12. The mass psychocybernetics shared by AGW True Believers and the Greek citizenry is palpable and an inability to face facts and confront superstition, fear and ignorance lies at the roots of their self-defeating nihilism.

  13. “WCRP” could be WKRP for all the non-insiders know or care.

    Andrew

  14. @JC can you try and explain your message with plain words instead of long-winded hocus-pocus?

    “An alleged scientific discovery has no merit unless it can be explained to a barmaid.” – Rutherford.

  15. An even better Rutherford quote:

    We’ve got no money, so we’ve got to think.

  16. In the same spirit, it is all water over the bridge.

  17. I see absolutely no mention of GM crops and the funding of research in the development of plants which can better survive extreme weather evens, improve soils or reclaim deserts.
    I would have thought the mobilization world phosphate deposits would be a greater challenge to feeding 7 billion than climate change.

  18. AS a decidedly non-climate-scientist, I lurk on many sites to read and – hopefully – understand what the heck has gone wrong with scientists in this field who spend more time as advocates than researchers. My field is agriculture, with a large emphasis on development, and so I have wanted to know for a long time could anyone actually tell me what to expect in the countries/regions I work in.

    This post has stimulated me to comment, because I believe this this is the critical point – the only discussion we should be having is how to provide information to help adaptation. Human beings have a wonderful history of adaptation to climatic changes and I have absolutely no doubt that we will continue to do so – whatever happens, However, with our current levels of investment in data collection and analysis, I feel it is about time we were able to make some kind of plans for what to expect in the future and begin to pre-adapt.

    Sadly, as pointed out by Judith, this is not only not the case, but the whole emphasis on mitigation is an example of extreme hubris on the part of a certain section of scientists. Not only is there some kind of belief that we know which climate is “best” for the world, but they also apparently believe we can manipulate aspects of the atmosphere to achieve such a climate. The fact that people have such discussions with a straight face at the same time as they cannot actually say which regions will be warmer, cooler, wetter, drier, more extreme, less extreme (i.e. provide people with some kind of advice on what to plan for at a scale relevant to investment decisions) it quite incredible to me.

    I had better stop here before this becomes a rant which would not do justice to either this site.

  19. Judith, Some excellent observations. These seasonal to yearly predictions are things that can respond very well to systematically rooting out problems with the models, both numerical problems as well as subgrid model problems. Just think of what we could achieve if the Held’s and Lacis’s of the world focused on this problem!!

  20. Steeptown writes: “Piers Corbyn does a damn fine job of predictng the weather on timescales of 3-4months. But he doesn’t need a supercomputer and a big budget, so he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Also he doesn’t accept AGW, so he is a pariah. But he makes money from getting his forecasts right. Who else does?”

    I can name 2 more, Joe Bastardi and Joe D’Aleo. Both of whom essentially ridicule the idea of CAGW. Funny, how the best seasonal forecaster are deeply skeptical, if not outright deniers.

    Really, who are you going to believe? Hansen with his annual predictions of super el ninos? UK MET using their warm biased models to churn out never-changing predictions of mild winters and barbecue summers? Or the deniers who season after season keep getting it right?

  21. The mitigation focus and the century time scale has sapped the community of much resources in terms of manpower and computer time.

    That’s very good.

    1. James Hansen has concern for his grandchildren: is it ethical to leave them a world with too much warming from CO2? He isn’t the only living person with grandchildren. Is it ethical to leave the Pakistani grandchildren of the Pakistanis who suffered the recent recent flooding disasters with the same inadequate flood control and irrigation network that Pakistan has now? The entire world community has had its time and resources sapped by the “mitigation focus and century time scale.” It would be tragic if money for Pakistan were to be invested in “greening” their energy supply instead of establishing a good flood control system. The floods will recur no matter what CO2 causes to change in the climate system.

    It would be equally tragic not to design and build more earthquake/tsunami resistant structures; not to breed more drought-resistant crops and other plants; not to plant more forests of salt-tolerant mangroves and other salt-tolerant plants; not to bring more electricity to places that have little or none of it now; and many more.

    2. After you posted the link to the paper by Padilla et al on estimating the transient climate response, I read some more papers on the topic (and I am writing my own, I hope), and I came to the conclusion that it is the single most important quantity to estimate soon. The scale of the time and problem is much more amenable to human thought: perhaps 1.5K increase to a doubling of CO2 over 70 years; the rest of the change to happen gradually over a span of 1 – 4 millenia. And that’s if CO2 causes a large temperature increase at all, about which there is much legitimate doubt.

    • Is it ethical to leave the Pakistani grandchildren of the Pakistanis who suffered the recent recent flooding disasters with the same inadequate flood control and irrigation network that Pakistan has now? The entire world community has had its time and resources sapped by the “mitigation focus and century time scale.” It would be tragic if money for Pakistan were to be invested in “greening” their energy supply instead of establishing a good flood control system. The floods will recur no matter what CO2 causes to change in the climate system.

      That is the tip of the iceberg as to what is going on in Pakistan right now.
      Steps on to stem crippling energy crisis
      83 per cent drop in foreign investment in Pakistan: Report
      Two-day off not good for economy

      The government has now announced a two – day weekend to manage power crisis. This will further damage the fragile economy by reducing the working days in offices.
      The solution to the energy crisis consists in not giving another day off at all. Will the government suggest that it will turn off the water supply to all homes due to the water crisis?
      A two – day weekend will only decrease production, increasing demand and damaging economy. It can help only if people consider not wasting the resources on weekends like money, electricity to help stabilise the economy.
      The government should focus more on improving the current electricity supply system. The government should think of investing one – time like building solar energy systems.
      This is likely to be one – time investment with no extra monthly or yearly cost. Pakistan has plenty of space which can be utilised for generating power from sun, plus in Sindh we have plenty of coal resources through which we can create electricity.

      This is the real conversation we should be having. It is all about a world-wide energy squeeze, and this is what lies behind the AGW smokescreen.

      You should not have mentioned Pakistan.

      • You should not have mentioned Pakistan.

        Every particular place has problems. The same thinking applies, in my opinion, to California, which is sacrificing its already existing water control system to a greening of its electrical supply.

        the U.S. has in fact helped in flood relief in Pakistan, Thailand and Burma. AGW proponents actually propose enormous investments that would divert money from flood control, if enacted. My question is, if you believe in AGW, is that ethical, if you accept Hansen’s “grandchildren” argument?

      • Again you ignored the real ongoing problem in Pakistan which is the lack of a dependable energy supply. With the increasing cost of energy, having nothing to do with AGW or water, the countries will begin to get divided into the have’s and have not’s.

      • “Again you ignored the real ongoing problem in Pakistan which is the lack of a dependable energy supply. ”

        Pakistan imports about 400,000 barrels per year, and produces about 60,000 barrel.

        http://www.indexmundi.com/energy.aspx?country=pk

        It’s proven reserves have increased from 2003 from 300 million barrels
        to 420 million barrels in 2010.

        http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=pk&v=97

        So at present consumption rate it has 1000 years of oil without importing oil and without finding new reserves.
        So real problem seems related to the government- and considering who in power- not surprising.

      • Pakistan imports about 400,000 barrels per year, and produces about 60,000 barrel.

        http://www.indexmundi.com/energy.aspx?country=pk

        It’s proven reserves have increased from 2003 from 300 million barrels
        to 420 million barrels in 2010.

        http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=pk&v=97

        So at present consumption rate it has 1000 years of oil without importing oil and without finding new reserves.
        So real problem seems related to the government- and considering who in power- not surprising.

        gbaikie, you moron, can you not interpret basic stats?

        First, those first numbers are barrels per day, not per year!
        That is pretty obvious when you consider that the USA consumes about 20,000,000 barrels per day. Even at 400,000 barrels per day for Pakistan, that is only 2% of what the USA consumes per day.

        The fact that Pakistan imports at least 6 times as more oil than it produces is a giveaway that all is not well.

        And then to those reserve numbers, if Pakistan gets outpriced by competitors for its imports and it has to use its remaining reserves, 310 million barrels is what I see they have to deal with. Then in two years, Pakistan will need to produce 400,000*365*2 = 292 million barrels. This means that it will use up its reserves in just over 2 years, not 1000 years !!!

        What the heck do you think you are doing? Why must you present such a ridiculous analysis? Why are you even posting anything?

      • Are you sure you can’t tell that Pakistan is not the focus of my post?

        The point applies as well to Texas and California.

      • “First, those first numbers are barrels per day, not per year!”

        Yes, I made a mistake.

        But a further look, shows the country has plenty of oil resources it hasn’t explored and could use.
        “III) OIL RESERVES: Pakistan as a whole has been estimated to have 300 million barrels of oil reserves. However, according to a report dated October 27, 2006, published by Environment News Service, the offshore and onshore oil reserves of Balochistan alone are estimated to top 6 trillion barrels. Geological factors point to bulk of these reserves to be offshore in the Arabian Sea.”

        http://forum.pakistanidefence.com/index.php?showtopic=84779

        But I would guess before using the above mentioned 6 trillion barrels areas, they should focus on increasing the production in the areas they already using.

      • First, those first numbers are barrels per day, not per year!”

        Yes, I made a mistake.

        First rule of thumb is to cut your losses.

        However, according to a report dated October 27, 2006, published by Environment News Service, the offshore and onshore oil reserves of Balochistan alone are estimated to top 6 trillion barrels.

        You blithering idiot, that is six times the amount of crude oil that the entire world has used so far! You just dug up some preposterous numbers off of a messageboard by somebody trying to pull a prank. I don’t know what your deal is, as this desperate need for you to lie and present some outlandishly cornucopian vision is beyond my understanding.

      • I make no claims either way for the veracity of the information, but the claim for Pakistani oil reserves of 6 trillion barrels orignates here:

        “Still, Balochistan is a vast territory – 43 percent of Pakistan’s land. According to Frederic Grare, a Balochistan expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Balochistan has an estimated 19 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and six trillion barrels of oil reserves both on-shore and off-shore.”

        as reported here

        Never heard of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

    • imo it is NOT the responsibility of US taxpayers to worry about the lack of infrastructure built in Pakistan (or elsewhere) due to poor planning and rampant corruption

      • ian(not the ash)

        Alternatively you could disregard the word ‘responsibility’ and see it as a compassionate act for the millions who have next to no say in the politics of their country. Kant’s catagorical imperative or Jesus’s ‘do unto other’…that sort of thing.

      • imo it is NOT the responsibility of US taxpayers to worry about the lack of infrastructure built in Pakistan (or elsewhere) due to poor planning and rampant corruption

        Who said anything about USA bailing out Pakistan? Nice straw-man there, Rob. It complements the bald-face lie that you made up about me advocating fuel taxes.

  22. Jack Hughes: “An alleged scientific discovery has no merit unless it can be explained to a barmaid.” – Rutherford.

    As a Time Magazine reporter said to Richard Feynman: if it could be explained so everyone could understand it, it wouldn’t earn a Nobel Prize.

    Perhaps Rutherford was playing with words: the wording seems to assume that the barmaid would understand the explanation, though no such assertion is actually made.

    • When somebody gets a Nobel science (as opposed to peace) prize for climate science, you’ll have a point.

  23. Dr. Curry, Thank You! I heard several conversations I have ongoing in my head.

  24. What if we had devoted all of those resources to making better probabilistic predictions on timescales of 2 weeks to 3-4 months?

    Isn’t that what Piers Corbyn does? You refer in your post to commercial providers of weather prediction services to the energy companies.

    • Isn’t that what Piers Corbyn does?

      I don’t know, let’s file a FOIA request on his files.

      • Latimer Alder

        And if he were being paid for by the public purse, you would be perfectly entitled to do so. As he would then be a servant of the public and – as a member of the public you are entitled to see what you are getting for your money..

        But as Corbyn is funded by his (presumably) grateful customers rather than by compulsory taxation, you have no such entitlement.

      • And if he were being paid for by the public purse, you would be perfectly entitled to do so.

        This is how Corbyn considers the public purse, verified from the historical accounts:

        As president of Imperial College Union (ICU) between 1969 and 1970 Corbyn was successful in establishing a sabbatical union president, enabling the elected student leader to be registered at the college without having to study or pay fees (in fact they received a grant from the college and union).

        Corbyn was no different than an “occupier” and advocated getting something for free, which is essentially off the backs of others. Funny how it turns around when one gains advantage from a public education and now you can turn the screws on the public.

        I never expected that we could place a FOIA on Corbyn, just want to expose the hypocrisy of the system. His weather forecasts apparently suck BTW, and he is an AGW skeptic.

      • Latimer Alder

        Well, if his weather forecasts do indeed suck, then his unhappy customers are under no obligation to continue paying for them. And he will soon need to find other means of employment.

        Sadly this is not (yet) an option for the poor benighted public, who are currently obliged to pay for all the useless forecasts of publicly-funded climatology and the wages of all the publicly-funded climatologists.

        But – as Corbyn’s example shows – times and people change. Do not assume that the current funding arrangements will last forever. There are lots of other ‘big problems’ out there that affect real existing people right now and could work wonders with $2.5 billion per annum from the US government.

    • Droves of folks make these forecasts, including skeptical Joe Bastardi. Or at least he did until he recently left Accuweather. Many of Joe’s clients are, or were, electric power utilities. The problem is that many forecasters disagree with one another and it is speculative to think this can improve, given the chaotic nature of weather. Nor is this timeframe climate.

      • It’s also a question of resolution. Everybody agrees that the world is heading back into La Nina, and we have a pretty good idea what that’s going to mean in broad strokes for the next year. It’s the higher-resolution details that they can’t quite get right.

      • There is no quite to it; it cannot be done. Water resources need watershed level accuracy. Electric utilities need territory resolution, etc.

  25. Willis Eschenbach

    Dr. Curry, a very interesting post. However, it misses a critical definition—what are “climate services”?

    If you mean “climate forecasts” … why not say so? The post would be much clearer if I thought you were just discussing climate forecasts. Because then we could all agree that there hasn’t been a single successful climate forecast to date, and go home until there is one to discuss.

    And if you mean something else … then what do you mean?

    I fear the meaning that you and the others have for “climate services” is not at all clear from the context.

    w.

    • “what are “climate services”?”

      I assumed it was more a “retail” term than a precise scientific term. You know, the kind of buzzword that can help you get funding and some interest by the press? It’s not needlessly meaningful (grins) but yet conveys some sort of ominous urgency.

      Remember, scientists are not scientists once they run out of grants and/or venture capital, right?

      • Indeed, I have watched this climate services movement for several years now. In the USA it is led by NOAA’s Tom Karl, a flaming alarmist, who is working to have a National Climate Service, like the Weather Service. I see it as an attempt to move from research to institutional permanency. This is always tricky in the science agencies. It has little to do with service and a lot to do with endless money.

      • well the endless money plan seems to have backfired, anything associated with the words “climate service” seems to be on the chopping block

      • House Republicans have blocked it but that may be temporary.

      • The term power play seems a bit over the top. If climate services means useful weather forecasts that seems ok. I would agree it is a bid for funding in an environment where funding will be disappearing, scientists will need to PROVE their value or be unfunded

      • I do not believe that accurate long term regional forecasts are possible. If and when it can be shown that they are, then and only then might a Climate Service make sense.

      • David

        They are certainly possible, it is a question of the margin of error you are willing to accept over what timescale. Wouldn’t you agree it is a sensiable approach though? At least the data would have potential value

      • Rob, the difference between hot and cold, or wet and dry, is not a margin of error. Everywhere you look there are contradictory long term regional forecasts. Moreover, believing a wrong forecast is often worse than believing none. The system is chaotic, hence intrinsically unpredictable. There is no useful product here.

      • In theory the US government could become very efficient on the topic by following a typical contracting approach. It would involve issuing a request for proposal to potential model developers to bid on the development of models that would predict very specific criteria for specific locations over different time periods. It seems like this could be done for the US as an example.

        Under this approach the developers would only get paid if their models met the award criteria and made accurate predictions within the agreed margins of error. Did the model work? For longer term models payment could be incremental as the models demonstrated success.

        This would certainly save the taxpayer money, but would there be any bidders willing to only get paid if their models could be shown to work for things that mattered?

      • Rob it’s hard to imagine that being a useful protocol for doing climate services, given the 10+ year gap needed to predict whether a prediction held out or not.

        And imagine the bitter fights over where to start the trend comparisons, very bad idea.

      • Brad

        I agree it is a stretch from current process on the topic, but it might work.

        The Gov. would not care how a developer got their model to work, only if they worked. The request for proposal if issued today might ask for a model that could predict beginning in 2013. At least it would be transparent on what the models were designed to predict, with what level of accuracy over what timeframe.

      • I don’t know if long term forecasts are possible. It’s an area where theoretical and computational research might tell us. Right now, we are just running models of questionable validity. We can do better.

      • Rob,

        So what you’re telling me is that if I built one model which predicted warming in 10 years, and another which predicted cooling in 10 years, I could create two companies, get bids for both, and then I’d win no matter what happened.

        I suppose I should also found a nothing happens company just to cover my bases. Seriously though, what you’re proposing sounds extremely unworkable. There’s such an huge difference in accountabilty between delivering a new fighter jet, and delivering a prediction backed by a model that is so complex the funding agency can’t understand it.

    • Willis, see Tom Karl’s talk in the first session of the WCRP conference.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Judith, I downloaded Karl’s presentation ( http://www.wcrp-climate.org/conference2011/orals/A1/Karl_A1.pdf ) and it doesn’t say one word about “climate services”. Do you have a link to where he actually defines the term?

        w.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        I ask for a definition in part because you (Judith) seem to have defined “climate services” as occurring on the “seasonal to decadal time scale” … and things on that time scale in the past have always been called “weather”.

        And since historically that’s called weather, what’s a “climate service”?

        w.

      • Then again, if the models actually give reliable, accurate forecasts of meaningful criteria a couple of decades into the future, they can it what ever they wish. I suggest 2 decades as a time scale because it allows adequate time for major infrastructure construction to adapt to conditions.

      • NOAA defines climate as anything longer than 2 weeks. Go figure.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Thanks, Judith. NOAA says climate is longer than 2 weeks??? Citation for that? I’d never seen that.

        In any case, I’m still waiting for a definition of “climate services”, one which distinguishes it from “weather services”.

        All the best,

        w.

      • Willis, see this link: http://www.noaa.gov/climate.html
        Everything Karl was talking about in his talk was really related to NOAA climate services

      • Willis Eschenbach

        I find this strange (emphasis mine):

        The main objectives,set for the WCRP at its inception and still valid today, are to determine the predictability of climate and to determine the effect of human activities on climate.

        Since the WCRP was started in 1980, I find this claim odd. I doubt that determining “the effect of human activities on climate” was listed as part of their mission in 1980.

        However, I don’t find anything before about the year 2000 that contains that claim in any form. They make that claim (far too repeatedly for comfort), but I find nothing to support it. Anyone have citations?

        w.

      • I’m curious about this also, since i don’t recall this emphasis in the 90’s

      • Willis Eschenbach

        The emphasis in all of their public materials that by gosh, the effect of humans on climate was a focus for the WCRP “at it’s inception” is a tipoff to me that it isn’t actually the case. Those same words are used over and over “at its inception”.

        w.

    • Willis, please. The fuzzier and buzzier the words, the more you get to charge for them. If you understood marketing a little better, you wouldn’t have to hitchhike at your age.

    • Willis, Do you think “climate husbandry”, would be more on point?

    • steven mosher

      Willis.

      OT, but all the threads on this at WUWT and at CA are pretty dead.

      As you know, you and steve Mc and Christy and spencer have all made a similar suggestion that the Trend in TLT should be pretty close to the surface trend, and perhaps that we could bound or estimate the UHI contribution by looking at the difference between those trends.

      Is that an approach you still support?

      • Willis Eschenbach

        It’s somewhat complex. The problem is that (like the surface data) at some latitudes the tropospheric temperatures have risen more than at others.

        In addition, we have the problem of the tropospheric amplification. This relates to the idea that tropospheric temperatures would be expected to rise, not as fast as the surface temps, but faster than the surface temps.

        How much faster? … Well, therein lies the rub. Since the land temperatures are (to some unknown degree) corrupted by UHI and other problems, we don’t really know. In addition, we have three different satellite interpretations, all of which give different answers for the temperature.

        So I would say that the satellite MSU values provide a rough upper limit on the land temperature rise, and that the actual rise is likely to be somewhat less than that.

        Which, as you point out, provides some sort of bounds on the UHI … but it’s pretty wide.

        I’m preparing a post on tropospheric temperature trends that might clarify some of the problems with this approach.

        w.

        PS— you say that “Trend in TLT should be pretty close to the surface trend,” I’m not sure that is true. See my analysis of the change in tropical tropospheric amplification depending on the time span chosen here.

      • steven mosher

        well basically you presented the difference to make thepoint, steve did the same, chisty and spencer have as well.

        So, obviously you endorsed the approach before.

        details will matter, but you endorsed the approach

  26. Judith

    This may be the one of the best and most relevant of all your posts.

    You summarized perfectly when you wrote–“The conversation that we have been having for the last two decades is about mitigation: stabilization of atmospheric CO2 in the context of global treaties on energy policy.
    The new conversation being generated by climate science organizations seems more focused on adaptation and climate services, which is associated with the seasonal to decadal time scale.”

    Imo local and regional models that can accurately forecast what matters to humans for policy (rainfall, temperature, storms, etc.) over time scales of a few days to one or two decades is critical. I won’t claim to know what specifics should go into programming these models, but I do know it will be critical for model developers to publish the characteristics their models are expected to predict, within what margin of error, over what timescales, before the outputs of the models will be widely accepted.

  27. Judith
    Compliments on:

    The conversation that we have been having for the last two decades is about mitigation: stabilization of atmospheric CO2 in the context of global treaties on energy policy.

    The new conversation being generated by climate science organizations seems more focused on adaptation and climate services, which is associated with the seasonal to decadal time scale.

    I submit that any focus on mitigation is foundationally flawed. Cost/benefit analyses show that “mitigation” is incredibly expensive, and drops to the bottom of all rankings of humanitarian projects. e.g. See Copenhagen Consensus.
    By allowing for “adaptation” as the primary response, we can have a much more rational discussion and focus on the details of the science and the consequences – without trying to propose/veto the $1,900 trillion mitigation decisions hanging over our heads.

    • Adaptation is economically the correct approach. It motivates individual states/countries to take steps that will actually help their populations. Adapatation can greatly benefit local and regional economies. Mitigation is completely ineffective, and inefficient economically.

      • Even worse, try LOCAL mitigation, which our poor Aussie brethren embark upon today.
        =========

      • The Aussies–I generally love them, but in regards to climate policy they are just nuts

      • Rob

        Understand that the climate “policy” being pushed through the Aus Parliament now was not only NOT voted for, it was expressly EXCLUDED in the last election campaign

        So how did it still manage to arrive ? The answer to that lies in the nuttiness of a minority Govt

      • Rob: Adaptation to what, over and above what is already being done? Extreme events are not new. People have been adapting for millennia, more all the time, as wealth permits. We don’t need new programs.

      • David

        Adaption to a large degree means building proper infrastructure to drain water away in the event of storms and to store water in case of drought. Really very basic stuff, but it is frequently not done well, and then result in consequences. New Orleans was an example in the US, but there are many others. Unfortunately, for much of the world, the US does better that most other countries to build good long term infrastructure.

        In south west Asia, where humans have lived for thousands of years, the infrastructure is terrible. It is the duty of anyone other than the locals to solve? imo NO.

      • Our house in Brisbane was flooded in 1974. We bought it in 2001, allegedly then above flood level because of dam building etc. As of early afternoon Jan 12 this year, when flood warnings were drastically revised upwards, we were expecting the upper level to be flooded; a later revision suggested 600-800 mm downstairs; the water was four metres from the house at 7.30 pm with the flood expected to peak at 4 a.m. We weren’t flooded (don’t know why not), but across the river from us, three suburbs which escaped in ’74 were severely flooded. The reason? A creek outlet into the river had no back-flow gate. Thousands of homes and businesses inundated for lack of a simple anti-flood measure. The State government is spending heavily on non-viable emissions reduction schemes but ignores basics. I suspect that this is widespread.

  28. The two conversations metaphor is certainly apt. One one side we have those who think this –> “This need is perhaps greater than ever before given that humans have emerged as the dominant agent of future change.” On the other side we have the skeptics. This climate service idea is clearly a power play by the alarmists, at least in part. While I might support funding for long term (weeks to months) weather forecasting, there is no way I would support these alarmist folks doing the work.

    • IF forecasts over 2-4 month horizon could be improved, they just might be able to pay for themselves. Right now, our best technology is still about as good as Farmer’s Almanac. Until they’re worth enough that people are willing to pay enough for them to cover the costs of producing them, it’s still just scientific research.

      • ^^ Maps of daily forecasts with a four year lead time that show promise at long lead forecasting in regional detail. Left to resolve are the changes in solar out put and the interactions of the outer planets, that Piers finds to be the causes of the most extreme excursions, this method has yet to incorporate.

  29. In his book ‘Climate: The Counter Consensus’ Bob Carter, after carefully discussing the fallacies associated with the concept of dangerous human-induced global warming, heads his Chapter 11 with ‘Plan B: a fresh approach’. In the context of this thread, it is well worth reading.

    • In his book ‘Climate: The Counter Consensus’ Bob Carter, after carefully discussing the fallacies associated with the concept of dangerous human-induced global warming, heads his Chapter 11 with ‘Plan B: a fresh approach’.

      What is his Plan B? I am guessing be prepared for oil depletion and expensive energy in the future. If climate change doesn’t hit us then this will.
      P = P1 U P2

      • The issue of oil depletion is one the market reacts to on clear economic terms. If you try to link it to the issue of AGW in order to reduce consumption of oil and thereby reduce emission of CO2 it becomes an issue of the “efficiency of the proposed tax system”; both in terms of collection of revenues and in achieving the stated goal of reducing emissions of CO2.

        Individual countries get into deep economic trouble when they try to ignore basic economic principles. Policies like spending more than they are taking in financially are as poor economic policy as are most climate mitigation policies.

      • Individual countries get into deep economic trouble when they try to ignore basic economic principles. Policies like spending more than they are taking in financially are as poor economic policy as are most climate mitigation policies.

        Fine. So you do admit that oil depletion is an issue. It’s the mitigation strategy that you are concerned about. In this case AGW is a smokescreen for some fundamental issues that skeptics would rather hope to solve via a business-as-usual strategy. In your case, you are anticipating these are solved via market forces..

        The issue of oil depletion is one the market reacts to on clear economic terms.

        We will see how that works out.

      • Web

        Do I question that over a very long term basis humans will deplete economically accessible fossil fuel supplies? No, that will happen but it is going to be over a long term basis.

        Neither of us knows when there will be a major economic impact on societies due to the issue you describe. We don’t know how long new economically accessible fossil fuel supplies will continue to be discovered or when new alternative technologies being developed for energy production will become economically viable.

        What you write to link those skeptical about the IPCC’s conclusions to this long term situation about fossil fuel makes little sense.

        You write: “In this case AGW is a smokescreen for some fundamental issues that skeptics would rather hope to solve via a business-as-usual strategy.” That is silly on many levels. I am skeptical that climate mitigation strategies are economically sound and I am skeptical that current GCMs make accurate enough predictions for use in governmental policy decisions.

        I did not write I was opposed to a tax on fossil fuel in the US. Since the US needs revenue I would not be opposed to such a tax if efficiently implemented. My point is such a tax as generally described to lower CO2 emissions is a bad idea if you give a rebate to lower income people based upon their use. It won’t raise revenue or lower CO2 emissions efficiently.

        Also, on the issue of the implementation of a tax, you need to be very careful on the implementation schedule and efficiency of any new tax. Implementing a carbon tax at the wrong point in an economic cycle or implementing an inefficient tax will actually lower net government revenue by slowing the overall economy (and thereby overall tax collections) by a degree greater than the fossil fuel tax added.

        So Web, my point is you idea could have merit, but would be a poor one if implemented poorly. My point also is that you throw around the skeptic comment stupidly.

      • Rob
        Re: “Neither of us knows when there will be a major economic impact on societies due to the issue you describe.”
        I recommend you study the facts on the severe impact shortages of oil already have on the economy. See: Historical Oil Shocks James D. Hamilton

        All but one of the 11 postwar recessions were associated with an increase in the price of oil, the single exception being the recession of 1960. Likewise, all but one of the 12 oil price episodes listed in Table 1 were accompanied by U.S. recessions, the single exception being the 2003 oil price increase associated with the Venezuelan unrest and second Persian Gulf War. The correlation between oil shocks and economic recessions appears to be too strong to be just a coincidence (Hamilton, 1983a, 1985).

        The impact of oil prices on the economy shows that oil prices above about $85/bbl (2010) or 5.5% of the economy pushes the US economy into recession. see Oil expenditures as a percentage of GDP
        And
        Can Oil Prices Be Too High or Too Low? Fig. 9

        The Impending World Energy Mess especially Fig. 12.

        Demand for transport fuel is very INELASTIC.
        Consequently prices rise rapidly on constrained supply.
        OPEC began constraining growth in 1998. Prices quadrupled from $12/bbl to $50/bbl by 2005. Then doubled again to the present $90 or so / bbl.

        If you look at the causes, OPEC’s rise in oil prices directly triggered the housing crisis, the 2008 economic crisis, and the second 2010 economic crisis.
        We are not likely to see a return to serious growth or major reduction in unemployment from 9% to 5% until we see major cheap alternative oil supplies.
        For further details see: Our Finite World
        and The Oil Drum

      • I did not write I was opposed to a tax on fossil fuel in the US.

        You dork, you accused me advocating the tax. You then set up a straw-man that you could then beat down and rhetorically use against me.

        So Web, my point is you idea could have merit, but would be a poor one if implemented poorly.

        You idiot, again I did not mention a fuel tax as an idea. That was something you fabricated out of magic dust so that you could lay some sort of regressive guilt trip on me.

        What I said was that energy was going to become more expensive because of reduced availability. That has been the way that supply&demand has worked for centuries. That becomes Plan B, which is to get used to more expensive energy (high demand and low supply).

      • Web
        Do you realize that the approach you are suggesting (an oil fuel tax) impacts the poorest in societies to the greatest degree? The means to mitigate the concern of this impact is to include a “tax rebate” to this lower income segment of the society. The problem with the solution is two fold. 1st, the motivation for and as a result the actual reduction in, consumption is lessened so you don’t get the positive impact of the tax on lowered fuel use that you desired. 2nd, by adding the rebate program the tax becomes a much less efficient means to collect revenue. The government has to have more employees to administer the rebate program.

      • Are you saying if the government adds tax to fuel and then gives the poor a compensating rebate, the poor will just spend the rebate to keep their fuel consumption at a constant level, rather than use fuel more efficiently and use the rebate to purchase other goods and services? If so, you are implying the poor are irrational consumers.

      • I am saying there is data to show that rebate systems as described have been shown to be less effective in reducing consumption and more expensive to administer than tax plans without the rebates.

      • Web
        Do you realize that the approach you are suggesting (an oil fuel tax) impacts the poorest in societies to the greatest degree?

        What a bald-faced liar ! I never mentioned anything about taxes. I dare you to find anywhere that I have advocated taxes. All I said was that energy will become more expensive, which is the classic demand response to a reduced supply.

        Just checked and in a 750 page book I wrote on oil depletion, I didn’t discuss tax policy once. I do the analysis and provide the results so someone else can do the policy.

        BTW, Go check on the current Pakistan situation if you want to see how this effects a “lower income segment of the society”. That has nothing to do with presence or absence of fuel taxes either, but more likely that the poorer countries are becoming economically disadvantaged as they can’t compete with countries that can afford the cost of energy.

      • Web
        So much for having a meaningful exchange with you. It now appears that you really have nothing of substance to offer on the topics of climate change or economics. Your calling me a “liar” was completely unjustified. I simply thought you had made a policy suggestion as a logical extension of your comments on “peak oil”, but was mistaken. Actually you offered nothing of consequence only mindless name calling.

        Regarding Pakistan–where I do business frequently–the problem is the complete breakdown of the system due to corruption. The issue of local corruption is a proble there in every aspect of their society. It is not a foreign problem to resolve, so I do not care about the problems in Pakistan that the locals are unwilling to resolve.

      • Re your above post Nov 6 8.33 pm (no “reply” option) on implementing a carbon tax at the wrong point in an economic cycle etc, Australia is now providing an empirical case study of doing exactly that. While the government is likely to get thrashed at the next election, they are trying to make it impossible for the incoming government to unwind their policies (e.g. by giving people compensatable rights and by giving tax concessions dependent on carbon tax revenue). Good governance in action.

      • In the conclusion to his ‘Plan B’ chapter (p 228), Bob Carter writes: “It is therefore time to move away from stale ‘he-says-she-says’ arguments about whether human carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous warming, and on to designing effective policies of hazard management for all climate change, based on adaptation responses that are tailored for individual countries or regions…By their very nature, strategies that can cope with the dangers and vagaries of natural climate change will readily cope with human-caused change too should it ever become manifest.”

      • Well, you sure got that one wrong, Web. Plan B is about recognizing that the risks associated with changes in the climate (mostly natural) should be dealt with by such agencies that handle other hazards (bushfires, floods, etc), ie. the emergency management services

  30. Judith Curry

    Thank you for a very interesting essay on the “changing conversation” in climate science

    As you point out, the past approach has been to search for solutions to highly uncertain model-simulated global climate problems projected for 100 years in the future and recommending the implementation of drastic and very costly world-wide measures today.

    This approach had gained some momentum by 2007, with the publication of the IPCC AR4 report, a document that found strong acceptance by the mainstream media and many politicians world-wide. Al Gore’s Oscar-winning “AIT” film and the Nobel Peace Prize awards to Gore and the IPCC were high points.

    But then came Climategate plus the revelation of IPCC screw-ups and, with them, the growing suspicion that the “science” had been “cooked” – or, at least, that IPCC had understated uncertainties in the attribution of climate change as well as in the projections for the future.

    There were a few abnormally harsh winters across the northern hemisphere, when the climate scientists had forecast unusually mild ones, “barbeque summers” that never materialized and suddenly even the global network of thermometers no longer supported the idea of continued warming – the planet had stopped warming.

    The rush for costly mitigation actions and for the implementation of direct or indirect carbon taxes raised the suspicion that things were moving too fast. This backfired at Copenhagen, where no agreements were reached and, finally, at Cancun, where it became clear that the process had failed.

    So with this background it is clear that the conversation has had to change.

    We must forget the obsession with global anthropogenic greenhouse warming alone plus the implementation of draconian global mitigation actions and shift our attention to local and regional climate and weather-related issues and any actionable adaptation measures that can be planned and implemented in order to avoid potential problems.

    At the other end of the spectrum we should continue to try to resolve the many uncertainties related to natural as well as possible anthropogenic changes to our planet’s climate, as you have written, but without any hidden agendas.

    This “changing conversation”, as you have described it will be a welcome new direction and I am very happy to see that it is starting.

    I think it can move us away from spinning our wheels on unsolvable long-term global problems or “chasing windmills” in a futile attempt to change our climate to providing improved climate and weather data to the general public plus local and regional decision makers, which can be used to plan and implement specific actionable adaptation measures if and when they should become needed.

    Some politicians, corporations and lobby groups plus a handful of climate scientists may not like this shift in the conversation, but I believe that the general public will welcome it.

    Max

  31. The WCRP was established over 30 years ago (in 1980), under the joint sponsorship of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) , and, since 1993, has also been sponsored by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. (WCRP)

    The main objectives, set for the WCRP at its inception and still valid today, are to determine the predictability of climate and to determine the effect of human activities on climate. (WCRP)
    In 2005, after 25 years of serving science and society, the WCRP, in collaboration with the broader scientific community, developed and launched the WCRP Strategy Framework 2005-2015. (WCRP)

    This need is perhaps greater than ever before given that humans have emerged as the dominant agent of future change. (WCRP)

    It is timed to provide strategic input into the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. (WCRP)

    The OSC will appraise the current state of climate science, thereby making a measurable contribution on the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (WCRP)

    Judith,

    “The wrong(?) conversation” is unlikely but the same conversation as the IPCC is very likely since:

    (a) Two of the three organizations forming the WCRP are UN bodies
    (b) The WCRP framework looks like it was formulated primarily to support the IPCC across the board
    (c) The WCRP presumes mankind is the change agent for climate
    (d) The OSC is focused to supporting the IPCC’s AR5

    I respectfully submit the dominate ‘customer’ of the WCRP’s OSC and the WCRP is the IPCC. There is no arm’s length relationship with the IPCC.

    What mechanism prevents funding only research that will support the IPCC’s bias toward alarming AGW by CO2 from fossil fuels?

    With all due respect Hewitson correctly saying, “The issues of responsibility, accountability, credibility and values is largely missing from the climate services dialogue.”, still unless the ‘customer’ which is the IPCC changes its behavior and unless there is a more credible arm’s length relation with the IPCC, then there really cannot be any change in the WCRP’s conversation.

    John

    • Hank Zentgraf

      Nice summary, John. Unfortunately we need nothing short of US policy changes to remission NOAA, and NASA with new funding criteria addressing some of the comments on this blog. This is far above Dr Curry’s pay grade IMHO.

  32. The current state of decadal prediction is such that it will always say something like, “There is a 60% chance it will be warmer than current climatological mean and 40% that it will be cooler” in a given year ten years away. Is this useful or actionable? I don’t think so, and it will also be hard to improve on this, given uncertainties in solar, volcanic, ocean circulation, sea-ice melting, urban growth, and manmade aerosol forcing that are too unpredictable, but can have big effects on any given year particularly for a small region. This amounts to predicting more than just global average natural variability, which is hard enough, but is at least more constrained due to cancellation in various regions.

    • I agree Jim. Actions occur at a very small spatial scale, where variability is huge and unpredictable.

      • It only takes a blocking pattern in the right place to completely change the character of the seasonal average. This would be hopeless to predict one month ahead, let alone years.

  33. “The mitigation focus and the century time scale has sapped the community of much resources in terms of manpower and computer time. I have talked with people in leading positions at several modeling groups, and the effort that is put into the simulations for the IPCC saps 50-70% of the total manpower time and resources of the modeling center.

    What if we had devoted all of those resources to making better probabilistic predictions on timescales of 2 weeks to 3-4 months? Farmers would be able to make better choices about what crops to plant. Water resource managers could make better choices. Energy generation and demand could be made more efficient. Etc. Most of the developing world doesn’t have weather forecasts beyond two days, and often these forecasts do not anticipate extreme weather events (think Pakistan floods, Severe Cyclone Nargis). Anticipating extreme weather events by a week or two, or even a few days, could make an enormous difference in the developing world.”

    It seems the US military must already be highly involved with international weather forecast . Red Cross and aid organization could also find useful in planning.
    It seems shorter term have much higher need than decadal of century forecast and seems foolish that they using 50% or more of resources. It should be around 10% or less.
    The shorter forecast will directly result in this being more scientific, one will get a lot cycles of verification of predictions and get much faster learning curve.

  34. “Good to see “ethical concerns” mentioned in the RC post, but the RC statement does not capture Hewitson’s concern. Hewitson raises the issue of responsibility, accountability, and credibility” Etc

    Unfortunately, it seems to be you who cannot capture the concerns, Judith. Hewitson speaks not only of individual ethical concerns, but also ethics relating to the differential responsibility and accountability (and credibility) of countries in relation to climate change action and science services. RC captures Hewitson’s concerns about equity and how scientists need to support national decision-making for low emissions, climate resilient development, just fine – in this and quite a few other posts. You really do not seem to be able to understand the range of issues implied by ethical concepts, or their discussion by Hewitson, RC and others. That’s too bad. :-(

    • Much of your projected ethics, Martha, is predicated upon CO2 causing catastrophic warming. But the CO2 effect seems weak, a warmer world is better(more good) than a colder world, and cheap energy is a good.

      Go back to the ethical drawing board, and come back when you can predict the future better than Al Gore.
      =================

      • The warmer the better.

        That one has this old farm boy in stitches.

        As my grandpappy would say, I got mules smarter than some of them city slickers.

      • My mule understands the difference between ‘warmer is better’ and ‘the warmer the better’.
        ==============

      • Famers know warmer than usual weather is not good for crops. In farming, good is…

        Not too warm, not to cool

        Not too wet, not too dry

    • Martha, Then I don’t understand ethics and I’m concerned that you don’t either. Ethics as usually understood has nothing to do with policy but with honesty, transparency, disclosure of conflicts of interest, etc. I personally believe honesty is the most important one. This idea that concerns about “equity” have anything to do with ethics is a pernicious dogma. Hansen and Trenberth are no more fit to judge what is an optimal climate than I am. Nor are they any more fit to judge issues of relative “guilt for past sins” and “future remediation of past inequity.” It is not an ethical issue, but more a religious issue. Guilt is not an ethical issue or a reasonable response to ethical concerns. It is only in a postmodern world where religion and morality have fallen into disfavor have we been forced to press the concepts of ethics into service. Bertrand Russell would have called equity a moral issue. Why don’t you?

      • David, you haven’t experienced “Martha’s substitutional invariance of language” theory before? The basics are:

        1) Readers don’t comprehend what is written until the correct words have been substituted for the author’s words (an awesome skill for writing press releases).

        2) Martha is sole judge of the correct word substitutions.

        3) The correct substitutions are obvious to all who aren’t incompetent, ignorant, or possessing serious character flaws. While these people dissapoint, they may also be pitied.

        A

      • Thanks for the hilarious clarification!!

      • In other words, she makes it up as she goes along!

    • Ethically the issue can be fully understood by different people, but viewed from a very different perspectives different conclusions regarding solutions are reached.

    • Martha,
      You bloviate at a world class level.
      You have literally said nothing of any objective value at all at a rate a professional politician could only hope to achieve.

    • Very little of his presentation had to do with ethics.
      It had to do with understanding end user requirements

      • steven mosher

        Absolutely correct.

        And before understanding the end user requirements one must identify the end user.

        If it is a member of the political elite, whose goal it is to raise direct or indirect carbon taxes in order to have more public funds to shuffle around, we have one end user requirement.

        If it is the broad populace, who simply would like the continued opportunity to have access to low cost energy in order to maintain or improve its standard of living, then the end user requirement might be totally different.

        I believe that this is where the dilemma lies in understanding the “end user requirement”.

        Don’t you?

        Max

    • “Good to see “ethical concerns” mentioned in the RC post, but the RC statement does not capture Hewitson’s concern. Hewitson raises the issue of responsibility, accountability, and credibility” Etc

      Ethical concerns is only one part of the argument as scientific uncertainties = moral dilemmas ie tradeoffs are non trivial argument in an economic climate dominated by peak money .

      This was of interest at the euler conference and the invitation for a paper from Hillerbrand and Ghil 2008.

      A cost-benefit analysis depends sensitively on these
      uncertainties. This sensitivity implies, first, that performing
      such an analysis rests on the shoulders of the scientists. Second,
      it calls for more interdisciplinary work: It is the output of impact
      models that is needed for cost-benefit analysis; in this output,
      however, the uncertainties from the predicted concentration of
      greenhouse gases and from climate models, for instance, are
      compounded, linearly [37] or nonlinearly [6].

      The proposed strengthening of the role of the sciences
      clearly does not imply a blind trust in scientific outcomes. First,
      it is the decision makers who set the rules for how to perform
      the cost-benefit analysis; see item (ii) below. Second, taking
      uncertainties seriously implies scrutinizing closely the scientific
      methodology. Shifting the actual performance of cost-benefit
      analysis to the sciences just acknowledges that neither political
      decision making nor moral evaluation are the place for a critical
      evaluation of scientific methodology. This is the task of the
      scientific community itself, together with an exterior watchdog
      consisting of, for example, the sociology and philosophy of
      science. Although currently this watchdog seems to lag behind
      the scientific progress, there already exist some interesting
      accounts on the “science of climate change,” seen from the
      outside. The practice of welfare-economic analysis, however,
      is still insufficiently elucidated.
      (ii) Saying that the cost-benefit analysis has to be performed
      on the basis of criteria from outside the sciences merely
      acknowledges the fact that the decision to choose among several
      ways of reacting to or anticipating climate changes invokes
      genuine moral values that science can – and indeed should –
      be neutral about. As it presumes such a value judgement, the
      oft-used term “catastrophe” has no place within the scientific
      debate on climate change.

      The decision for or against a reduction or mitigation of
      predicted climate-change impacts is always a decision for or
      against the promotion of other investments, e.g. in water supply
      or education for developing countries. In current political
      decision making, scientific prognoses, however, act as “fig
      leaves” [45] that hide the actual decision making process
      and the normative assumptions on which it rests. Scientific,
      i.e. climatological or economical, prognoses as regards climate
      change or any other topic, taken on their own, give no sufficient
      reasons for acting or not acting, this way or the other.

    • Hewitson speaks not only of individual ethical concerns, but also ethics relating to the differential responsibility and accountability (and credibility) of countries in relation to climate change action and science services. RC captures Hewitson’s concerns about equity and how scientists need to support national decision-making for low emissions, climate resilient development, just fine – in this and quite a few other posts.

      If you grant that the rich have ethical obligations to the poor (and living people to future people yet to be born), why is it more ethical to invest $3Trillion (a figure sometimes bandied about) on mitigation instead of adaptation. Every part of the world that has historically suffered floods, droughts, killing heat and killing cold, epidemics propagated through dirty water, earthquakes and tsunamis will continue despite any AGW that does or does not occur. Mitigation might not even work, and adaptation will be required in any case.

      I think you could pick many locations and argue that, with respect to that location, every dollar spent on reducing CO2 instead of providing flood control, irrigation and clean water in that location would be a dollar spent unethically. This case has been made by people critical of modern California’s neglect of its Water Project and California’s fascination with electricity from renewable sources. This misdirection of $$$ will make California poorer (is making California poorer) and that hurts the poor especially (all the tax credits and electricity cost offsets can only be enjoyed by the people rich enough to pay large income tax bills.) And there is no solid case to be made that it will reduce global CO2 accumulation. (this is an abbreviation. California’s actual problems are diverse.)

      The Ethical Case argues strongly against massive short-term mitigation, not in favor of massive short-term mitigation, never mind the economic case.

  35. Judith,

    What I find interesting is that scientists choose to be ignorant. That way they do not have to be involved or respond.
    What is it that attracts 90% of the world fresh water to the poles?
    Cold is not the only thing that makes the atmosphere dense there.

    • Only the South Pole, Joe. And it’s not attracted there; it’s trapped.
      ==============

      • OK, Greenland is polar enough. But it’s trapped there, too.
        =======

      • Yeah, kim. But Joe’s “90%” is at the South Pole (not Greenland). And it’s so cold down there (except for the tiny Antarctic Peninsula) that this is not likely to melt anytime soon (as even IPCC concedes).

        Besides, continuous satellite measurements taken over the 10-year period 1993-2003 showed that the Antarctic Ice Sheet was gaining rather than losing mass (a study that IPCC AR4 missed).

        The penguins are alive and well!

        Max

        .

      • Max,

        Ask yourself…If it’s that cold, where does the region get it’s snow?
        It must come in from another region.

  36. Somebody is going to figure out how to monetize climate adaption and create policy around it. The solution proposed will be based on CAP and Trade regarding outcome (inflow of currency to the authoritative body).

    A fading politico will make an incongruous movie and pitch it to the schools. There will be shrill calls warning of pending tipping points and dire consequences of inactivity. Professional and opportunistic occupiers will take over the “Big Blog” industry to be sure the message on the interweb is fair and on message.

    The reality is the seas will not rise and someone will comment on the travesty of our lack of knowledge as to why. Some science mutt will bound forward and with the BEST of intentions, play both sides of the argument and ultimately provide nothing but a rehash of what is known, but from a different viewpoint. He will be richly rewarded with beratements from all sides but still pull in a pile of grant money.

    All the parties to the debate will change sides with the reversal of the NAO/PDO and solar activity cycles when once again global cooling will be the greatest threat of our age.

    You read it first here at Climate, Etc.

    • Actually the seas will rise over a long term basis it is an issue of the rate.

    • Right, dp.

      And, backed by science from James E. Hansen of “coal death train” fame, Al Gore will spearhead the new drive to save our planet by shutting down all coal-fired power stations in order to stop aerosol and particulate pollution that is hastening the man-made global winter.

      We shall be saved from our own evil ways!

  37. Willis Eschenbach

    curryja | November 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm |

    Willis, see this link: http://www.noaa.gov/climate.html
    Everything Karl was talking about in his talk was really related to NOAA climate services

    Nope. I’m not buying that at all. I want a definition of “climate services”, not Tom Karl’s claim that a forecast three months out for this winter’s weather is a “climate service”. It’s not, that’s a medium-range forecast.

    That’s weather, Judith. Climate in general is defined as the average of the weather over some sufficiently long period of time … and that’s not this winter’s weather.

    Now, I’m sure that Tom Karl would love to have “climate services” become a term of art, as if there were actually some such “climate service” which is more than what used to be called a “long-range weather forecast”.

    But as near as I can tell, NOAA doesn’t offer any “climate services”. What NOAA is providing is WEATHER SERVICES. I don’t mind them doing that. I do mind them flat-out lying about what it is that they are doing.

    In short, Judith … what do YOU mean when you use the term?

    Please give us YOUR clear, unambiguous, bright-line definition that distinguishes climate services from a guess at this winter’s weather … because according to your link, what Tom Karl is flogging is just a PR stunt, and I assume that you know that.

    w.

    • Medium range-forecast in weather parlance is 5-15 days. These are NOAA’s working definitions. I’m planning a post on next winter’s weather.

    • If seasonal forecasting is now being claimed to be a climate issue, then we are faced with a turf war between meteorologists, who have done a pretty darn god job, and climate scientists, who seem to be seeking a new job description but have an unfortunate track record.

      • exactly right, there is a turf war over this within NOAA

      • Dr. Curry,
        How do you see this war unfolding?
        In my company the cat claims modelers are focused on just one thing: dollars out vs. dollars in. It would be interesting, inmho, to see how a review of this approach would hold up in light ofanlaysis by Pielke, Jr’s work and yours. We base some very expensive decisions on what I beleive is proving to be a very unworkable approach. The customers are paying for risks that are not being well described, and this will ultimately hurt the customer and the market, and finally the providers.
        NOAA’s bureaucratic approach does not seem to offer anything at all that will prove to be useful and will do so at great cost to the public.
        But it will certainly probably have the impact of hurting good meteorology and weaken the one thing that can help dealing with a dynamic weather/climate- adaptation. And it will keep the folly of mitigation alive for awhile longer.

      • Hunter, I have a draft post on cat (model) fighting, hope to get to it soon.

  38. De Ja Vu or Groundhog Day, call it what you will but all this has been done before. In fact 16 years ago and I alerted Judith to it about 12 months ago. (in fact I emailed Judith on Xmas day last year about it)

    I came across this whilst taking part in Donna Laframboises Citizens Audit where I found numerous IPCC AR4 references to a CLIVAR (Climate Variability and Predictability). This is what it’s handbook states…

    CLIVAR is a component of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), which was established by WMO and ICSU, and is carried out in association with IOC and SCOR. The scientific planning and development of CLIVAR is under the guidance of the JSC Scientific
    Steering Group for CLIVAR assisted by the CLIVAR International Project Office. The Joint Scientific Committee (JSC) is the main body of WMO-ICSU-IOC formulating overall WCRP scientific concepts.

    There we have the very same groups WCRP WMO ICSU.

    What are the objectives of CLIVAR?

    CLIVAR is an international research programme investigating climate variability and predictability on time-scales from months to decades and the response of the climate system to anthropogenic
    forcing. CLIVAR, as one of the major components of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), started in 1995 has a lifetime of 15 years.
    The specific objectives of CLIVAR are:
    1. To describe and understand the physical processes responsible for climate variability and predictability on seasonal, interannual, decadal, and centennial time-scales, through the collection and analysis of observations and the development and application of models of the coupled climate system, in cooperation with other relevant climate-research and observing
    programmes.
    2. To extend the record of climate variability over the time-scales of interest through the assembly of quality-controlled paleoclimatic and instrumental data sets.
    3. To extend the range and accuracy of seasonal to interannual climate prediction through the development of global coupled predictive models.
    4. To understand and predict the response of the climate system to increases of radiatively active gases and aerosols and to compare these predictions to the observed climate record in order to detect the anthropogenic modification of the natural climate signal.

    The CLIVAR website is…http://www.clivar.org/
    It is a vast site that requires many hours of reading. I had done much of it before a change in personal circumstance caused me to abandon it.

    CLIVAR was armed with a large team, many of whom are familiar names to us, and large resources such as fully equipped ships and planes.
    The team was split into groups who studied various regions and various climate phenomena.
    i.e. Atlantic Panel, Pacific Panel, Indian Panel, Southern Panel, American Monsoon, African Panel etc.

    It had a lifetime of 15 years ending in 2010. What did they achieve? Are they able to predict any regional climate phenomena? The answers were no last year and I haven’t had time to go through the web site again, but judging by the fact that they have an overlapping 10 year strategy (2005-2015) I’d say their objectives haven’t been met as yet.

    My feeling at the time was that the IPCC reports couldn’t just keep being republished as is without going stale and that something had to be changed. That something is prediction as opposed to projection. My immediate thought at the time was “OMG what if they even fluked a prediction of an EL NINO or a typhoon in Asia? Too traumatising to contemplate.”

  39. Willis Eschenbach

    Those good folks over at NOAA are really desperate on this “Climate Services” nonsense. They have wasted taxpayer dollars to collect a bunch of quotes from various yes-men and non-entitites about how great the “Climate Services” change is.

    My favorite, though, is from Jane:

    “Working closely with federal, regional, academic and other state and local government and private sector partners, the new NOAA Climate Service will build on our success transforming science into useable climate services. NOAA is committed to scientific integrity and transparency; we seek to advance science and strengthen product development and delivery through user engagement.”

    Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D.
    Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator

    I mean, when you feel like you have to put in a testimonial for a program that comes from the administrator responsible from the program, you’ve failed the laugh test, the smell test, the IQ test, and the spin cycle all at once.

    “Climate services”?

    Riiiiiiiiight …

    w.

    • John Carpenter

      Willis,

      It used to be “weather is not climate” back when winters were ‘warm’ and were used as evidence of a changed ‘climate’… you know… ‘children won’t know what snow is’ and all, cause the climate had changed to be warmer.

      Then winters got cold again with lots of snow. So… the snowy weather had to be turned into evidence of a ‘warmer’ climate, that’s when we started to hear that cold snowy winter ‘weather’ is exactly what climate change ‘looks’ like. But, this was hard for the general public to grasp as it didn’t resonate with being a ‘warmer climate’.

      To remove this confusion… all ‘extreme’ weather events became the new ‘evidence’ of a ‘warmer’ climate. Every extreme event… including tropical depressions that hit New England, tornado clusters in the south and hot summers in Texas… became evidence. Throw in past droughts and floods in Australia, Russia and Pakistan and of course Katrina and the evidence became overwhelming that ‘weird’ weather events all over the globe proved the climate had changed.

      If you a following along…. it is clear that weather is now climate and so…. this is why ‘climate services’ is the new term for ‘long range weather forecasting’. You see it’s hard for people to understand ‘climate change’ when it takes a century to reveal itself, so ‘climate’ has to be turned into ‘weather’… which is a short term event people can relate to… and if you make extreme weather ‘weird’… well then the weather (climate) isn’t what it used to be and can be fingered out as ‘real time climate change’. Action against it can then be pursued.

      • Only some extreme weather events are evidence of climate change. Lots of snow, sleet, and freezing rain are evidence of global cooling. Every time we get a big snow, people laugh about how silly it is to think the globe is warming. Obviously, blizzards prove the world is cooling

        Real hot weather in July and August is just evidence of summer. People are too occupied with trying to keep cool to laugh about how silly it is to think the globe is warming.

      • randomengineer

        Lots of snow, sleet, and freezing rain are evidence of global cooling.

        Where I live these things are evidence of winter.

    • Willis, you may appreciate the PhysOrg.com news story on the sales job by Connie Hedegaard, the European Union Commissioner for Climate Change, as she explains how warmly received was the 2015 ‘Climate Roadmap.’

      http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-11-climate-roadmap-idea-eu.html

      Perhaps November is not a good time of the year to sell the UN’s story of global warming to cold, unemployed Europeans.

      All is well,
      Oliver

    • randomengineer

      It’s patently obvious that this is little more than evidence of Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy. Google if you must.

      Essentially the NOAA “climate” folks are all (deep down) well aware that they have no reason to exist, so they are now claiming a market need and attempting to creating this reason. That’s all this is. The Iron Law says that bureaucrats will work to maintain the bureaucracy itself.

      I see no need for a “service” like this, especially one that I as a taxpayer am paying for. Those who want and/or need long range weather forecasts are welcome to purchase these from one or many experts.

    • De-funding this latest bloviation of the budget seems to be a worthy goal.
      The last thing we need is yet another layer of climatocracy run by even more gangs of over paid bureaucrats who all think the same way and always find a way to rationalize their demands for public money, and never actually supply us with anything anywhere close to the money they spend.

  40. Alex Heyworth

    “Climate Services”, eh. My climate needs servicing. When can I book it in?

  41. Michael Larkin

    “Uncertainty language casts doubt; likelihood messages inform”

    My brain keeps reversing this to:

    “Uncertainty language informs; likelihood messages cast doubt”.

  42. Michael Larkin

    My attempt at doing a Kim:

    The worm wriggles, changes shape;
    thinks vermiphages won’t notice.

  43. “The OSC will appraise the current state of climate science, thereby making a measurable contribution on the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”

    A “measurable contribution”?
    Oh the irony

  44. 3. Uncertainty language casts doubt; likelihood messages inform

    Hear, hear!

  45. Latimer Alder

    IIRC the gestation period for an IPCC report is about seven years. The next one will be published in 2014/5. We already know what it will say:

    ‘It is worse than we thought. More study is needed. Send us more money’

    But by then public support for climatology and worry about AGW will have plummeted yet further. Especially is there is a bad winter or two in NA or Europe.

    It would be a brave – or foolhardy – politician who doesn’t then ask himself the big question about the IPCC in particular and climatology in general….’what value are we getting for our investment?’ If he then looks back 25 years to the start of the IPCC and tries to work out what we know now that we didn’t know then, the answer is

    ‘not very much at all of any practical use’.

    We have lots and lots of models…but no practical way of knowing whether they are any good at anything at all. We have a lot of hot air about reconstructed past climates…of little practical value. We had AIT …but that will be a decade old and few, if any, of its dire predictions show any signs of coming true within a generation or two.

    So the report card on 25 years of IPCC/climatology reads ‘lots of investment ($100 billion), very limited return’.

    And then the pollie will consider that worrying about today’s population’s great great great grandchildren getting their feet wet isn’t actually a very good use of today’s money, when there are plenty more attractive projects to solve. If he is high-minded he might do it for the collective good of today’s people. If he is a low-life he might calculate where the votes come from..probably he is a bit of both.

    But whichever way he looks at it, he will not see that it is a good use of $2.5 billion per year for another 7 years to fund another IPCC report that he can it is a racing certainty will say:

    ‘It is worse than we thought. More study is needed. Send us more money’

    all over again.

    ‘Climate Services’ sounds to me like one or two have done the same analysis and are desperately trying to find a future role in medium term weather forecasting.

    But we have had one of these – The European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts since 1975. I used to ride my bike past it on the way to visit my then g/f in Reading, UK 35 years ago.

    Has its existence been spectacularly successful in providing what are now rebranded as ‘climate services?’ Seemingly not as the UK Met Office stopped publishing theirs a while back because of the national derision heaped upon them for predicting a barbecue summer that wasn’t. And for the extraordinarily silly ‘children will never see snow’ remarks from a Head Honcho there.

    So our pollie, in examining the case to fund ‘climate services’ will also ask himself the question

    ‘is this stuff actually practically doable with our current level of technology?’ There will be many vested interests who will try to persuade him that the answer is ‘yes’ – despite the track record of ‘no’. But the wise pollie will be very very very careful in how he dishes out the lolly. And will put a huge – and very unwelcome – emphasis on payment by results, not on payment by promises as currently.

    So, unless the medium range forecasting ability improves dramatically in the next few years, I foresee little future for publicly-funded climate services. Those who need such services can pay for them themselves from existing commercial companies. And those that don’t won’t need to pay for them

  46. re:Real Climate
    I occasionally post on Real Climate, usually a link with short comment, and as far as I remember only one or maybe two posts were ‘binned’. Got even Dr. Steig (occasional moderator) interested.

  47. Judith,

    Hmmm…fresher water in the northern latitudes.
    Would that not constitute changes in the evaporation and precipitation cycle?

    http://www-pord.ucsd.edu/~ltalley/sio219/curryetal_nature2003.pdf

    Again salt denser salt changes at the equatorial regions.
    Would that not effect the solar penetration in the oceans?
    One scientist lost his warm ocean current and has done extensive research to find it(wheres the missing heat?)

    In the world of the climate…let’s get physical, physical. I wanna get physical. Lets getta physical…(sorry Olivia’s song is stuck in my head) :-)

    • Joe,
      Did you say these changes have been happening in the past 4 decades?
      Well have we not had El Ninos/El Ninas in the intervening period as the changes became more intense?

  48. Girma

    I have had a similar experience on RealClimate.

    Shortly after Climategate, it appeared that Gavin Schmidt was becoming more open to other opinions.

    We had an exchange on NOAA humidity records, which began to hit too close to home for him, so he ended it abruptly by censoring out my response.

    Since then I have lurked there occasionally (mostly for laughs), but am no longer active there.

    It is a waste of time.

    Max

  49. The discussion we should be having is, why is Al Gore a Rock Star of AGW Trye Believers. He croons out his doom and gloom anti-business diatribe and all the while revels in the material wealth that being a willing facilitator of the Left affords.

  50. The conversation no one wants to have–

    The free enterprise businessman is the last shield-bearer in the crosshairs of the putative economy of Leftists’ New World Order.

  51. The discussion we are afraid to have–from California to Greece–is whether a man shall be obliged to work for a living.

  52. As a consequence of the towering example AGW True Believers bring to high science of approximating reality let us enumerate a sufficient example of their inability and fundamental inadequacy on the numerous occasions afforded them from the inception of their undertaking to effectuate an adequate understanding of the issues to be ascertained: The Global Warming Alarmists Still Don’t Get It: It’s The Sun, Stupid.

  53. The conversation we should be having:

    We simply can no longer afford to employ academia’s self-anointed saviors of the Earth to fabricate justifications that feed bureaucratic expansion while shuttering economic growth in America.

    • Way too close to reality Wagathon. The nuance of Dr. Curry is to offer AGW dissent while promising not to harm the base structure of her peers at the same time. It’s no surprise how many will choose to die in the AGW/Agenda21/UN bunker but Dr. Curry still can’t figure out (admit) the connections. Then we get a post about not using disinformation, ironic isn’t it?

  54. “The new conversation being generated by climate science organizations seems more focused on adaptation and climate services, which is associated with the seasonal to decadal time scale.”

    It’s simply the face saver after political and science defeat. Few would have cared about such limited agenda setting with vague science claims as the driver. That’s how mitigation policy was born and incubated so talking about adaptation doesn’t do justice for the decades of expert power seeking and manipulation associated to AGW and statist efforts. For some it’s maintaining funding while offering something less of threat to dissent. For others it’s a way of avoid admitting the AGW deception by changing the subject.

  55. Even Pierre Morel, founder of the Laboratoire de Meteorologie Dynamique said so two years ago in his conference…