by Judith Curry

Well, I hope that everyone is having difficulty in classifying “Climate Etc.”, it is definitely my intention to defy classification by the norms of the climate blogosphere.  Over the past four months, I have been labeled as a warmist , lukewarmer , skeptic , confusionist, and notorious (!) denier (posted here, but since deleted).

These labels are terms that reflect a postnormal environment, they don’t have anything to do with science.  I’ve used the labels myself in discourse, trying to understand and explain the dynamic of what is going on, and I keep changing labels as I struggle to make sense of the dynamic and not offend (pretty much everyone is offended by their label except for the lukewarmers). In the past I’ve even self-labeled myself at various times as “warmist” or “lukewarmer”, when it seemed that some sort of label was necessary for the dialogue.   But no longer.   I am through with these labels, and I hope to convince you to be finished with them also. Not only do these labels have nothing to do with science, but the labels are polarizing and are used to denigrate opposing “tribes” that have emerged in this postnormal environment.

So how should we conduct a discussion about the dynamic of disagreement on this issue?


Well, the first thing we can do is sort out the actual scientific debate from the debate about politics and policy.   A considerable amount of climate skepticism has been fueled by big business, attempting to protect their personal financial interests (e.g. the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil). True, but so what? It’s not as if the environmental community doesn’t have resources, and hasn’t use them in support of  climate policies and even climate alarmism.  All this just isn’t relevant to the scientific debate. And if you can’t disentangle the scientific debate from concerns about the fate of your preferred policy, then you have become hopelessly postnormal.  There’s a real debate that needs to be had on the values, economics, and politics associated with the risks of climate change; lets have that debate in the context of a rational backdrop of what we understand about the climate system, along with the uncertainties and unknowns.

Now back to the science.  Lets start with some wisdom from Richard Feymann:

“When a scientist doesn’t know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty damn sure of what the result is going to be, he is still in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress, we must recognize our ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty — some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.”

The Wikipedia has this to say about doubt:

“Doubt, a status between belief and disbelief, involves uncertainty or lack of sureness of an alleged fact.”

Doubt is different from denial, see this definition of deny:

Deny:to state that (something declared or believed to be true) is not true.

Lets frame belief, disbelief, and doubt in the context of the Italian flag, that was introduced previously on the hurricane thread:

in which evidence for a hypothesis is represented as green, evidence against is represented as red, and the white area reflecting uncommitted belief that can be associated with uncertainty in evidence or unknowns.

As an example, lets apply the Italian flag to the issue of attribution of the 20th century warming, specifically the statement by the IPCC:

  • Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.

This statement is often used as a litmus test for belief regarding global warming, i.e. you believe this statement (consensus) or you don’t (skeptic). Very likely denotes a probability of anthropogenic influence between 90 and 99% (lets pick 95%) and I interpret most to mean between 51 and 90% (lets pick 70%), with the remainder (30%) associated with natural variability.  Hence, the Italian flag analysis could represent this in the following way:

  • 5%  assigned to uncommitted belief (white),
  • 67% assigned to anthropogenic forcing (green),
  • 28% assigned to natural variability (red).

The assignment of degree of belief is a much richer method for assessing belief  than a binary choice of believing or not believing the statement.  As an example, my personal weights for the Italian flag are:

  1. white 40%,
  2. green 30%,
  3. red 30%.

My assignment allows the anthropogenic influence to be as large as 70% and as small as 30%, leaving plenty of room for natural variability and uncertainties. An average score of 50% might be assigned to this distribution, with a white dominance.  Note, my weights were not determined using any fancy analysis, but integrate my sense of uncertainty in CO2 sensitivity, model uncertainties, and particularly the wild card that is natural variability.

As a litmus test question, I prefer the following:

Will the climate of the 21st century will be dominated by anthropogenic warming (green) or natural variability (solar, volcanoes, natural internal oscillations)?

which is the question with the greatest policy relevance, IMO.  My scores on this one are

  • green 25%
  • white 50%,
  • red 25%.

This assessment allows for a greater level of uncertainty in the 21st century than in the 20th century, retaining the 50% mean score albeit with a greater level of overall certainty.  Although greenhouse gas forcing will be greater in the 21st than the 20th century, my percentages reflect that natural variability is such a wild card.

This type of analysis allows for a spectrum of degrees of belief and highlights uncertainty and doubt as a key element.   It is unlikely that any climate researcher would go less than 10% on either anthropogenic or natural variability.  Whereas the IPCC assessment drastically underplays uncertainty in their consensus approach to determining confidence levels IMO, I suspect that most individual climate researchers would make the uncertainty box greater than 10%.  Who knows, maybe the difference between Jim Hansen, myself, and Pat Michaels might be only a few %, here and there  :)

Theres should be a second dimension to this analysis, a fuzzy one, that reflects the analyst’s degree of expertise and effort in understanding and assessing the state of knowledge.  Uncommitted belief (white) can be associated with an acknowledgement of a low level of expertise and/or effort.

I’m seeking comments about:

  • The best way to phrase one or two “litmus” type questions that characterize where an individual stands re anthropogenic global warming
  • Whether you like the Italian flag idea, and can suggest ways for characterizing the degree of belief analysis
  • What values you would assign to the questions
  • Speculate on what values other public figures in the climate debate might assign

I’m hoping that this strategy takes the wind out the sails of “support the consensus or you are a skeptic,” making the merchant of doubt strategy basically irrelevant and labels such as “denier” unecessary.  Then science can be science again and the politicians can stop waging their political battles through the science and start grappling with the hard problems.  We have to start somewhere, lets start here and give it a try.

Moderation notes: apart from netiquette guidelines, moderation on this thread will be light.  However, do not use the traditional labels of denier, warmist etc. in reference to any individuals (other than yourself), although these words may be used in a thoughtful discourse on the topic of doubt as it relates to climate change.  The objective is to stop using the labels, unless an individual so labels himself or herself.

576 responses to “Doubt

  1. Ah, but here’s the rub (misquoting Shakespeare slightly but appropriately) ..

    ALL in the debate need to act as “scientists” (and engineers, and statisticians, and physicists, and computer programmers, and political administrators) … and NOT as “pollsters” or “opinion counters.”

    We need to acknowledge and attempt to reduce the uncertainty.
    We need absolutely to determine what the actual data is (what the temperature trends actually are – not what we (any person!) “want” them to be to satisfy or to prevent ANY agenda.
    We need to openly determine without bias the actual trends in sea ice, ocean temperatures, land temperatures, lower atmospheric temperatures, land-ice gravity changes, glacier lengths, and land use changes – WITHOUT BIASES.

    Then -AND ONLY THEN – when as much as the uncorrupted data is at hand as possible, then do we need to determine what the cause(s) are for the observations we have made.

  2. Judith, when I think of the issues surrounding anthropogenic influences on climate, I think less about the issue you posit above:

    “Will the climate of the 21st century will be dominated by anthropogenic warming (green) or natural variability (solar, volcanoes, natural internal oscillations)?”

    And more about this issue:

    “How much will temperatures rise for a doubling of CO2 and equivalents (increases in CO2, methane, black carbon, ozone, nitrous oxide, and decreases in sulfate)?”

    What this means is that if CO2 sensitivity were pretty low, then I could think that there is a high chance that humans “did it,” but a low chance that it would matter enough to take costly actions now, instead of waiting a decade or so for solar and other techologies to become cheaper. Yes, that is policy, but policy which comes after the science.

    So I think we need to somehow work in the notion that it isn’t just where we stand on the “people did it” causality issue, but also on the “how much will the temps and climate change” issue as well.

    • John, what if the CO2 sensitivity, whatever its value, turns out to be a small fraction of the temperature change associated with natural variability? The warming from 1910-1940 is associated with natural variability (its attribution is still disputed), and the trend is same magnitude as from 1970-present (which is attributed mostly to anthropogenic factors); Phil Jones has actually stated this publicly. This suggests that natural variability has played a bigger role than anthropogenic forcing.

      • Yes, this is the issue I was thinking of, Judith.

        We appear to be looking at it from different ends. You are saying that natural variability, say from around 1910/1915 through 1940, appears to be mostly natural in causation, e.g., perhaps to vary with the PDO or whatever causes the positive phase of the PDO — if my memory serves. The PDO seemed to be in a similar positive upward trajectory for the 25/30 year period from 1970/1975 through 2000. So why isn’t this second period also mostly natural in variability?

        Yes, it might be.

        But it is also true that in the second time period, we have so sort out which is which. Maybe the physical forces which caused the 1910/1915 to 1940 escalation aren’t as much in play from 1970 through 2000. Maybe the big increase in sulfates from the 1940s through around 1975 (which was the peak in US sulfate emissions) caused an artificial cooling during these periods. Maybe the big drop in sulfate in the former Soviet Union post 1990 caused some of the sharp ramp in warming in that decade, and maybe the big increase in Chinese sulfate post 2000 is what caused temps to stop rising about then. And all the while CO2 and methane are slowing increasing. So we have real science to sort out.

        I just stated the issue the opposite way: suppose that CO2 and equivalents really do cause warming, but that the sensitivity is low. In that case, we probably aren’t headed for much of a problem from human emissions taken by themselves. The ups and downs we see looking at the historical record in this scenario are mostly caused by shifts in natural variability. It is thus possible that we could end up saying, “We did it, we emitted CO2 and equivalents, and we caused the world to warm, and we really are to blame, but luckily it only warms a little bit: so what?”

        I’m not there yet. I want to see more science, for instance, what causes the PDO to oscillate, whether the PDO is something which actually exists as a specific mechanism unto itself, or if it is the reflection of some other mechanisms, and how dependable are these processes over the decades? And, how can we better define what the actual climate sensitivity of CO2, black carbon, and sulfates really are?

        It seems that you and I both see the issues pretty much the same, but we just state the complexity differently.

  3. I like the Italian flag very much.

    re labels – for me at least as large an issue with them is that they do not distinguish between views on the science detail, on AGW, on CAGW, and on policy response and effectiveness. You can be fully signed-up on CAGW, say, but still be highly critical of proposed policy responses, or fully signed up on AGW but have a huge white area on CAGW.

    Your litmus questions question may also need to distinguish between 1 degree and 5 degree rises? If you are a 1 degree-er, then natural variation will dominate, by definition. If you are a 5 degree-er, then anth will dominate.

    • Roddy, the CO2 sensitivity issue is a good litmus question, I like it because it gives a sliding scale rather than believe or not believe. An assessment of CO2 sensitivity is implicit in flag assessment, but it gets conflated with how large you think natural variability might be relative your preferred value of CO2 sensitivity (or how much uncertainty you ascribe to assessments of CO2 sensitivity). This illustrates how many complex scientific issues get tangled up in an individuals level of belief regarding AGW.

  4. Judy – this is an excellent framework to solicit discussion. My first suggestion is to pose the three hypotheses in our article

    Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell, W. Rossow, J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian, and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union.

    modified, if needed, with the comments presented in the post “Feedback On My Invitation On The Three Hypotheses Regarding Climate Forcings” [].

    Also, we posted this type of question in our survey

    Brown, F., J. Annan, and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2008: Is there agreement amongst climate scientists on the IPCC AR4 WG1?

    A follow on on this would also be informative.

    • Hi Roger, thanks for stopping by and providing links to your excellent papers. The three hypotheses referred to are:

      Hypothesis 1: Human influence on cli- mate variability and change is of minimal importance, and natural causes dominate climate variations and changes on all time scales. In coming decades, the human influ- ence will continue to be minimal.

      Hypothesis 2a: Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influ- ences are significant and involve a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, includ- ing, but not limited to, the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most, if not all, of these human influences on regional and global climate will continue to be of con- cern during the coming decades.

      Hypothesis 2b: Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and are dominated by the emis- sions into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, the most important of which is CO2. The adverse impact of these gases on regional and global climate constitutes the primary climate issue for the coming decades.

      • For two highly respected climate scientists, I present a case for either or even both of you to comment:
        Coincidence or consequence?
        Looking forward to here your views, but on the other hand you may choose to ignore it.
        In either case I thank you.

      • You forget another hypothesis: Those of us who are hopeful that mankind, regardless of how innocent or guilty, will warm the Earth enough to counter the next glaciation unless we’re prepared to accommodate the populations of Portland, Cleveland, New York etc… not to mention all of those Canadians with their extra beer fridge.

  5. A balanced approach to the science is required, not nessisary but required. It seems simple to think that the science should be able to settle this , either the AGW model is correct or it is not, the problem is the advocates have gone beyond science into advocacy . They are determining policy and attempting to force it down peoples throats as the “right” way to do things.

    The fact of the matter at present is that , what we do not know about the climate mechanisms that govern is so much larger than what we know, or even what we think we know. Attempting to model chaotic systems is an ” interesting ” experiance in itself. Attempting to do so when the bulk of the information you require to make an accurate model is simply not know, in some cases the knowledge of the knowledge is not there.

    There needs to be a non partisan examination of everything that we think we know and from there a plan can be made.

    • Glen, the issue is more complicated, since many aspects of the science are uncertain, and some are inherently uncertain (e.g. chaos in the climate system). So decision making needs to be conducted in the context of uncertainty, this is not an unusual situation and the military and financial sectors are highly accustomed to such a decision making environment. But the challenge is to accurately and honestly characterize the uncertainties, which is something that I think the IPCC has fallen way short on. How do characterize and reason about uncertainty as it relates to climate change will be a weekly topic for the next several months at Climate Etc.

      • @curryja – While I agree that it is not a simple matter, I think Glen’s approach is inherently at the core of all this. With the uncertainty in mind, efforts to go forward and reduce the uncertainty was needed from day one (i.e., back in 1985-1992). But those efforts needed to include advocates for both sides of the issue. It appears that back then the deck was stacked (“something the IPCCC has fallen way short on”), and that has until recently not been admitted nor been allowed to be addressed (which has been the underlying source of the name-calling business). Unstacking the deck is like backing out of a dead end street: It has to be done, in order to get to a point where going forward again is possible. And the direction does need to be to shrink the uncertainty, IMHO. With the white+red (uncertainty+doubt) being at the level it is (even in your assessment), how can directions be chosen, when trillions are to be spent, economies affected, livelihoods lost? If it turns out wrong, who is going to explain that to the persons whose lives have been ruined? Yes, militaries go on uncertainties – but with flexible plans and known enemies and with black and white outcomes in mind. But when the “enemy” is a only a very few degrees C, it simply is not the same thing as an armed enemy.

  6. Flag. My assignment ( ).

    Green: Water vapor will provide a net negative feedback (10)
    White: Uncertain (80)
    Red: Water vapor will provide a net positive feedback (10)

    Green: Clouds will provide a net negative feedback (10)
    White: Uncertain (80)
    Red: Clouds will provide a net positive feedback (10)

  7. Judith, another part of this puzzle is what the science says about possible effects. For example, with more CO2, the ocean’s pH will decline, from something like 8.1 to something in the range of 7.8 to 7.7, as the ocean becomes less alkaline (but not acidic!).

    Shelled creatures are said to be at risk, as their shells may become more vulnerable to dissolution, we are told.

    What is the science on subjects such as this? If effects are really bad, then perhaps a doubling of CO2 would be really bad ever if temperatures didn’t go up too much. But it seems to me that there hasn’t been that much science published on the dissolution of the shells of live sea creatures.

    So perhaps there could be a thread on effects of declining ocean alkalinity, where people would be asked to back up whatever scientific view they take by citing a published paper? I’d find that to be pretty interesting.

    • John – I’m a geologist and certainly not an ocean chemist, but your question is an important one, and I recently read a fascinating report on this topic. As usual, it seems as if there is no simple answer, and the more work is done, the more surprises occur (i.e., the normal course of science). The article can is from Earth Magazine, published by the American Geological Institute, and can be found online at

      It appears that different calcium-shell-building critters react very differently to increasing carbon dioxide levels and acidification – some are badly affected whereas others thrive. As usual, there’s just a lot we don’t know…..

      • Hi Michael, thanks for stopping by

      • Mike, thank you for your comment. I have read and been intrigued by the study your link refers to, by Justin Ries. It is in Geology magazine, titled “Marine calcifiers exhibit mixed responses to CO2-induced ocean acidification.”

        The article is pretty accurate as a description. Basically, up to about 900 ppm of CO2, most of the 18 widely different shelled creatures in the study don’t see too much change. Some of them have a slightly greater increase in shell building than today, some of them have a lower rate of shell building than today, but none of the changes seem to be that great. See Fig. 1 in the original article. If you emailed Prof. Justin Ries, he would likely send you a copy:

        In the big gap between 900 ppm CO2 and 2860 ppm CO2, several species go to a negative rate of shell building, not just a reduced rate. So it does seem that somewhere above 900 ppm some creatures would have a hard time surviving compared to today.

        We are currently at about 390 ppm, up from pre-industrial of about 280 ppm. The various calls from those who are most concerned about warming are to stop CO2 concentrations at no higher than 450 or 550 ppm. That of course is the subject of science, and is the kind of thing that Judith’s blog is likely to address.

        When it comes to acidity and harming shelled creatures, I was quite shocked to read Justin Ries’ original article, the one discussed in the link. I had no idea that changes were mostly limited up to about 900 ppm, after reading all the articles about things dissolving in what seemed to be only slightly higher CO2 levels. I was hoping someone else had read Prof. Ries’ study!

      • John – the point you make is a good example that illustrates the disconnect between what science is doing, what it really knows and what it doesn’t, and the way it is portrayed and perceived. A headline about reduced alkalinity does not have the same impact as one about acidification and one about critters dissolving is preferable to the mixed emotional appeal of some organisms thriving and some having problems – at very elevated carbon dioxide levels. Mind you, a geologist would suggest that all this is hardly surprising given that calcium carbonate has been successfully used by marine organisms, many closely related to today’s, through thick and thin for hundreds of millions of years.

  8. Well, I am proud to be a skeptic (or maybe I’d prefer sceptic).
    My skepticism is not “fueled by big business”.
    It is fueled by the repeated exaggeration, distortion and bias of many climate scientists and the IPCC. In this I am not alone, see the fascinating reader background thread at the Air Vent blog. I believe this is the main reason why so many (non-climate) scientists and the general public are becoming increasingly skeptical.

    I am not sure about the italian flag, it seems a bit complicated, though I take your point about yes/no questions being too simple. Interestingly, if I were to come up with some numbers, they wouldn’t be much different from yours, just slightly pushed towards the skeptic end of the spectrum.

    • Paul, your email supports my suspicion that much of what separates the spectrum of warmists from skeptics or deniers is not the science, but rather the politicization of the issue. I really like the reader background thread at Air Vent, at some point in the future when the Climate Etc. community is better established, I would like to do the same thing here.

      • what separates the spectrum of warmists from skeptics or deniers is not the science, but rather the politicization of the issue.

        Well, yes. That’s one way to put it. Another is “ideology” or “cultural outlook”.

        See, for example:

        Kahan, D.M., et al. (2007): The Second National Risk and Culture Study: Making Sense of – and Making Progress In – The American Culture War of Fact. Harvard Law School Program on Risk Regulation Research Paper No. 08-26.

        (Thanks to Scott Mandia for pointing me to this paper.)

      • Phillip Bratby

        I agree. The Air Vent idea was very good. Too often we are told that you either believe in the “consensus” of climate change or you are not a scientist. But it is very clear that many, many independent scientists are very sceptical of the “consensus”. And rightly so, because climate science seems not to follow the normal scientific methodology.

      • Judith,

        I certainly look forward to your eventual Reader (and/or Participant) Background – you may have noticed by now that, in addition to being fascinated by the actual science (and policy), I am also intensely curious about people (hence my suggestion leading to Jeff Id’s post), especially those interested in the same subject I am (haha, since it’s kind of lonely out here).

        I have great hopes in what your site can accomplish, on all levels.

      • Things:

        Judith is quite correct. “Ideology” or “cultural outlook” are the very fertilizer and soil of politics. Attempting to declare levels of risk before a hazard is even delineated is a meaningless exercise. In fact it can lead to the creation of hazards that did not exist before. For instance if you run a few internet searches on CO2 and plant fertilization, there are articles that make it plain that our atmosphere is very close to the lower limits of plant viability and increased productivity as a result of increases in CO2 are well established. If indeed present estimates of 19th c. CO2 concentrations are good, then while our agriculture might be able to deal with that, we almost certainly do not want to see CO2 levels much lower. The law of unintended consequences never sleeps.

      • It is Paul who politicizes, with his false claim: “It is fueled by the repeated exaggeration, distortion and bias of many climate scientists and the IPCC.”

  9. Judith Curry writes: My assignment allows the anthropogenic influence to be as large as 70% and as small as 30%, leaving plenty of room for natural variability and uncertainties. An average score of 50% might be assigned to this distribution, with a white dominance.

    Note, my weights were not determined using any fancy analysis, but integrate my sense of uncertainty in CO2 sensitivity, model uncertainties, and particularly the wild card that is natural variability.

    and from a previous thread:

    until a more convincing attribution of these previous temperature anomalies is done (solar, volcanoes, aerosols, ocean oscillations, whatever), I agree that the attribution of the recent warming to AGW is overconfident

    Maybe the most illustrative way to address this is to look at which papers you believe represent the current state of knowledge regarding the temperature evolution of the 20th century, and go into detail about their shortcomings WRT these drivers? I’d be especially interested in hearing what you believe an increased role of natural variability in the 20th century record implies about climate sensitivity as well as the behavior of the anthropogenic signal “beneath” it.

    Further: I agree that litmus tests are unhelpful. I think that a far more informative metric of discussing someone’s “skepticism” (i.e. genuine vs. a fig leaf for ideological rejection of inconvenient information) is their response to supporting and rebutting evidence.

    If they are persuadable and persuaded by evidence that their opinions are unsupported by the available evidence and/or are capable of critically examining evidence that appears to support their opinion and find fault with it, that tells me far more about someone than the place he or she starts out/happens to currently stand in terms of “accepting” anthropogenic climate change.

    I’ve discussed the subject with family members that were at one point dead certain that AGW was “only a theory” and was wildly overstated if not “junk science”, but who grasped the relevant issues relatively quickly and revised their opinion as they went along. On the other hand, I can think of more than a few examples of people who believe that some amount of anthropogenic warming is already/has been occurring but who will never change their opinion that the effect will be small, no matter what evidence they are presented with.

    • Thingsbreak, there is a certain element of anti-science that is characterized by disavowing science (a small branch of evangelicals fall into this category, I will actually have a future post on this) and also by completely ignoring or devaluing science in favor of political or other issues. These people do not hang out on technical blogs. They do vote, and some elected policy makers fall into this category. We won’t change their minds, and their numbers aren’t large enough to impact policy in a major way; at least in the U.S. such individuals don’t count climate change as very high on the agenda of things they care about (I understand that in several other countries, this is a more salient issue). So if we leave such individuals out of our discussion (we aren’t going to change their minds in any event), I am hoping that we can build bridges across the spectrum of individuals that consider the scientific evidence but come to different conclusions and land in opposing tribes.

  10. Let me start with a definition of my own. In physics, a hypothesis is an idea for which there is no experimental data (ED); a theory is an idea for which there is some ED; a law is an idea for which there is overwhelming ED.

    On this basis, AGW is a hypothesis. The fact of the matter is that we cannot do controlled experiments on the earth’s atmosphere. We cannot double the amount of CO2 instantaneously, and measure how much global temperatures rise.

    Surely, people with names like Hansen, Houghton, Watson, etc. know this. The IPCC tried to end run the problem by substituting the output of models for experimental data. This is simply not physics. You cannot use the classical methodology of physics, developed by Galileo and Netwon, to solve problems with respect to the chaotic global atmosphere. What the IPCC should have concluded, 20 years ago, is that you cannot use physics to decide what the effect of adding CO2 to the atmosphere is. The main place this attempt at modelling breaks down, IMHO, is assessing the effect of a change in radiation balance on a change in global temperature, without feedbacks.

    As a physicist, I believe the answer to the question “What is the effect of sdding CO2 to the atmosphereÉ” is that we just dont know. For your Italian flag, there is simply too little experimental data in the green area.

    • Jim I agree that I would characterize AGW as a hypothesis. Because climate is a complex system with many feedbacks, how we assess our knowledge about complex systems is a fairly new topic in epistemology and the philosophy of science.

      • Judith, you write “Jim I agree that I would characterize AGW as a hypothesis.”

        This leaves me gobsmacked. How can it be “very likely” that AGW is real if it only a hypothesis? Surely, you must agree that the IPCC assessments about AGW are just plain wrong, since there is too little experimental data to support AGW, with any degree of certainty.

      • That may not go down very well…. in some areas.
        (ie AGW is a hypothesis only)

        I imagine it is NOT what the chief scientists in the UK, and the Royal Society, The Grantham Institute, The Hadley Centre, The Tyndall centre, The Walker Institute, The Met Office, The Science and Media Centre and the IPCC, lobby groups, etc have been communicating to over 600 MPs, that voted for the UK Climate Change Bill… (ruinous to the economy, in it’s implications)

        Based on ‘settled science’ and critical damage to the earths climate’ and we must act now..

        I imagine my Prime Minister, Copenhagen time, would not have said, ‘Flat earthers’, ‘anti-science sceptics’, nor ’50 days to save the earth’ or other ministers using the D word, and the then UK Minister of State for Energy and Climate, calling sceptics – ‘climate sabatouers’ with the obvious (terrorist) concerns over that language, on a mere hypothesis.

        On to my point, everyone here may believe any % in the above, as much as they want, will they explain how they came to that %age. And to paraphrase someone at CRU, ‘gut feeling’, ‘years of experience’ but ‘no evidence’, does not get any applause…..

        ie, a look at the actual temperature in the central england data set from the 1600’s, would give a null hypothesis for any significant observable human AGW signature (ie a low % of AGW) as there only appear to be a gradual warming trend from a period known as the ‘little ice age’.

        Any claimed AGW temp rises must first of course, account and remove an observed natural background warming trend.

        As the CET dataset (actual temperature) is a good as any proxy for northern hemisphere temperatures as any, particulary vs a certain ‘iconic’ IPCC set of proxy reconstructions of temperature for northern hemisphere temperatures, in my opinion. The fact that nothing can be identified beyond natural variability would indicate AGW is aGW. (CAGW would need a LOT of supporting evidence)

        This dataset and others, can be seen by any member of the public, who can actually then go and have a look at the CET dataset for themselves. It is very reasonable for a ‘citizen scientist’ to ask where has all the certainty pronounced by the politicians above, come from:

        I use the CET set as an example, because whilst it goes back to 1650.

        The UK department of Energy and Climate, now choose to show only the ‘anomaly’ version of the dataset, truncated to about 1850, where the industrial revolution started…

        Clear media presentation of selected data and graphics to convey an AGW ‘message’.

        The DECC used to show the actual temp data CET data set graph (still only 150 years of it) on the DECC website, but following Phil Jones stating in that BBC interview, 3 similar warming periods, and rates of warming in the last 150 years and that you could clearly see this on the graph, the pronouncement by the DECC that this graph showed ‘unprecedented’ man made global warming, seemed ridiculous. (plus the other implications of that interview)

        BBC – Q&A: Professor Phil Jones

        Many people wrote in, pointing out the contradictions of the man made ‘global warming’ message of the graph, vs the actual data (myself included), and when the DECC website was revamped, they had REPLACED it with an anomlay CET graph, from 1850 again.

        More on the use of anomaly graphs another time…

      • Judith, please answer an old Electical Ebg a couple of questions.

        1. Do you really think there is a tipping point?

        2. Do any Climate Scientists understand what feedback is about?

        From my years of electrical feedback study it’s seems to me they have simply used the “Feedback” word as a buzz word to fit theories and further confusing the world.

        By the way, good to see you join the free world of non msn/biased journal writing ;-)

        than understanding the physics involved in real feedback.

      • No, a hypothesis must provide its “falsification papers”, otherwise it’s merely a speculation. Have the AGW promoters offered a plausible suite of tests or checkpoints which they agree would disprove their speculation if not successfully met? Other than waiting a century to see if the temperature rise is 0°, 1.6°, or 5°C?


      • “Jim I agree that I would characterize AGW as a hypothesis. ”

        Did you even read Jim Lippard’s comment saying that hypotheses lack experimental data? Jim made numerous false statements, and his hypothesis/theory/law trilogy is completely bogus. Your failure to point out the numerous factual mistakes of your commenters is one of the reasons that your name has become an epithet in the climate science community.

    • Well, the same argument could be used to ‘disprove’ most of geology, evolution and the historical sciences in general. Since you can’t replicate plate tectonics in the lab, do you consider geosyncline theory equally likely?

      The areas of science in which you can ask specific questions and get a fully deterministic answer are very small (you can’t even predict where the major planets of the solar system will be a few hundred million years hence, and that’s a pretty well restricted problem!). So we use models, make simplifying assumptions, and end up with predictions with error bars.

      This is not particularly controversial. What you are doing is conflating some, quantifiable uncertainty with complete uncertainty; effectively saying that since there is no possible way of predicting the exact result of a die throw, we cannot calculate the average number of spots shown at the end.

      As far as the original post goes, if you simply look at calculated forcings from known sources (Volcanic Aerosol, Solar Irradience and Greenhouse gases) you can replicate the last 150 years of temperature records surprisingly well; take any of these factors out and you cannot. Hence I’d put the probability of anthropogenic influence well over 95% now and – given the number of coal fired power plants in operation and under construction – the chance of the 21st century climate being dominated by man made GHGs at >97%; the uncertainty being down to the outside chance of major meteorite impacts or supervolcano eruptions.

      • Re: (Sep 16 04:09),
        That all begs about half a dozen questions (= presumes the answer in the postulates). To start with, does “back-radiation” do more than delay the exit of some radiation to space more than a few ms? Does H2O provide a positive feedback or powerfully negative one, overall (taking all latent heat transfers etc. into account)? Does modifying (crippling) human CO2 production actually have a strong chance of altering the atmospheric balance? Does the Precautionary Principle actually mandate avoiding global collapse by deliberate self-inflicted “de-industrialization”?

        And many more.

      • To Brian H:

        Well, yes, I do presume that basic radiative physics is correct, it’s been around for a century or so. Increasing carbon dioxide increases global temperatures, and the resultant increase in water vapour amplifies the effect.

        Is a decent source.

        I certainly do not advocate deindustrialisation, since the impact of said deindustrialisation on humans would be worse than any possible impact of global warming, in the same way that burning down your own house would be an inappropriate response to spilling a drink on the carpet.

        I could do a decent sized essay on how the move to a nuclear/electric based economy would both remove the CO2 problem and dramatically increase western energy security. But I’ve found is hard to get skeptics engaged in positive solutions.

      • I’ve found is hard to get skeptics engaged in positive solutions

        The problem with this approach is that it seems to skirt the hotly debated question of whether there is actually a (serious) problem requiring a solution in the first place,

  11. I am unabashedly supportive of Pielke Sr.’s second hypothesis–that CO2 is one of the anthropogenic causes of warming, but that others need to be looked at. And I am decidedly unconvinced by arguments about the likelihood of a high sensitivity of the earth’s atmosphere to a doubling of concentrations (concentrations, Tobis!) of CO2.

    However, I routinely get labeled a denier on the activist websites and a warmist or alarmist on skeptical websites. Hence my conviction that these labels have more to do with politics and policies than attitudes towards climate change.

    If you don’t vote for the candidate I support or support my policies to address either the environment or our energy needs, I must call you a dirty word. These are the dirty words in vogue. I want these words to hurt you and for other people to see that you have been associated with a disreputable position.

    It is just polite profanity. I think denier is the worst of the bunch, because it was deliberately crafted to associate a group with another group that denied the Holocaust occurred–and the fact that there is so much handwaving about how innocent it really is just confirms the perceived value of the term to those who like to use it.

    I laugh when I get called a warmist or alarmist, because the discordance with reality is so clear to me. I get angry when I am called a denier or denialist, because I… don’t… like… being associated with neo Nazis.

    But it’s too useful a tool for some, so it will continue.

    • Tom, I don’t wish to carry the discussion over to JC’s blog- but there are a number of people that you’ve left wondering about a few fairly easy to resolve questions over at my place. Perhaps engaging on the issues brought up there will alleviate misconceptions about potentially undeserved labels like “denialism” or “journalist”? I look forward to your response in that thread, not here.

      • thingsbreak, as I mentioned over at your blog, I don’t feel the need to engage with people who insult and harangue me. You’ll have to take that here, as I won’t be visiting your venue again.

        This does relate to the issue at hand. Here in the rather tightly wrapped blogosphere, it’s easy to familiarize oneself with the players and advocates on either side. I’ve made the decision not to correspond in one venue as if insults made in another never happened. Labels are bad enough. Insults, ad hominems and untruths that come along with the package just mean I don’t have to visit some places anymore.

        I’ve been intemperate on occasion myself–I’m not trying to paint myself as a saint. But there are commenters who insult Judith on some weblogs and then come here and try and act all nice and stuff.

      • And thingsbreak, you say you didn’t want to carry your conversation over to this weblog, but you cheerfully did, despite the fact that you could have posed your questions over at my column. Which means that you wanted to reattach your labels here.

      • I’d like to hear Mr. Fuller’s answers to the questions:
        “which experts on sea level rise, ice sheet dynamics, and polar bear biology/ecology did you contact for these “news articles”?”
        (on polar bear populations and sea level rise)

        “If I were to consult with the leading experts in these fields, would they agree with your “news articles” that polar bears are not threatened by anthropogenic warming and that significant SLR (with dynamic ice sheet decay) is not a concern?”

        ( )

      • Tom Fuller,

        > I don’t feel the need to engage with people who insult and harangue me.

        Asking questions is neither insulting nor haranguing. Once more you adopt the role of victim to dismiss entirely valid questions.

        And funnily enough, making highly controversial statements and inviting others to come to your blog to argue about them endlessly doesn’t go down well with those that realise your blog is pay-per-click.

        Here are the questions from Thingsbreak you seem to think are insulting and haranguing:

        “So which experts on sea level rise, ice sheet dynamics, and polar bear biology/ecology did you contact for these “news articles”, Tom?

        If I were to consult with the leading experts in these fields, would they agree with your “news articles” that polar bears are not threatened by anthropogenic warming and that significant SLR (with dynamic ice sheet decay) is not a concern?”

      • Dave H, the post thingsbreak links to starts out by claiming that Tom Fuller is not a serious journalist. That’s not insulting?

      • I’d check thingsbreak out a little bit before automatically assuming his questions are pure seeking of information.

        “It seems that Anthony Watts has decided to give Tom Fuller the reigns at his denialist propaganda outlet, WUWT. Tom obliges with some retreads of “skeptic” arguments we’ve all seen before.

        Yesterday, Fuller treated us to a little “polar bears aren’t threatened by anthropogenic warming” nonsense:”

        “Fuller’s argument amounts to little more than cherry picking and non sequitur.”

        “Is this the “journalist” cop out of “I’m not touching you”? That if you mendaciously mislead your readers, it’s not in any way a “lie” or “wrong” because it’s really “disagreement about interpretation”?


        If it weren’t for the John Flecks and Seth Borensteins of the world, I’d swear that the entire profession was insane.”

        “And can I say, for the record, that I truly admire the “informative and accurate be damned, *prove* that I explicitly lied/erred” approach that you’re retreating to.

        Once upon a time, I thought that was the domain of op-ed “thinkers” who had truly established themselves in the punditocracy, like George Will or Eugene Robinson. It’s nice to see that even normal journalists such as yourself can only be shamed by explicit falsehoods rather than a failure to inform.

        The “you can’t prove I lied about it, so you have no complaint” school of journalism must be terribly proud of you, Tom.”

        “Tom Fuller’s #climate misdirection Parts I: and II:
        12:18 PM Sep 10th via TweetDeck”

      • I’d like to hear Mr. Fuller’s answers to two questions:

        1. Which experts on sea level rise, ice sheet dynamics, and polar bear biology/ecology did you contact for your articles on polar bear populations and sea level rise?

        2. If I were to consult with the leading experts in these fields, would they agree with your news articles that polar bears are not threatened by anthropogenic warming and that significant SLR (with dynamic ice sheet decay) is not a concern?

        Mr. Fuller, if you won’t answer because you find these questions offensive, please say so directly.

    • Tom Fuller, as a supposed journalist, I would have thought that you would have a better knowledge of the English language. Your comment linking the term denier to the Holocaust is just utter nonsense.

      If you care to consult a dictionary (it tells you all about the history, meaning and context for the usage of words) you will find that the word deny (and hence denier) was used long before the middle of the 20th century. It was first used as far back as 1621. Though, perhaps since you have shown over and over again that you are in denial, you may even deny the accuracy of the Shorter Oxford Dictionary (1972 Edition).

      • False: Denier is a specific pejorative term re-used, or re-newed if you prefer, to deliberately mentally associate anyone who disagrees with the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming as a “denier” of the “science” involved by repeating the same term associated in socio-politics with the Holocaust deniers. Conveniently, this adds the neatly associated neo-Nazi, right-wing, extremist, and white pejoratives to the same term.

        Obviously, its roots are you describe. Its use is not as you describe.

        Can one not be a skeptic of the assumptions and political base of the supposed “solutions” to the problem?

        If the supposed “solutions” cannot solve the problem of a world that is (fortunately) heating up by some unknown number of degrees Celsius, are they “solutions” at all?

      • racookpei1978, what you say is utter garbage and is a well known tactic used by deniers. If you deniers don`t like the word then stop denying the facts. If you didn`t continue to deny well known scientific facts you wouldn’t be called deniers. It is that simple.

        Grow up and learn some science.

      • Mr. Forrester, I suggest you consult recent history instead.

      • I deny nothing.

        Temperatures have been globally warmer than now several times in geological history; CO2 levels have been much higher than now, several times.

        On average, CO2 rises and falls about 800 years after temperature rises and falls.

        Temperatures follow a 800 – 900 year long cycle (Roman Warming Period, Mediveial Warming Period, Modern Warming Period) with a shorter 60-70 year cycle superimposed on that long term trend. We are absolutely, most definitely warming now – rising from the Little Ice Age of 1650-1700 to new high. Recent peaks in that near-constant rise (1880, 1940, and 2000-2010 have always been followed by a flattened curve or decline, then a new rise.

        (Nobel Prize to the climatologist who names this cycle and determines why it is occurring. And worldwide ??? (hint, probably not praise) from his or her colleagues. It will be the equal of Wegner, Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, and Michelson (who disproved the aether theory – also held by consensus at the time.)

        UHI occurs – it varies by 1-4 degrees C from undisturbed sites to urban centers.

        TOBS is used to change temperature records in the past.

        Undisturbed, unchanged rural temperature records do not follow the same trends since 1860 that records published and “corrected” by the government generate.

        Sunspot records are nice, but temperature trends cannot be generated from sunspots alone. As a symptom of part of what the sun is doing over time, sunspots may (emphasize “might”) be affected by the same process that “might” (emphasis “might”) affect earth’s temperatures, but we don’t know. (Sunspot cycles follow more closely a 3-cycle pattern.

        In recent years,
        CO2 has been steady while temperatures rise.
        CO2 has been steady while temperatures have been steady.
        CO2 has been steady when temperatures fall.
        CO2 has risen while temperatures fall.
        CO2 has risen while temperatures rise.
        CO2 has risen while temperatures have been steady.


        So, earth’s temperatures are rising with a 800 year cycle from the late 1600 – 1700’s. 2000 – 2010 is obviously the latest hump in this rise. OK. Do you accept this? Or do you deny this?
        Now, my question to you (speaking to the CAGW community at large):
        Does the 2000-2010 represent the peak of the Modern Warming Period, or will the actual peak be 60 years later in 2060-2070, followed by a 400 year long, deadly decline into the Future Ice Age of 2400?

  12. Judith, I second this approach. One thing that has continually bothered me in this debate is the notion that theories are somehow “verified” or “falsified.” It’s not the case. “confirm” and “disconfirm” captures the way evidence and theory work together, or in your parlance “counts for” and “counts against”

    To your questions:

    1.The best way to phrase one or two “litmus” type questions that characterize where an individual stands re anthropogenic global warming.

    The litmus questions I like to ask are:

    A. what evidence is there to reject the physics of radiative transfer or RTE?
    B. All things other things being equal will increasing GHGs cool the planet?

    When you phrase the question as I do in B, you’ll find it hard for anyone to argue that there is any evidence or theory that supports B. It switches the debate from what they disbelieve to what they believe and whether or not that belief is warranted.

    • Steve,

      The physics of radiative transfer and RTE, assuming that means radiative transfer equilibrium, are two, or more, different issues.

      Radiative transfer needs to be modified to include a few adjectives, especially some that describe the physical phenomena and processes that are important relative to the application of interest. Radiative energy transport alone, I strongly suspect, would not be rejected by anyone. And, even tho we may safely assume you are referring to radiative energy transport in the Earth’s atmosphere, the interactions of that energy with all other components of the Earth’s climate system are the critically important aspects.

      As for radiative energy equilibrium, that’s an un-attainable state for the Earth’s climate systems. A rock-steady equilibrium has never been attained and very likely will never be attained by the Earth’s systems. There’s nothing in the systems to generate an error signal between the present state at any time and the, un-attainable, radiative-equilibrium state. The responses to the energy exchanges and imbalances will very likely continue to be a-periodic oscillatory responses. Now, the additional forcing due to the changing composition of the Earth’s atmosphere might increase the level about which the oscillatory responses occur. But that level very likely will be less than that based on the extremely over-simplified, zeroth-order radiative-equilibrium so-called model. Or, the additional forcing might increase the amplitude and ‘frequency’ of the oscillatory responses. It is likely that some combination of these, and other states, will obtain. A rock-solid steady state at an increased energy level will not be among those states.

      The continual un-steady nature of the Earth’s climate systems does not reflect well on the several attempts to set the energy balance budget, the distributions of the various energy transport and exchanges, based on a steady-state assumption. The same is true for those studies that attempt to determine the sensitivity of the response of the Earth’s systems to changes in the forcings. If the response of the systems was some kind of classic asymptotic relaxation back to a new equilibrium state, and if at the present time we are way out on the long tail of such a response, such that some kind of quasi-equliibrium state argument might be made, these studies might provide some useful information.

      I don’t get the litmus-test question or the Italian-flag approach. I think we need to get a much better handle on many of the critically important aspects. While a top-down problem can be specified based on very little truly understood information, and even mis-information, and even not-applicable information, successful solutions are always, and I do mean always, based on extremely well-understood bottom-up information.

      • Dan:

        “Radiative energy transport alone, I strongly suspect, would not be rejected by anyone.”

        I’ve seen it in several forms. But I was talking more about radiation transfer equations.

        But If I had to have a litmus test question it would be question B.

        You will note that all of the reading challenged hear cannot drop their demonization of WUWT long enough to propose some litmus test questions. ( folks at WUWT do the same thing, to be fair)

        Anyway, I like to frame it in terms of ‘what evidence do you have to warrant your belief that GHGs will cool the planet?”

        when skeptics are forced to answer that question, the only safe hiding place for them is to say “they dont know what effect added GHGs will have” and then when confronted with the vast amount of evidence that counts “for” a warming hypothesis, it doesnt seem rational reject the theory that added GHGs will ( all things being equal) warm the planet. So if I have to draw a line its this:

        A. people who have a warranted belief that added GHGs will warm the planet, all other things being equal.
        B. Those who are confused.

        There is no warranted belief that GHGs will cool the planet
        there might be a position that was purely skeptical ( we simply dont know, the evidence pro and con is absent or equal on both sides) and finally there is the position that a rational person would take. the balance of the evidence, both from theory and from data, is that added GHGs will warm the planet.

        don’t confuse warranted belief with a true warranted belief. Basically, you cannot deny that people hold a warranted belief that added GHGs will warm the planet. What people differ on is the level of the warrant.

      • Dan, I agree with everything you say. What I am trying to do with the italian flag is to emphasize the WHITE area, the uncertainties.

      • Steve Mosher,

        Unfortunately even your reversal is basically futile.

        Invariably G&T are referenced as “proof” that there is no “greenhouse effect”. No amount of contrary evidence can move someone who has this particular unshakeable belief.

        Even if no reference is supplied, the most common responses to an attempt to reduce this to basic physics are handwavy arguments about the complexity of the atmosphere, the arrogance of presuming man has the power to change anything, or a complete change of subject eg. into how it (whatever “it” is) is all a massive fraud. Again, invariably someone adopting this position is unshakeable, and no amount of evidence or rational persuasion can move them (in fact, as recent studies have shown, quite the reverse).

        So: what is an appropriate term for someone who ignores any and all evidence that does not fit with a preconceived worldview that is not based on scientific understanding, and who dismisses any attempt to provide a rational viewpoint as arrogant, elitist and/or fraudulent? And why is everybody bending over backwards to accommodate them?

      • Dave H,

        I’ve seen the behavior you describe, and I tend to ignore those who behave that way. The problem with labels is not so much when they’re use appropriately. It’s above all when they’re used indiscriminately and opportunistically, often to enable evasive tactics similar to those you describe. My experience indicates that labels often tend to be used that way, and that this creates confusion and noise. At worst, the substance of the issue is lost completely..

      • “So: what is an appropriate term for someone who ignores any and all evidence that does not fit with a preconceived worldview that is not based on scientific understanding, and who dismisses any attempt to provide a rational viewpoint as arrogant, elitist and/or fraudulent? And why is everybody bending over backwards to accommodate them?”

        I often wonder what to call the people who deny the simple facts of the emails. You see, I cannot call a “C02 skeptic” a denialist, because then I would have to invent a term of WORSE approbation for those who deny the facts of the mails. For it’s clear to me that a combination of stupidity, difficulty of the subject matter and self interest can lead someone to deny radiative physics. But people smart enough to understand physics are clearly smart enough to understand the mails. When they refuse to understand the mails is only left with the worse of all explanations for those people. They are worse than any C02 denialist.

      • Steve,

        Again you assert that your own interpretation (which is not free from bias or vested interest) of words and events that are by their very nature subjective rises to the level of fact. There has been a huge amount of commentary on what those emails do and don’t contain that I would easily class as ignorant or wilfully obtuse. For example, the allegations that the code that accompanied the emails contained evidence of dishonestly manipulating temperatures to reach a preordained conclusion – simply wrong. Yet this has been repeated as supposed “fact” in some quarters for a year now. So who is the arbiter of what constitutes the “facts” of the emails? You?

    • Steve,
      I fail to understand the point. I agree that increasing GHG warms the planet and still reject the anti-CO2 agenda.

  13. I think in this case you need to reconsider your 3 categorizations; the existence of natural variability in itself cannot be evidence for or against anthropogenic forcing (i.e. red or green), it can only increase uncertainties. Specific drivers of natural variation (such as changes in solar luminosity) can be treated as evidence for or against anthropogenic forcing – but they need to be specified so the direction can be determined and you can compare what you would expect (without anthropogenic forcing) against what has (or will) happen. If you can’t specify the expected changes you can only treat it as an unknown as it could move temperature in either direction – perhaps without anthropogenic forcing average temperatures would actually be dropping .
    I also think a better litmus test would simply be what is the climate sensitivity to a doubling of C02 – that removes the hypotheticals inherent your second test ‘Will the climate of the 21st century will be dominated by anthropogenic warming (green) or natural variability (solar, volcanoes, natural internal oscillations)?’

  14. I agree the labels that have been thrown around are very inadequate, and I applaud the attempt to find a more effective way of characterizing/classifying positions.
    However, I’m still left wondering what the point is. Maybe this is a good first step at depoliticizing the science, but what would the second step be?
    Litmus test questions with number scores for responses, or color shades on the Italian flag spectrum are all well and good (and definitely an improvement over the stale dichotomies) but do these have a shot of replacing terms like “skeptic” in popular discourse? I doubt it, since they require familiarization with whatever scale is being used and suggestive word-labels are far more intuitive.
    If the goal is to better elucidate the positions of various scientists and other controversy participants, then great, but for what purpose? Perhaps then it will be not as easy to erroneously lump people into the “denier” camp, but does this really address the politicization of the science? Maybe the goal is to get a better sense of where informed people stand on the scientific questions, maybe we should do such a survey (even set up an online form where people can register and state their positions), but this would just add another dataset to previous attempts to measure such views (Oreskes, Doran & Zimmerman, Bray & von Storch, that PNAS paper) and frankly I don’t see that changing much either. Let’s say we had a truly accurate measure of these things – what then? How would this persuade anyone to leave politics out of the science?
    I know I’m coming off sounding as a cynic, but this is something I really care about and would love to see progress on, and frankly I’m not sure where this is going. Even if it turns out that people on supposedly opposite ends of the spectrum only disagree by a few % on whatever scale, will that really help them to realize how much we have in common? After all, these are largely “political” disagreements which are not just determined by one’s scientific understanding.
    I also disagree that the question of greatest policy relevance is “Will the climate of the 21st century will be dominated by anthropogenic warming or natural variability”. Perhaps this is true from the standpoint of climate science, but it is reinforcing the assumption that we must scientifically understand our influence on the climate in order to forge policy – which immediately leads back to a politicization of science. I think the sorts of policies which can best address global warming and lead towards a decarbonization of the energy infrastructure can be selected and implemented with very little knowledge of the answer to the above question. In my view that is the best way to disentangle climate science from the politics.

    • Zajko, one of my main objectives in bringing this up is that we don’t need anything close to complete certainty to ponder policy options on this issue. I will get into decision making under uncertainty at some future point. But right now, the battle over the policies is being fought in a proxy war over the science, which is pointless. I’m trying to point out is that there isn’t all that much difference between between the skeptical position and the consensus position, and that this difference isn’t really meaningful in the context of considering our policy options. We need to acknowledge the uncertainty and that there is a spectrum of belief and opinion on this subject, and get on with considering policy options.

      • Ironically, in the USA, we can agree that a good policy response is to reduce oil consumption for reasons that go beyond CO2 forcing. IMHO, we are far better off making a multi trillion dollar investment in domestically sourced electric cars than in taxing CO2. The impact of taxing CO2 on jobs is speculative since much of current CO2 saving technology is overseas. The impact of a huge investment in electric infrastructure on jobs and CO2 can be more readily assessed.

        So I can remain skeptical that the impact of CO2 is as large as some claim and happily support the right type of electrification program.

      • Judith, I’d contend that there is a greater difference between the scientific consensus position and that of science scepticism with regard to uncertainties, even if there is little to distinguish them in the science.

        There are two influences of doubt in scepticism today, both of which require attention in order to form climate policy. The first is based on the inherent uncertainties in the science, and the second is a result of an increasingly apparent concealment of the extent of those uncertainties. This secondary measure increases doubt over the integrity of the former, primary, gauge of uncertainty – trust in the integrity of the science, if you will.

        Defence of the CRU/Penn State enquiries, and even failure to publicly dismiss them, by climate scientists is one example which further compounds the secondary measure of sceptical uncertainty with direct influence on the perception of primary (scientific) uncertainties. Given that acceptance of the science – with significantly reduced primary uncertainties – by sceptics would be required in order to form policy (unless we really DID see an end to democracy), the secondary uncertainties would first need to be redressed.

        To date they are insufficiently addressed, and arguably in many respects remain completely unaddressed, with few prospects in sight to attend this deficiency – your blog, of course, being one of the few exceptions. Broadly, though, I think the failure of climate scientists to even recognise the significance of the secondary uncertainty and the need to “clean house” is in effect the largest obstacle to the long-term formation of any climate policy worth deploying.

    • Steve Fitzpatrick

      I don’t think your position is very cynical; I think ‘realistic’ is probably a better description. As a non-climate scientist, I was really a bit shocked when I began looking at climate science; shocked by the apparent political uniformity and by the level of political involvement by many well known climate scientists. The shrill denouncing of anybody who offers a different perspective (like our esteemed hostess) strikes me as symptomatic of the problem. Then there are the regular complaints that anybody (like Judith) who deviates in any way from the ‘consensus’ and engages those who express doubt is behaving “irresponsibly” and “immorally” by delaying the morally demanded changes in energy sources and usage. The debate is toxic because it has been dominated by personal/political values as much as by science.

      While it does not hurt to frame the questions differently (like the Italian flag diagram), I fear this will not really impact the problem of a very politicized scientific topic. Political problems require political solutions. Should the USA end up with divided government after the November elections, I expect there will be an opportunity for real political progress on climate change. It seems that true compromise only happens in US politics when Federal power is divided and people with opposing political visions are forced to find some common ground in order to govern. Perhaps then some of the poison can drain from this issue.

  15. The “Italian flag” characterization of claims for climate science seems very useful from my perspective as an interested layman, especially since it draws attention to the “doubt” that is inherent in any scientific hypothesis and invites further inquiry–corrigibility being an essential feature of the scientific method (at least as I learned it). However, it further strikes me that the application of the “Italian flag” to the sort of high level questions posed in the article may be premature. Rather, a micro level scrutiny of the state of climate science would appear to be in order, at this point, in view of the many challenges to the credibility of the science.

    For example, WUWT regularly runs articles that questions the accuracy of temperature records, the credibility of homogenization and other adjustments to those records, selection/de-selection of various temperature records in one or another study, effects of the changing microclimate of measuring stations due to UHI and other factors, re-locations of measuring stations, etc. Such WUWT articles may be misleading and wrongheaded, I acknowledge, though they typically seem reasonable on the surface. At the same time, one seldom finds a knowledgeable reply to such WUWT articles by the “experts.” As an innocent in climate science matters I would expect that the above sorts of issues, raised by WUWT, would be immediately resolvable by documentation readily available to the public. And such documentation would undoubtedly be enhanced by an “Italian flag” representation of the uncertainties of the relevant data and supporting rationales. However, such documentation does not seem to be available.

    I recommend that until climate scientists take their field down to the floorboards and incrementally build it back up, brick by justified and documented (and “Italian flagged”) brick, then confidence in the “science” of climate will not be restored. Indeed, until the foundation of the science, at the micro level, is given a firm footing, then I suggest that it will be very difficult, if not impossible to even separate the “science” from the politics or from the pseudo-religion.

    • At the same time, one seldom finds a knowledgeable reply to such WUWT articles by the “experts.”

      That’s probably more of a factor in not knowing where to look or lacking access than it is that the rebuttal evidence doesn’t exist. You’ll find that experts tend not to reply directly to WUWT because it has demonstrated that it is not interested in a coherent, serious examination of the subject, but rather is a repository for any “not IPCC” claim made, regardless of their mutually exclusive natures.

      Issues like UHI are addressed routinely in the primary literature. The problem is that you have to be fairly conversant with locating such articles and usually need access in the form of an individual or institutional subscription to the journal for newer studies. (Many libraries have access to older papers.)

      For UHI, you can start here:

      Parker, D.E. (2010): Urban heat island effects on estimates of observed climate change. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 1, 1, 123-133, doi:10.1002/wcc.21

      I recommend that until climate scientists take their field down to the floorboards and incrementally build it back up, brick by justified and documented (and “Italian flagged”) brick, then confidence in the “science” of climate will not be restored. Indeed, until the foundation of the science, at the micro level, is given a firm footing, then I suggest that it will be very difficult, if not impossible to even separate the “science” from the politics or from the pseudo-religion.

      And this is, of course, exactly what the goal of trying to discredit aspects of climate science was meant to accomplish. Make some aspect of climate science (Northern Hemisphere paleoclimatic reconstructions for the last millennium) stand in for the entire field, relentless attack aspects of it until the public believes it has been compromised, and voila- they believe that it needs to “start over” from scratch.

      the foundation of the science, at the micro level, is given a firm footing

      The foundation of concern over anthropogenic emissions of radiative forcing agents rests on “a firm footing” of physics and the Earth’s observed and reconstructed behavior. The scientific basis for concern was largely in place before the issue arose as an area of policy concern, let alone the public “debate” of the last decade. None of it has been put in doubt because of micro-siting issues/UHI, hacked emails, etc.

      If you’re interested in really kicking the tires of the foundations of concern over AGW, you might want to pick up some undergrad-level textbooks on atmospheric and Earth system science. If you buy the older editions, they can be had relatively cheaply.

      • thingsbreak:

        Parker, D.E. (2010): Urban heat island effects on estimates of observed climate change. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 1, 1, 123-133, doi:10.1002/wcc.21

        This paper presents almost nothing new in the field and just rehashes old papers to wit:

        Parkers paper on wind and UHI:
        Actually, we had a spirited discussion about Parker’s paper on CA some time ago. Parker even responded to a list of submitted questions:

        several issues remain.

        1. His definition of “windy” was not tied to actual windspeed.
        2. his selection of sites was heavily dominated by airports.
        3. The metadata for defining urban sites is suspect.
        4. reliance on an untested “cool parks” postulate

        He also refers to Peterson who also used suspect metadata for defining rural. basically, you have a set of coordinates for stations that can be off as much as .5 degrees. you have stations that use a longitude based on different meridians, etc. The metadata ( radiance calibrated nightlights is more accurate, so that you are not actually looking at the nightlights where the station is because the station location is wrong ) This problem is currently being looked at by names everyone here would recognize, which is all I can say about it at this time. You’d be wise to admit that it is a small fixable problem, but a problem nevertheless.

        Finally, none of the papers address the uncertainty due to adjustments. Those uncertainties can be large ( according to the primary literature) but they are not figured into final estimates of uncertainty. The best example is TOBS. This correction is all fine and well, but the emprical prediction codes come with a SE that exceeds the measurement and sampling error and that uncertainty needs to be added to the final accounting. The mean doesnt change, but all adjustments ( for TOBS, station moves, instrument changes) have uncertainties. They just need to be properly accounted for.

        Now, I don’t think that the issues surrounding UHI will make the warming disappear. But there are errors (folks are sending those errors in, hopefully they will get credit in the publication which has already been accepted.. hint you don’t know all the facts) in the fundamental data. What will the answer be when those errors are fixed? roughly the same as we see today. Will our uncertainty increase? ya. but not enough to change much. There is no reason to fight a more precise accounting of the numbers. even if skeptics will take these minor errors and scream fraud.

      • Don’t have time to respond in depth but,

        steve mosher writes: This paper presents almost nothing new in the field and just rehashes old papers

        Yes, that’s generally the point of a Review.


      • Would it be offensive to describe you (vexillologically speaking) as a Libyan?
        Just kidding.

      • My understanding is that the issue over the theory of CO2 forcing is not disagreement over radiative energy transport but 1) The additional forcing required to make radiative forcing a potential crisis and 2) the lack of consideration of convective heat transfer.

      • Thingsbreak:

        Thanks for the response and the suggestions. I can see that WUWT is in a “bad odor” with the pro’s. Undoubtedly, the experts have the right angle on posts in WUWT, but just so th I (and others) can fully appreciate the deficiencies of that blogsite could you help jump-start my(our) education as follows:

        -A September 14, 2010 WUWT post, entitled “Adjusting the Temperature Down Under”, discusses and links to a report that shows adjustments to Australian temperature records at several sites. To someone, like myself, who has yet to read a climate science textbook, the adjustments beg for a justification. In that regard, could you advise where I can find rationales for the adjustments of the temperature records at the following Australian stations (perhaps with your own assessment of the quality of the rationales):

        –Kent Town
        –Brisbane Aero

        I am open minded and would very much like to see a knowledgable person like yourself, Thingsbreak, take the credibility of WUWT apart, using a concrete example.

      • thingsbreak says:
        September 15, 2010 at 4:57 pm
        Don’t have time to respond in depth but


        wise choice.
        What’s wrong with 10160355000

      • The “merchants of doubt” idea ( seems based on a selective (it’s tempting to say cherry-picked) set of examples.

        For some reason, the ones who are casting doubt are always “anti-alarmist”, supported by industry money, and wrong. So what about those who made the world doubt the wisdom of, for instance, the environmental or human use of toxic substances, who were attacked as anti-scientific by a seemingly massive consensus of experts, who won the political battle and were proven right in retrospect? In fact, I would think this is how most environmental issues started. I’ve seen some of them, I’ve been there. How can historians of science not know this? It’s unreal.

      • Thingsbreak,

        I’ve had a chance to read the article you recommended that criticized the “contradictory” character of the posts to WUWT. In particular, the author described the WUWT approach as “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.”

        For what it’s worth, I don’t find the above article provides a persuasive critique of WUWT. The WUWT website contains posts from many authors and it seems to me “healthy” that there is a variety of opinion, even if some of it is inconsistent between authors (less “healthy” if the contradictions are within an article or between an author’s current and former positions without an explanation for the change).

        Undoubtedly, WUWT’s hash of postings has the quality of throwing things against a wall to see what sticks, but I can’t see that to be such a bad thing. After all, if WUWT finds something that “sticks” then good for WUWT, I would say. It seems to me that the scientific method requires that a hypothesis be challenged every which way, even from contradictory directions, to see if it survives all angles of attack. Indeed, if my vague recall of those epistemology courses I struggled through long ago is at all accurate, such challenges form an essential part of the scientific method.

        Of course, a climate scientist might object that WUWT offers far too much chaff to wade through to be worth the effort, but that is not the criticism of WUWT offered in the article you linked. Rather, the linked article, as best I understand it, holds the view that it a requires the presentation of a competing hypotheses to challenge another and that a blog is not to be respected unless it establishes a party-line hypothesis and sticks to it. Like I said, I don’t find the article’s critique, as best I understand it, persuasive.

  16. It’s great to find you here with your new blog – the best possible luck with it.

    I’m encouraged to see how much uncertainty there is in your assessment – it helps to explain some of the endless circular arguments I’ve seen and occasionally contributed to. I hope that the pressure can shift to the policy experts to come up with the strategies that will do us some good no matter how it all pans out.

    I wonder whether some (but no-one here) may feel uncomfortable with being asked to make a scientific judgement on this issue? In which case a question such as:

    “Do you feel concerned or unconcerned by the thought of rising C02 emissions?”

    might also be useful.

    Anyway, since you ask, here are my scores to your 21st century question:

    green 20%
    white 50%,
    red 30%.

    And my vote is for Roger Pielke’s 2a.

    Whatever else, this fascinating issue has engaged so many people with science, and that can’t be a bad thing can it?

  17. So…just to be clear….you’re not cool with tepid either? You guys would make lousy zoologist.


    • The second question is phrased as a hypothesis.

      I understand it in the first question, as an allocation of a quantity to two components (though I still see two important problems with it; it presumes linearity, and it presumes both factors are known to act in the same direction).

      But where it addresses a true/false hypothesis, it isn’t the same thing. Consider:

      Do you think this creature is a duck?

      Duck: 25%
      Not duck: 25%
      Unsure: 50%

      In short, I claim to be 50% uncertain whether it is a duck, and I am equally 25% certain that it is a duck and that it isn’t a duck.

      What does this mean? How is it different from 50% duck and 50% non-duck and 0% not sure? Or 10 % duck and 10% non-duck and 80% not sure? Or just not sure?

      • Tobis: I think the flag is trying to give an answer to the question of “how much duck is there in this soup?” There are 10 chunks of stuff in there… having stabbed and visually examined a couple pieces, I know that at least 3 of the pieces are duck, but two are tofu. By the Curry rules, that would be “30% duck, 20% not-duck, and 50% unsure”.

        I’m not sure how well this applies to the climate problem, but I’m not entirely sure that the IPCC statement is that clear either: eg, “very likely” that “most” of the warming is anthropogenic: so, that’s 90-99% chance that 51-??% of the warming is human caused (Judith picks 90% as the upper bound): so, that means a 1-10% chance that the anthropogenic fraction is not in that range: does that mean 1-10% chance that the warming is either 0-50% or 91-100% (or more – after all, if natural variability would have been cooling, then anthropogenic causes could be more than 100%)? Is some of the 1-10% supposed to be covering the possibility that we haven’t measured temperature change very well, or that increasing CO2 doesn’t lead to warming, or ?

        Personally, I’d prefer two (0r more) pdfs: one showing the historical contribution of all human emissions to current temperature change since 1750 (or 1970?), and another showing the contribution of all natural variability to the same. Er. Maybe a 2D pdf, because our measurements apply some constraint to the net total temperature change, such that the uncertainties in the two will probably not be totally uncorrelated.

        And then, of course, a 2nd set of pdfs for future temperature change, based on some arbitrary emissions scenario (like a doubling of CO2), and then a 3rd set of pdfs for future GHG concentrations, and a 4th set for damage resulting from a given warming, and a 5th set for costs for reducing emissions, and a 6th set for…

        um. yeah.


      • I agree, its duck soup, the issue is much duck there is in the soup relative to other ingredients.

      • Well, if it has a duck’s beak and the feet of an ostrich, while the rest of the bodyparts are unidentified – perhaps obscured by a bush, then the italian flag would make sense, in that it separates what can not be known (white), and the weight of probability between what is (to a certain degree) known (red/green).

        If there is such a thing as a duck-denier, he would say – no, that’s not even a duck’s beak. There is no evidence. While a duckist would say that those are not ostrich feet, they ar duckfeet, only a little larger, gray instead of orange, and has no swimming skin between the toes.

        So the uncertainty represented in the green vs red, is not the same as the uncertainty presented by white, as white represents the uncertainty of the climate system itself, inherent uncertainty in science, and areas unexplored by current science, while red/green represents an assessment of areas covered by science – to varying degrees and varying levels of certainty.

        Well- that’s my take.

  18. Judith

    I like the intriguing Italian flag idea. You say;

    “My assignment allows the anthropogenic influence to be as large as 70% and as small as 30%, leaving plenty of room for natural variability and uncertainties.”

    That implies you know the size of the flag and have enough information to be able to roughly work out the size of its three individual components-red, white and green.

    However at this stage we know far less about how the climate works than we think we do-introducing uncertainties (white). That is coupled with climate scientists treating each bit of information as though it is of high scientific value, correct and accurate to the nth degree when history tells us it isn’t (introducing whites and red).

    My best estimate from looking at the history of climate is that;
    a) Temperatures have been rising since 1698-2 centuries before James Hansen plugged his Giss figures into the end of a long trend and claimed he was capturing the start of it.
    b) Global sea levels are still up to 50cms below what they were in the 14th Century and haven’t been increasing exponentially over the last century. (don’t get me started on Chapter five of AR4 !)
    c) SST’s are essentially worthless for all the reasons highlighted in the Hurricane thread.

    So when you say;
    “Will the climate of the 21st century be dominated by anthropogenic warming (green) or natural variability (solar, volcanoes, natural internal oscillations)?

    From where I’m standing- looking at the actual available evidence- I believe natural variability will continue to be the dominant factor as we have little evidence (other than modelled hypothesis) to suggest otherwise.

    So basically I see the flag as red with some large splashes of white-so that makes it look more than the Swiss flag! (There must be presumably be some tinges of green if we look closely enough)

    To answer one of your questions, I’m sure most of your colleagues see more a flag heavily dominated by green, with perhaps a few small dabs of white (that they’d rather keep quiet about)

    Perhaps you can expand your question and make it easier for people to determine which flag they believe represents their beliefs the best, by asking if they see;

    a) An Irish flag-mostly green
    b) A Swiss Flag- mostly red but with some white
    c) A three colour Italian flag (with slightly variable segments)
    d) A surrender flag-entirely white.


    • Global Sea levels were 50CM higher in the 14th century? Where is this documented?

      • Robert

        I went into this chapter and verse over at WUWT citing a variety of sources including Prof Brian Fagan author of many climate books and certainly no sceptic-who came to this conclusion. This is fully backed up by science and observation and ‘Historic variations in sea level’ will be the subject of my own next article. (You’ve just distracted me from it :) ) .


  19. I have no strong opinion for or against the Italian flag idea. It seems an improvement over a simple agree/disagree question. But I don’t think the equivalence you’re drawing with the likelihood language of AR4 is valid.

    E.g. even though there is a lot of uncertainty in precise numbers, scientists still proclaim that it’s very likely (ie with a likelihood of more than 90%) that human activity has caused most of the warming over the 20th century. I’m not sure that the translation to the Italian flag model is valid though. It seems rather strange to see that 28% of the evidence points towards natural variability being the main factor in explaining the recent warming; that doesn’t seem to be the mainstream scientific position at all.

    I’m very surprised to see your own numbers though: Do you claim that 21st century temperatures are as likely to be dominated by natural variability as by anthropogenic emissions? Do you view the evidence for natural variability be(com)ing the dominant driver over the next 100 years to be as strong as the evidence that anthropogenic emissions will be dominant?

    Your comment about natural variability being such a “wild card” sound much more to belong in the white than in the red box though, so maybe I’m interpreting the flag numbers different than you?

    • Again, not much time, but-

      Along with what Bart is saying, isn’t the red actually a claim of positive (negative) evidence against (in favor) of some proposition?

      So you (JC) believe that the evidence is *equally* divided between the proposition that natural variability will outweigh anthropogenic warming in the 21st century and the reverse? And the same for 20th century- equal division of evidence?

      I, too, find that difficult to reconcile with the current state of knowledge, unless there’s some sort of confusion in defining terms. Can you please elaborate? Per my suggestion, it might be helpful to start with the studies you believe support the “mainstream” and address their perceived deficiencies.

  20. Hi Prof. Curry,

    “The best way to phrase one or two “litmus” type questions that characterize where an individual stands re anthropogenic global warming”

    I think that Prof Roger Pielke sr hypothesis 1, 2(a) and 2(b) are the best way to express where individual stands. I’m not so doubtful that human influence climate, but I’m very doubtful that we influence it through Co2 emission.

    “Whether you like the Italian flag idea, and can suggest ways for characterizing the degree of belief analysis”

    I would suggest a cloud which would use the three primary colors (blue (evidence for) Yellow (uncertainty) and red (evidence against)). This would permit an infinity of position.

    “What values you would assign to the questions”

    Natural 25%
    Human (non co2) 20%
    Human (Co2) 5%
    uncertainties 50%

    “Speculate on what values other public figures in the climate debate might assign”

    human 95%
    uncertainties 5%

    Climate audit
    Human 20%
    Uncertainties 60%
    Natural 20%

    Watt’s up with that

    Human 20%
    Uncertainties 50%
    Natural 30%

    Climate progress

    Human (co2) 100%

  21. I enjoyed your passing mention of “postnormal” that linked over to Watts Up With That. A rather wooly-headed theory about how science should be used to inform political debate was rapidly bent into a hammer for ‘skeptics’ to pummel any scientist they didn’t like. Those un-favored scientists are apparently all lying for their own secret political purposes, because the end justifies the means! Insert your own projection joke here…

    As for you own wooly-headed idea, litmus questions with three simultaneous and contradictory answers, your example suggests that you “feel” that the climate of the 21st century will both be dominated by anthropogenic warming and by natural variability. Except that you’re 50% unsure. Should we thank you for this insight?

    Here’s how I would reframe my answer to your litmus test: natural variability will always be the largest component of change in our climate, but the anthropogenic contribution to will be relentlessly upward unless we act. No, we don’t know which of the two contributions will dominate in any short time period. Yes, scientific principles and objective evidence both show that the anthropogenic contribution is real. No, I don’t care if the IPCC’s scenarios are off by, say, 50%. If there were realistic scenarios showing a wildly different climate was possible by the end of the century I’d be happy to discuss them but there aren’t any, are there?

    You’re adding to the noise here, not the signal. You’re arguing over how pregnant we are. Science is all about doubt and scrutiny, but simply talking about doubts without working to understand or reduce them is anti-science.

    • Fine, state your point, but why be such an *ss about it?

    • The problem is the assignment of responsibility to CO2. If catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is “probable” but the primary driver is not CO2, then we risk spending our fiscal ammunition on the wrong problem.

      Assuming that taxing CO2 will “fix” a hypothetical catastrophic warming problem could lead to dangerous complacency.

      I am not a proponent of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming whatever the cause. I am a proponent of a huge investment in domestically sourced CO2 reduction technology for non-climate reasons.

      • Re: (Sep 16 01:47),
        Strange conclusion. Reducing CO2 if it is not a climate-killer is pointless; its effects are entirely beneficial absent that boogey-factor. Energy efficiency is not equivalent to cutting carbon emissions.

      • > its effects are entirely beneficial

        Nope. Unless of course you want to provide some sort of credible evidence that ocean acidification is impossible or beneficial, and that every single plant species benefits from added CO2 with no detrimental effects at all, and some sort of credible evidence that all of the literature showing the opposite is wrong. And even if you could hypothetically do all of that then all you’d have grounds for is doubt, rather than the absurdly confident statement you just made.

    • Ben: If we think natural causes will dominate, then – simplifying – a relentlessly increasing human effect would only produce a relentlessly increasing overall effect, if the natural factors proceed to vary around an average of where they happen to be right now, ie – not if natural factors are headed downwards. How confident are we that natural factors will in fact do this?

  22. I’ve thought about this issue and think the flag isn’t a bad idea. While I’m sceptical of the degree of impact of man made CO2, I don’t doubt that we impact the climate. It’s the hyperbole and the politics that drives me nuts. It I understand the definition of climate properly, then the dust bowls of the 1930’s were an impact on climate and the cause was largely due to human farming techniques.

    I’d lean about 25% green, 40% white and 35% red.

  23. Hi Judith, You state

    “Note, my weights were not determined using any fancy analysis, but integrate my sense of uncertainty in CO2 sensitivity, model uncertainties, and particularly the wild card that is natural variability.”

    To give a good answer to the questions though it is necessary to carefully integrate underlying uncertainties. Even more so when they are not independent. Nor are we at liberty to chose a ‘sense of uncertainty’ by instinct since the science will dictate allowable values. For example your question on “the issue of attribution” is dominated by the fact that we have measurements of the forcing from many different effects giving a range of very likely values for each. Further the sum total must closely correspond to the forcing necessary to raise temperatures and ocean heat content as observed. The provides strong constraints on the probability of any one value being out of its current range.

    On your litmus test question I think you should justify your scores and show us the fancy analysis. Prove your scores have some basis in the physical science. In IPCC AR4 Section 2.1 the scale of anthropogenic forcings to date dominate by 20:1 the natural effects (ie solar) . Clearly if AGW is to be shown to have a small effect then this relies on the quantification of some large natural forcings (I suggest over 6W/m2) that are as yet undiscovered or the physical mechanism not explained.

    One way to quantify this probability would be to consider the likelihood of low climate sensitivity. Find the limits on past variability and sensitivity from observation and you set limits on natural forcing. Using a theory/model that requires parameters to be outside these limits to reproduce observed changes is equivalent to arguing that the theory is very unlikely to be true. If two theories can both use parameters inside the limits and reproduce observed changes then we have room for debate.

    I think at present the reason AGW from GHG is regarded as very likely is because if we try to construct models that play down the effects of AGW forcings we find too many variables or predictions to be outside the likely ranges determined by observation, whereas when we allow the effects of man made forcings we find significantly better agreement.

    I think as a climate scientist you have the skill, wide range of knowledge and helpful colleagues, to quantify an answer your question “Will the climate of the 21st century will be dominated by anthropogenic warming”. Will you do it ?


    PS. There may be statistics or reasoning software out there that would make this sort of analysis tractable to the less skilled, ie something that allows us to construct a model with facts, relationships and probabilities that then indicates the likelihood of a given outcome. Anybody aware of such a package ?

    • Mike, the challenge is that we don’t know how big the white area is, since it includes unknown unknowns, and also inherent unpredictable variability.

      • That comes directly back to the “unknown” of “what has the temperatures been the past 2000 years/” that is posted as reply 1.

        If the current rise in temperature is shown to:

        – begin before the rise in CO2 in mid-20th century
        – not unusual (part of previous rise, steady, and fall)
        – has been seen before (the current rate is not unusual)
        -can be predicted based on past plots of a 800 year long-term cycle plus a 60 year short term cycle


        The number and scope of unknowns in future temperature rises is reduced. (The white area can be identified in scope)

        The amount of risk (in determining future policy – the real key to the argument!) can be approximated.

        The degree of “change” from the earth’s natural cycle can be determined (or approximated) => the amount of red (human-caused warming) can be approximated.

        The amount of “green” (natural change) on the flag can be approximated. Hopefully, can be increased.


        Invert the above: If the current rise in temepratures can reliably and honestly be shown to be:

        Greater than previous (natural) increases,
        Not contained (proved through data to continue unabated) ,
        Began when CO2 began to increase,
        Is based on “uncorrupted” or “original” data that is internally consistent and properly documented and properly and openly and rigorously analyzed,
        Shown to be of a magnitude large enough to cause real problems to real people,

        then there will begin to be a consensus that is correct.

        But, no point of the above has been reached. We are not yet at this stage. Worse, we are not getting to this stage. Yet.

        But the key to proceeding is real data and real science. Can this be even started when the “hockey stick” is so blatantly used (by the IPCC and others) to provoke political/policy changes based on bad science and bad processing of that data? Can it begin when investigations “aren’t” and data “isn’t”?

  24. The matter of climate and anthropogenic influence is complex and there are a lot of positions people take. Rather than one question something like the geek code seems more appropriate to me. I think people here are engaged enough to put a bit of work into quantifying their position.

    Here’s a suggested start. Initial letters indicate the question, values can be numerical (indicated by NUM) or on a scale of -2 to +2 from strong disapprove/believe to strong approve/believe (indicated by D/A), as appropriate and indicated in the question.

    Here are a few starter questions, let other suggestions accumulate and then collect it into a final code. Yes, it’ll be quite a questionare, but it gives you a better idea of what people think than a single question. Maybe you can find someone willing to program a code generator / interpreter.

    C: increase in atmospheric CO2 from pre-industrial to present is anthropogenic (D/A)
    S: best guess for likely climate sensitivity (NUM)
    s: 2-sigma range of S (NUM)
    a: ocean acidification will be a problem (D/A)
    L: expected sea level rise by 2100 in cm (all contributions) (NUM)
    B: climate change will be beneficial (D/A)
    R: CO2 emissions need to be reduced drastically by 2050 (D/A)
    T: technical advances will take care of any problems (D/A)
    r: the 20th century global temperature record is reliable (D/A)
    H: over the last 1000 years global temperature was hockey stick shaped (D/A)
    D: data has been intentionally distorted by scientist to support the idea of anthropogenic climate change (D/A)
    g: the CRU-mails are important for the science (D/A)
    G: the CRU-mails are important otherwise (D/A)

    My code so far would be “C+2 S3.0 s1.5 a+1 L75 B-1 R+2 T-2 r+2 H+1 D-2 G-2 g-2”, fully convinced CO2 rise is anthropogenic, IPCC range of climate sensitivity, acidification will be a problem, sea level rise something like 75cm. I don’t think climate change will be beneficial, there will be no technical fixes and we need to reduce CO2 emissions fast and hard. I consider the 20th century temperature record to be reliable, roughly hockey stick shaped over the last 1000 years and there has been no significant data manipulation. I don’t see the CRU-mails changing the science and I don’t care about them.

    Either include the code in every post or have a dedicated thread for posting theses codes (NO! discussion whatsoever, just the code)

    • The CO2 sensitivity is the equilibrium response to doubling of atmospheric CO2 in °C, including feedbacks, as defined in the IPCC reports. If you don’t think CO2 matters you can put in zero, if you don’t think there are feedbacks it is about 1.0, I think.

  25. Sorry to re-post this. I did not intend it to be a reply to thingsbreak and Steven Mosher.

    The “merchants of doubt” idea ( seems based on a selective (it’s tempting to say cherry-picked) set of examples.

    For some reason, the ones who are casting doubt are always “anti-alarmist”, supported by industry money, and wrong. So what about those who made the world doubt the wisdom of, for instance, the environmental or human use of toxic substances, who were attacked as anti-scientific by a seemingly massive consensus of experts, who won the political battle and were proven right in retrospect? In fact, I would think this is how most environmental issues started. I’ve seen some of them, I’ve been there. How can historians of science not know this? It’s unreal.

    • It’s possible that they do know something like this, but also recognize how inconvenient it would be to the “merchants of doubt” narrative to mention. History always uses abridgment and selective use of evidence/events, but bad history does this to bolster a pre-determined narrative (usually progress, or the battle between the good and the bad, the true and the false). Good history makes clear the complexity of events, breaks down the illusion of coherent “sides” such as science vs. anti-science, and a clear sequence of causally-related events (such as tobacco denial becoming climate skepticism). Unfortunately good history makes for bad polemics – see Butterfield’s Whig Interpretation of History (which, by the way, is a polemic)

    • “Merchants of doubt” played a big role in how we construed the actions of the “team”

      Basically, the “team” bought into the concept or meme ( however truthful or doubtful that meme is, it matters not a wit) that skeptics are selling doubt. Bracketing the “truth” of that meme we can observe the following:

      1. there will be a tendency to view any doubt as a product of the “industry”
      2. there will be a tendency to construe the fight as us versus them.
      3. there will be a tendency to see anyone who raises doubts as a member
      of that industry.
      4. there will be a corresponding desire to sell certainty rather than doubt.
      5. there will be a conflict between those scientists over eager to sell certainty
      and those who understand that doubt is in the structure of scientific knowledge.

      you will find confirmation of all these positions. you will find little to no evidence against these propositions. You see #5 played out in the battle between Dr. C and the establishment. Now these statements follow directly from the very logic of the meme, from the logic of metaphors and how we act as humans.

      Simply, the meme informs the way the team thinks. they cannot help but lump McIntyre, for example, with the industry that sells doubt. They cannot help but oversell the warranted beliefs they have. They had to sell certainty. They fostered a bunker mentality, saw everyone who raised doubt ( even small mistakes of no scientific consequence) as an enemy, and engaged in actions that upon reflection are not the best practices. None of this makes the science wrong. Neither is it an excuse. It’s best to admit the shortcomings forthrightly and work openly to improve things.

      Now, you will find that one end of the spectrum will say that I am not being harsh enough and the other end of the spectrum will give no quarter, or they will change the topic. They can’t,for example, even say what best practices are because to do so would be to admit that best practices have not been followed. So, if I were a skeptic I would just keep asking the best practices question, cause it’s really funny that very few people who believe in AGW can bring themselves to admit that the team did anything substandard.

      • That’s how I see it too (assuming I understand what you’re saying). Rationally it should be a no-brainer for anyone, “skeptic”, “warmist” or whatever, to support whatever measures are necessary to ensure the quality and the trustworthiness of the scientific process. What a great opportunity; something everyone could agree on. But in the real world, it isn’t so. Instead, there is intense conflict.

  26. Dagfinn says:

    “For some reason, the ones who are casting doubt are always “anti-alarmist”, supported by industry money…”

    While I disagree with most of your statement, I’ve hear the skeptics being on the pay roll so many times I need to see some evidence. From what I see, the biggest investors in cap and trade were oil and energy companies (GE, BP, Exxon, etc.). So who is giving us the doyle and where is my share?

  27. Interesting blog and well done for trying to redefine the tedious name calling that takes place from all sides of this argument. I’m an avid reader on ‘climate change’ because the science and the politics fascinates me. But I never comment on blogs because the level of debate/discussion barely gets above the 3 year old level. However, you’ve tempted me out with your blog and the rather refreshing tone of ‘lets start again, and lets focus on the science’.
    Ok what am I (not that any of you might care but it always seems appropriate in this world to declare your position)? I’m a scientist, but I’m not a ‘climate scientist’. I work in the pharmaceutical industry and I guess that frames my view on climate change. I am used to the burden of proof falling on me the scientist (well the company really) that my drug is safe and effective. I think this is why I have fallen into the sceptic band because I haven’t seen the necessary firm evidence that man is causing the climate to change beyond natural boundaries. I’m perfectly happy to accept that it could be happening but I want to see more solid proof (rather than opinion) thats it is real. I’ve read parts of the IPCC reports and I cannot, coming from my world, get to that same conclusions in terms of certainty.
    So am I a denier? Well no because its a ridiculous term. Do I have doubt? Well yes and lots of doubt. Do I have enough knowledge to truly add to the debate? Probably not. But this another problem; who actually does have the authority when the range of science is so broad?
    How do I want to be labelled? I think sceptic is probably equally daft but at least its not offensive.

    So I want climate science to continue at its current level. I want solutions to be found to enable us to best cope with our climate. I want arguments and counter arguments on the science. I want our knowledge to increase. But most of all I want the key debate, for me, to actually be debated properly, calmly and without preconditioned bias. The most important debate is: Should the precautionary principle be applied based upon our current knowledge level on the climate, specifically whether man is or will be responsible for driving the climate through CO2 emissions? The decision to apply the precautionary principle has in many ways already been taken, but personally I believe that it has been taken rashly and without regard for the cost versus benefit.
    Anyway, I won’t appear again and best of luck with your blog and best of luck with promoting the science.

    • Taking your perspective from the pharmaceutical industry to its logical conclusion, I would suggest to you that it is the CO2 emitting industry that needs to “prove” that its product is not harmful to our environment. Obviously it has centuries of “existing use” as the “status quo” energy source, but – just as with any drug company – as more and more evidence of the potentially harmful effects of its product emerge, it would seem that the responsibility of the governing authorities is to impose the precautionary principle and insist that the producers of the substance “prove” that it is harmless (in relation to alternatives).

      • I can see your logic to some extent but perhaps a difference my be that the unproven theory here, in other words the experiment, isn’t whether CO2 is safe or not (…because it is safe, its been in our atmosphere for ever and is a key component in life…so that doesn’t need to be proved), but perhaps at the outer limits is human induced CO2 driving climate change beyond the normal boundaries? So if you want to change how we deal with Co2 the burden of prove comes back to those that think it is driving climate change. Prove it then the world can react.
        And this once again comes back to the precautionary principle. At the moment, and in my humble opinion, this hasn’t been proven, however the political/scientific world is applying the precautionary principle and saying it must be limited.
        A parallel might be that I say my drug prevents cancer so we are going to use the precautionary principle and give it to everyone whether they have cancer or not, just in case it does work and then we can eliminate cancer. Thats the wrong way round of course and might mean that the cure could end up being worse than the disease itself, with side effects and unnecessary costs. Here we are saying that CO2 from man is driving climate change to a tipping point and therefore we are going to use the precautionary principle to say that we must stop emitting Co2. So the question becomes, is the cure going to cause unnecessary side effects (i.e. cutting CO2 effects our way of life…driving cars, flying in planes etc etc) and is it going to be an unnecessary cost?

      • Oh and the other problem you have in climate science is that I can conduct a controlled trial for my drug. You can’t replicate this by having one earth with man producing tonnes of CO2 and another without man, or man not breathing..and then waiting a few decades or centuries to see the difference. So your single arm study will always have flaws because you have no control.

  28. There is another aspect which comes from my knowledge of the history. I believe there has been an expectation (somewhat implicit and thoughtless) that climate science would progress in the direction of greater certainty. Also, an expectation that a suspicion of harm would tend be confirmed. This has happened in a lot of cases; the heavy metals mercury, lead and cadmium are the ones I happen to have some knowledge about. The lowest observed adverse effect level tends to go down as more sensitive tests of effects are developed. But generalizing from this is not necessarily valid or useful.

    • Dagfinn, exactly correct. The climate system is extremely complex, so it is very difficult to figure it out. This is compounded in a major way by inherent (irreducible) uncertainty that is associated with the nonlinear, chaotic aspects of the climate system. We’ve learned alot in the past 10 years, but arguably the size of the white area has continued to increase as we uncover more complexity and uncertainties.

      • This sounds a bit like the old joke about scientists – they get more and more knowledgeable about a smaller and smaller field until they know everything about nothing.

        More generally, in as much as scientific knowledge could be said to be fractal – as more and more details are worked out, the number of wrinkles and details expand to fill the space around them – then the total outline of knowledge is going to be infinite. However, it doesn’t mean that our overall understanding gets less – you are still entitled to take a step or two back and look at the whole map, rather than the wrinkles around each minor headland. More importantly, in the fractal analogy, the shape of the overall pattern doesn’t change even though you have infinitely expanded the shape of the minor details.

  29. Note to some commenters : green and red in Judith’s Italian flag are evidence. not belief.

    Judith, re your issue “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” :

    As always, the whole thing boils down to “climate sensitivity” (ECS). In your Italian flag, the green consists of all evidence that ECS is 3 or greater. At any lower values, greenhouse gases demonstrably did not deliver “most” of the rise since the mid-20th century.

    In the green corner : papers by Stephen Schwartz (apologies if wrongly spelled) and others putting climate sensitivity at around 1.2. This is not sufficient, of course, but the IPCC cites water vapour and clouds as raising ECS from 1.2 to 1.9 and then 3.2 [IPCC Report AR4]. So in order for the green corner not to be empty, we must also place in it the evidence for water vapour and clouds. I have been assured repeatedly that there is good evidence for water vapour, though no-one ever seems to be able to present it. But even if it exists, an ECS of 1.9 is not enough. Evidence for clouds is required too. But the IPCC Report makes it absolutely clear (I kid you not) that there is no evidence for clouds.
    In this document I list all the IPCC Report references to clouds [a few inconsequential references were omitted, you are welcome to check]. The document ends : The two “killers” are TS.6.4.2 – Large uncertainties remain about how clouds might respond to global climate change. (which shows that they have not considered that the relationship might be primarily the other way round, ie. that climate responds to clouds) and Box TS.8 – parametrizations are still used to represent unresolved physical processes such as the formation of clouds and precipitation (in my university days they were called “fudge factors”).
    I think you will agree that “unsupported” is an accurate assessment of cloud “feedback”.

    So my numbers for the Italian flag start with

    Green 0%

    It doesn’t now seem to matter how much is white and how much red.

    • Mike: Note to some commenters : green and red in Judith’s Italian flag are evidence. not belief.

      This is not clear, as Judith explicitly says

      The assignment of degree of belief is a much richer method for assessing belief than a binary choice of believing or not believing the statement. As an example, my personal weights for the Italian flag are:

      1. white 40%,
      2. green 30%,
      3. red 30%.

      Mike: Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” :

      As always, the whole thing boils down to “climate sensitivity” (ECS). In your Italian flag, the green consists of all evidence that ECS is 3 or greater.

      How does this follow?

      Most IPCC doubters argue that the observed temperature rise is too low to be consistent with the consensus position, but you seem to be arguing that it is too high!

      If temperature increase has been 0.7 C < dT < 0.8 C then let's say "most" of the doubling is 0.5 C. The log based 2 increase is log2(390/300) = 0.37 doublings . The lowest sensitivity consistent with observations and the hypothesis would be the one where the warming was instantaneous, so it would be 0.37 S < 0.5; S = 1.35 .

      (Of course, the great majority of evidence is that the equilibrium sensitivity to equivalent CO2 doubling is indeed in the range of 2.5 C to 3 C. But one thing at a time.)

      • Steve Fitzpatrick

        “The log based 2 increase is log2(390/300) = 0.37 doublings .”

        Well, almost; 285 PPM is probably a better lower concentration. But this completely ignores all other greenhouse gases, which (according to the IPCC AR4) represent just about half the current forcing from CO2. Then there is the large uncertainty in net aerosol effects and uncertainty in ocean heat accumulation; considering all, you pretty quickly see that looking at CO2 ratios doesn’t tell you much of anything about the true climate sensitivity, or even what the lower bound for that sensitivity is.

    • Mike, your statement of the climate sensitivity of 3C being required to support the hypothesis doesn’t quite follow from the hypothesis. They hypothesis could be true with say a 2C sensitivity. Here is another litmus test hypothesis:

      The sensitivity of surface temperature to a doubling of CO2 exceeds 2C.

      In the red area would be lukewarmers and skeptics, with the consensus position in green. The biggest issue is the size of the white area, which IMO has to be exceed 50%.

      • Michael Tobis : yes, it does seem to have been interpreted that way. I was going by Judith’s original statement (where the Italian flag appears) “evidence for a hypothesis is represented as green, evidence against is represented as red

        Judith and Michael Tobis : I’m happy to work with ECS >= 2.

        Michael Tobis “Most IPCC doubters argue that the observed temperature rise is too low to be consistent with the consensus position, but you seem to be arguing that it is too high!“. I don’t think that is what most IPCC doubters argue. But then I am not arguing that it is too high wrt the IPCC either – only too high wrt Schwartz & co.

      • Finally, the first sign of some sanity in this debate. When one talks about belief and doubt, one needs to define what one believes or doubts. When one don’t include a quantitative terms in the definition, one generally hasn’t defined the subject! If climate sensitivity is low enough, anthropogenic vs natural variation is fairly irrelevant. Please put quantitative terms in any litmus test.

        With a climate sensitivity of roughly 1 from “settled” CO2 science, some evidence for natural shifts in global climate of 0.5-1.0 degK, and a fair amount of uncertainty in feedbacks, my Italian flag (based on physics) will probably be mostly white if climate sensitivity is >2.5. I don’t have enough familiarity with estimates of climate sensitivity derived from paleoclimatology to venture an opinion. Since well-documented events like Mt. Pinatubo and 20th century climate change don’t place useful limits on climate sensitivity, I’m not hopeful.

      • Judith: “In the red area would be lukewarmers and skeptics, with the consensus position in green.
        This is definitely oriented to belief not evidence.
        I don’t think it is at all helpful.
        The only way that the Italian flag method can be useful, IMHO, is if it is used for evidence, not belief. Using actual scientific evidence, and nothing else, is surely the only way forward.

      • Mike, the Italian flag is an evidence based analysis. On a complex topic with many sources of uncertainty, rational people can weight the evidence and uncertainties in different ways.

      • Judith – my point is that the flag sections are for evidence. You say “In the red area would be lukewarmers and skeptics” – they are not evidence.

  30. PS. I said it didn’t matter how much was in the red corner, but of course there is some important evidence in the red corner which strikes at the heart of AGW, the place where the warming occurs : the tropical troposphere temperature.

  31. ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
    Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
    What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
    What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;
    So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
    Retain that dear perfection which he owes
    Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
    And for that name which is no part of thee
    Take all myself”
    I think that there might only be two climate categories.
    1) Dangerous Anthropogenic climate change.
    2) Benign Anthrpogenic climate change.
    Adopting a position with regards to either of these options will remain dificult until the science is disestablished from politics and all methods, data and codes are released in order that scientific papers can be replicated/audited. Only then, will those of us who are not scientifically trained be able to come to a considered position. So long as we know that scienists are able to withold their methods, we will continue to reject their work because we do not consider it to be valid.

  32. My take for awhile on this is that there are two movements, often indistinguishable:
    One is the normal science: collecting data to relentlessly test a hypothesis, and letting the results speak for themselves.
    The other is a social movement that has interpreted the science, come to a conclusion based on that interpretation, and has become a vast social movement. Its conclusions are roughly that the recent climate measurements show something unique, dangerous and driven by CO2 is occurring and that the only cures involve dramatically reducing carbon based energy no matter the cost or demonstrated impact. And that to disagree with any aspect of this means the one disagreeing is a bad person with bad motives.
    I guess you could say there is a third group that formed in the shadows of the first two, as well: Those who disagree with any or all of the points the second adheres to.
    The science I leave to the scientists.
    But the policy in this should no more be under the thumb of climate scientists than farm policy is under the thumb of doctors studying metabolism.

    • Of course “policy in this should no more be under the thumb of climate scientists than farm policy is under the thumb of doctors studying metabolism”. I know of nobody who thinks otherwise.

      Most climate scientists are merely frustrated that the balance of evidence is incorrectly perceived. Once there is a reasonable coherence between what the evidence shows science and what the evidence shows the public, climate science will, with a vast sigh of relief, retreat into obscurity.

      Unless, of course, geoengineering becomes necessary, in which case the world had better make climate science a heck of a lot more attractive career path than it’s been lately.

      • Roddy Campbell

        Michael, your comment is brief, but does your second para not conflate the evidence for AGW and the scale of impacts? I’m always perfectly impressed with the former (although the quantum of temperature rise is not clear to me) and pretty unimpressed with the latter (and not remotely impressed with most policy responses).

        ‘This is really happening’ is fine.

        ‘We need to do something NOW’ is not so fine.

        ‘We need to do THIS now’ is not at all fine.

        (And, of course, who is ‘We’ anyway.)

        Secondly what do you mean by your last para – I do hope Curry, Mann, Hansen and Christy aren’t designing our geoengineering policy!

      • Roddy, what is it that you think Tobis’s “second para” says? I don’t see anything about a “need to do something NOW”, let alone any specific action.

      • re Roddy (9/16 at 4:07):

        Thanks for the nice questions.

        who is ‘We’ anyway

        For ‘we’, I take it as obvious that there is a collective right of humanity to prevent major consequential damage to the whole world that must be weighed in against individual rights to acquire and use natural resources.

        The details are obviously immensely fraught; world government is something to be avoided for historically obvious reasons. But we do have world treaties that are effective, most notably in the definition of currencies and trade, to which only North Korea and Myanmar are holdouts, I believe. And there is the example of the successful regulation of CFCs in global environmental matters.

        But **if** we have to do something, we have to do it, and we is everybody.

        conflate the evidence for AGW and the scale of impacts? I’m always perfectly impressed with the former (although the quantum of temperature rise is not clear to me) and pretty unimpressed with the latter (and not remotely impressed with most policy responses).

        Whether we **do** have to do something is indeed less established. This is precisely why sites like this are, though entertaining, in a sense unfortunate. Us physical climatologists really ought to be withdrawing from the conversation. WG I has done a good job, WG III has a long way to go, and WG II has produced a mess. So why is the conversation dominated by WG I matters? I have some thoughts about this, but for now I’ll just say that I think to a large extent it is a result of a cynical diversionary tactic on the part of the coal interests.

        That all said, I believe that we need to stop building new coal infrastructure in about 1995, and that the last fifteen years growth in coal will likely have serious consequences for thousands of years. However, the weak points in this claim are in the realm of impacts, policies and technologies, not physical climatology. To discuss physical climatology instead is to defer the important uncertainties and contingencies.

        I do hope Curry, Mann, Hansen and Christy aren’t designing our geoengineering policy

        You cannot implement an engineering solution in the absence of engineering. (Well, you can, but only if you don’t mind that it doesn’t work.)

        That is, the domain experts cannot be called in as an afterthought to the policy development.

        The current state of the climate modeling art is grossly inadequate for a geoengineeing solution. So we need better modelers to get the better models. Thus at a minimum we need less obnoxious environments for us climate modelers (actually, our betters whom you’d want to replace us) to do our work in.

        If you want a serious geoengineering fallback, you should be attracting the real kick-butt applied mathematicians and software engineers, people who can make good money elsewhere, and try to convey the relevant science to them, so that if an engineering quality model of the climate is possible, it gets built. These people need to be paid and protected from character assassination and threats from the political winds that us pioneers have been subject to.

      • And the evidence of dangerous changes is ~0.
        Yet the scientists promoting AGW are claiming it is otherwise.

  33. The framework and litmus questions are an interesting way of assessing scientific certainty. But I am not sure they work for assessing risk (75% white?). And risk is the issue when considering action.

    Suppose I am asked, will my house burn down next year? Estimating 1 house in 10,000 burns each year, I would put zero in green, 0.01% white, and 99.99% red. But I still buy fire insurance.

    • Jeff, risk can be interpreted as the product of what can happen times the probability of it actually happening. When considering action, the biggest challenge is how to handle the low probability but high impact possibility. At what point to you factor such a possibility into your decision making, and how can you make your policy robust and flexible so that you aren’t left vulnerable to the possibility but at the same time don’t spend too much on a fairly remote possibility? Decision making under uncertainty (including deep uncertainty) is a field that deals with these issues. I regard the UNFCCC policies that specify a single emissions target with a specified timetable to lack robustness: on the one hand, this might not be enough to prevent dangerous climate change, and on the other hand, it might not be necessary. Robust and flexible policies are needed that explicitly account for the uncertainty.

      • My take on low probability/high impact (lp/hi) could be described by this example: The Netherlands has been successfully dealing with the challenges of mitigating high water risks for many hundreds of years. San Francisco, Boston, Houston, New Orleans have all been dealing with the challenges of water intrusion/low lying area vulnerability for years. Except for New Orleans, where corruption and bad management ruled, the efforts have been, if not perfect, tolerable. They have muddled through.
        Nothing in the realm of realistic indicates that climate driven changes in the coming 100 years are going to be very different.
        yet the opportunity cost of over valuing lp/hi must be considered as well. I think dealing with the opportunity costs of tying up energy and enviro policy for the past several years over CO2 is something that should be recognized. Could an international agreement that actually worked have been put together to reduce soot from coal plants in the last ten years? Could efforts to green deserts, improve ocean fisheries, or other things that improve the environment and help people have been done instead of the series of expensive results-free conferences on CO2 driven climate change?
        Could work to prove or disprove thorium as an energy source have been made by now?
        But no. We are obsessed with CO2, watching AGW promoters make prediciton after prediciton of doom that never actually occurs.
        And policy makers are held hostage to agreeing with these promoters.
        That is an opportunity cost worth exploring.
        (if I have gone too long, please forgive me)

    • “But I still buy fire insurance.” Only because the insurance is available at what you consider a reasonable cost.

    • Roddy Campbell

      Jeff, how much do you pay for your mitigation policy, do you know exactly what the cost of adaptation would be, and is there utterly reliable data on the likelihood of each of the two outcomes?

      I’ve never understood the insurance analogy at all – for it to work every Chinaman has to buy the same policy as I do. Similar issues with the precautionary principle.

  34. In market research, questions like those posed here would be addressed by examining behaviour rather than attitudes. Some of those would be fairly easily captured in a typical survey analysed using multivariate analysis.

    1. Voting record, with questions regarding importance of candidate statements on climate change
    2. Lifestyle choices, such as size of house, make of car, presence/number of children
    3. Comparison with lifestyle choices based on other issues.

    We do this all the time when selling soap or candidates. We could do it on climate change as well.

    • Tom . . . bingo!!!

      Really good point. While I agree with Dr. Curry that there’s nothing wrong epistemically with assessing beliefs, I just don’t think its worth very much.

      If there is a need for a litmus test, why not let it be a less subjective one like behavior?

  35. Hi Judith

    Loved the kicking of PNS!

    Other than that I’m responding on these two points:

    ■The best way to phrase one or two “litmus” type questions that characterize where an individual stands re anthropogenic global warming
    ■Whether you like the Italian flag idea, and can suggest ways for characterizing the degree of belief analysis

    For what it’s worth I think your “litmus test” question shows the lack of definitions which impacts the whole debate:

    “Will the climate of the 21st century will be dominated by anthropogenic warming (green) or natural variability (solar, volcanoes, natural internal oscillations)?”

    Ok – what exactly do we mean by “climate”? Is there really such a thing as a global climate? And what metric and criteria are you using to identify and define the “dominant” factors? For example look at Anthony’s current lead post featuring the thermal image of NYC. Now that is an environment that looks to be pretty strongly dominated by anthropogenic warming. As you no doubt know there are discussions over how UHI is reflected in the current “de facto” metric of Global Temperature Anomaly and from what I’ve seen there are some very bright people on the case who appear to think it is minor. But how many people live in cities like NYC? How many are experiencing and living in “climate” that is dominated by anthropogenic influences? Now take Antarctica for example, where Steig’s recentish paper claimed to have found continent wide warming: can we really say there is any demonstrable link to human influences? If so how? IIRR the paper claimed it was hard to imagine anything other than anthropogenic influences that could explain their findings! Before that even – is there anything actually unusual happening there? How do we know? And take Verity Jones and Tonyb’s work looking for cooling trends – how much of this type of work is being done to actually define, seek and test alternative paradigms rather than simply underlining the “concensus” (whatever that actually is!!)?

    Apologies for the rather loose post – I’m afraid it’s late and I’m past my sell by date right now but personally I hope that one of the things your efforts and site will be instrumental in is to bring a more sophisticated and informed approach to the public “climate science” debate and that includes IMO its terms of reference. In the case of your flag – yes, it’s a nice graphic, but when it is revisited in the future how will you actually evaluate which of you your estimates were correct?

    In so far as your desire for a litmus test question to find out where an individual stands on AGW I’d suggest something that includes the essential element of “What would disprove the theory that (insert chosen definition of AGW here!)?”…

    I offer these comments in what I perceive is the spirit of your post :-) Ok – time for bed.

  36. I find it hard to separate the current debate from the policy issues, as suggested in this post, because the fuel of the debate is exactly the implications of the science, namely what policy should be adapted.

    I think that a litmus-question to ask on climate change would be: Do you believe that anthropogenic emissions of CO2 will cause catastrophic global warming in the foreseeable future?

    And “catastrophic” is a key point, because if there is no looming catastrophy, no change of policy is needed, and if no change of policy is needed, then everyone debating, propagandizing, fearmongering, etc, can pack up and go home, and leave the scientists to do their science.

    And this is what made me a sceptic in the first place: the turbo charging of the science towards global disaster.

    Et each step of the path between scientist and and the general public, a little extra oomph is added: from scientist to the IPCC report, from the IPCC to the media, from the media to the politicians and the public. As we all know, politicians don’t have time to read scientific papers. The norwegian minister of the environment laughed when he was asked if he reads scientific papers. Of course he reads only the “summary for policymakers”, or even the medias summary of the summary for policymakers. And when we see that in some cases a subtle bias is introduced already in the original research, it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the end product: the headlines in the news. But still – this end product is all most people ever get to know of the whole issue. It is a wonder there is not a 99% consensus in the public, and not 30-40%.

    It took a politician, the Norwegian foreign minister Gahr Støre, to state in Copenhagen that “scientists are always very careful, the reality is probably much worse than they predict.” So much for the science that the whole conference was based on.

    Policy is much too important to leave to science, it seems. As long as climate is a driver of policy, it is an extremely useful tool in the hands of politics, to deal with a whole host of issues, not even climate related. So everyone in the climate food chain will fight to keep the red alert glowing, even if it takes a little overstating of the science. Which was probably “too careful” in the first place.

    So I agree fully that policy should be exorcised from the debate, because policy interests are what causes the distortion. Hopefully this blog will contribute to a more level headed, science based climate debate.

  37. I’m going to play devil’s advocate on two points.

    1. Why phrase the litmus questions in terms of AGW? Why not something along the lines of this:

    “What percent of global climate change could be accounted for by natural fluctuations in the Earth’s climate cycle?”

    I think that no matter where you are in the spectrum of possible labels you have to come up with an answer that is greater than 0 and less than 100. Conceptually, it’s not much different from the flag analog. But it’s precisely the red and green areas that seem to be so polarizing. So why not cut to the chase and find out up front just how much uncertainty a person is willing to admit?

    I’ll freely admit that I’m not a scientist . . . yet. I’ve been a professional musician for all my life so far, and I’m going back to school now to study statistics. Starting over from scratch and committing the next 7 or so years to a PhD in that field. So my points about science will probably come across as a little naive. Sorry for that.

    And that leads me to my second point:

    2. Why is it necessary to couch the discussion in terms of beliefs? Isn’t this supposed to be a scientific endeavor? Why would anyone believe anything that science had to offer? While not necessarily a part of the formal definition of belief, the word frequently connotes an element of faith. And I don’t think that’s a useful thing. It simply isn’t necessary.

    I don’t “believe” in gravity. I am very certain about its existence and its effects. In every experiment I’ve conducted involving gravity, its effects have been completely unambiguous. And I’ve tried throwing myself at the ground and missing many times. But I wouldn’t say that I believe in gravity it the way I believe that . . . come to think of it, I don’t really believe anything. I just think that some things are more likely to be true than others.

    Without going into too much of a tangent (feel free to inquire by email if you are curious), I would like to suggest that beliefs, by definition common usage, are antithetical to science, and that if we want to remove the polarization of political and policy elements, we must remove subjective terms like “believe” from the conversation.

    That goes for both sides of the debate.

    I know I’m over the requested word limit, so I’ll stop there. If this is interesting to anyone, reply. I’ll be happy to respond. :)

    Also, thanks in general to Dr. Curry for guiding this forum for discussion. I hope that we, as readers, rise to your level of discourse +/- a PhD from a prestigious academic institution. This is my first attempt at engaging seriously in a climate debate, so let the deconstruction of my ideas begin!


    • I disagree with your proposition that we are not talking about belief here.

      What does a “probability” mean? What does it mean to say that tomorrow’s probability of precipitation is, say, 30%? After all, either it will rain or it won’t.

      There are those who argue that the 30% is exactly a measure of the degree of our belief that it will rain. This position is philosophically Bayesian.

      There is a sort of weaker Bayesian position, which I hold, which is that while it is impossible to measure beliefs per se, it is useful to try to construct beliefs in a statistically consistent way. I think this is a good description of engineering statistics, where what we seek is to construct something, say a bridge, which we believe will not fail.

      There is also experimental statistics, which is very different. It is aimed at proving a hypothesis; one takes enough samples of the smaple space until one finds it hard to believe that the contrary of the hypothesis is true.

      There are those who feel that this latter class of statistics is appropriate for observational sciences as well. They are, in most cases, wrong. It is not important to speak of a statistical confidence of a positive trend (rejecting a slope of zero, which is, in our case, a completely arbitrary null hypothesis). In fields where experiments are not exactly repeatable, it is more useful to use statistics to judge estimates rather than hypotheses.

      All of this is commonly messed up by the press and by many people without much sense of statistics. Even some tenured statisticians call themselves “frequentists” as if Bayes theorem were some dubious proposition.

      Statisticians in this “frequentist” group can disprove almost anything. There is a market for such disproof, and many people will pay good money for it. But though you can disprove anything, you can’t prove anything. Somehow in this frequentist world probabilities do not add to one until you do “enough” experiments, which in the climate field everybody knows you cannot do, which brings us to the white part of the flag which I don’t quite understand.

      • -mt,

        I didnt’ say that we aren’t talking about beliefs. I simply said that we shouldn’t.


        And no, the philosphically Bayesian stance would be to say to say that a 30% chance of rain is equal to a 70% chance of ~rain.

    • Mac, your statement is a sensible one. But my way of doing this provides an explicit role for uncertainty.

    • Belief is a perfectly good word in epistemology: the source of your belief can be evidence or faith. We are talking about evidence-based belief here.

      • I don’t disagree that it is a perfectly good word. I’m suggesting that the word has been skunked and is therefore useless in this conversation.

  38. The suggestion that there is _no_ experimental data for AGW is simply false and I am surprised that such a claim was let by, at least in the initial responses. That we can’t double CO2 in an experiment and see what happens does not prove that there is no experimental data. Evidence comes in pieces in cases like this, and science connects the dots from those pieces. There is extensive experimental data in the physics and chemistry of the greenhouse process, in tens of thousands of data sets demonstrating impacts of the changing climate, as well as in paleo-climatic measurements, such as ice cores.

    Furthermore, wikipedia defines a hypothesis as “a proposed explanation for an observable phenomenon.”

    Also, as to this: “Note, my weights were not determined using any fancy analysis, but integrate my sense of uncertainty in CO2 sensitivity, model uncertainties, and particularly the wild card that is natural variability.”

    In my classes, they called this hand-waving.

  39. Dr C
    Three things:

    Firstly, did not the IAC explicitly object to hanging percentages and numbers on “certainty” estimates, as performed in the IPCC AR4, especially when depending on expertise for the assessment?

    Secondly, the argument *has not* been carried out in the Italian flag frame in climate science in several instances.

    Imagine there are a few papers in the green area about a catastrophe, saying that such-and-such catastrophes are almost impossible. Then one or two in the white region saying, “hmmm, maybe, etc etc”. Then just one bad paper, by a celebrity researcher, in a glamor science magazine comes out in the red area will change everything. Let us remember, the celebrity researcher’s paper’s flaws wont be evident at the time of publication.

    There are activists who claim that papers be weighted when evaluating evidence in the IPCC frame. One paper in the red area, good or bad or whatever, is enough to overturn the greens and whites. How is this justifiable?

    And finally, you must be aware of the mischief that is carried out because of translating these non-mathematical uncertainty and likelihood quantities into percent number figures?

    The IPCC said, w.r.t the Himalayan glaciers:
    “likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high”

    You know the IPCC is supposed to use “likelihood” when it knows something *will* occur. So, there is already a claim here – the glaciers will disappear.

    If we translate the “very high” likelihood the IPCC uses for this outcome into numbers,

    “The chance of 100% of glaciers melting in 25 years is >50%.”

    Are you aware that people have been using these concepts mathematically as though the numbers behind them were mathematical? As though if their sum remained ~175, what they were saying is correct, in IPCC-esque fashion?

    “In the next 25 years half of Himalayan glaciers will be lost to warming, affecting adversely crops and people of the region”
    -R K Pachauri, in 2006.

    “In the next 25 years, 50% of Himalayan glaciers will be 100% gone for sure”
    (total of numbers 175)

    Variants of this claim have been repeated in the popular press for close to 10 years. Which is why the IPCC picked it up.

    This is a specific game in claimsmaking in einvironmental sciences, public health, recreational drug use and now, in climate change.

    Why did scientists agree to hanging percent figures and buy into this game?

    • Because that is what sells their beliefs.

    • Shub, policy makers want this, and scientists tend to naturally do this anyways, but they tend to be too confident of their latest result. The challenge is to start with the white area, and ponder the uncertainties and even what the unknown unknowns might look like, then you can get to a more sensible portrayal of the evidential support for a statement or hypothesis.

  40. I’m afraid I come at the whole issue from a completely different direction. My starting points are:

    1. Climate changes, sometimes rapidly, with or without human intervention.

    2. Developed nations have no effective control over the scale of future emissions of CO2. Developing nations are increasing emissions so fast that any reductions we could make (even total cessation) would have little impact.

    3. The great strength of the human species is our adaptability.

    4. The greatest climate challenge we face is not a possible temperature increase this century, but the transition into the next ice age. With current levels of knowledge and technology, there is nothing we can do to prevent this.

    My conclusion: adaptation is clearly the best strategy. All the debate about CO2 and its influence on climate is an irrelevant distraction. Climate scientists need to ignore it, get their heads down for the next century or two and find out how the climate really works.

    • I wonder how adaptable the human species really is. Compared to many species, we haven’t been around so long to know. There is some evidence that we almost died off about 120,000 years ago, probably due to an ice age. And to say that the coming ice age, which should take about 70,000 years to arrive, is the current crisis, seems odd to me.

      Further, however adaptable we are as a species, the evidence doesn’t indicate that our societies and civilizations are very adaptable. There are many examples of human civilizations that collapsed and disappeared because they couldn’t adapt to various changes, including with climate. Countries and cultures seem to get into ruts pretty easily. Some people think that our modern technology makes us stronger in the face of challenges. Maybe, maybe not. But that claim is not based on any fancy analysis – or historical fact.

      We are probably now somewhere near the hottest climate humans have ever lived in (mainly because we are in an interglacial), so anything much warmer is uncharted territory. That warming from the last ice age to now was clearly beneficial for us doesn’t mean that much additional warming will be. If I come in from a freezing blizzard to sit in front of a cozy fire, I won’t be even better if I jump into the fire.

      • Dean, what you’re ignoring is that man has now built modern cities in the full range of climate extremes. So the suggestion that the human population was reduced to dangerously low levels in the last ice age (if true) is not all that relevant to our present situation.

        As for your suggestion that the next ice age is due in 70,000 years, color me skeptical. Maybe the depths of the next ice age. Temperature records of recent ice ages show a long slow descent, starting around 10-12,000 years after the beginning of the interglacial. The Milankovitch cycle hypothesis (which seems to be what leads people to suggest there is a long time until the next ice age) doesn’t line up all that well with actual glacial/interglacial transitions.

      • Dean says:
        September 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm

        And to say that the coming ice age, which should take about 70,000 years to arrive, is the current crisis, seems odd to me.


        Not true: We are now overdue by some 1500- 2000 years for the next ice age. On average, we should be fighting unstoppable ice advance across Canada and the northern Siberian tundra now. Should be facing shortened crop seasons, reduced sunlight and much colder weather even in the regions not threatened by the ice itself.

        On the plus side, there are also signs that the Sahara was more usable.

  41. hi judith,

    nitpick: I’m not sure why you use the word “consensus” to describe the IPCC position?

    I have seen other ignorance categorisations that are more elaborate and which might expand your white flag area.

    from Philip Armour’s “Of Jet Planes and Zeppelins” (related to software development, I don’t have a link)
    0th Order Ignorance: Lack of Ignorance
    I (probably) know something
    1st Order Ignorance: Lack of Knowledge
    I do not know something
    2nd Order Ignorance: Lack of Awareness
    I do not know that I do not know something
    3rd Order Ignorance: Lack of Process
    I do not know a (suitably effective) way to find out that I don’t know something
    4th Order Ignorance: Meta-Ignorance
    I do not know about the FiveOrdersOfIgnorance
    Philip goes onto explain that you can only have a process for something you already know how to do

    Known unknowns: All the things you know you don’t know
    Unknown unknowns: All the things you don’t know you don’t know
    Errors: All the things you think you know but don’t
    Unknown knowns: All the things you don’t know you know
    Taboos: Dangerous, polluting or forbidden knowledge
    Denials: All the things too painful to know, so you don’t
    What is ignorance?

    • “Consensus” is a word used by the IPCC itself, it is a consensus of the participants in the IPCC process, and many other scientists have supported the IPCC consensus view.

      Characterizing ignorance and uncertainty will be a topic of the next post in the uncertainty series here, thanks for bringing up Armour’s work, I will check it out.

  42. Judith – with respect, you have this entirely wrong. The question isn’t what you or anyone else *believes* about climate change. The question is what the preponderance of evidence shows. If you don’t know much of the science, then an accurate depiction of your state of knowledge would be a mainly white flag. To be clear, that’s not a statement about what evidence there is, but a statement about your personal knowledge of it. If you selectively read only the literature about the role of natural variability in climate, then your personal knowledge will lead to a flag with a large green portion (which seems to be where most of the commenters at WUWT are). Again, it doesn’t say anything about reality, just your personal selective reading of it.
    On the other hand, the huge collective effort of the authors of the IPCC reports, along with the authors of many other national academy reports from all over the world did carefully sift through all the evidence (not just their favourite bits of it), and concluded that the flag is mainly red. Again, this doesn’t tell us what the reality is, just their collective assessment of it.

    Now, as a non-expert, who should I believe? A lone scientist called Judith Curry who has made a bit of a name for herself as a contrarian, but who cannot martial a decent overview of the literature to back up her personal views about the colour of the flag? A large bunch of very loud (and frequently very obnoxious) contributors to WUWT who, despite their passions, seem to have a very poor grasp of basic physics? Or the hundreds of scientists whose careful work over many years to sift through *all* of the evidence and assess the state of knowledge across the entire field?

    If you want to prove that the IPCC assessment is dramatically different from the truth, then you’re going to have to provide extraordinary evidence. Because if you wish to claim that your numbers are more accurate than the IPCC assessments, you’ll need to demonstrate how and why an entire scientific field has got it wrong, and that you know better. What systematic analysis of the literature led you to this position? How come you think you know the field better than several decades of careful review by hundreds of your colleagues? I hypothesize that far from systematically assessing the literature, you have arrived at this view through a combination of sheer arrogance and ideological bias. Disprove my hypothesis please.

    • Steve, the word belief is a perfectly good one in epistemology, belief can be based on scientific evidence or faith. The italian flag method of evidential reasoning (see Michael Welland’s post below) weighs the evidence but also includes an explicit role for uncertainty. Believe who you choose to believe, or examine the evidence yourself, and then decide

      With regards to IPCC dogma, read the IAC review of the IPCC. In my opinion, he IPCC has underplayed uncertainty and has too much confidence in imperfect and poorly understood models. The IAC even uses the word “groupthink” in describing the IPCC. I will be discussing this issue more in the future. This is my assessment, and in the coming months I will be providing further evidence and arguments in support of this.

      Science it is not about trusting experts, in fact the motto of the Royal Society is “nullis veritas.”

      • The issue of trust is central. In a world where most of us have no idea of how anything we depend on works, we trust a lot of people. This is a feature of a world of specialization. Nobody can know everything.

        So what do you do if you don’t trust experts in any field? Basically what Steve Easterbrook said. This then gets into the issue of lay people trying to critique experts. Nothing wrong with that in principle, and some lay folks can do a very good job of it. But many will not – their critique will follow their ideology more than a rigorous (or fancy) analysis. This is not unique to any specific ideology – it is a feature of all ideologies.

        But in our world of high technology and specialization, I would assert that 99% of us have no choice but to trust. I think that only 1% really have the will, skill, inclination, and time to get into an issue like this deep enough to offer a serious critique. More power to those who can. But unfortunately, more power seems to be going to those who can’t, imho.

      • Dean, I agree that the issue of trust is central. The blogosphere has brought a new dimension of probity to the whole thing, which I think is overall good. But the number of voices is increasing, and the signal to noise problem is being exacerbated. We need to acknowledge uncertainty and a diversity of opinion, then get on with the policy discussion. Alot of people were trusting the IPCC process (myself included), but that trust has taken a substantial hit with the events of the past year.

      • in fact the motto of the Royal Society is “nullis veritas.”

        Judith, ironically, I do not believe you on this point. In fact, my flag is pretty nearly 100% red on this one.

      • The IAC even uses the word “groupthink” in describing the IPCC.

        No, it doesn’t.

        The only appearance of the term “groupthink” in the IAC report is in the Preface:

        However, as the resulting controversies gained some momentum, they tended to expand beyond the IPCC assessments and raise issues ranging from the proper role of science [and scientists] in policymaking to the dangers of ‘group think’ or consensus building as a general proposition.

        This clearly refers to the opinions of the critics in the “controversies,” not to the IPCC. So you’re mistaken in attributing this judgment to the IAC. It seems that you got this impression from reading reviews of the report on skeptic blogs rather than the report itself.

        As far as uncertainty goes, the Council’s recommendation was that “all Working Groups should use the qualitative level-of-understanding scale in their Summary for Policy Makers and Technical Summary, as suggested in IPCC’s uncertainty guidance for the Fourth Assessment Report.” Issues noted were that some authors didn’t follow IPCC guidelines, not that the IPCC guidelines were insufficient. Rather than indicating “groupthink,” the Council seems to be saying that the problems with uncertainty came from authors going too far off the reservation.

        I look forward to seeing the evidence in favor of your assertion that the IPCC downplays uncertainty.

      • This clearly refers to the opinions of the critics in the “controversies,” not to the IPCC. So you’re mistaken in attributing this judgment to the IAC. It seems that you got this impression from reading reviews of the report on skeptic blogs rather than the report itself.

        Nasty little habit, that. Surprised to see how often it manages to crop up, especially when JC harps on not taking others’ word for things. Oh dear…

      • In the ‘Coat of Arms’, De Morgan also subverted the Royal Society’s motto, Nullius in Verba, to ‘Nisi nobilis nullius in verba jurare magistri’. De Morgan’s version put the Royal Society’s back into its original context of Horace’s first Epistle (lines 13–15): ‘Ac ne forte roges que me duce, quo lare tuter,/nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri,/quo me cumque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes’ (And lest by chance you ask by which leader, by which household god I am sheltered, I, bound to swear according to the dictates [lit: ‘into the words’] of no master, am carried off as a guest, whithersoever the storm takes me).

        It is likely that most educated Victorians understood the motto as a reference to this text and did not, as in recent times, simply render it as ‘nothing in words’ or, more popularly, ‘don’t take anybody’s word for it’.

        Stephen Jay Gould has pointed out this ‘canonical mistranslation’, which has been taken to privilege empiricism over authority, or words themselves.4 Rather, the motto was chosen by the founders of the Society as an assertion of independence (that is, ‘not bound to swear allegiance to anyone’s doctrine’) or, as Gould sees it, a plea for scientific, religious and political tolerance. It is therefore a statement about authority versus freedom rather than words versus observation.

      • Without getting into the details of the IAC report and other issues re the IPCC, when it comes to AGW, you have the NAS, AAAS, and about every other science academy in the world. The NAS released a three-volume review of the issue in May. The NAS seems to agree with the IPCC in general, though I’m not certain if it uses the same uncertainty measures. Do you feel more comfortable with NAS reviews on the issue, or do you think that they have the same trust problems?

      • Science it is not about trusting experts, in fact the motto of the Royal Society is “nullis veritas.”

        Interestingly the issue isn’t about trust for me. The IPCC scientists almost certainly did their honest best and they are most probably trustworthy. However, consciously or subconsciously, their judgement as a group can be skewered, with a number of reasons possible. Scientific perspective, natural bias, personal ambition, gravy train, personality (strong personalties often dominate) and so on. You are probably agreeing and the term you use ‘group think’ perhaps well characterises my above reasons.
        Whilst you have the same scientists both doing the science and judging the science the system will never work (IMHO). Trouble is that I, like many others, probably don’t have an answer to this problem. Back to my pharmaceutical world and we have scientists who develop drugs in the pharma companies and then we have the gatekeepers, other scientists that work for government who represent the people. These gatekeepers don’t always get it right but they have a huge incentive to because they get the blame (along with the pharma company) for errors. You tend to get a natural balance between innovative, risk taking at the company versus conservative safety first at the drugs agency. Can this somehow be replicated in the climate science world?

      • Stocks: At the very least there must be open public debate and media who don’t think it’s their duty to uncritically reflect a more or less mythical consensus.

      • Stocks: Science it is not about trusting experts, in fact the motto of the Royal Society is “nullis veritas.”

        No, it is “nullius in verbum”, which originally meant closer to “ignore all dogma”, rather than “trust nobody”. Science cannot function without trust. Nobody can test everything for themselves; maybe if we can someday increase our productive lifespan to a thousand years this will change.

        Whilst you have the same scientists both doing the science and judging the science the system will never work.

        This is a very salient question.

        We’ve come a long way since Galileo on this system. The problem is, the distinction between good science and bad science is only known to good scientists. This works quite well in pure sciences and badly in applied sciences.

        Climate science has abruptly changed from a few corners of a few pure sciences to an applied science. So while people close to the field know who the main contributors are, outsiders can’t, hence the confusion evident on the web.

        The pharmaceutical/regulatory model doesn’t really work because people already suspect the science of being an arm of excessive regulation. Regulators wouldn’t increase confidence.

        Groupthink is indeed a problem under these circumstances. But we don’t know if groupthink is causing IPCC to overestimate the problem or to underestimate it. So IPCC consensus remains the best bet for the policy sector to base policy on, even though it may be somewhat overconfident. And a risk analysis based on a symmetrical view of IPCC overconfidence bias will end up risk-weighting toward the more catastrophic side and indicating a more strictly regulatory (how I wish I could use the correct word, “conservative”, here) policy.

        I agree that there are biases toward the center of gravity of the community’s opinion. I find most of the arguments that the WG I community is biased to exaggerate risks to be thoroughly unconvincing.

        So the IPCC WG I position remains the middle ground in terms of the physical problem, which probably is on the low-risk side overall. On the other hand, I find it plausible that the WG II community is biased toward the high risk side and WG III toward the low risk side.

        Hey! That’s my flag red/white/green flag! This is Mexico’s bicentennial so I will call it a Mexican flag rather than an Italian one.

      • The logical fallacy of “the appeal to authority” is widely misunderstood. The fallacy is properly “X is true, Because an authority says so”

        The practical significance is this. no authority is beyond criticism. no statement is true merely due to the fact that an authority in the subject area says so, and we may rationally valorize the positions of authorities over non authorities in making our judgements, provided the authority is an authority in the subject matter at hand. ( a tougher question). All science involves trust at some level. So, when Mann, for example, claims he is not a statistician, we are more than justified in treating his words with more skepticism than say Wegman.

      • Judith, you started your post by saying you were done with labels. But here you go bandying around a loaded term “dogma” to refer to the IPCC reports. I’ve read many (but not all) chapters of the IPCC report. I don’t see dogma anywhere – I see a painstaking assessment of a huge body of science. If you insist on calling this ‘dogma’, then you’re basically saying that pretty much the entire field of earth sciences has given up science in favour of religion. That’s truly an incredible position for someone like yourself to stake out. You’re encouraging a huge conspiracy theory.

        And you urge me to read the IAC report, but it seems clear that you haven’t yet, as it certainly doesn’t say what you think it says.

        I’ll agree that science isn’t about trusting experts, but at the same time, a paranoid distrust of nearly all experts across a large field is simply irrational. Unless of course you do have that extraordinary evidence. So far you’ve just provided bits of hearsay. Where’s the evidence that the IPCC has overstated the evidence? I want real evidence, not a couple of minor mistakes and a whole bunch of hearsay.

        The funny thing is that I’ve met and chatted to a huge number of climate scientists over the last couple of years. I’ve yet to meet one who thinks the IPCC over-estimates the warming (you appear to be an anomaly there, although I’m sure if pressed you could name a handful of others). But I’ve met many who think the IPCC underestimates the warming. It’s entirely possible that they are all wrong, and you are correct. Yet, they all give me detailed explanations based on detailed research findings. And you give me soundbites about ‘dogma’.

        We really ought to be discussing the all-too-likely possibility that the problem is much worse than the IPCC assessments would lead us to believe, and instead you’re inventing numbers about uncertainty levels. Why don’t you just admit that you made up the 25%-50%-25% numbers on your last flag, then we can start talking about actual evidence.

      • Steve, my main point is that there is alot of uncertainty. My analysis starts from the size of the white box. And the white box is very difficult to characterize since it includes unknown unknowns. In the context of my statement on greater uncertainty, this includes too little account of natural variability, but it also allows for the possibility that we have not adequately characterized the worst case scenario. I will be writing more on this in the future. The IPCC itself is not dogmatic, it is the expectation that everyone should accept what the IPCC has to say (your post is an example of this).

    • Steve:

      “If you want to prove that the IPCC assessment is dramatically different from the truth, then you’re going to have to provide extraordinary evidence.”

      The onus is not on me to prove ( there is no such thing as scientific proof) that the IPCC assessment is dramatically different from the truth. If you want to suggest that I should believe everything in the IPCC report that I cannot disprove, then I think that is a very odd epistemology.

      But let’s just get down to a simple case. The case of McKitrick and Micheals. Here is what the record shows. The record shows that Jones and Trenberth communicated about MM04 before the writing of the report. Jones said he would “redefine” peer reviewed literature to keep MM04 out of the IPCC report. MM04 was critical of Jones own publications.

      The contemporaneous records of the writing of the relevant section shows the following. Jones and Trenberth refused to consider or address MM04. An objection was raised, an official objection, a documented objection, made public by FOIA requests. The objection was ignored. Finally, Jones agreed to discuss the MM04 paper. Looking at the treatment of that paper, Jones made statements about that paper ( its finding were “statistically insignificant”) that have no support in the literature. That is, there is no published work which shows that the statistically significant results shown in MM04, were insignificant.

      Those are the facts: Jones threatened to redefine peer review literature to exclude a paper critical of his work. He carried through on that threat through the drafts of the AR4. when forced to include the work in question he dismissed it without a basis in fact.

      1. that doesnt make MM04 correct
      2. that doesnt make AGW false
      3. that doesnt make the whole of AR4 false

      That does give me a rational basis to suspend my judgement about the integrity of AR4. That puts the onus on those who would recommend it to demonstrate that this is an isolated incident. If you want to use that document as an authority ( to be accepted in the absence of counter proof) then the onus is on you to
      1. admit these are the facts
      2. demonstrate that the incident is limited and of no consequence.

      Until then, Ar4 is words on paper. Now, In light of some of the irregularities in the production of Ar4 I think it is perfectly rational to suspend judgement about it. I am not compelled to believe it, nor am I compelled to show that it is wrong. When and if the process of creating that document survives an audit, it will carry more weight.

      • This comment should be bronzed. It’s got every element of pseudoskeptic sophistry, all in one neat package:

        1. The seizing upon a word or phrase (“to prove,” in this case) out of context
        2. Redirection into a different subject
        3. Unsupported assertions about that subject, i.e. opinions presented as “facts”
        4. Begging the question (in the original, correct sense of “a statement or claim assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim”)
        5. Conflating the specific with the general
        6. Turning the question back on the questioner.

        Golf claps, Mosh.

      • I’m not an expert on experts, but my experience with a somewhat wide range of them tells me that many of them make simple, stupid mistakes often enough.

        The first time I ran into this was long before the internet. There was a newspaper article in which a nutritionist claimed that mushrooms had little nutritional value. I looked it up in a standard table of nutritional values, and found that mushrooms had more B vitamins than the whole grain bread this expert was recommending as a B vitamin source. Later I read in New Scientist that this myth about mushrooms was apparently something nutritionists had been telling each other for years. “Urban legends” circulate among experts.

        This is just one example, although it may be extreme. It happened to Richard Feynman, too. As I remember it, his nobel prize winning theory almost failed because he naively trusted the experts on beta decay.

        Why does this happen? Surely one reason is that experts trust each other too much.

      • It takes determination to read Phil Jones’ “redefine peer review” comment as anything other than a jest made in private, especially given the obviousness of the context, punctuation, and the fact that such a proposition is ludicrous in the extreme and beyond the power of Phil Jones to achieve.

        On more than one occasion I have threatened grievous bodily harm against a colleague in an email. I have not yet been arrested, but I’m sure it is only a matter of time.

      • To read Jones attempt to manipulate peer review and to hide evidence as anything other than his attempt to manipulate peer review and hide evidence is what takes a lot of work.
        To borrow a phrase, faith without works is dead. The faith of the AGW faithful, from what we see daily of their hard work to avoid critical thinking, is very much alive.

      • Dave H:
        “It takes determination to read Phil Jones’ “redefine peer review” comment as anything other than a jest made in private, especially given the obviousness of the context, punctuation, and the fact that such a proposition is ludicrous in the extreme and beyond the power of Phil Jones to achieve.”

        Well, The unfortunate fact is that Jones did follow through on the threat. Not to redefine peer review, but to ignore the article in question. The same practical effect. You obviously have not read the exchanges between the reviewers of the chapter Jones was writing and Jones. The chapter is written in series of drafts. Those drafts are shared with reviewers. we have the record of the drafts and the record of the comments.
        They clearly show Jones refusing to consider the article. Then when forced to, he does review the article and dismisses it by making up stuff (ha another redefinition of peer review)

        NOW, I happen to disagree with the underlying article. I happen to think that MM04 is bunk, BUT NOT for the reason that Jones cites. You’d actually have to read the article in question and have a look at the regression equation to get the point I would make about it, but given that you cant even read what Jones did in AR4 ( a misdeed of no scientific consequence) I suspect that you won’t be up to reading MM04.

      • MT – As an “applied scientist” I take issue with your definitions. Everything I do is subject to rigorous testing and verification based on proven methods and facts. Climate science appears to be riddled with obfuscation, misrepresentation, censorship, tribalism and I have to add – corruption. There’s a philosophical saw decrying rejection prior to investigation which, it strikes me, could fit well with your um, reluctance to study and verify or refute the content of Montford’s writings. I shall refrain from applying any of the dozen or so “labels” that come to mind…

      • I don’t think PDA’s reply is convincing, here, but I do think DeepClimate’s is.

        What is the purpose of IPCC? It is to summarize the state of play in science, to emphasize the items which are influential and de-emphasize the rest. If just the fact of publication suffices, the report may be replaced by a compendium of abstracts of all relevant journals.

        Many papers have little effect on the consensus and are not discussed at length. It is not just the prerogative of the chapter authors and editors to make that judgment. It is their obligation.

        Besides, subsequent efforts at replicating the global mean surface temperature record have pretty much put the urban temperature bias question to rest, haven’t they? So with the benefit of hindsight, we see that the explicit dismissal of the paper in question had the right result.

        The only question to raise is why this bad paper even rose to the level of require explicit mention, when most bad papers aren’t even referenced. The answer supports those who claim that IPCC is not purely a scientific document. It it were an ordinary review, the paper (not published in a physical science journal at all and evidently erroneous) would not have been mentioned at all.

      • > Well, The unfortunate fact is that Jones did follow through on the threat. Not to redefine peer review

        Ah, but you see that’s a different thing. Because the “redefine peer review” quotation has been used time and time and time and time again as “proof” that members of the CRU had corrupted the peer review process. After all, Jones said he was going to redefine it to suit his own ends, right? But that’s not what happened, and taking his words out of context and with the strictest and most damaging interpretation, ignoring all nuance, has been done time and again in this whole risible saga.

        So it comes down to your disagreement with Jones’ reasons for dismissing the paper and the threat to keep it out.

        You claim he refused to consider the article – but he refused consideration, stating it had errors. Which it did. So he was actually entirely justified in not considering it.

        We was then forced to expand on his reasoning, largely because of McKitrick himself and also the energizer bunny of AR4 objections, NZCC member Vincent Grey. *Part* of the rationale he expressed in those responses has been taken issue with at climateaudit and other places (with no small amount of snark and sarcasm), but some of that objection I believe was supported by comment from McKitrick himself. So, because *some* commenters take issue with *part* of his rationale for rejecting this publication – including the author of the publication himself – you think it’s okay to portray that as Jones “follow[ing] through on his threat”. This doesn’t even come close to a redefenition of peer review. It doesn’t come close to a corruption of process either. I don’t know if you can even be on solid ground characterising it as a “misdeed”. Your original comment stated:

        > Those are the facts: Jones threatened to redefine peer review literature to exclude a paper critical of his work. He carried through on that threat through the drafts of the AR4. when forced to include the work in question he dismissed it without a basis in fact.

        Your wording there clearly conlfates the redefinition of peer review with the exclusion of the paper. You then go on with:

        > the onus is on you to
        > 1. admit these are the facts
        > 2. demonstrate that the incident is limited and of no consequence.

        Your portrayal of the “facts” is not without bias, and in no way a cast-iron and unassailable representation of the “truth” of the matter. Your refusal to consider AR4 unless someone concedes to your interpretation of events doesn’t really strike me as particularly useful.

        Also, I’d say its generally not a good idea to make assumptions that people have not read sources simply because they disagree with your interpretation, especially not if you want to make snarky asides on that basis. Indeed, aside from having pored over the pertinent stolen CRU emails, the code, the AR4 comments, and the endless commentary on the aforementioned by you and others, as it happens MM04 was one of the first papers I actually went through, some six years ago when Tim Lambert first pointed out the degrees/radians mixup.

    • Phillip Bratby

      Here we go again with the attacks on others “A large bunch of very loud (and frequently very obnoxious) contributors to WUWT who, despite their passions, seem to have a very poor grasp of basic physics?” As a physicist and commenter at WUWT, I resent such remarks, especially as a lot of similar remarks come from non-physicists? Are you a physicist, to be accusing PhD physicists of having a poor grasp of basic physics?

  43. Short order cook

    Interesting discussion, and I like the Italian flag idea, but I’m not sure you’re being entirely objective about how much goes in each segment.

    Regarding the 20th C warming, you put 28% in natural variability based on the statement by the IPCC, but the statement says nothing about natural variability. What it seems to be saying is that there is only enough evidence to place >50% of the warming in the green box. This >50% goes in the green box with a fully comprehensive theory based on physical principles stretching back through reasonable scientific predictions stretching back over a century, and measurements ranging from thermometers to satellite spectrometers.

    On what basis does half of the remainder go in the red box? Where are the physical theories or the measurements which assign this to natural variability rather than just pure uncertainty (i.e. meaurement errors or lack of evidence)? Even being more lenient and using the concept that it takes less to falsify a theory than to prove it – where are the measurements or physical theories which contradict the idea that most of the 20th C warming is due to CO2?

    And looking forward to 21st C warming, you put the red box equal in size to the green box. But we know with a very high degree of certainty that if we carry on adding CO2 to the atmosphere then the temperature will continue rising. But what is the mechanism by which “natural variability” could be more important than this, or, I guess, the mechanism by which CO2 might stop accumulating (other than by cutting CO2 emissions)? Again, why is this assigned to the red box rather than being left in white?

    As I said, I like the Italian flag idea, and it’s an interesting “visualisation” of science starting with 100% white and then gradually more percentage points slipping to one side or the other as the evidence comes in, but I can’t help but feel that in your analysis it is easier for the evidence to accumulate in red than in green.

    • The elements of natural variability discussed in the IPCC are solar variability and volcanic forcing. The issue of natural internal variability (e.g. the ocean oscillations) is mentioned but gets pretty short shrift in the discussion of 20th century attribution.

      • Short order cook

        Yes, I know. However, the report also says that solar and volcanic forcings would likely (more than 50% chance I guess) have produced cooling over the last 50 years. I think if you were to have the IPCC use your flag system it would much more likely break it down 65/25/10 with almost all of the “against” arguments moved into the uncertainty column.

        And again, looking at the future, there is very good reason to believe that increasing GHGs (absent emission reductions) will lead to higher temps, but no reason to believe that natural forcings will change in a particular direction so as to overwhelm GHG forcings. Yet you have green and red at the same percentage. It’s just a bit confusing.

  44. Michael Larkin

    Dr. Curry,

    Within the limits of my ability to understand the science (I have a science degree, though not in a climate-related area), all I care about is what the truth is. When one sees even experts such as yourself talking in terms of estimated probabilities of specific propositions, the message might be taken by some to be: why don’t we all pack this in for a decade or two and come back when the science is better understood? Why are we even thinking about it? ;-)

    That notwithstanding, my main concern with labels is not that we shouldn’t have them, but that if we do, they shouldn’t be pejorative, or, to some extent, elitist/exclusionary. I would have little confidence in coming up with assessments of specific propositions, for example.

    So: imagine a pair of crossed axes (I’d upload a graphic if I knew how). On the y-axis (vertical), mark off five units in both the positive and negative directions, and on the x-axis (horizontal), do likewise.

    The value of x represents self-assessed degree of knowledge of climate science, with 0 being the average of the population.

    -5 represents complete ignorance
    +5 represents expert status, with publications in scientific journals.

    The value of y represents self-assessed degree of acceptance of (C)AGW, with 0 representing no strong opinion either way.

    -5 represents complete rejection of CAGW, and even AGW
    +5 represents complete acceptance of the worst predictions of CAGW

    I’d say my coordinates in this schema would be 2, – 1.5.

    I’d guess that you, Cr. Curry, would be 5, 2; Dr. Lindzen, 5, -3. Of course, I realise that you (or Dr. Lindzen) might beg to differ, but the point is, if you did, just by giving me a pair of coordinates, I would have a fair idea where you stood and there’d be nothing pejorative about that in my mind.

    I have feelings about certain blogs’ *average* coordinates, e.g:

    Climateaudit: 4, -2
    WUWT: 3, -3
    Bishop Hill: 3, -3
    Jo Nova: 1, -4
    Realclimate: 3, 4

    I’m sure you get the idea. You can also perhaps perceive why the two blogs I visit most often are WUWT and Bishop Hill:

    a. *On average*, they are above me in understanding of Climate science, but not so far above that I can’t learn from them (Climateaudit is usually a bit of a stretch!).

    b. On average, they are more doubtful of (C)AGW than I am, but their editorial policies are such that people from right across the spectrum are allowed to post. Hence I am able to evaluate the worth of postings in the context of juxtaposed differences of opinion.

    [I must stress that my evaluations of WUWT and BH aren’t related to the views of their hosts. I would evaluate them (Anthony Watts and Andrew Montford) differently from the average of their visitors.]

    As regards Realclimate, I visit it hardly at all, not so much because they are so pro-(C)AGW, but more on account of their editorial policy; so that, unlike WUWT and BH, I can’t contextualise and evaluate the worth of postings so easily.

    Your blog will be of use to me if it has the right editorial policy (signs are it will), and if the atmosphere doesn’t get too rarefied. Separating out technical threads, but allowing comments on technical issues in related threads, could be very helpful.

    Is this idea of any use? What do you and other contributors think?

    • Just a quibble: RC will, on your scale, get a 5 on the x-axis.

      • Michael Larkin

        You mean that the posters there, *on average*, are all experts? Or did you perhaps mean to say that *on average*, they are all completely convinced of CAGW (the y-axis)? The former is less credible than the latter, it seems to me.

        The reason I chose knowledge on the x axis is that then a written coordinate x,y would lead with degree of expertise x, followed by degree of conviction, y. If I were having to rely on a figure, I’d probably do it in reverse because vertical might seem more natural for expertise. However, a figure is less practicable.

      • Checking the facts will always help you out, Michael

        RC is run by published scientists, and they invite guest posts from other scientits. As pr your definition that +5 on the x-axis “represents expert status, with publications in scientific journals”, that is true of them all. Check their bios. Therefore, RC is a 5 on the x-axis. All as pr your definitions.

    • Michael, this is a good analysis, it brings in the 2nd dimension. The second dimension should be expertise/knowledge/effort with regards to the issue at hand. Personally I don’t want to be elitist about this and automatically assume that the card carrying climate researchers with jobs at universities/govt labs that publish in peer review journals necessary have the highest ranking on every particular question. For example, ranking the opinion of an academic biologist involved in the IPCC on the attribution of climate change higher than that of a scientist from another field that has studied the issue and read all the journal articles or an actively engaged citizen scientist that is technically educated and reading all the literature. So I think this dimension is somewhat fuzzy, but I like that you’re trying to quantify it.

      • Michael Larkin

        Dr. Curry,

        Thanks for your comment, which I find encouraging.

        My degree is in zoology, as it happens, and I did some research in that field, though I never presented my PhD thesis. I know how research biologists think quite well, and most of them aren’t great mathematicians, as they’ll usually freely admit.

        One prof. I used to have, brilliant and distinguished though she was in lots of ways, was decidedly dodgy in maths, even moreso than me. Nothing wrong with her logic, mind. Sharp as a razor there (and I’m not completely hopeless myself, as I worked in commercial computer development for around 15 years and did plenty of coding and systems analysis/design).

        I mention this because in my view, we mainly have biologists associated with climate science because of the (C)AGW hypothesis. Sans that, it seems to be mostly physics with healthy dollop of maths and/or statistics. I feel any non-mathematical biologist with an ounce of integrity wouldn’t self-assess as an expert in climate science even if s(he)’d published a hundred papers in biology.

        There has to be an element of honest self-appraisal. And maybe, some definition of “climate science” proper?

      • And I forgot to add (hoping this ends up below my previous reply), that much of the biological work I have come across that relates to (C)AGW is simply barking mad. It saddens me that biologists have deserted commonsense in this respect.

        If the biologists are doing that, then I begin to have doubts about those who might be termed “proper” climate scientists even when I can’t always grasp their physics or maths. That accounts for my -1.5 on the conviction scale.

        There are elements of (C)AGW propaganda that even people without degrees, and perhaps a below-average understanding of climate science, can readily detect as barking, too. And they may extrapolate from that to the areas they can’t understand quite as well, just as I do.

    • if you are asking us to rate you as a rater of things, then I would have to say that you don’t rate so well as a rater of things. put another way, you are not an expert in expertology so I’m not sure how to rate your ratings.

      • Hmmmm…trying to analyze your analysis….and I’m still confused over all the confusion here….

  45. A general comment, and a couple of links, on the “Italian flag” methodology.

    First of all, it’s a means of capturing and displaying probabilities in a more comprehensive way than simply the traditional “60% chance” approach. The size of the bar is always 1 (or 100%). But two apparently identical situations, both of which have, say, a probability of 40%, will be revealed as very different with respect to their white and red components. Underlying this is a great deal of research and sophisticated mathematics – simply google “evidential reasoning” or “interval probability theory” or even “imprecise probability” and windows on this work will open.

    Examples of it being put into practice can be found at and

    What has always intrigued me is that, as is happening here, even without any mathematical analysis, it provides a powerful tool for thinking through probabilities, what we know and don’t know, and, via the “Italian flag,” graphically portraying this. What surprises me is that, given that science is evidence-based, evidential reasoning is not applied more widely.

  46. I have doubts when selected graphs are used by the government:

    The UK Department of Energy And Climate:(anomaly graph)

    An actual temperature version of the same dataset, going back further.. (co2 superimposed)

    I imagine any reasonably educated member of the general public looking at the same data in the second graph, might say, the Earth’s been warming by x C/century, (natural procceses) where is the AGW. Looks like a lot of variability in climate in this period, quite pronouced warming periods and rates of warming (and cooling) throughout the centuries, similar to the late 2oth century, as Phil Jone’s agreed in that BBC interview (link above)

    As a business person, I see a graph, and think why has someone chosen that starting point. In this case it ‘seems’ to imply man made global warming ‘message’, in correlation to the industrial revolution (CO2). Yet if we look at the earlier data as well, it just shows an overall warming trend (natural) from the 1650’s from a period known as a ‘little ice age’.

    Unless, climate science starts attempting to engage with ‘naive questions’ like my detailed earlier comment, then doubts of the politicians motives will remain. (largely they are totally ignorant of ANY science, less than 5% MP’s reported to have a hard science background, following the general election))

    Afterall, we would not be having this conversation, except for a certain canadian gentleman (Steve Mcintyre) asking similar questions of the IPCC ‘hockey stick’ graph sent to every Canadian household, as ‘proof’ of unprecedented man made global warming, it looked like a ‘sales/marketing’ tool to him

  47. Dr. Curry.
    In your OP you write:

    A considerable amount of climate skepticism has been fueled by big business, attempting to protect their personal financial interests (e.g. the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil). True, but so what? It’s not as if the environmental community doesn’t have resources, and hasn’t use [sic them in support of climate policies and even climate alarmism

    By this, are you suggesting that the “environmental community” (whatever that may be – you fail to define it) has sufficient financial and political clout to at least counter those of Big Business? If so, please show the evidence that substantiates this equivalence.

    In my experience (and that of many many folk I know who volunteer their time in the name of environmental causes and the conservation of significant ecological heritage), the clout and $$$$ wielded by Big Business and environmental lobby groups is simply not even on the same scale, let alone comparable.

    All this just isn’t relevant to the scientific debate.

    Forgive a note of scepticism, but if your case holds, why even bring it up?

    • SteveC, I bring it up since its the topic of a widely cited book, Merchants of Doubt. Last May or so, I cited a report that listed the annual expenditures of the enviro groups, don’t have time to dig it up now, but a number of them spend more than $100M per year. My point is that this isn’t about science, its about politics. In a discussion of science, lets ignore it. I bring it up because alot of people don’t/can’t ignore it.

      • Judy, the annual budgets of some ‘enviro groups’ are in the $100Ms per year, and they have staff in the few hundreds; has info.

        But the actual lobbying expenditures are much less; there’s a list here: . They’ve got to pay all that staff, for example, and, while almost all are classified non-profit, the leaders at the top of the salary bracket rack in $100s of thousands; see the first link above.

        Using the list in the second link, each organization can be found at, individual organization Web sites, and other places to track down specific info.

      • Dr. Curry, apologies for the quibble, but as an editor this is like fingernails on a blackboard to me: it’s “a lot.” Two words.

      • typos and abbreviations abound in the rapidfire discourse of the blogosphere . . .

      • Judith,

        You seem to be suggesting that Merchants of Doubt is about big business (oil in your example) money fueling skepticism. Having read the book I have to disagree. The focus is instead upon the scientists themselves that helped to spread doubt on CFCs, smoking and global warming. There is no mention of financial benefit motivating them (Seitz, Singer, Jastrow, Neirenberg) instead of a free market fundamentalist ideology. Indeed, these individuals never directly associated with the directly oil money funded Global Climate Coalition, an organization that went away during the 90s, and instead plied their trade in free market think tanks like George Marshall. George Marshall Institute and its allies take funding from benefactors and a wide range of corporate interests, including oil companies to a certain extent. Too often this gets reduced to big oil pays off scientists or pays for PR….tooooo simplified; MoD makes the case that it is ideology not money that is important.

      • I know, but it’s a particular misspelling I’ve seen you usekind of a lot.

      • point taken :)

  48. The exxon funded fossil fuel denial thing is just a pr consrtuct anyway, to close down debate. Partly why many people are doubtful of CAGW because of the behaviour of certain institutions and pr people. An example.

    Bob Ward – Head of Media – Royal Society (1998 – 2006)
    Bob Ward – Policy and communications director Grantham Instiute
    Bob Ward – Science and Media Centre – on the board
    Fiona Fox – Science and Media Centre – Director

    Bob Ward wrote this July 09, pre-Copenhagen.

    Guardian: Why ExxonMobil must be taken to task over climate denial funding
    ExxonMobil should keep its promise by ending its financial support for lobby groups that mislead the public about climate change, writes Bob Ward

    “In March 2009, I wrote to Exxon Mobil to welcome the end of its support for some groups, but asked about its continued donations to other organisations that still publish inaccurate and misleading information about climate change. ”

    Fiona Fox – Director – Science and Media Centre
    (BBC personal are also on the board of the Science and Media Centre)

    Fiona Fox, who infamously on BBC Newswatch (23/04/2010) said:

    “it is unnecessary….misleading…inaccurate… to always have a sceptic to balance the views of the climate scientist”

    “Fight the good fight for accuracy, in fact. On Climate change there has been a real change.. People like Richard Black and Roger Harrabin [BBC Environment, journalist/analysts], fighting internally[at the BBC] to say we DON’T have to have a sceptic every time we have a climate story.”

    So we know which side of the debate the Bob and Fiona are on….

    Yet the Science and Media Centre is funded (amongst others) by:


    Also by: BP, Shell, MET office, Department of Energy and Climate Change, Coca Cola, The Royal Society (bob worked there in PR) New Scientist, and more

    Pro CAGW Exxon money good, sceptic Exxon money (much less) Bad?.

    • If I were ‘big oil’, I would cut off the little children who keep nipping at the hand that feeds them.
      The lying by AGW promoters about funding of ‘denialists’ is typical of cynical non-factual sales efforts. That they at the same time expect to be given great sums of money by those they condemn is a level of hypocrisy that only works on ethically challenged victims of con-artists.

  49. Tomas Milanovic


    I like 200% the “italian flag”. This is btw something that is well known in poll expert community.
    If you want to have a robust assessment whether people agree or not with a statement A, you should not ask a question “Do you agree with A?” with a binary choice “yes” or “no”.
    You should add a third option “I do not know”(or “I do not care” etc)
    The ternary variant allows a much better understanding about people’s position concerning the question.
    I have not a link handy but there is plenty litterature dealing with it.

    I have a problem with your question :
    Will the climate of the 21st century will be dominated by anthropogenic warming (green) or natural variability (solar, volcanoes, natural internal oscillations)?

    I belong to the minority that doesn’t look at the system as a quasi static deterministic equilibrium system but as a strongly out of equilibrium dynamical system.
    From this point of view the anthropogenic factor (say CO2) is one of many variables governing the dynamics and the movement of the system on its orbit.
    As all the variables interact in a highly non linear way, if one observes a single variable X (improperly called cause) and some other variable Y (effect) then all cases may happen :
    X increases , Y increases
    X increases , Y decreases
    X decreases , Y increases
    X decreases , Y increases
    This doesn’t stand in contradiction with the possibility that in some controlled experiment where all variables but X are constant only one of the 4 cases will be true .
    Here the time scale is paramount because the variability of all other dynamical parameters governing the system (first derivatives) may be extremely different.
    So the probabilities (if it can be shown that they exist and are invariant) of each of the 4 cases will depend on the time scale chosen.
    With this reinterpretation of your question, I would answer 10/80/10.
    The reason why I don’t say 0/100/0 is that I belive (yes it is a belief sofar) that 100 years are a too small time scale to observe clearly a change of regime (or a swap on another orbit). So basically I say that 21st century will be broadly like the 20th .

  50. As a geologist, I am highly frustrated by the asymmetry of research effort concentrated not only on the rather abstract notion of global average temperature almost to the exclusion of the other important climatic variables, but further obsessive and myopic self-flagellation over the human influence on trace CO2 levels. There comes a time when the law of diminishing returns prevails, and throwing good money after bad is unlikely to reduce the uncertainty of attribution between human and natural causes unless resources are shifted to improving the understanding of natural controls.
    I would speculate that already NASA has accumulated a treasure chest of satellite and deep mission measurements, from Ulysses on, additional to those favoured for current study. Some (?most) of this could well be languishing, awaiting money and approval to study fully.
    Geologically we find ourselves within the likely final throes of an inter-ice age interglacial, concentrating on relatively trivial oscillations very similar to those of previous interglacials. By force purely of heavily promoted modern conception, warming is now, contrary to historical wisdom, regarded with foreboding, but conversely the conventional, and obvious, challenge to humanity presented by major cooling is virtually a taboo topic. In geological terms, there is every reason to suppose that our interglacial is in its dotage, and that the destiny of another glaciation looms. In human terms, such an onset would probably be progressive in nature affording some potential for geoengineered abatement.
    I would appeal to those who influence future funding to redress the balance of academic research toward greater understanding, and thus attribution, of natural controls, for in the last analysis, it is they that have the greater power and threat.

  51. Judith,
    The high advancement we are in the medical field is due to the fact that the whole body was explore both mechanically and chemically to find answers. Many individuals coming together as a whole. Many thesis was proven and many disproven.

    Science went only one way due to many factors. The mechanical understanding in science is missing for individual theories that do not go together as a whole.
    The individual that does not fit into a hardened shell of criteria is scorned or ignored even though he /she may have a great deal to contribute. Actual physical evidence is ignored as it could effect a persons life long career and the students educated with this imperfect thesis.
    Mandating science rather than following the trail of clues of science has put ALL of science into question.

    I am more than willing to have the knowledge in the area I have made great strides into be picked apart for any error I have made.
    I am my own worst critic as I have picked it apart from many angles to find any mistakes to any question I may recieve.

  52. Judith Curry wrote:

    My point is that this isn’t about science, its about politics. In a discussion of science, lets ignore it. I bring it up because alot of people don’t/can’t ignore it.

    OK, fine. But firstly, as I understand your intro to this thread, this is as much as anything else a discussion about beliefs, which inevitably leads to a debate that involves (if not devolves into) politics. And if you want a debate on science rather than politics, why even bring up the notion of the financial and political clout of “enviro groups” vs Exxon, Koch et al, if you then want that to be ignored?

  53. Judith,
    Keep up the good work! However, I do note that you are using the term ‘postnormal’ as a term of derision, and probably would not be so keen on ‘postmodern’ either. Yet these terms point to something that is more important than many scientists seem to realise – that there are innate problems with the ideas of ‘truth’ and ‘evidence’ that may be difficult for science to deal with.
    In my field (medicine), our commitment to truth was originally expressed through reliance upon authorities. If confronted by a difficult problem, we would ask a crusty old ‘expert’ who would speak from a position of authority. I would call this approach ‘authoritative positivism’.
    In the 1980s and 1990s, a new generation of doctors felt that this approach should be replaced – that truth was poorly reflected by the authorities, and that we could all know the truth if we only could find the evidence. The school of ‘evidence-based medicine’ arose, and we all learnt how to closely look at studies and papers to come to the truth. I call this phase ‘democratic positivism.”

    However, we finally realised that evidence was elusive – and even given the evidence we could not neccesarily come to the truth. We had to look at whose evidence it was, why the evidence was collected, who reported it, who funded it etc…These questions become similar to post-modern or post-normal analysis, but they are necessary if we are to rescue any vestige of truth.

    To bring this back to climate science, we are currently moving from authoritative positivism (truth based upon the ideas of authorities) towards democratic positivism (truth available to all , from openness of evidence).

    In your flag you put evidence in favour of AGW on one side and evidence against on the other – but post modern questions are only just around the corner at any time – whose evidence? who’s agenda? who stands to win and who to lose?

    We cannot interpret the evidnce without knowing these anwers, and then each of us may interpret the evidence differently! (The truth from America vs the truth from Africa. The truth for women vs the truth for men etc)

    • With regards to mention of postnormal science, I think it is a very interesting and useful piece of sociological research. There is no question that science is a value laden process. However, the problem occurs when biases (advertent or inadvertent) overwhelm science because of value, which has been happening in the climate debate.

      • I would tend to say instead that climate science is prematurely normal. That is, in Thomas Kuhn’s sense of “normal science” as puzzle solving, in which there are “rules that limit both the nature of acceptable solutions and the steps by which they are to be obtained”. And the reasons for this are political in a general sense.

        The problem domain, on the other hand, is “postnormal”, with high stakes and high uncertainty. And as I understand it, applying normal science to such cases is precisely the problem that the idea of postnormal science is trying to address.

        So far so good; it’s a fine diagnosis, but not really a cure as far as I can tell, at best a vague idea of a cure that has a fancy name.

        I wrote some more about it in a comment on WUWT here:

      • Dagfinn, actually climate research was a pretty quiet field until the late 1980’s. At this point, the alarm was sounded and some influential scientists brought this issue to the international policy table, and we ended up with the UNFCCC and the IPCC. By stating that the science demanded a certain policy (stabilization of greenhouse gases to prevent dangerous climate change), postnormal climate science was born. Consider an alternative universe where the scientists provided a range of scenarios to consider and included natural climate variability in the mix, and recommended that suite of policy options be developed to help reduce societal vulnerability to future climate change, both of the natural and anthropogenic variety. In this alternative world, I don’t think things would have become so polarized and one can even envision the IPCC assessment topics and strategy as being different.

      • Judith’s hypothetical here, which seems to be key to her point of view, is based on three assertions about IPCC. While I am not an unalloyed enthusiast of IPCC, I find these claims unsupported at best. It would be interesting to see evidence for and against these claims, particularly within the assessment reports.

        So, in the spirit of skepticism and due diligence:

        1) Did IPCC ever “demand” a particular policy? Where? In listing alternative policies, did it fail to mention reducing societal vulnerability? Where?

        2) Did IPCC ever fail to consider alternative scenarios? In what sense? Which working group failed to do so at what juncture?

        3) Did IPCC fail to “include natural variability in the mix”? In what sense?

      • Michael, you misinterpret what I said. Read the history of the UNFCCC, for which the IPCC is charged to provide information for. I did not say the IPCC demanded specific policies, but rather individual scientists did claim that the science demanded emissions reductions, which gave birth to the UNFCCC and the precautionary principle on dangerous climate change. The IPCC has given inadequate attention to solar variability and its uncertainties and it has WAY discounted the impact of the major multi-decadal and longer ocean oscillations on interpreting the 20th century temperature record.

      • The IPCC has given inadequate attention to solar variability and its uncertainties and it has WAY discounted the impact of the major multi-decadal and longer ocean oscillations on interpreting the 20th century temperature record.

        Can you please provide the evidentiary basis for these claims? This should be relatively trivial to do, and at least for the ocean oscillations part, I know that I’ve been asking for months (over at kkloor’s). Please note that the IPCC must be demonstrated to have *discounted/ignored evidence published prior to the writing of the AR4* in order to make a meaningful criticism of its shortcomings.

        If you’ve already pointed to the relevant papers in the intervening weeks and I didn’t see it or have simply forgotten, apologies in advance.

      • Go through and search the AR4 report. The NAO gets a few paragraphs, and other oscillations get mentioned in a fraction of a sentence. That is my idea of inadequate attention, and it is barely mentioned in the attribution section. The solar story changed substantially between the AR3 and AR4, the confidence in solar forcing is cited as very low in AR3 and low in AR4, but somehow in the attribution chapter we have very likely confidence level, in spite of the fact that the AR4 models used the old AR3 forcing. And so on. I will have a more extensive post on this sometime soon, but I want to lay down some groundwork before posting extensively on this.

      • individual scientists did claim that the science demanded emissions reductions, which gave birth to the UNFCCC

        That’s a rather interesting way of telling the history of climate change policy. The UNFCCC was formed following the Rio Summit, which brought together the representatives of 172 countries – including 108 heads of state or government – and 2,400 NGOs, following three years of meetings and negotiations. They didn’t do it on the say-so of individual scientists.

        You may be right that there were scientists who claimed that “the science demanded” something or other (though you may be wrong: some actual names and quotes would be helpful here) but it’s a stretch to say this brought the UNFCC and then the IPCC into being. It was the culmination of a series of international agreements.

        Your portrayal is simplistic, and has sinister overtones I’m not at all comfortable with.

      • And these international agreements came from thin air? There were scientists involved, pushing for this.

      • Judith: I happen to agree that Article II of the UNFCCC (stabilization to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference) may not have been the most helpful way to phrase the problem. I would have preferred something that looked more like “we agree that increasing greenhouse gases increases danger, and therefore we will take actions to reduce the rate of increase” and have the countries aim towards a harmonized carbon tax rather than a cap-and-trade system with a specific emissions goal… but that’s a political document, not a scientific document.

        On the scientific contributions, I think you make two mistakes: one is to assume that there were not a group of scientists in the 1980s who _were_ providing exactly the kind of information you are asking for (including the IPCC starting in 1988): note that the IPCC had WGIII looking at adaptation issues right from the start. The text of the FAR is finally on-line (yay!): look at the executive summary for and you’ll see “Limitation and adaptation strategies must be considered as an integrated package…” Nor was the IPCC the first assessment in this field: see the Charney report (1979), the 1983 NRC and DOE assessments, the 1985 Villach meeting…

        Second is the presumption that the “right” approach by the scientific community could have avoided “polarization”. I’d argue all the original assessment reports in the 1980s took a fairly good approach: maybe they didn’t include every uncertainty that may have been relevant, but honestly, they did a surprisingly good job for such a complex assessment tax: all these reports from the 1980s got the big picture pretty much right. The Fred Singers of the world are the ones who brought the polarization, and who would have brought polarization regardless of the scientific approach: see, eg, cigarette smoking, DDT, and every other health or environmental issue opposed by major corporate interests. And GHG emissions were doomed to be more polarizing than any previous issue because the science is more complex, the time scales are longer, the geographic scales are larger (eg, emissions are global), and, key, there is no quick end-of-pipe fix.

        Anyway, to sum up: the scientific assessment process did a pretty good job on the science (sure, they could devote more space to the possible role of multi-decadal ocean oscillations, but would that really change anything about the policy debate?). Sadly, the political process has not yielded any reasonable outcome, but I see no evidence that flaws in the scientific assessments are a major root cause of that failure: I’d lay most of the blame on polarizing “merchants of doubt”, and a smaller fraction of the blame on not, perhaps, starting with a less ambitious original target than a major international treaty ala the Montreal Protocol, but rather a set of national and regional policies that resulted in small prices on carbon (tax-and-dividend, ideally) and research funding for energy technologies, and where those prices could have been ramped up over time… but honestly, in the US we couldn’t even get a 25 cents a gallon gas tax passed in the 1990s, so I don’t think that there was any approach that would work as long as a large percentage of representatives were being funded by the fossil fuel industry and enough of the national conversation involved demonizing government and taxation.


      • There were scientists involved, pushing for this.

        Who? Name names.

      • JC:

        I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be a pain, I simply want to make sure I’m hearing you correctly.

        When you wrote: The IPCC has given inadequate attention to solar variability and its uncertainties and it has WAY discounted the impact of the major multi-decadal and longer ocean oscillations on interpreting the 20th century temperature record.

        Re: ocean oscillations, it’s not because you have any concrete examples of evidence that the IPCC failed to account for contributions from ocean oscillations, but rather that’s your suspicion based on the amount of physical space devoted to individual oscillations?

      • Thingsbreak, I will say this one last time. I will discuss this in detail on a future thread related specifically to this topic

      • I received the following in email from a well-known scientist and am passing it along:

        point of fact is that IPCC predates UNFCCC, and if you read the UNFCCC text:

        article 21.2:

        The head of the interim secretariat referred to in paragraph 1 above will cooperate closely with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to ensure that the Panel can respond to the need for objective scientific and technical advice. Other relevant scientific bodies could also be consulted.

        … is the only mention of IPCC. And who is against close cooperation?

  54. Judith and others say AGW is still a hypothesis.. (thus doubts remain)

    The UK Goverment would have less doubts it seems, according to thier scientists. On the official government ACTon CO2 website.
    The Met office says this…

    “Peter Stott, Head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution at the Met Office, said: “Recent advances in observational data and the way it is analysed give us a better insight into the climate system than ever before. This has allowed us to identify changes in our climate and disentangle natural variability from the results.

    “The science reveals a consistent picture of global change that clearly bears the fingerprint of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. This shows the evidence of climate change has gone beyond temperature increases – it is now visible across our climate system and all regions of the planet. Our climate is changing now and it’s very likely human activity is to blame.”

    I imagine that some other climate scientists here may struggle to agree with that.

    Especially as the heading of that statement (and web link)is:

    Climate Change man made greenhouse gases ‘likely cause’

    The ‘likely cause’ (in quotes, what are they implying) really is very uncertain and unscientific, on par with, it is very complicated, we can’t explain the climate fully, it ‘must’ be man made CO2…

    ‘likely cause’ is contrary to the strong AGW message is fact, quantified message they are presenting to the public, yet they seem to ‘hide the uncertainty’ in full view with that statement. (‘likely cause’ – in quotes)

    The DECC are resorting to media/PR spin tricks. This is not a lobby group, but the government, controlling ‘climate policy’

    Hands up any scientist that will agree with Peter Stott’s statement:

    “This has allowed us to identify changes in our climate and disentangle natural variability from the results.”

    or even his statement: “Our climate is changing now ”

    What is meantby that exactly,
    of course it is?, that is what the planet does,
    or are there less hurricanes/ more hurricanes, what does he mean?

    As the IPCC has been picked up on, statements so vague, to be meaningless.

    I have huge doubts on the intellectual honesty, of these government sponsored scientists and institutions, because of word games like this.

  55. Ms. Curry, :
    Allow me to comment to the quality of comments from the vast majority of the persons posting opinions and arguments on your new site. It has indeed been very educational for myself, ( a professional troubleshooter in the biomedical engineering field ) , and I enjoy reading the messages. Although, until you created this blog, I almost never heard of you ( aside from links on the climatedepot site ) , but I am impressd by your own intelligence in your field, and in your desire to expand your own knowledge by entering in this fray. A lot of the messages presented here are from very qualified and notable persons, experts in their field,and their opinions are often educated based on science and lab experimentation and a lifetime of experience. I highly doubt again, if any of them are paid for, or funded by oil companies etc. Personally I am not.
    With reference to you your flag idea, my personal beliefis are that mankind cannot in any way shape or form, alter or control the climate on earth. We are just too miniscule. I guess my numbers in the flag are 0-100-0 . I still have not yet seen any credible evidence for man ability to alter global climate patterns. There are too many variables , and unknowns. I tend to oversimplify things, to see them in a more rational way. For example, I hear the glaciers are melting. Yes exactly , they have been melting since the ice age ended, that is where the rivers and gorges came from which are fed by the runoff. Eventually the glacier will dry up, how else could it be ? Even an ice cube sitting on my desk will melt unless I cool the room down to zero. That is just one example. I have many simplifications. Anyway, the blog is great, and all the best to you.

  56. Following on from SteveC2, instead of viewing it in terms of belief, it might be useful to consider it a sa question of how much weight I might choose to give certain lines of evidence. Personally, I weight the findings from research published in science journals by highly qualified scientists quite highly. This doesn’t mean that I think there are always right, just that from experience, there is a higher probability that they will. Conversely, I’d give a very low weighting to a lay person writing on a blog. Again, not because they are always wrong, there’s just a higher probability that they are.

    Superimposed on the ‘flag’ it might provide an interesting insight into the basis for allocating belief/doubt. 30% red and 30% green may appear a little different if the basis for one is primarily published science in reputable journals and the other is from media stories and blogs.

    • Michael,

      Wouldn’t it be a better methodology to assign weight to a line of argument on the basis of the verifiability of the facts presented by an author and the cogency of the author’s interpretation of those facts? Your way, it seems to me, gives undue deference to credentialed authors–science has an unhappy history of scholars getting it wrong, as you acknowledge, from the importance of head bumps to the fine points of racial hygiene. In that regard, didn’t we just recently have the “experts” tell us that housing prices never go down and that lending money to individuals who can’t repay the loan is good business based on a “new paradigm” of risk management? I think there is a place for a layman’s common sense in deciding the weight to assign any given position.

    • “Personally, I weight the findings from research published in science journals by highly qualified scientists quite highly.”

      I used to. But then I ran into these difficulties.

      1. in some cases the supporting data and code is not accessible. A paper is an advertisement for the science, not the science itself. It’s words on paper, objectively speaking.

      2. Other words on paper ( the mails) led me to question the truth preserving
      function of the publication process.

      so when it comes to the probability of being correct I have to actually get some experience with testing the hypothesis that words published by journals are more likely to represent the truth than words published otherwise. If I cannot check the data and the code in either case, then I am justified in suspending judgement. I feel no compulsion nor am I rationally compelled to make a judgement or assign a weight absent the ability to check the results myself. In other terms, if you ask me to believe a paper in a science journal that I am required to pay to read which doesnt supply it’s underlying data and code, as opposed to believing another collection of words which I can read freely and which give me the opportunity to check the code and data, then I think your request can be ignored.

      • Mosher, I sympathize with everything you say here except the final clause.

        But what are we to do? I mean, given the fact that the consensus is claiming that time is of the essence? How much time would it take to fix the problem? Can’t the toddler’s why why why game turn this into a bottomless endeavor?

        We go to war with the army we have. We have the scientific system we have.

        I am all in favor of constructing a new, informal one on the side. I am all in favor of providing as much evidence as there is in as organized fashion as is possible. Nevertheless, knowledge emerges from conversation and contention among experts, not from formal data and predictable processes. If you spend enough time in the right circles, you know whose brains are actually carving out the new territory. If you get all your contact from blogs and naysayer clubs, you don’t.

        It would be very interesting to try to construct a self-documenting alternative. But nobody knows how to do it.
        Even if we did, it would still be at heart a social process.

        In the end, science is a network of trust. If you don’t trust the institutions (you know the list, the AGU, the AMS, the AAAS, the Royal Society, etc. etc.) the only thing to do is get to know scientists and try to decide which ones to trust.

      • Dr. Tobis,

        I suppose that last sentence is the toughest one for me to defend. Tough for me to defend precisely because I do believe we should take action. As you note, where does one stop in the effort to rebuild or recompile the science? and yes the toddler game does bother me as well. It bothers me more the more work I put into my own little project ( which is mostly about rediscovering the joy of the coding) My attitude has been, I post my code, shut up if you are not willing to run it or write your own.

        Judith asked me what would restore trust in the temperature series. I laid out a pretty basic approach. looking at the recent workshop on the issue I’d say they are well on the way to getting there. In the meantime we have what we have. From my view it’s solid enough to move forward. As long as their is a commitment to adopt better practices and concrete action, I’m happy to act on the best available data.

        WRT the IPCC. my suggestion is equally reasonable. I would retract the chapters or portions of the chapters where there were issues and rewrite them. The whole mechanism of IPCC reports seems flawed. I’d much rather see a living document that was updated ( rather than rewritten) to reflect our growing understanding, on say a yearly basis. and a more constrained approach to what science is brought into that assessment. The assessment should be iron clad. Of course, that overly conservative approach will cause heartburn for some, but nothing stops them from criticizing the report for being too conservative. That’s a much better rhetorical strategy than defending against ‘fraud’. Overpeck knew this, but didnt follow his own advice, for example.

        I guess if you asked me I would rewrite the entire PR playbook for the AGW side.

      • There’s a playbook?

      • Personally I don’t have the time, the knowledge, or the inclination to personally assess every piece of science, and I imagine that holds true for 99% of the population. Which is why I raised the issue trying to establish some basis for what we tend to accept and what we tend not to.

        There may well be some brilliant insights by the lay-person on a blog, but the probability seems low. And I think it’s fair to say that this proposition is well supported by the evidence – mike’s points noted – that there have been huge advances in science through the journal process. Going back to Judiths flag, it’s just as clear that there is an awful lot of nonsense written on blogs.

      • mt,

        Yes there is a playbook. But not in the sense that a conspiracy person would think. When you spend a bunch of time in PR ( or rhetoric) you will quickly come to realize that there are set ways and strategies for dealing with certain situations.

        Let’s just take Mcintyre. The strategy for dealing with skeptics was laid out by overpeck ( see the mails) and Mann. It came down to this:

        1. Ignore them.
        2. If that doesnt work deligitamize them.

        When you have ANY critic in any field, your first choice is always:
        A. recognize them or not.
        Your second choice is always.
        B. attack or compromise.

        So, by playbook I mean the choice to follow the ‘ignore, then attack” pathway.

        The strategy Overpeck laid out was to ignore skeptics. When the press got involved that strategy was toast. So the party line was developed: “say they dont publish in peer reviewed literature.” You can read these exchanges in the mails. Then when the Soon paper got published, Mann ( i think it was mann) said “well that was a danger in that strategy”

        ignore ( like not linking to sites, like blocking comments) has almost disappeared from every savy PR person’s playbook. “Ignore” USED to work when the media could be controlled. “ignore” doesnt work in the post blog world.

        So its silly for example for hansen to say that he wont say McIntyre’s name. That’s old school, pre internet, dont say your competitors name. Anyway, nobody on our side (xcept judith) even considers an approach to co-opt McIntyre. That is, work with your critic. Instead, the attacks continue, by proxy. That’s also clearly evident. It’s just one of the tricks we have in our bag of tricks. Ignore them. if that doesnt work, then have a proxy attack. In hindsight, if osborn had been allowed to serve as a mediator between Mann and Mcintyre ( as Steve and Osborn suggested) the entire history would be different.

        So, since I see the climate fight as a long one, I’m usually going to favor a strategy of rapid co-opt.

  57. Hi Judith,

    Not for the first time I applaud your desire to bring civility to climate science discourse, but doubt you will succeed. Aren’t you in danger of just giving the existing pejorative terms a PC makeover? Won’t your own categories, if the achieve currency, simply become their own set of abusive labels? It’s all a bit Swiftian for my taste. Isn’t the real task not to stop people waging bitter war with one another, (warfare is a great stimulus to the intellect), but to insist that they do so in purely scientific terms, and ignore them when they don’t?

    “Climate Science”, as distinct from climatology, paleontology, and all the other –ologies that existed before the term “Climate Science” was coined) has a number of innate problems.

    It is an ineluctable fact that it exists to inform policy, and owes much of its funding to the patronage, in one form or another, that it receives from makers or influencers of policy. You can no more remove the politics from it than you can remove the word “Blackpool” from a stick of Blackpool rock. So I think we have to accept/embrace the politics, and that means enduring, by and large, the vocabulary of politics, much of it repugnant.

    Because “Climate Science” exists to study the effect of humans on climate, it has a fundamental problem with the null hypothesis. The notion that no such effect is discernible is anathematic. “Climate Science’s” continued existence has come to depend on the collective “null-hypothesis deafness” of its practitioners. This has a number of consequences, but the most obvious is that it can only reliably be audited by “outsiders” like Montford, M&M, Watts, and our own dear Jo Nova – to whom the insiders react in the ways with which I take you are by now lamentably familiar. And precisely BECAUSE it is political in nature, “Climate Science” stands in far greater need of rigorous scrutiny than purely academic research. Caesar’s wife, etc… Do you agree, and if so how do you think this conflict might be resolved to the satisfaction of the taxpayer?

    Another consequence is that “Climate Scientists”, by neglecting the null hypothesis, deny themselves the necessary (if irksome) intellectual stimulus to devise a better experiment. Again, do you agree?
    For my own part, I have long since stopped caring that I am labelled a denier. I see the burning of fossil fuels as the handmaiden of human betterment down the ages, and before I see it denied to today’s developing populations and to future generations, I want to see proper scientific evidence. So far all I haven’t seen it, but I have seen a great deal of effort expended to contrive it. I draw the adverse inference.
    IMO the way to dispense with the invidious labels is to just do the science, and do it well. For “Climate Scientists” that means doing it a lot better than hitherto.

    Nothing much else matters in the long run.

  58. Dropping the labels helps one kind of discussion, but hampers another kind of discussion. It helps a focused discussion of facts, but hampers an important discussion of priorities, actions, and publicity. Two people can look at the same mix of facts, but advocate very different actions to fix them. Why? Not simply because they have different beliefs about the causes, but also because they have different worries. The Democrats and Republicans (labels, but helpful labels) both want to enable the people and they both want to help the people, but when push comes to shove, they go in different directions. When the going gets tough and you can’t service both values, the bottom line is that one of the two can’t be dropped. They like both values, but not equally. One of the two supersedes the other. And the two parties choose different overriding core values. How can you practically discuss that dynamic without the labels?

    • Robert, I’m hoping to devolve this into two separate discussions: a discussion of the science, with all its uncertainties, then a discussion of politics, policies, and values, with the scientific evidence and uncertainty as a backdrop. In the discussion of politics etc., then the more usual labels would come into play, such as libertarian, big government liberal, environmentalist, etc., rather than labels like denier, warmist, etc. Make any sense?

      • It’s a thorny question, and that sounds like a good direction for trying to handle it. Best of luck with that.

    • RobertM,

      I know where you are coming from, but labels such as “Democrats” and “Republicans” are USA-centric, and there may be associations (by no means always universally applicable even within the USA, however), with them to such things as abortion, ID, stem cell research, AGW, and so on.

      It isn’t the same in other parts of the world. And everywhere, there are individuals who are able to separate intellectual understanding of an issue from the politics of it. For my part, I’m sick to the teeth with politics. I want to look at the science and base my opinions on that. Hence no labelling, especially the term “denier”, which imho is egregious politicking of the highest order.

      • We all get sick of “politics”, but I think we have to deal with some of it anyway. In our world, we have people with different values, different priorities, and different sore spots. And yet we are trying to manage our shared resources together. I vote that we make sounder progress actually bringing some of that out in the open rather than trying to ignore it.

  59. Politics has taken in a miniscule area of science to push economic agendas toward inferior products at a great economic expense on individuals.
    The political structure is based upon economic growth to fund governments.
    Like the “Ponsey” scheme, it will collapse eventually due to the infrustructures they generated to fund and keep at the expense of many.
    Juggling funding around with a limited pot and borrowing has maximised this problem into being self-destructive.
    Much of our infrustructure will have to change. So many government funded programs and employees are at risk of being cut. Just then just will put more weight onto the unemployed and in need line.
    Manufacturing jobs cannot compete with the cheaper Eastern Imports.

    How do you solve this problem?

  60. I would like to see the flag idea applied to the fundamental elements of global warming: co2 forcing, water vapor forcing, cloud forcing, solar forcing, etc. I would like to see climate scientists fill in the flag with what they believe the forcing probabilities to be along with the uncertainty. The discussion of policy is premature if the uncertainty of a catastrophe from global warming is huge. We can postulate all sorts of potential catastrophes. It would be kind of crazy to alter the course of economic history to prepare for each one no matter how remote the chance of it happening. So for each one, we need to be pretty certain it will come to fruition before dedicating dear resources to amelioration. And as another poster pointed out, we may well be more likely to be entering a period of glaciations in the longer term. If large CO2-based global warming is a reality, we might actually want to burn more fossil fuels, not less. Of course, even that probably wouldn’t change the outcome, but you see my point.

  61. As a non-academic, could I ask a question of the published academics? I recently dined at my old Oxford college, where in the SCR they whined about the pressure to publish, cackled about how they gamed the system, and generally gave me an impression of a system distorted by a strange point-awarding scheme which I do not understand, but I gather was introduced, probably rightly, to prevent bed-blocking lazybones achieving tenure and sitting tight.

    But it clearly can distort, and I imagine given the volume of published papers the peer review system is no guarantor of good sense throughout. (I am NOT trying to re-open climategate btw).

    So am I right or wrong, arrogant or deluded, to place little reliance on the ‘appeal to authority’ argument, and hence appeal to consensus argument, in the IPCC field? I appreciate it can make me vulnerable to preferring papers I ‘agree’ with, as per Pielke Jr’s excellent post today on belief systems.

    This comment was triggered by Steve Easterbrook’s appeal to authority comment above.

  62. A follow-up question – we are all familiar with the syndrome where when we read an article in the newspaper on a subject we are highly familiar with, we realise how shallow and stupid and ill-informed the journalist is. When we turn the page and read one on, say, the Gaza Strip and Hamas, a subject about which we know little, we read with interest and respect, even though the journalist is in all probability of the same level of expertise as the one we have just dissed.

    When academic climate scientists read climate science papers not in their field, can they spot the nonsense from the sense as they can for papers in their field? I ask this especially of Judith, as I recall she once said she had spent very little time on, say, paleo, but assumed the paleo people knew their stuff. Only when she had a good look did she er …., widen the uncertainty bands.

    It’s a variation on the appeal to authority – if I find a climate scientist I trust, can I trust their opinion on papers in areas they are not expert on?

    • Roddy, I am increasingly coming to understand this problem. The whole territory as covered by the IPCC is vast, even if you just consider WGI. It is very difficult for an individual to wrap his/her head around the whole thing. How to assess such a complex topic is not at all obvious. As an individual scientist, when pressed on the issue (in the context of media attention ca 2005, 2006), I thought that the responsible thing to do was to support the IPCC consensus, because I thought they dealt with a whole host of issues that I personally didn’t know much about. Who to trust has become the issue du jour, with the credibility hits that the IPCC has taken over the past year. This will be the topic of a future post.

      • Judith writes ” Who to trust has become the issue du jour, with the credibility hits that the IPCC has taken over the past year.”

        Now you really worry me. Whatever happened to Nullius in Verba. In physics, it is NEVER “who” to trust, but ALWAYS “what” to trust. And the “what”, is, was and always will be, the physics that is presented. If you dont understand the physics, then, I suggest, you dont support anyone, or anything. However, I cannot believe that you dont understand the physics of AGW.

      • Scientists should heed “nullius in verba” in their research. But the challenge is what to believe outside the domain of our own investigation. This is an issue not only for scientists (for example in the past I have been too trusting of the sea surface temperature data sets), but it is a very big issue for the public and decision makers that do not conduct any primary investigation or individual assessment. A year or two ago, trusting the IPCC seemed reasonable; now fewer people would say this.

      • Roddy Campbell

        Judith, I thought you’d like the Pielke post, it is relevant, and interesting not only in this field. I won’t gazump your future post on trust, but I suppose what I’m asking is are you better able to understand and judge a paleo paper than someone of equal academic rank but unconnected with climate science. I would assume not, on paper, but I don’t know.

      • Roddy, in terms of judging paleo papers, I would rank Steve McIntyre well above myself, and probably also any number of citizen scientists that have gotten engaged on this topic.

      • Roddy Campbell

        Jim, are you saying ‘the science is in’? AR4 WG1 is certainly titled ‘The Physical Science Basis’, but contains: Palaeo. Biogeochemistry. Techniques of Error Estimation. Trenberth’s Chapter 3. Attribution. Sea level observations. Observations of snow and ice. And so on. So I’m not sure what your point re the physics of AGW is?

      • Roddy Campbell

        Actually Jim Cripwell, you can say what you like, because I’ve just clicked through onto your website, and it’s been the highlight of my day. Magnificently crazy. Brilliant. And a long long way from climate science! :)

      • > …in terms of judging paleo papers, I would rank Steve McIntyre well above myself, and probably also any number of citizen scientists that have gotten engaged on this topic.

        To be fair, that’s not a high hurdle to clear and says more about the incompetence of “citizen scientists” than the competence of a retired mining executive.

  63. One reason there is a lack of trust of some climate scientists is that there is enough evidence to strongly suggest they are not to be trusted. The investigations into climategate shut out skeptical scientists and just made the whole global warming enterprise appear even shabbier. Real Climate does not help because they also shut out and ridicule honest inquiries. Blaming skeptical views on funding by the oil companies also sounds disingenuous. I think a lot of layman skeptics side with the skeptical scientists due to mistrust of the CAWG ones.

    • Jim, you got it wrong and if you keep repeating this it does not make it right.

      Climate scientists do a great job and because of this they have been vilified think tanks and PR outfits supported by the coal and oil industry.
      Read about the Koch Industries and the millions they spend to force public opinion,

      Websites like WUWT and CA are echo chambers of the same falsehoods, which in many cases even contradict each other. Read up at

      What the ‘denier’ side does is that it polarizes the debate so that ‘their’ side is so angry they will reject reading foreign material. You appear well polarized and I doubt you will make the effort to read up on these articles by the Koch Industries owners who meddle with the political system (Tea party), they meddle with the EPA on banning carcinogens, and now they meddle with the scientific community. The tobacco industry did what the Koch brothers are doing now; we had to die from smoking for fifty years before some regulation took effect.

      Do you know what the tobacco industry did to delay regulation? They claimed the science was wrong.

      • Gosh Janet, CRU took money from Shell, I suppose that settles the matter.

        “Websites like WUWT and CA are echo chambers of the same falsehoods, which in many cases even contradict each other. Read up at..”

        Well, you are wrong. first just on the notion that they are echo chambers that contradict each other.. ahh if they were echo chambers they would echo each other, not contradict each other. The two communities are different ( if you studied the demographics with quantcast as I have you would know this) Mcintyre is exclusively focused on a few key topics. WUWT is dedicated to publishing stuff on a variety of topics and often opposing views from within climate science ( I know, I’ve searched out some of these opposing views to publish there)

        Oh, and science is always more or less ‘wrong.’ the question is, is it right enough to base decisions on.

      • Al Gore spent $300 million on advertising to push his views. He fronts for a group of investors who have billions and billions of dollars worth of investments dependent on getting governments to impose climate legislation. Clean Energy Works, a group formed by 80 organizations, put together a war room in DC with 45 staff members and over 200 field organizers led by a political operative from the Obama campaign. Many utilities and big oil companies spent millions pushing cap and trade. Richard Branson has set up his own war room. Billions of dollars annually are spent on climate research — to keep the cash coming requires scary scenarios from the scientists who receive it. The movie industry and the Nobel prize committee gave enormous support to Al Gore’s “documentary”. School systems continue to feed the documentary and similar propaganda to innocent school children and their families every year. The UN and governments all over the world have been pushing global warming for years.

        And finally, the news media has provided a constant drumbeat of free PR “news” for alarmists with a value so great no amount of purchased advertising by skeptics could possibly equal it.

        Add up all the value of the vast resources that alarmists have devoted to hype global warming and compare it to the relatively tiny amounts spent by skeptics. If skeptics have simply “bought” the beliefs of large numbers of people based on this tiny amount of money, the alarmists must be the most incompetent PR people in history.

        On the other hand, you might want to consider the possibility that the skeptics actually have some legitimate arguments. Truth, even without massive spending and despite media stonewalling, has a way of getting out eventually.

    • What you presented is not opinion backed up by “evidence,” it is opinion backed up by… more opinion. What information do you have that anyone was “shut out” of anything?

      Can you honestly say that, if Steve McIntyre and Andrew Montford had given days of testimony at Muir Russell and Oxburgh, you’d have accepted it if the ultimate verdict was the same?

      • if Steve McIntyre and Andrew Montford had given days of testimony at Muir Russell and Oxburgh, you’d have accepted it if the ultimate verdict was the same?


        False premise to your question.

        If Steve McIntyre and Andrew Montford had been able to give even two hours of testimony at Muir Russell and Oxburgh, would the ultimate verdict have been the same?

        If the “investigation” had been made by a person NOT having strong personal and political and commercial (financial investment and management) interests in maintaining the CAGW theory and CO2 gas emission controls, would the ultimate verdict have been the same?

        If the “investigation” had consisted of more than 2-1/2 hours of “interviews,” had consisted of sworn testimony and an even one member of an independent investigator (or even a unbiased reporter), and even one hour of investigation in research methods, FOIA responses and files, computer security, access, financial interests and conflicts, and audit trails of how the emails were “pre-gathered” into one easily-deleted subfolder (for protection (?) or for removal (?)) , would the ultimate verdict have been the same?

        If it had been an investigation, I would have accepted the results.

      • Yes, if all these things were done, would you have accepted it if the ultimate verdict was the same? Or – as your comment seems to indicate – have you already made up your mind?

      • If it had been a real investigation, instead of less than 2-1/2 hours of non-sworn non-checked biased conversations – then I would accept what was reported.

        On the other hand, Penn State “investigated” Mann’s “science” – and just weeks after a similar short/compromised/biased report, was awarded 1.9 million for malaria climate-influenced “research” that Mann was handed US government funds. In all, over 90 billion has been sent from government funds for climate research supporting CAGW. CAGW interests control NASA, NASA departments, NOAA, DOE, EPA, etc, etc. Lots of money, power, promotions and influence … for those who toe the government’s line.

  64. Roddy Campbell writes “So I’m not sure what your point re the physics of AGW is?”

    My point is, I hope, simple. In physics we do not trust any experts. Feynman, a Noble Laureate in physics, says that “science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”. If you have not seen this before, think about it. It is a very profound statement. I do not trust the opinion of anyone. I read the physics and determine what I believe. And where I think I understand it, I will debate the physics with anyone. In the case of AGW, I believe the figure of 1.2 C rise in global temperatures, with no feedback, for a doubling of CO2 has been estimated incorrectly. The physics is simply just plain wrong. There are other places in AGW where I suspect the physics is wrong, but I dont understand it well enough to debate the issue.

    I am glad you enjoyed my web site. I dont see why the ladies should have all the fun. I thoroughly enjoy the craft of counted cross stitch.

    • This might come out as rude, but here it is.

      When people claim they do not trust the scientists, it is interesting to know their position on the following issues:
      1. Is there a Global government in the making, with the help on climate change?
      2. Do you believe in creationism/ID or not?
      3. Does tobacco and smoking cause cancers?

      It is fine to reject authority and have doubts, however you need to differentiate from those with merit and from those without.

      • I think you’re trying to make a point, Janet, but I’m having trouble finding it. Perhaps your answer to the following question will help me get a grip on the matter:

        -Do you honestly believe the Prince of Wales’ eco-express runs on chicken fat?

      • Very interesting questions, thank you.

        1. I don’t think so. It seems implausible, but I haven’t studied the claims, so I wouldn’t want anyone to take my word for it. Conspiracy theories generally don’t appeal to me, but conspiracies do occur sometimes.
        2. No. Never have.
        3. Yes, but not exclusively on trust, although I haven’t actually read the papers. I have a reasonable understanding of basic epidemiology. I know this conclusion is based on adequately large epidemiological studies (that doesn’t always happen). I also know that the link between smoking and lung cancer is easier to establish than some other cause-effect relationships regarding health. The reason is that lung cancer is so rare in non-smokers.

        I think for myself. I read the arguments on both sides. I’ve learned from experience that this is absolutely necessary.

      • As a plain spoken skeptic, I am pleased to answer your questions, but will offer a few of my for you to hopefully answer.
        1. Is there a Global government in the making, with the help on climate change?
        A: No.
        2. Do you believe in creationism/ID or not?
        A: No.
        3. Does tobacco and smoking cause cancers?
        A: Yes.
        For you:
        1)Do you believe that scientists are capable of sustained errors?

        2) Do you believe that consensus is fallible?

        3) Can you name any area where scientists have made errors that have led to damaging policies?

      • Thanks Dagfinn.

        Let’s see what Mike has to say about this.

      • You win, Janet

      • 1. Is there a Global government in the making, with the help on climate change? no
        2. Do you believe in creationism/ID or not? No
        3. Does tobacco and smoking cause cancers? yes.

        Now for you. Do you believe that an adequate investigation of the suspected deletion of emails would require ( at least)
        1. interviewing all the parties who were mentioned in the request to delete?
        2. Examination of computer records.
        3. understanding why the request to delete was made in the first place.

        That’s not a rude set of questions.

      • tick, tock……..

    • Re: Jim Cripwell (Sep 16 15:24),
      F.’s adage is particularly apt when wholesale appeal to “scientific consensus” is being made.
      A parallel Bertrand Russell adage is (paraphrased): It is intellectually unsafe to be certain of a contrary opinion when all the experts are agreed; when the experts disagree, it is intellectually unsafe to be certain of any opinion.

  65. *******
    Janet says:
    September 16, 2010 at 3:23 pm
    Jim, you got it wrong and if you keep repeating this it does not make it right.
    Hi Janet. So are you telling me that Steve McIntyre made up stories about FOI requests being refused. Do you claim that the investigations into climategate allowed testimony from skeptics. These are factual bits of information that can be checked. There are many more, like the hockey stick statisitical procedures, but I simply don’t have time to list them all. If you ask me, if you want to see someone running on indoctrination – look in the mirror.

  66. I just received this in my inbox:

    Dear Member,

    This fall, AAAS is launching MemberCentral, an exclusive website for AAAS members. MemberCentral is dedicated to highlighting AAAS activities and fostering community among our members. To support these goals, the site will feature original content presented as webinars, videos, podcasts, blogs, and more.

    On September 27, 2010, at 12:00 p.m. ET, AAAS MemberCentral is conducting its first webinar: “Climate Change and the Public: Overcoming Skepticism After Climategate.”

    Featuring panelists Gavin Schmidt, Ph.D., of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS); Edward Maibach, M.P.H., Ph.D., of George Mason University ; Brenda Ekwurzel, Ph.D., from the Union of Concerned Scientists; and author and science journalist Chris Mooney, this discussion will explore ways the scientific community can combat negative public attitudes toward climate change. Panelists will share their best practices for public and media engagement, debate how to respond to critiques, and explore the idea of reframing climate change as a public health issue.

    As an audience member you will have the opportunity to submit questions to the panel during the event.

    A short registration is required to view this webinar. Space is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. Reserve your space today.

    Register Now

    Can’t make the live webinar? ” Climate Change and the Public: Overcoming Skepticism After Climategate” will be available for on-demand viewing at the launch of AAAS MemberCentral.

    • *****
      Panelists will share their best practices for public and media engagement, debate how to respond to critiques, and explore the idea of reframing climate change as a public health issue.
      I’ve seen things like this before. A group of people including sociologists and psychologists try to find ways other than proving the science to convince people global warming is a catastrophic problem. They conduct polls using proposed wording of various statements and attempt to gage the effectiveness. This seems wrongheaded and reminds me of past governments and their propaganda machines. Instead why don’t they tell us how their lack of understanding of the effects of clouds causes the climate models to be incomplete and how much uncertainty that lack of understanding will cause? Or maybe they can give us a good explanation of why they don’t want to release computer code. Why don’t they stick to the science and maybe explain or admit to some of their problems. They would come off as more credible if they would just open up and be honest.

    • try the audio of this debate:

      How to Report Climate Change after Climategate…
      UK journalists debating (BBC, Guardian Financial Times) the aftermath.

      Might be interseting to any passing sociologist.

    • Is it not telling that so much effort and so many meetings about AGW revolve around what are in effect marketing seminars?
      Again, why the reluctance to revisit the assumptions of what is now being rebranded (for the Nth time) as ‘global climate disruption’?
      Remember: Hansen, in a serious interview on his work, predicted that by now Manhattan would be awash in rising sea levels and experiencing sub-tropical climate by NOW.
      Why is that not pointed out be serious peers of his as an example of being very wrong? To name just one of many examples.

  67. Wouldn’t a Venn diagram be more appropriate than an Italian flag?

    After all, there is some overlap in arguments and positions.

    • Anthony, if you want to see what might be the best visual way of portraying these ideas, check out this doc, which includes venn diagram plus a more complicated leaf diagram.

      • Judith, if the Italian flag is not your idea, I think you should have said so in the article. Thanks for the link, though. Better late than never.

        I remain still puzzled how the idea applies to the matters at hand.

        I think estimation is a better model for what we do than hypothesis testing. If someone is going to drill for oil or water or a mine, they have hypotheses for the specific phenomenology of the ground under them. So that makes sense in the context of the commercial setting for which the document is intended.

        But in climate science, we rarely have questions of “whether”; it is much more a question of “how much”. I don’t see how such questions map onto the flag. Indeed, in your first example you conflate the two types of question, starting with a hypothesis “most of the observed warming is anthropogenic” and concluding with an estimate of proportion “My assignment allows the anthropogenic influence to be as large as 70% and as small as 30%, leaving plenty of room for natural variability and uncertainties.”

        I understand the frustration that people have with IPCC’s “90% likely” thresholds and the like, but I don’t see this as adding value. It changes one arbitrary intuitive numerical assessment into two. I think it is fair to say that “very likely” means that the total of the red and white areas is less than 10% in the view of the chapter authors.

        Uncertainty has a very clear meaning in continuous problems and a very fraught meaning in hypotheticals. The policy problem is a chain of numbers, each of which can be assigned a clear, unambiguous, unmetaphysical estimated probability distribution: the emissions trajectory, the carbon cycle feedbacks, the climate response, the ocean chemistry response, the ice sheet response, the impacts, these are all quantitative.

        Uncertainties propagate through these quantitative uncertainties in a conceptually straightforward way to a risk analysis. The devil is in the details, of course. But why make it harder than it already is?

        Anyway, the real news is that IPCC’s > 90% corresponds to your 40%. So Judith, you would appear to be very strongly at odds with IPCC conclusions. So this raise a yes/no question, to which you may attach an uncertain field if you like.

        Do you believe that IPCC has correctly represented the scientific consensus on the attribution question and that the consensus is wrong, or do you believe to the contrary that IPCC has not correctly represented the consensus on the attribution question and that your opinion is in the scientific mainstream?

      • How should she answer if by chance she believes that the IPCC has represented the consensus accurately but she feels it to be wrong, or outdated?

        Or how should she respond if she believe the IPCC has presented a stock view of opinions from a relatively small number of scientists that it chooses to label a consensus?

      • Michael, re your statement

        “Judith, if the Italian flag is not your idea, I think you should have said so in the article. Thanks for the link, though. Better late than never.”

        In my doubt article, i referenced the hurricane link where I introduced the italian flag, with two references.

      • Tom, green and red respectively. That was exactly the question.

  68. Comments up thread (eg Zajko Sept 15 2:13pm) mentioned polls of scientists, some of which are frequently used in the media and elsewhere to support claims of near concensus about AGW in the climate science community specifically, and prevailing in earth science in general, for example Doran and Zimmerman of U of Illinois. This widely quoted survey claims to have been professionally overseen so perhaps I have become over suspicious, (but not without justification), but I have lingering reservations. These reservations mainly concern the puzzling reticence to reveal most of the survey questions and answers (only two, the so-called ‘key’ questions are described and results reported), at least in web accessible reportage.

    These two ‘key’ questions on which the survey statistics rely were:

    ‘have mean global temperatures risen compared to pre-1800s levels’, and

    ‘has human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures’.

    The survey was targeted to invited earth scientists, not the public. If these two questions were crafted to be the most penetrating of nine, to this selected forum, the other seven defy my imagination.

    There also appear to have been subtle changes between the initial press releases, which state ‘the nine-question survey was short, taking just a few minutes to complete’ ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2009) morphing into ‘up to nine questions’, taking ‘less than two minutes to complete’ in the final summary paper published in EOS. While perhaps trivial, it does nothing to quell curiosity over those missing seven questions.

    I would be most grateful to anyone able to throw some light on this.

  69. I was looking at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change website today:
    Yes there is a a politician in the UK called – The Minister for Energy and Climate Change.

    I sent them an email, perhaps Judith or another climate related scientist could comment.
    Ref: Is the DECC Global Warming Anomaly graph incorrect?
    Should updated base line should be used.

    In the graph below, published on the DECC website.

    In this graph, the temperature anomalies are calculated fom the 1961-1990 average. (the base line)

    By climate convention (and other data sets are now doing this) this base line is a moving one..

    This graph should now calculate this graph, from a 1971-2000 base line..

    Unless, this graph is brought uptodate and inline with climate science convention, there will remain a suspicion, that the old baseline is being used, to show BIGGER anomalies, as evidence of man made global warming..

    Is it the case the anomalies are now smaller, if the correct base line is used?

    If you could send me a recalculated graph with the correct baseline, I would be very apreciative, (ie you will use the exact methods used to creat the graph, less I make any errors if I attempt it myself) so that I can be reassured that this suspicion is not the case.

    However the official DECC website should do this as well.
    I imagine I will not receive a reply, even though they invited questions.

    A look at the EVEN these graphs would indicate that in last 10 years?
    That both the global and UK temp anomalies, are on a downward trend (ie cooling). As Phil Jones said, not statistically relevant yet, but if that trend contiunues for 2 – 3 years. What will they be saying then..?

    So watch that graph..

    Maybe their is much stronger evidence for AGW, the fact that this government department does not present it, suggests that it does not exist.

    Meanwhile spotted on Watts Up today, only in the comments..

    “Scientists studying sunspots for the past 2 decades have concluded that the magnetic field that triggers their formation has been steadily declining. If the current trend continues, by 2016 the sun’s face may become spotless and remain that way for decades—a phenomenon that in the 17th century coincided with a prolonged period of cooling on Earth.”

    of course just another correlation of climate events, not proof…
    Yet it does correlate rather better than CO2.

    And as a layman, the effects on the Earth’s climate of the Big Ball of Fusion in the Sky, seems a more likely primary driver of climate, than a trace gas increasing at 4 ppm per year..

    Sorry, to sound flippant, it has been a long day…
    Just a memeber of the public’s idle sceptical thoughts…

    The previous Minister of Climate said this today (he previoulsy when questioned on a radio interview, thought man was responsible for ALL of the CO2 in the atmosphere).

    Ed Milliband: “I believe that climate change is the greatest global threat facing our generation. It demands leadership and resolve. ”

    This man is a candidate for the leadership of the UK Labour party.
    If succesful, he could be UK prime minister in a while.

    In the 1970’s heatwave, the UK had (briefly) a Minister for Drought.

    • > of course just another correlation of climate events, not proof…
      Yet it does correlate rather better than CO2.

      What on earth can you mean? A steady decline – and eventual cessation – of sunspot activity, which normally triggers with a cooling period on Earth, in this case coincides with the most rapid period of warming in human history with no sign of an end to the upward trend. And you assert that is a good correlation?

      > The previous Minister of Climate said this today (he previoulsy when questioned on a radio interview, thought man was responsible for ALL of the CO2 in the atmosphere).

      Quote please, and context to show that he wasn’t talking about the increase. This thread is called doubt, after all.

  70. ******
    PDA says:
    September 16, 2010 at 5:37 pm
    Good gravy, someone else just repeating canards from some blog.
    Have at it.
    Your histrionics aside, the refusal of some climate scientists to supply code and data is well documented. And while there are people who no doubt would like to see a world government and will leverage global warming or anything else if they can, I don’t believe it to be a conspiracy. I am not a creationist and do believe smoking tobacco or even pot causes lung cancer. The tobacco thing is the most idiotic of them all, IMO.

    • Your histrionics aside, the refusal of some climate scientists to supply code and data is well documented.

      Your assertion was “they don’t want to release computer code,” and you argued “they would come off as more credible if they would just open up and be honest,” in the context of climate scientists in general. So I assumed that was the “they” you were referring to, and I googled up the source links I sent you in about a minute.

      Now you’re saying there’s some other “they” you meant… that your point was that if any climate scientist, anywhere refuses to give code and data to anyone who asks for it then the whole field is tainted.

      And you wonder why climate scientists think you folks are just a bunch of crank-yankers.

      JC: Paul, pls tone down the labels, “crank-yankers”, “sinister”, etc. these are uneccessary

      • Apologies, withdrawn.

        To clarify above, I was characterizing how you were presenting your argument, not labeling you. And in this case, I wasn’t intending to label to commenter, but to draw attention to the accusation of dishonesty.

        Nevertheless, I’ll be more judicious in my choice of words in the future, per your request.

      • Thank you.

      • PDA: “Now you’re saying there’s some other “they” you meant… that your point was that if any climate scientist, anywhere refuses to give code and data to anyone who asks for it then the whole field is tainted.”

        These are your words, not mine. However, that sort of behavior has tainted the field of climate science in the eyes of many. That isn’t the same thing as saying all climate scientists don’t reveal code and data, now is it? It isn’t the same as saying all climate scientists are dishonest. I never said those things.

      • PDA,
        Frankly you come across as arrogant and ignorant all at once.

      • Hey Dr. Curry, if name-calling is verboten then I’d appreciate that the rules be applied equally to all.

        Jim, you said “if they would just open up and be honest.” That’s an allegation of dishonesty. You just wrote “that sort of behavior has tainted the field of climate science in the eyes of many.” That’s saying that if any climate scientist, anywhere refuses to give code and data to anyone who asks for it then the whole field is tainted.

        Come on. I’m not putting words in your mouth, I’m taking out the ones you put there and showing them to you.

      • PDA I am challenged to keep up with all the comments. If you see something that is offensive, pls send an email. I am mainly concerned about name calling for posters, and other individuals. Name calling and insults is in the eye of the beholder to some extent. If everyone can tone it down a bit, we can have a more productive discussion. I appreciate your efforts to tone down the name calling.

      • PDA said:Jim, you said “if they would just open up and be honest.” That’s an allegation of dishonesty. You just wrote “that sort of behavior has tainted the field of climate science in the eyes of many.” That’s saying that if any climate scientist, anywhere refuses to give code and data to anyone who asks for it then the whole field is tainted.

        When I said they, I meant all climate scientists. All climate scientists should be open and honest. Do you have an issue with that? Some climate scientists have been less than open and less skilled at statistics than they should have been. OK, everyone makes mistakes, but CAWGers want us to bet the farm they are right. I say: Not so fast.

        Let’s quit beating around the bush. If a newly minted PhD were caught cherry picking his sample of Bristlecone pine, messing up his statistical analysis, and urging a couple of his young colleagues to delete emails and not tell anyone about FOI among other things; there wouldn’t be an issue. But the people involved were high in the climate science tree. That makes all the difference. Why can’t you understand that the well know and well documented issues of openness cause suspicion? How could it not?

      • The suspicion predated the whole climategate rigmarole, and you know it. McIntyre orchestrated a flood of FoI requests on his blog, with commenters happily playing along, chortling all the while.

        Did they handle it in a way that increased suspicion of them? You bet! Was this McIntyre’s intention all along? The answer is left as an exercise for the reader.

      • *****
        PDA says:
        September 17, 2010 at 9:36 pm
        Did they handle it in a way that increased suspicion of them? You bet! Was this McIntyre’s intention all along? The answer is left as an exercise for the reader.
        If they would have honored the FOI request in the first place, there would have been no need to keep requesting the information, now would there? I’m having to exercise a good deal of restraint from calling you names.

      • PDA – a “flood” of FOIA requests? Five, if memory serves me…. Precipitated a lot of whining by the untouchables, I also recall.

  71. Judith,

    I’m not sure what you would label me, but I am certain that the current understanding of Physics that explains the temperature lapse rate with GHG’s and radiative forcing is incorrect.

    The temperature difference with altitude that is caused by gravity is well established in the field of Fluid Mechanics, but seems to be foreign to, or ignored by, Climate Scientists.

    There also seems to be little understanding of how most heat is conducted from surface to top of atmosphere, or of the significance of moisture content with respect to enthalpy.

    The precautionary principle should only be applied in situations where there is a reasonable basis to think there may be a threat. Possible threats based on incomplete understandings are meaningless.

  72. Judith–

    After 20 years as a member of AAAS (I’m a Ph.D. physicist), this was the last straw. I sent in the following:

    “Today I received my invitation to the first Webinar of
    your new website Member Central. This is titled Climate
    Change and the Public: Overcoming Skepticism After
    ClimateGate. I and I believe many other AAAS members
    am personally affronted by your choosing to present
    this panel, containing only apologists for the
    “consensus” view on climate change. The revelations of
    Climategate are a stain on science, and your attempt to
    treat it by an intensified PR campaign is distasteful
    and self-defeating. How much better it would have been
    had you chosen to present a proper debate, with AAAS
    scientists (e.g., Lindzen of MIT or Freeman Dyson) on
    both sides of the issue.

    For the first time, I am ashamed of my membership in
    AAAS and request that you terminate my membership

    • Lance, I definitely agree with the self defeating part. They seem to be looking for a better way to spin all this, rather than to make any fundamental improvements

    • Steve Fitzpatrick


      I dropped my American Chemical Society membership for pretty much the same reasons. Sometimes a principled stand is demanded.

  73. A simple litmus test question would seem to be (all options dervied from comments on this thread):-

    WUWT is:
    a. a denialist propaganda outlet

    b. an echo chambers of falsehoods, which in many cases even contradict each other.

    c. not interested in a coherent, serious examination of the subject, but rather is a repository for any “not IPCC” claim made, regardless of their mutually exclusive natures.

    d. a large bunch of very loud (and frequently very obnoxious) contributors who,
    despite their passions, seem to have a very poor grasp of basic physics?

    e. dedicated to publishing stuff on a variety of topics and often opposing views from within climate science

    Being firmly on the sceptical side, I personally would answer E.

    • The comment a few posts down by ‘Atomic Hairdryer’ (BTW explained awhile back on Bishop Hill to refer to a nickname coined while drying himself on the beach in the sun), I think summarises what WUWT is about in particular, and CAGW sceptical enquiry in general perfectly as the defence:

      ‘Call the pro-AGW side the prosecution. They make their case based on the evidence available.

      Call the anti-AGW the defence. They make their case based on their own evidence, or by trying to pick holes in the prosecution’s case.’

      • I should of course have added that it is customary to regard the accused as innocent until proved guilty.

  74. I’m heartily sick of the tobacco connection being introduced into another science area. I myself have looked into it intensively and the “consensus” of catastrophic causality is not borne out. Yes, there is a strong correlation, as there is with women in Hong Kong who stir-fry, urban/rural divide (diesel exhaust), black carbon, dung fires, etc., etc., etc. As a matter of evidence, there are a great many lung cancers (milk, anyone?) not attributable to tobacco, contrary to the narrative. Unfortunately, now those who contract this form of cancer (aside from the high percentage of cancer of any kind if one simply lives long enough) are stigmatized in addition.

    Sorry, Judith, for the off-topic, but I did not bring it up and I greatly resent the “equivalency” that has been touted.

    Anyway, that’s old news, new in the “Healthism” field is catastrophic transfatism (funny, years ago when I first began to study nutrition, the term was partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils – yes, it was advised they should be avoided). Oh, and of course, catastrophic saltism. Never mind it’s essential for life (no safe level, innit, just like S. Schneider said about CO2).

  75. Atomic Hairdryer

    I quite like the flag idea as a visual but thinking the judicial system is perhaps a better model. That’s been there, done that and faced the same challenges as the climate debate.

    Call the pro-AGW side the prosecution. They make their case based on the evidence available.

    Call the anti-AGW the defence. They make their case based on their own evidence, or by trying to pick holes in the prosecution’s case.

    The Judge’s role has perhaps become a bit blurred. That’s the role the IPCC should possibly fill, then the public and the politicians act as the jury. Who’s side is the most compelling, based on the evidence presented and has the prosecution provided evidence beyond reasonable doubt to make their case. The IPCC seems to have directed the jury and the flag model might be a good way for the IPCC to summarise the evidence for or against. Secrecy and spin do nothing to help the prosecution make their case when the consequences could be so severe. Glossing over the lack of evidence should not be acceptable, explaining things clearly and providing the evidence should do more to reduce scepticism, and the jury can make an informed decision.

    Challenge for a flag style-solution to present evidence for or against is the climate is soo complex and there are so many potential variables and influences. The WUWT story on Julia & Igor’s dance is a nice example. It’s striking, the visual reminds me of a scene from The Day After Tommorrow so would be easy to spin. But does it mean anything? Is it something AGW induced, is it a natural thermostat response to warming, is it just chance? Based on current records, it’s an unusual occurence, but how would a phenomena like that be fitted into a simple flag?

  76. “Probably” tobacco causes cancer/emphysema but this is for the all inclusive product since there are many things in tobacco that don’t really belong there, such as cadmium, arsenic, weed killers, pesticides including benzene and others. Because tobacco was, until recently, exempt from FDA regulation and no government entity really cares about making safer tobacco, the sources of these compounds have never been thoroughly investigated (though in many cases rather obvious). It would be interesting to see cancer and emphysema rates among organic and non-organic tobacco users compared.
    Another example of possible political abuse, which is, historically, all to easily overlooked or forgotten, is the R-12 Freon ban which conveniently occurred when Dupont’s patent was about to expire

    These abuses usually occur when grants, theory/data manipulation and politics trump empirical data as in AGW.

  77. Has anyone heard that the new term is “global climate disruption?” Does that mean (C)(A)GCD should now be used (and does it include cooling?)

    • The word “disruption” is being used in its ordinary everyday sense: an extraordinary and willful interruption of the ordinary course of events.

      “Climate disruption” is enough. All three, 1) global, 2) anthropogenic, and 3) potentially catastrophic are implicit.

      If by some chance everybody (except Reid Bryson) turns out to have been horribly confused and at the end of the day we get an anthropogenic ice age as Reid Bryson used to predict, yes, that would certainly count as “disruption”, and the embarrassment of scientists would be a small part of the problem.

      On the other hand, if by some chance and what ends up happening is totally independent of human activity, because it turns out after all that CO2 from fossil fuels is magically transparent to infrared and has no effect on ocean pH, unlike regular CO2, say, but coincidentally big pieces of the ice sheets melt and temperature goes up 7 C in the next couple of centuries and weather patterns change and large unprecedented extreme events happen with incerasing frequency, and coincidentally all the reefs and shellfish die and the ocean becomes a rancid puddle, that could be unfortunate. However it would not be “disruption”. In that scenario it would have happened by natural processes completely independent of the magically inert and transparent CO2. I for one would not be surprised to see that theory developed in detail at Watts’ site as time passes.

      • Far more likely will be the increasing propensity to use any deviation from It’s A Beautiful Day as overwhelming evidence of climatic disruption requiring immediate action guaranteed not to affect the climate.

      • Oh, mt, we better inform our illustrious Science Czar that the word “global” is superfluous.

      • Roddy Campbell

        Michael Tobis says: – “Judith, if the Italian flag is not your idea, I think you should have said so in the article. Thanks for the link, though. Better late than never.”

        Michael, you really can be a plonker sometimes! :)

        And I can’t agree that the word ‘catastrophic’ is implicit from the word ‘disruption’, nor indeed ‘extraordinary’.

  78. Hi

    Well you have jumped into the volcano I see.
    The problem I see in the climate discussion is that is has totally blown into a political issue.

    As such, logic and reason goes out the window, rather it is the belief system of the person that comes to dominate. Yes I label the so called skeptics as deniers because they are not skeptical at all, they deny anything that does not follow their belief system, and accept all that does. This is what I have seen. My opinion.

    How to judge then what is factual and true? How to judge motive (money, idealism, religion, prestige, blackmail)?

    The blogosphere really is just like hanging out at the old bench in middle of the town square under the tree, and jaw-boning with the others that are there.

    How do you come to trust/judge the comments from those beside you?

    I trust people who have made statements, that then I find out are true, the more they make these pronouncements that are true, the more I believe them. ie. It’s hard to believe most politicians.

    I trust people who have become experts in their fields (I believe the rule is at least 10 years study of the field) such as my family doctor, my dentist, my surgeon, my furnace repairman. They have certificates to prove their compentence. Yes there are those who are not good, I never go back to them then.

    Thus I must put trust into Scientists who have studied their field for a long time. If I find out that a Scientist is wrong I become skeptical of his work, and if he is wrong a lot, I will discount him… Some of this I have to depend on reviews of his work by other Scientists who have similar credentials, and agree on consensus. ie, the consensus among scientists is that tuberculosis is caused by a bacillus. If I read a story that one scientist somewhere disputes this, do I throw out the consensus? No, but I do keep my ear to the ground.

    The climate discussion has disintegrated into all kinds of warfare “around” the facts. ie political ethical moral issues. In many ways, this seems to be done to swamp the real research and facts.

    So as I lurk on the climate blogs, how do i decide?

    I discount any poster who states facts without any background support.
    eg. “One reason there is a lack of trust of some climate scientists is that there is enough evidence to strongly suggest they are not to be trusted. ” This is a belief.
    No evidence provided.

    I discount the blog writer/author if he has not done any credible work, and who he “associates” with. eg. McIntyre, has really not contributed any facts to the science, other than pointing out a few errors. He also hangs around with a disreputable gang of think-tanks whose funding is suspect. (I hate the way the government has gone in the U.S., being bought by the rich “interest groups”) So i find his post/blog interesting, but not credible.

    It is very hard.

    So back to trust. I trust my doctor. I take his medications. He has credibility. To the vast majority (if not all) bloggers, I assume its all “opinion” and really dont trust them at all.

    However if I read a review article in a journal where a large number of scientists agree on the subject under discussion, sorry I must hang my belief there for the time being.


  79. Michael Larkin

    Earlier, I posted an idea for a coordinate scheme for categorising people’s views that I hoped would be non-pejorative. I ventured an assessment for the *average* score for Realclimate on a 1-5 scale for knowledge of posters as 3.

    Someone then thought I should check my facts, because those who write the articles there are frequently subject experts. I’m wondering if part of the problem is what “post” means. To me, there are those who write the main articles. I’ll grant that at Realclimate, those are usually subject matter experts, who would score 5. But the average level of response, I feel, is less, around 3. Maybe the better terms to have use would have been “poster” and “respondent”, rather than thinking in terms of “article writers” and “posters”?

    Someone else wondered if I was asking people to rate my ability as a rater. No; I was only trying to illustrate how I might personally use such a scheme, and, as I indicated, anyone who differed could offer a different coordinate.

    Maybe it’s impossible to have labels or categories, however hard one tries to avoid being pejorative. Maybe the debate is so long and acrimonious, the suspicions of motives so entrenched, the buttons so tender and swollen, that we have reached an insurmountable impasse. I hope not, because it’s a depressing thought.

    There seems also to have been introduced the idea of litmus questions based on views about ID, evolution, smoking, or whatever. To my mind, these aren’t really relevant to the issue of AGW. The linkage that is perceived between them is, I feel, often USA-centric. Evolution in particular is much less contentious here in Britain, for example, and in any case, isn’t necessarily linked to political rightness or leftness or religious belief. Moreover, it’s well-known that many great scientists and mathematicians were in the past religiously devout individuals. It’s still entirely possible to be devout and a good scientist, or to smoke and be a good scientist. Or, for that matter, to be a ultra-naïve about some things, but in a specific scientific field, to excel.

    All that counts is the quality of the science. I’m deeply chagrined that the AGW issue has become so infiltrated by politics and culture, and that one sometimes has to tiptoe around as if in a minefield. This blog has yet to settle down and feel comfortable. I think it helps if we make the presumption that people post with good will. I know it’s difficult sometimes for any of us to do that, and I’m not claiming I have never succumbed myself to the temptation to react to perceived slights which were actually not meant as such. However, I intend to try hard not to repeat that… :-)

  80. Judith

    Here is my suggestion to settle the dispute regarding the theory of MAN MADE GLOBAL WARMING.

    We have IPCC’s projection that states:

    For the next two decades, a warming of about 0.2°C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emission scenarios. Even if the concentrations of all greenhouse gases and aerosols had been kept constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming of about 0.1°C per decade would be expected. {10.3, 10.7}

    Here is the above IPCC projection in a graph:

    In tabular form, here are IPCC’s projections for the Global Mean Temperature Anomaly (GMTA) in degree centigrade:

    Year=> GMTA (IPCC)
    2005=> 0.5
    2010=> 0.6
    2015=> 0.7
    2020=> 0.8

    As a skeptic, I believe the recent global warming is natural. This is based on the high correlation (r=0.88) of the observed Global Mean Temperature Anomaly (GMTA) to be represented by cyclic global mean temperature pattern with an overall linear warming rate of 0.6 deg C per century as shown below:

    In a tabular form, the GMTA based on this natural pattern is as follows:

    Year=> GMTA (Natural Pattern)
    2005=> 0.5
    2010=> 0.4
    2015=> 0.3
    2020=> 0.2

    For the year 2020, the IPCC projection is greater than the projection based on natural pattern by 0.6 deg C. This difference can easily be identified from observations. If the observed GMTA are closer to the IPCC projection, we accept the theory of man made global warming. However, if the observed GMTA are closer to the projection based on natural pattern, we reject the theory of man made global warming.

    Verification is the kernel of science.

    We only need 10 more years for the verification.

    Judith, what do you think of my suggestion?

    Girma Orssengo
    MASc, PhD

    • Girma, I just spotted this discussion at Skeptical Science (which I have now added to the weblog) It discusses natural variability over the last decade, which has dominated the temperature signal. The temperature signal results from an interplay of greenhouse forcing and natural variability, with solar and the PDO contributing to cooling over the last decade.

      • Judith,

        Those graphs at SkepticalScience show pretty clearly that natural forcings or variability (at least those that are in the figures) cannot account for the rise in temperatures over the past 30 years. IN light of that, how can you claim an equal amount of evidence in the red (temp increase dominated by natural variability/forcing) and green (temp increase dominated by anthropogenic forcings) part of the Italian Flag? It seems to fly in the face of the totality of evidence.

        The last decade hasn’t been cooling btw, though a slower upward trend or even standstill in the trend (of one would deem it meaningful over such a short timeframe) is of course helped by the dampening effect of natural factors having a cooling effect, offsetting some of the warming effect of GHG.

      • Bart,
        Your assertion is a joke. You have no proof at all that natural forcings could not have led to the temperatures of the past 30 years. You only have a conclusion to which you cram evidence that fits, and edit out that which does not.

      • Hunter, what’s your counter-argument? Hint: “your assertion is a joke” is an assertion. An argument needs to be backed up by evidence.

      • PDA,
        Since historical records show similar climate variability in the past, to claim that the only explanation for the present is anthopo in origin is, in fact, a joke.
        Additionally and more significantly, since similar variability has been shown in the past, we can also conclude that the second AGW assertion- that the present level of change is dangerous and unprecedented- is a joke as well.
        The third leg of the AGW apocalyptic dogma stool, that we are approaching/have crossed a ‘tipping point’ to climate catastrophe is also unsupported by fact.

    • Girma, your suggestion is as fatally flawed now as it was when you were corrected on all your points (and more) in some considerable detail a year ago at Deltoid.

      Your only evidence that there is an underlying linear trend is that you have forced a straight line through it. You have no physical explanation for your linear trend, no justification for asserting that there is one, no justification that any trend you claim will continue, and you are ignoring all of the responses you have had over many months that demonstrate that an upward curve provides a much better fit.

  81. Well, Harvey, I made the mistake of checking back once more before sleep and here you are with your pronouncements.

    I did trust doctors once as well, in general. And I’d be dead now if I hadn’t taken responsibility to find out what was going on and save myself. So I’m alive and those two are off my list of who to “trust.” There’s another doctor, who was not brought into the situation, that I still do “trust” – but with that old grain of salt. So, now, doctors have to earn my trust. I also did some research into my husband’s (non-immediately-threatening) condition and treatment, which complemented but also supplanted some of the treatment. To his great benefit.

    By the way, since you bring up “a large number.” A large number of doctors use the same approach as that which almost killed me.

    What is my point? Well, how about a little caveat emptor. I know now what doctors can provide and what they can’t – whether mainstream or “alternative.” I don’t turn my back on the expertise they often (but not always) have. I do, however, occasionally have revenge fantasies as well, but I know exactly that a couple of rotten apples don’t spoil the barrel.

    “Climate scientists” deserve no more blind trust than anyone else. Even though it was a huge shock to discover the depths the establishment scientists went to, I have not lost trust in science. Trust in scientists? Well, maybe they just have to earn it. Because there were a few carpe diems in high places, well, now we just have to caveat emptor.

  82. Regional Geologist
    Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources

    I am very offended when a reasonably simple question, or presentation of an alternative line of evidence is presented on web sites such as Climate Progress, and you are insulted, rudely responded to, and then any future postings are immediately deleted (even without a `waiting for moderation’ statement’. This, as a scientist, simply raises my eyebrows and begs the question, if this is the type of gate keeping on a supposed popular `and supposedly scientific site, then certainly the question of gate keeping by CRU scientists seems more and more plausible.

    Even to many `young scientists’ raised on AGW, the credibility of the mainstream AGW scientists is falling into disrepute … they are their own worst enemies.

    I hope and welcome this site if it avoids this blatant type of propaganda …. which it is doing so at the moment (I think).

  83. Hi Harvey

    You say,
    “Well you have jumped into the volcano I see.
    The problem I see in the climate discussion is that is has totally blown into a political issue.

    As such, logic and reason goes out the window, rather it is the belief system of the person that comes to dominate. Yes I label the so called skeptics as deniers because they are not skeptical at all, they deny anything that does not follow their belief system, and accept all that does. This is what I have seen. My opinion.”

    So you logic and reason go out the window then you proceed to follow them with your next statement. Your statement applies a specific belief system on all who do not fully except your opinion. This includes thousands of talented, dedicated and honest scientists including many Nobel prize winners. It would be far better for science and the people on this planet if we would stick to discussion of facts and evidence rather tar and feather each other.

  84. I can see that the folks joining this blog have regular bedtimes, probably even real jobs. I think that’s refreshing, even as I post from the night watch.

    A quick thought on the tobacco/cancer business. My recollection of that controversy, at the time, was that there were two camps: the white hat and chaps good-guy scientists and the black-hatted and dastardly hired-gun scientists in the employ of the tobacco companies. The good guys argued for causation based on the high degree of correlation between smoking and cancer. The low-down, horny-toed, bad-guys insisted correlation is not proof of causation (I know this blog features some first-class latin zingers, but I’ve had some unfortunate experiences trying to sling Latin, so I’ll just refer the erudite to that phrase that has a hoc and propter in it (I think there’s an ergo too).

    Given the above history, as I recall it, it seems odd that anyone would use the smoking/cancer debate to show that scientists are trustworthy (or untrustworthy for that matter). Whichever side one favors in the smoking/cancer debate, one, of necessity, must find a lack of confidence, even distrust, in the science and scientists of the other side. Of course, in the real world everyone knows cigarette smoking is bad for your health–no less an authority than my father would tell you that as he chain-smoked himself to death.

    In other words, the smoking/cancer episode is not a morality tale about science vs. know-nothing flat-earthers, but rather a tale of dueling scientists, politics, and big players behind the scenes with lots of money and power at stake. Kinda like much of the CAGW debate, I think (Big Green vs. Big Oil).

    • Mike, excellent summary.

      I know from the time stamp it looked like a normal (on the early side) bedtime when I wrote, but it actually being about 3:30 a.m. local time, I wasn’t really at my best.

    • I also have problems with the propter one – but am extremely partial to the 2 I used (hated Latin in school, though, so many ugly words – like, who wants to be a puella?). I normally don’t throw them around as I did above, but they simply seemed too perfect to resist (remember, 3:30 a.m. my time).

      • Kendra, It’s good to find a kindred spirit.


      • Well, hey, thanks Mike, you made my day :)

      • Weird, I made a punctuation “emoticon” and it turned into a real smiley-thing.

        One last OT note, similar to your experience, Coca-Cola killed my mom (but she died with the lungs of a baby, altho smoked for 30 years, quit 20 years before death).

  85. Here’s a nasty hypothesis: The CRU-Cru are actually fully aware that sensitivity is negligible, but are riding the tiger. They are actually about 5-5-90, but pretending to be 70-20-10.

  86. Judith,

    When presented with statements such as:

    “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

    my reaction is: “ok, show me the evidence that supports this” and also to ask “is there evidence that negates this?”

    I’ve done a reasonable amount of reading of various pieces of science since first seeing that statement and I have a hard time understanding that “very likely”.

    My biggest doubts concern the heavy use of computer models as a means of providing evidence in favour of this statement. Given the sheer complexity of the climate system, I am surprised at the confidence which some climate scientists place in these models – and there have been only a few attempts to judge just how good a representation of reality the models are.

    At the present time, with everything I’ve seen and read about the models, I put them all firmly into that middle white space – interesting stuff but of unknown value. I’m happy for someone to produce good positive evidence, but until then, I can’t accept a statement such as the IPCC one – the level of confidence expressed undermines its truth.

    • Mike, rather than relying on computer models, attribution involves, as noted in the TAR

      statistical analysis and the careful assessment of multiple lines of evidence to demonstrate, within a pre-specified margin of error, that the observed changes are:

      * unlikely to be due entirely to internal variability;
      * consistent with the estimated responses to the given combination of anthropogenic and natural forcing; and
      * not consistent with alternative, physically plausible explanations of recent climate change that exclude important elements of the given combination of forcings.

      There’s really not a plausible alternative. Again, quoting the TAR:

      the unequivocal attribution of climate change to anthropogenic causes (i.e., the isolation of cause and effect) would require controlled experimentation with the climate system in which the hypothesised agents of change are systematically varied in order to determine the climate’s sensitivity to these agents. Such an approach to attribution is clearly not possible.

      Is there another way you can think of to get the “evidence” you say you want?

      • PDA,

        Thanks for your response.

        Dealing with the 3 points:

        – Having read up on climate history as best we know it, the claim that recent global changes are “unlikely…due to internal variability” is a claim that I simply don’t think is true, since history points to considerable variations. I believe that this claim is actually largely based on the behaviour of (inadequate) models.
        – “Not consistent with alternative physically plausible explanations”, which I take to mean things they looked at such as Solar variations. This may be true (there is still plenty of debate on that point) but since there are no good explanations of past natural variability, that merely points out our ignorance of all the factors influencing the climate system. More of that stuff in the middle white space…
        – “consistent with the estimated responses” – well, it may well be, but that doesn’t prove much – remember that the models, so far as they go, do predict some things that don’t appear to be happening in the real world (tropospheric warming, etc) – the fact that one particular number happens to be within a (fairly large) range of predictions is not especially persuasive.

        Is there another way to get the evidence? (and note, I don’t put that word in quotes – I really mean more evidence – more facts) More actual measurements of more things is what I ask for. Roy Spencer rightly points out that as well as CO2, Water Vapour has a huge impact on the climate system, but how much good data on water vapour worldwide on climatic timescales is there at the moment?

        The climate system is huge and complex and very dynamic and yet our measurements of it are pathetically small and limited in both time and space. With a system like this, we need data, lots more data.

  87. “On September 27, 2010, at 12:00 p.m. ET, AAAS MemberCentral is conducting its first webinar: “Climate Change and the Public: Overcoming Skepticism After Climategate. [emphasis added-hro]

    OMG, The American Association for the Advancement of Science has used the “C” word. Don’t they know that it’s “an emotionally hostile word filled with innuendo and practically devoid of meaning.”? Furthermore, it has been declared to be “contentious and obfuscatory”. What a travesty!

    “Panelists will share their best practices for public and media engagement, debate how to respond to critiques, and explore the idea of reframing climate change as a public health issue.”

    “Reframe climate change as a public health issue”? Hmm … Seems to be somewhat at odds with John Holdren’s preferred reframing of climate change (aka global warming) as “global climate disruption”. But perhaps Holdren hasn’t experienced the 2006 “epiphany” that “forever changed [panelist Edward Maibach’s] life”.

    Whatever happened to the “S” in AAAS, eh?!

  88. ‘My assignment allows the anthropogenic influence to be as large as 70% and as small as 30%, leaving plenty of room for natural variability and uncertainties. An average score of 50% might be assigned to this distribution, with a white dominance. Note, my weights were not determined using any fancy analysis, but integrate my sense of uncertainty in CO2 sensitivity, model uncertainties, and particularly the wild card that is natural variability.’

    ‘This statement is often used as a litmus test for belief regarding global warming, i.e. you believe this statement (consensus) or you don’t (skeptic). Very likely denotes a probability of anthropogenic influence between 90 and 99% (lets pick 95%) and I interpret most to mean between 51 and 90% (lets pick 70%), with the remainder (30%) associated with natural variability.’

    Where do these probabilities come from and what do they actually mean in real terms ? It is not like tossing a coin and saying after 1000 tosses, the average of heads to tails will be 50% – the odds discussed in climate change are purely man-made (excuse pun) and are therefore scientifically meaningless. Take the IPCC’s 90% it’s AGW for instance – this is a completely subjective and arbitrary figure, and as simple as a group of people sat around a table discussing which percentage they should publish – ‘ok we’re agreed, let’s say 90% then’ – it says nothing scientifically as to the reality of the AGW situation, and can only mislead and actually likely to give the notion of certainty.

    Also, the name given to either side of the debate be it warmist, denier, skeptic or whatever is somewhat irrelavent. It is the sentiment behind these labels that matter, and what the labels actually stand for in terms of who’s ‘side’ you are on. If you are on any extreme, the label given to you by the other side will become derogatory overtime, not because of the label itself, but because of what it stands for in terms of what you believe to be true. This is part of human nature – I doubt you will change it for the case of Cliomate Change

  89. Hi Judith
    Setting out your (laudable) intention to avoid postnormal science, you say in your introduction.

    A considerable amount of climate skepticism has been fueled by big business, attempting to protect their personal financial interests (e.g. the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil). True, but so what? It’s not as if the environmental community doesn’t have resources, and hasn’t use them in support of climate policies and even climate alarmism. All this just isn’t relevant to the scientific debate.

    Fair enough, but for quantitative balance could perhaps also have noted that the state, the funder of mainstream climatology and hence alarmism, has a vested interest in alarmism, since this provides the state with a ready justification for expanding itself and its grip over society. And that state funding of climatology surely dwarfs private funding ( by three orders of magnitude? four? ).

    More pause for Doubt I would have thought.

    Perhaps a future thread here could pioneer The Funding Effect in Science, with particular reference to State funding (the effect of private funding being something already familiar). Because we’d like to know not only what various camps of scientists are telling us, but also – perhaps more crucially – what they are not telling us.

    In the courtroom of science, those with the more expensive lawyers have the advantage. So Follow the Money is still a valid tool for anyone trying to make as assessment I suggest.

    • I don’t believe it’s been mentioned, but some of the biggest money in the climate issue right now is in carbon credit trading.

      My experience from other cases of politicized science is that incentives and interests, and who’s doing what behind the scenes, can be extremely complex and hard to untangle. Simplistic lines of reasoning tend to fail.

  90. Where lines of reasoning appear simplistic, let us seek to improve rather than abandon them.

    But Yes, certainly carbon trading is big money – and again with a vested interest in the in the alarmist camp. And, as with alternative energy companies, from the private sector.

    • “Improve rather than abandon them”: Absolutely, I’m just cautioning against jumping to conclusions.

      My guess would be that the incentive that trumps most of the others in this case is climate scientists’ fear of missing career opportunities if they don’t embrace the “consensus”. The blacklist being the most visible evidence of this.

      • It’s a decent guess, way better than carbon trading, which generally does not affect producers of science. There is no “blacklist” however – the Schneider paper got labeled as such simply because it was so visible. Maybe some departments or journals have looked at it when making decisions, but I would need some evidence of that. The sort of careerism you’re talking about is more subtle, so much so that I would bet that many involved are not aware of it. And it’s nothing new and not restricted to climate science – all sciences exist with the paradox that new and contradictory findings can be a quick road to fame, but sticking with the inertia of existing paradigms is also a road to career success (and generally a safer one).
        If you follow this logic far enough, you can eventually account for all of science (and certainly politics) as the pursuit of variously defined interests. Scientists in it for the money, glory, or whatever, and playing whatever parts in the game would help get them there. This may have some explanatory power, but it is a very reductionist explanation – quickly leading to seeing AGW as concocted by “green influence” and groupthink, and climate skepticism by think-tanks and a few fringe scientists wanting the quick road to attention. Sociologists of science started playing this particular game in the 1970s, and while they easily identified all sorts of “social influences” that shape the work of science, it also eventually became clear that the work of science cannot just be reduced to these “social influences”.

      • Zajko,

        I think I agree with everything you say. And I’m not trying to reduce science to social influences. There is groupthink, which can happen in any group, but is worse the more isolated the group is. Anything that strengthens groupthink is dangerous.

        Whether you call it a blacklist or not is not important. The revealing thing about it is it shows a willingness to send the message to climate scientists that if they fail to follow the crowd, they will be deprived of credibility.

        I’m perfectly willing to believe that they are not aware that they are sending this message. The stated purpose is to guide others who are not climate scientists by helping them decide who is credible. They may be thinking only of that and not be considering the effect on young climate scientists who are worried about their future. It may not be intended as a threat, but it will have the effect of a threat.

        And yes, I know that “it’s nothing new and not restricted to climate science”. I’ve seen it before; that’s why it jumps out at me. But the fact that it’s out in the open and not met with more disapproval is frightening. A culture in which you can threaten people openly is even worse than one in which the threats are just whispered. Also, my experience with this kind of culture makes me doubt its ability to produce useful results.

  91. Why do we use the incorrect term of “Global” when clearly, weather does NOT cross the equator?

  92. “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

    This is my problem, also..

    As the ‘very likely’ seems to be only derived from computer ‘simulations’.
    ‘gut feelings’ and no observed data.

    At lease one member of the various climategate enquiries,(Prof Kelly) had issues with calling computer runs – experiments.

    My background is software development, BSc applied Chemistry (the misuse od ocean ‘acidification’ is a whole over source or irrittaion) and a masters in cybernetics, with use of computer models in real computer science lab, and industry…

    Not climate scientists developing code, who have no idea of the impossibility of what they are trying to do with GCM’s.. (go and talk to some real physicists)

    Has nobody heard of the three body problem or chaos theory… Trying to simulate the climate, where may factors are unknown, assumptions of sensitivity, let alone all the unknown unknowns.. (even tiny fluctuations can produce widely different results, if extrapolated, climate science parameters have whole orders or 2 of magnitude higher unknowns)

    Getting bigger and better computers will never solve the problem, or allowed ‘predictions’ to be made from the models..

    Models have many positive uses, even in climate science… In the climate field, prediction is not one of them..

    People always argue computer models are used all the time in other fields. Yes they are, but in those fileds, the physics is KNOWN, the modelling has very tight parameters and constraints and even then they need to verify against real world observed data..

    • I’ve argued before that GCM programmers, like gambling addicts, really do seem to believe they can find order in chaos. A definable, quantifiable “system” wherein they will discover an algorithm. All they need, in order to succeed, is more time and more money.

      • Wow! This is a heck of a comment.

      • Roddy Campbell

        I’ve met plenty of futures and currency traders like that. Data-mining, fitting, pattern-spotting.

      • That’s pretty much the opposite of the truth.

        The perfect GCM is one that can accurately model the climate using just the laws of physics as observed in the lab – note that perfection is not possible even in theory. The idea of hitting on some ‘algorithm’ or ‘system’ for this is frankly bizzare.

        And if you want to get paid for modeling, the financial services industry will pay you an order of magnitude or two more for the same amount of work..

      • I wish it were the opposite of the truth, but the truth is that baseless confidence is being placed in long-term climate model projections which, as you rightly point out, are incapable of adequately modelling the climate. Model projections are being offered up as evidence of future events, even in the knowledge of their inability to compute the chaotic nature of atmospherics. Climate models don’t give evidence>. Someone, somewhere, is making out that GCMs have a handle on the chaos in the system. So if it isn’t the modellers, who is it?

      • So, presented with a grant application, the science modeler looks in his research toolbox for a tool to use to get the grant awarded to him. Hmmmm, the toolbox only has models. Well, model it is.


    • the ‘very likely’ seems to be only derived from computer ‘simulations’.
      ‘gut feelings’ and no observed data.

      This is simply not the case.

      • did you ACTUALLY read this link….

        point to something with an actual human signature please, in real data…

      • I’m not at all sure what you mean. You make it sound like there would be an actual human signature, like marks on a piece of paper.

        Did you read that link? Do you understand why “the isolation of cause and effect… is clearly not possible?” Do you have some suggestion on how it could be done?

        What would an “actual human signature” look like?

  93. Dr. Verheggen: I am no expert, but it seems to me there will justification for doubt until at least the 60 year cycle has had a chance to play out.

  94. Re thingsbreak’s request…

    any concrete examples of evidence that the IPCC failed to account for contributions from ocean oscillations,

    curryja says:
    September 16, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Thingsbreak, I will say this one last time. I will discuss this in detail on a future thread related specifically to this topic

    Scientists present their data and methodology before their conclusions. It’s not just a question of science, it’s also common courtesy. You’ve been presenting these accusations for months without giving the scientists involved a chance to defend themselves and their work because they don’t know what your evidence is (in effect, no one has the foggiest clue what your claims are).

  95. 1. Our computer models do not model the effects of clouds well.
    2. Our computer models indicate a rise in temperature of 3 – 6 C per century or more.
    3. Therefore, we as a world need to spend billions of dollars to stop the impending catastrophe.

    The scary thing about “post normal” science is that the above deductive argument is acceptable.

  96. We have of course the parallel with all the ‘rocket scientists’ of wall street & london… Modelling away ‘finacial risk’..

    Those computer models ACTUALLY affected the real world, thus a ‘positive’ feedback’ ie things bought sold traded, based on the models..

    Not so the GCM’s, ie temps seem to have plateaued dropped (slightly – since 1998) against the models predictions, yet the models somehow ignore the failing of their own predictions, make a few ‘retrospective’ tweeks and adjustmets and the game is still on…

    The various finacial ‘risk’ models converged over time, due to similar thinking, staff moving bank to bank to hedge fund and back again, a collective industry ‘consensus’ became esatablished.. Models encouraged CDO’s etc, based on assumptions that would not be tested until too late… (ie always a buyer – not when the ‘climate ‘ changed’)

    Vested interests were built up over decades. the political establisment embraced the management of ‘risk’ as cheap credit, financial boom brought the taxes in. Sceptics were disparaged, abused, labbelled ‘old fashioned. It was a new ‘paradigm’… even respected individuals, were ‘wrong’ ‘ Warren Buffets warning of ‘Weapons of Mass Fincial Destruction’ went unheeded and scorned.

    History repeats itself, first as a tradegy then as a farce.

  97. Over the last 30 years, a period commonly thought to be long enough to be considered a climate trend, GISSTEMP indicates a warming of 1.6 C / century. UAH, 1.3 C / century.

    • I hope you don’t pick your stocks that way. “Whatever has gone up recently should continue going up. ” That thinking is hazardous to your financial health. That is precisely the time for caution. Some of those numbers have gone too high, and are due for a downturn. It is easy to follow a trend, and it’s easy to sell gullible customers a trend, but unless you truly understand why the trend is there, don’t do it.

      • All good advice RobertM. But you missed my point which is that we should look at the data from time to time with an eye to testing a hypothesis rather that depend on admittedly incomplete computer models. In fact, we should be busying ourselves looking for ways to use actual data to test the models. On a side note, we should also have a high degree of confidence that the data we depend on actually measures accurately the dimension in question.

      • I absolutely agree that models need to be checked. CS Lewis taught a difficult subject to very clever students, and he warned us about something. His subject was medieval and renaissance literature. When his students read a difficult passage from Shakespeare or Spenser, they could either make clever guesses about what it means, or they could do the hard work required to make sure, or to look it up. It is very easy to make those guesses. After all, we’re just reading English, right? The more clever the students, the more likely they were to end up with the wrong answer, because the more plausible theories they could throw out, and the more prone to substituting their relatively cheap guesses for digging out the real answer. No, no. Validation is king. Always verify your theories.

        But you can make another mistake that way, if you do a cheap job of validating. “It’s been going up, and that’s all I need to know.” No, it isn’t all. Not when real money is at stake. It’s a sound bite, and it can really lead you astray. It takes in inexperienced investors all the time.

        I’m not saying you are doing that, Jim. I’m just using your response as a handy excuse to remind readers not to. Only full validation works right. As you seem to agree.

      • Only full validation works right. As you seem to agree.

        I do agree. The models should be fully validated. Of course, there are some practical problems in the case of climate models. If climate is chaotic as it seems most scientists (??) believe, then the best the climate models will do is give us an idea of how the climate behaves. How it behaves with static forcing, how it responds to disruption of a forcing; but being chaotic it won’t be of any use to predict x cooling or warming. At least that’s my understanding of how chaotic systems work.

      • Jim,

        > but being chaotic it won’t be of any use to predict x cooling or warming. At least that’s my understanding of how chaotic systems work.

        That’s not quite true. It’s not very good for saying “in 2050, the temperature will be X”, but it is useful for determining what range the average temperature is likely to be within over, say, a 30-year period centered on the date in question (with much uncertainty) given certain starting conditions and certain inputs and changes in forcing over time, and .

        An analogy: imagine observing a pan of boiling water and trying to predict when and where a bubble will form on the bottom of the water, how long it will take to reach the surface and how large it will be when it bursts. That’s a difficult and chaotic problem, yes? Now imagine instead measuring the average rate of bubble formation, speed and size. That’s a much simpler problem, in spite of the chaos. Now imagine trying to predict how that rate will be affected if the energy input to the system increases, or the water level goes down, or the pan size changes etc. You’re still completely unable to accurately predict a single bubble, but you can model the system well enough to make broad predictions within certain ranges.

      • Dave H, your analogy works for a pan of water, but it doesn’t work when the rate of heat being applied is itself influenced by features of a chaotic nature.

        Not that I don’t appreciate your analogy with respect to the predictability of specific intricacies as they relate to the predictability of broader averaged events.

        I seem to be irresistibly drawn to point this out, when simplifications are created and demonstrated with good solid logic, but are then either extrapolated (or left hanging, to be extrapolated by the reader) to the climate scale, with the implicit assumption that the simple, perfectly reasonable logic of the simplification can also be applied directly to the large, chaotic version – which, of course, definitively it can’t.

      • Dave, apologies, I meant to tag my “not that I don’t appreciate…” with “.. because I do.” :)

      • Hi SimonH,

        I was hoping that by including three examples of change in the system (energy input, water volume, pot size) I’d avoid the direct and obvious comparison between warming the globe and turning up the stove :)

        The point of the analogy is that modelling chaotic systems in the aggregate is not something that is inherently impossible, and certainly a very different problem to predicting specific individual events.

        Obviously the climate system is incredibly complex and full of unknowns – but taking a physical basis and making simplifications and assumptions can have predictive power over long term average behaviour without being perfect. Hansen’s forecasts in the late 80’s have been pretty well validated over the last couple of decades by subsequent observation.

      • Dave, I guess the primary issue for me is that the heat in your analogy is constant. In its big brother, the climate, heating is affected (afflicted?) by feedbacks which remain unknown or insufficiently understood. So even though we can calculate that x amount of heat will be “thrown” at the earth in a given period, we cannot predict with sufficient accurately how much of it will heat the earth.

        This inevitably means that projections with reasonable confidence are fraught with prohibitive inherent uncertainties. Given the extent of uncertainty because of known and unknown unknowns, it must surely be conceded that if Hansen predicted today’s global temperatures with reasonable accuracy 20 years ago this was by good luck rather than by management.

    • 30 years if one-half of the 60 year cycle. Approximately, 1910-1940 up, 1940-1975 down, 1975-2005 up, 2005 to ?. I do not believe science has the capability to forecast what the weather is going to be in 2035 (they cannot even hindcast without guessing at parameters). The next 3 years should be very interesting weatherwise.

  98. Barry Woods said:

    ie temps seem to have plateaued dropped (slightly – since 1998) against the models predictions</blockquote.

    Denier Alert! Denier Alert!

  99. Hunter,

    There is no proof. But there’s plenty of evidence.

    How much evidence do you got (for the notion that natural forcings which changed in directions so as to cause cooling really did cause warming)?

    I see.

    • Bart,
      thanks for the answer….but answering a question for me did not really help, did it?
      How about that we have gone from iceage to warmer than now without needing one coal fired plant?
      How about the paleo studies showing more and stronger tropical cyclones ~4000 years ago in the Atlantic/Carib basin?
      How about Greenland having scrub tree thickets in the viking era?
      How about error bars in paleo climate reconstructions that make the HS worthless?

      • You may not have understood Bart’s question. He noted that the natural forcings are all favoring cooling, not warming. The historical climate data you mention have to do with forcings in the opposite direction.

        The question had to do with evidence for warming due to natural variation. It’s still open.

      • PDA,
        The assumption that Bart, or any other climate scientist is able to conclude that except for “X” we would be cooling/heating is an assumption not grounded in fact.
        Frankly it appears to be a thin rationalization to explain away inconvenient data.
        But even if it is not a contrived excuse, that still does not explain the habit of AGW believers to ignore questions from skeptics.
        My points stand fine, and await response from Bart or any other defender of the AGW faith.

      • Huh?

        I don’t know what points you feel you made that “stand fine,” or how it is that you can talk about “ignor[ing] questions” while ignoring a question directly posed to you by Bart.

        Did you not understand the question?

  100. Thanks Judith,

    1) I hope this is relevant. I wonder if you could comment on your intrepretation of

    “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

    in regard to the idea of “warming in the pipeline”. I’ve only read about this in the blogosphere so it may be a bit off but I’ll give you my understanding.

    It’s often attributed to Hansen and suggests that the warming we have measured so far does not account for all the energy that a CO2 sensitivity of 2-4.5oC should have given use. I realise this is a little illogical but in this case it looks to me like “most” seems to means 100%+ because of lag. With ideas like “warming in the pipeline” is there any room for warming from natural variability?

    • HR, this is a good question. There is some debate about the warming in the pipeline (i.e. its magnitude and how long it will stay in the pipeline.) Since the climate system is never in equilibrium, all the different forcings and internal modes of variability combine to provide the climate response. So we will have natural climate variability in the 21st century (we have already seen this in the first decade), and superimposed on this we will have the additional CO2 forcing.

      • So what if all of the recognized periodic oscillations that comprise a whole laundry list of acronyms supposed to be primary, but unpredictable internal forcings of the natural variability, were but the secondary result of the interactions of the sun with the rest of the solar system, topped off with a local tidal focus created by the moon?

        Grant funding for the study into these effects was stopped 60 years ago when the field switched from cyclic studies, to the exclusive use of models.

        Now that the field of models with out coupling to the solar, planetary, and lunar effects, has hit a plateau out about 7 to 10 days, isn’t it about time to use the increasing fund of satellite data collected, to reappraise these possible connections?

        If a cyclic pattern could be found that is a natural analog for these atmospheric oscillations, and upon investigation be found to out preform the lead time of the models, with as good a resolution as the 5 to 7 day modeled forecast, shouldn’t that be at least considered?

        If we could get a much better handle on the causes, effects, and timing of the natural variability, thus removing more of the unknowns from the weather/climate equation, it would be much easier to see the actual amounts of CO2 forcing.

        I have been working toward this end for the past 30 years. Included on site is 72 months of daily forecast maps created and posted in December of 2007, for your enjoyment.

      • Dr. Curry,

        Energy is conserved. Where is this pipeline?

      • Energy is conserved. Temperature is not. Nor is radiation.

  101. Ian Forester…

    I merely am quoting the graphs supplied to me as a member of the public by the UK Department of Energy And Climate Change…
    Take a look….
    They as you imagine are quite pro CAGW, yet the graph shows both UK and Global anomalies dropping over the last ten years…

    Take a look….

    That is my interpretation of the UK statistics supplied by my government..

    Would you like to withdraw the ‘denier’ ranting please…..

    Can Judith adjudicate, because I AM OFFENDED.

    • Barry Woods, please learn some elementary statistics and stop cherry-picking, it is a sure sign of a denier in action.

      If you are, in fact, a scientist you should know that cherry picking is not considered good science.

      So I will not stop my ranting when I see science being misused.

      JC: Ian it is in violation of blog rules to attack another poster by calling them a “denier in action.” Attack the arguments, not the person.

      • Forrester, do pack it in. You’re embarrassing your tribe.

      • Looks like you deniers don’t like being shown up for your dishonest ways.

        Why don’t you learn some science then come back and have a rational and honest discussion?

        As I told Fuller a number of months ago on the Airvent, there are two groups of people talking about climate science, there are those of us who do it honestly, and people like you, Barry Woods and Fuller who do so dishonestly.

        JC: Ian, way too much name calling, including denier, you are attacking other posters. Attack the arguments of other posters, no name calling. My apologies for being slow to catch this. Any further attacks on other posters will land your posts in moderation.

      • Does a third strike with calling a commentor here a ‘ deniar’ prevent that person from continuing here..

        It is perfectly possible to draw straight line on graphs of noisy date, and show a warming trend..

        In fact there is a clear one if you look at the CET dataset since 1650… (say on a per century trend)

        Whilst within that dataset, it is also equally clear their were shorter periods of warming where the rate of increase was much higher, equally there were periods where their were rates of cooling that were as high. 20- 30 year periods of both a high rate of cooling /warming against an overall rising trend since the ‘little ice age’.

        As the anomalies have dropped over the last 10 years it is still possible to show a rising /per century trend… yet clearly it is equally possible to show (and actually ‘experience’) 20 – 30 years of cooling, and also show a per century trend (whilst diminishing year on year, as the cooling continues)

        As, it would appear to me from that DECC link, the UK, MAY be on a down trend (as previoulsy experinced many times)

        Thus replicating the historic record of sharp rates of rises of warming and cooling….

        Should those anomalies turn negative… well, Perhaps that is why we have a new phrase to replace ‘global warming’ followed by ‘climate change’ now apparently we have ‘climate disruption’ which of course can be USED to ‘prove’ whatever those advocates of CAGW want..

        Don’t call me a deniar!!! Polictical Climate Cynic’ will do from now on..
        Phil Jones is on the record, stating that the late 20th century rate of warming was in fact no greater a rate of warming than 3 other periods within the last 100 years alone..
        So, in answer to the question, the warming rates for all 4 periods are similar and not statistically significantly different from each other.

        Here are the trends and significances for each period:

        Period Length Trend (Degrees C per decade) Significance
        1860-1880 21 0.163 Yes
        1910-1940 31 0.15 Yes
        1975-1998 24 0.166 Yes
        1975-2009 35 0.161 Yes

        At a stroke, put the end to the claim that the rate of warming was ‘unprecedented’ (thus un-natural cause – man made)

        I am presentinga reasonable argument, linked with real data, from official sources, we are trying to interpret this data…

        Yet, I am met with claims of ‘cherry picking’ called a ‘deniar’, yet the other party provides no evidence, or no reason to back this up …

        If this is the level of the debate, I do not see the point of trying to ‘engage’ with people that would not even look at the ‘official’ data…

      • As you should be well aware, you cannot draw statistically relevant information from 10 years worth of data especially when you cherry pick your starting point. That is just being dishonest and is, in fact, scientific misconduct.

      • Ian Forrester said:

        “As you should be well aware, you cannot draw statistically relevant information from 10 years worth of data especially when you cherry pick your starting point. That is just being dishonest and is, in fact, scientific misconduct.”

        Does this apply to Michael Mann?

  102. Judith Curry,

    The solar story changed substantially between the AR3 and AR4, the confidence in solar forcing is cited as very low in AR3 and low in AR4, but somehow in the attribution chapter we have very likely confidence level, in spite of the fact that the AR4 models used the old AR3 forcing.

    I think the implication that the use of the TAR forcing changes the confidence level is an error in logic. You’re conflating the magnitude of the forcing used with its uncertainty. Taking a trivial two forcing example; co2 and solar, suppose that the TAR estimates co2 forcing as 2.0 +/- 0.5 and solar as 0.5 +/- 1.0. They plug the forcings of 2.0 and 0.5 into a model and show that solar alone simulates less than half of the observed temperature rise, co2 alone simulates more than half, and co2+solar gives the best fit. Taking the uncertainties to their limits, co2 forcing could plausibly be 1.5 and solar similarly 1.5, solar would then explain half the temperature rise. Or co2 could be 2.5 and solar 0 or -0.5. Hence they reason ‘co2 is responsible for most of the temperature increase’ is ‘likely’. Suppose the AR4 estimates co2 as 2.0 +/-0.2, solar as 0.6 +/- 0.5, the confidence limits approximately halved since the TAR. Even at the limit, solar does not come close to explaining half the rise. So they reason co2 is ‘very likely’ the main cause. Now would you claim that because in the AR4 experiments they unwittingly used a solar forcing of 0.5 from the TAR, that therefore this changes the conclusion of ‘very likely’?

    • Lazar, you misinterpreted what i said. The solar experts working on chapter 2 of the IPCC report raised the confidence level for our knowledge of the magnitude and variability of solar forcing slightly for the AR4. However, the scientists working on chapter 9 of the IPCC assessment report used the old solar forcing. I am saying the knowledge in chapter 2 should have influenced the assessment of attribution in chapter 9, not that the assessment in chapter 9 should influence what was said in chapter 2.

      • Judith,

        That still doesn’t make sense to me. Please could you explain how an increase in confidence in solar forcing in the AR4 combined with using TAR solar forcings is meant to decrease confidence from ‘very likely’ … ?

      • Lazar, improved understanding of how to infer solar radiance after 2001 (time of the TAR) resulted in revised solar forcing for the 20th century, and an increase in the confidence level of solar forcing from very low in the TAR to low in the AR4. See here in the IPCC report section 2.7.1.

        The AR4 attribution simulations used outdated solar forcing from AR3. This is one example that reduces the confidence level of AR4 attribution studies. There are others. I will have a more extensive post on this at some point in the near future.

      • Judith,

        How precisely does using the TAR solar forcing reduce the AR4 confidence level?

  103. “The best way to phrase one or two “litmus” type questions that characterize where an individual stands re anthropogenic global warming”

    Is this not labelling by another name? The vocabulary isn’t really the problem, it’s the politicization. The politicization won’t go away because it’s this that’s driving the whole process. Without the politicization then climate science just becomes scientists in a lecture theatre talking about climate science with no relavance to policy. I don’t think anybody is going to allow that. The worry for me as a (non-climate) scientist is whether we can still think of the science as science in these politcized times?

    • When money and power are at stake, intellectual discussions are not going to change minds, plans, or actions. Assuming that the scientific rationalizations for said plans are crucial, and will cause the plans to be withdrawn if the rationalizations are disproven, is naivité. It will be useful to do so, but somehow the demands for funding and authority to impose CO2 controls are still being granted despite all serious doubt and disproof being generated. Schoolkids are being taught that the proof is in, and if their parents are unwilling to refrain from their long-standing destructive habits, “denn brauchen wir Gewalt” (apologies to Goethe).
      This is for keeps.

  104. Re: the claim that funding for deniers overwhelms the alarmist message.

    HSBC Global Research just issued an upbeat report valuing the global climate change industry at over $528 billion! Follow the money. It creates some serious incentives. What would happen to all that cash, if it turned out that global warming wasn’t really an existential threat?

  105. I think my comment may have gotten stuck. WRT cooling or warming since 1998, let’s look at some data.

    GISTEMP: Temperature trend since 1998: rising
    UAH: Ditto: falling.

    Who to believe?

    • An egregious cherry pick. Try starting from 1995.

      Try looking at the actual data.

      All that is at issue here is that UAH saw the 1998 El Nino signal more clearly than GISTEMP. The records are pretty closely in agreement otherwise. So if you actually pick a 1998 start date you get a bogus trend.

      Of course, these records don’t measure exactly the same thing! So they could both be correct.

      So why do you post such nonsense?

      • Michael – If you had been following along, someone said it has been cooling since 1998. That person was then called a denier. I just posted the evidence. I wasn’t cherry picking. I only trust the satellite data at this time. If and when extensive QA is done on the various other-than-sat temp records, I’ll re-evaluate at that time.

    • Jim,

      You need to understand several things.

      1. Gistemp is an ESTIMATE of the average. Averaging tempture above land at 2m with the average of SST (1-2m deep in the water) That estimate uses a particular, dataset, covers a particular region of the planet, processes that data with certain assumptions, and carries with it uncertainty.
      2. UHA is also an estimate using different instruments, estimating different figures, with different coverage, and also carries with it different uncertainties.

      Your question: ‘which to believe” is nonsense. there isnt a necessity to “choose” between the two. what they BOTH tell us over their common period (1979 to present) is the planet is getting warmer. Now, since they use different methods and measure different things in different ways, its mere childs play to find time periods when they “disagree” I think Christy just presented a nice little recap of all the differences over at the surface temp conference. have a read of that

      • Hi Steve. I already understand the difference. The sat temp is less of an estimate than GISTEMP. The number may pop out of some complex physics for the sat temp, but at least it’s based on physics. I can’t say the same for GISTEMP that estimates the temp of an entire polar region. It also uses thermometers 1200 miles away for ‘corrections.’ GISTEMP is a good bit more dicey than UAH from my understanding of it.

      • Jim;
        Yep. A solitary station in the heat bubble of a small town on Ellesmere Island (called Eureka, ironically enough) is used as a proxy for the entire Canadian Arctic, all the way to the Alaskan border on the other side of the continent. The output of the other 99 or so stations is disregarded.
        By all the warmist data collector/massagers.

      • Jim says:
        September 17, 2010 at 5:13 pm
        Hi Steve. I already understand the difference. The sat temp is less of an estimate than GISTEMP. The number may pop out of some complex physics for the sat temp, but at least it’s based on physics. I can’t say the same for GISTEMP that estimates the temp of an entire polar region. It also uses thermometers 1200 miles away for ‘corrections.’ GISTEMP is a good bit more dicey than UAH from my understanding of it.
        1. they are both estimates, in fact if you read Christies work you would see all the positive and negative adjustements
        2. There is just as solid physical basis for GISSTEMP as there is for UAH.

        3. The thermometers 1200km are not used for corrections:

        A. they are used to estimate the missing temps.
        B. if anything averaging over the pole UNDERESTIMATES
        the actual warming TREND
        C. you get roughly the same answer if you dont average over
        missing grids. see CRU
        D. the area averaged over ( north of 80-85) is a TINY portion
        of the globe.
        E. Check what GISS and UHA have for that area, no great diffeerence.
        F. if I infill that region with the coldest trending value in the
        whole database, you get no significant difference.
        G. Giss is not the standard, go figure CRU is. so I would focus my attention on that. doh!
        H. at the pole the distance at which trends are highly correlated is around 1100-1200km. That’s not hansen data only but a more recent study using a large number of daily stations.

        the issue with all land and SST analysis is NOT the methods.

        1. the unaccounted for uncertainties
        2. the metadata.
        3. the adjustments (uncertanties)
        4. micro and UHI effects.

        Even then, with 1-4, the overall answer does not change. its getting warmer. C02 is a contributing factor, the truth is a bit less certain than the science has published. People who believe in AGW should accept that there is less certainty than they believe and skeptics need to understand that there is no great fraud in the temp record, no gross inflation of the warming, and the details require more patience to understand than most people have.

      • Thanks Steve. Since I haven’t studied this as you have, and since you don’t try to deny the undeniable, defend the indefensible or claim some absurdity like “the skeptics are always wrong”, I’m very much inclined to believe you.

        This is a pretty good illustration of the trust issue we’ve been discussing.

  106. Ian


    What would I be denying…

    Supposed proof of man made climate change….

    Or climate change by natural processes, please clarify..

  107. Judith,

    Nice crowd of folks you attracted to your cyber cafe. Maybe you can achieve the grace and ambiance of the turn of the 19th to 20th century in Vienna or Paris. : ) Congratulations.

    First – About the phrases you used in your post “A considerable amount of climate skepticism has been fueled by big business, attempting to protect their personal financial interests (e.g. the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil). True, but so what?” I think that does no good for any discussion, even when you continue on in the same paragraph to say it doesn’t matter for the discussion at hand. Not good wrt labeling / stereotyping / namecalling / tribalising.

    Second – I think there needs to be more sorting out of the search of fact versus the search for truth. Regarding truth vs fact, I like to paraphrase a line from Indiana Jones in the movie The Last Crusade, “Climate Science is the search for fact… not truth. If its truth you’re looking for, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.”

    Third – The litmus test that seems best to me is whether something said is a fact or is it something else like a hypothesis, theory, belief or an informal probability. That would weed out a lot of belief. When someone states something, call them on what basis it is said. Statements can be coded (f), (b), (ip), (t) or (h). [or even BS] Some clarity would come from that.

    Fourth – I cannot actually ascribe meaningful probabilities to the categories represented in your Italian flag. Sorry. They would be meaningless without some rigor . . . . I appeal to the IAC report on the IPCC where they critically commented on the lack of rigor in the IPCC stated uncertainties.


    • Not tea bags! I like your [] suggestions. There is also the [s]peculation category that might be included — the stage before a falsification test has been offered to promote it to an actual hypothesis.

  108. Re: TESLA
    As someone who red about Nikola Tesla from age of six, spent hours and hours as a teenager in the museum devoted to his work, and as student every morning was greeted by gaze of his bronze statue, I believe that article written by M.J. Egan, and you recommend as a further reading is at best, misuse of the name of one the greatest inventors of the 19th & early 20th century.
    It may be only an acronym, but if work is worthwhile in itself, there would be no need to capitalise on the name of the great man.

  109. I think my post regarding green energy spending by the oil companies got lodged in the spam filter.

  110. Ian Forrester says:
    September 17, 2010 at 3:01 pm
    As you should be well aware, you cannot draw statistically relevant information from 10 years worth of data especially when you cherry pick your starting point. That is just being dishonest and is, in fact, scientific misconduct.
    Ian please read what I said earlier carefully, and the following:

    May I point out, a hypothesis is NOT dishonest nor misconduct :

    I said:
    “As, it would appear to me from that DECC link, the UK, MAY be on a down trend (as previoulsy experienced many times)”

    My emphasis was on the MAY be on a downward trend..
    (ie a few more years real world observational data should show us – not computer ‘runs’)

    The GCM’s did NOT predict this period, they were all predicting higher temps,
    (look at the IPCC reports fot the GCM projections, for NOW)

    I linked to the Phil Jones article, that said the late 20th century, warming was not statistically different to early similar periods of warming, thus we can discard the unprecedented claim for late 2oth century rates of warming.

    Ian – Do you accept or disagree with Phil Jones on this. Yes/NO (and explain why)

    And to repeat, we MAY be on a downslope (even the CRU staff and ‘team’ discussed the possibility of 20 years of cooling seriously amongst themselves (whilst themselves still believing that AGW would continue afterwards) if they can consider this, why not you.

    The DECC graph of anomalies does show a downturn in the last years of that DECC graph (not statistically significant yet) hence I said MAY be the start of a downturn..

    So less of the ‘dishonesty’ and s’cientific misconduct’ accusations and slander please.

    – the IPCC working Group 1 report is full of may, if, could and maybes –
    Which more accurately reflects the state of knowledge and uncertainties, that somehow turn into highly likely, high confidence in the other working groups.. Something the IAC, highlighted, high confidence WITHOUT the evidence (so not me that said this)

    We will just have to WAIT and see…

    AND IF, at some point that short term trend continues, it WILL become significant… COLD winters are predicted this year as well. Many reputable astrophysicists, etc believe this is possible, with the most pessimistic, discussing the POSSIBILITY of Dalton and Maunder minimums…..(20- 30 or more years of cooling)

    Everyone on the CAGW side of things continually makes reference to the ‘precautionary principle’ and perversly the more ‘uncertainty’ in AGW is acknowledged the more they refer to the ‘precautionary principle’..

    In that case, should not the precautionary principle apply to cooling (even if for only 30 years). Of course, the political reality is 2-3 or more? cold winters may bury AGW theory for good.

    Hence, possibly the latest alarmist phrase ‘climate disruption’, presumably allowing cold snaps, lots of snow to be evidence of AGW as well..

    New term required, climate cynic please……

    • The “only” problem with the “Precautionary principle” as it is being used by the CAGW community is the the 100 – 200 year interval before any “potential harm” is even found. Yet in that same 100-200 year period, in the first year of that 200 year “maybe there will be problems if the world keeps heating up” period, there are billions of humans who are suffering real harm, real death, real hunger and malnutrition and parasites and bad food for every year that they are denied food, refrigerator, seed, transportation, farming tools, wells, clothing, shelter and heat and cooling, clean water and waste disposal. With energy, concrete, steel, power, transporation, and plastics I can save their lives.

      With CAGW enforced waste of energy, power, money and effort, and government corruption from the carbon funds taken from the (formerly) supportive world, you (the CAGW community) condemn these people to death.

      Bitter? I suppose so. Pelosi used CAGW to raise energy priced when she took power in January 2007. Immediately, oil prices rose, and she intended, recession followed in winter 2007-2008 from the losses in manufacturing, gas and oil, farming, airplanes, transportation, travel, auto companies, and rail. Funny how that recession was needed, isn’t it?

      Because, you see, there are no problems, only benefits from greater CO2 and even a 2 degree increase in temperatures worldwide. Yet the revered “precautionary principle” does not allow prediction for the proven benefits from greater CO2/greater warmth to be even mentioned. They must be denied. The “potential problems” ? – they are exaggerated and propagandized. The probabilities of these problems even occurring (5%? 10%? 0.01%? ) are not allowed in the conversation. They are denied.

  111. I see no further ‘scientific’ point of me responding directly to Ian..
    (if he can perform the same courtesy)

    (I’ve only been blogging on climate – since Nov 20, 2009 , vs over 3 years for Ian?)

    We can of course discuss any of the arguments and points that I and Ian and others make, with evidence, reason and logic (and courtesy, I’ll reign in any mild sarcasm)

    Some of my points were framed as questions, to the climate scientists here..
    Do they seem reasonably questions?

    Some, that I imagine a reasonably well eductated science gradutate, and post graduate, ‘climate science’ layman might ask.

    (though arguably I (and many others) are more of an expert/professional, when it come to computer modeling, software development, database managment, QA, etc than many self taught ‘climate scientists’)

    • Yes, funny about how all the pros who know the sub-disciplines well are rigorously excluded from the CRU-cru’s deliberations, isn’t it?

  112. Re: Barry Woods says: September 17, 2010 at 4:58 pm
    Mr Woods
    Not only that you are correct in asserting:
    “As, it would appear to me from that DECC link, the UK, MAY be on a down trend (as previously experienced many times”
    but it may be a prolonged and significant change of the trend.
    In my own investigation into the CETs oscillations since 1650 I have identified a natural trigger for those changes. The CET response is cumulative and variable in intensity and delay, but always there.
    Latest data implies a down-trend at least comparable to one in the 1950-60s.

  113. A fascinating thread.

    The assumption that ‘our’ debate about the consequences of escalating CO2 emissions and gargantuan land use change is relevant to what may happen is ill-founded.

    We argue about doubt and glibly ignore certainty.

    What is certain is that the momentum of industrialisation in China and India alone will drive ongoing emissions upwards irrespective of ‘our’ concerns (plague and war permitting).

    Whatever we say, think or do, the conceit that the future is somehow in ‘our’ hands is a delusion.

    • The German and UK Finance depts. have issued some rather pointed reminders to their governing cabals that unilateral decarbonization is tantamount to giving away unsupportably huge sums to every jurisdiction that doesn’t do the same.

      It’s kind of a global game of Prisoners’ Dilemma, made more poignant by the fact that the offered payoffs are actually bogus!

  114. Judith,

    I confess that I have not diligently read every posting, I am late to this topic.

    I have degrees in engineering and law. I work in public policy. I deal with the spin on a daily basis, while personally I have made my own investigations into what people refer to as climate science and compare it to other, less politicized scientific inquiries into paloeoceanography, paleogeology, paleoclimatology, and of course the science related to our current ice age and what pulls us into periods of glaciation and what impacts trigger interglatial warming periods.

    In my opinion we have been scammed and misdirected into inquiries of years, perhaps decades and perhaps multidecadal patterns, without reference to the underlying trends of the two very stable climate states of warming, and the more stable state of cooling. These periods have occurred with striking regularity over the last 2.5 million years or so. Glaciation lasts about 100,000 yrs while interglacial warmth is a 15,000-20,000 year episode. We have had 20 cycles of glaciation and interglacial warmth that show just that. It has had nothing to do with man in the past. Why should it now? We are teeing up the wrong questions and arguments in these blogs and debates, and in my opinion that is for a political, not scientific purpose. A thirty year temperature trend? Cooked or uncooked – what’s its relevance?

    I realize that you want to span both sides, but the data shows that CO2 follows temperature, not the other way around. Expand your perception of the issue and knowledge base into paleo inquiries and look for inconsistencies between conventional wisdom of today’s cooked models and data of what actually occurred. We are in a cycle. It is also postulated that as long as a land mass is at one pole or the other that we will stay in this cycle. Focus some inquiry into that postulate and see what you conclude.

    I’ll check in from time to time.

    • > but the data shows that CO2 follows temperature

      Your insinuation is wrong on many levels, and has been since this particular talking point was first coined. When will this piece of misinformation die?

      By your logic, because solid rocket boosters were used getting Apollo 11 off the ground, gravity cannot have played any part in the rest of the journey to the moon.

  115. My “Climate Cynic” comment wasn’t merely me being flippant…..

    The green media guys at Futerra were way ahead of me…
    Part of the green PR/Media industry attempting to eliminate any doubt in the publics mind, and lobby opinion formers..

    Sell the Sizzle – The New Climate Message

    “Cynics versus Activists
    If you think the climate argument is won, then think again. Myriad climate battles continue to rage. On the science, or the policy response to the science, on the responsibilities of business, government and people, on the right moment to act, on who gets the blame, on who pays, on who benefits…

    However, these battles have largely taken place beneath the public’s radar. Played out between CLIMATE CYNICS and Climate Activists in boardrooms or staterooms but only recently in living rooms.”

    Futerra have provided their services to the UN environment Program, UK Government, Greenpeace, etc. In fact, the UK government used them in creating the UK Climate Change Communications strategy.

    Futerra – Rules of the Game. (CRU had this)

    “Futerra and The UK Department for Environment published the Rules of the Game on 7 March 2005. The game is communicating climate change; the Rules will help us win it. The document was created as part of the UK Climate Change Communications Strategy.”

    I mentioned DECC earlier – The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was created in October 2008, bringing together energy policy previously with BERR and Department for Environment.

    And yet, Futerra still can’t quite help themselves though….
    “Sell the Sizzle – The NEW Climate Message”

    “Climate Change Deniers
    Unfortunately, these guys are back (if they ever went away). The edge of this group are the conspiracy theorists who are sure that climate science is an excuse for either (a) the environmentalists to curtail consumption or undermine our way of life, or (b) for the developed world to hold back the developing world.”

    Fun Quotes From – Branding Biodiversity

    “Need is essential
    for policy makers
    and business”

    My favourite:

    “Our audiences are
    emotional rather
    than rational.”

    About Futerra.

    “Futerra is a communications agency. We do
    the things great agencies do; have bright ideas,
    captivate consumers, build energetic websites
    one day and grab OPINION FORMER’S attention
    the next. We’re very good at it. But the real
    difference is that since our foundation in 2001,
    we’ve only EVER worked on green issues,
    corporate responsibility
    and sustainability.

    Not that I’m trying to point it out, ;) they advice the UN ENVIRONMENT Program.

    “Futerra, in partnership with the UN Environment Programme, published Communicating Sustainability: How to produce effective public campaigns in September 2005.”

    So a reasonable, direct from the source, bit of evidence that the ‘creative’ tools of PR are being used by government and the UN, (futerra since 2001) see their client list (Greenpeace, etc) has/is being used to ‘win’ the AGW consensus amongst the public..

    As a bit of popular culture.
    Anybody remember when ‘carbon footprint’ actually started being widely used…?

    Futerra focus grouped it in 2007….. in ‘Words That Sell’


    ‘Global Climate Disruption’ I imagine was NOT an off the cuff remark.

  116. Judith,

    It has taken me much of a day to read this thread, and I congratulate you on the initiative. I too dislike the abuse, the labels, the stigmatising (and the sheltering behind pseudonyms) that goes on in the climate blogosphere.

    I am not a climate scientist in any sense, but I have spent thirty years in judging the worth of big projects that seek public and sometimes private funding. So I know a little about quite a wide range of subjects. And somebody has to be able to provide a disinterested, reasonably sensible, assessment to Ministers and other funders. After all, they don’t have the background to do it themselves. And those who are really close to whatever it is have a plain interest in the outcome. I don’t.

    I post here on behalf of the concerned citizens who are told that humanity is facing a catastrophic future which they must avoid by doing all sorts of things that will reduce their standard of living, and reduce to zero, at least for a long time, the standard of living of those who live in poor countries. As someone above has written, the choice is between knowing who to believe and knowing what to believe. My own view is that the essential issues in AGW are quite straightforward: Is the world warming? Is it doing so in an unprecedented and potentially disastrous way? If it is, to what extent are humans responsible? If it is and we are, what can we do about it?

    Since I am used to looking at questions like these, I have done so in this case, and remain agnostic, even (to a degree) about the first question. It all depends on what time period we are looking at, and how confident we are in the measurement process and the consequent data. For the rest, it all looks pretty ‘iffy’ to me. I accept that others are much more sure, and that puzzles me because I could not see how the uncertainties in Table 11 of WG1 could lead to the confidence expressed later in the Report.

    Like others here, nothing would please me more than a serious, public, polite debate under some kind of disinterested quasi-judicial scrutiny. But I don’t see much sign of its happening.

    And as someone who has spent a lot of his life dealing with the peer-review system (and helped to review such systems) the Climategate stuff, and the subsequent whitewashes, really appalled me. What worries me most is not the introduction of carbon taxes or their equivalent, but the final loss of confidence in the natural sciences by a disillusioned public if, as I rather expect, AGW turns out to have been hopelessly over-hyped.

  117. Judith,
    Water is one of the main items we have changed drastically.
    Trapping billions of gallons a day out of the evaporation cycle or putting films on the surface also slows the evaporation by blocking water being on the surface.
    Oil companies state that their process is a nil to removing water, yet oil’s natural state is a peanut butter consistency. When looking at this process and keeping the pressure in the wells, the actual usage is 1 1/2. A barrel is pumped directly into the ground for pressure and keeping the oil on the surface in the well and another 1/2 barrel is used in steam to change oil into the gas and products needed.
    How many miles of piping and aquafers hold water?
    Treatment plants?
    How many 1000’s of products need water and trap it in cans and bottles?

    This is a precious resource?

    • Joe haveing worked in the oil patch for over 30 years , I can see you are a little lost on numbers and it would take 150 books to catch you up to speed.
      But a few points ,Some water was used for injection for keeping formation pressure up but mostly now we inject dry gas down the holes around the field. That is gas that has been stripped of all propanes and buteanes. And the natural gas is sent to your house and power planets and to gas planet that make plastics and the rest. The oild is pumped from or flowed from the wells and sent to be refined yes there is some water used but not what you think.
      Now you will bring up the oilsands here in Alberta you here the greens saying alot about the use of water there it is a closed system closed the water the started with is still being used , There is a loss of about 1200 cubes a month but you use that at your house.

      P.S Judith great blog a lot less crap here thank’s Lorne

  118. I would replace the flag with a ” ? —-> Let’s find out then”

    The solution to any important question where your answer is “I don’t know” is to:

    “Find out then.”

    It is not to endlessly debate the fact that we don’t know or take sides and say “I believe in XYZ, and you don’t, so you are my enemy”.

    It is to measure what is really happening. I imagine that Climate Earth ™ has lots of surprises in store for us and we have to measure everything that is ocurring before we will have a better answer to the question which so far just has an answer of “I don’t know.”

    It is like a new social policy implemented by a government that backfires in its effect despite having the best intentions (and this has happened many times before). Use the knowledge of what really happens in a complex human society to avoid that mistake and design better programs that actually work in the future (what really happens with increased GHGs in a complex Climate Earth).

    We need to actually answer the question rather than to endlessly debate that we don’t know. We need to put resources into evidence-gathering instruments rather than more theory-generating papers and reports.

  119. Judith: “The IPCC itself is not dogmatic, it is the expectation that everyone should accept what the IPCC has to say (your post is an example of this).”

    No, my post doesn’t say everyone should accept what the IPCC says. It said that *in the absence of any other evidence* we should accept what the IPCC says. And then I indicated there appears to be some recent evidence that the IPCC assessments underestimate the warming.

    You, on the other hand, keep repeating an assertion that IPCC doesn’t handle the uncertainties very well. I beg to differ. AR4 has a very nice summary section separating robust findings from uncertainties. I assume you’ve read it, but if not, try here:

    I count 59 robust findings and 55 uncertainties. So, if you think they underplayed the uncertainties, what’s missing from these lists? Should any of the robust findings have been listed under uncertainties instead? If so which ones?

    You can’t go round criticizing the IPCC reports for underplaying the uncertainties unless you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is, and tell us specifically which ones they missed. Otherwise, it’s you who is spouting dogma, in this case denialist dogma.

    • Steve, I am going to start criticizing the IPCC big time for the way it portrays uncertainties. I have submitted a paper for publication on this topic. There will be a weekly “uncertainty” post at Climate Etc. for the foreseeable future. Stay tuned.

    • The message of the uncertainties seem to getloss when the politicians and medi talk about it..

      Whose fault?

      Does the IPCC ever correct the politicians/media for overstating things.

      Or as the IAC have commented the IPCC itself has overstated confidence, based on little evidence

    • Steve:

      “TS.6.2.1 Atmosphere and Surface”

      i would question the robustness of many of the findings in this section. After spending over 2 years looking at the data and the methods and the documentation I would say that the uncertainties are underestimated. If you want a list of issues, I’ll gladly supply it. Note, however, I don’t think the conclusions change in any significant way, but there are uncertainties that are not accounted for. The simplest ones are the methodological uncertainties. These are never accounted for in any systematic fashion.

    • And then I indicated there appears to be some recent evidence that the IPCC assessments underestimate the warming.

      NOT TRUE!

    • You can’t go round criticizing the IPCC reports for underplaying the uncertainties unless you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is, and tell us specifically which ones they missed.

  120. *****
    Barry Woods says:
    September 18, 2010 at 1:38 pm
    The message of the uncertainties seem to getloss when the politicians and medi talk about it..
    Whose fault?
    Does the IPCC ever correct the politicians/media for overstating things.
    Or as the IAC have commented the IPCC itself has overstated confidence, based on little evidence
    This is a darn good point. When Al Gore was at his peak with “An Inconvenient Truth,” none of the notorious climate scientists stepped up to the podium to contradict Uncle Al. Silence is tantamount to agreement!

  121. As I look at the global mean temperature trend for the 20th century, I see a cyclical pattern as shown in the following graph.

    And for the 21st century, the global warming rate is nearly flat at 0.4 deg C as shown in the following graph.

    What is this consternation about this theory of “Global Climate Disruption”

  122. @ John – September 16, 2010 at 12:07 am:

    I’m not there yet. I want to see more science,

    John – This is where I’ve always been. This science has been around so short a time. Yet it continually attempts to draw conclusions, and does so IMO without enough science behind it. SOME science? Yes. Enough? Not IMHO. While that Italian flag may be X%, Y% and Z% green, white and red, while that red is above 15% and/or the red/white is above 40%, it makes no sense to talk about any of it with certainty: Every statement – one way or another – should be offered with the level of certainty appended. But underlying it all, I want to see more science.

    for instance, what causes the PDO to oscillate, whether the PDO is something which actually exists as a specific mechanism unto itself, or if it is the reflection of some other mechanisms,

    Huge questions. The PDO is bigger than ENSO. What do we know about El Niño’s causes? I’ve been searching the web for months trying to find out its underlying mechanisms. If ideas about what are El Niño’s underlying mechanisms, so far I can’t find them. Yet we know ten or twenty times more about El Niño than about the PDO. At this stage, my question would be this: Is anybody even LOOKING? Again, I want to see more science.

    and how dependable are these processes over the decades? And, how can we better define what the actual climate sensitivity of CO2, black carbon, and sulfates really are?

    To all of these: I want to see more science.

    I want to see more science without jumping to conclusions. One piece of evidence – ANY piece of evidence – seems to be reason for one side or the other to claim their position is proven, when all it has done is add another straw to one side of the argument or the other. In reality, one wonders if either “side” is either right or wrong.

    IMHO, the flag is 18% green, 64% white and 18% red. A few decades into this, claims to certainty one way or another are not justified. IMHO.

  123. Misworded sentence correction in previous comment:

    If ideas about El Niño’s underlying mechanisms presently exist, so far I can’t find them.

    • Tomas Milanovic

      It depends what you mean with El Nino mechanism.
      If you stay at the first degree and ask what makes the temperatures in this given region quasi oscillate then there are different empirical models.
      For instance this gives a good sum up of the models and specifies the differential equations too.
      Then the answer on the mechanisms is given by the differential equations – to make a system, ANY system “oscillate” you just need an energy supply and one or several feedbacks.

      However if you go deeper and notice that each model uses constant coefficients that are fitted to the observations, then you may ask what is the mechanism that makes these coefficients to be what they seem to be or whether they even are constant in the real world.
      Or in other words why is the ENSO frequency what it is.
      Then you are right, there is no answer on this question.

      Actually I am not sure that this answer can be given easily if at all.
      It is not like one could consider the ENSO region independent of the rest of the world – it interacts with other regions with different coupling strengths.
      If one considers that the Earth is described by a grid of coupled chaotic oscillators (coupled map lattices model), then the spatio temporal oscillating modes in each cell result from interactions through the whole system.
      ENSO is then just one of many possible oscillating modes in that particular region that may be but must not be quasi stable for a certain period of time.
      By analogy it is like if you observed vortexes on a fast river – their formation and frequency is the result of interactions through the whole river but their life durations are very different – at some places they live a very short time and at some other places they seem to be quasi stable.

      To my knowledge nobody has ever tried to apply the coupled map lattices model to the Earth system and the available computing power is anyway far below what would be necessary.

  124. Hi Judith,

    I posted a detailed reply to your green-white-red estimates on my blog:

    I think the Italian flag system is prone to different interpretations: E.g. for the statements at hand, as portions attributable to anthropogenic and natural forcing, or as evidence for the statement versus evidence against. Uncertainty is also encapsulated into the phrase “most of the warming” (51-90%). You’re trying to encapsulate both the portions attributable (or evidence for/against) AND the overall confidence level in the Italian flag. I’m not sure that it doesn’t add more confusion than clarity at that point.

    My major issue though is this:

    For the remainder of this century, what natural forcing or variability could plausibly rival the relentlessly rising anthropogenic forcing in magnitude? Is there evidence at all for that being plausible? If so, is that evidence really as large as the evidence showing that greenhouse gas forcing will exceed the likely bounds of natural variability (if it hasn’t already)? Or alternatively, so you really believe that an equal portion of the climate change over the next 90 years will be caused by natural variability versus caused by natural variability/forcing?

    I haven’t seen any plausible evidence for such.

    • Bart, the issue for the 21st century is this. NOBODY in the IPCC has tried to actually predict 21st century climate change. What they have done is conduct scenario simulations for adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over the next century. They do NOT predict 21st century solar variability or volcanic eruptions. They do a poor job at simulating the observed modes of natural internal climate variability (e.g. the multidecadal ocean oscillations). So what the IPCC simulations basically say is that, if the solar and volcanic forcing remains fairly neutral in the 21st century, then CO2 warming will dominate and they provide specific projections for these scenarios. The elephant in the room is that no one is predicting the natural variability for the 21st century (we don’t know how to do it, basically). So even if we knew the CO2 sensitivity perfectly (which we don’t), we don’t know how to estimate the natural variability piece, which could be smaller, equal to, or larger in magnitude than the greenhouse forcing. If equal to or larger in magnitude, then during some periods greenhouse warming will be cancelled out by natural variability and in other periods greenhouse warming would be the same sign as the natural variability. We already know what the natural variability looked like in the 20th century, no big surprises but still an unexplained increase between 1910-1940 and decrease between 1940 and 1970. We have no idea what 21st century natural variability will look like, but already we are seeing surprises from the sun re sunspots. So this is why I bumped up the size of the white for the 21st century.

      • So nailing down natural variability ought to be the priority now..?

      • IMO, too much emphasis and focus has been given to greenhouse forcing, and insufficient focus on natural variability and land use changes.

      • It would definitely be good to know when volcanoes are going to erupt, yes.

        I am curious about the answer to Bart’s question, though: “what natural forcing or variability could plausibly rival the relentlessly rising anthropogenic forcing in magnitude?” I honestly don’t know, and am curious as to your thinking on this.

      • The two candidates (apart from volcanic forcing) are solar variability and the natural internal variability of the coupled ocean atmosphere system, e.g. the multi-decadal and longer oscillations such as the NAO, PDO, etc. Not to mention abrupt climate change, which has been documented in the past to occur without any obvious external forcing.

      • Judith,

        I see what you’re saying, but I don’t see how that translates in equal evidence/equal portions attributable to natural as to anthropogenic forcing. It sounds a bit like an appeal to ignorance and say “well, for all we know, there could be a massive negative forcing coming into play”. Yes, possibly. But is there any evidence for such? How plausible is it?

        Your weights suggest equal evidence for the projected greenhouse forcing (and its response) as for the deus-ex-machina type negative forcing that may or may not come to our help.

        I could see how your line of thought leads to a relatively larger white area. But without strong evidence for the red, how can you assign equal weights to red and green?

      • Bart, the way I look at it, my 25-50-25 assignment allows for the possibility of up to 75% anthro (with 25% natural); and conversely up to 75% natural (with 25% anthro). I think that bounds the possibilities of what might happen. Think about all the possible scenarios, combinations of natural and anthro, and this is judgement of how we would cover the possibilities. I will have a future post on how we develop future scenarios (and how we should develop them).

      • Judith,

        My point is that in addition to “Think about all the possible scenarios, combinations of natural and anthro” we should think about the comparative evidence for each. And then I find your hypothesis of equal contributions of anthro and natural for the coming century wanting.

        The expected increase in temp in a BAU scenario will likely go far outside of the bound of variability that we have seen over the past 10,000 years. Large temp variations in the past have usually been associated with external forcings of the climate, which are not likely to operate on the needed scale and with the needed speed to compete with projected antrho forcing.

      • The expected increase in temp in a BAU scenario will likely go far outside of the bound of variability that we have seen over the past 10,000 years

        Implying that we already understand natural variability?

      • Punksta,

        Of course there’s lots left to understand better, otherwise why would people research it?

        But I’m not aware of strong evidence that there were global temperature swings of 4-6 degrees C for a sustained period of time. And if there were, that they were due to unforced variability.

      • OK, the basic reasoning being that the future will likely resemble the past then?

      • “the future will likely resemble the past”

        In terms of the physics that govern climate, yes.
        Carbon dioxide, the biggest control knob in earth’s climate history.

      • Responding on physics rather dances around the question.
        I was referring to your implicit assumption that natural variability in the future will resemble that of the past. Which in turn amounts to a claim that we understand what governs natural variability.
        If we do, and assuming further we understand the anthro component, we should t