by Judith Curry
Towards providing a robust scientific basis for climate policy, the United Nations initiated a scientific consensus building process under the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), which consisted of an intergovernmental multidisciplinary panel of experts.
Over the past two decades, the IPCC has earned substantial respect and shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for informing climate policy and raising public awareness worldwide. Amidst the increasingly intense public debate on the issue of climate change and the recent challenges to the credibility of the IPCC, the consensus approach employed by the IPCC deserves further scrutiny and reflection.
The Wikipedia defines consensus as general agreement and includes group solidarity of belief. The formal process of achieving consensus requires serious treatment of the considered opinion of each group member, noting that discussion of opposing views enhances the value of the ultimate consensus.
Consensus can play a constructive role in legitimizing policy based upon scientific research. However, there is a delicate balance between the relevance to policy makers of the consensus-based assessment and the credibility of the science. A credible consensus-based assessment is based upon the legitimacy of the experts involved, transparency of the consensus-building process, and the perception of the incorruptibility of the process.
Hulme and Mahoney state that the IPCC’s consensus approach has been largely driven by the desire to communicate climate science coherently to a wide spectrum of policy users. They further state that the IPCC consensus building process is an exercise in collective judgment about subjective Bayesian likelihoods in areas of uncertain knowledge. IPCC’s consensus approach has been a source of both strength and vulnerability for the IPCC: while the IPCC consensus approach has been effective in communicating climate science to policy makers, it has marginalized dissenting voices. (note: this paragraph has been edited from the original post).
What are the pitfalls of the consensus approach? Looking forward, is the IPCC’s consensus approach still useful?
Framing and consensus
The history of the IPCC is intimately connected with the policy issue of stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gases. In the context of the precautionary principle and the UNFCCC, the main objective of the IPCC has been to assess whether there is sufficient certainty in the science so as to trigger action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the precautionary principle. This objective has led to IPCC assessments to be framed around identifying anthropogenic influences on climate, environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change, and response strategies to anthropogenically induced climate change.
Johnston provides an interesting analysis of the framing of the IPCC assessments by analogy to a legal framework for evidence. Johnston asks the question as to whether the IPCC reports should be regarded as a legal brief – intended to persuade – or as a legal memo – intended to objectively assess both sides? In its role as an assessor of the risk of dangerous anthropogenic climate change in the context of the precautionary principle, it can be argued that the IPCC assessment reports are better characterized as legal briefs. This framework is different from a legal memo strategy that would have conducted a comprehensive assessment of natural climate variability and land use change and their impacts, in addition to anthropogenic changes in atmospheric composition, with no a priori assumption of their relative roles or policy responses. The characterization of the IPCC’s strategy as a legal brief puts the IPCC in the position of bearing the burden of proof. Johnston argues that under these circumstances, the IPCC needs an independent cross-examination. The consensus approach whereby the IPCC assesses the confidence in its own case is an unconvincing strategy under the interpretation of the IPCC assessments as a legal brief.
Van der Sluijs (2010a; a book chapter unavailable on the web) argues that the framing of the relevant scientific problem to be investigated, even the choice of the scientific discipline to which it belongs, becomes a prior policy decision.
Consensus and Uncertainty
Van der Sluijs et al. (2010b) finds that the IPCC consensus strategy has a blind spot with respect to dealing with politics and scientific dissent, by underexposing scientific uncertainties and dissent that make the chosen policy vulnerable to scientific error and by limiting the political playing field. Van der Sluijs (2010a) also argues that matters on which no consensus can be reached continue to receive too little attention by the IPCC, even though this dissension can be highly policy-relevant.
Oppenheimer et al. (2007) point out the need to guard against overconfidence and argue that the IPCC consensus emphasizes expected outcomes, whereas it is equally important that policy makers understand the more extreme possibilities that consensus may exclude or downplay. They further state that “The establishment of consensus by the IPCC is no longer as critical to governments as a full exploration of uncertainty.” Gruebler and Nakicenovic (2001) opine that there is a danger that the IPCC consensus position might lead to a dismissal of uncertainty in favor of spuriously constructed expert opinion.
Consensus and bias
One source of bias in a consensus is the selection of experts to participate in the assessment. Even with ostensible efforts to include experts with a range of perspectives, the conclusions reached by the experts depends on which experts are included in the assessment. As discussed on the hurricane thread, three different assessments on the subject of hurricanes and global warming conducted within three years of each other differed significantly in their conclusions.
Another potential source of bias in the consensus building process is cognitive bias. A cognitive bias is the human tendency to draw incorrect conclusions in certain circumstances based on cognitive factors that include information-processing shortcuts (heuristics), rather than being solely evidence based. Anchoring bias describes the tendency to rely too heavily on one trait or piece of information, such as the mean. Framing bias describes the situation or issue using an approach that is too narrow. Confirmation bias interprets information in a way that confirms preconceptions. Morgan et al. (2009) (Part III) note that scientists tend to be systematically overconfident in the face of uncertainty – that is, they produce probability distributions that are much too narrow. Actual values, once they are known, often turn out to lie well outside the tails of their previous distribution.
Cognitive biases in a consensus seeking environment can produce groupthink. Groupthink is a type of thought within a group whose members try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas that would challenge the consensus. Members of a group may avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of the consensus thinking.
An assessment of a confidence interval and the range of uncertainty can be much narrower for a group operating in a consensus environment than a collation of ranges collected from individual scientists. Morgan et al. (2006) (2009) elicited subjective probability distributions from 24 leading atmospheric scientists that reflects their individual judgments about radiative forcing from anthropogenic aerosols. Consensus was strongest among the experts in their assessments of the direct aerosol effect. However, the range of uncertainty that a number of experts associated with their estimates for indirect aerosol forcing was substantially larger than that suggested by either the IPCC 3rd or 4th Assessment Reports.
Consensus and credibility
The IPCC consensus is derived from the judgment of experts. Credibility is a combination expertise and trust. The credibility challenges that the IPCC has faced over the past year (e.g. the CRU emails, the Himalayan glaciers, etc.) has arguably resulted in a substantial loss of trust in the IPCC consensus (as well as in climate science more broadly). The IAC review of the IPCC has emphasized the need for transparency and traceability in the expert judgments of confidence levels. The public confidence in the consensus of experts requires the perception that the consensus-building process is incorruptible. Once lost, trust in the experts and in the consensus-building process may not be easily regained.
Why scientific consensus fails to persuade
A fascinating study by Kahan et al. recently published in the Journal of Risk Research investigated why members of the public are sharply and persistently divided on matters on which expert scientists largely agree. This excerpt from the NSF press release summarizes their findings:
[Kahan] said the more likely reason for the disparity, as supported by the research results, “is that people tend to keep a biased score of what experts believe, counting a scientist as an ‘expert’ only when that scientist agrees with the position they find culturally congenial.” Understanding this, the researchers then could draw some conclusions about why scientific consensus seems to fail to settle public policy debates when the subject is relevant to cultural positions. “It is a mistake to think ‘scientific consensus,’ of its own force, will dispel cultural polarization on issues that admit scientific investigation,” said Kahan. “The same psychological dynamics that incline people to form a particular position on climate change, nuclear power and gun control also shape their perceptions of what ‘scientific consensus’ is.” “The problem won’t be fixed by simply trying to increase trust in scientists or awareness of what scientists believe,” added Braman. “To make sure people form unbiased perceptions of what scientists are discovering, it is necessary to use communication strategies that reduce the likelihood that citizens of diverse values will find scientific findings threatening to their cultural commitments.”
A further confounding issue for the public is that there is an alternative “consensus”, the Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). Although the NIPCC was written by individuals that have ties to advocacy groups, the report contains a very long list of scientists that support the NIPCC (over the IPCC). While the NIPCC is nowhere near as well known as the IPCC, much effort has been undertaken by those that support the mainstream IPCC consensus to discredit skeptical voices including the NIPCC. The mainstream (IPCC) scientists are then accused of arrogance when they appeal to their own authority and of being intolerant of skeptical viewpoints. The public perceives the noise in the media and the conflict, and the consensus is discounted.
I think the IPCC consensus approach was valuable in the 1990’s and arguably through the third IPCC Assessment Report, in terms of sorting through and assessing the large amount of scientific research on the topic. The Nobel Peace Prize notwithstanding, questions regarding bias and the corruptibility of the IPCC’s consensus-based assessment process are of substantial concern.
I completely agree with Oppenheimer’s assessment that at this point, a complete characterization of uncertainty is more important than consensus. While I understand the policy makers’ desire for a clear message from the scientists, at this point the consensus approach being used by the IPCC doesn’t seem to be up to challenge of an accurate portrayal of the complexities of the problem and the uncertainties.
While the public may not understand the complexity of the science and may not be culturally predisposed to accept the consensus, they can certainly understand the vociferous arguments over the science that are portrayed by the media. It is my hypothesis that better characterization of uncertainty and a more realistic portrayal of confidence levels would go a long way towards reducing the “noise” and animosity portrayed in the media that fuels the public distrust of climate science and acts to stymie the policy process.
Returning to Johnston’s legal analogy, I support a comprehensive scientific assessment based on the comprehensive legal memo framework that includes the physical basis of climate variability and change and societal and ecosystem vulnerability to climate variability and change (on a regional basis). The legal memo framework requires providing evidence for and against, and a full characterization of the uncertainties. Subsequent arguments based on the legal brief model would then stake out a specific positions on policy options and their justification (based upon science, economics, politics, values, etc.), with extensive follow-on cross examination of all briefs that are presented. This framework would broaden the assessment scope and allow for a range of perspectives, providing a better informational basis for decision making on this complex issue. This framework would also place politics squarely in the realm of the policy briefs and the cross-examination, and not in the scientific assessment process itself.
Some other thoughts (including John Christy, Christopher Field) on IPCC issues, including the need to move beyond “consensus” focus:
Hi Andy, thanks much for the link.
Andy quotes Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission:
“We need to adopt an open attitude to scientific research and incorporate all views….”
Unless the IPCC reverses course immediately and adopts an open attitude, it and its complex models of climate change will become as irrelevant as did champions of the standard solar model after ignoring 1975 experimental data: Greetings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fl2c2mckh1w
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
I think the question is wrong. The IPCC should present the consensus where there is one, and characterize the range of credible opinions where there is none.
For instance, (a) economists strongly agree that carbon taxes are superior to tradable permits; and (b) strongly disagree about what it cost to reduce emissions by X%.
Forging a consensus on (b) is bound to fail and if the IPCC pretends it succeeded it will be attacked from the outside. Furthermore, the loss of credibility over (b) affects (a) too.
Now, you can of course argue that a consensus is characterized by a narrow band of uncertainty and then we agree. However, we should not forget that there is, in fact, a lot of consensus (at least amongst those who have studied the issues and demonstrably understand them).
Richard, thanks for your comment. I just spotted this relevant post at your very interesting blog
See Ross McKitrick’s “T3 tax” for an objective climate tax that addresses BOTH sides of the issue, not just “global warming”.
“calibrate a carbon tax to the average temperature of the region of the atmosphere predicted by climatologists to be most sensitive to CO2.”
The case that IPCC acts as a legal brief is supported by the fact that the mission and point of view of the IPCC were formed around 1995 when the models were hardly credible and many scientific issues were hardly resolved. That is the mission was decided before any credible case that a crisis existed, for reasons having to do with politics and environmental extremism. This does not provide balance from the beginning.
Group think is a constant problem in human society because we want to be part of the winning group, because people don’t like conflict, and so on. It slows down the progress of science across all fields because it makes it hard for people to tolerate new and conflicting information. It has affected medicine and basic biology, and any other field you can name.
s the mission was decided before any credible case that a crisis existed, for reasons having to do with politics and environmental extremism
This is a statement of belief. How on earth do you propose to prove that the work of 2500 scientific expert reviewers, more than 800 contributing authors, and more than 450 lead authors is a product of politics? Polygraphs? Mind-reading?
It is true that many scientists worked on the IPCC report. Quite contrary to what is implied by your comment however, they do not speak ‘with one voice’.
The summary conclusions are derived from a separate document – called the synthesis report, which actually purports to what you imply. But however, it is very much a product of politics.
Normal people think that the criteria for achieving consensus among scientists is rather high. So the fact that there is no consensus on consensus in this arena is not surprising. The criteria for achieving consensus among mobs, gaggles, ethnic groups, primatives, slaves, minorities, bankers, lawyers, physicians, whathaveyou, is not difficult at all, usually a lot of money, or armtwisting, or mafioso kind’a threats, or all these put together and maybe some other little tricks will do. There was a day when people thought the world was flat. Wonder how they pulled that off?
Quite contrary to what is implied by your comment however, they do not speak ‘with one voice’.
I hadn’t said or implied that. Please look up Dr. Curry’s reference on “the Wikipedia” (love that) or read any dictionary. It does not mean unanimity, but rather “the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned.”
The summary conclusions are derived from a separate document– called the synthesis report
I’m not sure what you’re implying here. Is it that the actual research says one thing, and the Synthesis Report or summary of each Working Group Report say something else? If so, do you have evidence of that?
In order for you to be able to say something like “the judgement arrived at by most of those concerned” – there should exist “one judgement” they all reached.
There is no such judgement.
The fact that most/all scientists agree to one thing about the climate, doesn’t exist in the IPCC reports.
If anything like that exists, it is in the summary for policy makers and its parent, the synthesis report. Both these are put together, in a different process compared to say, a peer-reviewed article.
I don’t know what the hair is you seem intent on splitting here. The individual reports overwhelmingly shown results that are consistent with anthropogenic climate change.In terms of the overall picture, there are numerous statements by various academies of science affirming the scientific understanding as it relates to climate change and its cause.
If you’re looking for something like a peer-reviewed paper with 2,000 authors, I don’t know what to tell you.
You get to disagree. No one’s challenging that. You don’t get to say that scientists are saying something that they’re not, however.
Very good framing of some key issues.
I think credibility is actually several different things to different classes of people. One such class is journalist, where the saying is once burned, forever shy. The scrum over the past couple of years should in theory lead to a larger number of sources being consulted regarding climate issues, as journalists who have found their sources wrong (on both sides) search more widely afield. Sadly, this is occurring at a time of reduced news budgets, so this search may not be happening. Which means that some journalists may resort to looking at weblogs on the internet to try and balance viewpoints. Hope they end up here.
“is that people tend to keep a biased score of what experts believe, counting a scientist as an ‘expert’ only when that scientist agrees with the position they find culturally congenial.”
The problem is that there are groups pushing consensus driven corporate and government policy. While a consensus make work in some applications, it is a very tortuous and troubled path that only leads to a tyranny of those dynamic enough to take advantage, not to a true resolution on an issue.
Another study you should view is The Second National Risk and Culture Study: Making Sense of – and Making Progress In – The American Culture War of Fact (Kahan et al., 2007).
They concluded: “Individuals’ expectations about the policy solution to global warming strongly influences their willingness to credit information about climate change. When told the solution to global warming is increased antipollution measures, persons of individualistic and hierarchic worldviews become less willing to credit information suggesting that global warming exists, is caused by humans, and poses significant societal dangers. Persons with such outlooks are more willing to credit the same information when told the solution to global warming is increased reliance on nuclear power generation.”
So it boils down to: Individuals subconsciously resist factual information that threatens their defining values. For this reason, many self-described conservatives and libertarians discount the strong consensus on AGW because they are opposed to increased regulation. You appear to be in the libertarian camp. Do you think this is coloring your impression of the science?
I think you have it bass ackwards. Conservatives and libertarians are not alone in discounting increased regulation because they don’t believe that a “strong consensus” – if it really existed – is actually a substitute for scientific evidence. It doesn’t take conservative or libertarian thinking to come to this position.
The reason for building and enforcing a climate consensus is to instigate and/or perpetuate a policy. It has very little if anything to do with science, being policy-oriented rather than science-based.
Come on Scott we’ve discussed this old chestnut before in other forums.
“When told the solution to global warming is increased antipollution measures, persons of individualistic and hierarchic worldviews become less willing to credit information suggesting that global warming exists, is caused by humans, and poses significant societal dangers.”
The trouble is that those proclaiming the obvious ‘truth’ of their conclusions have not always been open with us or have tried to pretend their ‘facts’ and ‘data’ are more robust than they really.
I suggest you go to the minutes of the Exter climate conference and witness the admittance of that. (Yes the conference that said they wanted to gather the views of the wider climate community then stopped virtually all of us attending)
If someone could PROVE definitively that something dramatic is happening to the climate that will fundamentally affect our current and future prosperity how many of us would really refuse to accept it? We’re not stupid or evil, its just that we like to have something proven before we believe it.
It seems that a post modern science like climate doesn’t need to worry about proving their hypothesis in the manner that other sciences have to.
Those who produce studies like this obviously feel very superior.
PS Good to hear of you again :)
To pursue the legalisms, I’ll say that I’d accept proof “beyond reasonable doubt”, in anticipation of some arm flailing about “absolute proof” being unachievable etc etc.
It’s time we had some recognition that not every, nor even any, jury member needs to be a ballistics expert to be able to find on a murder trial. Cross-examined expert testimony is sufficient. The expert authoritariat is summarily dismissed.
I’d accept proof “beyond reasonable doubt”
What would that “proof” look like? I keep asking this, but for some reason no one ever wants to answer.
How will you know when you find it?
Bear in mind it’s past 3am, I’m fit to drop and I’ve had a few..
“Beyond reasonable doubt” is an accommodation that I’m not required to make, but that I am willing to make. I could reasonably demand “proof beyond a shadow of doubt” – an even more severe test, since conviction is always subjective and anyone has the inalienable right to either choose or refuse to accept an assertion, however reasonably made.
I’ll assume your question is made in good faith, so I’ll reciprocate by expounding a little further, in good faith. I will typically accept as proven something in which, rather than having to “believe in”, I feel I can “depend on”. I don’t, for example, “believe in” god.
However, if I’d met god in the pub, and we’d had a few too many drinks, and he’d promised me a place in heaven AND got me home safely (and covered the taxi fare, of course), I might be convinced that I could “depend on” god. Maybe. But of course, at this point, god’s existence would be – to me, at least – satisfactorily proven beyond reasonable doubt.
But, proof being the subjective thang it is, I could not expect any of my friends to “depend on” god just because I told them about our night on the town. Still, some of them might choose to “believe in” him. Some might even choose to “depend on” him. That would be by their own conviction, though.
Please try again when you’re sober.
What specific proof would you accept, given the “anthropogenic climate change” is not going to sit down to you next to you in a pub?
To insist on a proof that you can’t yourself define is to say that you will never change your position, regardless of what evidence you are shown. And I’m fine if that’s your position; I only ask that you state it clearly.
Oh, you were asking about proof of AGW? I thought you were asking about defining the meaning of “proof beyond reasonable doubt” generally. No problem.
There are some trust issues that need resolving. I find I am unable to trust the CRU to accurately represent the historical instrument record, based on evidence which I have seen that suggests that the integrity of the scientists constructing the climate record cannot entirely be depended upon to perform their work diligently or to receive, in good faith, and act upon new information that would be useful to improve the record.
Secondly, I find that I cannot trust the GISS temperature record for several reasons. First among them, I’m sad to say, is that I have issues of trust with the scientists working on this data. My perception of one prominent GISS scientist, courtesy of his proud advocacy, undermines my ability to place trust there (even if I agreed with his causes, this is about the integrity of science). Additionally, one of his juniors’ interactions both on RealClimate and elsewhere – of which I have had personal, direct experience – have not inspired confidence and have in fact done quite the opposite. All this is compounded with concerns about the integrity of GISSTemp and, as I perceive them, arbitrary advocacy adjustments, as well as problems with surface temperature station placement, quality and also data selection and interpolation.
Third, I find I am not able to trust the paleoclimatic reconstructions to be of high integrity nor free from advocacy. I do not feel I can trust dendro records and I have witnessed too much sleight of hand, too much belligerence, too much seriously questionable behaviour in general from those who produce the reconstructions and from those who are their closest and most ardent supporters.
So, to summarise, there is little for me to “depend on” in aspects of the science that I am being asked to “believe in”. You could say, I suppose, that the question “what constitutes proof beyond reasonable doubt” is rather a moot question to me, when it relates to these important aspects of climate science, because in these respects I don’t feel that climate science is anywhere near ready to present its evidence.
You pivoted from ‘proof’ to ‘trust’ rather smoothly. You’re saying – and by the way I find this perfectly acceptable as a personal opinion – that you don’t trust individuals at particular institutions and you believe their work to be tainted.
We were discussing ‘proof,” and what that proof would look like. While it may be a moot point regarding your opinion specifically, I am still terribly curious about that question.
I’m not sure how I’ve “pivoted” from proof to trust, since the two are components of the same thing. Surely you have to be able to trust in supporting evidence in order to satisfy yourself that something is sufficiently proven? To regard something as proven when you feel you have reason to be suspicious, I would argue, requires one to make a “leap of faith”. This is something I’m not, myself, predisposed to do.
I don’t know that the work of certain individuals and institutions is tainted, of course, though I do feel there is too much compelling evidence of questionable integrity for me to discount my suspicions and make the necessary “leap of faith”.
I’d love to be able to satisfy your curiosity regarding the required level of “proof” of AGW but, unfortunately, there’s too little evidence of sufficiently high integrity for me to really begin to know how to answer.
And as I had said, to insist on a proof that you can’t yourself define is to say that you will never change your position, regardless of what evidence you are shown.
I certainly see no problem with that position, it’s absolutely your right. And I appreciate your forthrightness.
It would be fair to say that I haven’t yet seen anything that has caused me to change my position, but I do feel that speaks more to the quality and integrity of the available evidence than it does to my character.
It’s not reasonable to assert that I will never change my opinion, no matter what evidence is presented, but I accept that there is consolation in concluding – however incorrectly – that the problem is an imaginary belligerence on my part, rather than an absence of evidence with high integrity on the part of AGW.
If you’re not willing to elucidate what evidence you would find convincing, I would say a reasonable null hypothesis is that no such evidence could ever exist.
It is – as you have acknowledged – a matter of belief, rather than ratiocination.
Since I’ve clearly explained, certainly in sufficient detail, the issues that stand in the way of it being possible for me to have confidence in evidence presented in support of the AGW hypothesis, one can apply the null hypothesis to your null hypothesis and conclude that you believe that climate science will neither regain credibility nor produce better scientific evidence in support of the AGW hypothesis.
I’ve clearly explained, certainly in sufficient detail, the issues that stand in the way of it being possible for me to have confidence in evidence presented in support of the AGW hypothesis
You’ve said “the integrity of the scientists constructing the climate record cannot entirely be depended upon,” “I have issues of trust with the scientists working on this data,” ” one prominent GISS scientist, courtesy of his proud advocacy, undermines my ability to place trust there,” “one of his juniors’ interactions both on RealClimate and elsewhere – of which I have had personal, direct experience – have not inspired confidence and have in fact done quite the opposite,” as I perceive them, arbitrary advocacy adjustments,” “I am not able to trust the paleoclimatic reconstructions to be of high integrity nor free from advocacy,” “I have witnessed too much sleight of hand, too much belligerence, too much seriously questionable behaviour in general from those who produce the reconstructions and from those who are their closest and most ardent supporters.”
Every one of these points – every single one– is a personal judgment of the character of individuals you do not know personally. You have not been able to point to any objective evidence you could imagine that could potentially cause you to change your subjective opinion about these individuals. On what basis would I make the leap of faith that such evidence exists, if you yourself cannot describe it in any way?
You’ve made up your mind. And you’re certainly well within your rights to. I just wish you’d acknowledge that you’ve done exactly that.
Every rational, interested person weighs up both the evidence in support and evidence against to draw their own conclusions. My conclusions remain provisional.
I will accept the AGW hypothesis as theory if a model can be produced that predicts the temperature anamolies within 10% for each of the next six months. Models are useless unless they can make accurate predictions.
Okay: which anomaly? Land surface temp? Sea surface temp? Global average?
Why is it stated that “persons of individualistic and hierarchic worldviews,” which I assume to be a euphemism for conservatives, suffer from distortion due to their political beliefs but liberals (US version) do not? I know people who know very much less of science than I but strongly believe in CAWG. From my point of view, it is their political leanings that cause them to believe. That seems convenient for the activist climate scientists.
Why is it stated that “persons of individualistic and hierarchic worldviews,” which I assume to be a euphemism for conservatives, suffer from distortion due to their political beliefs but liberals (US version) do not?
Actually, Jim, that’s exactly what the study claims to show:
Thanks PDA. I’ve been busy with three other things and didn’t have time to read the entire piece.
Yes, it is clear that AGW believers reject any and all evidence that a global climate crisis is not at hand, in favor of apocalyptic hype.
This is a human foible that is seen throughout history, from Noah’s Ark stories to the various rapture movements and other popular delusions.
The idea you offer, that this is a left-right political divide ignores the many who are not politically conservative who have not set aside their skeptical thinking skills, and many on the right who have.
The point you raise is valid but it is also one that consistantly clowds the issues and clogs the pipes, so to speak. The IPCC is supposed to be a fact finding endeavour, and their focus was on “Climate Change”. It seems, as with all such things in politics, that the original focus has grown and evolved over time. They have morphed and matured and grown and sort of decayed into a General Motors kind’a thing over the years. I think it is better to look inward at the IPCC and not outward at those who must contend with the IPCC. Hummmm… there’s nothing more permanent than little governmental committee on whatever, is there?
Thanks Judy, I have had a problem Kahan’s work for a while but could not figure out what it was, with your post it finally fell into place.
It is exactly as Kahan says, but at a much more basic level than he seems to admit (or in dealing with this subject matter, it is more than people will want to admit). First, of course people are biased by their own worldview. 2 people with 2 different worldviews will see the same facts in 2 different ways.
Two groups that have fundamentally different worldviews (self minded versus social minded) will, most of the time, view the exact same information in different ways. Both can fully agree with with the data, but not the conclusions based on that data.
The precautionary principal is the best example. Egalitarian people like the PP. Individualistic people dislike it. It is not even the science it evaluates, it is the political process that it represents that is the conflict. Before you even evaluate the science, there is already a conflict on what to do based on it.
Individualistic people want a fair amount of proof that whatever they are doing is causing harm before they will accept regulations. Egalitarian people want a fair amount of proof that whatever is being done is completely harmless or else it should be regulated.
So in climate change, I can agree that science says man is having some effect on the climate. That is the data. To an Egalitarian person, that alone is enough to impose regulations. To an individualistic person, that is not enough to impose regulations.
The egalitarian IPPC comes in at this point and says, hey it is warming at least in part because of man and since we are precautionary principal minded, we have enough evidence to heavily regulate greenhouse gasses. It doesn’t really even matter if all the scientists were individualistic in their views, the pulling together of the data into a policy based on the precautionary principal is going to produce a report based on egalitarian values.
Anyone who references Kahan to show one side of the debate is right/wrong or that someones ideals are coloring their impression of science is not seeing the full picture. If another’s worldview is coloring their impression of science, then your worldview is also coloring yours. Science is in the business of staying away from worldviews, it produces facts. Politics is the business of catering to worldviews. A consensus is a group of people with a similar worldview and is purely political.
I have a bone to pick with this analysis. People who believe in the rule of law, individualism, and other similar ideas (I’m having trouble finding a word for it) are not necessarily “self-minded.” Many such people believe individualism, equality under the law (as opposed to economic equality), and the freedom to choose one’s actions in life is better for everyone, not just themselves alone. This view of government and society does not preclude government assistance to those who can’t help themselves. The difference is more in how it is implemented and administered. For example, a negative income tax rather than in income tax and welfare, a fair tax, etc. These can be means-tested for a smaller tax and more help for those who really need it. These sorts of ideas mean a smaller, less intrusive government and that is the main idea, not every man for him or her self.
I agree with Jim.
My problem with the PP is quantifying when the evidence is strong that even individuals can agree on the the need to prepare a defense. Supposedly the ozone depletion science was strong enough that we took expensive and energy wasteful actions. Now there is strong evidence the study period was too short and that the reactions of chemicals in the atnmosphere were not really understood. I’ve even seen the articles indicating that the recovering ozone leads to global warming.
There is a tendency amongst the Greens (as opposed to true environmental scientists) towards Pantheonism/Gnostism with every action that man makes is evil (dark) versus the “natural” good (light). This is religion, not science. Man is not inherently evil nor is nature inherently good.
Good greif, I agree with RT. Mind you, it is blindingly obviously correct (para 1 that is. I also agree with (a), though I don’t have the coverage to know that all Economists also agree).
As to Johnston: you’ve fallen for pap: http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2010/06/climate_denial_undermines_all.php
William, exactly what in the Stoat post is supposed to convince someone that Johnston’s essay is pap?
Consensus in science is like the boxscores of yesterday’s games that appear in today’s papers. That’s the only time consensus means anything. Boxscores appearing before the game starts, or during the game, are absolutely meaningless.
As long as questions are being sought, consensus is a non-issue – a pure distraction. Consensus comes when the game is truly over.
When it comes to climate science, the game is far from over. In fact, it’s just gotten kicked off (just happens the warmists won the coin flip).
And the sceptics just scored a safety.
Frederick Seitz, President Emeritus of Rockefeller University.
A Major Deception on Global Warming
Op-Ed by Frederick Seitz
Wall Street Journal, June 12, 1996
Building a “consensus” is easy if you do it right
Love this quote:
“..the key chapter setting out the scientific evidence for and against a human influence over climate–were changed or deleted after the scientists charged with examining this question had accepted the supposedly final text….”
A bit larger byte of the text is below. The article is required reading for information on IPCC “consensus” production.
“…A comparison between the report approved by the contributing scientists and the published version reveals that key changes were made after the scientists had met and accepted what they thought was the final peer-reviewed version. The scientists were assuming that the IPCC would obey the IPCC Rules–a body of regulations that is supposed to govern the panel’s actions. Nothing in the IPCC Rules permits anyone to change a scientific report after it has been accepted by the panel of scientific contributors and the full IPCC.
“…The participating scientists accepted “The Science of Climate Change” in Madrid last November; the full IPCC accepted it the following month in Rome. But more than 15 sections in Chapter 8 of the report–the key chapter setting out the scientific evidence for and against a human influence over climate–were changed or deleted after the scientists charged with examining this question had accepted the supposedly final text….”
I tackled the consensus question in a chapter of my thesis. Going post some of it (abridged) below. I was mostly concerned with consensus as a rhetorical device, specifically as part of something I called “the rhetoric of closure” – essentially seeking to effect closure in [public] debate. I fully recognize the problems of dividing the debate into “AGW advocates” and “climate skeptic” camps, but this is something I discuss earlier in the piece and a distinction I adopt for simplicity’s sake here:
The IPCC’s assessment reports are not consensus documents, although the principally important SPMs do, as I have described, reflect a “lowest-common denominator” consensus, reached through negotiations including some of the assessment report’s lead authors and government representatives. The notion
that 2,500 experts somehow approved the contents of an entire assessment report, or were even qualified to do so (considering the highly specialized nature of much of the science contained within), simply cannot be defended. To be fair, such a claim has never been made by the IPCC in its publications [that I know of], but it has been propagated by media accounts of the organization and by AGW advocates such as Al Gore. The IPCC is a remarkably open organization utilizing an extensive form of scientific peer-review, which does acknowledge and document disagreements within climate science [perhaps I was being too generous here]. Judging only by the relatively small number of its participating authors that have spoken out in opposition to its conclusions (specifically as worded in the SPMs), it does appear to generally represent the views of its contributors in the broadest possible sense. However, the level of agreement which exists among its participants in relation to various specific claims can only be inferred, and so the IPCC is more accurately considered as a mechanism by which a scientific consensus can be rhetorically constructed, rather than as a testament to a consensus view akin to the various global warming petitions.
Of course, if we take a more nuanced and realistic view of consensus among climate scientists as referring to a “generally agreed range of probable outcomes” that accepts disagreement on details (Edwards & Schneider 2001: 244), the IPCC position would indeed qualify as a consensus, but this is hardly what is suggested when the press announces that, “2,500 experts agree… climate change will include more severe weather, less water” (Internet Broadcasting Systems & Associated Press 2007), and it is this sort of “alarmist” portrayal of the IPCC consensus to which the climate skeptics respond.
Another tactic through which climate skeptics have challenged the existence of
consensus, particularly as defined by petitions and consensus statements representing the views of thousands of scientists, is to create petitions of their own. In a way, this is a numbers game that has as its objective the ability to construct statements such as:
The claim that the debate about the severity and cause of global warming is
“settled science” has taken a beating with the release of the names of 31,072
American scientists who reject the assertion that global warming has reached a
crisis stage and is caused by human activity. “No such consensus or settled
science exists”… (Bast 2008)
Several such petitions and lists have been created since the early 1990s…
The most frequently-cited attempt to quantify the AGW consensus is Naomi
Oreskes’ (2004) single-page essay in Science, which surveyed 982 peer-reviewed abstracts and found none that “disagreed with the consensus position”. The use of peer-review as a demarcation of science that excludes climate skeptics is a topic I will take up again, but at this point I will simply note that Oreskes’ claim of such an overwhelming consensus has elicited numerous counter-claims…
[List/petitions of those holding contrary views are] better thought of as questioning the unanimity of scientific opinion that the Oreskes study has come to symbolize, particularly by way of those who cite her work (specifically Al Gore) as conclusive evidence of the absence of disagreement. Subsequent studies that have attempted to quantify the range of perspectives among climate scientists in other ways
(Doran & Zimmerman 2009; Bray & von Storch 2007; 2008) have found high (though not unanimous) levels of agreement on the fundamentals of the AGW hypothesis, but greater uncertainty and ranges of opinion concerning the more detailed aspects of climate science.
What the above demonstrates is the challenge of pinning down what consensus
means in climate science, let alone determining a way to measure it. As Gilbert and Mulkay (1984, ch. 6) argue, any definitive measurement of scientific consensus is ultimately impossible, and consensus accounts are highly variable and linked to a particular “interpretive situation” (ibid.: 140). In considering the problem of AGW, what specific claims are supported by the consensus? What group is defined as the relevant population for the consensus, and how is eligibility for this population determined? What level of agreement is necessary among its members for consensus to be achieved? Unfortunately the rhetoric of closure tends to gloss over these questions, and construct a one-sided picture of unanimity that, in the hands of climate skeptics, becomes easily parodied and caricatured.
As noted earlier, “the science is settled” is thus a phrase commonly attributed to AGW
advocates by climate skeptics. As Gavin Schmidt (2009a) argues, climate scientists never use such language because they know full well that science does not have a binary set of settled and unsettled facts, and the statement is “associated almost 100% with contrarian comments on climate and is usually a paraphrase of what ’some scientists’ are supposed to have said”. I would disagree with Schmidt, and argue that this phrase is more often portrayed as something Al Gore or another politician is supposed to have said, both because “alarmist” politicians make easier targets than scientists, and also because they are more likely to actually use such language. Indeed, throughout the previous pages are many examples of such claims arguing for the closure of the controversy, and while many have done so with more nuance than “the science is settled”, some have not (Seabrook 2007), and not all of these claims can be blamed on poorly-informed journalists simplifying the complexities of climate science. The political need to “drive a nail in the coffin” of the global warming debate has infused representations of the science with a rhetoric of closure and certainty that has proved a challenging match for what is an inherently uncertain body of knowledge.
[In short: I would agree that the drive to reach or present consensus was flawed and in some ways, counterproductive. It made more sense as an approach in the 1990s, but has now, in some ways, backfired.]
Thanks, do you have an online link to your document?
Not really. ProQuest should eventually have it in their thesis database (institutional access required), but I’m not sure how long it takes for them to get it listed. I’ll send you an email, and if anyone’s interested try me at zajko (at) ucalgary.ca
sorry, the above should be mczajko (at) ucalgary.ca
I gots too manys emails.
Mile Hulme (CRU)is on the record as saying the 2500 scientist was disengenous, in reality a few dozen, this year.. It was in a very ‘post noram’ type paper he produced. If noone is aware of it, I’ll dig out the link.
The 2500 consensus would appear to be a bit of a pr/media construct that grew legs.
Barry, you should read this:
Thank you Marco. According to Hulme, in this piece, it seems that it was well-meaning-but-wrong monster promoters that gave the thing its 2,500 legs.
Very interesting. I hope you will make your thesis available in full.
Sorry, I cannot relate to this at all. There is no such thing as a consensus in science. Physics, which is the branch of science that deals with AGW, ought to be based exclusively on hard, measured, independently replicated, experimental data. There is no requirement for anything like a consensus when it comes to such data. And this, IMHO, is why the Royal Society chose as it’s motto Nullius in Verba. And why Richard Feynman said that science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.
This is the fundamental problem with AGW. It is sort of claimed that it is based on the methodology of physics that started with Galileo and Newton. But since one cannot do controlled experiments on the earth’s atmosphere, this classical methodology can never tell you anything about AGW.
I just wish people who seem to believe that there is a basis in physics to believe that AGW is real and a threat to humanity, would realize that, in point of fact, all that the physics tells is that we just dont know. Until there is a lot more hard data, again IMHO, that is how things will remain.
On a personal basis, from what I can see of what little hard data there is, it is far more likely that CO2 has an absolutely minimal effect on global temperatures.
But, if you were also an imaginative, sort of politically motivated kind’a guy who couldn’t resist the temptation to continue the search for the good of humanity, what then? Might you be a little more inclined to be a little creative in your assessments and projections? For “the good of humanity”, of course!! And if you like to write an occasional book, and dabble in real estate, etc., etc.,… well you get the picture, right? Temptation can be mighty tempting sometimes. A real case could be made many in the social sciences for thousands of research papers on the ‘human’ nature of the IPCC phenom and AGW and fear and several related topics that have absolutely nothing to do with the physics of Climate Change. People are like climate and the weather, very complicated and always changing.
September 28, 2010 at 8:21 am
But, if you were also an imaginative, sort of politically motivated kind’a guy who couldn’t resist the temptation to continue the search for the good of humanity, what then?
Again, sorry, I am just a physicist, who looks at the physcis behind AGW, and finds it wanting.
Jim Cripwell says:
September 28, 2010 at 10:26 am
“Again, sorry, I am just a physicist, who looks at the physcis behind AGW, and finds it wanting.”
You, Sir, have nothing to be sorry about. And I think you are NOT “just a physicist”. You have integrity, the fine, hard to find, grity kind. The kind, too few on the planet appear to possess these days; especially those with a bent for the political.
Pascvaks writes “You, Sir, have nothing to be sorry about.”
Thank you for the compliment; I hope I deserve it. I noticed you commented much as I have, that a scientific consensus is an oxymoron; a complete contradiction in terms. It simply does not, and cannot exist.
Yet here we have nearly 150 comments from intelligent people who seem to give the term legitimacy. The mind boggles.
Actually, consensus is mainly relevant to science-policy interface, not to pure science. The IPCC operates at the science-policy interface, i.e. it is an assessment for policy makers.
Judith writes “Actually, consensus is mainly relevant to science-policy interface, not to pure science”
I agree. But the argument made by the proponents of AGW is that, because a majority of climate scientists believe that the science shows that AGW is real, this is strong evidence to support AGW. What I am arguing for is the rejection of this proposition. Belief has no place in physics. The only thing that matters is the hard data.
Jim might think that there is no such thing as consensus in science, but there is no consensus on that, if I may say so. Yes, it’s about the evidence, and consensus forms on the basis and status of the evidence. Jim might think that the evidence is inadequate for AGW but a very large number of physicists disagree.
What such a consensus means to policy is a very different question. Science doesn’t determine policy, but it does influence it, or at least it should IMO.
See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_consensus
Dean, I think (at least I presume) that Jim means that there is no consensus IN science. ABOUT science is different, and certainly there can be a general agreement about what the science says. I think Jim is correct that, IN science, “consensus” is meaningless.
This strikes me as a fundamental problem of misconstruing the meaning of “consensus”, and I feel you’ve highlighted a key aspect. It is important – EXTREMELY so – to distinguish scientific evidence and scientific consensus.
If these are not clearly distinguished, those who are not scientists but who either form policy or electorally mandate it may be led to the mistaken impression that “consensus” forms, reinforces or even validates scientific evidence. It does not do this, and the illusion that it does is harmful to the scientific community.
I believe that a purposeful effort by some (far too many, far too central to the science, I might add) to misrepresent “consensus” as a validation of the science is what has ultimately backfired on climate science, resulting in serious damage to climate science’s credibility. One can refer to this as an assertion of postnormalism over the scientific norm.
What we refer to as “Climategate” is the lede to popular, viral (blogospheric and wider) understanding of this breach of scientific standards and integrity. The reason sceptics are absolutely sure that “Climategate” is still erupting is, I suspect, in large part because there is yet to be any scientific community acknowledgement of the influence of postnormalism in climate sciences, and little-to-no climate or wider scientific community rejection of it.
Simon – Not sure if the debate here is about semantics. The vast majority of people, in particular including policy-makers, have neither the time nor the expertise to evaluate the scientific evidence on any issue in which science plays a role. They have to ask scientists for an opinion on the state of that science.
Consider for example determining that a fossil represents a new species or not. Some scientist will discover a new fossil and after some examination, may declare that it is a new species. Others may disagree. Some time goes by, hopefully more versions of the same animal’s fossils are found. Eventually a determination is made, and it depends on what consensus develops on the issue. Is this a case of consensus validating (or not) the original claim that the fossil is a new species? It seems to me that it is so.
In that case, public policy is not being determined, but it does seem to me that the opinion of a great majority of the scientific experts on an issue does eventually lead to a resolution, and where public policy is in question, it can – and should – influence that policy. That doesn’t mean that others may not continue to disagree. Look at the issue of birds evolving from dinosaurs . Seems to me that a consensus is pretty well formed, but there still are holdouts.
If you are an expert on such an issue, you may not care about that consensus, because you can come to your own opinion. But most policy-makers cannot be an expert on the enormous list of issues that they must make decisions on. As such, they depend on the consensus, where it exists.
That still leaves open the issue of what involvement the IPCC should have on that. But for all of the focus on the IPCC, it bears repeating that the AAAS, the NAS, and virtually every scientific society on the globe agrees with the IPCC on most of the larger-scale issues of AGW. To me, that consensus is far more illuminating that any list of individuals.
In any individual chooses to believe otherwise, that is their right, but it strains credulity to me to suggest that that level of agreement among scientists should not be seriously considered by policy-makers.
Dean, I think a significant part of the issue is indeed semantic and a significant risk of confusion as a result.
In your fossil example, what establishes the new species in palaeontology is not the consensus that forms but the accumulation of supporting evidence. That is to say that if a palaeontologist identified a previously unseen species in the rock, the species would only become established and recognised in science with the on-going accumulation of more evidence, in the rock, in support of the theory.
The species would not become established in the science through the agreement and support (“consensus”) of her peers that the single specimen represented a newly discovered species. That is not the way science proceeds.
Regarding policy makers, I suspect you perceive the pointy end of policy development to be more narrow and yet less “sharp” than it is in reality. There is a gap between scientists and policy makers, and it is filled handsomely with advisers and civil servants who are not at all incapable of reading and intelligently interpreting documents such as the IPCC SPM. Moreover, this is what they do. It’s their job, and typically they’re in the role because they’re very good at it.
It is not the job of the scientist to do more than deliver the science.
if a palaeontologist identified a previously unseen species in the rock, the species would only become established and recognised in science with the on-going accumulation of more evidence, in the rock, in support of the theory.
Simon, it seems like you’re repeating almost word-for-word what Dean said above:
Is it the hot-button word consensus that troubles you? Is there another word that makes more sense to you that should be used instead to describe the process whereby species become established and recognized in science?
PDA, the point I was making came in the following para.
“The species would not become established in the science through the agreement and support (“consensus”) of her peers that the single specimen represented a newly discovered species. That is not the way science proceeds.”
My point was, again, to point out the difference between consensus and evidence. One (evidence) forms science, the other (consensus) doesn’t.
And yes, I know it’s obvious and it seems like pointless reiteration of a well-known fact, but fundamentally the issue is the historically oft-touted consensus by monster promoters as evidence that the “science is settled”, that scientists “overwhelmingly agree” (consensus) that AGW is real and – specifically – that anyone who disagrees with the “consensus” is “anti-scientific”.
I apologise for the Fisking, but let me be specific. PDA, you say:
It is the misuse of the word “consensus”. Consensus is a collective opinion, an agreement or an accord.
Yes, let’s use the term “endeavour”, or “observation” to describe the process of collecting “evidence” to form “science”.
One (evidence) forms science, the other (consensus) doesn’t.
What I’m asking about is how exactly does “evidence” become “science?” What is the process by which this occurs?
I appreciate that you’re trying to lead around to “consensus” being an integral part of the process of science, albeit you’re having to go around the houses to get there. I know I’m not making it easy, but that’s because fundamentally I disagree.
So let’s change tack a little. How about if I just reiterate my point, made long ago in this conversation, that: consensus is not evidence. Consensus may form as a result of the accumulation of evidence but does not itself exist as (and thus cannot be used or presented as) evidence. It may form ABOUT the science, but does not itself exist IN the science.
If you disagree, please feel free to explain why.
consensus is not evidence
What is it that you “fundamentally disagree” about? How would you describe “the process whereby species become established and recognized?”
I’m not trying to be cute or clever, I’m trying to determine what it is we disagree about… or if we even do.
I also don’t know that we disagree or, if we do, how so. Since we agree that consensus is not evidence, is it too much to presume that we agree that it is a logical fallacy to specifically present a claim of consensus (rather than, or in the absence of, substantial evidence) as a surrogate for the scientific validation of AGW?
I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave, some time ago.
is it too much to presume that we agree that it is a logical fallacy to specifically present a claim of consensus (rather than, or in the absence of, substantial evidence) as a surrogate for the scientific validation of AGW?
It is not.
Given that I have answered your questions, don’t you think it would be courteous of you to answer mine? What is the process whereby evidence becomes science? How would you describe “the process whereby species become established and recognized?”
If you decline to answer, would you be willing to explain why?
PDA, I’m certainly not refusing to answer. I’m just confused by the question, not for the content of the question but the purpose of asking it. You say – and I believe you – that you’re not being “cute or clever” but, that being the case, the alternative explanation for you asking me what the process is, is that you yourself don’t know the scientific method. This would surprise me.
The base presumption is that a new species does not exist. If evidence is found suggesting that a new species does exist then this would form the basis of a hypothesis to explain the presence of the apparent new species. The hypothesis is strengthened further by collection of new, objective evidence in support of it and against the counter-hypothesis that the discovery is anomalous, a malformation/aberration etc. Ultimately, if the evidence withstands impartial scrutiny (peer review) it becomes a scientific theory, i.e. testable, falsifiable and substantiated. The original presumption, that the species does not exist, is thus dispelled.
Simon – The evidence does not speak for itself – literally. I’ve never seen an article written by a rock or a fossil, or a tree ring or an ice core, for that matter. Scientists write the papers. Scientists read other’s papers and evaluate them. When enough scientists decide that the evidence is adequate, the issues moves toward being resolved, for the time being at least. Call it a consensus or call it something else. But it is those who are experts on the issue who make a determination.
While on the one hand this could just be a debate about semantics, I’m wondering if you’re just trying to deny the determination on AGW as supported by dozens of scientific academies around the work (and oh yeah, by the IPCC as well) by denying the role of _people_ (scientists) in making these decisions. Evidence is there, but it is up to people to use it to come to conclusions.
Dean, I didn’t suggest that the evidence speaks for itself, literally or figuratively. As to the rest of your post, you implicitly load the case for AGW with support from consensus suggesting that AGW is more than a hypothesis.
“When enough scientists decide that the evidence is adequate, the issues moves toward being resolved”
NO, sir! When the evidence is substantial, is verifiable/falsifiable and can be tested. NOT when a committee agrees that something is so.
You’re confusing gnosticism with science.
In gnosticism, proclamation – eg. the word of the Pope, with the support of his cardinals – is sufficient to enter an assertion into dogma.
Whatever you think it is, this is not science.
Dean, how many scientists does it take to make a consensus? How many scientists is, to use your word, “enough”? Two? Ten? 2,500?
Does something become more true, the more scientists put their name to it?
Does it become less true over time, as that “consensus” of scientists die of old age?
Consensus is not intrinsic to the scientific method. If someone hypothesises, creates experiments to test, observes, concludes, submits a paper which is peer-reviewed but, because it’s not very interesting, is overlooked by the majority of scientists who thus don’t come together to form a “consensus” in support, does that scientific hypothesis lie in scientific limbo forever, never becoming established in science?
IMO, a hypothesis becomes a theory when more than one scientist is able to use the hypothesis to predict an outcome on a consistent and accurate (within 95% of observed results) basis.
To date, the AGW hypothesis remains a hypothesis for the exact reason that it doesn’t pass the above test.
So, while there are a number of “scientists” who support the AGW hypothesis (forming a “consensus”), this consensus is not sufficient to elevate the hypothesis to the level of theory. It doesn’t matter how many scientists form this consensus either.
IMO, a hypothesis becomes a theory when more than one scientist is able to use the hypothesis to predict an outcome on a consistent and accurate (within 95% of observed results) basis.
That’s fine as opinion, but it’s not especially relevant to the hypothesis “humans are contributing to changing the climate by means of the emissions of greenhouse gases” which makes no specific predictions about the rate of warming. Different researchers – as I’m sure you know – have made different predictions about the rate of warming. None of those predictions rises to the level of “theory” for just the reason you say.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science defines ‘theory’ thus:
There is no bright line between hypothesis and theory, no ceremony where it is officially so designated. But the body of facts that support the hypothesis is large, and growing daily.
Jesus, calm the hell down. Who’s forcing you to post comments on the internet? If it bothers you so much go do something else, for Christ’s sake.
If you have any interest in continuing this conversation, please explain to me how you can assert that it is the repeated experiments, not any growing “consensus”, which results in acceptance over time. and in your next comment assert “[a]cceptance of the repeated experiments” does NOT ADD WEIGHT to the SCIENCE. It’s a direct contradiction.
JC: PDA (and SimonH also), this conversation is getting a bit emotional (and borderline profanity), take some deep breaths
The only way what I said could be regarded as a contradiction is if the reader confuses evidence and consensus. This, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, is both a danger and a reality.
I asserted that repeated experiments (verifying the original findings) will result in acceptance of the theory over time. Call this consensus.
This does not contradict my following assertion, that the consensus itself does not add weight to the science. A consensus is not an experiment that verifies the original findings, and because it is not, it cannot improve the science. It is not part of the science, it is merely one superficial measure of its popular acceptance.
And, again, my issue – stated right at the beginning – is that, despite this, consensus is being repeatedly presented as if it does amount to verification of the science, and that this is a logical fallacy.
I’m just repeating myself, trying to rephrase exactly the same point in the vain hope that the obstacle might be my own failure to effectively communicate my view. I’m no longer of this opinion and so, respectfully, I choose to bow out of this conversation.
consensus is being repeatedly presented as if it does amount to verification of the science
And my endeavor has been to dispute that point, and to make the case that it’s not consensus qua consensus that validates the science, but the verification that led to the consensus.
I’m sorry that the way I presented my case was clearly aggravating to you. Such was not my intent.
if the evidence withstands impartial scrutiny (peer review) it becomes a scientific theory
Do you think that a single study, published in a refereed journal, is sufficient for something to be declared a theory? Do you have any examples of this being the case?
Would you agree, rather, that postulates and hypotheses become accepted science over time, as repeated experiments verify them? If “consensus” is an undesirable word, can we use “acclamation” or something less charged? And is it possible to agree that replicability of results and consilience between related fields is intrinsic to the establishment of a scientific theory?
If someone hypothesises, creates experiments to test, observes, concludes, submits a paper which is peer-reviewed but, because it’s not very interesting, is overlooked by the majority of scientists who thus don’t come together to form a “consensus” in support, does that scientific hypothesis lie in scientific limbo forever, never becoming established in science?
If the experiment is not replicated or used as the basis for other experiments which verify and/or extend it, it’ll make little impact, yeah. If, on the other hand, it’s relicated and cited widely, that one paper may be the basis for a new understanding.
This is different than what you seem to be asserting about consensus, that it’s the result of some Olympian body of überscientists anointing one particular paper with magical science oil.
I’m fairly sure my point was not lost on you.
“Do you think that a single study, published in a refereed journal, is sufficient for something to be declared a theory? Do you have any examples of this being the case?”
If a single study makes a finding which withstands testing/verification/falsification/peer review and advances a theory, yes. Do you have any examples to refute my assertion that this mechanism is integral to the scientific method?
“Would you agree, rather, that postulates and hypotheses become accepted science over time, as repeated experiments verify them?”
This does not conflict with my point. But it is the repeated experiments, not any growing “consensus”, which results in acceptance over time. Consensus is meaningless in scientific experimentation.
” If “consensus” is an undesirable word, can we use “acclamation” or something less charged?”
Of no import. It is your insistence in misusing the word “consensus”, as I’ve pointed out before, that I find unwelcome. I think you’re trying to labour a semantic to try to keep alive a point that died and isn’t worth resuscitating. And no, I don’t find it cute or clever.
“And is it possible to agree that replicability of results and consilience between related fields is intrinsic to the establishment of a scientific theory?”
Replicability and reproducibility are fundamental to the scientific method. Consilience is useful, where possible, and certainly lends itself to the establishment of a theory. Neither of these have anything to do with consensus.
“If the experiment is not replicated or used as the basis for other experiments which verify and/or extend it, it’ll make little impact, yeah. If, on the other hand, it’s relicated and cited widely, that one paper may be the basis for a new understanding.”
While I agree that replication and experimentation which verify/extend the theory are beneficial, wide citation of the paper has no impact on the validity of the theory itself. Acceptance of the theory perhaps, but not the theory itself.
“This is different than what you seem to be asserting about consensus, that it’s the result of some Olympian body of überscientists anointing one particular paper with magical science oil.”
On the contrary, my assertion about consensus is and always has been that it is not in any way part of the science. It is ABOUT the science, not IN the science. It is not itself data in support of an experiment, in support of a theory. It is superficial. It is metadata.
Additionally, my point has also been that it is inappropriate to treat consensus, where it exists, as “magical science oil”. I’ve repeatedly made this point, and it is a point on which I recall you agreed with me.
So please, make your point already.
My apologies for the post above. No idea how that happened.
I take back anything nice I said about this new stylesheet. It is crap.
If a single study makes a finding which withstands testing/verification/falsification/peer review and advances a theory, yes
Do you have any examples of that being the case; of a single study being anointed a full-fledged theory?
wide citation of the paper has no impact on the validity of the theory itself. Acceptance of the theory perhaps, but not the theory itself.
Agreed, but you didn’t say anything about “validity,” your question was specifically about acceptance of a given theory.
But it is the repeated experiments, not any growing “consensus”, which results in acceptance over time.
Acceptance of the repeated experiments is scientific consensus. THAT is my point. Recognition that an hypothesis has been validated by repeated experimentation leads to the consensus that the theory adequately explains phenomena. You have stated your agreement with every bit of this statement, so long as the hated ‘C’ word is not included.
It’s not me who’s belaboring semantics. It’s you.
“Acceptance of the repeated experiments is scientific consensus. THAT is my point.”
THAT is your point? Then why the hell didn’t you make it, days ago? Then I could have AGAIN pointed out that MY point was never about whether a consensus could exist, or should exist, or did exist. My point ALWAYS was that “[a]cceptance of the repeated experiments” does NOT ADD WEIGHT to the SCIENCE, has no IMPACT on the SCIENCE, and SHOULD NOT be PRESENTED as if it WERE.
Honestly, I’m gutted. Where can I file to get the last 2 days of my life back, please?
I’m just going to agree with AllenC, above. What he says.
Okay, I think I’m getting closer. How about this: the actual guilt or innocence of a defendant is an abstract fact. How the jury votes doesn’t change whether that person is in fact innocent or guilty. However, how they vote does determine whether the defendant will be punished.
Similarly, in the abstract, the opinion of one or a hundred or a thousand scientists doesn’t affect whether AGW is true. But it does affect what policy we may choose to adopt.
If this is the difference between your IN science of OF science, fine. But the consensus of scientists does affect both public perception of an issue (at least it should) as well as public policy. If it doesn’t, what else should?
Dean, thank you! Yay! I think this is definitely progress! :)
I’m pretty worn out with this particular intricacy – though that’s not to say that I don’t think it’s an immensely important issue, minuscule though I’m sure it appears to onlookers. Let me simply say that I concur with Don Aitkin’s observation, which I think is a rounded and excellently expressed concern over the political (not scientific) and miscommunicated “consensus”, importantly taking in Pat Cassen’s post immediately above it.
So sorry, my mistake.. I said: “It does not do this, and the illusion that it does is harmful to the scientific community.”
I meant to say “It does not do this, and the illusion that scientists believe that it does is harmful to the scientific community.”
Jim, as a fellow physicist, I entirely agree. You put it very succinctly. I am always amazed that many physicists seem to accept the AGW hypothesis without there being any evidence in support of it and with nothing to disprove the hypothesis that the climate changes are all natural.
Philip, clearly there is a presumption that the work being performed in the field is pursuant to the scientific method. If they only knew…
“Without there being any evidence to support it”
You’re a physicist and you don’t think there is ANY evidence?
Are all those scientific societies just leftist socialists bent on global government and controlling your life and taking your liberty away?
Regarding all those scientific societies falling in to line..
It appears they are starting to fall out of line again.
The evidence that CO2 is a major contributor is not there….those of the sceptical side tend to look for the evidence. (anyone who purporst to be interested in science should be on the sceptical side.. what eveidence have you seen that you find compelling, I have not seen any.) The only evidence I see is that there is not enough evidence to cause me to support multi trillion dollar changes to the economies of many countries
I’ll ask again, for S&G. It’s becoming an increasing source of amusement to me that so many can’t give a straight answer to this question:
What would you accept as “evidence” of anthropogenic climate change? Given that we’ll never find fingerprints on the trigger or DNA on a cigarette tip, what would this “evidence” look like?
Talking about the Royal Society, and consensus, note that the Royal Society, under intense pressure from 40 of its fellows, has dramatically altered its statement on climate science.
They still give too much credibility to the IPCC, but at least they have shifted a bit (unlike the US APS).
To everyone who still thinks there was a consensus : given how much it has just shifted, it obviously wasn’t much use in the first place, was it??
And if you still think there is a consensus, please note that the Royal Society now says : “There remains the possibility that hitherto unknown aspects of the climate and climate change could emerge and lead to significant modifications in our understanding.“.
The Royal Society pdf has this in it’s second paragraph:
“There is strong evidence that the warming of the Earth over the last half-century has been caused largely by human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels and changes
in land use, including agriculture and deforestation.”
It says that sensitivity to CO2 doubling is 2-4.5 degrees C.
I don’t know what changed from the previous version but a quick scan didn’t see anything to undermine the basic AGW premise.
When caught out, allways best to change direction slowly… If too abrubtly and contradicting what your voice of authority said people might actually notice ;)
Allow me to translate that quote from the Royal Society into plain english :-
The science is not settled.
Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is progress!
Consensus (Democracy) is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.
Media Control (Autocracy) is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again, too. Who decides?
— Robert A. Heinlein
Heinlein was a was man, as was Lazarus Long.
Oops, should have read: Heinlein was a wise man, as was Lazarus Long
The problem with consensus science/politics from the public’s point of view:
As a member of the public this is how I (and I’m sure many others) perceive the scientific consensus view on Global Warming.
The majority of the public are reasonably well educated, can apply the sniff test to what they are being told but are not scientists. This is what the Global Warming fraternity is facing:
• The IPCC is pushing a hypothesis (and I mean hypothesis in the scientific sense) that over-generation of CO2 is causing the planet to overheat in a dangerous way. Therefore it is fair to heap huge taxes on the public to eliminate the cause. This is not perceived to be a good idea.
• The scientists blame man-made CO2. CO2 occurs naturally. People generate CO2. How can the scientists distinguish between the two types? Plants need CO2; just about every living entity on the planet either inhales and/or exhales CO2. How can it possibly be bad for us?
• The US EPA has even declared CO2 to be a pollutant, how mad is that?
• There has been no evidence produced by the scientists and transmitted to the public that explicitly demonstrates cause (CO2) and effect (global warming).
• That the planet is overheating is at odds with the public’s everyday experience.
• The scientists go on about a global temperature which the public sees as meaningless; what is the ideal temperature of a body that doesn’t have a stationary temperature on it at any time of the day or at any time of the year?
• Warnings of doom are purveyed by the scientists because mathematical models under certain (often extreme) scenarios project the meaningless global temperature to rise by parts of a degree when the temperature around their homes can change by many degrees between night and day.
• Many of the public actively seek a holiday where the daytime temperatures may be tens of degrees higher than their normal day to day experience. If the planet warms by half of a degree over the next few years; so what?
• Global warming is always pushed as being bad, bad, bad; why? More people die during the winter than during the summer. Cold is definitely bad; the public perceives warm to be good.
• The public hates being patronised by scientists who should, but demonstrably don’t, necessarily know better.
• The public understands that evidence has to be measured and be relevant to confirming the hypothesis; areas of ice for example, may be measurable, but changing values do not demonstrate cause and effect of global warming.
• There has been no evidence to demonstrate that anything abnormal is happening to the world let alone that we are on the pathway to doom (not from the climate anyway). The public are not persuaded that volcanic eruptions, tidal waves and tropical storms are abnormal or support the hypothesis.
• The public understands that consensus doesn’t necessarily mean correct; they are all aware of the ‘flat earth experts’ and where their pontifications led them.
• The public sees sleight of hand at every turn:
o Because the message isn’t getting over, global warming became climate change which has now become global climate disruption by which any ‘event’ can now be assumed to be a result of CO2.
o number of polar bears is growing not declining
o the arctic was almost devoid of ice in the fifties, submarines surfaced there, so why should we expect/need it not to happen again?
• But most of all, the public knows that its wallets are being raided at every turn in the cause of saving the planet from global warming that it hasn’t even experienced at first hand.
In the recent past the public has been bombarded with scientific reports that, for example find that: butter is bad, six months later according to science butter is now good, MMR good, MMR bad – MMR good again, vegetarian diet good then bad etc. The public is fed up with contradictory science.
Until such time as climate science reports can be published with their measured data, errors, relevance and repeatability explicitly demonstrated in such a way that they will not be rebutted in the next report then the public will not be persuaded by the arguments. But many will be frightened by them.
Worse still, the public is finding it more and more difficult to take the incessant and direct impacts on their daily lives that mitigation of an unconfirmed hypothesis is having.
And finally, what is really sad is that the low esteem in which climate scientists are held by the public today is tarnishing the status of all scientists regardless of their discipline. Climate science has a responsibility to get its act together.
Great list! I would add to it:
* China and India will continue to burn oil, coal, and natural gas no matter what the developed world does.
* Modest cuts in CO2 emissions will do nothing to stop the warming, assuming the CAWG is true.
* Cuts of CO2 emissions large enough to make any difference, again assuming CAWG is true, will send us back to the Middle Ages. We might as well do nothing now and see if CAWG pans out or not. We won’t be any worse off.
Using this logic we can safely conclude that there is no such thing as oxygen toxity, nor Carbon Dioxide poisoning. Of course, both exist (see links) so the argument is clearly (transparently) invalid. And to avoid confusion, I am not claiming that CO2 emmissions from industry present a risk of global hypercapnia. I am just demonstrating that the argument that ‘because Carbon dioxide occurs naturally, therefore it can’t be harmful’ fails at the first hurdle. What is more, everyone knows clear counterexamples to that general argument, so its use is an indication of ideology, not reason.
I just noticed a little error in your Blogroll, it´s “Klimazwiebel”, not “Klimazweibel”.
(feel free to remove this comment)
greetings from Germany, UL
Thanks, I will fix it
“There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”
— Robert A. Heinlein
Which just goes to show that Heinlein was an idiot. Or put differently, run that one past the Jews in Auschwitz.
Give me some relevance without invoking the Nazi’s. Or do you prefer the Stalinists?
I agree with Heinlein. Individual freedom is what build the US. We need more of it, not less.
You might want to get up to speed on your history.
Germany already had a socialist government when Hitler came to power. Nazi, in fact, is short for National Socialism. That is one danger inherent in socialism. Once the government has control of businesses and individuals, all it takes is for a bad guy to get control and the country and its people are severely damaged. Even if that particular danger does not materialize, socialism is the opiate of the economy. Even if the government doesn’t literally take control of businesses, it can hog tie them with excessive regulations. This is probably a big reason why conservatives don’t want to see the government get more control in order to “fight” global warming. To them, socialism is a huge negative, perhaps even a larger negative than if CAWG is true. Having said that, one can be conservative and still object to CAWG on evidentiary grounds.
Why????????????????? This is insane. Why do you throw matches with one hand and gasoline with the other?
Apparently I have realy stirred up a nest of hornets. Without thoroughly disecting Heinlein’s statement (which would be well and truly off topic), it should be very obvious that death camps are a worse form of tyranny than taxation. And, of course, Pol Pot’s regime was a worse form of tyranny than is taxation, and Mao’s and Stalins, and so endlessly through all the outrages of history, including – and not to be forgotten- slavery in the US, and blackbirding (slavery by a different name) in my native Queensland. In fact, African Americans lived under a worse form of tyranny than taxation as recently as the 1950’s, and South Africans as recently as the 1990’s; and the majority of the world continues to do so today. The case of the death camps, however, was so brutal and obvious that the point should not need arguing. Apparently, however, there are those here for whom ideology trumps all common sense (surprise, surprise).
Roger Pielke Jr has a relevant post
entitled “Establishing Credibility by Acknowledging Uncertainties and Ignorance”
What amount of this whole ‘skepticism’ is due to natural variability in the views (and grass roots organization), and what part has been manufactured by the think tanks and the PR companies which Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, etc are funding?
It is good to show our interest to science. But what’s going on here is the vilification of scientists, the casting of doubt on the scientific method.
Judith, do you recognize that a significant part of the ‘skepticism’ is manufactured?
Janet, I look at the argument. If someone makes an argument that is skeptical of the consensus position, I consider it based upon the strength of the argument. If the person or organization making the argument has an obvious agenda, then the argument and its basis deserves extra close scrutiny. But it is wrong to dismiss an argument out of hand because the person making the argument has an agenda or is funded by an organization with an agenda. This is the “appeal to motive” fallacy.
The public is confused because the scientists are not as good as the Moranos of the world when in the limelight and as Janet states, there is a well-organized machine keeping them confused. Essentially scientists are coming to a gun fight armed with knives.
To not accept that humans are causing global warming one must conclude:
1) An overwhelming majority of international climate experts are ignorant about their own expertise in a sudden and collective manner.
2) They have all agreed to conspire to delude the billions of folks on the planet and just a very tiny percentage of them (and mostly oil-funded and unpublished) are trying to save us all from this mass hoax.
One can argue about the impact of AGW, but I find it quite astonishing that some here are still doubting that there is AGW or that scientific knowledge and consensus are mutually exclusive.
Historian of science, Naomi Oreskes of UC San Diego, states: “Scientific knowledge is the intellectual and social consensus of affiliated experts based on the weight of available empirical evidence, and evaluated according to accepted methodologies. If we feel that a policy question deserves to be informed by scientific knowledge, then we have no choice but to ask, what is the consensus of experts on this matter.”
Please think this through. What has been more contested than evolution?
Yet it is fine. But biologists are not spending any of the amount of effort that climate scientists are in marketing seminars.
People smell makreting a mile away, and climate science, unfortunately, reeks of it.
Falling back on conspiracies to blame the problem of AGW promoters in selling their apoclaypse is annoying and derivative.
Scott A Mandia says “To not accept that humans are causing global warming one must conclude:
1) An overwhelming majority of international climate experts are ignorant about their own expertise in a sudden and collective manner.
2) They have all agreed to conspire to delude the billions of folks on the planet and just a very tiny percentage of them (and mostly oil-funded and unpublished) are trying to save us all from this mass hoax.”
There is a third explanation. Climate scientists dont want to “put their heads above the parapet”, to use the expression from Sir Alan Rudge. There is a lot of anecdotal einformation, some of which I know of personally, whereby scientists in general, and climate scientists in particular, know that the fastest way to end their academic career is to be publicly skeptical of AGW. So far as I am aware there has been no secret ballot when asking climate scientists what they think.
speaking only for myself:
I do “not accept that humans are causing global warming” but I do not reject the possibility “that humans are causing global warming” while I also do not reject the possibility that humans are not causing global warming. The devil is in accessing the level of certainty, making a judgment call.
If we reverse your dichotomy, to accept the “consensus” position one must reject that there is any possible non-man-made mechanism by which the globe can warm.
To accept that ther is no possible non-made means of causing global warming one must either believe
1) An overwhelming majority of international climate experts are ignorant about their own expertise in a sudden and collective manner.
2) They have all agreed to conspire to delude the billions of folks on the planet and just a very tiny percentage of them (and mostly environmentalists and Luddites) are trying to save us all from this mass hoax.
But it is a false dichotomy, the world isn’t so simply black and white.
You do not understand the culture of science. Scientists who self-promote are shunned. Look what happened to Carl Sagan when he reached out to the public. Skeptics cannot claim that scientists are alarmists and engaging in marketing while at the same time complaining that they are locked in their ivory towers and not communicating.
If increases in CO2 are not causing modern day global warming then two things must be true:
1) Something unknown is suppressing the well-understood greenhouse effect (and doing so during massive increases in GHGs).
2) Something unknown is causing the warming that mirrors the GHE.
So we can accept what we know to be true (AGW) or we accept two unknowns.
Scott Mandia says “So we can accept what we know to be true (AGW) or we accept two unknowns”. What an unscientific statement. I find it astonishing and deeply worrying that an academic can say “we know to be true” when there is no evidence. I hope this “we know” without evidence is not taught to the next generation. I wonder whether he has any scientific training.
Scott, this is pure guff. There is a clear trail of intense climate alarmist marketing. There is also an established pattern of climate scientists wagon-circling, obfuscation and failure to engage with critics.
Your suggestion that either of these has not happened is plain silly, and the suggestion that these two are mutually exclusive is much worse.
I think a more relevant examples would be James Hansen. Is he being castigated in any way for his blatant profiteering and political action by his peers?
Sagan was safe in tenure at Cornell (ivory tower) while writing his best sellers, teaching us all to say ‘billions and billions’, and was completely safe while pushing his politics-veiled-as-science.
I think he would be a great example, along with Hansen, of being able to hide out in academia while playing politics, knowing that any push back can be stopped by accusing those pushing of some sort of academic suppression.
1) Since the greenhouse effect is well understood please do all of the climate scientists, particularly the IPCC, and me a favor and explain it to us. For those of us who don’t have the advantage of understanding the greenhouse effect well, there are any number of questions, like exactly how much of the current warming trend is directly due to GHGs. It is nice to know that the greenhouse effect is finally well understood, and after you explain it to everyone, we will not have to introduce any new parts to the theory like aerosol masking or forcings. You must excuse me for retaining some reservations, while I certainly don’t expect you to explain how the greenhouse effect works in the Earth’s climate in under 2000 pages but I eagerly await the complete explanation of the greenhouse effect, as no doubt do our hostess and the entire climate modeling community. Could you please stop teasing us about this wonderful understanding of the greenhouse effect you have and answer a few questions:
a) how much of the current warming is directly attributable to GHGs and how much to other factors (or how much more warming could we expect from the current level of GHGs but don’t see because of masking from other factors)
b) which GHGs are causing the warming and in what proportions
c) what has stopped greenhouse effect from running away in the past when GHGs were more concentrated than now
argh, so many questions I alone have for you about the greenhouse effect, just those 3 please, the rest will wait until you publish.
2) Mirrors the GHE? Until the introduction of the aerosol theory and forcings the observed warming only vaguely mirrored that of the GHE. Unfortunately those of us limited to the published body of literature on the GHE are unable to make a judgment on how well it mirrors the GHE, we are limited to the incomplete and partial understanding of the GHE until you publish. I look forward to learning more about how the GHE works and will certainly re-access my opinion when you publish – until then for everyone except you the way in which the GHE mirrors warming is something unknown.
climate is an area where there are far more unknowns than knowns. our understanding of how climate works is getting better all the time, but we are still at the point where every time we discover the answer to one question it creates three new questions. we are still at the point where we cannot be positive that we know all the major components of climate much less be positive that we know how they all interact. that doesn’t mean we cannot make guesses, and theorize with a high degree of certainty but we have to constantly remember that it isn’t completely understood and those theories can always be wrong.
Not withstanding Oreskes, “scientific knowledge” is not “the intellectual and social consensus of affiliated experts…” Under the scientific method of inquiry, the percentage of “affiliated experts” holding a view is unrelated to the veracity of this view.
I don’t see it as a villification of scientists; I see it as a villification of the political forces behind the scientists. In my dealings with scientists, most seem to truely love their work, and due to this love the are very altruistic. I think the issue is that with the variety of types of scientists (geologist, physicists, chemists, environmentalists) involved in climate change issues, there are other groups utilizing their output and adapting it to their views. As an engineer, I take the science and adapt it to my needs, unfortunately ignoring the portions that don’t affect me.
Please see my post below regarding the shabby treatment of Dr. Pielke. Please read anything by Joe Romm.
Here’s another way to look at all this “confusion” – Think of it as the WORLD’s BIGGEST GREATEST MUD WRESTLING CONTEST. The longer it lasts, the more muddy and filthy and indistinguishable all the participants become. Let’s say that this mud fight goes several rounds and the audience is now really getting turned off.
For what it’s worth, I agree some scientists don’t meet my own criteria. Nature’s treatment of Dr. Pielke was abhorent, and there are too many others to list.
I’m just trying to stay out of the name calling cycle while showing that most scientists, pro, con or neutral are trying to make unbiased studies. I don’t relate this to groups like the IPC because they are “other” driven – primarily by their own “I know what’s best for the world philosophy”.
There’s no question that the Koch brothers and other conservative philanthropists fund conservative think tanks. However, a lot of what they do is misrepresented so as to make the molehill of organised opposition to mainstream climate science look like a mountain. I wrote a piece earlier this year detailing contributions from Koch that went mostly to long-established conservative think tanks. The money involved was respectable, but not overwhelming. In almost all cases, contributions started long before global warming. In almost all cases, these think tanks covered mainstream domestic and foreign policy issues and did some stuff on global warming as well.
It decidedly did not look like the Koch brothers financing a war on global warming activism. It really looked very much like conservatives giving liberally to other conservatives.
As for Mandia’s comment, first, Morano isn’t that good. He’s competent, but not a specatacular orator. Unquestionably the best communicator on the skeptic side is Lindzen, partly due to his resume and partly because he plays against type, speaking slowly and patiently, without any sense of urgency.
And scientists don’t need to show up to this ‘fight’ with anything except data. That’s superior firepower, as far as I’m concerned. But what happens is they show up with model runs and reasons not to read The Hockey Stick Illusion and ridiculous papers in PNAS seeking to confer legitimacy on one side of the issue with phoned-in research that wouldn’t pass a high school statistics test.
At which point activists probably do feel out-gunned. But the remedy is simple.
I’d like to see the money spent by Koch and “big oil” on skeptics vs. the amount of money given climate scientists and NGO’s to do research and sell the apocalypse, respectively … well, mostly respectively.
I agree with your comment about Lindzen. He is definitely the best communicator on the sceptic side. I’d go further: I can’t think of anyone I’ve seen on the consensus side who can match his gravitas.
“But the remedy is simple.”
It does seem that the remedy is simple and obvious, but curiously it is seldom employed by those convinced that the science is “in” with regards to CAGW–at least in public forums. More typically, advocates of the CAGW orthodoxy favor attacks on a skeptic’s person, associations, credentials, motivations, etc., employing invidious comparisons, innuendo, and the like. Alternatively, ingenious indirect “proofs” of the CAGW consensus are sometimes produced like those of Mr. Mandia, above, in lieu of the hard-core scientific data claimed to be available. And, of course, Cassandra-like prognostications of doom have a special place in the orthodox cannon.
A possible explanation for this very odd state of affairs: In simpler times, a society embarking on a major enterprise would consult priests who in turn would examine sheep entrails or the like and declare the will of the gods. And we can imagine that successful priests were adept at discovering readings that neatly fit the desires and ambitions of the autocrat that provided the priests with their pampered lifestyle.
In modern times, I suspect that there is a felt need by certain power brokers for a service, like that once provided by a captive priesthood, by which unpopular agendas can be successfully promoted in a democratic polity. Perhaps scientists and science are seen by those with agendas to push as the closest equivalent of the pagan priesthoods and their oracular truths. But for the ancient magic to be recaptured, “science” must be converted from a rational, free-wheeling, empirically based process to one of occult received truths, of the sort only a heretic might dare question. Hence the irrational push-back by advocates of “settled science” and the public policy that flows from it. That is, rational debate of scientific propositions, like the discussions on this blog, are poison to science as the will of the gods.
I just spotted a relevant essay by Mike Hulme
entitled “The IPCC, Consensus and Science”
What is being missed in the UN IPCC story was partially pointed out by Dr. Loehle. The UN IPCC was pre-determined to make extreme conclusions. From this, I don’t think people working for the science of global warming fully grasp that the institutions survival and growth depends on the extremist views, not the moderate ones. The case was decided well before anyone really knew anything about climate change. The hockey stick plots were perfect for the purposes of this organization and were widely used, now it’s becoming mainstream knowledge that the methods are substantially flawed in paleo literature and non-paleo climatologists don’t want to touch it with a 50 ft pole.
A second problem that has occurred is the extreme left bias of the scientists and politicians in general, who have formed the IPCC. More conservative (and successful) countries recognize the proposed policies and controls for the destructiveness they truly represent. The Chinese won’t even touch the policies because of the economic destruction they would wreak. It’s no surprise that scenarios with large global controls of emissions have the best outcome, and capitalist style solutions are shown in a more negative light. That is what you get when you combine a group of socialists in a room and ask them what to do about global warming.
The third problem is the ‘apparent’ lack of understanding of the state of electrical engineering technology. Promoting absolutely unworkable power sources like biofuel, wind and solar with today’s technology are simply additional loads on the economy which cannot solve (or even dent) the problems as posited. Spend a half day with a calculator and you can see biofuel cannot and will not ever ever work. Nor does wind or solar. Solar may in 30 years or so but NOT today.
The IPCC and climatologists only have one option with today’s technology Nuclear fission power. But that option is horribly unpopular amongst the left environmentalists, primarily through misconceptions but it is not given the proper place in the discussion. Saying all of the above, is a feel good excuse used often by climatologists. Sure sounds nice, except that it is one hundred percent unscientific. There is no uncertainty in what we can do today, failure to recognize that simple fact, just gives those of us who are skeptical about the extremist conclusions and the activist nature of the AGW movement another confirmation of what we already suspected.
Finally, not that I can’t keep going. The continued exaggerations of doom by AGW and the extent of our knowledge without a single complaint from those who are supposed to be reasonable voices in the science, is a huge key. When people publish papers about fish shrinking 40% – 37% from overfishing and another ‘unexplained’ 3% which must be global warming – how does that pass review? Sheep, bird, plants, crop growth, all shrinking, and all because of AGW. It’s bull for the purpose of getting money and everyone knows it, so why allow this stuff to continue to ruin the case of the good science?
Hopefully you find this frank language acceptable for your blog because this is a big part what is wrong with the consensus.
Well, I’d agree about the usefulness of Wind, Solar and especially biofuels… Wind especially is not suitable for a large proportion of grid electricity. Solar power can be useful in some applications, where grid connections are not available.
Whereas an economy based around breeder reactor designs – thorium and uranium , domestic electrification (heating and cooking), and full or part-synthetic fuels from off-peak power would be able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions dramatically (>90%) without impacting people’s lifestyles. Indeed, such a scheme would make the cost of energy dependent on technology – which tends to improve over time – instead of the whims of exporting countries.
Of course, this kind of scheme tends to be opposed by (some) environmentalists on grounds of using nuclear power on a very large scale, and libertarians on the grounds that some central planning would be required. And, of course, the coal and oil industries, who would stand to lose out.
Good points. I would support the large scale increase of nuclear power wholeheartedly.
I really think it’s time to put to bed the idea that coal and oil are actually coal and oil businesses. They are investors and prospectors in energy, first and foremost. That is their business. Their medium may traditionally be oil, coal and gas but they will prospect and invest in any technology or vehicle which is energy-related and which they perceive will result in profit. Having chosen a new medium, they will do whatever is necessary to protect their investment.
Oreskes’ Merchants Of Doubt inadvertently set in stone a strategy paradigm which in reality is not set in stone. Environmental activist scientists have failed to recognise the energy industry’s strategic paradigm shift. They took their eye off the ball and, to this day, still erroneously claim that “Big Oil” is behind climate scepticism.
I would argue that ad hominem attacks against the widening community of sceptics, based on this rolling and almost wholly un-addressed and uncorrected error, continue to diminish the credibility of the “consensus”. They also directly serve to rapidly disenfranchise those with open minds, entering the blogosphere, who are seeking to form a considered opinion of the state of climate science.
Judgments in law and politics is reached by an adversarial process where both sides of an issue are expected to only present the facts that support their position and attempt to discredit the facts that do not. Judgments in science are reached by a different process where all participants are expected to be scrupulously honest presenting all of the information needed to assess their judgments. (See Feymann’s Cargo Cult Science.) For this reason, responsible journalists normally present information from scientists without rebuttal, but are always expected to provide equal time to both sides of a political or legal controversy.
Ironically. the difference between science and advocating policy is most clearly illustrated by the quote below from Steven Schneider – which was intended to urge scientist to become involved in the political process:
“On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”
Looking at Schneider’s description of the difference between science and advocacy, does anyone really believe that the IPCC has not strayed from its charter to produce a purely scientific assessment of AGW and let governments decide what to do with this information.
So why is there a defining silence by such as Mike here when policy makers say “2,500 of the world’s leading scientists say…..”.
If this is not a true statement, why does he not proclaim it when so many policy makers make the claim?
“..Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous. That particular consensus judgement, as are many others in the IPCC reports, is reached by only a few dozen experts in the specific field of detection and attribution studies; other IPCC authors are experts in other fields…”.
Mike does try and slip away from the above statement later though
Correcting and Clarifying Hulme and Mahony on the IPCC Consensus
Further Clarification of my Remarks about the IPCC and Consensus
Just to be clear, I don’t, haven’t and won’t deny global warming. In fact I’ve supported the science of it on multiple occasions.
Where I’m skeptical is in the magnitude of the warming, the certainty of that magnitude, and most skeptical of the disasterous outcomes. IMO, you will find that the planet and population are far more adaptable than is assumed. Life is tough, not fragile.
I’m still waiting for any reply at all to MMH10 — climate models 2 to 4 times observations.
This needs to be more clearly written. I don’t expect specifically a reply from Judith but from modelers and professionals of climate science in general. It is a very serious issue with the magnitude of the warming that has been exposed but we only hear silence.
Jeff what is MMH10?
Not to answer for Jeff, but I think this is the MMH10 that is referenced.
McShane and Wyner 2010 in the Annals of Applied Statistics
…and regarding the MMH10 paper, I find
compelling on one hand and the basic problems with long-term radiosonde observations compelling on the other hand.
Unfortunately, James Annan’s analysis is incomplete, as saying that observations are consistent with model realizations in a particular observable still begs the question of whether modeled causes for departure from the ensemble mean are consistent with the nature of the observed departure from the ensemble mean. Much more work should be done.
Regarding the apparent discrepancy between observed and modeled values of upper tropospheric temperatures. I agree with John N-G that much more work is needed to sort out this issue and understand it. But it looks like a potentially serious discrepancy that raises a whole host of possible issues with the models.
A reasonable position. The problem I have is the fact that people aren’t paying enough attention to this. AR5 is being assembled and here we have very clear evidence that models are substantially overestimating observations.
As an engineer, I would immediately re-evaluate the data, methods and models. If you expect one result but get another, it means that your expectation or measurements are in error.
I don’t believe it is possible for the satellites to be measuring that badly and yes I’m familiar with the instruments, calibrations, and many of the problems in the series.
The regular confirmation of the sat data by radiosonde and the missing hot spot, evidence for positive feedback from Spencer and others, recent ground temperature trends. It’s all pointing to a much lower sensitivity than has been estimated.
Not that some don’t find ways to conclude the opposite, but really it appears to me that CO2 is not be as strong an influence as models predict.
Jeff, I would put it that CO2 sensitivity is more uncertain than is portrayed by the AR4.
September 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm
Uncertainty is a different issue in my opinion, this is an issue where models have on average overshot the data fairly dramatically. Two to four times is not a tiny amount.
James Annon made the statement that anomaly ensembles shouldn’t be used for this calculation, I agree with that sentiment but the problem is that they are vastly different in trend.
He also made the claim that I don’t have the ability to figure that point out – but that’s blogland for you.
I have not done any of the model verification work myself, but I have read submissions not yet public and others which are. There is a fairly obvious problem with them in comparison to observed data. It is an opportunity to either correct the satellite/sonde data or models.
Sorry, the cite is
McKitrick, Ross R., Stephen McIntyre and Chad Herman (2010) “Panel and Multivariate Methods for Tests of Trend Equivalence in Climate Data Sets”. Atmospheric Science Letters
See also http://climateaudit.org/2010/08/10/conflicted-reviewers-distort-literature/
McKitrick McIntyre and Herman.
It is a rebuttal to Santer et al. The primary rebuttal is still being actively blocked by believers who learned nothing from climategate. The main method replicated santer and then extended the data to recent times. This was a new statistical method to do the same thing.
They found that modeled trends generally exceeded observed trends by 2 to 4 times. Not a small conclusion and it does deserve to be addressed.
If the gatekeepers would get out of the way, the main criticism would be in print. I’ve read the criticism and some of the reviews, which can only be described as insane.
But that is the politics of climate I suppose.
Thank you once again for a clear and informative summary, which itself expanded my own horizon on this matter.
Someone who has analysed the matter of how many actually were involved in writing and reviewing IPCC chapters is John McLean. He has written many other good things, too, but try this one:
I agree very much with what Dusty (post Sept 27 at 2:10pm). If I may, here’s my short recap of why I am very skeptical of AGW:
When the 2007 IPCC report came out, it was ‘certain’ that increased CO2 from man was causing global warming. I had thought that to be true to some extent, but never looked into it much. Yet the rhetoric about ‘the science is settled’ and hearing more controversy of whether it WAS settled made me start doing my own investigating.
I did searches on Global warming facts, fiction, myths, evidence for, evidence against. I found lots of websites for, and against, such as Real Climate, Junk Science, The Heartland institute, and so on. I learned about the greenhouse effect, CO2 sources. I looked into claims stated in “An Inconvenient Truth”. I looked into claims about past temperatures, past climate changes, arctic ice, and so on. I learned about ‘the hockey stick’.
It didn’t take long for me to reach the conclusion that the AGW was being overblown big time. As I understood it, it was all based on models that demonstrated increased CO2, with the feedbacks, would result in much warmer temperatures, and all the ‘disasters’ that would happen. Even going beyond a ‘tipping point’ as Hansen said (which to me, was clearly ‘alarmism’). Where was the validation of the models? What true and tested evidence was there ?
Is there some warming impact to the planet from increasing CO2? I do think so, but based on what I have read, think it is fairly small, and is overwhelmed by other effects.
The earth has warmed for well over a century now, and I see it has part of natural cycles. The Roman warm period. The Medieval warm period. The ‘little ice age’. And the warming period we are in now.
I still tried to read posts from sites such as Real Climate, and mostly, replies. But they always seemed to ‘blow off’ anyone with a skeptical point of view. I just can’t stomach their bias or alarmism anymore (especially Joe Romm).
Then came ‘climagegate’. At that point, I was convinced it was a ‘scam’ (and I won’t even get into any ideas/reasons as to why . . . )
Yet I still keep reading today. About temperature records, about the stations that record them, and issues of adjustments, UHI, etc. About the latest solar cycle (should be interesting if we are heading into a 30 year +/- cool period . . ! ), about the PDO and AMO, about tropospheric data, cloud feedbacks, and so on.
And the ‘morph’ of AGW to Climate Change, to Climate Disruption . . . if the ‘facts’ of AGW stand on their own merit, why the changes in terminology? One more ‘point’ that says to me that AGW is a ‘movement’, and not science.
So there’s my ‘journey’ to this point. And I would offer to anyone who isn’t sure about the issue to do similary as I did.
Martin C says
“The earth has warmed for well over a century now, and I see it has part of natural cycles. The Roman warm period. The Medieval warm period. The ‘little ice age’. And the warming period we are in now.”
I agree that we fail to look at the historical context at our peril. The earth has been warming since 1698 as our older instrumental records show.
Here are 14 of the oldest instrumental records. More can be found in my site Climate Reason, accessed from the side bar.
This reconstruction of CET is also interesting as it again put the modern day into context
we walked the same road! When I started out, I thought I was on my own. Now I see that there were many travellers on the road to enlightenment – or rather, a little less obfuscation.
The basic assumption underlying CO2 induced global warming is that the observed 100 ppm increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration over the last 200 years has caused a 1 C rise in surface temperature. This temperature rise is based on the observed increase in the average surface temperature as determined from the meteorological surface temperature record [‘hockey stick’]. Using independent radiative transfer calculations based on the spectroscopic properties of CO2 from the HIRTAN database it has been determined that the 100 ppm increase in CO2 concentration has resulted in an increase in the ‘clear sky’ downward long wave infrared (LWIR) flux at the Earth’s surface of 1.7 W.m-2. Combining these two numbers, a ‘radiative forcing constant’ for CO2 has been established of 0.67 C/W.m-2. This means that an increase in downward LWIR flux of 1 W.m-2 from an increase in atmospheric concentration of any greenhouse gas (or aerosol) produces an increase in average surface temperature of 0.67 C. This algorithm has been incorporated into all of the large scale climate simulation models that are used to predict global warming.
Any consensus over global warming must begin – and end – by examining the validity of this ‘radiative forcing constant’.
The concept of radiative forcing was first introduced by Manabe and Wetherald in 1967. The fundamental assumption is that long term averages of climate variables such as surface temperature can be analyzed using perturbation theory applied to an atmosphere that is in equilibrium. The change in downward LWIR flux is equated to a change in surface temperature using the Stefan Boltzmann law.
This assumption is invalid because the atmosphere is never in equilibrium. The surface temperature must be calculated using a short term balance of the total surface flux including convection, solar heating, LWIR cooling, latent heat effects and subsurface thermal conduction. When the 1.7 W.m-2 LWIR flux from CO2 is added to half hour averages of the total surface flux it is immediately clear that it cannot cause any change in the measured surface temperature.
The next point is that there is no long term record of the surface temperature. Instead, the meteorological surface temperature (MSAT) has been [fraudulently] substituted for the actual surface temperature. The MSAT is the temperature of the air in an enclosure place at eye level 1.5 to 2 m above the ground. The minimum (night time) MSAT is essentially the bulk air temperature of the local weather system as it passes through. The maximum (day time) MSAT is a measure of the convection of warm air from the ground as it is heated by the sun during the day. In general, in order to change the temperature of the bulk air mass at the MSAT thermometer, the whole air mass of the weather system has to be heated. The heat capacity of a column of air with an area of 1 m^2 and a height of 10 km is about 100 MJ. The 1.7 W.m-2 from CO2 is 0.15 MJ.m-2 per day. This gives an average bulk heating of 0.0015 C. There can be no CO2 ‘signature’ in the surface temperature record.
The observed global warming ‘signal’ is just a measure of changes in ocean surface temperatures with urban heat island effects added – and a lot of help from ‘homogenization’ and [upward] adjustments’.
The real cause of climate change is the solar flux coupled into the ocean.
Any consensus on global warming needs to be based on three numbers:
1.7 W.m-2 for the increase in LWIR Flux from 100 ppm increase in [CO2]
0.3 W.m-2 average increase in the solar constant over the last 6 sunspot cycles
0.67 C./W.m-2 radiative forcing constant.
Then do the math, include the heat capacity, and calculate the consensus. No ‘debate’ is required, just True/False.
J. Hansen et al, (45 authors), J. Geophys. Research 110 D18104 1–45 (2005) ‘Efficacy of climate forcings’
R. Clark Energy and Environment 21(4) 170-200 (2010), ‘A null hypotheses for CO2’
R. Clark ‘CA Climate Change is caused by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, not by Carbon Dioxide’ http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/originals/pacific_decadal.html
Extremely well stated. Thank you.
“It is my hypothesis that better characterization of uncertainty and a more realistic portrayal of confidence levels would go a long way towards reducing the “noise” and animosity portrayed in the media that fuels the public distrust of climate science and acts to stymie the policy process.”
Perhaps, but not a hope of this happening. MSM require scary headlines to maintain/increase circulation and audience size as a business model. Many editors have testified that these parameters shrunk if scary stories were not published – most undesirable from the viewpoint of MSM survival
Politicians and advocate scientists know this, despite their protestations of naivety.
Agree! The only way to even begin to solve the “noise” problem is to terminate and disband the IPCC (and all it’s kith ‘n kin). The debates will go on but the “noise” will be greatly reduced. What’s the chance? Zilch! Big Brother ain’t that smart. Remember, the organization behind all this is political, it’s only scientific by a factor of <5%.
When I didn’t think much about climate change, consensus didn’t worry me. I assumed that scientists were right and had the proof to demonstrate it. Then they put a figure to consensus in the high nineties and immediately thought, ‘how unlikely is that?’
I thought ‘isn’t the climate really complex, how could they all agree?’ ‘How did they arrive at that consensus?’ ‘When did they have the debate?’ ‘Do they agree equally on all the questions?’ ‘Are they all qualified to judge on the different aspects of climate or are they just assuming their fellow scientists are right?’ ‘That aspect of the science appears really dodgy, do they all agree with it and if they do, what does that say about their judgement abilities?’
I haven’t stopped wondering since. Consensus has been really valuable turning me into a sceptic.
Consensus is the equivalent of a psychometric test question answered too positively.
As someone who has practiced law for forty-five years, the last eighteen years of which as a sitting judge, I find Johnston’s analogy to legal briefs and memos interesting. My distinct impression is that the IPCC was originally intended to be a legal memo kind of source but that it has through poor choices morphed into a purveyor of legal briefs. For an appropriate decision-making system to exist in this context there should be an independent arbiter with access to the legal briefs of both, or more, sides. The political and economic problem for those of us who may have to bear the burden of the various “fixes” is that there is no independent arbiter (at least, not yet) and there is little real access to the arbiters that do exist.
Furthermore, the imbalance between the munificently funded IPCC and its authors (together with their supporters in the media) and the mostly unfunded sceptics reminds me of a situation I encountered many years ago in court when I, as a prosecutor, was trying a criminal case against a defendant represented by an attorney who was a friend of mine. Once the jury was assembled, the Judge (also a friend) turned to them and proceeded to introduce us. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I’m now going to introduce the lawyers: representing the defendant in this case, over there at that table, is Mr. Jim Carson. Mr. Carson is the former Attorney General of the State of North Carolina and a former Justice of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The prosecution over there,” waving vaguely in my direction, “is represented by Mr. Howerton. Now,” he said, grinning at me, “do you gentlemen have any questions for these jurors?”
P.S. I won.
Thanks Judge! We needed that;-)
I hope we have a good jury too.
In her book “Autonomy and trust in bioethics”, Onora O’Neill makes the point that being trustworthy and being trusted do not neccesarily go together. It is possible to be untrustworthy but be trusted and to be trustworthy but untrusted.
Your argument that increasing the acknowledgement of fallibility in climate science will lead to increasing trustworthiness, is I think a worthy one. But it will not necessarily increase trust in climate science. Indeed in health, some actions which have increased the trustworthiness of institutions (ie greater disclosure of mistakes) may have paradoxically decreased the trust with which health institutions are held.
This is something that should be possible to investigate empirically!
I pointed something out on the previous thread about consensus, not realising that Dr. Curry would be raising the subject in this one. That was that creating a consensus is something that tends to exclude the intrusion of ideas from different fields, not to mention competing ideas from the same field. I also pointed out the perils of over-specialisation, and just to remind you of the quote:
“Over-specialization is a syndrome which has reached such proportions in modern society that Field Control Therapy practitioners have adopted a term to describe it – The Over-specialization Syndrome.
“This syndrome has been defined by Savely Yurkovsky, M.D., founder of Field Control Therapy, as one of the principle causes of a lack of scientific progress and resolution of many of our current collective dilemmas, including the health crisis afflicting society with many chronic degenerative diseases still considered conventionally to be both unexplained and incurable.”
I don’t think scientists habitually claim we have at last uncovered the ultimate, incontrovertible truth, but what they do habitually claim is that this or that current explanation is the best one we have at the moment; and such claims attract their adherents. Nothing wrong with that in principle, except that there are many historical examples where the (claimed) majority turned out to be wrong, and whose resistance to a change of paradigm slowed down scientific progress.
This latest manifestation of the consensus issue is something I don’t recall having seen before. Yes, there are parallel instances (e.g. in astrophysics) where minority views have been vilified by consensualists. However, we don’t see some kind of body set up by the UN whose terms of reference are about finding evidence to support the consensualist position on cosmogony, black holes, dark matter and energy, and so on. No: it is left to the scientific community to thrash things out in time-honoured fashion.
If nothing else, it is plain that the setting up of the IPCC isn’t only about the science, otherwise, why not have similar bodies for all the other contentious areas in science? There is obviously something different about AGW, and I could go into that, but I want rather to express how bemused I am by the whole circus.
“Scientific consensus” is a phrase that until relatively recently wouldn’t have tripped off the tongue of your average bloke on the street. Now, all of a sudden, everyone and his dog is declaring sagely that laymen should accept consensus on AGW by the experts, and by osmosis absorbing the kudos of said experts so that they can claim said kudos as their own and use it to try to beat insensate anyone who would seek to challenge or express doubt.
Even a cursory examination of the history of science shows that consensus is as much a retarding as catalysing influence. This time, is it a catalyst? I contend we all have some level of doubt; so what it boils down to is how to act sensibly in the light of that. If we want to quantify it, we must do so openly and honestly, and that’s impossible if evidence from all sources isn’t being factored in.
If it comes primarily from those who are consensualists, and sceptical views aren’t considered; if sceptical views are marginalized, even actively excluded from publication; if the consequence of openly expressing scepticism is career ruination; if the deck is stacked against unbiased assessment of levels of doubt; then of what value is the outcome?
You don’t have to be a scientist to perceive what has been going on in the AGW debacle, and to regard “consensus” as primarily a rhetorical device that has led to polarisation, and, in the end, is coming back to bite its proponents on the backside. I say: forget consensus; let honestly quantified expressions of doubt naturally dictate what, if any, action might be required. The public won’t buy anything less, and, indeed, might not buy even that.
Dr. J. A comment @ WUWT by one of the authors led to this paper about to be published. In regards to the missing OHC.
Thought it would fit in nicely here, as it is not of the consensus.
Yet the uncertainty promotion monsters will ignore this warning voice completely.
Or, more likely, condemn the authors, belittle the work, and seek to have the authors punished.
But note promoters will never suggest that perhaps their dogma fails to fully and accurately describe the climate system
The importance of selling consensus to the media was a high priority for the IPCC. John Costella discusses the building of the IPCC “consensus” in the very beginning of his climategate whistle-blower FOIA file analysis(page 18):
October 9, 1997: climategate email 0876437553
We now encounter one of the most insidious red herrings in the climate debate: how many thousands of scientists “endorsed” the views of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Just months before the UNFCCC’s Third Conference of Parties (COP III), the critical Kyoto meeting of December 1997 which resulted in the Kyoto Protocol, we find the germ of this idea fertilizing in an email from Joe Alcamo, Director of the Center for Environmental Systems Research in Germany, to Mike Hulme and Rob Swart:
Sounds like you guys have been busy doing good things for the cause.
I would like to weigh in on two important questions—
Distribution for Endorsements—
I am very strongly in favor of as wide and rapid a distribution as possible for endorsements. I think the only thing that counts is numbers. The media is going to say “1000 scientists signed” or “1500 signed”. No one is going to check if it is 600 with PhDs versus 2000 without. They will mention the prominent ones, but that is a different story.
This statement alone shows how ridiculous the “endorsement” process was from the very beginning. Signing a petition in support of an opinion—regardless of whether the signatory has a PhD or not—is as scientifically meaningless as if these same people had voted Albert Einstein’s hairstyle as the most interesting in the history of science. It is simply nonsense.
Timing—I feel strongly that the week of 24 November is too late.
1. We wanted to announce the Statement in the period when there was a sag in related news, but in the week before Kyoto we should expect that we will have to crowd out many other articles about climate.
2. If the Statement comes out just a few days before Kyoto I am afraid that the delegates who we want to influence will not have any time to pay attention to it. We should give them a few weeks to hear about it.
3. If Greenpeace is having an event the week before, we should have it a week before them so that they and other Non-Governmental Organizations can further spread the word about the Statement. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be so bad to release the Statement in the same week, but on a different day. The media might enjoy hearing the message from two very different directions.
Conclusion I suggest the week of 10 November, or the week of 17 November at the latest.
Alcamo demonstrates that this is a carefully crafted piece of political activism, not related to the scientific process at all. Indeed, the optimization of the timing—allowing just enough time for delegates to absorb the message, but not enough time for the scientists signing on to this petition to actually examine or criticize its contents—will return with a vengeance below.
JC, I am unimpressed with consensus.
I would just like to add my own conversion to the skeptic position. In the 1960’s, I was trained in the use of propaganda techniques by the US Army. Propaganda is essentially the use of half truths, irrelevant truths, and outright lies to convince someone to do that which they would otherwise not have done.
Al Gore’s movie, and many publications since of polar bears drowning, walruses becoming extinct, Himalayan glaciers disappearing, Amazonian rain forest turning into savanna or dieing out, etc. etc. are just more of the same. Honest people with valid science would have no need to employ PR firms to prepare this kind of garbage to attempt to sway public opinion. Most of this appears to be intentionally prepared in hopes of swaying Governments to act to prevent the imminent catastrophe. Unfortunately for the CAGW crowd, they started predicting imminent catastrophe in the early 1990’s, and they simply are not happening.
Regardless of whether the predictions have merit or not, there seems to be almost zero chance that the Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, and more will slow their rapid growth in carbon emitting activity in the next few decades. All the CO2 reducing activities in the western world will amount to nothing more than noise in the global picture. Those who believe these predictions of catastrophe should be selling their beach houses and moving north.
A consensus makes us to stop thinking (or to be blind) about a particular problem. This may be beneficial in some cases where our resources (time and effort) are limited. But, it may be dangerous too because the problem would change its characteristics after some time.
In general, the diversity of aspect and heuristic is inevitable for our society to improve (S. Page, “The Difference – How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies” (Princeton University Press, 2007)). So, the best way may be employing a temporal consensus for a while, and reconsider it frequently until the problem is totally clarified.
The conclusions of the IPCC should thus be regarded as temporal ones. This is because by no means the global climate is clarified. In fact, important papers continuously appear every month even after the publication of the IPCC AR4 report. I think, it is time for the IPCC to make a new temporary consensus.
The purpose of the IPCC is given at the link provided in the main post:
“The purpose of the IPCC was to assess the state of knowledge on the various aspects of climate change including science, environmental and socio-economic impacts and response strategies.”
As I see it, it was meant to report on and asses the scientific knowledge. This includes the question of how much evidence and (as a result) how much agreement amongst experts (consensus) there is for specific hypotheses.
Your claim of the IPCC being more akin to a legal brief amounts to a claim of the IPCC having a predetermined conclusion they’re working towards, and trying to minimize other conclusions. That’s a rather strong claim, and if true, should be reflected by large differences between the whole body of scientific literature and the IPCC reports. I have not seen evidence of such.
The National Academy of Sciences wrote in 1979:
“A plethora of studies from diverse sources indicates a consensus that climate changes will result from man’s combustion of fossil fuels and changes in land use.”
Oreskes claims that The IPCC was set up *in response to* the emerging consensus in the 70’s/80’s that global warming due to GHG emissions would likely become a problem. (http://www.ametsoc.org/atmospolicy/Presentations/Oreskes%20Presentation%20for%20Web.pdf)
Spencer Weart (http://hnn.us/articles/30148.html) writes:
“the concern [about impending climate change] gave rise to the IPCC.” And also points to the Reagan administration being in favor of the clumsy IPCC approach, hoping that it would downplay the scientists’ fears.
Richard Tol is of course entirely correct when he sais that a consensus should be presented where there is one, and not where there is none.
When pointing to scientists who disagree with the IPCC consensus, it is important to note that people can agree in basically two directions. The survey by Brown, Pielke Sr and Annan for example shows this to be an approximate bell curve: Most of the respondents (scientists) more or less agree with the main thrust, and sizeable minorities think that IPCC overstated or understated its case. (http://www.jamstec.go.jp/frsgc/research/d5/jdannan/survey.pdf )
Scientifically, the more uncertain areas are the most interesting. However, if I look at the political decision making in terms of emission reductions and knowledge of the big picture (and the length of time that we’ve known about this big picture, albeit in gradually more certain terms), I can’t but conclude that the politics is hopelessly lagging behind the scientific knowledge in taking this problem seriously. (see e.g. this post in Dutch: http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/tijd-voor-de-politiek-om-wetenschap-serieuzer-te-nemen/)
At this point in time, the uncertainties are pretty much irrelevant for policymaking, because any realistic change in the uncertain details is not going to affect the main trust of what we know, and thus the policy response that people may favour. For the long term, of course we need to finetune our knowledge, so research is still needed.
As Herman Daly said:
“Focusing on them [the big picture of what we know] creates a world of relative certainty, at least as to the thrust and direction of policy.” On the other hand, focusing on the more uncertain rates and valuations creates “a world of such enormous uncertainty and complexity as to paralyze policy”. Perhaps that’s indeed what’s happening now. “To make the point more simply, if you jump out of an airplane you need a crude parachute more than an accurate altimeter.”
The IPCC and the Scientific Community
“The IPCC does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters. Its role is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic literature produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change, its observed and projected impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”
When it comes to organizations with blatantly biased agendas, I am a skeptic!
Can I just ask someone to tell me what this consensus is?
Does is mean ‘The consensus view is that doubling CO2 will cause a temperature increase of ~3 +-1.5K’ – which is a pretty big range encompassing pretty every sane scientific viewpoint?
Or is it something else.. I see an awful lot of words here about how bad and restrictive this ‘consensus’ is, but no definition of what the consensus itself is. Quite hard to argue against.
This was the definition Judith linked to,
“firstly – general agreement and, secondly – group solidarity of belief or sentiment.”
When talking about scientific concensus, I’ve always thought that it was the first definition that applied, but here there seems to be some kind of concensus (possibly even groupthink) that it’s the second. ;)
Michael – and others – you have been reading, presumably for some time, about “consensus” – is it too much to ask that you not spell it “concensus”? My spellchecker objects – doesn’t yours?
My short version of what the consensus entails is:
– Globe is warming
– It’s (predominantly) due to us
– It’s (predominantly) bad news
My longer version is here:
That’s pretty much where I’d put it. The problem is, the ‘consensus’ being argued against seems much more definite and far ranging than that, which doesn’t seem particularly fair.
I think your ‘consensus’ in the public square manifests that a ‘global climate disruption’ is occurring, caused by CO2, and is catastrophic.
And that those who don’t agree are beneath contempt and need to be silenced.
Not exactly something you see in the IPCC reports, though, is it?
Hmm ‘Working Group 6: Policies for scaring the bejesus out of the little folk, and the carbon impacts of heretic burning’. Think I missed that one.
That’s a good observation. Fighting strawmen is easier than fighting real arguments I guess.
If I read them correctly, the real climate and skeptical science articles, linked above, add one more element to the consensus–a call to action.
That’s where politics enters the picture. Cap-and-trade, the once favored solution, offered a big payoff for those plutocrats who were both generous patrons of climate science and far-sighted enough to get in on the cap-and-trade ground floor. We also know that those calling for action to counter global warming were very tolerant of the extravagant, high-carbon lifestyles of the nomenklatura of the CAGW movement–Al Gore, Prince Charles, and John Kerry being the most prominent. High carbon, swinging eco-conferences in colorful locales known for their comely hookers? For the lucky few in the CAGW camp, an invitation to join with their betters.
This wasn’t (and isn’t) just about science, but about “science” funded and employed for political ends and the corrupting influence of that partnership. Again, two of the three articles, above, included the need for action as a part of the CAGW “consensus.” The remedy is not specified in those articles, but we know where “things” were headed.
Not that science shouldn’t seek solutions, but activist scientists should be above reproach in their advocacy: free of conflicts of interest, open and above board with their methodologies and data, and ready to call out those who would high-jack their science for an agenda. Also, I recommend that activist CAGW scientists would gain much credibility if they would denounce the high-carbon hypocrisy of their big-shot fellow advocates.
You do seem to be reading a fair amount into the real climate statement:
4. (This will be a problem and we ought to do something about it)
I’ve put those four points in rough order of certainty. The last one is in brackets because whilst many would agree, many others (who agree with 1-3) would not, at least without qualification. It’s probably not a part of the core consensus in the way 1-3 are.
To get from that to the implications of activism and corruption is going a bit far, would you not say?
Appreciate the gentle hint. Maybe I did get a little too wound-up and launched my pot shot from a shaky platform.
When the hockey stick got in trouble, the AGW community started claiming it was not really important.
Now when the IPCC is in trouble, the community is claiming that it is not extremist.
To top it off the skeptics get blamed for its problems.
This is great entertainment, but do you think if the IPCC had been taking a reasonable approach we would be where we are?
Bart, that Realclimate post you link to is calm, intelligent, and rational. It even says: ‘Most (all?) of us here on RealClimate are physical scientists – we can talk sensibly about past, present and future changes in climate, but potential impacts on ecosystems or human society are out of our field.’
What went wrong?
Well, this seems as good a time as any to adapt your preconception to reality.
Judith, you misrepresent Hulme and Mahony’s essay. At no point does it claim that the IPCC process has marginalised dissenting voices. It states:
“Understanding consensus as a process of ‘truth creation’ (or the more nuanced ‘knowledge production’) which marginalises dissenting voices – as has frequently been portrayed by some of the IPCC’s critics (see Edwards & Schneider, 2001; Petersen, 2010) – does not do justice to the process.”
Note that last little qualifier. And that’s all they had to say about dissenting voices.
That’s giving their statement almost the exact opposite meaning.
This could have been avoided if Judith had just quoted the paragraph in whole.
Afterall, she had already copied and pasted a few other bits from the following paragraph,
(H&M) – IPCC consensus-making is an exercise in collective judgement about subjective (or Bayesian) likelihoods in areas of uncertain knowledge
JC – The IPCC consensus building process is an exercise in collective judgment about subjective Bayesian likelihoods in areas of uncertain knowledge.
(H&M) – Consensus-making in the IPCC has been largely driven by the desire to communicate climate science coherently to a wide spectrum of policy users.
JC – The IPCC’s consensus approach has been largely driven by the desire to communicate climate science coherently to a wide spectrum of policy users.
Actually, in trying to shorten the piece, that paragraph underwent heavy editing; the original version of the paragraph more accurately reflected the Hulme and Mahoney paper, but the paragraph as it stands does reflect the points I was trying to make.
it may reflect the point you were trying to make, but it has presented the H&M point on “marginalising” with almost the opposite meaning to what they originally conveyed.
Judith, that still does not negate the fact you misrepresented H&M. If YOU believe the IPCC marginalises ‘dissenting voices’, fine, but don’t claim H&M state it does.
I am doing a slight edit of the original paragraph, will make a note that it is edited from the original.
Thanks, the edit does clarify things a little……but it left unaffected the major problem. H&M do not say about “dissenting voices” what you still attribute to them after 3 different people have drawn your attention to the fact.
Just to be clear, again, on the claim that dissenting voices are being marginalised through consensus , H&M say that this “does not do justice to the process”.
Michael the statement included in that paragraph is my statement, it is not directly attributed to HM.
OK, but even with the edit , it’s not that clear.
Attaching your opinion via a colon, directly to the summary of H&M, maximises the likelihood that it’s understood to be part of that summary.
Judith, your write that, “… the United Nations initiated a scientific consensus building process under the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), which consisted of an intergovernmental multidisciplinary panel of experts.” That implies that the role of the IPCC was to forge a consensus, ie, to shape opinion to a preffered position. But that has never been the IPCC’s role, either formally, nor in the opinion of its authors. Rather, “The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy, although they may need to deal objectively with scientific, technical and socio-economic factors relevant to the application of particular policies.” The IPCC’s Panel, Working Groups and Task Forces to “… use all best endeavours to reach consensus”. That is, where possible, they were only to include text in the reports that all members could agree on. And where no consensus could be reached, the differing views recorded.
In other words, the IPCC was tasked with reporting the consensus view of the science, were such a consensus existed; and to explain and report the differing opinions where no such consensus existed. Whether they have done that is not best judged by whether they have explained and included the opinions of every crackpot fringe group with an axe to grind on global warming; nor even those of every climatologist, no matter how small a number might support their views. Rather, they are to be judged by the agreement between the IPCC reports and the known consensus and divergences of scientific opinion.
Fortunately, we have available several anonymous surveys of the scientists opinions, which show conclusively that the IPCC reports fairly represent the consensus of relevant scientists on those topics on which it reports. In particular, the Bray and Von Storch survey, with its detailed questioning and reporting shows the IPCC to have accurately reported on the science. In particular, we know from that survey that most (more than 75%) agree that most recent or near future climate change will be the result of anthropogenic causes; most agree that those changes will present a very severe or dangerous threat to humanity, and that the IPCC reports are of great use for the advancement of climate science (questions 21, 22 and 38). Similar majorities consider the IPCC reports to be either very accurate, or to slightly underestimate impacts on temperature, precipitation and extreme weather events.
This is not to suggest that IPCC reports are without flaw, nor that their processes cannot be improved. However, it does suggest that your problem with them is not that they inaccurately report the scientific consensus, but that they do not pander sufficiently (in your opinion) to fringe opinions such as those you hold.
My problem with the IPCC being reformed to consider such fringe opinions is not that I wish to (or wish the IPCC to) avoid debate and scrutiny. It is rather that such a reform would necessarily result in a fundamental change in the purpose of the IPCC. The purpose of IPCC is to provided as succinctly as possible the best possible scientific advice for policy deciders to operate on. If they were required to consider all and every idea on climate change that circulates on the blogosphere; then the resulting document would be to large, and to ill organised to be usefull as a guide to policy. Rather, it would be a very large, and very expensive educational textbook written for the use of people who won’t bother reading it anyway (nor in most cases, learning from it if they did). There are better ways to educate the public, and the IPCC should restrict itself to only considering those ideas which can gain the assent of a reasonable number of relevant scientists and economists, and for which evidence is presented in research papers.
I should note that the fringe opinions of the “climate auditors” (shades of Terry Pratchet there) do not make it into genuine research papers because they fail a simple test of coherence, the sin qua non of science. Your comments on this blog also seem suspect in this respect. For instance, in discussing “doubt” you indicate that from 30 to 80% of warming from 1951 to 2000 was the result of anthropogenic forces, but claim that the warming in the first part of the twentieth century was entirely due to natural causes. Ignoring the fact that that interpretation horribly misinterprets the attribution excercises reported in the IPCC, the view is simply incoherent. Taking CO2 figures from Law Dome, it is easy to determine that warming due to the enhanced greenhouse effect due to CO2 should have been 3.3 times larger in the second half of the century than in the first. However, the warming in the second half of the century (1951 to 2000, using five year averages) is more than 3.3 times that in the first (1901 to 1950, five year averages). It follows that if CO2 increases caused 30 to 80 percent of the former warming, the caused 30 to 80 percent of the later as well. It is incoherent to have an acknowledged cause in one interval be treated as not a cause, though present, in the earlier interval.
I am aware of the fact that you refered to warming between 1910 and 1940, but I see no reason why the discussion should be restricted to a clearly cherry picked interval. Nor is it clear that the difference between the warming trend between 1910 and 1940 and the average over the entire fifty years is down entirely to natural causes. At least one additional, anthropogenic factor is the reduced sulfate production following on the reduced industrial activity from the great depression. It may be convenient to wish that the period 1910 to 1940 is somehow, magically a relatively pure indication of natural variability. It is, however, not a coherent view, and nor is it science. Such fringe view have no claim to be recognised by the IPCC, still less the even more incoherent views propogated by the “auditors”.
Suggest you read the blog (if you haven’t already) at WUWT by Tom Fuller
While this wasn’t a survey of the IPCC, it was a survey of climate scientists. Some of what he’s listed matches your conclusions, but much of it doesn’t.
“That implies that the role of the IPCC was to forge a consensus, ie, to shape opinion to a preffered position. But that has never been the IPCC’s role, either formally, nor in the opinion of its authors.”
yet further down
“In other words, the IPCC was tasked with reporting the consensus view of the science, were such a consensus existed; and to explain and report the differing opinions where no such consensus existed.”
“I should note that the fringe opinions of the “climate auditors” (shades of Terry Pratchet there) do not make it into genuine research papers because they fail a simple test of coherence, the sin qua non of science.”
Coherence seems a very ambiguous metric for eliminmating opinions.
There is another recent post on how Nature rejected a Pielke Sr. letter on vague grounds. It letter is published in the post. Maybe Tom Curtis could point out the lack of “coherence” in the letter. That would be very instructive, I’m sure.
1) I have now read Fuller’s report, and am not impressed. He does point out accurately enough that many climate scientists want more data, and a more refined understanding of the theory (big surprise). That is a very far thing from thinking the current data and theory are inadequate for drawing some broad conclusions; and when asked about those broad conclusions the “consensus”is firmly backed by the respondents to the survey.
In fact, what struck me in reading my way through the whole survey was that in areas in which the IPCC expressed a fair amount of certainty, the respondents tended to strongly agree with a very small Standard Deviation. In areas where the IPCC express less confidence, the mean stays closer to the center, and there is a large standard deviation. In other words, the IPCC is accurately representing disagreement in the scientific community, whilst not pretending that disagreement is there when in fact it is not. That should convince you of the general reliability of the IPCC reports as reports of the science, or at least the beliefs of the scientific community. Of course, rather than making that inference, it might be better to take the respondents word at face value when they ringingly endorce the IPCC projections of temperature increases and temperature effects (questions 41a and 39a) with more than 60% thinking they are accurate. Also worth looking at is question 40 which is not a ringing endorsement of the IPCC, but shows the IPCC none-the-less to be effectively reporting the science, with 58% agreeing, and only 12% disagreeing that the IPCC accurately reflects the scientific consensus on temperature. That 12%, of course, includes scientists who think the IPCC is too cautious as well as those who think it is to “warmist”.
Question 40 is a complex one, and answers probably varied depending on what respondents thought was the consensus, or if indeed there was a consensus. Oddly, more scientists reported that they thought the IPCC reports on temperature was accurate (consistently above 60%, with around 25% thinking it was only slightly inaccurate) than agreed that the IPCC accurately reflected the science on temperature. That suggests that climate scientists think there is more disagreement amongst themselves than actually exists.
2) You appear to have difficulty distinguishing between “forging”a consensus, and “reporting”the consensus (if it exists). The difference is between persuasion and reporting, and is a fairly simple and fundamental one to draw. The IPCC is not intended to, and nor does it attempt to do the first. It does attempt to, and with a high degree of success does to the second.
3) Coherence is a fairly straight forward and fundamental concept (though difficult for philosophers to precisely define). At its base, to be coherent a theory must explain the maximum amount of data possible; it must involve no special pleading; and the different parts of the theory must be mutually supporting. Most of the popular anti-global warming theories fail on all three counts, often transparently. The “auditor’s” theories tend to do slightly better – they fail the coherence test on one or more counts – but not always obviously.
Jim, I am not impressed by the “Nature didn’t publish my letter, therefore they must be biased/practising censorship” meme which is much loved by Creationists. The simple fact is that Nature is arguably the most prestigous journal in the natural sciences, and completely without specialization. Consequently, all scientists from everyfield can hope to be published in Nature, and most of them would want to be. Nature is flooded with short communications “letters” about research, the vast majority of which are turned down because there is not the space to publish it all (and Nature would cease being prestigous if it did). Being turned down by Nature in no way suggests the research is unimportant, or shoddy, or anything. It simply shows it is either not of very great importance, or not the very best research, or both. (The same factors apply to “letters to the editor”.) Scientists know these facts about Nature, and know that being accepted for publication in Nature is the exception, not the rule. So any scientist pretending to bias by Nature because they are rejected for publication is either unbelievably arrogant (so arrogant as to be unbecoming in even a triple Noble winner); or they are trying to run a con.
The fact that Pielke’s letter was invited is irrelevant here. Inviting a letter cannot be construed as a commitment to publish sight unseen. Nor can several rounds of editorial responce be so construed. The question is, does the final letter meet Nature’s criteria for publication – and those criteria are necessarilly strict for the reasons given above.
Having read Pielke’s letter, I have to agree with Nature. The issues raised by his letter are not discussed in it, merely mentioned. That is a plainly inadequate treatment. The issues should be discussed at further length, and evidently Nature did not have the space for a longer treatment. I do have to say that Pielke’s whining about it reflects poorly on him.
Finally, the question of coherence does not arise with regard to his letter because he is not proposing a theory, nor anaylysing data.
I have a relevant story to report. About 6 weeks ago, nature blogs invited me to write an op-ed about uncertainty, the IPCC, etc. After several rounds of communication with the editor, i sent a draft, only to receive an automated reply that the editor was on travel for two weeks and not reading email. In the meantime, the IAC review was released. I got an email from the editor upon his return saying he would get back to me. Haven’t heard anything since. In the meantime, of course, I’ve started my own blog so all this is moot. I have no idea how many such invites are proffered by Nature, but clearly they do not end up publishing all of them, or possibly very many of them. I certainly won’t bother responding to any future invites i might receive from them. I’m past the stage where I seek the prestige of something published in Nature; I will stick to Climate Etc. for my future opinion pieces.
Don’t know why, but this made me giggle. Perhaps because your opinions are probably reaching a wider public after less than 1 month of blogging than Nature could provide.
I don’t think we’re going to agree, but I respect your input and will reply where I have concerns.
1) Adequacy of the data is vague. Is the IPCC data adequate to move from hypothesis to theory to law? Is it adequate to dictate wholesale changes on the world? Accuracy of the reports is apt to be considered good, as far as the data can take them. You’ve already said the scientists want more data (just like all generals want more troops).
2) Both forging a consensus and reporting it are a problem for me. Outside science, there is a movement to change business and governmental operations from hierarchical to consensus driven. I see this as a political movement that I resist. I wish that the institution of the IPCC had developed more trust as I really prefer the scientists telling the facts rather than the politicians, lobbyist, media darlings, etc.
3) I have found multiple definitions of coherence and don’t debate your primary meaning. However, it does lead to subjective selection at best. And I fully disagree with your last statement “Most of the popular anti-global warming theories fail on all three counts, often transparently.”. I’ve seen too many well explained and thought out hypothesis and new data sets and interpretation, unless you are only referencing the IPCC reports.
My overall conclusion is that I still feel that many of the pro-AGW group is led more by political agenda than science. I still respect scientists as scientists, and believe most have the best intents. But after working with research scientists in a different field, I am fully aware of the internal conflicts and issues.
1) Adequacy of data is vague. Another area of vagueness is the issue of resolution. Data may be more than sufficient to confidently predict significant increases in Mean Global Temperature; but still be insufficient to resolve whether the mean mimimum temperature Mount Isa in July will be warmer or colder 20 years to 30 years from now. From my reading of the IPCC, this is the area of greatest inadequacy of the data. Scientists are fairly confident of the effects of Global Warming on the Mean Global Temperature; but very unsure about impacts or particular regional or micro-climates.
2) Whether you like consensus or not, science converges on consensus because science converges on truth. In some areas of science the consensus is broad ranging and precise (dynamics comes to mind). In other less so. Because climate science also converges on truth, there are pockets of significant consensus for the IPCC to report on. Furthermore, I want them to report on it. Our elected officials are, as a general rule, far less likely to blunder in any area if they accept the existing scientific consensus as being the best available approximation to the truth. This is particularly true in that politicians who do not accept the consensus also seem unable to distinguish between a Monckton and a Curry.
3) I also have seen many well reasoned explanations or interpretations of data which, so long as you only look at the immediate topic of analysis seem to cohere. However, there is a distressing tendency amongst sceptical arguments that they rapidly fall apart when you apply them to a broader context. Three key areas that usually reveal the facades from the genuinely coherent theories are: The theory must explain the surface temperatures of Earth and Venus with equal facility given known properties of the two planets; The theory must not assume that like effects have different consequences in different times; and The Theory must attribute proportional thermal feedbacks to thermal inputs from all sources. Amongst theories I’ve looked at, only theories sitting firmly within the IPCC consensus satsify all three conditions.
Tom Curtis says:
September 28, 2010 at 12:52 pm
“Whether you like consensus or not, science converges on consensus because science converges on truth.”
I’d agree that science converges on consensus; and I’d agree that, *in the long run*, it converges on truth.
But the two things are not entirely linked variables. In the short to medium term, you can have consensus, even unanimity, and be in great error, and conversely, you can be in a minority of one and be closer to the truth than anyone else.
Consensus is a two-edged sword. Sometimes it acts as a catalyst, and sometimes, as an inhibitor. By definition, those involved in a consensus think they are correct. And those sceptical of it think likewise. This is a great deal of the problem in a nutshell, and I mentioned that in previous post. It may be more than a psychological problem; it could be an actual physiological one to do with brain structure and chemistry.
Please, please, everyone on either side consider listening to:
It’s about an hour long, and is produced by a respected source. Maybe like me, you will see the world rather differently after listening to it. Maybe we all need to try, as far as possible, to decouple feelings of certainty from whether or not something has the status of fact.
If you’d prefer, a transcript is available here:
A short excerpt:
On page 40, he [Dr. Robert Burton] makes this bold but important claim: “By using these criteria of universality, relatively discrete anatomical localization, and easy reproducibility without conscious cognitive input, the feeling of knowing and its kindred feelings should be considered as primary as the states of fear and anger. At this point we may not be able to figure out exactly where in the brain the feeling of knowing is generated, but we definitely have overwhelming evidence that it is not under conscious control.
“To sum up where we are so far: we’ve reached the conclusion, based on the evidence, the feeling of knowing is a primary mental state. It’s not dependent on any underlying state of conscious knowledge. This conclusion is important because it determines how we might try to
model the role of certainty in the hierarchical organization of the brain.”
This is a very well stated opinion, with which I am in almost complete agreement. The disagreement is with your claim that, ” In the short to medium term, you can have consensus, even unanimity, and be in great error …”
Error in science is a strange thing. Your statement is absolutely correct with regard to theory; but it is false with regard to observation. Taking the classic example, Newtonian dynamics vs Relativistic dynamics; just prior to the publication Eintsein’s theories there was almost complete unanimity amongst physicists that Newton’s theories were correct; and of course, that unanimity was completely wrong. But Einstein’s theories predict almost identical consequences to Newton’s theories in the vast majority of easily observed (from Earth) cases. So much so that they are still used by NASA in planning missions to the outer planets.
So you have this dichotomy in scientific revolutions. There is a vast, even paradigm shattering change at the theoretical level. But the refuted theory still remains a very good approximation as a predictor of observational consequences. And this is necessarilly true, for if there was not this general conservation of observational consequences, the observations that previously appeared to confirm the superceded theory would now falsify the superceding theory.
This is certainly true of the Theory of Planetary Atmospheres (whose prediction with regard to Earth given anthropogenic CO2 emmissions is AGW). Despite attempts to obfusticate by trying to equivocate between ‘weather’ and ‘climate’, the ToPA is an excellent predictor of climate, both on Earth and in other planetary atmospheres. Consequently any theory that purports to replace the ToPAs must explicitly explain, for example the temperature on the surface of Venus. Hence the importance of coherence in alternative theories.
Further, theories achieve consensus in a mature science because of their ability to explain a large number of observations. So where such a consensus exists, you can be pragmatically certain that there exists a large body of observations that is well explained by the theory that has gained the consensus; and must also be explained any supplanting theory. The consensus view, in other words, may be very wrong about the theory, but it will not be very wrong about observations.
Well, now I’ve got to do some research about your comments to make sure I’m up to speed. I thought I knew the scientific and review process, but I’ll review – test tomorrow.
I appreciate your civility and hope I’ll see you on another of Judith Curry’s threads.
The whole CO2 issue and approach is incorrect to climate as it is too broad in accepting everything under the banner of CO2.
Heat itself should be seperate along with what is being burned has many trace elements.
Even turning on the computer or television is lumped as a CO2 event.
Politics paying for these biased studies and science for political agendas so they can keep the economy running just turns the science into a joke that shouldn’t be listened to as it turns people into fools for falling for the scam.
A shameful example of what AGW promoters are doing to enforce the illusion of consensus is what has been done by ‘Nature’ magazine to Dr. Pielke, Sr.
This sort of behavior, which is apparently becoming a frequently applied censorship technique of the AGW community leadership. It only underscores that the true believers in ‘global climate disruption’ can brook no discussion, much less debate, that may result in people rethinking the idea that CO2 is causing a global climate catastrophe.
This also supports claims of those who have actually read the CRU e-mails that many in climate science are incapable of serious debate and will stop at nothing to silence those who dare disagree.
This process is about political science, all too human in every way. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing that you have a problem. Step two is a dilly –defining the problem. But step three is the one that’s a real monster –determining what to do about the problem. Once you make up your mind about step three, everything else is easy. Climate Change is like Pandora’s Box. I guess that makes the IPCC Pandora.
My contention for several years now is that the AGW movement is a social movement that only uses science in a marginal way, like a veneer.
“What are the pitfalls of the consensus approach? Looking forward, is the IPCC’s consensus approach still useful?”
I’ve made comments to comments to this point. To answer your questions specifically, I say
a.) The pitfalls to the consensus approach are too numerous to mention, it is a ‘political’ appraoch and NOT a ‘scientific’ approach and it is therefore one that should not be seriously addressed by scientists. Do the science and let the chips fall where they may.
b.) The IPCC’s consensus approach was, is, and never will be a useful approach to anything or anyone except politicial questions and politicians. Ignore or support or damn the IPCC, it’s a purely personal political choice.
PS: Take the POLITICS out of Climate Change Science and you and every other Scientific Blogger on the Web who’s seriously trying to seriously address the science of the matter will have a significant drop in comments –Not Readers (well, not right away)– just two-bit comments from schmuks like me with phd’s in commen sense and ‘polysci’. As soon as someone steps out of their skill circle and into the circle of the commen mensch they open themselves up to attack from all sides by all commers.
PPS: Anything that involves money is political.
Mike brings up an interesting issue (though I don’t agree with the innuendo): The science of climate is separate from what ought to be done about it.
We can distinguish the following main issues:
– To what extent is climate change occurring, and to what extent is it man-made?
– To what extent is that (going to be) a problem?
– What can or should we do about it?
The first questions are strictly scientific; the middle has a judgment value to it (but is still strongly based on the science), and the latter is primarily a political/moral judgement (and has more to do with technology than with climate science).
I agree completely that the extent of climate change and the attribution of that change to humans should be a strictly scientific activity.
But I am very concerned that moral/political/value judgments have significantly influenced the purely scientific evaluations. The evidence for this influence is, IMO, overwhelming. I do not doubt that you strongly disagree with me on this, but I hope you appreciate that there is a real problem for climate science when a significant fraction of the public agrees, at least to some extent, with my evaluation.
So my question for you is: How do you propose to change the IPCC process to address the concerns of people like me? Or do you think that it is OK to simply ignore everyone who believes the process is strongly influenced by politics/values?
I agree. The extent to which climate change will be a problem is so tied up with other factors related to social vulnerability to all sorts of phenomena, whether caused by GHGs or not, that climate sensitivity to CO2 becomes less of an issue. Finally, the “what is to be done” question should simultaneously address a variety of factors, since “the climate problem” can’t be treated in isolation to factors like energy infrastructure – values thus become centrally important, and the question of what kind of world we want to build is much more important than the ppm of CO2 we want in the atmosphere.
I am yet to be persuaded that there is a “climate problem”, and I refuse to countenance “counter-measures”, “action”, or any other formulation entailing the impairment of wealth, until I am.
Those are the questions many skeptics have been pointing that the AGW community has claimed were settled and should not be discussed.
Your list is very fair minded. But the devil is in the execution.
Steve, Zajko, Hunter,
It’s good to see that we can agree on the differences between these types of questions.
You guessed right: I haven’t seen any evidence that the science is seriously tainted by a desire for a certain outcome. In fact, for that to have happened on a grand scale requires quite some conspiracy. Plus, if you examine the science, the big picture is solid and coherent.
Things are much more often cock-up rather than conspiracy. But in their effects, they can be indistinguishable, and it’s the effects that count.
Thanks for an interesting an provocative post. In your conclusion you say: “I support a comprehensive scientific assessment based on the comprehensive legal memo framework that includes the physical basis of climate variability and change and societal and ecosystem vulnerability to climate variability and change (on a regional basis). The legal memo framework requires providing evidence for and against, and a full characterization of the uncertainties.’
This is a great idea, but I am not so certain that it can be done in practice. The well known climate scientists, who you have in the past described as inclined to “circle the wagons” are, IMO, so inclined because they have very strongly held political and policy views, which appear to be their primary concerns. They have mixed advocacy and science to an extent that it seems to me they are wholly incapable of developing an unbiased “legal memo” presentation of climate science.
Where are Roger Pielke Jr’s honest brokers, the climate scientists who would be needed to develop the legal memo evaluation you suggest? I don’t see many of them working in climate science. Perhaps Judith Curry. Who else?
A scientific consensus would be, well, nice, after all the fighting in so-called climate wars. However, what then? Would a scientific consensus of some sort result a cut in global CO2 emissions?
My bold guess: no.
EU ETS is a farce because no politician will subscribe to measures that would cut growth or risk unemployment. Next thing to go would be their seat in the legislature.
India, China, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Philippines and Vietnam have over 3,5 billion people right now. I think their politicians have even greater reason to worry about growth and unemployment than the EU’s legislators. As long as fossil fuels are cheaper than renewables, they will use them.
Tom, I see your point that Nature gets a lot of material. Of course it was a letter, not a full-blown paper so I wouldn’t expect it to be very detailed. It seems they would have published it because the topic is so important to climate scientists and citizens alike. JMO and I see that it shouldn’t be taken as a sign of conspiracy.
Tom, you said something interesting concerning “anti-global warming” theories. (I also appreciate the fact you use the term “global warming” instead of “climate disruption with a bit of tingling up the backbone with moderate anxiety.” ) At any rate, what theories promoted by skeptics do you mean? The top two would be fine. I ask because my impression is that they don’t have comprehensive theories as much as reasons why global warming isn’t. I am aware of investigations into cosmic rays/clouds and clouds as an ‘iris.’ Are those what you mean or something larger?
Also, WRT classifying CO2 as a dangerous gas, you are begging the question. It isn’t that the EPA is afraid we will all suffocate; it is because EPA contend it will cause global warming. In fact, water is much more a dangerous liquid than CO2 a dangerous gas. Just compare death by drowning in water to deaths by suffocation by CO2. Where is the EPA on this urgent issue? We are, after all, also adding water to the atmosphere by utilization of fossil fuels.
Jim, I won’t be commenting on particular theories as that would be off topic. I gave an example of what I mean from Dr Curry’s post on doubt in my original post. For the record, Svenmark’s theory on the link between cosmic rays and cloud formation is not, in itself incoherent. The claim that it has a large scale effect is, however, contrary to observations. It is still possible that cosmic rays have a small effect on planetary albedos, not by seeding clouds that would otherwise not have existed, but by reducing droplet size and likelihood of rain. Unfortunately, but not unnaturally, Svenmark appears to want this theory to not only be original, but also very important and seems less than willing to follow the evidence on this.
With regard to CO2, I am not arguing that CO2 release to the environment is dangerous because it is a poison. I am providing a counterexample to the argument that because CO2 is exhaled by humans (and inhaled by trees), therefore it can have no adverse effects. Clearly it is both exhaled by humans, and can have adverse effects because in sufficient concentration it is a poison. Therefore the fact that it is exhaled by humans provides absolutely zero evidence as to whether or not increased CO2 could cause potentially dangerous warming. Despite this, it still gets trotted out again and again.
This idea of consensus is very much challenged by the idea of majority. Typically the majority seems to steer the consensus. Upon equal opportunities to review a matter, typically the consensus falls to the majority. There is, however, a certain need in stating the consensus to provide reasons and evidence supporting the findings. When alternate views or opinions are present, they should be incorporated into discussion of the consensus. It appears, too often, that a majority is not defined with equal weighting among peers. The idea of majority is modified only to mean the vocal majority – those who are loudest or regarded as most important have the weightiest say unevenly swaying the actual majority. Unless among peers all have equal say in the process and have been presented with all the evidence, a true majority might not exist potentially leaving the consensus muddled and uninformative. I may not have a better solution, but unless there are error bars or confidence intervals given with the consensus, transparency of the process must be kept for others to review.
I made a comment somewhere in response to a remark by Pascvaks. Let me repeat it at the end of the comments, so that more people might read it. viz :-
I noticed you commented much as I have, that a scientific consensus is an oxymoron; a complete contradiction in terms. It simply does not, and cannot exist.
Yet here we have nearly 150 comments from intelligent people who seem to give the term legitimacy. The mind boggles.
You made the point I was clumsily trying to make – why is consensus the benchmark? As Paget notes, it’s an heuristic idea that in my opinion operates poorly in practice. I was worked at a A/E firm that decided to go with consensus among all the employees. It was a disaster.
Let me expand on this. Why on God’s green earth do we WANT a consensus among scientists? Let me tell two stories from my own experience. When I first studied physics at Cavendish Labs, my mentor went on to be Prof. Sir Gordon Sutherland, head of NPL. He gave me an assingment, and I went to the library, and made a summary of what I could find. I handed it in to him, very proud of myself. The next time me met, he said WTTE, “This is absolutely useless, and not at all what I wanted. I want to know what YOU think on the subject, not a summary of what others think”. In my first job, just after WWII, my boss, I will never forget his name, Nancarrow, told me that my job was to have ideas. He said “I dont mind how many bad ideas you have, just so long as occasionally you have a good one”.
That is what science is about so far as I am concerned; people thinking for themselves. It is a lot of bright people looking at the same set of hard data and making up their own minds what the data means. The last thing we want, and it is a complete anathema to science, is to insist that scientists are not allowed to think for themselves, but must agree to some idea that their “superiors” have agreed upon.
That is not science. It is certainly not physics. The whole notion that somehow all scientists must think the same way is absolutely preposterous. To repeat, a scientific consensus is an oxymoron. A complete contradiction in terms.
You make a good case with which it is hard to disagree. Unfortunately, oxymoron or not, consensus does actually operate in the scientific establishment. Maybe not everywhere, but certainly in some areas.
It’s hard to improve on Thomas Huxley’s observation (made when defending Darwin) that “The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin”.
1) Ad hominem attack.
“Although the NIPCC was written by individuals that have ties to advocacy groups”
This is an ad hominem accusation implying the NIPCC’s summary of climate science issues is biased because some persons involved are members of advocacy associations. The NIPCC specifically focused on highlighting scientific evidence ignored by the IPCC. You further failed to address how members of “advocacy groups” involved in the IPCC are innocent of or absolved from such bias. Are you saying that citations to Greenpeace publications were not by members of advocacy groups, or that that was peer reviewed literature? See: <a href="http://nofrakkingconsensus.blogspot.com/2010/01/greenpeace-and-nobel-winning-climate_28.html" title= "Greenpeace and the Nobel-Winning Climate Report"
This is also a logically false blanket statement. I am not a member of any “advocacy group” unless you count professional societies such as the ASME and the International Solar Energy Society as such “advocacy” groups.
2) Precautionary principle
Why should we not consider your citation to the precautionary principle to be inverted?
The greatest benefit to the developing world would be to provide the poor with abundant inexpensive fuels. That founded the rapid development of the West with corresponding improvement in health and longevity. To date, fossil fuels have provided this abundant transforming fuel source. Reducing availability of fossil fuel will cause severe hardship to the developing world.
Consequently, those advocating a massive reduction of fossil fuels must show clear and convincing evidence that:
A) their projections are based on foundational principles of scientific forecasting based on sound science.
B) their proposed measures will not harm the poor in the developing world.
To date, neither of these have been met.
The Null hypothesis or “no change” policy should be followed until an unambiguous case can be made for change using methods that will cause less harm than the the change.
Providing abundant solar fuels cheaper than fossil fuels will help the 2/3rds world. ‘Till then, all “cap and trade” programs etc will much more likely cause major hardship and likely starvation to the third world, than the supposed cures of avoided damage.
PS I believe solar fuels can be made cheaper than fossil fuels.
David, my statements re the NIPCC should in no way be construed as an ad hominem attack. Would you personally have more confidence in a group of scientists that were nominated by their national government and selected by an international panel under the auspices of the UN, or a self selected group of scientists, each with strong ties to an advocacy group? Most people would have greater trust in the former. This is the issue that I raise in my statement.
The precautionary principle is the foundation of an international treaty under the auspices of the UNFCCC. Personally, I am not a fan of the precautionary principle.
Neither. The IPCC selection process is equally biased by IPCC’s mandate to show anthropogenic harm, (rather than a neutral policy of evaluating all sides of the issue), and by self selection by those advocating its position with further strong selection by the amplification of government funding, and by making “green” political statements.
You object: “my statements re the NIPCC should in no way be construed as an ad hominem attack.” Yet you immediately reiterate that ad hominem attack asserting I am a member of: “a self selected group of scientists, each with strong ties to an advocacy group”.
What advocacy group are you accusing me of being a member of, besides the <a href="http://www.nipccreport.org/reports/2009/pdf/Front%20Matter.pdf" title="NIPCC" itself?
My professional expertise is in energy where I work both in more efficient cleaner use of fossil fuels and in solar energy, with membership in corresponding professional associations.
Does either prevent me from objectively reviewing scientific literature for the NIPCC that the IPCC ignored and which shows evidence contrary to the IPCC’s “consensus”?
Does my posting at either <a href="http://www.wattsupwiththat.com/" title="WUWT" or <a href="http://www.theoildrum.com/" title="TheOilDrum" count as such “an advocacy group”?
The NIPCC report is a joke.
Besides the usual list of refuted talking points, it builds its case strongly on unfounded faith in negative feedbacks from nature, which are hypothetical with contradictory, or sketchy, if any evidence of actually operating at a globally significant scale.
This highlights an inconsistent view of uncertainty, and an unwillingness to weigh the evidence: “If it causes cooling, the uncertainty (or lack of evidence) doesn’t matter; if it causes warming, it’s too uncertain (and no evidence strong enough) to matter”.
I looked in some more detail in their treatment of aerosol effects, an area with which I’m familiar. Otherwise interesting research is put in a context as if it somehow falsifies the “AGW theory”. In many cases, it hardly has any relevance to the attribution of current climate change, or to future projections. But it shows that the authors of this report really have no limits in their search for anything, no matter how flimsy, that could possibly fool somebody in questioning the human role in climate change.
See for more details http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2009/06/13/the-nipcc-report/
You just repeated the attack: “or a self selected group of scientists, each with strong ties to an advocacy group?”
What advocacy group are you saying I am a member of? The NIPCC itself? http://www.nipccreport.org/reports/2009/pdf/Front%20Matter.pdf
David, the lead authors and editors of the NIPCC (Singer, Idso, the Basts) have strong ties to advocacy groups. Such ties do not discredit the information in the report, but rather detract from the appearance of objectivity in the eyes of many people.
Thanks for clarifying:
“Such ties do not discredit the information in the report, but rather detract from the appearance of objectivity in the eyes of many people.”
That cuts both ways. Please highlight this problem of “appearance” on BOTH sides, and that BOTH are “ad hominem” attacks on the argument.
Not in any way ad homs, but addressing motive. Anyone who rejects an argument based upon the perceived motive of the person is committing the logical fallacy of appeal to motive. However when we are talking about a report based on expert judgment and selected evidence (rather than formal arguments), then the qualifications and the motives of the experts become a legitimate area for evaluating the report.
How are you distinguishing the logical circumstantial ad hominem fallacy, from possible bias of testimony in court due to motive, from expert scientific judgment?
Circumstantial ad hominem fallacy:
Damned Lies and Statistics, Joel Bast
McKitrick and McIntyre have clearly exposed such statistical errors. Climategate exposed clear abuse of the scientific method, including abuse of peer review by gate keeping and self serving peer recommendation to keep out opposing evidence.
When such proscribed evidence is subsequently brought out, why is that critiqued for motive, while the original gate keeping abuse and strong financial bandwagon motivation is not so critiqued?
Correction: McKitrick and McIntyre have clearly exposed errors in statistical methods in temperature models based on tree ring data.
BAST’s comments can give insight to the causes.
As for policy, while the precautionary principle is unwieldy, so is social forecasting on the basis of unambiguous “sound science” and the testing of null hypotheses. If there was an effective way to follow such a course, I think economists would love to know.
When you say “solar fuels”, do you mean the arrays themselves or fuel as in a fuel cell?
By solar fuel, I mean a chemical energy carrier such as methanol made from water and CO2, or similar liquid fuels. This requires the breakthrough of cost effective solar thermal concentrators.
Availability of transport fuels will be the defining critical issue for oil importing countries in next generation if not this next decade. See:
“by 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD.” US Joint Forces Command, Joint Operating Environment 2010, JOE Feb. 18, 2010, http://www.jfcom.mil.
“A supply crunch appears likely around 2013… a spike in excess of $200 per barrel is not infeasible.” Froggatt, Anthony & Lahn, Glada, Sustainable Energy Security, Lloyds/Chatham House, 2010
All “global warming” warnings that I have seen are remote and minor by comparison.
Good round up.
I am not certain solar fuels will ever be cheaper, but your recasting of the precautionary issue is spot on.
Given that they might be, it is worth shooting for.
Solar, like fusion, has been a few more years away from practical use for most of my >50 years.
Lack of focus on making solar thermal the most cost effective energy source.
Ultimately, the Precautionary Principle lacks a cost/benefit provision. If one were in place, the test has to put a value on a human life. Where fossil fuels are abandoned, at least in today’s energy source availability, one can count lives, without having to hang a dollar sign on each one. Are birds worth more than dolphins or sub-Saharans or polar bears? Where’s the proof that the comparitive valuation MUST be made? Horrible, horrible tool useful only to those who would return us to the stone age, save for a handful of true-believer elites. Sigh.
For cost/benefit analysis, see the Copenhagen Consensus
That prepares a detailed cost/benefit analysis for the largest 30 humanitarian projects. Global warming mitigation ranks dead last.
Consensus, huh? Is there consensus that there is water in earth’s magma?
Yes, there is a consensus.. all magma contains water, admittedly at varying concentrations. Those magmas with greater water/volatile concentrations tend to give more volcanic eruptions; many intrusive igneous rocks, especially granites and pegmatites , owe their large crystal sizes to high concentrations of water in the late stage crystallizing fluids.
Let’s hear first what the fine gentlemen in these thread say about it.
Yet another broad and thoughtful tee-up post to stimulate our discussion. Thanks.
The IPCC was embedded into the pre-existing socio-politico-scientific matrix as the new centralized evaluator and integrator of climate change. The presumption of AGW and a sense of urgency was already thematic before the IPCC. Demonstrating that theme was built into the IPCC as a founding purpose. Consensus discussion within that context is mute. The IPCC was built on the presumption of consensus.
The consensus did not exist nor does it now. What has changed to consider the reasonable possibility of a future consensus? I do not see any fundamentals having changed. For a future consensus we need a structural shift.
The current deteriorating public support of the principles that the IPCC was founded upon and the increasingly comprehensive skepticism by independents give reason to seek another structure. I see that the structural focus has already started to shift back to the former socio-politico-scientific matrix that existed before embedding the IPCC.
I can see the need for shifting the leadership in climate science back toward private (non-gov’t sponsored) university consortiums. I use the word consortium for lack of a better word, I am sure there is a better word. Gov’t sponsored universities certainly would contribute, but concern over politicization inhibits them, in my view, from leadership.
“I haven’t seen any evidence that the science is seriously tainted by a desire for a certain outcome.”
So does this mean you think that the IPCC process is fine as it stands and does not need to change?
> I haven’t seen any evidence that the science is seriously tainted by a desire for a certain outcome.
> So does this mean you think that the IPCC process is fine as it stands and does not need to change?
So does this mean you think that loaded questions and non-sequiturs are useful for advancing dialogue?
My question was an honest one, and not intended to be ‘loaded’ or a non-sequitur. I really do want to know what Bart thinks about this. Judith specifically asked if the IPCC approach needs to be changed; how is asking Bart about this is a non-sequitur?
Your question doesn’t have much to do with your assertion IMO.
I think the IPCC process could be improved (e.g. better checks and balances; dealing with review comments; consistency between different chapters and working groups; professionalisation of management structure; dealing with errors; public communication: all very much in line with the IAC review. I think there’s a good case to be made to make it much shorter and decouple the working groups: first wg 1 comes out; on which wg2 is based, which comes out later, and then wg3.
We have spoken of bias and fraud in science, wouldn’t putting someone with a clear political agenda in charge of major climate work at NASA lead to a greater possibility of grandstanding and fraud? Then why did they do just that?
stay tuned, this weekend we will have a discussion on the effectiveness of climate scientists in communicating climate science; getting arrested does not help with the credibility issue
How do you communicate with an audience who takes the very fact of your effort to inform as proof that you cannot be trusted?
Effort to inform? You are kidding right?
An effort to inform is a reasoned, balanced, thoughtful, well argued paper that covers the issues truthfully and without bias. Getting arrested makes you look like a true believer who is not following science but instead forwarding a political agenda.
…and arrested in front of the White House pretty much proves it is a political agenda, right?…
Jim Hansen has tons of reasoned, balanced, thoughtful, well argued papers that cover the issues truthfully and without bias.
Besides being a scientist, he is also a citizen who is concerned about the future, based in large part on his understanding of the science. Because he sees society not tackling these issues in a meaningful way, he decided to participate in peaceful protest to make his voice heard via those channels.
That in the eyes of some it lowers his credibility as a scientist is both unfortunate and understandable. But to confuse it with him not following science rather shows a political agenda on your part.
Ever since I read about Hansen’s prediction that parts of New York would be under water and some bird species would be extinct, I believe this was about 20 years ago, I have not been able to trust anything he says. The man is careless. His instrumental temperature record is suspect. I know it somewhat matches the satellite record, which I trust, but it still shows a greater temperature change over the satellite era data.
You do not know me, so don’t accuse. How does protecting in front of the White House not lead one to direct conclusion that the protest was politically symbolic? He was not protesting in front of the Catholic Church (a religious symbol) or the World Trade Center. His choices matter if he wants to remain to be seen as a imprtial arbiter based on science – I think the appearance of bias is enough here to ask him to move from his current post…
To recognise Hansen’s political agenda, is not to have one oneself. Unlike denying he has one.
> An effort to inform is a reasoned, balanced, thoughtful, well argued paper
Nope. Publishing a paper has nothing to do with informing the public.
There is a refrain here that the science should speak for itself, but the vast majority of people are not scientists, have no access to scientific papers and are not capable of evaluating them in a sensible way.
Media outlets cannot be relied upon to assess and distil scientific information and produce an accurate picture because they are generally no better able to assess science than the typical member of the public, with the added primary motivation of profit rather than education. This results in controversy, false balance and outright misrepresentation.
So, when someone is motivated enough by their findings to try and convey this in accessible language to a wider audience, that is usually fed through a distorted media lens or ultimately dismissed as advocacy.
This attitude begs the question, and presupposes that scientific conclusions have been reached from a position of “advocacy”, rather than the inverse – a desire to inform stemming from exposure to scientific findings worthy of a wider audience.
So – scientific papers that have potential ramifications for human society need to be given some sort of public airing. Media outlets invariably fail in communicating an accurate picture. Scientists trying to communicate directly are denounced as advocates. So what’s left?
A viable education system whose books are not selected by religious conservatives in Texas for a start…
Scientists here have advocated poorly, and made scientific errors in their advocacy. That is unforgiveable – if you advocate that is one thing, but to then use your position as a scientist to push an agenda not based on science is the epitomy of a politician or pastor – not a scientist. Make a choice, stick with it.
While not disagreeing, this again promotes the unspoken Angelic Conspiracy – science and scientists just assumed to be unaffected by funding, ideology and bias.
Will we also discuss how grubbing through other people’s stolen emails is not exactly a credit worthy activity?
(And this is from a moral perspective; if the people going through these emails wished to have moral equivalence, the least they could do is open their email inboxes to the general public, to show that they were above board.)
The work-related emails of those on public money should anyway be open to the public. To say nothing of the data created using public money.
Emails of dishonest, politically motivated public ‘servants’ plotting to dupe the public by concealing their own data from them, gatekeeping alternative views etc, are absolutely fair game.
I would say any of their research conducted on public money should be open to the public; papers, data, metadata, and all.
There is a difference between ‘should’ and ‘are’. For instance, if you ever get stopped for speeding, then you can try arguing that the speed limit is wrong, and indeed that your taxes paid for the road anyway so you can make your own rules, but I doubt this will impress the officer..
If we are to go to a situation where all emails on a public account like this are automatically open, then it would perhaps be unfair to apply it retrospectively.
In any case, I could easily use similar arguments to open my wife’s mail; this would still not make it morally correct.
You have a good point. I believe in the rule of law, so I would say emails from the past should not be open as a rule. Of course, Climategate was the product of either a hack or an inside job, I suspect the latter. The person who did this had to weigh the right and wrong of disobeying FOI laws, the right and wrong of withholding critical information from the public who have a monetary and standard of living stake in global warming politics, and right and wrong of just getting the truth out or not. Then there was the right and wrong in making the emails public. Therefore, there were more ethical considerations than just the researchers expectation of privacy.
Tom Curtis’s efforts to constrain the dialogue on consensus by interjecting an argument regarding hypothesis coherence has left out the important issue of statistical validation. As Mann has ignored, with the IPCC concurrence, the need for high statistical competence, consensus is now embroyaled in the validation of the proxy and instrument temperature record to “show” what said authors wanted it to show: the current temperature rise is unprecedented. What is evident today as well upon the Congressional hearings stage, what you can say about the data is predicated upon transparency, validation, and reproduciblity by others outside of your own clan. A coherent hypothesis takes many years to be validated. Saying that the models don’t work unless you inject CO2 into mix is scientifically sloppy.
Climate Sci. laid bare
In the Operating Room.
Patient will survive.
I think you are overcompicating this and giving credibility to a flawed concept by even discussing it … a few quotes to help you …..
“If its consensus, it isn’t science”
“Consensus is the last refuge of the scoundrel, who, seeking to end the debate, claims that the matter is already settled”
“The truth is the truth, even if spoken by a minority of one”
The last one is from Gandhi – I am not sure where the others are from.
Consensus barely has a place in politics, let alone science. As a scientist you need to be a lot tougher about this. Think about it.
Some more quotes for you:
“If it isn’t consensus, it isn’t science”
“Attacking consensus is the last refuge of the scoundrel, who, seeking to avoid the conclusion of the debate, claims that the matter is not settled”
“Untruth is untruth, even if stuck in quotation marks”
:) … enjoyed those ……. and now you have come up with these originals I guess it puts you right up there with Gandhi.
The bit you quote from Kahan (who “investigated why members of the public are sharply and persistently divided on matters on which expert scientists largely agree“) is unadulterated tosh.
There are very valid and concrete reasons why the public don’t buy global warming. As I wrote recently to a climate scientist:
I can think of a few places to look for possible reasons behind [the public’s] scepticism:
• Climategate. The behaviour of the scientists was so bad that it raised the inevitable thought : If climate science is as sound as they claim, they would not behave like this. (Note: the Climategate emails have been confirmed to be genuine.)
• Al Gore refuses to debate it or even answer questions. The same perception arises : if he is so sure of what he is promoting, surely he would be happy debate it, and certainly he would be happy to field questions.
• Steve McIntyre demolished Michael Mann’s “hockey-stick” graph, which went from being a prominent part of global warming presentations (and the IPCC Report) into oblivion. The obvious question arises, if something that fundamental was wrong, what else did they get wrong.
• The IPCC was not only shown to be wrong about Himalayan glaciers, but also shown to have broken their own rules in doing so. The same question arises – what else did they get wrong. But also, very importantly, it raises the perception that the IPCC were biased and have been exaggerating.
• Global warming science is being used to push hard for reduction of CO2 emissions – at what will obviously be a large cost to the general public. But no alternatives have been considered, in spite of attempts by Bjorn Lomborg and others to get alternatives discussed. Statements have been made that “the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of acting now”, but no costings are presented. Inevitably, the public smells a rat.
• For ten years and more, the planet has not warmed. This does not tally with the IPCC predictions of +0.2 deg C per decade. Maybe reports of record high global temperatures in 2010 have been weighed against the last three very cold winters in the northern hemisphere, and found wanting.
There are many more possible reasons …..
Could not agree with you more. There is no need to write long winded psuedo-intellectual essays (such as this post on ‘consensus’), which is little more than philosophical handwringing, when there are much more obvious reasons.
Its like having a big debate about why people like a Big Mac when the ‘consensus’ politically correct view is that its bad for you. Its because it tastes so bloody good.
Comment 1: on the precautionary principle:
Judith, you write that the IPCC was tasked to “assess whether there is sufficient certainty in the science so as to trigger action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the precautionary principle.”
This can’t possibly be the case. The precautionary principle would require us to take preventive action WITHOUT sufficient certainty in the science, so there would have been no reason to spend money and time on numerous assessment reports. The precautionary principle is more simply defined as “better safe than sorry,” so we would therefore be required to take action without any evaluation of the scientific evidence of risk.
While much of the EU embraces regulation by precautionary principle, the US bases environmental policy on proven harm and risk assessment, so perhaps, as an arm of the UN, the IPCC was formed to show that indeed there was sufficient risk to regulate (e.g. reduce CO2 emissions).
Comment 2: on consensus and expert elicitation:
Scientific uncertainty cannot be deduced by expert elicitation. The first time I read the IPCC summary for policy makers I was quite stunned by how uncertainties in climate science read like quantitative facts when in they were in reality qualitative estimates. IMO that is where the IPCC fails. The IPCC bottom line is qualitative guessing (by experts) rather than a quantitative compendia of what we don’t know, what we do know, and where and what the uncertainties are. (As a side note, it would be interesting to test whether “experts” render the same assessment from one day to the next. I really doubt they would.)
Comment 3: my opinions
Broadly, “the consensus” on climate change and global warming is a position anyone embracing the precautionary principle would take. Ask any “skeptic” how they would feel about any policy based on the precautionary principle and I’d bet they’d respond by asking you if you were out of your mind. The precautionary principle leads to paralysis, not allowing ANY risk taking to occur, so therefore, us humans must cease and desist in our evil ways. A basis in the precautionary principle is probably why the IPCC “consensus” has resulted in thousands of unscientific proclamations of current and pending climate doom simply because they’re plausible.
While risk assessments can be skewed to the bias of those that perform them, (after all scientists are fallible), risk assessment might be a more appropriate endeavor of the IPCC. I do believe however, that such an endeavor should limit the use of models as their (climate models) portrayal of reality is very weak. We still need to figure out what is going on now (and over the last 18,000 years), before we (scientists) can say much worth listening to…. that is, assuming we reject the precautionary principle.
As for forming AGW policy – uncertainties should be laid on the table BEFORE policy decisions are made. That way, when we disagree, we’ll know we’re fighting policy agenda as opposed to scientific truths (or untruths), and no party gets the “science party” upper hand.
As a scientist in a different field (immunology) I have seen groupthink in action in spades. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, T suppressor cells were a hot topic with thousands of papers published and numerous lab groups studying them. Then Leroy Hood sequenced the chromosomal DNA at the location where the gene thought to be responsible for T suppressor function was located and found…no gene. Almost overnight advisors told their students that Tsuppressors were a career killer and virtually everyone studying them moved on to other topics. This happened in spite of the fact that there were thousands of papers with credible evidence that Tsuppressor cells existed and were functionally important. The immunology research community did not undertake to explain this interesting paradox, they just abandoned ship, due to big time groupthink and overwhelming focus on career interests. Now, 30 years later, suppressor cells are back. They have been renamed Tregulatory cells (in part because they don’t share all the properties of the old Tsuppressors and partly, I suspect, to make research on this topic more acceptable). Consensus is often dead wrong. Scientists are just as irrational and lemming-like as anyone else, particularly if they think their career or funding is on the line.
I also do research in toxicology, and in that context I am familiar with the precautionary principle. After many years of ruminating on this, I have concluded that the precautionary principle, is only deceptively precautionary. The reason relates to a very simple principle articulated by Bruce Ames, who developed the Ames test for carcinogens (and now regrets that is it used because it overestimates the number of carcinogens). There is only a finite amount of money. If the precautionary principle leads to substantial loss of personal or public income, it will cost lives. Funds used (or lost) being cautious with regard to an unknown risk cannot be used for federal programs or donations known to save lives.
Interesting that Mann’s hockey stick also disagrees with Lamb’s work wherein Lamb actually took the written human observation on climate, and discovered the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period. Others might argue that Mann took a global view, other might say the deck is becoming stacked against Mann being correct that this period is the warmest in history.
Judith – I have been reading this discussion about consensus and have to say my sympathies lie with Jim Cripwell “Why on God’s green earth do we WANT a consensus among scientists?”. Indeed I would go further. It seems to me that this sort of argument would probably be very familiar to the scientists of 500 years ago, who ultimately rejected it in favour of the Scientific Method. The adoption by the Royal Society of the motto “Nullius in Verba” was an expression of a then novel concept – that no amount of opinion is a substitute repeatable experiment. It was restated more recently by Feynman “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”. The paradigm, which essentially declares “consensus” a concept alien (if not hostile) to science, has served science well for the last half-millennium, and, as I wrote on another blog to which you contributed, has seen plenty of good science produced by insufferable braggarts, Asperger’s sufferers (Turing was one), infrequent bathers and people with strange hair and offensive political views. We NEED scientists to have bees in their bonnets and an appetite for esteem. We NEED them to dance to the beat of a different drum. Their very personal shortcomings in some cases allow them to see problems unconventionally, and science benefits. “Consensus” in science should arouse at least as much suspicion as confidence. Half a millennium down the track, it seems a strange concept for scientists to be wrangling. Wouldn’t your collective energies be better directed at devising, as Rutherford recommended to anyone whose experiment required statistics, “a better experiment”?
TomFP writes ” I have been reading this discussion about consensus and have to say my sympathies lie with Jim Cripwell”
Many thanks indeed for your support. To me, the point at issue is that the proponents on AGW use the BELIEF by climate scientists that AGW is real, as an argument that AGW is, indeed, real. What I would like to see is people like Juduth Curry stating clearly that this is a completely false argument. Belief has no place in science; belief is no substitute for hard experimental data.
Actually belief is a legitimate word to use in scientific enquiry. Religious belief is very different from the way the word belief is used in philosophy. Philosophy defines knowledge as “justified true belief.” Experimental data can form the foundation for belief, but knowledge requires interpretation of data. There’s a whole field of philosophy that deals with these issues, and then a field in sociology that deals with the social aspects of how science and philosophy grapples with these issues. The climate issue is about as complex an issue as can be imagined; people take shortcuts in drawing conclusions about the issue.
> Philosophy defines knowledge as “justified true belief.”
Some philosophers tried to say that knowledge amounts to justified true belief. This has not yet reached consensus:
Judith – I’m not comfortable with this “belief” business. Surely what distinguishes a scientist is that he draws conclusions, and demonstrates repeatably how he does so? He would indeed be strange if he did not come to believe what he has concluded, but he recognises that his beliefs are not his stock in trade, that they can play no part in his professional discourse, and that in any case they can each be overturned, as Einstein put it, with a single experiment.
Put another way, I have yet to see how a scientist’s beliefs can have any scientific relevance absent the evidence upon which they are founded, and to which they are eternally subordinate. If that is so, why not skip the belief business and stick to the evidence? All sounds a bit post-normal to me.
Judith writes “Actually belief is a legitimate word to use in scientific enquiry. ”
You and I, Tom, are on the same page on this one. I cannot see how belief has any legitimacy in science. Of course scientists believe that their ideas are right, but this is irrelevant. The fact that a majority of climate scientists, or whatever like the Royal Society, believe AGW is correct has nothing to do with science, and has no part in any sort of scientific discussion.
Check out what the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has to say on belief
See esp section 2.6, where it describes knowledge as a species of belief
Well, I don’t have this tree thingy figured out yet.
I was attempting to agree with TomFP and Jim.
Consensus can stifle new scientific developments, which often do come from those approaching topics in a radically new way (from outside the paradigm). But consensus is also an important way of setting standards and shared understandings on which to build – what you call “the scientific method” is essentially a consensus on the sorts of methodological choices that allow new knowledge to be properly justified. Each scientific discipline has its own such methods, and many of them do not fit the experimental paradigm – when the object does not lend itself to traditional experimentation (climate science is often one of these, though it is actually composed of many disciplines with very different methodologies). Consensus on theory can also be very important, and while it is easy to remember the great revolutionaries who tackled science from a radically new direction, one should remember the vast number of scientists who have contributed to “progress” by building upon the paradigms of their predecessors – otherwise science would be in a state of constant revolution.
Belief can be (and perhaps ideally, should be) justified by evidence and argument, but the results of any experiment can lend themselves to more than one interpretation (or belief), and things get trickier when we move on to non-experimental results or the level of theory which provides a framework for it all (you can’t make an intelligible experiment without theory, which requires some level of belief).
Maybe it would be easier to avoid using “belief” altogether and use the more specific language of theory, interpretation, proof, etc., but this would reinforce the idea belief/subjectivity has no place in science, which is simply about objective facts, and as much as some people would like this to be true… well, it isn’t.
As for climate science – without the ability to conduct unambiguous experiments on the climate, and without the logicians’ proof, consensus and belief has been used as a sort of proxy for the truth. This is indeed a very unusual position for any science (nothing like the IPCC has ever existed) and leads to all sorts of tensions between competing visions of what good science should look like.
“As for climate science – without the ability to conduct unambiguous experiments on the climate, and without the logicians’ proof, consensus and belief has been used as a sort of proxy for the truth”
I have read what you have written, and I could not disagree with you more. To me the sentence I have copied shows just how much we disagree. I think we both know that it is impossible to do controlled experiments on the earth’s atmosphere. However, what should be done as a result of this, that is where we differ.
You seem to believe that it is proper to use proxy’s etc.. I reject this out of hand. Whether you like it or not, climate science is a part of physics, and needs to follow the scientific method developed by Galileo and Newton. When the IPCC started it’s work, it must have been obvious to the people concerned that there was simply not enough experimental data to support an approach based on the scientific method. What they should have concluded, and stated up front, was that the scientific method could not predict what would happen if CO2 levels were increased in the earth’s atmosphere from current levels. That would have been the proper scientific approach. To say, we just dont know, until there is a lot more experimental data..
Instead of that, the approach was to use what I can only describe as smoke and mirrors. They relied on consensus, belief, the output of non-validated models in lieu of experimental data, etc. etc. They ought ot have known, maybe they actually knew, that this approach was not scientific. So this is where we are to day. The proponents of AGW trying to justify a completely non-scientific approach, and pretending it is, somehow, scientific.
Incidentally, thank you, Judith, for providing a forum where both sides of the AGW debate can talk science in a dignified way. I hope you will keep your promise to bring up the subject of models. With this current discussion, I relish the opportunity ot participate.
Well, I never said I endorsed the IPCC’s approach. Where I think we disagree is on our views of what science is – specifically climate science.
You say climate science is a part of physics. I disagree – I say climate science includes physics, as well as many other disciplines. If it could be reduced to simple physics and experiment then great, that would make the whole issue easier, but I don’t think it can.
You seem to think that we can or should wait until there is some threshold of experimental data to make a pronouncement about the science – “we just dont know, until there is a lot more experimental data..” implies that it is possible to know at some point once we have enough experimental data. However you also state that it is impossible to do controlled experiments with the atmosphere.
So I’m a little confused…
“Religious belief is very different from the way the word belief is used in philosophy”
Really …. ? And there was me thinking that when people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing …. they’ll believe in anything.
Maybe scientists, where agnosticism or atheism would naturally go with the territory, have a fundamental flaw in their genetic make-up which makes them naturally unsuitable to open-mindedness, enquiry and discovery ….. which might explain why there are so few good ones.
Zajko writes “You seem to think that we can or should wait until there is some threshold of experimental data to make a pronouncement about the science – “we just dont know, until there is a lot more experimental data..” implies that it is possible to know at some point once we have enough experimental data. However you also state that it is impossible to do controlled experiments with the atmosphere.
So I’m a little confused…”
Although we cannot do controlled experiments on the atmosphere, the proponents of AGW have made predicitons of what will happen as more and more CO2 is put into the atmosphere. Clearly, the first is a rise in global temperatures. Thanks to people like Christy and Spencer we now have excellent measurements of global surface temperatures from satellites. These tell us what is actually happening to global temperatures. Then there are predictions about Arctic sea ice, hurricanes, and other different phenomena. All these can be measured, so we can see the extent to which these predictions are, or are not, coming true.
But none of this is “experimental data”, and it all relies on some form of modeling. If you want to suggest that predictions made by AGW proponents are some sort of null hypothesis which have been invalidated by the models constructed from satellite data okay, that’s an argument, but it’s hardly the standard provided by experimental physics that you cited earlier.
Also, just because some piece of evidence contradicts something someone once predicted about AGW does not invalidate the theory. Likewise, just because we have other evidence to support the theory does not mean that there isn’t another explanation. Neither side has a testable hypothesis that can settle the issue once and for all, just competing bodies of evidence. Whether GCMs or the IPCC process can provide us with valid scientific knowledge of the climate is certainly up for debate, but what I think we agree on is the experimental model and the legacy of Newton and Galileo can’t help us much here.
We need a different standard for evidence, and a definition of science that isn’t married to the 17th century experimenters.
TomFP, we must carefully distinguish between consensus as an argument against following evidence (or not bothering with it) which science firmly rejects, and consensus as a consequence of following evidence. The former is anathema to science, the later is the inevitable consequence of the good practise of science because science leads to truth.
Of course, if you are outside science, as a non-expert looking in; that distinction tends to evaporate. That is because you are not (because non-expert) across on all the observations on which a scientific consensus is based. Therefore you are not in a position to judge whether that consensus is a convergence of opinion brought about by following evidence, or a convergence of opinion brought about be compliance to authority. Because of that, as a non-expert, you have only two responsible options – to accept the consensus as the best available theory, or to actually become expert yourself. And by expert, I mean have a knowledge and skill base at least equivalent to a holder of a Masters degree in the field.
As it is, the criticism of AGW comes primarilly from people who could not be bothered gaining even a high school standard understanding of the subject. And those select few who do become significantly expert show a lack of bona fides by pandering to the squabbling mass, refusing to criticise their absurdities.
Tom – “consensus as a consequence of following evidence” has strong implications of the “settled science” theme we are thankfully hearing less about these days. The reaction of a true scientist upon finding himself part of a consensus (and I don’t deny that this occurs, and is inevitable), is to try to bust it!
Scientific history is full of advances made by naturally disputatious individuals who instinctively abhorred consensus, and were strong enough, or simply eccentric enough, to be unperturbed by the approbrium they earned by challenging it. Anyone who lacks this instinct may become a highly exponent of the science of others – a sort of uber-technician, but will never be a great scientist in his own right.
As to those of us who fall below your lofty standards of academic excellence – we redress that by having a firm grasp of the Scientific Method, and ensuring that those who do perform the science stick to it. And it was made quite clear in November last year that climate science has abandoned most of the principles of the Scientific Method in favour of conjecture, ineptly-wielded statistics, and the corruption of the peer-review process. It’s the only reason I’m here. So I regret that your appeal to authority fails to impress me.
1) You seriously need to restudy (if you ever have) the history and philosophy of science. For example, Michelson and Morley, and Lorentz, Poincare and Einstein were not iconoclasts, nor abhorrers of consensus. They worked away at a problem using the methods of normal science (Kuhn) until they found a solution. In Einstein’s case, the solution was paradigm shattering, but not because he sort to combat the consensus. In fact, Einstein’s Noble Prize was earned by an experiment that established the truth of a theory, the atomic theory of matter, that already held near consensus support before he conducted it.
2) You evidently have a serious misapprehension as to how observational constraints relate to science. First, and foremost, it is observation, not experiment that generates the constraint on scientific knowledge. Experiments are desirable, because they are repeatable and variable, allowing the making of a large number of relevant observations in a limited time. But experiment is not always practical, in fact, outside of physics and chemistry, typically is impractical except in the most limited way. So unless you want to claim that science is entirely restricted to physics and chemistry, your caricature of the nature of scientific method is irrelevant in judging the practise of climate scientists.
As a side note, nearly all experiments in the development of modern medicines require statistical analysis to interpret. On the assumption that you are inclined to remain healthy by following your doctors advice – you are guilty of a double standard on science.
3) You are wrong with respect to climate scientists. They base their core theory on a small number of well known physical laws that have been established by detailed experiments in the laboratory. By assuming those laws to be true not just in laboratories, but also in nature they are able to explain a wide range of otherwise inexplicable observations. Based on that, they then make some broad predictions, one of which is AGW. They have then procede to use a wide range of methods to increase their observational knowledge of the natural systems involved to either confirm or disprove their predictions. So far, they are resoundingly confirming them. You may not like these facts – you may find them very inconvenient, in fact. They remain facts none-the-less.
Tom thank you for this, and for your concern for my scientific education. You write
“…and Einstein were not iconoclasts, nor abhorrers of consensus. They worked away at a problem using the methods of normal science (Kuhn) until they found a solution.” Huh? I never suggested that Einstein, et al were flouters of the Scientific Method – quite the reverse, they used it fastidiously (NB climate science!) to challenge the consensus – but that doesn’t mean that they were consensus-monkeys; you have a non sequitur here. I think you may be confusing or conflating “counter-consensual” with “counter-conventional”, and indeed both with “iconoclastic”.
You assert that Einstein’s discoveries were paradigm-shattering, but not because “he sort (sic) to combat the consensus.” How do you know this? I base my own assessment of the value Einstein placed on the prevailing consensus on several remarks attributed to him, notably
“Small is the number that see with their own eyes
and feel with their own hearts.”
“The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity; of life; of the marvelous structure of reality…”
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.”
“I have little patience with scientists who take a board of wood, look for its thinnest part, and drill a great number of holes where drilling is easy.”
All of which I find hard to reconcile with a man who valued consensus. What do you base your own assessment on?
Next, you say “it is observation, not experiment that generates the constraint on scientific knowledge.” Now you really do have the advantage of me, as I have never heard of an experiment that did not entail observation, so did not feel it necessary to specify. I was always taught that an experiment comprised theory-method-observation-conclusion. Was that wrong? Can you give me an example? Your assertion that experiment “outside of physics and chemistry, typically is impractical except in the most limited way” is simply bizarre, the more so as you go on to refer to “experiments in the development of modern medicines” but I leave it to biologists, clinicians and so forth to comment.
Your reference to following doctor’s orders is particularly apt, since as a helicobacter sufferer, and an eater of eggs, I have direct experience of how susceptible that profession can be to groupthink. The helicobacter story needs no retelling. For decades I have defied medical advice by eating as many eggs as I wanted. I now find the egg/cholesterol link discredited as a myth. So not guilty there, then?
As to climate science, I’m well aware “They base their core theory on a small number of well known physical laws that have been established by detailed experiments in the laboratory.” Although I prefer “uncontroversial” to “well-known”. And you have illuminated one of the core problems of climate “science” – it consists of a small amount of uncontroversial scientific knowledge, overlaid by a mountain of inexpertly applied statistics. That’s fine, if it produces skilful models, but I have yet to see one that has demonstrated ability to accurately hindcast without constant operator intervention. You say “So far, they are resoundingly confirming them.” Refs please.
There was a consensus amongst scientists funded by tobacco companies that smoking is not unhealthy. There is a consensus amongst scientists funded by the state that we face CAGW. The tobacco companies were funding an idea that acted to further their own interests, just as the state now is with CAGW.
We need to get away from the idea that scientists as a whole are more moral or objective than anyone else. Like the rest of us, they are but lackeys in the service of their paymasters. Climategate, the official coverups of Climategate, and the deafening lack of criticism of the culprits on the part of the silent majority consensus, are clear enough evidence of that.
The consensus is nothing more than a common source of funding, with state funding of climatology many orders of magnitude larger than any other.
> There was a consensus amongst scientists funded by tobacco companies that smoking is not unhealthy.
Meanwhile, government-funded scientists increasingly formed a consensus that smoking was unhealthy.
Coincidentally (or not) there is a consensus among those same tobacco-funded scientists that AGW is not a problem.
In any case, by your incredibly offensive and dismissive logic nobody can be trusted.
Further to this, how do you now know one way or the other whether smoking is unhealthy?
Science has no place for political-correctness crybabies who bemoan ‘offensiveness’. Especially when it’s those on public money objecting to public criticism. And even more especially when, as now, there’s so much at stake.
And Yes, we do need to be very wary of who we trust; ie, be skeptical.
Bart – I have seen you repeatedly scorn the very idea that climate science could have been corrupted by a conspiracy, arguing that such a conspiracy would be impossible to orchestrate. I have noticed that you rely heavily on this rebuttal to discredit in their entirety posts of which the conspiracy claim is merely a part, thus conveniently excusing yourself from having to address the remainder. Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I feel you are placing a very naive interpretation on the word “conspiracy”. In English we have the concept of a Conspiracy of Silence, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t exist in Dutch – but like I say, giving you the benefit of the doubt…. In a conspiracy of silence, the conspirators have no need of formal organisation or express communication – they know culturally what is expected of them.
The defining characteristic of the CAGW camp is that it believes that it is not only correct, but virtuous. These beliefs are extremely socially attractive, and constitute an obstacle to true objectivity, and an encouragement to group-think. Specifically, climate science has been characterised by a silent conspiracy to neglect the null hypothesis.
Of course the existence of a conspiracy of silence pervading climate science doesn’t preclude more formal conspiracies to pass of poor science, frustrate the peer-review process, vilify detractors and so on, and as we know from the CRU emails such a conspiracy flourished around that discredited organisation. Again I have to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume from your scorn for the conspiracy claim that you haven’t read the emails. Please do so. The benefit of the doubt is wearing thin.
Bart @7:37 and 7:39 AM today
These two entries illustrate why I asked you on Tom Fuller’s blog why your logic wasn’t exposed in graduate school.
You have been riled up by the contrarians and you see things in a very subjective way. People like Mosher and Fuller who published the e-mails had the intention to polarize the debate in order to get people like you to follow them.
If you read the posts by Mosher on this blog, you will notice that he does not believe in conspiracies and such things.
However, he does not make the effort to reply to you on this issues, as he is only interested to get people riled up.
Sorry, Janet; Moshe’s lasered on the Truth, poor fella’.
Janet – I didn’t need any “contrarians” to rile me up, thank you. Just my own native scepticism, which flourished before Climategate. You should try it, instead of spouting credulous pap. And I fail to see why Mosher should make the effort to reply to me, since I have never addressed any remarks to him. You seem a little confused…
The state is a self-interested entity, be it a Soviet/Nazi murderous state or a typical totalitarian/welfare state as in the West
I want you to name the countries in the West that you consider are totalitarian/communist/Nazi/etc.
Pick from the list: USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain
All of those are totalitarian welfare states. Just look at the tax rates, and the general level of state regulation and state control in those societies.
The main conspiracy idea being the naive notion that state-funding of science has no impact on its direction; and that scientists are angels, who secretly work to counter their own bias, and the bias of their funders in who and what they choose to fund.
I believe it’s called the Angelic Conspiracy.
‘State-funded’ scientists are not to trust?
This looks highly suspicious. As if the states we are talking about are communist Russia and the satellite republics!
We are actually talking about scientists from the US and Western Europe.
Is there anyone else here that shares your conspiracy theories? Or are you alone?
The state is a self-interested entity, be it a Soviet/Nazi murderous state or a typical totalitarian/welfare state as in the West.
The only suspicious conspiracy theory about, is the one you here espouse; namely, the notion that the scientists they employ are in no way biased towards furthering the interests of the state.
I want you to name the countries in the West that you consider are totalitarian/communist/Nazi/etc.
Pick from the list: USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain
Janet, you seem to be determined to be this blog’s very own little miss PC minder. Conspiracy is a natural human tendency. It starts in the family, when parents conspire to hide the “truth” of Santa Claus from the kids. It grows as the kids conspire to play off mom against dad. And government funded scientists conspire to avoid FOI requests, retaliate against editors, corrupt the peer review process, and the like–read the Climategate e-mails.
I am rudely taken aback at Bart Veheggen’s comment “conspiracy alert.” Cheap shot Bart! The sort of thing I’d expect from Janet, not you.
If I were to use your logic, I would say that killing is a natural human tendency. No harm done about it.
Why natural? Because at school you dissected frogs, didn’t you? You killed flies, mosquitoes. Maybe mice or birds. You carry a gun? Oh, you surely like killing humans then.
There are some ‘arguments’ that people tend to create in order to justify their actions. Another common one is the republican/Reagan mantra that greed is a good thing, therefore those who did despicable acts like polluting rivers, selling bad products are not bad after all.
Janet, for your edification: Google: “Frank Church mkultra”, “Tuskegee experiment” and “non sequitur”. Then get back with me. O. K.
I asked you a specific question; which of the Western countries (US, Canada and EU countries) do you distrust as being communistic, nazi-type, etc.
Instead you invite me to Google well-known terms.
I take it that you distrust any form of government then, including US, Canada, UK, Germany.
I believe the only chance you have to protect yourself against potential ‘mkultra’-type events that might occur to the general public, is to study science. Study science well, and identify where the real dangers are.
If you distrust scientists, there you are in some trouble. The effects of climate change (no matter whether you believe they happen or not) will not have a significant effect to this lifetime. There are more immediate issues that you may want to worry about, such as pollution and the effects on behavior and health. Or long-term stress and the effects on health. The great irony is that with regulation and social security you can control pollution and reduce stress.
Janet, I don’t trust any group as a class–not even Catholic priests. I extend trust to those who earn my trust. However, I do offer a presumption of trust to scientists like those involved in the climategate fiasco (silly me)–they betrayed my trust. Otherwise, you asked a preposterous question and I chose not to answer it. Sure you looked up non-sequitur?
Janet, please do not put words in my mouth. Thank you so much.
You respond with a cliché. Is that it?
You provide keywords for the notorious experiments that the CIA was conducting during the cold war by administering psychotropic substances to people that were not told, or the syphilis experiments to people that they were not told about them.
Aren’t you asking whether the government (agencies) are conducting similar experiments now? Don’t you believe that the government is conducting mass scale mind-changing experiments?
And I am answering that these concerns are misplaced. You should be much worried about pollution, junk food and stressful life (which are more immediate) rather than issues like climate change.
Thank you for your advice, Janet. I’ll keep it in mind
Janet, help me out here. Should I be worrying about health and stress so I can possibly live a longer life or should I worry about overpopulation?
So you basically say ‘never trust anyone who is paid’?
I really see no logic in your reasoning. None at all. Unless, of course, you would claim that the state – any state – always tries to control everything. I’d say you would have the burden of proof there.
The problem is not that climate scientists are (generally) publicly-funded. Or that (a few) sceptics are funded by interests which undeniably stand to benefit from their success. Rather the problem is that the climate scientists are working in a field which would simply evaporate if they reached one of the conclusions to which any good scientist must give due weight – that the evidence so far available does not support a dangerous link between human activity and climate variation. Their livelihoods (to say nothing of their social wellbeing) therefore depend in an unhealthy way upon tacit neglect of the null hypothesis. (Sorry to be repetitive, Judith, but I believe the point should be made)
Personally, I don’t subscribe to the “state-funded conspiracy” that Punksta and others seem to favour. That implies that the governing classes set out to fabricate a field of science that would permit them to tax their citizens. I see it rather as an “unholy alliance”. The state started to notice that the work it had been funding for some years was throwing up policy proposals that looked taxable, and is reacting opportunistically by favouring the catastrophists and marginalising the sceptics. The effect may, however, be much the same!
My main plank is actually more unholy alliance as described above, rather than conspiracy.
The IPCC cadre though, as we saw in Climategate, certainly were conspiring to frustrate the truth in a manner so as to further the reach of politics over society, and boost their own careers.
And I question the Angelic Conspiracy that underpins alarmism, which holds that state-funding of climate science imparts no statist bias to its findings.
Punksta – thanks for this. “Conspiracy” is a very loaded word, and should only be used, IMO, when no alternative exists which won’t simply spark a diversionary response (cf Bart’s stock riposte that a conspiracy would be impractical) ends up detracting from the burden of one’s argument. To take your “Angelic Conspiracy”, might it not be better expressed as “the myth of academic purity”, or “the myth of scholarly incorruptibility”, or some such? Anything but the C word! Except, as you and I agree, when you see, as you do in the CRU emails, scientists behaving in a way which meets the very narrowest definition of conspiracy. I don’t think even Bart would deny that they conspired. Perhaps he excuses their conspiracy on the grounds of “noble cause”, “greater good”, etc, but that, tiresome as it is, is another argument.
..Unless, of course, you would claim that the state – any state – always tries to control everything.
No, but we certainly live in an increasingly totalitarian age, with tax and other state controls centralising and ratcheting ever upwards, and liberty consequently in retreat.
Well, the tax take has been going back and forth for the past few decades as a percentage of GDP, but let’s not bring facts into this..
Speaking of which, I’d have to point out the almost complete non-existence of taxes related to global warming, and indeed very low investment in lowering carbon emissions. And by very low, you have to compare the figures with things like the overall size of the energy industry, or taxpayer cash thrown at things like overseas wars or bank bailouts.
And, of course, the big attacks on personal liberty recently have been down more to a pathetic cowering in front of terrorists on the part of various right wing administrations, than the nefarious influence of the Evil Really Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming Cabal (ERCAGWC).
Can I refer to two quotes, the first of which leads on to the second;
“As Thomas Kuhn put it in The Road Since Structure: “… – individuals committed to one interpretation or another sometimes defended their viewpoint in ways that violated their professed canons of professional behaviour. I am not thinking primarily of fraud, which was relatively rare. But failure to acknowledge contrary findings, the substitution of personal innuendo for argument, and other techniques of the sort were not. Controversy about scientific matters sometimes looked much like a cat fight.”
This canon is perhaps illustrated in the next;
“Chris field is one of the Stanford University Global-Warming-Alarm! team headed by Stephen Schneider, a lead IPCC author who says:
“On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but – which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make
simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”
So being effective is not necesarily the same as being honest and advocacy appears to have a part in science-its not blind weighing up the facts, science makes choices because the sciemtists making them have preferences. So a lack of consensus should mean that everyone has examined the matter (AGW) and come to a conclusion.
That there is today almost ‘A consesus of consensuses’ either means there is overwhelming evidence or that sciemtists are being human and want to be on the side of ‘the good guys.’
I personally am sadenned by the lack of objectivity in many studies and by the narrow scope of the research which tends to be based on proving something is unprecedented-but within a very narrow time frame. A few more scientists with a knowledge of history would go a long way.
Consensus in science is a joke as it becomes tradition.
Traditional science in the majority of cases has a starting point which is not based back to the start of this planet. Religion is a tradition starting 2-3 thousand years. Is it science? Climate science has started the same way. Is the proxies being used correct?
No one is allowed to question what has already been published as now it must be correct. Only in the minds of the author and peer reviewer.
Newtons theories are taught as laws which cannot be in questioned. Yet, apply distances in space, rotation or time lines and changes and these laws crumble and so do all the science that was allowed to follow this tradition.
Oops, I can’t say this as now I am a desenter to the authority and not the science.
Is it possible for you to visit Australia to talk on your view on man made global warming to the public and politicians.
I would love to hear your talk, and I am sure the hall will be standing room only.
Could you consider it?
Thanks Girma. At some point (possibly in the next year) I will travel to australia, will let you know.
According to that line of reasoning Bill Gates should let all Microsoft users see his business emails and when you fill up your car at the Shell station you get a CD-ROM with the emails of all Shell employees?
I don’t think so.
Are you finally agreeing that the AGW movement is now an industrial enterprise bearing only accidental similarity to science?
The public doesn’t run Microsoft anymore. But even if he did, he didn’t run his business off tax money. I, as a tax payer, want to see what it is that I’m paying for. The public is not a cash cow for scientists to do with as they please. I think some of them don’t yet understand this concept.
Correction: Bill Gates does not run MS anymore.
Just to clarify, my comment was in reply to Punksta,
September 29, 2010 at 6:34 am, where (s)he wrote:
“The work-related emails of those on public money should anyway be open to the public.”
Then the money you spent on commercial products should entitle you to see the business’ emails?
Hunter: Huh? No.
Bart, your usually excellent command of English seems to have deserted you – can you not see that Punksta is referring to PUBLIC money? Or to turn it around, are you really suggesting that the obligations of a publicly-funded scientist are no different to those of a private business?
To be perfectly clear – yes, all correspondence relating to publicly-funded work should, subject to such concerns as national security, be available for public scrutiny.
Correspondence relating to the activities of a business is privileged, and should not be.
I see the logic as being that the one who pays for the work is entitled to see the correspondence.
For science, that is usually (though not always) the taxpayer.
For commercial products, that is the person who buys the product/service.
I agree that you are either not understanding the language or are missing out on some very basic concepts of ownership of work product.
Bart you are ignoring a couple of key differences here. I can choose to not buy from Microsoft if I think they are acting badly, are not trustworthy, make a bad product, etc. But nobody has the choice of not paying taxes.
However this is not even the most important issue.
Microsoft and other companies can, at least in most countries, legally examine the emails of employees when those emails were sent on company computers. Likewise the employers of government employees (AKA the tax payers) have every right to examine the email messages of those who work for government when those messages were sent on government computers. Almost nobody cares about, or would even want to read, strictly personal emails (eg., my wife is dying from cancer, my son is having an an affair outside of marriage, etc). I noted that whoever took the email messages from UEA was very careful to NOT include these kinds of emails. What was taken was damaging, not be cause it contained personal information, but because it suggested a very high level of arrogance, a tendency to dismiss anyone who does not agree, strong political motivation, and rather unscrupulous behind the scenes activities…. 100% related to the work being done by these climate scientists.
Yes, Steve, everybody can choose to go live in fiscal paradises. Sierra Leone, anyone?
Likewise the employers of government employees (AKA the tax payers) have every right to examine the email messages of those who work for government when those messages were sent on government computers.
Legally, no. You have no more right to that information than do the stockholders of Microsoft.
You may, if you wish, assert that it should be different, but unless you seriously advocate that the emails of the NSA, the Veterans Administration and the local branch of Child Protective Services should be in the public domain, it’s a specious argument.
If the US house of Representatives changes hands in November, I think there will be a pretty clear demonstration of what the public’s rights are. I suggest we just leave it at that.
The employer would be the University or Institute’s management.
Some people would disagree that they have a choice not to use MS products. They’re hard to avoid.
You’d also have the choice to go live in Timbutku where your taxes won’t go to climate science.
And if you’re American, what are you doing reading English taxpayer’s paid emails?
Your position fails the coherence check.
If the US house of Representatives changes hands in November, I think there will be a pretty clear demonstration of what the public’s rights are. I suggest we just leave it at that.
With all due respect, I find your position on this completely disconnected from reality.
The employer of record may be a university, but there are FOI laws in place in many countries (including the USA and the UK…and I think in the Netherlands) requiring public disclosure of information based upon receiving public funding. When someone says that public disclosure is not required by the acceptance of public funding, I wonder where they have been living for the last 20+ years.
The point is a simple one: if the public funds research, then the product(s) of that research is (are) the property of the public. NOBODY who collects a paycheck funded by the taxpayer should imagine that their work is is not public property, as opposed to a programmer at Microsoft, who’s work most certainly is not public property…. rather obviously the property of Microsoft.
The details in each case may differ a bit (national security considerations, or PDA’s thoughtful concerns about personal information held by the Veteran’s Administration or State Child Protective Services). But I am quite certain that anybody who is funded by the US Government, directly or indirectly, and who is within the jurisdiction of the United States, will ultimately comply with requests for information from the government of the United States (just like Michael Mann did, in spite of his many loud complaints about the process).
UEA emails were not embarrassing because of the disclosure of personal information, they were embarrassing because they disclosed the normal workings of those involved.
Wow – is that agreement I see before me?
You’re putting words in my mouth that I haven’t uttered.
Is there a consensus about the non consensus on consensus?
Correction: “Is there a consensus about the no consensus on consensus?” (One must be consistant about such things,
I believe there is one. (Please don’t ask what it is.)
Assuming the “no” is more consistent than the “non”: is there a consensus about the consensus of the no consensus on consensus?
I don’t care for what the consensus is. I only care about how it turles all the way down.
Turtles, not turles.
(-; I believe if you re-read all entries at least 14 times –except this one of cource– you’ll detect a faint but distinct pattern that a turtle would find incredibly vaguely interesting on a cold day at the bottom of a frozen pond; though that may not be correct these days, I haven’t had a pet turtle in nearly 60 years. When all is said and done, however, it only matters what you think the consensus is; it’s a very personal conclusion. Once people make up their minds what the consensus is, nothing really matters. Try it. ;-)
Although the NIPCC was written by individuals that have ties to advocacy groups, the report contains a very long list of scientists that support the NIPCC (over the IPCC).
This is a vague and extremely loaded statement.
Not so much because it would be really an “attack” against NIPCC but mostly because the “although” implies that there is asymmetry.
An advocacy group is a gathering of people who promote special political and/or economical and/or religious interests.
For example the most obvious and powerful advocacy groups are political parties and NGOs.
Clearly there is a perfect symmetry between IPCC and NIPCC as far as existence of “ties” to advocacy groups go.
There are as many of such ties on both sides, the only difference is that those ties go to different groups.
The IPCC “ties” go to NGOs and left political parties while the NIPCC, or more generally skeptical ties, go to right political parties.
Economical advocacy groups are shared and fluctuate wildly – nuclear interests are fully behind IPCC while coal interests are mostly behind NIPCC. Big oil is in majority behind IPCC too – Aramco and PDVSA tried to oppose it but BP, Shell and Total are fully supporting. Exxon is moving from anti to pro.
Religious advocacy groups are mostly behind IPCC too – christians for obvious reasons and radical islam because it hopes it will hurt America. Etc.
Also I believe that when you evoke consensus, you must sharply separate WG1 and the rest.
It is actually only in WG1 that some kind of serious science is done and it concerns only a couple of hundred of scientists (far from the mediatic 2500).
I also believe that there are parts of WG1 reports that find consensus not only among scientists but also among the public – f.ex radiative physics and equilibrium thermodynamics.
But WG2 and even worse WG3?
This looks like a kind of bad joke where tax payer’s money is wasted.
I remember having read some years ago a presumably peer reviewed paper suggesting that the average weight of some bird species in some country was decreasing because of the global warming. And yes it was bad!
Of course the author was genuflecting to IPCC right and left stating his hope that his paramount studies will be farther funded to “fight against the global warming”.
From the scientific point of view it was just a piece of subpar statistics and hazardous extrapolation but the mind boggling part is that this irrelevant piece could only be done because of IPCC and of the fact that every contribution to “warm=bad” can find funds.
There will never be consensus on WG2 and higher.
There will not be scientific consensus bacause babblings about biodiversity, climato-psychology, socio-philosophy, precaution principles etc are not science.
But most importantly even if some ecolo-socio-biologists agree in their rantings about birds’ weights, there will never be consensus in the public because virtually everybody knows that warmer is better.
Ask Russians or Canadians what they think about winter.
Ask why Americans move to Florida despite hurricanes and German to Spain or France.
But perhaps the most important argument that will stop this whole discussion one day:
The majority of CO2 will be emitted by the BRIC&Co.
Don’t forget that the AGW has been invented by a handful of western countries.
They got fast support of poor small insignificant countries (remember the Maldives’ ridiculous pranks or Mugabe’s heroical stance?) that have immediately seen in that matter an opportunity to blackmail rich western countries what enabled IPCC creation and continuation.
I have lived both in China and Russia and I find it amusing to observe these self destructing delusions in the rich western countries like USA, Germany, UK or France.
It is clear that the Chinese and Russian governments, people (and their scientists) will not be part of any occidental consensus.
Sure, they will watch interested, make proclamations to media if necessary, perhaps even sign useless papers but then go back to construct power plants and increase their standards of living.
Then even the western public seeing that none of those horrible things, predicted already 20 years ago, happen, while other non predicted like absence of economical growth do happen, will loose patience and throw out all the fighters aginst the global warming be they scientists or politicians .
I bet that there will be consensus about the throwing out and it will be much faster than they can say ENSO.
Finally a message that makes sense and tells it how the real world´s Realpolitik works. Eventually people, and therefore polticians, will understand that feelings of guilt may work in the religions of the first world, but not in the world where people actually want to achieve the same standard of living and will laugh their @sses of because the first world is desperately trying to head back 30 years in development.
It has been said (I can’t remember by whom) that oriental cultures are shame-centred, whereas those in the west are centred on guilt. My own experiences of these cultures gives some support to this view. The CAGW movement owes most of its general appeal to its promise to extirpate the sense of perennial and narcissistic guilt harboured by so many westerners. It should not surprise us then, if oriental people not only decline to share CAGW belief, but don’t even really understand it.
It is not only “oriental” cultures and it is not only about guilt.
There is the whole half of Europe – East and Center that has HUGE empirical evidence about what happens when some insignificant minority gets the power to “scientifically” manage a society.
These people have been very efficiently vaccinated against saving planets, mankinds and more generally organising paradises on the Earth preferably in very far futures because, obviously, in the short term future only sacrifices are asked.
All these people are underrepresented on this board and that’s why this discussion about consensus is completely biased.
I mentionned this point already in the very first Judith’s post.
I’ll repeat that if one wanted to talk about exclusively scientific consensus where cultural and historical lessons matter arguably little, then the discussion should be restricted to WG1.
Anything that goes beyond – WG2 and 3 is so strongly coupled to history, culture and politics that the opinions presented here would be representative of less than 1 % of the human population and therefore certainly not relevant to “consensus”on these matters.
What is “BRIC&Co” – not being sarcastic, honestly don’t know what this is.
Brazil, Russia, India and China?
Brazil, Russia, India and China. (+- SE asia, rest of)
It is true that the above (especially C and I) have strongly rising emissions. To the extent that even if the West reduced their emissions to zero over the next 3 decades, global emissions could well end up higher than now.
(I could pontificate at this point that even the most wide-eyed optomistic estimates of fossil fuel resources, especially oil, would be insufficient to keep the whole world western-style for more than a decade of so, but that would be off topic)
On the plus side, it means that AGW will be proven beyond unreasonable doubt.
On the minus side, it means that AGW will be proven beyond unreasonable doubt.
(Those who insist on putting a ‘C’ in front of ‘AGW’ will have to define the ‘C’ before getting proof or otherwise, of course. )
Can we have consensus that the 3.6 billion in the developing world need economic development so they can support their families?
Peabody Energy Chairman and CEO Greg Boyce Outlines ‘Peabody Plan’ to Eliminate Energy Poverty and Inequality http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=129849&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1471068&highlight=
Coal fired power and hydroelectricity have been the most cost effective way to generate electricity. What right do we have to say to the poor that they cannot use cheap electricity to develop?
Alternatively, will we invest the funds needed to make sustainable energy resources more cost effective?
(Isn’t that an altogether different subject, best discussed elsewhere? If you think I’m cold –or hot– on the subject, you would misjudge me.)
The “consensus” appears to be pushing “cap and trade”.
Where is the debate over adaptation vs mitigation?
Who imposed the “consensus” of imposing a $65 trillion cost on We the People without debate?
I’m trying to thread my way through the comments to determine if there is any agreement to your original proposal of a legal brief framework for analysis. I think that the comments have become so diverse that the conclusions are difficult to assess. Maybe it’s time for separate threads? Thanks for the platform and all the provoking commentators.
Thanks Djozar, I agree. I will pick up the legal framework as part of my next post (which should be up tomorrow a.m.)
One of the saddest nonsenses to be widely promoted is the dismissal of any scientific opinion on climate science from oil industry geologists such as myself, on the assumption that their scientific ethical integrity is compromised by their work. In a career spanning nearly 40 years in this industry, in capacities of scientist and manager, involved in countless meetings at all levels including research budget provision, not once was AGW debated let alone sceptic funding proposed.
The world’s largest professional society for geologists is the AAPG. They have now disbanded their active climate special committee due to suffocating political ostracisation, but their climate ‘statement’, against huge pressure, is an appeal to reason and sense:
I would not attempt to claim that serious and hugely regrettable environmental disasters have befallen the industry from very serious upstream and downstream incidents, many of which are down to management incompetance and human failure. However, the industry has facilitated enormous advances in science in the fields of geophysics, remote sensing, structural geology and continental drift, micropalaeontology, palynology and ecology, sedimentary environments and processes, seismic stratigraphy, geothermal and petrophysical analysis, basin modelling and geochemistry. I reject entirely the notion that geologists within the industry are or could be ethically compromised. They are evidence based individuals and highly resistant to groupthink.
No industry has been closer to, or more philanthropic towards, academic research, supporting major national libraries and institutions. The Lamont Docherty, for instance, founded on an Oklahoma oil fortune, and its long running deep sea drilling work. These people include very capable and ethical geologists that deserve full respect rather than vilification for their contribution to the climate debate. For example, any career climatologist should have AAPG Studies in Geology #47 Geological Persectives in Climat Change Ed. Gerhard et al on their shelves for a start. There is a wide spread of opinion in geological circles, certainly, and quite rightly, no consensus- we do not yet know enough.
Not to mention the fact that oil and gas have catapulted mankind to standards of living not even imagined 200 years ago. It is utterly stupid to chuck these energy sources unless there is a very well proven reason. Global warming just isn’t there yet.
Hmmm. The statement:
Yet, our planet has been far warmer and cooler than today many times in the geologic past, including the past 10,000 years.
Is a bit odd, being plainly wrong. It is marginally possible that the climate circa 6000 years ago was warmer than present, but certainly not ‘Far warmer’. And:
To be predictive, any model of future climate should also accurately model known climate and greenhouse gas variations recorded in the geologic history of the past 200,000 years
Is at best setting the bar insanely high – implying that only a model able to reproduce the complete glacial-interglacial cycle, ice sheets and all can predict the next few decades, and at worst highly disingenuous.
The cynic in me thinks that they are trying to get the most skeptical possible position through that doesn’t have the rank and file of the organisation laughing at them..
And it would also point out that proudly asserting that petroleum scientists are immune to groupthink on a site where the accusation of groupthink is routinely flung at climate scientists requires more than a little compartmentalized thinking.
“asserting that petroleum scientists are immune to groupthink on a site where the accusation of groupthink is routinely flung at climate scientists requires more than a little compartmentalized thinking”
and blithely asserting that oil company CEO’s (already worth millions) have entered a suicide pact to willfully destroy the planet thus denying their progeny a future requires an ability to suspend rational thought that is… remarkable. “organized disinformation compaign, anyone”.
‘Destroy the planet’ please..
You can be assured that the well-off will, in general, be immune to any realistic effects of global warming. Therefore it is rational of them to continue any activity that makes them wealthier, including activities such as funding anti-AGW propaganda. It’s called ‘Acting in your rational self-interest’.
But the assertion in the OP was that whilst Petroleum Scientists are an upstanding, independent and totally incorruptible bunch, Climate Scientists come to whatever conclusion their funding source demands. This is generally known as ‘screaming hypocrisy’. Or ‘compartmentalised thinking’, if you are being polite.
Then we are agreed: There is no looming catastrophe. The best defense against global warming is creating wealth. Policies that disrupt the economy and destroy wealth are wrong headed.
That was remarkably easy. Sweet.
Petroleum industry professionals, when they make mistakes, get fired.
Academics selling apocalypse, when proven wrong, sit on tenure. Think of Paul Ehrlich as a great example. Flat out wrong, and still respected by his peers.
As far as setting the bar…..where should it be set in your view?
Yes, professors get to keep their tenure, while poor Tony Hayward had to resign with this pension:
> The terms of his departure from the £1 million-a-year post are not yet known, although he will leave with a pension pot worth £10.8 million.
He will also get yearly pays on departure:
> He is entitled to a year’s pay on departure, although Bargate Murray employment partner Philip Henson said he could receive more to “reflect his long service and dedication to BP”.
Let’s not forget bonus and shares:
> Alongside his salary, Mr Hayward received a £2.09 million bonus for 2009 as well as £336,000 in shares which were issued under the firm’s performance plan for 2006-08.
And let’s not forget other shares:
> In February this year he also received £852,000 in shares under the 2007-09 plan, while a further scheme running between 2009 and 2011 would give him a potential maximum of 1.18 million shares, worth almost £5 million.
And let’s not forget other shares:
> According to BP’s annual report, he also has options over 650,000 BP shares, although the prices are currently above the stock’s level in the wider market following the firm’s share price collapse, which has wiped around £45 billion from BP’s value.
Let’s hope Tony Hayward will find a way to get his life back after this harsh dismissal.
Where was the part about his being a practicing geologist?
Why do believers belabor each and every point, no matter how foolish they have to make themselves?
Oh, now we go from “Petroleum industry professionals” to “practicing geologists”.
Where were the part about “academics selling apocalypse”, the part about “proven wrong”, and the part about “the link between Ehrlich and academics” again?
Might Einstein be proven wrong, would his “peers”, assuming we could take all the past and future scientists of one’s field as peers, have to respect him less? Might we diss him because he entertained apocalyptic nuclear ideas?
Anyone, or any group, who takes exception to a ‘Popular Psyence Myth of the Day’ is treated the same way. The IPCC involvement in this fiasco, a rather unique and new phenomena in modern history, has been the most disturbing part of the mess. When the mountain bellows and roars it’s approval or disapproval the islanders tend to listen, it’s only natural; in fear, they condemn and spit on those who question the witch doctors and the lord of the mountain.
‘Dusty’s summary is masterful. I agree with every word. Yet in our schools, teachers are being encouraged to support the IPCC spin about how human actions are causing a change in climate that none of us except the AGW supporters can see!
As someone who has lived around around both the oil patch and academia, I can only tell you that my observations of geological-geophysical professionals over many years agrees with yours. One of the least appealilng tools used by AGW fanatics is to broadly condemn those from the energy industry.
The IPCC process toward “consenus” is corrupt.
These two items below are all that is needed to prove the corruption. There are other examples, but these two are enough.
Frederick Seitz, President Emeritus of Rockefeller University.
A Major Deception on Global Warming
Op-Ed by Frederick Seitz
Wall Street Journal, June 12, 1996
“…The participating scientists accepted “The Science of Climate Change” in Madrid last November; the full IPCC accepted it the following month in Rome. But more than 15 sections in Chapter 8 of the report–the key chapter setting out the scientific evidence for and against a human influence over climate–were changed or deleted after the scientists charged with examining this question had accepted the supposedly final text….”
October 9, 1997: climategate email 0876437553
“…I am very strongly in favor of as wide and rapid a distribution as possible for endorsements. I think the only thing that counts is numbers. The media is going to say “1000 scientists signed” or “1500 signed”. No one is going to check if it is 600 with PhDs versus 2000 without. They will mention the prominent ones, but that is a different story. …”
In response to Zajko 29 September, 2010 at 10.01 am
Thank you for a sane and balanced comment. I think that you’ve laid out very well the reason that ‘consensus’ has been so important in this issue, and why we should nonetheless do our best to move past it.
I agree with you also on ‘belief’, which to me refers to our preparedness to use a body of knowledge as though it were ‘true’. At the moment I ‘believe’ in scientific method as the best way forward, but mine is not a belief of the religious kind: if a better way forward is shown to me, I will move to that in preference to scientific method.
The reason that there has been so much fuss about consensus is that the science of AGW (sorry, C-AGW — when did the C creep in?) is ambiguous, and it is ambiguous because climate science doesn’t lend itself to experimentation. Without experimental tests, I think it is reasonable for agnostics like me to ask for very high levels of argument and evidence. Since they are wanting, I remain agnostic — and the more I am browbeaten by demands that I take notice of the consensus the more I ask for evidence of the consensus — and that too is wanting. That then makes me suspicious of the whole endeavour, and the claim that human activity is responsible for whatever warming exists.
Within what I would call the educated electorate I think that there are many more like me. You don’t have to have university training in science to wrinkle your brow at all this.
Whenever I read things like “climate science doesn’t lend itself to experimentation”, an assertion much used by CAGW proponents to excuse their abandonment of the Scientific Method, and their elevation of statistics to the status of evidence, I am reminded of the Schiehallion Experiment
which I studied as part of my high school physics (as far as I got, I’m afraid, so I’d appreciate the views of the Cripwells and Currys of this world on what I have to say).
I recall little of the actual experiment save its elegance, but it seems to me that before it was performed, scientists might well have felt with equal justification that the phenomenon it was measuring – the earth’s density – did not “lend itself to experiment”. The other phenomena to which the experiment gave access, such as the value of G, and the density of extra-terrestrial objects, would have seemed to contemporaries even less amenable to repeatable experiment. I’m sure all you professional scientists can cite more and better examples of apparently inscrutable phenomena submitting to ingenious experiment – the one I cite is merely one that stands out in a rather scant scientific education.
It’s bad enough that the climate catastrophists hide behind this canard, but we sceptics should avoid conceding the point, and keep insisting that they show us repeatable experiment that confirms their predictions.
Ernest Rutherford: “If your experiment requires statistics, you should have thought of a better experiment”.
So much for the LHC.
Well, it does require statistics, maybe they should have thought of a better way.
All of cosmology can be pretty much dismissed as a science as well.
And string theory.
I don’t really agree with that position.
Cosmology makes predictions and seeks evidence. String theory may be more problematic, but it is certainly not from lack of seeking evidence.
So, you are basically claiming that the historical sciences (including much of geology) are rubbish because you cannot do repeatable experiments?
Radiometric dating required statistics by definition, you are saying that it doesn’t work?
The majority of medicine requires statistics to show the effectiveness or otherwise of treatments. All bunk?
This argument reminds me a lot of Creationists demanding experimental proof of ‘macroevolution’ (a term which, like ‘CAGW’, they strongly avoid ever defining).
It is nice to be ultra reductionist as in basic physics, but the rest of science does not generally have that luxury.
The only direct experiment we can do is compare two similar planets which receive pretty much the same solar flux (after albedo) but where one has much, much more carbon dioxide in its than the other. That would be Earth and Venus.
Returning to Earth, but very certainly not ignoring the celestial, please note that a significant experiment is currently in progress at the CERN facility in Switzerland. The experiment comprises a 4 m diameter aerosol chamber and a 0.5 m diameter cylindrical cloud chamber which are exposed to an adjustable particle beam that simulates GCRs at any altitude or latitude. The chambers are filled with air, water vapor, selected trace gases and aerosols and can be operated at any temperature or pressure found in the atmosphere.
I should add that GCR’s are galactic cosmic rays.
But I thought that the ERCAGWC blocked all funding for ‘skeptics’..
In any case, good luck applying the results to reality. Climate has a habit of not being subject to simple solutions (or analytic ones..)
And yes, I’ve heard of GCRs, and yes I do find it entertaining that people who pronounce themselves ‘skeptics’ jump on the theory as the answer with no questions asked..
They are having lots of problems with stuff like wall effects, something that anyone who has had experience with smog chambers could have told them. In short this looks like another Bonn Bomb (ask any old time kinetics person, several of whom are at GaTech)
CAGW = Catastrophic Anthropomorphic Global Warming. A short hand way to summarize the popular view of ‘global warming’/ ‘climate change’/’global cliamte disruption’ that is being promoted in the public square.
A belief that human generated CO2 is causing a global cliamte catastrophe.
You must have a large field of straw to keep using so many strawman arguments.
“Anthropomorphic?” A global-warming that’s shaped like a person?
But what does ‘Catastrophic’ mean?
Are we talking the oceans boiling and the land being scorched, or tornadoes levelling the West Coast of the US, the entire Antarctic ice cap collapsing in a week, that sort of thing?
Or are we talking about shifting rainfall patterns meaning that people who rely on agriculture to survive suddenly find that they live in a desert? Sea levels changing enough to put most of the world’s coastal cities out of business? Industry having to shut down due to rivers failing?
But what does ‘Catastrophic’ mean?
Economically ruinous, at a minimum?
But what does ruinous mean?
But what does disastrous mean?
What does recursion mean? See recursion.
Into a phrase with three components, all of which represent absolute measurable or detectable quantities, you introduce a fourth which requires a subjective value judgement. This allows you to move goalpoasts at will in any argument, while simultaneously casually smearing ones opposites as hysterical or insufficiently rational. It is a devious and underhand rehtorical tactic with no place in science.
It’s really not difficult – ‘economically ruinous’ just refers to a large drop in standard of living. Perhaps just consult a dictionary.
How large? How are you defining standard of living? Whose standard of living? Over what timescale? At what point do these supposed indicaters cross the line from being hardly worth a mention, to catastrophic and thus requiring a prefix?
If this was a well defined term your first answer should have covered it. You’ve already proved my point, no need for further response.
You don’t have much of a point to speak of. We could go and start quantifying all those metrics, but the simple point is that the catastrophic effects are those the IPCC and others dedicated to alarmism use when urging green taxes etc.
show us repeatable experiment that confirms their predictions.
A reasonable request. What would such an experiment look like?
I’d be very interested to know who – other than a commenter on this blog – has ever said “climate science doesn’t lend itself to experimentation.” Climate science lends itself very well to experimentation to verify the various mechanisms – of radiative transfer, say, or of hydrology – which come together to produce the scientific understanding of climate. The climate lends itself very poorly to experimentation to verify hypotheses like “x concentration of CO2 in an atmosphere of y volume will lead to a temperature increase of z” for the simple reason that we don’t have another atmosphere to experiment with.
stay tuned for a post tomorrow a.m. and also monday a.m. that will begin to address this issue
Also: nice stylesheet. ;-)
If you are posting re proper testing of CAGW, don’t limit yourself to the CO2/IR mechanism. That supplies less than 40% of the IPCC’s warming. Please also cover the evidence on the formation and behaviour of clouds (more than 40% of IPCC warming). Note also that satellites can now detect whether the (IPCC AR4 fig 9.1(c),(f)) warming in the tropical troposphere actually occurs – it has to exceed surface warming in order to validate the IPCC’s hypothesis. Another place where CAGW can now be detected (or not) is in ocean heat content. Basically, there are a number of places to look for evidence. And while you are about it, perhaps you would like to bring us up to date on the very related CLOUD experiment at CERN?
I guess Rutherford’s demonstration of the nuclear atom was a crock then. It required statistics to show that the large angle backscattering was due to a dense nucleus. In short you are spouting silliness here.
Do scientists these days actually know the difference between a claim and theory, an assertion and an hypothesis?
The Public distrust of the scientific consensus goes beyond the current Globalwhatevername-in-fashion and has its roots in a constant stream of scientific claims of disaster which have noticeable failed to materialise, including new ice age, over-population, epidemics, cancer scares, dietary scares, Y2K, acid rain, nuclear accidents right up to the latest climate-doom and on the horizon the next great cause-to-be is being cued up with which to frighten, scold, fill the collection boxes of the green organisations and feed the coffers of profligate governments, the inevitable fault of ManPestPlague, so-called Biodiversity.
Scientific consensus has become background noise, to be tuned out.
None of these High Priests of the scientific auguries ever gets penalised. Doctors and lawyers who pedal duff gen, engage in malpractice and professional misconduct answer to their professional body and suffer sanction, if not action in law, civil or criminal.
Maybe it is time scientists got sued or prosecuted for their false claims, negligence and malpractice, instead of merely being awarded/rewarded with another grant for “further research needed” when their claims do not stand up to observation.
If this is irony, then you are a master of it.
It it’s not irony, then…
James Clerk Maxwell, the founder of the theory of electromagnetic radiation, had an interesting take on belief and consensus: “There are two theories of the nature of light, the corpuscle theory and the wave theory; we used to believe in the corpuscle theory; now we believe in the wave theory because all those who believed in the corpuscle theory have died.”
hah, that’s a very fitting quote. History of science seems to show that while new evidence does convert some to the new paradigm, there are always holdouts who can cite reasons why the new theory is actually hokum and theirs still explains the data quite well.
Then, it often seems, around the time they die off and the consensus/paradigm is strengthened, some new theory comes along to upset the existing generation (in this case wave-particle duality in quantum mechanics)
Einstein raised them from the dead
The credibility of the IPCC won’t be established, something else will have to replace it. The IPCC was constructed to make a case for CAGW. For the vast majority of the nations of the UN (the parent organization of the IPCC), CAGW/IPCC is primarily about transferring vast amounts of money from rich countries to not rich countries. IPCC is what you get when you put the lefty politicians in charge of climate science.
Moving on, the actual question is how to restore faith in climate science. The first step is to finally thoroughly and honestly investigate ClimateGate and the IPCC. That process will start in January, 2011 (i.e. after Republicans win the House). A second step is to thoroughly investigate any federally funded temperature records (remember, the CRU boys got USA federal funds, too). A third step is to stop the EPA from relying on the IPCC for its science findings. A fourth step is to balance the funding of climate science (i.e. less for CAGWers and more for skeptics) and to make sure that the funding level of climate science is reality based. If CAGW is not as imminent as the IPCC claims, then the funding for climate science can be reduced appropriately.
Back in the day, Intel used to (and may still) emphasize something called constructive confrontation. The idea is that if you disagree with somebody about a technical issue, you need to openly confront them and discuss the issue. The IPCC and climate science leaders (including scientists, journalists, and politicians) have suppressed constructive confrontation in climate science (eg: the science is settled). Constructive confrontation in climate science will start in earnest in January, 2011 and will be painful for the scoundrels of climate science but useful for everybody else.
> The first step is to finally thoroughly and honestly investigate ClimateGate
Because how can you know it wasn’t a whitewash, until you get the result you want?
I don’t think at this point it is useful to keep digging into Climategate. The individual scientists are innocent of research misconduct (which has very specific meanings). The focus should be on the institutions, not the individuals. The IAC recommendations are a good start. There is no question that all aspects of this need greater (complete) transparency, and the main datasets need reworking. The system needs fixing, I strongly agree with that. But endless parsing of emails etc at this point isn’t useful. We need suggestions for moving forward.
PDA and Simon Hopkinson: You two are so close you could kiss.
(I don’t know where to stick this in the nested tangle above, so I’ll put it here at the end. No big matter if it gets lost!)
Simon: “…the consensus itself does not add weight to the science.” Agreed.
But for those who are not expert enough to judge the primary evidence, the claim of concensus is, in itself, a piece of evidence (not “scientific evidence”), to be examined, evaluated, weighed and considered with other factors. After all, it is not inappropriate or meaningless to ask “How many of you believe this, and how many of you believe that?”, where “you” are the experts. (If you do think such a question is inappropriate or meaningless, well, we disagree and I would leave it at that.)
I see that the support of learned academies is being trotted out again to show the massive consensus said to exist about AGW.
Two points are worth making. First, I am unaware of any learned academy’s having asked its full fellowship what the Fellows think about the issue. Again, unless I am wrong, all statements of support for AGW have been made by the executive or council of the body. They are, IMO, political, not scientific statements. In at least one case, that of Australia, the President of the body was also a lead IPCC author; IMO that is simply an unacceptable conflict of interest.
Second, there have been protests from within the fellowship in a number of bodes, and in the case of the Royal Society the protest led to a reworking of the statement. I agree that in substance there is not much change, but if you compare the almost patronising tone of the earlier with the new, there is a considerable come-down. My guess is that the RS action will lead to other academies doing likewise.
And on Hansen et al: yes, he no doubt wrote good papers, but his public behaviour and the hyperbolic statements he makes (‘death trains’) does make me, at least, doubt that all the papers, and all the data that he presents are kosher. When a member of a body I once chaired behaved in what I thought was an intellectually disgraceful manner that made me wonder just how good a scientist the person really was. Not as good as claimed, it turned out.
I have a straightforward question:
Is the IPCC bound to produce a consensus?
By this I question whether it is at heart a jury system that will sit and ponder collectively until a consensus is reached or hammered out before a deadline, as opposed to a peer review system which is essentially private and anonymous.
If it is designed to forge a consensus view then stating that it is supported by the jurists is a given. Stating that it is the consensus view merely informs us that the scientists found a form of words that they could agree on (based on a lot of factors some of which may have little to do with the evidence).
As I understand it, science (in the form of papers) is normally subject to peer review in a process that is deliberately non-cooperative, a process that can be claimed to be relatively immune to bullying and coercion in general. I beleive that it is a process that is intended to add value, by iterative correction, clarification, or additional material. It is also an open ended process that can take as long as it takes.
It could be argued that a consensus forging process is prone to bullying and coercion particularly as deadlines are approached. It may also tend to ensure that the jurists maintain the line after the fact else look foolish if admitting to being swayed by peer pressure.
Back to the question:
Is the IPCC bound to produce a consensus?
Based on my earlier comment here:
The central objective of the UN, and hence also their IPCC arm, is to promote world governance. They are a political body, with political funding and political motivations.
As such the IPCC’s interests lie squarely with convincing us of CAGW regardless of the evidence. It would require an angelic conspiracy of immense proportions for them to be even remotely objective about climate. Their failure to expel or even castigate the Climategate crooks shows this clearly enough.
They are structurally resistant to serious reform and integrity, and should thus just be abolished.
> Their failure to expel or even castigate the Climategate crooks shows this clearly enough.
Just so you know, this is the true mark of the conspiracy theorist. Evidence *against* the conspiracy becomes evidence *for* the conspiracy.
IOW, you are a firm subscriber to the angelic conspiracy.
Let me restate, as I think perhaps you’ve missed the point:
For the IPCC to be objective, and act against its overwhelming underlying interest of convincing us of CAGW, would require a massively benevolent (‘angelic’) conspiracy of honesty and integrity within its ranks. (Ditto state-funded climatology in general). This ludicrously unlikely scenario, is the implicit cornerstone of confidence in the IPCC’s findings, of the “consensus”.
And the fact that the IPCC has failed to expel or even castigate the Climategate crooks, is evidence against the conspiracy. Do you have any evidence to support it?
Punksta, there is no conspiracy. IMO, the worst charge you can make against the climate scientists is that they place too much confidence in their climate models. Advocacy groups are another story, they have an agenda. And there are a few prominent climate researchers that have become activists, since they don’t want to just sit by and watch their dire predictions come true. The relative likelihood of future scenarios, what is possible versus improbable, and how we should envision the plausible worst case scenario, is a topic of a forthcoming post.
Yes Judith, the idea that there is a conspiracy of honesty and integrity within the IPCC is nonsense. It can thus be expected to act largely so as further its own interests – which lie in inducing belief in CAGW, being as it is part of the UN, an organisation seeking to promote world governance.
The resounding refusal from all but a noble few in the profession to discipline or even condemn the Climategate crooks is a further nail in the conspiracy’s coffin. The ethic of “Why should I show you my data when I know you will try and find something wrong with it” would seem to have displaced any notion of real science in the climate establishment.
The reason there is no condemnation or disciplining is that the complaints have been examined, but no grounds for condemnation or discipline have been found.
But you keep telling yourself and anyone who’ll listen that “they” are “crooks”. After all, the whitewash inquiries just proves how far that crooked conspiracy goes, right? This is what I referred to above – the evidence to the contrary (widespread findings of no scientific wrongdoing) just proves to you that there is an *even bigger* conspiracy to cover up the wrongdoing. There is little point in perpetuating a discussion with someone that exhibits this sort of illogic – new information is just twisted to fit the preconceived worldview and attempting to sway with reason is futile.
Also, your out-of-context misquote of Jones is very telling. If you understand the context, and read the actual words, its is abundantly clear that Jones was objecting to handing over data to someone whose *sole* purpose was to keep asking for data until he found an error. There was no intent to contribute anything new to the field or expand human understanding – and when this became apparent Jones’ previous helpfulness evaporated.
Isn’t trying to find errors in another scientists work exactly one of the most important forms by which both science and human understanding advances? I thought that was an essential part of the scientific method. Hiding one’s scientific data from someone capable of finding an error to avoid having an error in one’s work exposed hardly seems the work of an ethical scientist. Why the need to defend such behavior?
I refer you to the dialogue between Professor Lenski and Andrew Shlafly.
Jones was for more accomodating over many years, conceding errors when they appeared, and only stopped when it was apparent to him that Warwick Hughes had a preconceived notion that the CRU temperature data was a fraud and was just wasting Jones’ time hunting for an excuse to dismiss it.
I have no problem with Lenski’s conduct and I have no problem with Jones’ in this exchange. I think rote repetition as promoted by self-styled auditors is far less interesting or relevant than testing robustness by reproduction through similar methods (eg. Jeff Id’s alternative temperature record, an effort I applaud).
Thanks for the follow-up. I appreciate your point and now have a better understanding of Dr. Jones’ actions. His actions are much more understandable context you’ve provided.
Thanks for the response Mike.
I think my issue with attaching too much weight to the CRU emails is that they are so wide open to interpretation by the reader. There’s very little that I find particularly wrong in there. Jones’ comment about deleting emails to avoid FOI requests springs to mind, but even then I think that’s the kind of thing that earns you a reprimand rather than casts doubt on the integrity of an entire field. And again, I find it hard to disentangle my disapproval of that sugestion from my own disdain for the campaign of FOI harassment that led to it.
So when I am told that they are a bunch of crooks, and the emails prove it, I don’t give that a lot of credit. Just as I bring my own prejudice to subjective interpretation, so do others. There are very few absolutes in there, and much hay has been made of the most mean-spirited interpretation of events.
Sticking “gate” on the end and howling about what a scandal it all is has blown this up out of all proportion IMO.
As Punksta correctly points out, the purported campaign of FOI requests is preceded by the request to delete emails re: AR4. In fact the enquiries specifically stated that Jones’ request to delete the emails preceded any requests for the information about which he made the deletion request.
However, the fact is that while the request to delete emails was made BEFORE the “campaign” of FOI requests, it was made AFTER receiving a single FOI from David Holland, specifically for the AR4 exchange of emails that Jones requested to delete. The chronology is documented clearly, and is misrepresented in the enquiry reports.
And what is wrong – in which there is “very little that [you] find particularly wrong” – is that the exchanges which Jones was intent on concealing were exchanges that should never have happened, because they were in breach of IPCC rules. That’s why he made the request in the first place. Jones was never asked by any of the enquiries if he actually deleted the emails as he requested others to do. It’s easy to not find against someone when you don’t ask simple questions like this. But regardless, conspiring to delete information subject to FOI requests is itself a criminal act, defined in British law, whether or not the eventual criminal act of deletion is committed.
I’m not really concerned at this point whether the defenders of the CRU and their associates at Penn State etc accept the term “Climategate”. It is accepted in a far wider community, and is established. The term doesn’t just refer to the unauthorised release of emails, it encompases Himalayagate, Amazongate and the CRU enquiries. And, ultimately, it’ll encompass “We be many and you be few”, the 10:10 video and much more besides. My prediction is that Climategate won’t stop growing until the scientific community both rejects and purges itself of the creeping encroachment of postnormalism.
So we go to a “request” to delete email, which has not been proven, to a “conspiracy” to delete information, which makes it sound like Jones tried to remove everything from all the main servers. Normal things to say only on the Intertubes.
Let’s purge, let’s purge!
The requests to delete emails are proven, being themselves emails (revealed in Climategate).
The notion that removing ‘everything’ was suggested, is a strawman unique to yourself.
And Yes, a purging of dishonest scientists is sorely needed.
willard, while predictable, your belittling of my point is transparent and ineffectual.
The general point being that if the scientists were honest, noone would have needed to resort to FOI to get information from them in the first place.
Dave, you say “I think my issue with attaching too much weight to the CRU emails is that they are so wide open to interpretation by the reader.”
I agree that the emails, taken in isolation, do invite much leeway for interpretation. The CRU scientists also raised the concern that, taken in isolation, the context is lost.
The significance of the Climategate emails is not so much in any revelatory content but, in many cases, more their documentary contribution to, and expansion of, existing knowledge. In some instances they provide substantial documentary evidence of specific concerns, long-expressed. It is indeed necessary to place the emails in context, but it is not true to suggest that it is not possible to do so in many instances, and it is fair to say that the body of emails have far greater relevance than just the volume of their text.
> In some instances they provide substantial documentary evidence of specific concerns, long-expressed.
But this is precisely my point. Many commentators bring so much baggage that *of course* they see what they want to see in the emails. So, for example, some claimed that the HadCRU temperature data had been fraudulently manipulated to show or exaggerate a warming trend. The same people, as soon as they saw the code and scratch files that were released with the emails, claimed that there was no a smoking gun proving this was the case. This is simply false – but this line is still repeated. It has lost none of its traction amongst those that had this belief in the first place, patient explanation of the actual working and context has had no effect, and subsequent enquiries finding nothing of the sort have only *reinforced* the perception of an even grander conspiracy.
That’s a bit of a straw man, Dave. Actually it’s a lot of a straw man. Yes, some of the content was misunderstood by commenters less familiar with history.
My favourite example of this was Fox News’ misunderstanding of “hide the decline”, for a while believing it to mean concealment of a decline in instrumental temperatures.
However, such misinterpretations *do not* diminish the actual activities to which the “hide the decline” email really documented, which are widely understood and are just as egregious.
I think my issue with attaching too much weight to the CRU emails is that they are so wide open to interpretation by the reader.
Certainly not on the matter of a systematic hiding of data and getting journals to gatekeep for political correctness. And the ‘trick’ of hiding the decline?
There’s very little that I find particularly wrong in there. Jones’ comment about deleting emails to avoid FOI requests springs to mind, but even then I think that’s the kind of thing that earns you a reprimand rather than casts doubt on the integrity of an entire field.
The fact that hiding data etc merely warrants a reprimand, is what tells us the field lacks integrity.
And again, I find it hard to disentangle my disapproval of that sugestion from my own disdain for the campaign of FOI harassment that led to it.
You have it back-to-front. The hiding of data preceded, and made necessary, the FOI ‘harassment’.
So when I am told that they are a bunch of crooks, and the emails prove it, I don’t give that a lot of credit.
This just means you see nothing wrong with hiding data, corrupting peer review, etc.
Yes I have read elsewhere that Jones started out an honest scientist. But there is nothing whatever “understandable” or mitigating in Jones’s hiding of data, once he realised Warwich Hughes might have the audacity to check or question it.
And this his habit of hiding data from any anyone not toeing the party line was not an isolated incident either, as the later Climategate events showed.
The reason there is no condemnation or disciplining is that the complaints have been examined, but no grounds for condemnation or discipline have been found.
There was plenty of evidence – of refusals to provide data, efforts to block non-consensus papers from publication. This was overlooked because those who ran the phony investigations were stooges handpicked and paid for by the universities that employed them.
And Yes – that most of the climatology establishment seems happy with this, and that these blatant acts apparently broke no rules of scientific wrongdoing, shows us the problem isn’t just a few rotten apples in the barrel, but a rotting of the barrel itself.
And there is nothing out-of-context about the Jones quote. It captures exactly the sabotaging of true science that the Climategate crooks espouse. No context at all can excuse it.
Punksta, you’re starting to become a caricature of yourself.
Hint: You’re confusing physics with world governance. They’re two very, very different things. Get serious.
Your lack of a responsive answer duly noted Bart.
The IPCC’s attempt to palm off politics as physics is precisely what I call your attention to.
Another non-answer, as your naive head goes ever-deeper into the sand.
I think we’re opening Paranoia’s Box here.
Excellent position, dr Curry, this is highly appreciated.
Maybe one of the main problem about the consensus is that there are major problems with it’s very base, the paleoclimatology as narrated for instance by Spencer Weart’s ‘The Discovery of Global Warming’.
I have found two, firstly, the early carbon dating of ‘cold’ events -named “Younger Dryas” – did not account for the calibration problems. In reality these are much older – Bølling Allerød. Secondly, the temperature of a cloud is NOT a function of the ambient temperature at the source –as assumed- but a main function of the absolute humidity, which defines the dewpoint, which is registered in the isotope ratios as found in the ice cores. Non calor, sed umor.
In my opinion, those two errors account for a complete misinterpretation of the events during the last glacial transition. This is the basis for the current climate science. Obviously the ongoing disputes about fallacies preclude any attempt to just discuss science like that.
Happy to elaborate.
Andre, this is interesting re the younger dryas, do you have a reference for the calibration issues you site? Thx
Sure, happy to, Judith
Here are some thoughts in threads from the time that I studied this matter. However when I tried to sell the ideas, I was discouraged by a big wall of groupthink.
I guess you may have to sign in for membership first (highly recommended) so let me give one quote (my writings):
“The earliest carbon dating pertaining material around the Allerød Younger Dryas transition is done by Arnold and Libby (1951). At Two Creek Manitowoc Co. they date an apparently glacial overrun spruce forest around 11,404 years BP+/-350. Flint and Deevey (1951) observe the correlation with the American carbon dates with the Allerød event in Denmark as well as dates for the UK and Germany. They estimate that the maximum extent of this Mankato glacier was reached 11,000 BP
The dating of Yversen 1953 identify the Allerød from a dark peat layer between clay layers and find the upper boundary, the transient to the Younger Dryas to be 10,800 carbon years for the upper boundary of the preceding Allerød period and correlates this with the Two Creeks of Arnold and Libby Anderson et al 1953 found the Younger Dryas boundary to be 10,870 + or – 160 years. This would convert to 12,860 calendar years. So this demonstrates how the lower Younger Dryas boundary was historically determined to “12,9 Ka”.
The obvious difference between those dates and the mentioned calendar ages is caused by complications in the carbon dating, most notably the variation in concentration of atmospheric radioactive carbon. But the deviation is far from linear, when the radio carbon concentration increases it ‘compresses’ the calendar years and vice versa. Nowadays these problems are mastered with comparisons with several annual counted records and robust calibration tables are now available (INTCAL04 Reimer et al 2004). Arnold and Libby’s 11,404 +/- 350 carbon years year would calibrate to a range of 13,640 to 12,950 calendar years, hence the Bølling Allerød interstadial as identified in the ice cores, not the Younger Dryas….
…For instance, modern day dating of the Two Creeks glacial event confirm Allerød age, having mostly shown result between approximately 14,250 and 13,100 cal yr BP (12,400 and 11,200 14C yr BP) i.e. Leavitt et al 2006.”
Plenty more where this is coming from, here for instance: http://earth.myfastforum.org/forum11.php
Dave H at http://judithcurry.com/2010/09/27/no-consensus-on-consensus/#comment-2942
Many commentators bring so much baggage that *of course* they see what they want to see in the emails. So, for example, some claimed that the HadCRU temperature data had been fraudulently manipulated to show or exaggerate a warming trend…..and subsequent enquiries finding nothing of the sort have only *reinforced* the perception of an even grander conspiracy.
You would need massive blinkers to (a) avoid seeing what is in the emails, and (b) avoid concluding that university administrations have worked very hard at whitewashing away the malfeasance very clearly seen in Climategate. The inquiries you refer to were entirely bogus – set up and paid for by the universities, made up of compliant and sympathetic patsies who could be relied on to exonerate those who selected and paid them. No searching questions were asked, noone like McIntyre even interviewed, etc. Even the totalitarian-leaning (UK) Guardian called them a farce.
And certainly with eg the Yamal case, a lot of playing fast and loose with the data was shown (when, after years, they were no longer able to hide it).
“The individual scientists are innocent of research misconduct ”
With respect, you cannot possibly know that. You may claim, based on the limited evidence you have seen, that you aren’t willing to conclude that they are guilty of research misconduct. But you can’t possibly be in a position to know enough to establish their innocence. [There is a very large distinction between innocence and “not guilty”.]
Given that several people have made very specific claims of fraud against some involved and given that no effort seems to be made by the science establishment to investigate those claims, I’m surprised you would be so reckless to assert innocence (especially since it is something you cannot know).
I’m also surprised because it is precisely such overly broad, impossible to substantiate assertions by scientists that have created the current problems plaguing the field.
Ok, i should qualify that by “apparently innocent”. In any event, as far as I can tell, nearly of the charges that people in the blogosphere bring up against these scientists would not qualify as formal research misconduct, even if proven.
I’d suggest, on balance, “un-tried”. It seems that there is a distinct lack of desire from within the scientific community to determine what has even happened, to what extent – whether the issue is systematic or if there is a systemic problem – or, if so, what any repercussions should amount to.
I’ve come to accept that guilt would in fact not amount to formal research misconduct, but don’t find it just or acceptable. Academics should not be so privileged, in the Olde English sense of the word – “a law unto themselves”.
On consensus among climate scientists, two points.
First, all established disciplines possess a consensus about the basic stuff: what we teach undergraduates. Yes, you will get occasional mavericks who want to teach what in the 1970s was called ‘the alternative calendar’. But they don’t have much support from their colleagues, and what they teach doesn’t lead anywhere much. When we appoint people to posts we very largely pick the best from within the bunch that offers, and nearly all of those will have been taught within the consensus, have published within it, and so on. As they get tenure and seniority a few will march out into unexplored and difficult territory, sometimes challenging the consensus. But the consensus is powerful, and it’s hard to get things published which don’t conform to it, or, if apparently challenging, are very, very soundly based in the consensus as well. OK?
Second, climate science is really quite new, and my guess is that most of those appointed to jobs within it in the past twenty years have been appointed within the current AGW consensus. If you read the papers, so many of them wriggle to find something to say, at the end, that makes it relevant to the orthodoxy. And the challenging papers often have an apologia at the end (and in the abstract) that says something like, ‘nothing herein should be seen as an attack on the orthodoxy’ — expressed less frontally, of course.
If that is agreed, then the relative agreement among climate scientists shouldn’t be unexpected. What else would you expect? Some of the departments they work in are called departments of ‘climate change’.
“Specifically, the theory of CAGW is not supported by any of the climate data and none of the predictions of IPCC since their first report in 1991 have been supported by measured data. The scare is merely a computer modeled theory that has been flawed from the beginning, and in spite of its failure to predict, many of the climate scientists cling to it. They applauded the correlation of surface temperatures with CO2 content from 1960 to 1998 as proof, but fail to admit that the planet has cooled after 1998 in spite of the CO2 content increasing.
“The failure of the IPCC machine is especially evident in the use of “models” to justify claims, so it might be worthwhile to just look at modeling and science.
“Modeling is more correctly a branch of Engineering and there are some basic rules that have been flouted by CAGW _ CO2 modelers.
“Firstly there has to be a problem analysis which identifies relevant factors and the physical, chemical and thermodynamic behaviors of those factors within the system.
“Any claim that this has been done in the CO2 warming problem is PREPOSTEROUS.
“There are perhaps a thousand PhD topics there waiting to be taken up by researchers.
“We could start with work on understanding heat transfer between the main interfaces; eg Core to surface / surface to ocean depths/ ocean depths to ocean surface / ocean surface to atmosphere and so on, not having yet reached the depth of space at just slightly above absolute zero.”
“The whole point of modelling when done correctly is that it links accurately measured input of the main factors and accurately measure target output. Where you have major input factors that are not considered and poor and uncertain measurement of all factors then all you have is a joke or more seriously Public Fraud based on science.
You do not have science.
“CO2 is not a pollutant. When the Dinosaurs roamed, the CO2 content was 6 to 9 times current and the planet was green from pole to pole; almost no deserts. If we doubled the atmospheric content of CO2, young pine trees would grow at twice the rate and nearly every crop yield would go up 30 to 40%. We, the animals and all land plant life would be healthier if CO2 content were to increase.
“Do the study yourself. Look at how and why the data are manipulated, cherry-picked and promoted. I will bet if you did, you too would be shocked.
“The mark of a good theory is its ability to be falsified by new data. The mark of a good scientist is the ability to accept that.