The sociology of correlation and causation

by Judith Curry

Correlation doesn’t imply  causation.

An interesting article in Slate:  Correlation does not imply causation:  How the internet fell in love with a stats class cliche. Excerpts:

The correlation phrase has become so common and so irritating that a minor backlash has now ensued against the rhetoric if not the concept. No, correlation does not imply causation, but it sure as hell provides a hint.  Still, if it can frame the question, then our observation sets us down the path toward thinking through the workings of reality, so we might learn new ways to tweak them. It helps us go from seeing things to changing them.

So how did a stats-class admonition become so misused and so widespread? What made this simple caveat—a warning not to fall too hard for correlation coefficients—into a coup de grace for second-rate debates? A survey shows the slogan to be a computer-age phenomenon, one that spread through print culture starting in the 1960s and then redoubled its frequency with the advent of the Internet. If now we’re quick to say that correlation is not causation, it’s because the correlations are all around us.

With the arrival of Pearson’s coefficients and the transformation of statistics, that “fallacy” became more central to debate. Should scientists even bother with a slippery concept like causation, which can’t truly be measured in the lab and doesn’t have a proper definition? Maybe not. Pearson’s work suggested that causation might be irrelevant to science and that it could in certain ways be indistinguishable from perfect correlation. “The higher the correlation, the more certainly we can predict from one member what the value of the associated member will be,” he wrote in one of his major works, The Grammar of Science. “This is the transition of correlation into causation.”

To say that correlation does not imply causation makes an important point about the limits of statistics, but there are other limits, too, and ones that scientists ignore with far more frequency. In The Cult of Statistical Significance, the economists Deirdre McCloskey and Stephen Ziliak cite one of these and make an impassioned, book-length argument against the arbitrary cutoff that decides which experimental findings count and which ones don’t. By convention, we call an effect “significant” if the chances of its deriving from a twist of fate—as opposed to some more genuine relationship—are less than 5 percent. But as McCloskey and Ziliak (and many others) point out, there’s nothing special about that number and no reason to invest it with our faith.

I wonder if it has to do with what the foible represents. When we mistake correlation for causation, we find a cause that isn’t there. Once upon a time, perhaps, these sorts of errors—false positives—were not so bad at all. If you ate a berry and got sick, you’d have been wise to imbue your data with some meaning. (Better safe than sorry.) Same goes for a red-hot coal: one touch and you’ve got all the correlations that you need. When the world is strange and scary, when nature bullies and confounds us, it’s far worse to miss a link than it is to make one up. A false negative yields the greatest risk.

Now conditions are reversed. We’re the bullies over nature and less afraid of poison berries. When we make a claim about causation, it’s not so we can hide out from the world but so we can intervene in it. A false positive means approving drugs that have no effect, or imposing regulations that make no difference, or wasting money in schemes to limit unemployment. As science grows more powerful and government more technocratic, the stakes of correlation—of counterfeit relationships and bogus findings—grow ever larger. The false positive is now more onerous than it’s ever been. And all we have to fight it is a catchphrase.

JC reflections

Over the past few years, I have been collecting a lot of material on causation, eventually I will get to a series of blog posts on this, targeted at the climate change attribution problem.

I found the Slate article to be interesting and timely, for several reasons.  Most immediately, there is a forthcoming guest post at CE with some very interesting correlations.  There are also climate correlation studies that get prematurely dismissed for lack of a convincing physical mechanism.

I was particularly struck by the last two paragraphs excerpted from the Slate article, regarding false positive errors (Type I). A relative lack of concern for a false  positive error characterizes the precautionary principle.  The Slate article intriguingly suggests that more sophisticated societies have more to lose from the false positive errors.  Something to ponder regarding the UNFCCC mitigation policies.

 

286 responses to “The sociology of correlation and causation

  1. Tom McClellan

    This is perhaps the right approach toward anyone who uses that overused phrase:
    “Stats geeks, we hear your complaint: “Correlation doesn’t imply causation.” Did you know that there’s a nearly perfect correlation between people who say that and people who are party poopers?” – – Wall Street Journal columnist Justin Lahart

  2. “The direction of a big act will warp history, but probably all acts will do the same thing in their degree, down to a stone stepped over in a path or a breath caught at the sight of a pretty girl or a finger nail nicked in the garden soil.” ~John Steinbeck

  3. “There are also climate correlation studies that get prematurely dismissed for lack of a convincing physical mechanism.”

    This one, often used by alarmists, has always made me suspect that they aren’t really interested in finding truth, but more interested in defending an orthodoxy.

    Occam’s Razor is fine, when you have all of the facts, but it is a crippling construct when the facts are incomplete.

  4. The Type I and Type II error chances you want to take ought to consider the number of studies on similar things being done. If there are thousands of studies, maybe you ought to lower those chances of yours by a factor of thousands.

    That limits the Type I and Type II errors that make it into print to a reasonable level.

    As it is, the media are full of wrong results, each one carefully done but to the wrong threshholds.

    • fizzymagic

      The Type I and Type II error chances you want to take ought to consider the number of studies on similar things being done. If there are thousands of studies, maybe you ought to lower those chances of yours by a factor of thousands.

      I’m sorry. That does not make sense. Are you talking about some kind of trials penalty? In that case you have it backwards. More studies imply more frequent errors.

    • In that case you have it backwards. More studies imply more frequent errors.

      Right. So all the trials ought to work to tighter thresholds.

      A result that has only one chance in twenty of being wrong has a one chance in twenty of being right if enough hidden people have tried it.

  5. The admonition is not about what a cause might be – that’s taken for granted – but that correlation comes most often from a common cause.

    Two sums of ten random numbers are correlated if the sums have five of the numbers in common, for instance. Neither causes the other. Something else causes both.

    That’s the statistical idea.

  6. The correlation of ENSO with global temperature in the 20th century is a good example. You have some saying El Ninos can’t produce golbal warming. But then they say:”Wait until the next El Nino, then warming will resume”. Even Dessler, he of the alarmist persuasion, says temperature changes from 2000 to 2010 was due to ENSO variations.

    • Pierre-Normand

      But there is no contradiction at all between saying ENSO contributes very little to the multi-decadal trend and that it contributes most of the multi-annual variability. In fact the recent study by Kosaka and Xie (“Recent global-warming hiatus tied to equatorial Pacific surface cooling”) suggests that ENSO’s contribution to global warming since 1950 has been slightly negative.

    • ENSO is zero-sum.

      With our ability to model ENSO and understand it, we can follow it up the global warming escalator

    • JPC Lindstrom

      “ENSO is zero-sum”. Implying that over time there will be no trend. But for how long can there be a trend albeit within the zero-sum limits? 10 years, 30 years, 100 years? How can we possibly KNOW that we have not experienced an ENSO-trend (or similar) between 1979-1998? A statistical fluctuation in the climate system if you want. Like what was found in this article:

      Beenstock, M., Reingewertz, Y., and Paldor, N.: Polynomial cointegration tests of anthropogenic impact on global warming, Earth Syst. Dynam., 3, 173-188, doi:10.5194/esd-3-173-2012, 2012.

      “…This means, however, that as with all hypotheses, our rejection of AGW is not absolute; it might be a false positive, and we cannot rule out the possibility that recent global warming has an anthropogenic footprint. However, this possibility is very small, and is not statistically significant at conventional levels”

    • Get that garbage paper written by economist-wannabe-scientist Beenstock into the incinerator.

      Economists treat physics like any other factor, which is what makes them economists

    • JPC Lindstrom

      WebHub etc. Is that Your best argument? I am not impressed.

    • I wouldn’t be impressed with blog comments either Nordstrom.

      Go to the article’s web site and read the critical commentary by Pretis&Hendry

      They point out 6 errors when doing econometric modeling of climate data.

    • Robert I Ellison

      ENSO is a zero sum game until you actually sum it – and then it’s scum denialist pseudo science.

      http://s1114.photobucket.com/user/Chief_Hydrologist/media/SOI-GHD_zpse2645883.png.html?sort=3&o=48

  7. Juxtaposing causation with correlation tends to limit the bounds of the causation discussion. With that limitation in mind, one of the components David Hume gave of what is referred to as causation is “constant conjunction.” That is, two events that happen together. Temporal precedence of events is also a condition contributing to the idea of causality.

    All this is in play in the article above. Interestingly (probably only to me), Hume talked himself out of the idea of causality all together. He settled on the idea of induction which is a bit analogous to the idea of correlation as described above.

    The point is that this field of discussion has been treated exhaustively. Still, CS (and to some degree science at large) seems to act as if these thought processes had never happened.

    For myself, I will be persuaded that someone knows which way the wind is going to blow when he/she predicts it repeatedly and successfully. (Usual disclaimers of involving standard deviation from a predicted median notwithstanding.)

    The context of this article brings to mind a favorite quote: “Those who don’t read history are doomed to repeat it. Those who do read history are doomed to watch those that don’t appear on the news as they repeat the disasters of the past ad nauseum.”

    • One of the things that seems to be lacking in thinking about these issues is – what is the appropriate branch of mathematics to use. Statistics is based on the calculus, causation is a set theoretic/logical construct. One of the great divides between the social sciences and the physical sciences is the degree of agreement accepted as providing a reasonable correlation for a statistical correlation. For physical scientists, we usually think in terms of r**2 > 0.7 as significant, but I’ve seen published social science papers trying to make something out of a correlation with r**2 ~ 0.2. The difference being that the social sciences are dealing with much more non-linear problems (multi-factor, significant interdependencies – sound like climate science?) than we physical scientists usually deal with. In reaction to the use (abuse) of statistics, Ragin, among others, has pioneered the use of fuzzy sets to study causation in the social sciences. This has some real advantages – one can look at causation, as well as coverage and consistency relationships.

      An obvious use in climate science would be to look at the data surrounding “consensus.” Consensus is probably best thought of as a property of sets. The authors (perpetrators) of various studies purporting to show 97% consensus often ask the right questions and then throw away most of the data. For example, it doesn’t matter to them whether I believe that GHGs play a small or a large role in our evolving climate, as long as I believe in an effect > 0. In actuality, it might be that only 2/3-3/4 of scientists would agree that GHGs are playing a major role (as appears to be the case in at least one such study I’ve analyzed in this way).

      It would be at least intellectually interesting, and perhaps even useful, to apply an approach based on sets and set membership to climate data themselves.

    • John Plodinec wrote:

      ” For physical scientists, we usually think in terms of r**2 > 0.7 as significant, but I’ve seen published social science papers trying to make something out of a correlation with r**2 ~ 0.2. The difference being that the social sciences are dealing with much more non-linear problems (multi-factor, significant interdependencies – sound like climate science?) than we physical scientists usually deal with.

      Hi John,

      It also can be as simple as the number of observations involved. I suspect physical scientists or at least those of our generation work with rules-of-thumb that reflect a time of much fewer observations in hand.

      May you always be resilient! ;O)

      Mike

    • You, too, Michael.

  8. Why is Judith Curry leaving out the physics? It is the physics that prove global warming, not statistics!

    Judith Curry’s post focusing on statistics only reminds me of Mark Twain’s hierarchy of lies:
    Lies
    Damn Lies… and.
    Statistics.

    Not that I’m claiming she is lying, of course. Just why is there ANY focus solely on statistics. That’s only what the skeptics do.

    • So, Tricia, why don’t you post the physics that prove global warming will be catastrophic. I just can’t wait to see it.

    • Matthew R Marler

      Tricia: Just why is there ANY focus solely on statistics.

      Does anyone focus solely on statistics?

    • Hey Tricia, show us that the arguments behind catastrophic global warming are based on the physics of physical processes. You can start with the handling of clouds.

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse
    • John Carpenter

      Physics doesn’t prove anything. Physics explains. Physics models. Statistics does not prove anything either. Statistics is a tool used to help support or refute, in this case, physical observations….physical observations that can be explained by physical models. So we are looking for evidence that either supports or refutes physical models of AGW and both sides use statistics to do so, not just skeptics.

    • The Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warmers want to replace reductionism with destructionism.

    • nottawa rafter

      Tricia

      In 1914 many were comfortable in their understanding of physics. And then they learned how little they knew. We need humility not hubris. Theories are collapsing every day. The theories of climate science may or may not withstand the scrutiny of time. At the current rate of failed predictions, things don’t look all that rosy.

    • There are about 100 modeled projections for heating in the tropics. It seems that each is owned by an individual or an institution. (Please let me know if the input can be accessed under FOIA
      I can assume the physics is about the same for all. As each must have different input of variables, each is its own hypothesis. Although, it may be that the variables are much the same, but the tedious method of combining the daunting bits of information may be the largest variant; that is, not data but methodology.may vary.
      If, in fact, there are large variations in the applied physics, then it would seem there are huge uncertainties.
      I expect most readers here would agree, generally, on the physics of the parts, but the question is more so in the coupling. Well, at least those are my thoughts, which probably do not weigh too much.
      The bottom line is the if the observations (statistics) are in agreement with the models then the models may be correct,. If, in fact, they do not then something must be wrong with the models.
      I have a major problem with circular thinking. That is, do not admit there is an error, but decide that the models cannot be wrong, then after the fact come up with a reason. Such as Trenberth–in the deep ocean, Dessler-ENSO, and contrive to make it work out somehow.
      The slogan was figures do no lie, but liers figure.
      Have enough integrity to at least accept the possibility that the atmosphere may be much less sensitive to additional CO2 than first thought, That is really what most scientists who consider themselves to be skeptical believe to be the case.

    • Tricia,

      “There are also climate correlation studies that get prematurely dismissed for lack of a convincing physical mechanism.” – JC

      Think ‘stadium wave’.

      You’re absolutely right of course.

    • “You’re absolutely right of course” – Michael

      Anybody who thinks in terms of “absolutes” in this debate is not thinking at all…. Michael.

    • Fernando Leanme

      Tricia, you are absolutely right! I built a model of the world´s ocean and atmosphere which relies 100 % on physics and uses no data whatsoever. The trick is to use computational fluid dynamics with one micron cells, and to initialize the model 4200 million years ago. This allows the program to estimate the final results in approximately 6 zeta seconds.

    • Tricia said:

      “Not that I’m claiming she is lying, of course. Just why is there ANY focus solely on statistics. That’s only what the skeptics do.”

      Do you have the statistics to back that statement up?

  9. David L. Hagen

    Restoring Statistical Credibility
    The problem of false positives in publications is so severe that Valen E. Johnson has developed Revised standards for statistical evidence

    An examination of these connections suggest that recent concerns over the lack of reproducibility of scientific studies can be attributed largely to the conduct of significance tests at unjustifiably high levels of significance. To correct this problem, evidence thresholds required for the declaration of a significant finding should be increased to 25–50:1, and to 100–200:1 for the declaration of a highly significant finding. In terms of classical hypothesis tests, these evidence standards mandate the conduct of tests at the 0.005 or 0.001 level of significance.

    PNAS | November 26, 2013 | vol. 110 | no. 48 | 19313–19317 http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1313476110

    There have already been 31 citations to Johnson’s paper.

    Identifying correlations are important steps to identifying underlying physical causes and should not be dismissed out of hand. Newton formed his inverse square model for gravity without a clue as to its “cause”.

  10. The link goes to page 2 of the article.

    The problem arises when statistics like correlation are used descriptively i.e. without an underlying prospective theory. All kinds of rubbish gets passed off in the name of analysis under these circumstances (I blame Excel myself rather than the internet). Once you are thinking about a theory all kinds of statistical tests beyond simple correlation (and supporting experiments) suggest themselves.

    As to which type of error you are most worried about I suspect two different problems are being mixed up. The statistical use and a more general use in decision making. The more formal statistical modelling might help inform the latter but so do a range of other considerations. To the extent that the analyst/technocrat can’t answer the questions so those of us in democracies tend to put things to the vote.

    So in practice the weight put on false positives or negatives in decision making is state dependent, and I doubt the thesis here that false positives have become more risky. I’d say that we have been progressively increasing our ability to identify risks and our ability to manage them (and our inability).

    Also as democracies have become more prevalent and better informed, decisions have become less matters for the elites and this will have changed perceptions of risk (a hypothesis is that elites might accept more risk, with the general species tending to weigh short-term risks more heavily).

  11. pokerguy (aka al neipris)

    “Why is Judith Curry leaving out the physics? It is the physics that prove global warming, not statistics!”

    No Tricia. Only real world data may at some point “prove” global warming. This will take time. So far, not looking particularly good.

    • Physics says what happened before will happen again. We were warm before and we got cold after. That will happen again. Curve fit the past data and extend the cycle into the future.
      What has happened will happen in the future.
      What never happened in the past is unlikely in the future.

      We will warm and cool and warm and cool, in the future, just like we did for the past eleven thousand years. A tiny bit of CO2 will not kick us out of the Climate Cycle of the past eleven thousand years. Why do you think that whatever cause the last eleven thousand years to be wonderful, would have suddenly stopped now. What do you think was working and suddenly stopped?

      If you have any idea or ideas to explain this, I will read and consider. Natural Variability kept temperature and sea level in narrow bounds for eleven thousand years. If we have a real problem, that had to have stopped. I do ask, WHAT STOPPED? Your answer is most likely that you don’t really know and don’t even suspect. Then, it did not stop, and we do not have a problem that will push us outside the bounds of the past eleven thousand years.

      I will watch for your thoughts on what stopped working such that earth can now only warm with man-made CO2. It always worked before with Natural Variability.

      Natural Variability is still working. You have proof that modern warming was not causes by the same things that caused the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods, I do want to see it.

      That would provide some fun for real Engineers and Scientists who look at real data and actually think.

  12. Good article. We should also be teaching people about covariates.

  13. OPM. It has eliminated the fear to Type I errors. So you are wrong, so what? It is OPM.

  14. No, correlation does not imply causation, but it sure as hell provides a hint.

    It would, if there was really some correlation. There is no correlation and not even a slightest hint.

    More often than not, the sure as hell hint is sure as hell wrong.

    With CO2 and warming, the correlation is not actually any good. CO2 has been rising for five thousand years and Temperature has been going up and down in the same bounds it is still in.

    The Model output, compared to real data, really sucks.
    They don’t actually have any correlation and they don’t actually have, even a hint.

  15. Climate Model Output and actual real Climate Data shows no correlation. What are you people thinking? Wrong is wrong, there is correlation there. Model output goes up with no bounds. Temperature stays bounded.

    Saying you have correlation with model output and data when the model output and data do disagree is really stupid.

    I am told I am not supposed to use the word stupid. I will try to find a better word without using profanity, but, so far, I cannot come up with one.

  16. A huge proportion of the industry of government funded science depends on a showing of correlation as proof of causation. Those who want to be funded need to give government the results it wants. And what better way than “statistics?”

    Start with your own hand picked Bayesian prior and work from there. Make all the assumptions you need to ft the data. And if the results are not what you want, just change the assumptions. It took years to get consistent results showing second hand smoke is a deaths sentence. The original studies were split, and those that were positive didn’t show much in the way of correlation at all, except for the random outlier (which is inevitable if you do enough studies).

    Wine is bad for you.
    No, wine is good for you.
    No, wine is good for you again.
    Ditto with umpteen other foods, drugs and environmental components.

    Then you get someone like Michale Mann in involved, and you can turn the data upside down and still get the result you want.

    What’s the point of being a scientist, if you can’t get the government to pass a law telling people to live the way you want them to?

    Statistics is not science. But if the public ever learned that, how would so many progressives get to tell them how to live their lives?

  17. Matthew R Marler

    Over the past few years, I have been collecting a lot of material on causation, eventually I will get to a series of blog posts on this, targeted at the climate change attribution problem.

    Consider the book “Causality” by Judea Pearl.

    Causal analysis can guide you to the right experiments to discover or confirm what interventions produce anticipated effects, and how large those are likely to be, all things considered. Consistent correlations seldom exist in the absence of causation.

    • Pierre-Normand

      Matthew R Marler: “Consider the book “Causality” by Judea Pearl.”

      Thanks. This looks interesting.

  18. The real question is, is there a correlation between being continually wrong and finally admitting you don’t know what you are talking about?
    From the article:

    Ten years ago, the Pentagon paid for a climate study that put forth many scary scenarios.

    Consultants told the military that, by now, California would be flooded by inland seas, The Hague would be unlivable, polar ice would be mostly gone in summer, and global temperatures would rise at an accelerated rate as high as 0.5 degrees a year.

    None of that has happened.

    Yet the 2003 report, “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security,” is credited with kick-starting the movement that, to this day and perhaps with more vigor than ever, links climate change to national security.

    The report also became gospel to climate change doomsayers, who predicted pervasive and more intense hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts.

    Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, has been the chief congressional critic of the Pentagon’s financial commitment to climate change. He said biofuel projects should be left to the Energy Department.

    “The president’s misguided priorities with our national security can be seen in the $1 trillion defense cuts he has put into motion since taking office and then using the limited defense budget to support his green agenda,” Mr. Inhofe said in a statement to The Washington Times. “His green spending in the defense budget is based on the belief that climate change is the ‘new weapon of mass destruction.’ In the meantime the president has loosened sanctions on Iran, [which] has maintained their resources to develop and launch a nuclear weapon — the real weapon of mass destruction.”

    Predictions vs. reality

    The 2003 report was produced by a consulting firm, then called the Global Business Network, for the Pentagon’s office of net assessment. It is a driving force to allocate money to counter global threats — in this case, climate change.

    Story Continues →

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jun/1/pentagon-wrestles-with-false-climate-predictions-a/

    • Here’s one of the better predictions from this article, although it’s hard to pick the best one.
      *****
      Under the section “Warming up to 2010,” here are some of the report’s key scenarios, compared with what has transpired:

      • Sacramento River levees will fail, creating “an inland sea” in California that “disrupts the aqueduct system transporting water.”

      Today: There are no inland seas in California.

    • bob droege

      “First,
      they suggest the occurrences we outline would most likely happen in a few regions, rather
      than on globally. Second, they say the magnitude of the event may be considerably smaller.
      We have created a climate change scenario that although not the most likely, is plausible”

      Hardly qualifies as a firm prediction

      “The purpose of this report is to imagine the unthinkable”

      I would be skeptical too.

    • Pierre-Normand

      jim2, I suggest you read the report since you are very badly misrepresenting it. They don’t make predictions; they discuss possible unlikely scenarios. If someone suggests that some scenarios, though unlikely, can *possibly* occur within the next several decades, and they don’t occur after 11 years, that isn’t a failed prediction. It is not even a prediction. Likewise, if you buy home insurance because of the possibility your house may burn down, and your house doesn’t burn down after a few years, this doesn’t constitute a failed prediction merely because you thought it was possible that your house may burn down.

    • Gee, Bob, this one looks to be pretty certain. It even mentions the date:
      • There will be more floods, making coastal cities such as The Hague “unlivable” by 2007.

      Today: The Hague is still livable.

    • So the guy says of the report:
      Asked about his scenarios for the 2003-2010 period, Mr. Randall said in an interview: “The report was really looking at worst-case. And when you are looking at worst-case 10 years out, you are not trying to predict precisely what’s going to happen but instead trying to get people to understand what could happen to motivate strategic decision-making and wake people up. But whether the actual specifics came true, of course not. That never was the main intent.”
      Translation: We knew it was BS from the beginning, it is merely more leftist propaganda.
      I wonder what this idiotic fantasy cost the tax payers. It would have been cheaper to get a trained monkey to make predictions.

    • Pierre-Normand

      “Translation: We knew it was BS from the beginning, it is merely more leftist propaganda.”

      No. This report was commissioned by the Pentagon. Planning for worst case scenarios is something the U.S. Department of Defense routinely does. They also plan for war with country X, Y or Z, not just in order to go to war with them (hopefully) but rather in order to be prepared in case war would occur. Since the report was very clear from the start about its scope, purpose and target then there is no intention to mislead. The true B-S-ers are the ideologues who claimed the worst case scenarios from this report were actual predictions, and whom you believed uncritically. Many of the things they recommend are, in fact, exactly what Judith Curry, Roger Pielke Sr., and very recently Robert Ellison, have recommended:

      For reference: “In this report, as an alternative to the scenarios of gradual climatic warming that are so common, we outline an abrupt climate change scenario patterned after the 100-year event that occurred about 8,200 years ago.”

      “This scenario poses new challenges for the United States, and suggests several steps to be taken:

      – Improve predictive climate models to allow investigation of a wider range of scenarios and to anticipate how and where changes could occur
      – Assemble comprehensive predictive models of the potential impacts of abrupt climate change to improve projections of how climate could influence food, water, and energy
      – Create vulnerability metrics to anticipate which countries are most vulnerable to climate change and therefore, could contribute materially to an increasingly disorderly and potentially violent world.
      – Identify no-regrets strategies such as enhancing capabilities for water
      management
      – Rehearse adaptive responses
      – Explore local implications
      – Explore geo-engineering options that control the climate.

    • Pierre-Normand

      jim2 wrote: “Under the section “Warming up to 2010,” here are some of the report’s key scenarios, compared with what has transpired”

      The scenario isn’t a prediction. Here is what they said immediately before describing the scenario:

      “Rather than predicting how climate change will happen, our intent is to dramatize the impact climate change could have on society if we are unprepared for it. Where we describe concrete weather conditions and implications, our aim is to further the strategic conversation rather than to accurately forecast what is likely to happen with a high degree of certainty. Even the most sophisticated models cannot predict the details of how the climate change will unfold, which regions will be impacted in which ways, and how governments and society might respond. However, there appears to be general agreement in the scientific community that an extreme case like the one depicted below is not implausible. Many scientists would regard this scenario as extreme both in how soon it develops, how large, rapid and ubiquitous the climate changes are. But history tells us that sometimes the extreme cases do occur, there is evidence that it might be and it is DOD’s job to consider such scenarios.

      Keep in mind that the duration of this event could be decades, centuries, or millennia and it could begin this year or many years in the future. In the climate change disruption scenario proposed here, we consider a period of gradual warming leading to 2010 and then outline the following ten years, when like in the 8,200 event, an abrupt change toward cooling in the pattern of weather conditions change is assumed to occur.”

    • Jim Zuccaro

      Pierre-Normand,

      You said:

      “The scenario isn’t a prediction. Here is what they said immediately before describing the scenario:

      “Rather than predicting how climate change will happen, our intent is to dramatize the impact climate change could have on society if we are unprepared for it.” [Etc,etc.]

      You are able to distinguish between predictions and dramatizations. You are not the target audience of the ‘report’.

      The ‘report’ is not science; it is polemic argument. jim2 is not mis-characterizing the ‘report’.

      But why are you apologizing for the report? You are saying that it is not science, it’s a dramatization of science.

      So that makes it not junk?

    • Lol. The Water Chef refers constantly to the NAS report on abrupt climate change. You can’t predict because ether could be abrupt climate change.

      What would it look like?

      LMAO.

      AGW is not abrupt climate change.

    • Jim Zuccaro

      That is:

      Science is accurate prediction.

      Dramatization is exaggeration and non-accurate prediction.

    • Oh yeah, leftist propaganda from the Pentagon.

      Conspiracy theories? What conspiracy theories?

    • Pierre-Normand

      Jim Zuccaro, I am not being apologetic or saying the report isn’t dramatic. Warming about some unliekly possibility may be dramatic — even overly dramatic. I am only pointing out that it clearly didn’t make any of the “predictions” some claimed it to have made. Presenting hypothetical scenarios with the express caveat that they are worst case and unliekely scenarios isn’t making predictions. Those who said the report made false predicitons either didn’t read the report at all, are confused about the meaning of ordinary English words, or are lying.

    • General, why weren’t you prepared for abrupt climate change?

      “Because the skeptics mocked us for preparing for things that did not happen, so we stopped preparing something that could happen.”

      Are F’n’ kidding me?

    • Jim Zuccaro

      Pierre-Normand,

      I apologize. I thought that you were defending the report.

      Being scientific, *anything* can happen. (The probability of some silly occurrence is vanishing small).

      Some statement about whether ‘we’ are prepared, or should be prepared, for something that “:could” happen is meaningless. Preparing for ‘something that “could” happen’ is meaningless without some estimation of the probability, or estimated frequency, of that happening.

      Otherwise we are just rearranging deck chairs, or rearranging money-in-pockets (different peoples pockets).

    • Jim Zuccaro

      Pierre-Normand,

      “Jim Zuccaro, I am not being apologetic or saying the report isn’t dramatic. Warming about some unliekly possibility may be dramatic — even overly dramatic. I am only pointing out that it clearly didn’t make any of the “predictions” some claimed it to have made. Presenting hypothetical scenarios with the express caveat that they are worst case and unliekely scenarios isn’t making predictions. Those who said the report made false predicitons either didn’t read the report at all, are confused about the meaning of ordinary English words, or are lying.”:

      May we agree that science is science, that drama is drama, and that lying is lying?

      (I hope we can agree on those things!)

    • Pierre-Normand

      “May we agree that science is science, that drama is drama, and that lying is lying?”

      Sure.

    • Jim Zuccaro

      Pierre-Normand,

      Thank you!

      Science is our common language.

    • Correlation? Causation? Who needs em?

      Climate Collapse: The Pentagon’s Weather Nightmare
      —Fortune, February 9, 2004

      Now the Pentagon Tells Bush: Climate Change Will Destroy Us
      —Observer (London), February 22, 2004

      Pentagon-Sponsored Climate Report Sparks Hullabaloo in Europe
      —San Francisco Chronicle, February 25, 2004

      The Sky is Falling! Say Hollywood and, Yes, the Pentagon
      —New York Times, February 29, 2004

      we’ve got Speculation!

      may be statically linked to Chronic Cynicism Syndrome (CCS) in older males?

    • “Oh yeah, leftist propaganda from the Pentagon.”

      The same military that makes vets die while waiting for treatment yet ensures Bradley Manning gets a sex change operation.

    • Being scientific, *anything* can happen. (The probability of some silly occurrence is vanishing small). …

      Tell Wally Broecker.

    • Robert I Ellison

      ‘Recent scientific evidence shows that major and widespread climate changes have occurred with startling speed. For example, roughly half the north Atlantic warming since the last ice age was achieved in only a decade, and it was accompanied by significant climatic changes across most of the globe. Similar events, including local warmings as large as 16°C, occurred repeatedly during the slide into and climb out of the last ice age. Human civilizations arose after those extreme, global ice-age climate jumps. Severe droughts and other regional climate events during the current warm period have shown similar tendencies of abrupt onset and great persistence, often with adverse effects on societies.

      Abrupt climate changes were especially common when the climate system was being forced to change most rapidly. Thus, greenhouse warming and other human alterations of the earth system may increase the possibility of large, abrupt, and unwelcome regional or global climatic events. The abrupt changes of the past are not fully explained yet, and climate models typically underestimate the size, speed, and extent of those changes. Hence, future abrupt changes cannot be predicted with confidence, and climate surprises are to be expected.’ NAS

      Abrupt changes are inevitable several times this century – how they manifest and why is a different question.

    • curryja wrote:

      “stay tuned, post on abrupt climate change coming tomorrow.”

      Got that Robert I Ellison? You better run out and get some more DEET. Know WHUT I mean?

    • Yea, the way these people think, to them abrupt climate change is preferable to man-made climate change. The agenda they have is that it only matters to demonstrate that man can have no influence on the climate. Man obviously can’t cause species to go extinct. And man obviously can’t cause rivers to catch on fire. And man obviously can’t deplete natural resources to the bottom of the barrel. Therefore it has to be ABCD and abrupt climate change is just as a good a crutch as any to pin their hopes on.

      • Preference was not spoken of in the article. But go ahead and stop the abrupt stuff. If you do, maybe we will listen about stopping the normal stuff.

    • Robert I Ellison

      Let me quote the relevant bit – in case he can’t manage the grown up words.

      Wally Broecker –the ‘father of global warming’ – suggests that predictions about the future of climate are problematic. Broecker has characterized what we are doing as poking a stick at a wild and angry beast. The science of nonlinear stochastic dynamical systems – and of abrupt climate change – suggests that he is correct. It creates a dilemma. The world may not be warming for decades at least – but this comes at the price of inherent instability of the climate system.

    • “The world may not be warming for decades at least – but this comes at the price of inherent instability of the climate system.”
      —–
      You do see the inconsistency of this statement, yes? I mean, in addition to it being most likely wrong in basic assertion, if it was correct, it would be logically inconsistent. This is quintessential Chief Skippy jibba jabba. Most likely wrong, but if somehow remotely correct, logically inconsistent.

    • Robert I Ellison

      I don’t really get the psychology – or the argument. If we are currently in a cool Pacific decadal mode – and these persist by every bit of data that we have for 20 to 40 years – not warming for decades more is not prediction but correlation. It should be recognized at least as the far more likely outcome. We are 12 years in – and I predicted it 11 years ago. I am feeling pretty confident.

      Not sure what Randall the video guy’s prediction is. Do I care? Not much.

    • Correlation, causation and potential abrupt climate change in one graphic.

    • Ya RG,
      RobbIE even confuses his fellow Aussies. He is so ambiguous in his assertions that they think he is a warmist. But that’s OK, because adding to the FUD is hard to get wrong. It really doesn’t matter how many contradictory statements a FUDist makes because that just builds up the Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.

    • Robert I Ellison

      They get that you are like Japanese soldiers after the war fighting a battle you don’t know is lost. With about as much scientific sophistication.

    • Jim D notes the latest in the irrepressible march of the CO2 time series in the ‘literature’. Once an icy 800 years behind temperature (well some sort of temperature difference), and then recently closing the gap to a a mere couple of hundred, it has now surged ahead by a nose! (Well at least I think this is the case–the graph is so small for these old eyes.)

    • mwgrant, yes, exactly right. I find it amazing that there are still people who don’t understand how CO2 can lag temperature in the Ice Ages and yet lead it now. Don’t you? Anyway the CO2 spike-up at the end is the main point. Skeptics say no big deal, nothing to be concerned with, move along, etc. Sane people might ponder it more in the context of the Ice Age scale of variation, and not just dismiss it like that. Do we want 1000 ppm, or maybe something nearer 500 ppm would be safer to try to stop at first to see what that does before deciding to move on with the rest of the known fossil fuel reserves.

    • Jim D wrote:

      “mwgrant, yes, exactly right. I find it amazing that there are still people who don’t understand how CO2 can lag temperature in the Ice Ages and yet lead it now. Don’t you?”

      Well, no. I don’t find it amazing that there are still people who don’t understand …. BTW I do not read the graph as showing CO2 lagging temperature in the Ice Ages and yet leading it now. It looks more like the CO2 leads over the entire period. Really, it is a small image, difficult to read, though it does seem like one of the messy regions where correlation is sketchy is the last few centuries or couple of millennia.

      ——–
      “Anyway the CO2 spike-up at the end is the main point.”

      Oh, that is why you called out the image [ Jim D | June 4, 2014 at 2:26 am | ] with:

      “Correlation, causation and potential abrupt climate change in one graphic. [link]”

      The correlation and causation–the entirely incidental topics of this post–really were just props enabling you to throw in a scary graphics sans explanation. Got it. But you didn’t say that was the main point. Indeed you did not write anything. Strange. Jimbo never say nothing after something like that. People will make their on inferences! Follow it, stick the knife in!

      ——–
      “Skeptics say no big deal, nothing to be concerned with, move along, etc. Sane people might ponder it more in the context of the Ice Age scale of variation, and not just dismiss it like that. Do we want 1000 ppm, or maybe something nearer 500 ppm would be safer to try to stop at first to see what that does before deciding to move on with the rest of the known fossil fuel reserves.”

      OK. you’ve earlier thrown in the scary picture and now in the comment are shifting to the micro-burst screed with the following contrasts:

      skeptic sane people
      dismiss ponder
      fossil fuel motherhood and apple pie.

      [Ok, here I took a little license with that last one, but geewillikers, I’m glad I’m not a skeptic!]

    • ERRATA

      I don’t want to strain anyone.

      skeptic sane people
      dismiss ponder
      fossil fuel motherhood and apple pie.

    • ERRATA

      I don’t want to strain anyone.(Sorry Dr Curry WordPress thinks its reading some bogus tags)

      skeptics — sane people
      dismiss — ponder
      fossil fuel — motherhood and apple pie.

    • Robert I Ellison | June 4, 2014 at 1:41 am |
      The world may not be warming for decades at least – but this comes at the price of inherent instability of the climate system.

      …all else being equal, climate variability and climate sensitivity are flip sides of the same coin. – Kyle Swanson

      What Swanson is saying is that the current variability, the pause, is because of sensitivity. Sensitivity allows the Climate to make abrupt changes. High sensitivity is like neutrally stable. So your statement is consistent even though it was questioned.

      When a thunderstorm is building, we don’t say everything is mushy and negatively feeding back and regressing to the mean. High sensitivity is an enabler.

    • mwgrant, the most noticeable feature of the plot was the spike, at least to me, and I mentioned abrupt climate change in introducing it. To me, this looks like it would force abrupt climate change, just given the scale relative to whole ice-age transitions, but skeptics are not so sure, or hide any concern they may have, or want people not to notice what 1000 ppm looks like in the big picture, or prefer to talk about D-O events instead, or something.
      Here, take another look in this context.

    • Jim D,

      There is no doubt that in the figure the projected value of 1000 ppm CO2 can cause alarm, but a number of other conditions have to hold. By putting such a figure up and originallynot providing any discussion you initially ‘let the image do the talking’ for you. Now you do clearly make your point that to you the projected CO2 level could trigger an abrupt climate change:

      “To me, this looks like it would force abrupt climate change, just given the scale relative to whole ice-age transitions”

      That said, you go on to question the good faith of skeptics across the board. You specifically assert that “skeptics are not so sure, or hide any concern they may have, or want people not to notice what 1000 ppm looks like in the big picture, or prefer to talk about D-O events instead, or something,” and that apparently is a problem. Let’s look at your list:

      skeptics are not so sure. Well there are uncertainties so there is nothing inherently wrong with being unsure–particularly here where uncertainty is manifest in the underlying model. Given that, I would think you should be uncertain too.

      But perhaps you think that there is no reason to be unsure because ‘the science is settled’ and for the present there is no need for anything beyond what we have–at least in the context of taking action. Well, for some folks with very legitimate credentials the science really is not settled. Long-standing politicization has been and continues to be a contributor to sorting things out for sure but what is done is done. So IMO doubt is legitimate, at least in some individuals.

      [Note my position on any significance of the uncertainty in the decision process: uncertainty shapes a decision but does not make it go away. That’s why some people are paid big bucks. Uncertainty does not a priori justify delay or no action. So don’t come back at me to complain that skeptics want to use it to delay or kill policy. ]

      skeptics hide any concern they may have I’m not sure what you mean. Do you mean they share your concern at least to a degree but suppress that concern as a political expedient, or do you mean that they are cowered into silence by ‘peers’ or are maybe are timid by nature? All of that strikes me as out-of-hand. You would be characterizing a class based on matters of which you have very little personal knowledge.

      skeptics want people not to notice what 1000 ppm looks like in the big picture. This is likely true for some folks–those that are driven more by the politics and not by the science. They exist on both sides of the divide. They have agendas. But I would hesitate to either call them skeptics or to tar all skeptics with that base attribution. If one does that then one reveals his- or herself as politically motivated and not a true advocate of the science–or perhaps just uninformed and gullible.

      or prefer to talk about D-O events instead, or something Well D-O events do figure in on this posting, don’t they? They are not doubt interesting math/science to some folks. And as for ‘somethings’–they are always on CE and most blog comments.

      Now what do I make of the figure? In a nutshell I am ambivalent. I recognize your reaction to the image and that reaction is understandable. However, I can take a quick look and have done enough reading on that particular subject to know that research on that figure–the detailed documented particulars of its creation–would be needed before I would bet the farm on it–one way or the other. [I’ve spend too many years on model QA to let something as loosey-goosey as that figure slide through.]

      Finally, IMO barring any dramatic breakthrough finding any real science at this stage is probably irrelevant to what policies will evolve. That is just another reason not to get too excited by the figure or almost anything else.

      I’m tired. It’s late. Excuse the typos.
      Best regards,
      mwg

    • mwgrant, thanks for saying where you stand as a skeptic. It is this kind lack of concern, or leaving the concern to the alarmists, then calling them just alarmists with an ulterior motive, that is the issue. Faced with business-as-usual 1000 ppm levels, there appears to be no wait-a-minute-and-think type of attitude. Just charge ahead and ignore the calls for any slowing down at all while saying the science is fixed. Given this kind of graphic, the concern of the “alarmists” should be completely understandable.

    • Jim D wrote

      mwgrant, thanks for saying where you stand as a skeptic. It is this kind lack of concern, or leaving the concern to the alarmists, then calling them just alarmists with an ulterior motive, that is the issue.

      1.) Label as you like; I can not control that. :o) However, I do not consider myself to be a skeptic. I find the use of labels in any serious discussion such as “alarmist” and “skeptic” to be regrettable. Indeed when I note an individual or organization using these terms I begin to tune their message out and discount what they are saying. If a person can not form an cohesive argument on the science and/or policy without using those terms [in a scurrilous manner] then my initial assumption is that argument is likely biased and not worth the effort of sorting through. Of course when one is just messing with someone else being a groundless chameleon is part of the toolkit ;o)

      2.) Being concerned and being excited are two different things. Being ambivalent over projections in a single non-QAed figure devoid of any explanation does not translate into a lack of concern–it is a reasonable measured response considering the Jekyll/Hyde nature of graphics in communication.

      3.) “Given this kind of graphic, the concern of the “alarmists” should be completely understandable.” Yes and no, and certainly not ‘completely’. Given that the graphic has your unqualified acceptance, i.e., you are perfectly comfortable using it as you find it, the concern is understandable. However from my perspective–one formed from years of environmental risk assessment including at times stringent quality assurance (QA) in a potentially litigious governmental climate–the graph is totally without documentation and essentially unusable. That viewpoint is also understandable. I would add that given the potential risks involved assuring the quality of work done in support of the decision making is paramount. It is required in chemical hazardous risk assessment and the severity of those risks pale in comparison to those associated with anthropogenic global warming.

      Regards,
      mwg

  19. From the article:

    Canada Cracks Down on Scientists Who Talk About Climate Change
    The government tells its meteorologists to focus on the day-to-day weather, and forget about longer-term trends
    Author: M.L. Nestel
    Posted: 06/01/14 22:52 EDT

    Meteorologists are paid to talk expansively about the weather. But in Canada, they have to choose their words a little more carefully.

    The government has made it clear that none of the meteorologists on its payroll should be talking about climate change, according to a new report. It’s unclear how long this rule has been in effect, but Environment Canada, the government entity that shares weather and meteorological information publicly, explained its position in a statement to us.

    “Our Weather Preparedness Meteorologists are experts in their field of severe weather and speak to this subject. Questions about climate change or long-term trends would be directed to a climatologist or other applicable authority,” said Danny Kingsberry, a spokesman for Environment Canada.

    http://www.vocativ.com/culture/science/canada-clamps-scientists-talking-climate-change/

  20. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Judith Curry opines [debatably] Correlation doesn’t imply causation.

    Debatable assertion by Judith Curry, hilarious XKCD riposte by FOMD!

    To the degree that scientific descriptions of climate are grounded in cycle-seeking statistical analyses, Judith Curry’s principle is entirely correct.

    To the degree that scientific descriptions of climate are grounded in thermodynamics, Judith Curry’s principle is entirely wrong.

    Conclusion  Judith Curry’s statistical principle is entirely correct annually … partially correct decadally … entirely wrong centennially and millennially.

    That plain lesson of climate-change science-and-history is increasingly obvious to *EVERYONE*, eh Climate Etc readers?

    \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • FOMBS – you didn’t tell us you are over 1,000 years old. That explains a lot.

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      Jim2, my sons and I have planted trees that will be around for centuries and even millennia.

      One wonders what monetary value a strict market fundamentalist (like Richard Tol for example) would place upon our family’s tree-planting?

      It’s hard to tell, because Tol-type market fundamentalists are notably absent from the work parties and membership rolls of conservancy groups.

      Why is that, the world wonders?

      \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • It’s a good thing you planted trees. You’ll probably need them later to burn to keep warm after the true catastrophe, Obama, is done with our once robust energy markets that have served us so well lo these many years.

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      jim2 deplores the true catastrophe, Obama [see panel 3].

      Anti-science denialism by Jim2, comedy by FOMD!

      \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • I guess a cartoon proves that you are right, FoMD. Reality not working out so great for you though.

    • To the degree that humans are natural and embedded in the thermodynamic process, FOMD misses the point entirely.

      Every life is sacred and every human emits CO2. Accept that fact and quit being a misanthrope about evil stupid polluting humans. It’s disrespectful and misleading

  21. As guvuhmints get more fixed on Soviet-Harvard interventionism,
    making claims of correlation as causation, so that they can
    intervene, a compluhcated system comes into being in which
    sociologogists et AL get ter publish more papers in Naychur
    in a complex interaction of feedback loops and correlations.

  22. Slightly related: from The telegraph online:

    More than 30 leading scientists including four Nobel Laureates have written to The Telegraph deploring the current system of granting funding for scientific research. They said that: “Sustained open-ended enquiries in controversial or unfashionable fields are virtually forbidden today and science is in serious danger of stagnating.”

    Lead signatory Prof Donald Braben, professor of earth sciences at University College London, had published a book on how difficult it has become in the last 30 years to get research funded. He warned that all the major funding institutions now use a system of peer preview in which anonymous members in the same field consider the proposal and decide if it should go ahead. Prof Braben said: “The major scientific discoveries of the 20th Century would not have happened under today’s rules, they would not get funding now. It is very difficult to get a discussion together on this matter because everyone has to acquiesce.”

    His book documents the 500 major discoveries of the 20th Century. He says that Max Planck would not have made his quantum mechanics discoveries and Peter Mitchell would not have discovered the energy currency in biology had they been put through today’s funding rules.

    The letter continued: “Peer preview is now virtually unavoidable and its bureaucratic, protracted procedures are repeated for every change in direction or new phase of experimentation or whatever the applicant might subsequently propose. “Many scientists privately deplore these policies but their professional standing often depends on their acquiescence.”

    Prof Braben’s book ‘Promoting the Planck Club: How defiant youth, irreverent researchers and liberated universities can foster prosperity indefinitely, is published by Wiley.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10870995/Nobel-winners-say-scientific-discovery-virtually-impossible-due-to-funding-bureaucracy.html

    • That’s what happens when you become dependent on the government. You become a serf, a pawn, swaying to and fro with the political breeze.

    • People assume there are institutions which will go on forever. They have felt that way about PanAm, Polaroid, Cliff Richard. Only Cliff is still standing.

      So it is with the European Enlightenment, and its legacy of curiosity, observation, empiricism. We thought it was here for keeps. Yet there are now students of the natural world, in the field of climate especially, who are unlikely to stick their head out of a window and who spend much of their time fiddling figures and factoids to establish a case for modern climate exceptionalism.

      A recent expedition to Antarctica which borrowed the glorious name of Mawson was quite frank about its purpose of going there to affirm a fashionable dogma. Quite frank about it they were, and nobody said “Wha?”. When they got stuck in ice the previously adoring media began to describe them vaguely as just guys stuck in ice, rather than climate scientists.

      A drought, a hurricane, a flood, a heatwave, a wildfire occurs and a whole community of experts is right there to explain to us how “while we cannot attribute this single event to global warming or climate change, we can say with certainty that such events will increase in frequency and intensity etc etc.” You just know, before anybody opens their mouth, that the dogma is going to take precedence, and that the vague, manipulative language which is the necessary vehicle of dogma will not be questioned.

      We seem to be constantly re-living the scene in Casablanca where Captain Renault is expressing his shock that gambling is going on…then someone hands him his winnings. Any drought or flood in my country – which is proverbially a land of drought and flood – will be portrayed as somehow unprecedented. We are supposed to be shocked, shocked, that drought is going on in our respectable establishment. Yet even in Australia’s brief history of two and a bit centuries, we have countless precedents. Extreme is what we do.

      Ah well. Enlightenment. You either like it or you don’t. Deep down, some don’t. The temple priest are making their comeback. If the Nile’s not behaving, up those offerings.

    • Peter Mitchell couldn’t get funding back then, which is why he and his brother funded the research in Bodmin. He published his work, without peer-review, in the ‘vanity press’ as the Gray and Blue books.

    • Do not seek refreshment from the Vichy Water of
      consensivity but drink deep from other sources,
      from free flowing watery cascades, fer volatility
      bringeth knowledge… well information at least,
      regarding fragilities of understanding. Yer must
      ter remember this…

  23. I cannot but agree, jim 2.
    beth the serf living life on the littoral. (

  24. John Vonderlin

    Tricia,
    You claim that Mark Twain, one of my heroes, ranked the types of lies in a hierarchy. What he actually said was in “Chapters from My Autobiography”, published in the North American Review in 1906. “Figures often beguile me,” he wrote, “particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of this phrase in Disraeli’s known works.
    Perhaps, you should lighten up on our hostess, put question marks at the end of your interrogative sentences, and realize that our knowledge of the physics of the Universe is a long way from proving anything as an absolute, and certainly not global warming.
    That having been said, I wanted to suggest one of the reasons the “correlation is not causation” phrase is used so much more frequently of late is the explosion of the usage of the term “linkage,” especially in environmental and health matters. The paranoid naysayers who are in love with the Precautionary Principle, seem to be particularly enamored of this weak cousin of correlation.
    My own usage of the beguilingly alliterative, “causation is not correlation” phrase is often in response to someone asserting that a posited linkage indicates something more significant than a fevered imagination. While I think I’ve eventually been proved to be right 76.43% of the time in these circumstances, I’ll remain skeptical about my observations until somebody explains the PHYSICS of it to me.

  25. stevefitzpatrick

    Scientists and engineers (among many others) constantly look for correlation, just as they should. But that is only the first step in establishing understanding. The definition of an explicit and quantified physical process which explains the observed correlation is the second (and crucial) step. There is nothing wrong with looking for correlation, especially when you don’t yet have a clear understanding of the processes involved in controlling the behavior of a process. You just have to avoid jumping to premature conclusions about causation absent a proven physical mechanism.

    • I agree with this – except I would modify “proven” physical mechanism somewhat to include the consideration of “plausible” physical mechanisms – with the understanding that if the physical mechanism isn’t proven then the causation isn’t proven.

      What I find happens a great deal is that people make too much of correlations w/o conceptualizing even plausible physical mechanisms that might explain causation. Often this leads to envisioning causal relationships between correlates that might both have the same causal factor.

    • Joshua, yes, I nearly made a similar comment earlier.

    • Faustino –

      Linky?

    • Steve
      Ah, but you forget that fallacy is that “the science is settled”–ergo the correlation R2 is 1.000. CO2 correlates to temperature which correlates to CAGW disasters. A believer accepts the hockey stick as gospel and accordingly, the amplification in the models yields the necessary conditions for disasters of biblical proportions.
      That the data does not match the physical model merely indicates the data is faulty. Ask Tricia for FOMD.

    • Jusha, This is out of character with many of your postings. I will go back and read and think about what you wrote.

    • popesclimatetheory –

      ==> “This is out of character with many of your postings.”

      Beware of false positives.

    • Joshua wins the thread!

    • Joshua, “nearly” as in I went out instead, rather than “nearly” in making a similar statement.

  26. For climate science, you don’t want causation so much as blame.

  27. Fairly thoughtful article for Slate and I appreciated the noting of Pearson’s fascination with eugenics.
    The Spurious Correlations website (http://www.tylervigen.com) is currently leading with a near perfect covariation (0.992082) between ‘US Spending in Space, Science and Technology’ (1999-2009) and ‘Suicides by hanging, strangulation and suffocation’. Makes one wonder how spending on climate science might run.

  28. You can now measure so much that it becomes very difficult to know if you have a relationship between two things measured, out of the eight assayed or not.
    I know people who measure a large numbers of parameters, say eight, find, say three, that differ from the control, and then do a Bonferroni adjustment for four comparisons and not for eight.
    This is why you can model the SOI or temperature with >20 parameters.

  29. Rob Ricket

    Unfortunately, the oft quoted phrase, “correlation does not equal causation” is a necessary evil in a society where unscrupulous charlatans are all too willing to foist the snake oil de jour on an unsuspecting public devoid of critical thinking skills.
    Why do charlatans cite dubious statistics…because they can!

  30. Real But Exaggerated

    So, what did cause the warming from 1905 through 1940?

    The rate is about the same as recent warming, attributed to GHGs,
    but the GHG forcing rate from the early twentieth was much less.

    • Dave Peters

      RBE — As a long-convicted warmist, this question looms over the standard model like a brooding cloud. I walked into a book store in Pittsburgh in 1990, and chatted with an eighty-year old guy at the door. He told me that when he was six or so, he took a trip up to visit an uncle on Lake Erie, walked out the door his first night there, and was dumbstruck to see stars in the sky. Up to that moment, he had always considered them akin to leprechauns or unicorns. That, and at least part of 1907, was a volcanic veil caused well, out of which subsequent decades were a recovery.

      An intriguing new paleo interpretation claims that pre-industrial carbon may have been as low as ~240 ppm, and that agriculture started building anthro-warmth two to three thousand years back. If the Pacific is acting like a capacitor, and can sequester warmth across multi-decade fetches, and release them across multi-decade Nino-biased interludes, one could account for those early decades without resort to first-law violations, and with middle of the road feedbacks. Solar is highly speculative, but could have contributed. In this view, less extreme reliance is required for indirect aerosol damping across the mid-century decades.

      One does not require straight-edge extrapolations of the last century’s final quarter, to get to Hell. Our last century is consistent with doubly amplified direct forcing from CO2 alone, should all other anthro influences wash to zero.

  31. Antonio (AKA "Un físico")

    The article says: “A false positive means […] imposing regulations that make no difference”.
    Obama has been spying everybody but, can anyone tell him that wasting money in reducing 30% of US CO2 emissions will not improve climate change because IPCC’s scientific basis are wrong?. YES WE CAN. Please, discover why IPCC is wrong by reading my pdf in:

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4r_7eooq1u2TWRnRVhwSnNLc0k/

  32. Correlation does not imply causation. Yes, but can cause huge arguments. Nowhere is this more evident than in the validation of mathematical models. It is sometimes asserted that if the major output of the model (the reason for its existence) shows high correlation with the real system, then the model can be regarded as an accurate simulation of the real system. This is only a necessary but not sufficient condition for the model to be regarded as an accurate simulation. Often the major output of the real system is just the low bandwidth portion of the whole process. The total process includes other high bandwidth components which get smoothed out in the total process. So in that situation, model validation requires separate validation of each process if one is to claim that the model is valid. The problem is exacerbated if the model is assembled by different teams and assuming common validation procedures. So validation requires high transparency and communication across the total project.

    This latter requirement seems to be lacking in climate modelling, since one rarely hears of any disagreement among the 20 or so models sponsored by the IPCC. Is this part of the price of unanimity?

    • It is sometimes asserted that if the major output of the model (the reason for its existence) shows high correlation with the real system, then the model can be regarded as an accurate simulation of the real system.

      There has never been a model that showed high correlation with the real system. Look at the model output, all the models really suck.

  33. George from Pennsylvania

    Infants’ length and weight are highly correlated, but neither causes the other. Instead, in their case, drinking is an unalloyed good that causes both. Too often, treating strong correlations as indicating causation distracts us from the search for unconsidered, therefore excluded, relationships.

  34. The issues associated with correlations are one of the critical reasons that attempts to favorably compare CFD calculations of turbulent flows to GCM calculations are mis-guided. Both the turbulent flow CFD models and the GCM models contain correlations / parameterizations. The turbulent flow models need correlations / parameterizations to close the equation system that is used to describe turbulent flows. The GCMs contain parameterizations for a host of important phenomena and processes and, generally, these do almost all the heavy lifting relative to producing fidelity of model calculations with respect to physical reality.

    As I have mentioned several times, very likely way too many times, the correlations / parameterizations are representations of empirical data for the states that the materials of interest have experienced. They are representations of the states that the materials have attained; they are not properties of the materials.

    Here is the critical aspect. Whenever CFD calculations of turbulent flows are used in safety-critical applications they can only be used if the ranges of all the states experienced in the applications fall within the ranges for which the correlations / parameterizations have been Validated ( The models and numerical solution methods will have been independently reviewed and Verified prior to the Validation processes. ) Some industries that are regulated for health and safety issues require that none of the models, correlations / parameterizations can be used outside the range of the data on which the correlations / parameterizations are based. The calculations must be terminated if a state falls outside the ranges of states covered by the experimental data.

    If it is insisted that because CFD applications have been successfully applied to safety-critical applications that involve turbulent fluid flows, so can GCMs be used to assist with decisions that involve the health and safety of the public.

    This argument cannot under any conditions whatsoever be invoked and at the same time continue to insist that GCMs are exempt from independent Verification and Validation. The CFD applications are allowed solely because all associated aspects, especially including the correlations / parameterizations, have been subjected to independent Verification and Validation. A comparison of CFD and GCMs might be valid only after the GCMs have attained the same degree of independent V&V.

    This discussions has not touched on the range of formulations that the correlations / parameterizations can take. Some are well-grounded in fundamental physical phenomena and processes aspects of the states, some are simple regressions using various thermodynamic-state properties, transports properties, thermophysical properties, flow / velocity, and geometric metrics for the boundary of the flow field, and some are simple ad hoc EWAGs that are needed to fill a hole in the range of states ( hopefully these are not critical relative to the system responses of interest ). Entire books have been written in which formulations of correlations are the subjects.

    • Jim Zuccaro

      Dan Hughes,

      You said, about parameterizations:

      “They are representations of the states that the materials have attained; they are not properties of the materials.”

      Those words should be printed on all diplomas in physical sciences and engineering.

      Science using computer simulation, when there is no comprehension of your words above, eventually becomes [computer] simulation *of* science.

      Numbers are not matter.

    • Jim Zuccaro

      Simulations of science are not actual science.

    • GCM’s ? Hmmm …

      ‘ “All nature faithfully.” – But by what feint
      Can Nature be subdued to art’s* constraint?
      Her smallest fragment is still infinite
      And so he paints but what he likes in it.
      What does he like?
      He likes what he can paint.’

      (* replace art with climate models’.)

      H/t Nietzche.

  35. As they say, a false negative is worse. The “pause” will be seen to be an example of a false negative following the next El Nino. The skeptics using the pause and CO2 growth are guilty of assuming the correlation-causation argument more than anyone, if you think about it.

    • ==> “The skeptics using the pause and CO2 growth are guilty of assuming the correlation-causation argument more than anyone, if you think about it.”

      Well, that is what I don’t understand about the “skeptical” argument about “the pause.” As far as I can tell, they’re assuming correlation equals causation because they don’t provide a plausible physical explanation to link the two.

      They agree that ACO2 causes warming, but think that increasing ACO2 coincides with an “stop in global warming,” despite that (at least from what I’ve seen) they can’t provide explication for a plausible physical mechanism (other than a vague notion of natural variability). What is the proposed plausible physical mechanism by which an increased energy imbalance is reconciled if warming has stopped? Maybe Willis with his “homeostatis” argument? But others?

    • I would suggest that the failure of temperatures to move with GHG emission levels throws doubt on the claim that there is a strong causative relationship, and further suggest that the unexpected nature of the pause indicates that proponents of AGW do not fully understand the drivers of climate. That seems to be the simplest lesson to draw. If you don’t agree, why not?

    • maksimovich

      The “pause” will be seen to be an example of a false negative following the next El Nino. The skeptics using the pause and CO2 growth

      http://woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut4sh/from:1996.6/mean:12/plot/hadcrut4sh/from:1996.6/mean:12/trend

      The 18 yr pause in the SH Temperature record is concomitant with an increase in the nh/sh lag rate from around 18 months to 4 yrs in the CO2 record.

      It is also where we have a decrease in the SH westerly wind bursts in the southern ocean in the 21st century, an increase in SO sea ice,a cessation of the poleward excurison of the extratropical jet (and accompanying storm tracks) This suggests that the observations are not a statistical artifact.

    • Faustino –

      Directed at me or at Jim?

      Assuming it is me. I wouldn’t argue that the recent lack of warming coincident with increased ACO2 doesn’t logically bring into question the strength of a causal relationship between ACO2 and global warming/climate change.

      I’m not convinced that the argument of a pause as “unexpected” really applies, as from what I understand, the underlying science related to a causality between ACO2 and increased temps/climate change does not suggest a monotonic relationship on a decadal scale.

      Simplicity is nice, but not necessarily satisfying or reliable, IMO.

      So then, I tend to reserve judgement until I see plausible mechanisms proposed. Correlations do, of course, “imply” causation, IMO. I would change the phrase to “Correlation does not equal causation. So imply away. It is unavoidable. It is hardwired into how we reason. But in the absence of proven physical mechanisms, plausible physical mechanisms increase the reliability of the causation that correlation implies. There is a plausible physical mechanism, as least as far as I can understand (or more accurately, at least as much as I can judge by relying on the probabilities that accompany the authority of “experts”), for ACO2 to cause higher temps. That said, then it seems to me that there needs to be a plausible physical mechanism for how a larger energy imbalance is reconciled.

    • John Carpenter

      “They agree that ACO2 causes warming, but think that increasing ACO2 coincides with an “stop in global warming,”

      Joshua,

      Do you say xerox or copy?
      Do you say Kleenex or tissue?
      Do you say coke or cola?

      When AGW was branded, was it branded as increasing surface temperatures or OHC/energy imbalance? Which one did people identify with? Which one was easy to brand?

      So when skeptics point out a pause in surface temperatures… A pause in global warming, do you really think they mean a pause in the energy imbalance?

    • John –

      I just wrote a slew of posts in the thread downstairs that addresses that point. I always enjoy exchanging views with you, but I just can’t see rehashing the issue. If you’re interested in my views on the topic, search for “Joshua |” (with the vertical bar symbol) – and that way you can skip over all the times that Don and mosher explain what a petty, spiteful, dishonest, obnoxious, ankle-biting, quibbling, obtuse. doltish, creepy, smarmy, shameless, troll of a dolt I am, who is intent merely on “derailing” Judith.

      Oh, and don’t forget dishonest.

    • And don’t forget dishonest.

      tim gets very upset if anyone forgets dishonest.

    • Jim D,

      You’re a funny guy.

      The consensus climate advocates claimed since 1988 that the correlation between what they called “global average temperature,” but was really surface air and sea surface temperatures, was proof that ACO2 was going to result in catastrophic damage that justified decarbonizing the global economy.

      The “pause” in their own reported temperatures just undermined their own claim of correlation = causation.

      Pointing out that the lack of correlation has ceased and therefore undermines the claim that it proves causation, cannot in any intelligible way be said to be an argument that correlation = causation.

      You have just done to logic what Mann did to the Tijlander proxies.

    • Joshua, don’t kid yourself, you are held in much less esteem than you think.
      You might consider therapy before trying to save the world, possibly after you have stabilized, you might realize it is not your job.

    • Doc –

      That saddest part is that I’ve been going to therapy twice a day for forty years, and take powerful anti-psychotics. Just imagine how more I would be disliked if not for those interventions.

    • John Carpenter

      Joshua,

      Thanks for the search tip, however it didn’t work. Probably me doing something wrong. Regardless, I did review the previous thread comments and what you wrote, so I get your position. I do think Mosher made some good points and he did not appear to come down on you as hard as you indicated. Don OTOH, well….

    • John –

      http://judithcurry.com/2014/05/27/ipcc-functional-stupidity/#comment-572906

      Sure enough, I forgot petty. It’s hard to keep track of them all.

    • Don Monfort

      You can’t be more disliked, joshie. You have already exceeded disliked and you are pushing the upper limits of despised.

    • Joshua @ 10.02, not “directed“ at anybody, but responding to Jim D. Your post wasn’t up when I started mine.

    • Faustino | June 2, 2014 at 9:49 pm |
      “I would suggest that the failure of temperatures to move with GHG emission levels throws doubt on the claim that there is a strong causative relationship..”

      This only make sense if you assume that there is no natural variation in climate.

      However, it is a wonderful display of the incoherence of ‘skeptics’ explanation of observations.

    • Faustino –

      Sheece. I was asking who your question was directed at. Do Aussie’s not “direct” questions?

    • Pause is an observation. Giving it too much weight cannot be a false negative, only a false positive. Conversely saying that the pause means nothing can be a false negative, not a false positive.

      When the observation is warming rather than the pause in warming, the roles of false positive and false negative are reversed. Pause adds to the risk of false negative in this consideration.

  36. A false negative yields the greatest risk.

    Although the consensus appears to harp on the Type I error, missing a really really important message in the cacophony of nature and in particular as it applies to public policy, the harm that comes to most of us is being oblivious to a certain danger.

    We have been warned by the consensus that ours and our future generations will whither, wilt in the heat of our own making. Ah, we’re not really making heat, that’s the job of our sun. Only, we are causing, see how neatly I have inserted THAT word, the melting and precipitation pelting of mankind by spewing CO2 hither and yon.

    Now, if I understand the rudimentary basics right, if we, and by we I mean through our duly elected officials, if we don’t put our economy into a tailspin by sacrificing the poor and huddled masses on the alter of climate disruption, then we who have the means to escape all the horrors, have caused our future born great calamity.

    Now I wouldn’t really say that this is science, or statistics, or all the hoopla that passes for both, but I would say we need more Missourians in the peanut gallery, those who say: “show me.”

    Glomping upon a consensus idea when all observations say “no way”; saying something is true when it is really false; saying that CO2 is the climate control knob, well, that’s kinda dumb.

  37. Correlation is inextricably linked to the scientific method of experimentation, observation, repetition, and deduction. With experiments conducted in the natural world, perfect correlation is inherently impossible due to unwanted variables contaminating the data. Therefore, experimental design is of the utmost importance since a good experiment seeks to minimise the influence of outside variables. Repetition is the next vital ingredient in a good experiment, since repeating a procedure over and over again will ensure the results obtained from experimentation are not due to chance.

    For example, if Newton observed an archer shooting arrows at a target, with the archer trying her best to repeat the procedure exactly the same each time, the end result would be a spread or cluster of arrows around the bulls’ eye. The more arrows that hit the target, the greater the cluster, and the greater Newton can be confident that in the real world his linear equations can be used to describe physical phenomena, even though there is some variation in the data.

    In climate, such experiments are impossible. The best you can do is have a long time series of events which have some sort of physical meaning.

    For example, can you be confident that the trend in global temperatures is due to human emissions? How does that level of confidence compare with the bow and arrow example above? Is it possible that the correlation between trends is simply due to chance? There is only one Earth, so maybe we could extend the time series back to the medieval warm period? Does that make any difference?

    At the end of the day, Newton can make a very accurate prediction with regards to the bow and arrow. It’s true, sometimes the archer will miss the target completely. But it’s extremely unlikely she will miss 17 times consecutively.

    Laughably, some climate scientists actually stated that a few models predicted the pause. Wow! Thats impressive! So out of 100 arrows only 20 or 30 hit the target? mmmmm, talk about poor experimental design!
    But just because their “science” is so terrible doesn’t mean there isn’t a simple solution to this terrible problem. Correlation does not equal causation.

    • Out of 1000 arrows, 20 or 30 hit the target, and apparently only one simulation has a pause as long as 25 yrs

    • Interesting example. Now add in a crosswind (CO2). The archer will adjust.

    • Ragnaar, yes. An archer would adjust the next arrow if the chance ever allowed. It almost never does.
      But GCMs are not supposed to be archer’s arrows. They are supposedly infallible.
      Regards from an archer hunter who uses your insight to actually kill things.

    • As faras I know pretty much all models predict that pauses will occur on decadal scales, they just can’t predict the timing of them because factors such as ENSO are inherently unpredictable. If any individual model manages to accurately “predict” temperature trends over such short timescales it is likely to be just luck rather than it being more skilful than other models.

    • ” if Newton observed an archer shooting arrows at a target, with the archer trying her best to repeat the procedure exactly the same each time” Female archers in Newton’s time? Pretty unlikely from my knowledge of English history.

    • Thats a good point andrew adams, so really we need to look at not only longer time scales but longer time intervals so the signal becomes clear:

      Since AGW only becomes a potential player from 1975, that give you 4 data points. 4 data points? That is not going to give you enough degrees of freedom to make any robust conclusions. In other words, you haven’t even given the data a “chance” to be wrong.

    • Faustino, she must be an outlier in that case.

    • xanonymousblog,

      Well we’re not restricted to just looking at decadal trends, so we have much more than four data points and a long enough timeframe to say there has been a definite warming trend since 1975, and enough confidence in the warming effect of GHGs to say that if we continue adding CO2 to the atmosphere the planet will continue to warm.

      Where I would agree is that we don’t yet have sufficient observational data to tightly constrain climate sensitivity and tell us exactly how much warming we will get.

    • To get a better variability, the models would need to add decadal solar variability randomly too. This could easily add swings of 0.1 C that may account for a large part of the current pause. I don’t think the models would have had the solar slump possibility built in, so getting the pause may have been more difficult.

    • andrew adams,
      why not look at weekly data or daily data, surely that would make the statistics more robust since the series would be longer. Unfortunately that’s not the way it works, since that type of resolution will introduce more outliers and therefore more uncertainty equalling less robustness. I’m afraid when climate scientists talk about the signal emerging from the noise, it means just that, it is “emerging”, and claims of “robustness”, which simply means a clean signal without outliers, is only a few data points long at this point. 4 to be precise. There needs to be 24 data points representing decades if you ask me, so clearly for this “problem” of AGW, sticking to science and waiting it out was never a viable proposition to begin with. That doesn’t mean you throw up your hands in panic. ie, there are much longer climate signals (besides the observational record) which are available right now and can be “targeted”. Unfortunately for the climate community, predicting climate on any time scale (go ahead and pick one) has been a fruitless pursuit.
      I love the smell of pseudo science in the morning…

    • Female archers in Newton’s time? Pretty unlikely from my knowledge of English history.

      Maid Marian. Of course, she was mythical. Like cause and effect, or the correspondence between numerical models and the real climate.

  38. Morley Sutter

    Mythology is filled with what might be called disguised or devilish curses. I suggest that in modern times we too have such a curse: seeking correlations and widely reporting them.

    An example of a devilish and disguised curse in Greek mythology involved Cassandra who could foretell the future but no one believed what she described. She was cursed by not being believed. But was it not marvelous that she could see into the future? The curse was disguised by having this super power; the devil was the result of having it.

    And then, there is the supposedly Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. This is a disguised curse in which the word “interesting” is devilishly ambivalent.

    A very common disguised and potentially devilish curse in our society is the widespread and repeated reporting in the news media of observations that say: “X is linked to Y”. “Linked” is a euphemism for correlated and is interpreted by many as causation. This mistake leads to a great deal of confusion.

    The use of computers and computerized records allows many observational studies to be performed and widely publicized. Such studies are a potential benefit but can provide only clues but no conclusions. More importantly, the intellectual hazard of confusing correlation with causation can transform the communication of these observations into a curse.

    Correlation is when two events appear to be related to one another. The question then arises whether the event that occurred first has caused the second. A classical, simple example is when the rooster crows at sun rise. Does the crow of the rooster cause the sun to rise? Our ancestors had a Latin phrase to describe the sequence: “Post hoc, ergo propter hoc” (After this, therefore because of this). When the first event is presumed to cause the second, but does not, this logical error is called “a post-hoc fallacy”.

    Every textbook or course on reasoning, philosophy, or statistics emphasizes that: “Correlation does not equal causation” or “Correlation does not prove causation”.

    Yet equating correlation with causation permeates our daily life. It bedevils journalism and public debate. The potential consequences are confused thinking, irrational argument and wrong-headed decisions.

    Causality cannot be demonstrated by observation alone except in very special circumstances namely, when testing and verifying models. Interventional experiments otherwise are required. If the suspected causal agent is altered and the expected result no longer occurs, this is reasonable evidence that the first event was responsible for the second. On the other hand, if the rooster is killed for the pot and the sun still comes up, this is good evidence that the crow of that rooster did not cause the sun to come up. This sounds absurd but consider when sacrifices of humans or animals were made by the ancients to ensure a good harvest. Would one dare stop the practice to see whether a good harvest still ensued?

    We might laugh at our ancestors who believed that the night air was dangerous to breathe, that it caused associated illness. This is the root of our word malaria (bad air), a group of diseases that we now know are caused by a parasite transmitted by night-time mosquitoes. However, consider how many of our problems and illnesses are reported to be “linked” to something else. Current examples are: Brain tumours possibly linked to cell phone usage; Heart attacks linked to stress; Heart attacks linked to fat intake; Childhood obesity linked to watching television; Global warming linked to carbon dioxide and so on. Definitive proof of a causal relationship between any of these paired phenomena is lacking yet all are reported as if they are causally related. We do not know which ones are and which ones are not. This is a modern hidden, devilish curse – the curse of correlation, its widespread reportage, inferring causation and the inevitable ensuing confusion. .

    • The most common primary brain cancer is glioblastoma multiforme. The only risk factor is polyvinyl chloride.
      I grew a load of rat primary neurons with a mobile phone in the incubator; zilch.
      I think I will do it again with human primary astrocytes and neurons; what is the nastiest phone you can think of?

    • Inst’ sitting your your butt linked to watching TV, internet surfing, obesity and heart disease?

  39. Forget the slogans; be systematic. If A is correlated with B, either:
    1) A causes B.
    2) B causes A.
    3) A and B both respond to C.
    4) Something unlikely happened by chance.
    Set aside the hypothesis that led you to look for a correlation between A and B. Get to work eliminating or analyzing these possibilities before jumping to (or avoiding) a conclusion.

    • Ian Blanchard

      Frank

      Reasonable and sensible,post – correlation does not equal causation, but it certainly directs you where to look, and the stronger the correlation the more likely that one of your options 1 to 3 is correct.

      The issue comes when you look at A, B, C, D, E, F G and H and find that one pair of these correlates – 28 discrete pairs, so you would have to anticipate 1 apparently statistical significant correlation (at the 5% confidence level) that is in fact spurious (i.e. your option 4).

      Considering climate-related issues, my opinion has always been that the correlation between CO2 and temperature appears to be weak but is supported by a plausible mechanism, while there are stronger correlations between temperature and solar features (iirc, sunspot cycle length had the best correlation coefficient) but a lack of a plausible explanatory mechanism.

  40. With CO2 and temperatures, these are results of many things including the Sun. They are both causes as well, causing changes in each other as seen when they moved in tandem in paleo proxies. I think they are co-dependent. If one thinks that CO2 is the hammer that drives temperature, I’d say it’s more complicated than that.

    Apparently CO2 has the ability to help us out of a glacial and we could say then it has a lot of torque. At the same time when it is certainly still in the neighborhood it does not cause the oceans to boil.

    Once the causation of CO2 became generally accepted, then it seemed the quest was for that one sensitivity number which has fluctuated since then. When we still have ranges of sensitivity as opposed to a single value after many years as here:

    Nevermind the Cato, you’ll recognize it. So I’ll say the above proves causation. Now can we narrow the range? If it will take some more time for that, I’d call that a softer causation. Still causation but working on the details.

  41. I just realized that, while I’m a skeptic, that is, I think the world of Climate is vastly more complex and unpredictable, than those who “know” the future climate from the “AHA” moment of CO2 is a greenhouse gas, H20 feedbacks, etc., I now realize I wish it were so simple.

    Dr. Judith Curry, take away your complex systems and give me a predictable world. I want a simple, ordered world in which actions have predictable outcomes.

  42. Tricia –
    You pose an important and provoking question. Where’s the physics? What does physics have to say about the cause-and-effect relationships of global warming?

    Physics deals with primarily with cause-and-effect relationships. To be stuck with a correlative-type only situation is a most unsatisfactory state for a physicist to be in. There are a few such notable cases in physics. Observational data show that all of space to be expanding at an accelerating pace, but with stars and galaxies clumping together as if there were large amounts of hidden mass. However, we have no real clue as to how dark energy and dark matter operate, or what their role might be in the overall structure and evolution of the universe.

    Medicine, on the other hand, is rife with statistical correlations. There, while many cause-and-effect relationships have certainly been established, many decisions are made on relatively small correlations.

    In the study of global climate change, there are two major components of climate change that are best analyzed separately. These are the global warming component due to rising greenhouse gases (a very robust cause-and-effect relationship), and the natural variability component about a zero reference point (El Nino; La Nina; Pacific, Atlantic, decadal oscillations).

    But as pokerguy notes: “only real-world data . . . ‘prove’ global warming”. Physics should not be blamed for having “caused” global warming. The real cause of global warming is the real-world data being tabulated right here http://co2now.org, showing that right now atmospheric CO2 has reached 401.33 ppm, far above the 280 ppm level that has been the typical inter-glacial maximum over the past 800,000 yrs as shown here (note the dramatic hockey-stick behavior) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Roa73Q8qZtA&feature=youtu.be

    This is the proverbial handwriting on the wall that those who understand basic physics, thermodynamics, and radiative transfer can read very clearly. If you happen to be someone who does not understand this basic physics, then that handwriting is written in a foreign language that you do not speak.

    I try to explain in terms of basic physics the role of atmospheric CO2 as the LW control knob that governs the global temperature of Earth in a readable paper that is freely available from the GISS webpage at http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/la09300d.html

    In simpler language, I also try to explain how atmospheric CO2 works as the typical thermostat to control Earth’s temperature, found also at http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/lacis_01/

    As with the home heating system, there is thermal inertia so that the room temperature does not instantaneously jump to the value set on the thermostat. And if someone opens the door and lets in a blast of cold air, the room temperature may actually cool, while according to the thermostat, it should be warming. That is what a big blob of cold water stirred up by changes in ocean circulation can do the steady rise in global surface temperature that is predicted by the steady rise in atmospheric CO2.

    The bottom line is that global warming works according to the laws of physics in direct response to the continuing increase in atmospheric CO2, unabated for all those residing on planet Earth, even if they don’t want to believe that global warming is happening.

    • Mike Flynn

      A Lacis,

      Physics does not provide any mechanism for CO2 providing an increase to the amount of energy within a system, merely by virtue of its existence. This is why no one can demonstrate the supposed greenhouse effect.

      One cannot trap heat, and thereby cause a progressive ongoing temperature rise to a body exposed to a source of radiant energy. Neither you, nor any of the Warmists, can stop a body cooling if its temperature is higher than its environment. Insulating such a body reduces the rate at which it loses energy, but of course slowing the rate of cooling does not result in a rise in temperature.

      Similarly, pretending that infrared wavelengths are the only form of energy which results in heating when absorbed, demonstrates an appalling lack of understanding of basic physics. A microwave oven, or an ultraviolet laser, or an induction furnace or any number of other things show the silliness of the Warmist LW control knob argument. The Earth’s surface has cooled over the last few billion years. It continues to cool. Ask any real scientist – say a geo physicist.

      You can’t even define your Warmist terms for any longer than it takes to point out that your definition is nonsensical. For example, the greenhouse effect turns out to have little to do with greenhouses. Surface temperature turns out not to actually be the surface temperature. Global warming turns out to be a pious hope, with missing heat taking the blame when the wrongly named surface temperatures refuse to rise. What a load of old rope!

      Warmists claim that climate differs from weather, but seem reluctant to accept that climate is merely the average of weather that has already occurred. As the weather changes, so too the climate – is it not so?

      Climatology has produced nothing of value to date. Why not divert the funds wasted, into something useful – say trying to forecast tomorrow’s weather better than a twelve year old can? And Warmists wonder why there are people who can’t be bothered believing in the non existent. When you can produce something useful, or at least backed up by science, let me know.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Rud Istvan

      A. Lacis, the fundamental physics you admire also includes positive and negative feedbacks. Those are not instantaneous. So your beloved climate model is a nonlinear dynamic system, which means your beloved models cannot predict it. (As TAR also said).
      Now, that is far too sceptical a position for you. So let’s get more specific.
      AR4 said UTrH was roughly constant (black box 8.1). Alas radiosondes, satellite MSU, and GPS interferometry all now ( and did then) say that is not so. There is a negative feedback water vapor lapse rate. UTsH in erases, but at a rate less than keeping UTrH constant.
      AR5 said clouds were uncertain, but IPCC were still certain (95%) that the feedback was a positive 0.45. Alas, it is not so. Dessler’s pathetic R2 of 0.2 (2010 paper) suggests zero. Forster and Grant (2006) suggests negative, not positive, cloud feedback.
      So by overstating positive water vapor feedback, and overstating positive cloud feedback, your GCMs are too sensitive by about half. Observational TCR 1.3, effective ECS about 1.7, definitional ECS below 2. NOT what your models predict.
      You don’t like those results, bring counter physics facts and mathematical arguments. Leave aside all general huffing and puffing ‘physics’ assertions as you have done above. You assert models, then bring forth their equations for scrutiny. Come on. Let’s have a real climate physics discussion at the equation level. Else go home, as Mother Nature’s pause is telling us something other than what you believe from your now falsified CO2 forced models.

    • Jim Zuccaro

      A Lacis,

      “This is the proverbial handwriting on the wall that those who understand basic physics, thermodynamics, and radiative transfer can read very clearly. If you happen to be someone who does not understand this basic physics, then that handwriting is written in a foreign language that you do not speak.”

      I do not disagree with what you wrote.

      For the stick-in-the-mud, belts and braces, engineering type of people, that is not the issue.

      “The bottom line is that global warming works according to the laws of physics in direct response to the continuing increase in atmospheric CO2, unabated for all those residing on planet Earth, even if they don’t want to believe that global warming is happening.”

      For many of those who agree with what you wrote above, the question that they ask is: Is that bad or good, in the long term? Cost vs. benefit, what is the real cost, what are the likely benefits?

    • Pierre-Normand

      “One cannot trap heat, and thereby cause a progressive ongoing temperature rise to a body exposed to a source of radiant energy. Neither you, nor any of the Warmists, can stop a body cooling if its temperature is higher than its environment. Insulating such a body reduces the rate at which it loses energy, but of course slowing the rate of cooling does not result in a rise in temperature.”

      The Earth surface receives most of the energy from the Sun, mainly in the shortwave spectrum, and the surface and atmosphere radiate energy to space, all in the longwave spectrum. So, as a whole, the Earth is constantly being heated by the Sun and cooling to space at the same time. More CO2 reduces the rate of cooling but doesn’t reduce the rate of heating nearly as much. That’s why it causes the Earth to retain more energy than it loses until the surface and troposphere temperature rises.

    • Pierre-Normand

      “The Earth surface receives most of the energy from the Sun […]”
      I mean most of the energy received by the Earth from the Sun is received at the surface, while some of it, mainly in the longwave spectrum, is absorbed by the atmosphere; but that’s a smaller fraction.

    • Pierre-Normand

      “You don’t like those results, bring counter physics facts and mathematical arguments. Leave aside all general huffing and puffing ‘physics’ assertions as you have done above. You assert models, then bring forth their equations for scrutiny.”

      I guess you missed the reference to his freely available published paper on the topic.

    • thisisnotgoodtogo

      But never that someone enters the room with a load of hot coals or a blob of hot water in a tub – because that just ruins everything, eh, Andy?

    • Mike, Rud –
      It doesn’t really sound like either one of you guys understands much about the basic physics that go into climate modeling.

      We model the absorption and reflection of SW solar radiation from the UV to the far IR. Likewise we model the absorption and thermal emission of LW radiation at all wavelengths from the ground surface throughout the atmosphere and out to space – that is what produces the atmospheric greenhouse effect. Whether you want to refer to the greenhouse effect as trapping heat, or whatever, it is clear that you don’t understand how the greenhouse effect works – but I don’t think that would be my responsibility.

      Climate models include most all of the principal feedback effects of the climate system. If you want to check the published climate literature, you might learn that way back in 1984 we performed climate feedback sensitivity analysis with the GISS climate GCM to show that the (global) water vapor lapse rate feedback was negative, strongly negative in the tropical regions, but actually positive in the polar regions.

      Cloud feedback, on the other hand, tends to be positive in the tropical to mid-latitude regions, and negative in the polar regions. Increases in low clouds, and their optical thickness produce a negative feedback, while an increase in cirrus clouds produces strong warming. The net global cloud feedback in current climate model simulations tends to be near zero, perhaps slightly positive.

      The transient climate feedback response depends on the time scale under consideration, and on how the pertinent forcings are defined.
      Are sea surface changes associated with En Nino and La Nina effects included as forcings, or feedbacks?

      An equilibrium climate sensitivity of 1.7 for doubled CO2 is too low. It is not self-consistent with the atmospheric temperature-absorber distribution. Check out the Clausius-Clapeyron relations. It has been known and tested for over 200 years. It is rather fundamental to understanding climate change since it defines the holding capacity of water vapor in air, and hence, the point where water vapor condenses to form clouds.

      Climate models are not black boxes. They are fully described as to the equations that are used to model the atmospheric dynamics, energy conversions, thermodynamics, radiative transfer, evaporation and condensation of water vapor, cloud formation, rainout. All you have to do is read about in the published climate literature. As for example, check the classical 1983 Hansen et al paper. It is freely available at the GISS webpage http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha05900x.html

      Before you try to decide as to whether global warming is good, bad, or inconsequential, it would make good sense to understand the basic physics that are involved. It then may become clearer why unabated global warming is a problem that requires attention and correction sooner rather than later.

    • Andy Lacis

      Once again, thanks for engaging over here.

      Of course most of us understand the theoretical radiative physics involved, but there are several fundamental problems with the consensus view of climate change;

      * The warming has been happening since at least around 1750-the modern temperature records are a staging post of the growing warmth, not the starting post.

      * The modern warm era is merely the latest of a number of cold and warm periods. We can detect the same or greater warmth in the Minoan, Roman and the Medieval warm period and corresponding cold periods of which the worst was the LIA. We can also detect corresponding changes in sea level oscillations through the Holocene, hugely complicated by the movement of the land itself

      * Some of the hard data being relied on to make the case is at best flawed and at worst misleading. For example the idea that we have global SST’s accurate to tenths of a degree back to 1850 is nonsense, or that sea level rise is merely a modern occurrence, or that climate ‘weirding’ has become much worse when the observations clearly show that we are actually living through a rather benign climatic period (which of course is not immune to extreme events)

      * instrumental temperatures are much more variable than the paleo data shows, which are a coarse sieve through which annual and decadal changes fall through and go unobserved

      Bearing in mind that to some extent the physics is being curve fitted to the sometimes suspect data, that the latest warming can be observed over at least the last 270 years and that temperatures clearly go up and down through human history far more often than is illustrated in the hockey stick and its derivatives, why should we believe that this modern period is any different to the observed past and that co2 is having the extreme effects often claimed?

      It obviously doesn’t help the ipcc case that everything is routinely blamed on climate change and is unprecedented when it clearly isn’t .

      tonyb

    • “Physics deals with primarily with cause-and-effect relationships.”

      I love the anthropomorphicization of physics. I mean physics has to be objective and reasonable, with no agenda. So of course we should let it run the energy economy. It would be great if physics were actually running the show in “climate science.”

      Unfortunately, physics doesn’t “do” anything. Physicists do. And in the realm of climate they are almost uniformly dependent on government for income research grants, and therefore promotion, tenure, prestige. Not to mention that they have been taught, and teaching, CAGW dogma from the time the issue first arose.

      Physics is a science, a method of learning about and describing the world.

      Physicists are human beings, with all the faults that implies. And those faults appear in stark relief in the climate debate.

      One of the greatest of those faults being vanity, exhibiting itself most often in this instance in inflated beliefs in the scope of their knowledge. See, to me, an objective physicist would be in awe of the complexity of the Earth’s climate system. Not assuring the stupid voters that they should cede control of the energy economy because the climate is so simple, they can tell what the temperature will be in 100 years from calculations “on the back of an envelope.”

    • Jim Zuccaro

      A Lacis,

      Thank you for posting here.

    • Andy, is this your forecast?

      The next decade will be around 0.16 deg C warmer than the last decade 2005 -2014 (I estimated 2014)?

      Will 5 data points be good enough? I doubt it. Could just be a fallacy.

      1) Increases confidence in AGW theory (maybe you guys are right)

      or

      2) Decreases confidence in AGW theory (dust bin!)

      Will be an interesting decade.

    • Mike Flynn

      A Lacis,

      Your models are nonsense, with precisely no predictive ability whatsoever. They have achieved a grand total of precisely zero utility. You may have overlooked the fact that the Earth does not to appear to have warmed over the past decade and a half, with various slightly bizarre excuses emanating from the Warmist cult, varying from aerosols, heat hiding in the oceans, nefarious plots by Big Oil to falsify the data and so on.

      The concept of retaining, trapping, or accumulating heat by surrounding a body with CO2 is pure fantasy. I would suggest you point to experimental verification of the wondrous greenhouse effect, but of course you can’t.

      Pretending that climatology is a science is about as convincing as claiming that phrenology is a science. Climate is purely and simply the average of weather – no more, no less. No science there.

      Phlogiston, caloric, humours, the luminiferous aether, the indivisible atom, Lysenko’s vernalisation – all widely accepted, but ultimately discarded. Sir Issac Newton went to his deathbed believing in alchemy. Did this lessen his other achievements? Was he correct in believing that he could transmute one metal into another by alchemical means?

      I accept that you passionately believe in the collective delusion that CO2 can increase the temperature of the Earth. It doesn’t seem to be working too well at the moment. Come to think of it, it doesn’t seem to have worked all that well over the last four and a half billion years, either. Even recently, the Antarctic continent seems to have cooled to the point where the once lush vegetation and abundant animal life seems to be no more. Global warming? I think not!

      Oh well, psychosis is immune to reason. Maybe I am the unbalanced one, and the world is warming, New York is under water, and we are all going to fry. Or adapt. I can’t look into the future, and neither can you.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • A Lacis June 3, 2014 at 12:47 am

      “Physics deals with primarily with cause-and-effect relationships.”
      This is true for a class of physics and reflects perhaps the ambition of physicists, but it is far from the reality. I studied physics and applied maths but also got led astray by also studying formal systems, philosophy etc. It does however help when thinking about these kinds of problems that involve
      scale and complexity.

      One set of cause and effect model at one scale break down at another, and what is deterministic at one becomes probabilistic at another etc. Complexity means that subsystems might be able to be described, but their reactions together cease to be so well behaved.

      The physicist trying to understand the nature of nano and meso scale phenomena ends up using multi-scale models applying different laws of physics at each. Just like the astrophysics when looking at the phenomena at the edge of the universe, and a physicist contemplating the behaviour of the climate. These too are the problems of medical science that is as well developed in this regard as climate science IMHO.

      The big problem the scientist faces in analysing and modelling any of these systems is the simplifying assumptions they make as they disaggregate them into more tractable subsystems, and how these subsystems interact at the boundaries. There are well developed rules for the way this art is practiced (and it is an art even if informed by science) and the rather glib assertion you make “there are two major components of climate change that are best analysed separately” does you no credit – and I trust you and GISS recognise this.

    • nottawa rafter

      A Lacis

      To pick on the points by tonyb, when it is shown that warming exceeds that of the 3 previous warm periods then that will be notable. That should be the bar.
      Just like the mysteries of dark energy and matter, so too are there unknowns about potential homeostatic mechanisms of this planet. So far we are limited to our current knowledge of physics.

    • Andy, what happens when you set the ocean heat transport in your model to zero? If there is a profound difference wouldn’t that make attribution of recent warming difficult? Is it another control knob in your model?

    • A. Lacis 2.55am “Cloud feedback, on the other hand, tends to be positive in the tropical to mid-latitude regions”

      Not according to one of the TAO monitoring buoys in the tropical Pacific. I looked at daily data for 123 consecutive days. Clear sky days gave an average of around 300 Wm2 downward SWR over 24 hrs and around 405 Wm2 for downward LWR. As cloud increased there was an exponential decrease in SWR down to an average of 50 Wm2 a day, while the LWR climbed slowly with increasing cloud to a limit of 435 Wm2 averaged over a day.

      For about half the days during this period cloud caused a drop in incoming SW energy of 100 to 250 Wm2 while on these same days only a gain in LW energy of 20 to 30 Wm2.

      Of course one would need to assess other buoys over longer periods to verify these trends.

    • > I studied physics and applied maths but also got led astray by also studying formal systems, philosophy etc.

      Come on, HAS. Everybody knows you’re an econometrician, or that you play one on TV. Oh, and I’m a ninja.

    • :)

      I think the only time I played anything on TV it was flying the biplane under the bridge in Blue Max with the aid of a C64 and my kids. And AFAIR this was before your turtles were ever thought of and definitely before the Vicks TV ad.

  43. Jim Zuccaro

    Canadians won’t prosper in the next glacial era. We are in an ‘ice age’, there will be another glaciation of Canada and Chicago.

    • Canada has already gone prehistoric, due to Harper’s war on scientific knowledge.

    • Jim Zuccaro

      Web Hub,

      That is changing the subject.

      (On topic) Do you predict that there will be an ice field covering all most all of Canada, sometime in the future?

      (I apologize for the duplicate post. This dup is to keep in the indent with Wub Hub’s reply. Sorry about that…)

  44. Jim Zuccaro

    Web Hub,

    That is changing the subject.

    (On topic) Do you predict that there will be an ice field covering all most all of Canada, sometime in the future?

  45. Robert I Ellison

    No one seriously discounts greenhouse gas theory. Except for Stefan the Mad Monk and Friar Flynn. The latter appears to believe that the Earth’s core determines climate and that day and night disproves IR excitation of greenhouse gas molecules.

    But the simple physics miss entirely the dynamic at the heart of climate. It seems more an example of the reiterative sterility of the discourse. Although trivially right – it has lost all sense of a bigger picture – and has never understood the stochastic dynamical system of Earth’s climate.

    Dynamical complexity suggests that the current cool period will continue – but that comes at a price of inherent instability of the Earth system. Which we poking at with a stick – in the famous phrase of Wally Broecker. It behoves us then to do something pragmatic – and politically feasible – to put away the stick.

    Is there a way to chart a middle course in the climate war?

    Declaration on Climate Science and Policy for the Future of Humanity and the Natural World

    The climate system has jumped from one mode of operation to another in the past. We are trying to understand how the earth’s climate system is engineered, so we can understand what it takes to trigger mode switches. Until we do, we cannot make good predictions about future climate change.’ Wally Broecker

    Abrupt climate change happens on scales of decades to many millennia. It suggests a larger role for natural variability but also an inherent instability in the complex and dynamic Earth system. Instability to which we theoretically may be driving the system towards. The further out we get the greater the impetus to instability – although it also suggests little warming – if any – for decades. This latter seems the core of the political impasse we are at in climate politics – but it is a false dichotomy. There are many states possible in the climate system – and the world will shift between them unpredictably. It seems more than time therefore that the political impasse was broken in favour of pragmatic – and politically feasible – solutions.

    Anthropogenic forcing of climate is a multi-gas problem with population and development dimensions – CO2 from fossil fuels, black carbon, tropospheric ozone, land clearing, loss of soil carbon, nitrous oxide, methane, sulfide – compounded by population and development issues. Carbon dioxide is the smaller part of the overall problem. Population adds to all of the pressures on climate and the environment. Development allows room for amelioration of all these problems – including population pressures. Early and substantial progress can be made on a multi-gas strategy – and in conserving and restoring ecosystems and in sequestering CO2 in repaired agricultural soils – with benefits for incomes, health, agricultural productivity and the environment.

    In principle the UN’s 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) are in combination the best approach to constraining population growth. Ignore for a moment that this is a UN program and so doomed to failure. All of our western governments have committed to raising aid to 0.7% of GDP. We commend this as a low cost way of achieving early successes on climate change while having global social and economic benefits.

    In a relatively short order the world will require an abundance of low cost, low carbon energy. We propose a $1B triennial global energy prize to support innovation in energy technology, energy efficiency and energy systems – to be judged by a panel of eminent persons. It is to be contributed to by world governments, corporations and individuals.

    This century is critical for the future of humanity and the environment in many ways. It would be better if we consciously made a decision to seize the moment and move forward to sensibly build a rich and diverse global civilisation.’

    Of course we could just muddle on in an endlessly recursive loop.

    • Jim Zuccaro

      Robert,

      Don’t say: “No one seriously discounts greenhouse gas theory. Except for Stefan the Mad Monk and Friar Flynn.”

      There are others who do so. And have they have posted above.

      Discounted the theory more or less. YMMV.

      We must be honest about our allies, as well as be honest about our adversaries.

    • Robert I Ellison

      I should learn not to be flippant. The simple quantum kinetic transitions – and who denies them – is not the point.

      I don’t have a side – both sides seem equally nuts. I don’t doubt that Wally is right – for instance – but the amount of dogmatic certainty around would seem to suggest otherwise.

      My question is – is there a golden path?

    • Mike Flynn

      Robert I Ellison,

      You may misread what I say to your heart’s content. I have no ability to influence your lack of comprehension.

      However, it seems that world is continuing its habit of not warming, so I cannot get too excited by admonitions to change my behaviour and thinking in order to stop something that isn’t happening from continuing not to happen, if you can wrap your mind around the concept.

      Maybe just muddling along isn’t such a bad idea. You appear to be able to divine the future, and have absolute certainty as to the outcome of actions taken in the present. Me, not so much. Man proposes, God disposes.

      Off you go. Green the Sahel. Buy a non existent basement nuclear reactor. Quote somebody at length. Misunderstand chaos. So many choices, so little time. I wish you all the best.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Jim Zuccaro

      Is there a path that hurts the least?

      Is there a path that harms the fewest innocent people?

      Is there a path that isn’t trying to reverse the inevitable force of the solar system? (Proposals to empty the oceans with a bucket are silly.)

    • “This century is critical for the future of humanity and the environment in many ways. It would be better if we consciously made a decision to seize the moment and move forward to sensibly build a rich and diverse global civilisation.”

      Who is this “we”? The vast majority of mankind are making decisions on a day-to-day basis or at most for a relatively short time ahead, and will never operate with the kind of time-scale and perspective in this declaration. The chance of widespread global agreement to change based on one particular assessment of our future and how to deal with it is extremely remote.

      As for aid programmes, they will be of limited or no benefit if they entrench existing power structures and fail to free up the initiative and energy of the people at large in the aided countries.

    • Robert I Ellison

      The deserts are blooming

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/10176217/The-underground-forests-that-are-bringing-deserts-to-life.html

      The latest crash hot designs for a 50 year old technology are a decade away from commercialization. .

      In the next few decades most new US power supply will come from gas powered plants – for the simple reason that it is by far the cheapest source of energy. Including nuclear by a considerable margin. Newer small modular designs have considerable advantages that should eliminate the cost differential. Advantages include passive safety, a closed fuel cycle, factory sealed units, the ability to use existing waste as a fuel, high temperature operation to produce hydrogen for liquid fuels and gas cooled operation. Drop it into place in a concrete bunker and produce 20 years of energy from gas turbines, return the unit to the factory for decommissioning and store waste that is dangerous for hundreds of years rather than hundreds of thousands.

      We know what to do for humanity. The price is 0.7% of GDP which western governments have committed to. .

      ‘In 2015, the UN’s Millennium Development Goals are expiring and the international community will set new goals. The Post-2015 Consensus brings together the world’s top economists, NGOs, international agencies and businesses to identify the goals with the greatest benefit-to-cost ratio for the next development agenda. We’ll take this information to the top decision makers – UN missions and governments – to make sure the next goals are based on clear evidence of what will do the most good by 2030.’

      http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/post-2015-consensus

      We understand dynamical complexity in climate.

      http://judithcurry.com/2014/05/30/the-astonishing-math-of-michael-ghils-climate-sensitivity/#comments

      Friar Flynn believes that the climate is determined by the Earth’s core and that cooling at night disproves quantum kinetic transitions of greenhouse gas molecules when struck by IR photons.

      Let’s ignore the twaddle – and have a serious discourse about politically feasible ways forward.

      Or is the twit factor in the climate war too entrenched?

    • Robert I Ellison

      We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a programme which seems neither a mere defence of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism…

      Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. But if we can regain that belief in power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost. F. A. Hayek

      My we is the same as Hayek’s. And if you look carefully – there is no change but simply an intensification that has already been committed to by the Australian government – amongst most other western governments. This is pretty much taking an inevitable progression and claiming a moral victory.

      You may note that the eradication of extreme poverty is one of the laudable goals of the MDG. This is in fact best achieved by free trade and the adoption of democracy and models of fair, transparent and effective market regulation. There are some things I take for granted – and these are the rule of law, prudential oversight, management of interest rates and the primacy of democracy. Classic liberal values.

      http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/global.shtml

      The billion dollar global energy prize is also extremely doable – and damn cheap when it comes down to where the rubber meets the road. Throw some bucks at it and there are a lot of good ideas out there. It would be worth it just to stop the incessant whine about taxes, caps and how sweet windmills are.

    • Peter Lang

      Faustino @ June 3, 2014 at 5:07 am

      +1

  46. “A relative lack of concern for a false positive error characterizes the precautionary principle.”

    Yes, very true. This is the problem with all variants of Pascal’s wager. Another way of looking at it is that it fails to discriminate between alternatives.

    What is really going on is that there is insufficient evidence or analysis to justify action. The advocate then invokes low probability high payoff on one particular scenario to justify one particular course of action.

    Without considering or even trying to consider all the alternatives. So in Pascal’s case we are told to make the wager and believe. But the problem he has is that many different kinds of believe will lead to eternal damnation, and only one to salvation, and he gives us no reason to pick one rather than the other. His own chosen favourite, Jansenism, for instance, was a dreadful heresy, and even the orthodoxy of his day would lead to eternal fire if Islam is correct!

    The seamless way in which the AGW lobby moves from low probability disaster to wind turbines is astonishingly similar.

  47. thisisnotgoodtogo

    “As with the home heating system, there is thermal inertia so that the room temperature does not instantaneously jump to the value set on the thermostat. And if someone opens the door and lets in a blast of cold air, the room temperature may actually cool, while according to the thermostat, it should be warming. That is what a big blob of cold water stirred up by changes in ocean circulation can do the steady rise in global surface temperature that is predicted by the steady rise in atmospheric CO2.”

    Said AFTER the pause., as an explanation. Where said BEFORE the pause, as an explanation for sudden previous rise?

    One-sided “physics” at our service?

    • Mike Flynn

      thisisnotgoodtogo,

      Warmist physics in action. Or, Humpty Dumpty physics.

      From Through the Looking-Glass. … “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said. … “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose …”

      And so it is in Warmland. Isn’t climatology wonderful?

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • thisisnotgoodtogo

      Where was our sensible A Lacis with his open window when James Hansen was in that thermostatically controlled room in 1988?

    • The basic physics part seems to have gone over your head. You missed that adding an insulator like GHGs makes it warmer. Try reading that part again, and say which part you don’t follow.

    • thisisnotgoodtogo

      No problem with that , Jim D.

    • Mike Flynn

      Jim D,

      I hesitate to suggest that insulators merely reduce the rate at which energy flows between objects with differing temperatures. Insulators neither warm nor cool anything. As an example, the best available insulators are insufficient to stop heat leaving your extremities in very cold conditions, resulting in freezing and necrotising of the tissue. Frostbite, in other words.

      The reception you would likely get from a climber with a few missing digits would no doubt be very warm, if you told him that insulation would have prevented his digit loss. Or her, as the case may be. Similarly, even though a fit climber can generate about 1000 W maximum, practical amounts of insulation may fail to prevent heat loss resulting in death from hypothermia.

      You are wrong Jim D. Which factual parts of my statement do you wish to dispute? None? I thought so. And please, no tiresome irrelevant and pointless analogies or supposed thought experiments. Facts are appreciated.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Pierre-Normand

      Mike Flynn wrote: “I hesitate to suggest that insulators merely reduce the rate at which energy flows between objects with differing temperatures. Insulators neither warm nor cool anything. As an example, the best available insulators are insufficient to stop heat leaving your extremities in very cold conditions, resulting in freezing and necrotising of the tissue. Frostbite, in other words.”

      Sure but they are sufficient to reduce the rate at which heat leaves your extremities nonetheless. It’s metabolism and blood circulation that brings heat to your extremities. Certainly, outside conditions can be cold enough such that someone who doesn’t wear gloves would get frosbites while someone else who wear gloves would likely be spared the injury. Even the person who would soon have gotten frostbites can be spared them if she would put gloves on in time. Her fingers would warm back as a result of continues blood circulation and a reduced rate of heat loss.

      Likewise, the Sun heats the Earth surface and CO2 radiatively insulates the surface and troposphere from the cold outer space. It’s akin to the Earth wearing gloves with the solar shortwave input to the surface (which the atmosphere is mostly transparent to) being analogous to some person’s metabolic activity. Putting on thicker gloves instead of thin ones allows your fingers to warm to a higher temperature through further reducing heat loss. The enhanced greenhouse effect has the same effect.

      “The reception you would likely get from a climber with a few missing digits would no doubt be very warm, if you told him that insulation would have prevented his digit loss. Or her, as the case may be. Similarly, even though a fit climber can generate about 1000 W maximum, practical amounts of insulation may fail to prevent heat loss resulting in death from hypothermia.”

      It is sufficient for the analogy to work that circumstances could have been such that putting on thicker gloves would have allowed the climber’s fingers to warm back enough to prevent frostbites. That’s certainly a possibility. That it is possible shows that there is something wrong to your a priori argument that it is impossible in the Earth/Sun/CO2 case.

    • Pierre,

      Good luck trying to talk sense to Mike.

      On a cold day Mike never puts a coat on, he knows that he won’t be warmer simply by using an insulator!

    • Mike Flynn

      Pierre-Normand,

      You must live in Warmworld, not the real world where experienced mountaineers lose digits and whole limbs in spite of the finest insulated mountaineering equipment known to man. I am talking about reality, not models and Warmist assumptions and analogies. I doubt that Jamie Andrew, who had both arms and legs amputated due to frostbite, would agree with you that he would still have all his limbs if he had listened to you.

      Even climbing with specialist double boots, loss of toes is not uncommon. Given a little bad luck, you lose a foot or two. Similarly, hands suitably gloved and mittened, are susceptible. I suggest you stay away from mountains. Stick with your models and ill considered analogies. At least they are not likely to cause you any injury.

      You are dreaming if you believe that the insulation provided by the atmosphere will save you from freezing in the desert at night, when temperatures drop well below zero. The greenhouse effect is nonsense. Anybody who has tried to demonstrate its existence has failed. Like the luminiferous aether, it just doesn’t exist – regardless of how much you wish it. Try and find any scientist at all who can demonstrate the effect – you can’t, because it’s non existent.

      Keep wishing – maybe Nature will create energy out of nothing and reverse four and a half billion years of relentless cooling just to keep you happy. Somehow, I doubt it – but good luck anyway.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Pierre,

      See?

    • Mike the problem is that there are two competing design specs and a compromise is inevitable.

      Sure you could design gloves and boots that would prevent frostbite at any temperature encountered on earth, but would you be able to climb in them?

    • Pierre-Normand

      “You are dreaming if you believe that the insulation provided by the atmosphere will save you from freezing in the desert at night, when temperatures drop well below zero.”

      I don’t believe that. Nobody believes that. Almost everyone believes that the temperature will not drop as fast neither as low in the desert than it would if there were no greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Likewise, if you wear gloves your hands will not cool as fast or as low (so long as there is a source of heat generation) as they would if you weren’t wearing any gloves. Nonbody argues that gloves can prevent frostbites in any possible conditions. If you are suggesting that gloves can’t keep my hands warmer than they would be without my wearing gloves, then, that’s false.

    • Mike Flynn, maybe one of the other skeptics can explain it to you. You are far behind the curve on this whole subject. You seem not to follow the insulation argument. If your house is cold and you have a fireplace, try adding a roof, and the house warms up. See what happened? You didn’t have to make the fireplace stronger, nor did the roof have to be warm, but the house became warmer anyway. Same with adding GHGs. Regarding your climber, they well know that a good pair of dry gloves works insulation wonders, and tend to use these to avoid your frostbite scenario, so I am not sure you know what you are talking about there.

    • Mike Flynn

      Pierre-Normand et al.,

      Maybe you are a little slow, being Warmists.

      Place as much insulation as you like on a corpse. Wrap it in layers of clothing – pile on the blankets. Stand back and watch it warm – or not, as the case may be.

      If you like a good analogy, take a pizza too hot to hold comfortably in your bare hands. Insulate it as well as you can. Watch its temperature go up. Oh dear, it doesn’t, does it? Ah.At this point a dedicated Warmist would redefine warming to something like not cooling as fast.

      It now appears that the Warmist Manntra is shifting the definition of the greenhouse effect from spontaneous heat production through the magical properties of CO2, to the mild insulating effect of the atmosphere, which merely prevents Earthly surface temperatures from reaching those of the Moon, in both directions.

      Keep trying chaps. The Earth has cooled. It continues to cool, or haven’t you noticed?

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Mike,

      You can’t really be this dim can you?

      Re: pizza – have 2. Leave one uncovered, put the other in an insulated bag, come back in 10 mins and tell us which one is warmer.

    • Mike Flynn

      Michael,

      You wrote –

      “Pierre,

      Good luck trying to talk sense to Mike.

      On a cold day Mike never puts a coat on, he knows that he won’t be warmer simply by using an insulator!”

      I point out a couple of things, which may have eluded you.

      Pierre does not need good luck or anybody’s permission to talk in any fashion he chooses. It is his choice.

      You second sentence indicates that your proclivity to leap to absurd conclusions may lead to simultaneously landing with your foot in your mouth, and whilst suffering from an attack of caput in anus, so to speak.

      I will adopt the Warmist stupidity of seizing on the totally irrelevant by pointing out that your silly assertion fails on the grounds that as I don’t own a coat, you cannot know what I would think if I did.

      Your Warmist tactic of ferociously head butting the brick wall of fact is obviously leaving you dazed and confused, not to say a little addle pated.

      Since your Warmist fixations appear to relate to ideas from an earlier era, might I suggest a regimen of purging, followed by bloodletting, cupping and blistering. Application of the clyster on a regular basis may assist in restoring mental function, although the Warmist obsession may prove to be both obdurate and intractable.

      You have my sympathy, so there is no need to thank me. I am always pleased to be able to offer help to those less blessed than myself.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Mike Flynn

      Michael,

      You wrote –

      “Mike,

      You can’t really be this dim can you?

      Re: pizza – have 2. Leave one uncovered, put the other in an insulated bag, come back in 10 mins and tell us which one is warmer.”

      I can be as dim as I like. Your unsupported assertion, is, as usual, incorrect.

      Re pizza. As I mentioned, the uncomprehending Warmist will redefine warming to mean not cooling as fast, precisely as you have done. I point out, albeit repetitively and reluctantly, that global not cooling as fast is somewhat different in meaning and import to global warming.

      If Warmists now wish to adopt a policy of reducing CO2 emissions in order to prevent global not cooling as fast, you mind find even Warmist supporters scratching their heads in bemusement, before walking away laughing.

      I assume you are only pretending to be stupid. Please feel free to correct me if I am in error.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn,

    • Pierre-Normand

      “Place as much insulation as you like on a corpse. Wrap it in layers of clothing – pile on the blankets. Stand back and watch it warm – or not, as the case may be.”

      Myke Flynn, your climber/glove analogy was a good one but you seemingly realized that doesn’t yield the conclusion you want. So you are moving away from it and wish to talk about recently deceased people or warm pizzas instead. But those aren’t analogous to the Earth/Sun/CO2 system anymore since they don’t have a heat source. The Earth has a constant heat source: the Sun. So, as you add CO2 to reduce the rate of heat loss, but the solar input isn’t reduced to the same extent, the Earth warms. Go back to your live climber analogy. Puting gloves on will warm his hands. If you postulate that the climber dies, then, sure, its corpse will cool down. But that’s like saying the Earth will still cool down in spite of the enhanced greenhouse effect *if* the Sun goes out permanently. Nobody disputes this. But that’s irrelevant.

    • @ Pierre-Normand | June 3, 2014 at 9:44 pm |
      The Earth has a constant heat source: the Sun. So, as you add CO2 to reduce the rate of heat loss, but the solar input isn’t reduced to the same extent, the Earth warms.
      *****
      Unless the extra warmth creates extra water vapor which in turn … ready? … REDUCES solar input, cooling the Earth, causing water vapor to condense again, for a net gain of La Nada.

    • That should have been “reduces solar input via clouds,”

    • Pierre-Normand

      jim2 wrote: “Unless the extra warmth creates extra water vapor which in turn … ready? … REDUCES solar input, cooling the Earth, causing water vapor to condense again, for a net gain of La Nada.”

      A negative feedback of any kind would not completely cancel the warming from a positive forcing. It is a feedback (a causal response) *to* the warming. It reduces the warming but can’t cancel it. That because the negative cloud albedo feedback is an ongoing response to the surface and tropospheric warming. If the warming were totally canceled, then there would be no cloud albedo feedback anymore. This is even assuming that the net cloud feedback (greenhouse+albedo) is negative, which it might not even be for all we know. In any case, this argument is quite unrelated to Flynn’s own.

    • Pierre-Normand,

      Dreadfully sorry to bring it up again, but I believe I previously pointed out University bench top experiments to show precisely the effect of interposing a gas between a radiative source and sink.

      You and your fellow Warmists may believe as you will, but the physics do not change. No practical one way energy filter exists. No amount of stupid, irrelevant wishful thinking, or poorly chosen analogies will create energy where none exists.

      Maximum energy transmission occurs in a vacuum. I am inclined to believe Mr. Einstein’s views in this matter. Unless you can demonstrate the wondrous greenhouse effect as other than an example of mild insulation, with well known properties, I shall of course continue to treat the global not cooling as fast as otherwise would be the case farce with the contempt it so richly deserves.

      At this point, you need to change your definition of the greenhouse effect, I guess, so it won’t appear quite so silly. I await your new definition with bated breath. Over to you.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Mike Flynn, I wouldn’t call a 33 C total effect of GHGs “mild insulation”, but if that is your scale, fine.

    • Pierre-Normand

      “You and your fellow Warmists may believe as you will, but the physics do not change. No practical one way energy filter exists. No amount of stupid, irrelevant wishful thinking, or poorly chosen analogies will create energy where none exists.”

      Very many liquid, solid and gaseous substances are selectively transparent to different wavelengths of light. This is the very reason why some homogeneous gases or liquid solutions are colored when while light shines through them (e.g. gaseous chlorine or iodine solutions). They scatter some visible wavelengths (colors) and let through other visible wavelengths. Greenhouse gases likewise are transparent to shortwave radiation (visible light) and scatter longwave radiation in some parts of the IR spectrum. Most of the incoming energy from the Sun is contained in the shortwave spectrum; and the atmosphere is mostly transparent to it. *All* of the upwelling energy radiated from the surface and atmosphere is contained in the longwave spectrum; and the atmosphere is much more opaque to *this* upwelling radiation.

      So, the reason why the atmosphere acts effectively like a one way filter simply is because the incoming energy from the Sun and the outgoing energy from the Earth surface don’t have the same wavelength distribution and the atmosphere selectively scatters different wavelengths of light. This, of course, has been explained to you dozens of times before. It is common ground between warmists and skeptics. Judith Curry, Roy Spencer and Richard Lindzen understand this perfectly in spite of them not being CAGW warmists. Amateur skeptics such as Anthony Watts, Willis Eschenbach and Lord Christopher Monckton understand this just fine. Even the skydragon slayers understand this — while their equally misguided objection lays elsewhere.

    • Mike Flynn

      Jim D,

      You wrote –

      “Mike Flynn, I wouldn’t call a 33 C total effect of GHGs “mild insulation”, but if that is your scale, fine.”

      Gee, we better not reduce CO2 levels too much, then. We might all freeze. Or doesn’t it really make much of a difference?

      The global temperature doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to CO2 levels, does it? Maybe Dr Evil and the Evil Minions are stealing all the heat!

      Keep the dream alive – maybe the world is really flat, and supported on a lake of luminiferous aether! Maybe you really can heat things up by surrounding them with CO2! Let me know when you succeed.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Mike Flynn

      Pierre – Normand,

      To avoid dissecting what you wrote – at length – I will just ask you to provide details of any experimental evidence of the wondrous one way insulation which you believe in.

      You will probably find it next to the verification of phlogiston, the luminiferous aether, the indivisible atom, and the Philosopher’s Stone. In other words, you just have to make stuff up.

      Nature doesn’t seem to be taking much notice of the CO2 nonsense. Maybe you need to make stuff up more vigorously!

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Pierre-Normand

      Mike Flynn,

      “To avoid dissecting what you wrote – at length – I will just ask you to provide details of any experimental evidence of the wondrous one way insulation which you believe in.”

      You can shine visible light of two different colors, but the same power, (red and green, say) through a red colored filter from opposite directions and find out that, lo and behold, more power gets transmitted from one direction than the other. The red filter will let through the beam of red light and mostly absorb the energy from the beam of beam of green light. That’s the very reason why things look red as seen through the filter. You can also shine visible light through a cylinder filled with CO2 and find that it gets through undisturbed while much less IR radiation from an IR lamp gets through. The absorbed radiation warms the gas instead. Likewise let shine your visible and IR sources from opposite direction through the CO2 container (again, same power from both sources) and find out that the filter is effectively one way. That would be the proof of quite ordinary phenomena of the kind that you bizarely claim to be fictitious but that most everyone else on this blog — warmists of skeptics alike — seem quite familiar with.

    • Mike Flynn, you are firmly in the off-the-radar skydragon category that JC would probably ignore, so I will. If you want to separate yourself from the likes of Doug Cotton and co, you will have to formulate an idea of your own, because so far we only know of a wide and growing array of things that you just don’t know anything about, but nothing that you even think you understand. It’s a black hole of thought, which is all denial, but with no return of ideas.

    • Mike Flynn | June 3, 2014 at 7:37 pm |
      “I can be as dim as I like…”

      Mike, you are a genius……in your ability to drone on at length while saying absolutely nothing.

    • Mike Flynn

      Pierre-Normand ,

      I know why you are unable to provide a single experiment confirming the one way filtering effect of carbon dioxide. It doesn’t exist.

      This probably explains the non existent global warming.

      I appreciate you believe that the magic one way insulator exists. Maybe it is hiding along with the missing heat. Finding an actual example seems to be beyond the abilities of mere mortals.

      Maybe more research at great expense will be able to verify the silly and completely useless computer models. Maybe not, who knows?

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Pierre-Normand

      Mike Flynn: “I know why you are unable to provide a single experiment confirming the one way filtering effect of carbon dioxide. It doesn’t exist.”

      CO2 is opaque to IR radiation (in some broad wavelength range). It is fully transparent to visible light. The same is true of water vapor, methane, etc. Which one of those two very well known facts do you want to see demonstrated experimentally? Scientists and engineers rely on them every day. Those two facts make the atmosphere effectively a one way filter for the energy entering and exiting the climate system from the Sun (mostly visible) and surface (longwave IR) respectively. This third fact just is the straightforward *logical* consequence from the first two facts. One logically can’t accept the first two facts and deny the third. That’s just plain irrational. This explains why none of your CAGW skeptical friends doubt it and why they occasionally politely tell you to get a grip.

    • FlynnieBoy is a wonderin willis about the “magical” nature of CO2 and how it can retain heat through its spectral properties.

      Take a look at the smelting of iron and how and why CO2 is pumped into the chamber to control the temperature.

      Take a look at an infrared laser and how the CO2 is used to invert the population of radiative molecules into an excited state.

      I know this is all magic to the reactionary Luddite mind of FlynnieBoy. Lots of those types down under.

    • Mike Flynn

      Pierre-Normand,

      The problem you face is that no matter how you slice it or dice it, you cannot produce a one way insulator. You may convince yourself that such a thing exists. You may convince yourself that the luminiferous aether exists. You cannot produce any experimental verification of either.

      Warmists cannot do it. Some have tried. You will find that initial enthusiasm to demonstrate the one way filter effect quickly degenerate into ways of proving that no verification is needed – endless repetition of the fact that CO2 can be heated, and subsequently cools, somehow verifies the greenhouse warming effect.

      Specious nonsense. The Earth is not warming. This may have escaped your eagle eye.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • WebHubTelescope,

      You wrote –

      “FlynnieBoy is a wonderin willis about the “magical” nature of CO2 and how it can retain heat through its spectral properties.

      Take a look at the smelting of iron and how and why CO2 is pumped into the chamber to control the temperature.

      Take a look at an infrared laser and how the CO2 is used to invert the population of radiative molecules into an excited state.

      I know this is all magic to the reactionary Luddite mind of FlynnieBoy. Lots of those types down under.”

      Unfortunately, the Earth is refusing to warm, and you cannot therefore demonstrate the wondrous ability of CO2 to warm said Earth. In typical Warmist fashion, faced with reality, you pretend that the Earth is warming, and that CO2 is the cause. It isn’t.

      Fancy talk, and insistence that reducing the rate of cooling is really warming ie, an increase in temperature, is so ludicrous that the farce that is climatology might even last as long as the theories of Trofim Lysenko or Franz Gall. People love to believe predictions of impending doom, even if they occasionally turn on the doomsayers and rend them limb from limb.

      Better you than me, I say. How’s your toy model going? Is it showing signs of being of any use to anyone at all? I doubt you’ve managed to sell the idea to anyone. The market is littered with models with no predictive ability – yours is possibly an even more amateurish version than the present crop of useless rubbish pretending to predict the future.

      I hope you prove me wrong, but so far I’m batting 100% where facts are concerned. You may well be annoyed that Nature seems to be on my side, but that’s only Natural.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Pierre-Normand

      Mike Flynn: “The problem you face is that no matter how you slice it or dice it, you cannot produce a one way insulator.”

      That’s not a problem I face. That’s a problem you face since what you are denying is accepted by the rest of the world *including* all of your fellow skeptics. (Hence, that’s not an appeal to authority — more of an appeal to sanity). You may now be quibbling over semantics. You don’t want to call the atmosphere a “one way insulator”. But I don’t mind what you call it. In fact, “one way insulator” is how *you* misleadingly insisted on calling it. All that is required for the enhanced greenhouse effect to work is that CO2 be transparent to shortwave radiation and opaque to (some) longwave radiation. That’s all that’s required for it, and also for methane, water vapor, etc., to work as a greenhouse gases. So, which one of those two facts are you denying?

  48. Tomas Milanovic

    By convention, we call an effect “significant” if the chances of its deriving from a twist of fate—as opposed to some more genuine relationship—are less than 5 percent.

    This is only true in soft sciences – sociology, psychology, medicine, climate.
    In real hard sciences like High Energy Physics that dread for right reasons false positives, the significance is judged at 5 sigma – e.g 99,9999 %.
    If they had been using the 5 % (e.g 2 sigma) at CERN, they would have discovered a (wrong) Higgs boson every 3 months along with thousands of monstrous and totally inexistent particles.
    It would be impossible to do any serious and valid HEP with such low standards as are used e.g in climate or sociology.
    .
    To A.Lacis
    It is not because the quantum mechanics and matter/radiation interaction is well understood that it enables to understand and reliably predict the dynamics of that complex system that is weather.
    Not even mentionning climate which is weather average over time scales where only the topology of the global attractor matters and this one is sofar totally unknown.

    • We can’t know everything
      The way we’d like therefore
      We know nothing

    • Tomas, weather and climate have some fundamental differences that you have to take into account. You can’t treat them the same in terms of predictability. Weather is the trajectory and climate is the attractor. We are physically moving that attractor by changing the constituents of the atmosphere, constituents normally considered constant for weather.

    • No one would apply the requirement of 5 sigma in particle physics, if he would consider the numbers right and the distribution to have Gaussian tails. Applying 5 sigma is just a substitute for a full and objectively justifiable error analysis.

    • What constitutes significance is partly statistical, partly parsimony, partly plausibility, partly foundational, and partly gut feel.

      Take a look at the ENSO model and come up with a way that it could be simply spurious. This is the integration of a second order nonlinear differential equation. There are many ways that it could be wrong in terms of an adequate fit, but only one way that it could evolve to be right. So is it on the right evolutionary path?

      This is what makes climate science fun, and not boring

    • Robert I Ellison

      ‘The global coupled atmosphere–ocean–land–cryosphere system exhibits a wide range of physical and dynamical phenomena with associated physical, biological, and chemical feedbacks that collectively result in a continuum of temporal and spatial variability. The traditional boundaries between weather and climate are, therefore, somewhat
      artificial.

      The large-scale climate, for instance, determines the environment for microscale (1 km or less) and mesoscale (from several kilometers to several hundred kilometers) processes that govern weather and local climate, and these small-scale processes likely have significant impacts on the evolution of the large-scale circulation.

      The accurate representation of this continuum of variability in
      numerical models is, consequently, a challenging but essential goal. Fundamental barriers to advancing weather and climate prediction on time scales from days to years, as well as longstanding systematic errors in weather and climate models, are partly attributable to our limited understanding of and capability for simulating the complex,
      multiscale interactions intrinsic to atmospheric, oceanic, and
      cryospheric fluid motions.’ A UNIFIED MODELING APPROACH TO CLIMATE SYSTEM PREDICTION
      by James Hurrell, Gerald A. Meehl, David Bader, Thomas L. Delworth , Ben Kirtman, and Bruce Wielicki: BAMS December 2009 | 1819: DOI:10.1175/2009BAMS2752.1

      Webby’s correlation is manufactured using solutions of the wave equation for elliptical bathtubs modulated by waving a magic wand over it. It has absolutely no predictive value and so is utterly worthless.

      Jim’s characterization of the nonlinear stochastic dynamical system of Earth climate is tendentious and ill informed nonsense.

      ‘The derivation of the Navier–Stokes equations begins with an application of Newton’s second law: conservation of momentum (often alongside mass and energy conservation) being written for an arbitrary portion of the fluid. In an inertial frame of reference,’ Wikipedia

      It is believed that these fundamental nonlinear partial differential equations capture the dynamics of fluid motion in 3 dimension. It is a little more difficult than that given the scale of eddies – microscopic upwards – and the box grid of practical computer models.

      The dynamic evolution of eddies creates regime structures in the atmosphere and oceans. Clouds, cyclones and anticyclones, tornadoes, cold fronts – as well as decadal and probably longer shifts in ocean and atmospheric circulation. There is no essential theoretical distinction between weather and climate – just the scale at which they operate.

    • There is no essential theoretical distinction between weather and climate – just the scale at which they operate.
      _____
      Once more Skippy let’s go with nonsense.

      Weather is what is happening right now. Climate is the dynamical environment of external forcings that weather happens in– with the main dynamical context being whether or not the system is gaining or losing net energy. Climate change involves shifts from gaining to losing or visa-versa, over various timeframes, and has as its basis external forcings. There are many external forcings, and the sum of all those forcing dictate if the system is gaining or losing energy over any given timeframe. Natural variability is simply noise in this overall dance between various external forcings that make up the climate.

    • Robert I Ellison

      Forcings are control variables for the stochastic dynamical system – climate is the average of weather between shifts.

    • Jim D | June 3, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
      You can’t treat them the same in terms of predictability. Weather is the trajectory and climate is the attractor. We are physically moving that attractor by changing the constituents of the atmosphere, constituents normally considered constant for weather.

      You could say we are physically moving the weather in all places by changing the CO2. Then add all the weather up to get the climate. The climate is the weather. The climate doesn’t go someplace and then come back to effect the weather, except the oceans and maybe the ice sheets, etc. We add up all the weather to get the climate and remember we time shifted some stuff into the oceans, ice sheets, etc.

      If I do a balance sheet, I don’t say the balance sheet is not every asset and liability that goes on that balance sheet. Accountants don’t have too many special places where we put things because they are too different or stuff that we don’t have to count.

    • R. Gates | June 3, 2014 at 8:12 pm |
      Weather is what is happening right now. Climate is the dynamical environment of external forcings that weather happens in– with the main dynamical context being whether or not the system is gaining or losing net energy.

      With a balance sheet approach, we add up everything in the system down to the smallest area. Let’s say every cubic inch. Our totals go on a balance sheet. Climate is the summation of everything. Balance sheets are dated, so at a specific time. I do not see how we can some how break the total away from all the component parts. The balance sheet does not provide rules for, or a control of, its component parts. It is a summation of them.

      If the goal is to have a balance sheet, we start from the bottom and move to the total. We do not start with the total which we don’t even have yet, and then figure out what the components are. The components can influence each other, but there exists as far as I know no rule that says the components have to ask the balance sheet, what they can do.

    • Ragnaar, we are moving the attractor, not the weather itself. It is equivalent to changing the constants in Lorenz’s formula, which distorts the attractor shape. At least I can understand it that way.

    • Robert I Ellison

      Yes – it is all in hand – we are moving it to an unknown location for security reasons – nothing to see here – move along.

    • Jim D | June 3, 2014 at 11:13 pm |

      “The best way to imagine a full spatio-temporal chaos theory is to imagine that there is a different chaotic oscillator like the Lorenz butterfly at every point of space (so there is an infinity of them)…” – Milanovic.

      So the climate attractor is the sum of a very large number of local attractors. Which leads me to think we should look for small local attractors and study them. Rambling on I have a small lake behind my office with 1 main creek inflow and 1 main creek outlet. Both creeks stop and start depending on precipitation. The creeks flows vary and have hard stops and starts. I even tore up 5 beaver dams last year based on a conversation with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. A butterfly beaver I think. When I think about the lake’s level am I seeing chaos? I hope so.

  49. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Judith Curry cherry-picks “The Slate article [by renowned (?) technology-analyst ] intriguingly suggests that more sophisticated societies have more to lose from the false positive errors.”

    Why would Judith Curry cherry-pick the opinions of a non-scientist p*rn-analyst, and utterly ignore the long-considered and carefully-crafted summary statement of hundreds of scientists who reach precisely the opposite conclusion?

    The world marvels … at Judith Curry’s inexplicable scientific judgment, balance, and priorities!

    \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

  50. thisisnotgoodtogo

    Too funny criticism from Fanny…who takes it from the Vatican.

    • He also takes it from Naomi Oreskes, Wendell Berry, and Surfer Magazine. FOMD thy name is hypocrite,

      Kind of like the pot calling the kettle black, eh Climate Etc. readers?

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      Chuck L avers “He [FOMD] also takes it [advice] from Naomi Oreskes and Wendell Berry and Surfer Magazine.

      Assertion by Chuck L, cheerful agreement by FOMD!

      “I would argue that something has been lost, over the last fifty or sixty years; something that Bohr and Einstein knew how to articulate. And that, I would argue, is a sense of moral gravity, a sense of what is at stake. And we miss the opportunity to communicate what Bohr and Einstein recognized, in a different context: that scientists, by virtue of our expertise, at least in some cases have a uniquely vivid appreciation of the risks that we face, and in the case we’ve studied most closely, the damage that climate-change can wreak.”
         — Naomi Oreskes

      These principles are obvious to *EVERYONE* … except market fundamentalists, eh Climate Etc readers?

      \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • Matthew R Marler

      a fan of *MORE* discourse: And that, I would argue, is a sense of moral gravity, a sense of what is at stake. And we miss the opportunity to communicate what Bohr and Einstein recognized, in a different context: that scientists, by virtue of our expertise, at least in some cases have a uniquely vivid appreciation of the risks that we face, and in the case we’ve studied most closely, the damage that climate-change can wreak.”

      Where is the “moral gravity” in jumping to the conclusions that (a) CO2 increase will inevitably cause warming; (b) that warming will for sure be catastrophic (or at least worth unspecified $Trillions to prevent); and that (c) dissent has evil motives? The Einstein and Bohr examples are especially ironic since they debated issues for decades. Her phrase “at least in some cases” gives the game away, as she asserts the right not only to govern the cherry-picking of data but the right to govern the cherry-picking of scientists. The phrase “uniquely vivid appreciation” is ambiguous, as possibly meaning fairly judicious like me (I’d name others, but I don’t want to embarrass them), or an alarmist like Hansen.

    • Typical inane drivel from hypocrite Fan of Meaningless Discourse. Memo to FOMD: Oreskes, Berry, the Pontiff are not a climatologists, physicists, or any other kind of scientists; Dr. Curry is. Who better to listen to, our hostess or non-scientists, trolls & surfing magazines. The survey says – Dr. Curry, eh Climate Etc. readers!

  51. Does causation imply correlation?

  52. Just for fun – and because it is topical:

    Spurious Correlations

    I posted this a while back but in case any one missed it. :-)

  53. No one is investing some less-than-5-percent-relationship with their faith if their lives actually depend on conclusions drawn therefrom. Medical science, for example, requires a 99% relationship and many of the conclusions drawn therefrom are still bogus. A 5% relationship is sort of like a smell test –e.g., you might not die from that fuzzy bit of crud but if it smells bad you’re probably smart not to eat it unless you are 100% certain its a safe piece of stinky French cheese.

  54. Ever wonder why we burn so much coal in power plants when we have always had natural gas available?

    “Because we are now running out of gas and oil, we must prepare quickly for a third change, to strict conservation and to the use of coal and permanent renewable energy sources, like solar power.”

    Jimmy Carter in 1977. Peak oil and “conservation” led to shifting the focus from gas to coal as a matter of law, in the Powerplant and Industrial Fuel Use Act (FUA). Passed by Congress in 1978.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/379395/ongoing-war-coal-robert-bryce

    “Although FUA was in effect for less than a decade, it significantly distorted the power sector. In 1978, natural gas was generating 13.8 percent of U.S. electricity. By 1988 — a decade after FUA was passed — natural gas’s share of the U.S. electricity business had fallen to a modern low of just 9.3 percent. By contrast, between 1978 and 1988, coal’s share of the U.S. electricity-generation market soared, going from 44.2 percent to 56.9 percent, the highest level of the modern era.”

    Ahhh, the wonders of centrally planning the energy economy.

  55. This comment is addressed to Pierre-Normand.
    My point in my posting was that there is a strong apparent correlation between Nino indices and global average temperature from the mid 1800s right up to 2014. I raised the question (as yet unanswerable) whether this implied causality. I also mentioned that several alarmists attribute the “pause” to lack of El Ninos, and suggested that with the next strong El Nino, warming will resume. This seems to imply that in their minds, El Ninos are connected in some way as a necessary adjunct to global warming.
    You said:
    “But there is no contradiction at all between saying ENSO contributes very little to the multi-decadal trend and that it contributes most of the multi-annual variability. In fact the recent study by Kosaka and Xie (“Recent global-warming hiatus tied to equatorial Pacific surface cooling”) suggests that ENSO’s contribution to global warming since 1950 has been slightly negative.”
    I interpreted the paper by Kosaka and Xie quite differently from you.They were primarily interested in explaining “the pause” from 1998 to 2014, but they developed their correlation from 1950 to 2012. They set about to see if they could correlate global average temperatures with SST anomalies in the equatorial eastern Pacific (8.2% of the Earth’s surface). They found:
    “For the recent decade, the decrease in tropical Pacific SST has lowered the global temperature by about 0.15°C compared to the 1990s (Fig. 1b), opposing the radiative forcing effect and causing the hiatus. Likewise an El-Nino-like trend in the tropics accelerated the global warming from the 1970s to late 1990s”
    Indeed, they showed an excellent correlation of POGA-H to global temperature across the entire period 1950-2012. In essence, this is really not much different than the plots I recently provided showing similar correlations between Nino indices and global temperature. I have to agree that this strong correlation does not prove a cause/effect relationship, but your claim that “the recent study by Kosaka and Xie suggests that ENSO’s contribution to global warming since 1950 has been slightly negative.” seems to be totally wrong. Since 1950, the earth has warmed. Almost all of that warming took place during a 23 year period of El Nino dominance: 1976 to 1998. We can’t prove that ENSO caused the warming, but ENSO certainly didn’t resist it.

  56. In our complex world, with our understanding of the uncertainties beyond Newton’s world, there are more coincidences than causes and effects, many of which come from our biases. It is well put here:
    “Depending somewhat on the information resolution one has, there is much more coincidence out there than there are causes and effects (the simplest explanation …). Correlation as causation, the notion that two or more events are connected because they share some trend over time, hits human brains even harder because we don’t consider correlation ever unless we’re already looking for causes and effects.”

    http://motherboard.vice.com/en_ca/blog/what-correlation-implying-causation-means-in-the-real-world

  57. Arno Arrak

    Ernest Rutherford once remarked that “If you find that your work needs statistics you should have been doing something else.” He is right.

  58. Kip Hansen

    I am surprised that no one has pointed out that when there is a correlation, even a perfect correlation, one still has to discover the direction of the arrow of cause. Many correlations found in climate science (as well as many other branch of science, such as medicine) are obvious, while the direction of the arrow of cause (which of the two or more things that are correlated, causes the other[s]) is not clear or well understood at all — I admit that many of these situations have assumed relationships — yet there are many that have not been proven and many that have not really been studied.

    Medicine is rife with this type of problem when “conditions” are considered — obesity and diabetes, for example. We know they are highly correlated, but does one cause the other, which causes which? or do they have a mutual cause?

    Thus, correlation is not causation. And one must always be mindful that in more complex situations, the arrow of cause must be determined using the scientific method, not by guess and by golly.

  59. “Ambiguous words probably make communicating easier”

    http://www.santafe.edu/news/item/working-paper-sole-ambiguity-language/

  60. Government funded science at its best.

    Paging J. Mengele. Dr. Mengele, you left your ethos at the NIH. You may reclaim it in 2016 (hopefully).

    http://dailysignal.com/2014/06/03/uninformed-consent-nih-sacrifice-preemies-sake-research/

  61. I wonder if there’s a correlation to the rise of this kind of talk and the popularity of Six Sigma in the business world. Six Sigma has lead to a lot of dumbed down stats training for a lot of people in the business world.

  62. Robert I Ellison

    “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.” – Albert Einstein

    There seems to be an odd view going around that knowing you don’t have the right answer is worse than having an answer guaranteed to be right only by accident. Got me beat.

  63. Doug Proctor

    The other warning that climate science abuses: a trend is not a prediction.

    First, sometimes a trend can be used to predict: if the conditions tomorrow are the same as today, what happens today probably will be what happens tomorrow. Further out, maybe not, but the longer the trend happens, the more you should expect it to continue: stable forces are at work (again, within some appropriate time-frame). So a global non-warming since 2001 (my personal point of reference) is probabaly something we can expect for 2014. Maybe even 2015. The wamists say No, the past, even recent past, foretells nothing. Really ….

    Second, climate warmists say a heatwave ANYWHERE is a trend that IS useful for a prediction: weather CAN be a sign of climate.

    In other words, a trend is not a prediction except when it is.

  64. Pingback: Climate data and financial data: Part I | Climate Etc.

  65. Victoria Beckham said in a recent interview with Allure magazine that
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    To her, giving of herself means that she loves you.