by Judith Curry
There is much angst in the climate community over effective public communication of climate science. Strategies such as framing, messaging and narrative are receiving increasing attention by the climate establishment. The current ideas seem to be focused on “climate distruption” and framing the problem in terms of human health impacts. I can only hope that an uncertainty frame is ascendant.
In my opinion, the communication challenge is a symptom of the main problem, which is the framing and narrative of the overall scientific argument (the IPCC assessment reports) and how the evidence and arguments are presented. The problems in making the overall the argument aren’t associated with any particular incompetence on the part of climate scientists, but rather arise from the complexity of the climate system. It is this extraordinary complexity that makes reasoning about the climate problem extremely difficult.
The second monster in my narrative is the complexity monster. Whereas the uncertainty monster causes the greatest confusion and discomfort at the science-policy interface, the complexity monster bedevils the scientists themselves. Attuned to reductionist approaches in science and statistical reasoning, scientists with a heritage in physics, chemistry and biology often resist the idea that such approaches can be inadequate for understanding a complex system. Complexity and a systems approach is becoming a necessary way of understanding natural systems. A complex system exhibits behavior not obvious from the properties of its individual components, whereby larger scales of organization influence smaller ones and structure at all scales is influenced by feedback loops among the structures. Complex systems are studied using information theory and computer simulation models. The epistemology of computer simulations of complex systems is a new and active area research among scientists, philosophers, and the artificial intelligence community. How to reason about the complex climate system and its computer simulations is not simple or obvious.
A future (guest) post will explore in more detail how the concept of complexity interfaces with the climate problem. This post addresses the overall challenge of making the scientific case for anthropogenic climate change in the face of extreme complexity of the system.
Consider the following overarching argument for anthropogenic climate change and stabilization of greenhouse gases, which fits the three working group reports by the IPCC:
- Global climate change is occurring, and it is very likely that most of the climate change in the latter half of the 20th century can be attributed to human causes
- Climate change is already having adverse impacts, and further change would have dangerous impacts
- Actions are needed to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations, which is feasible
In this argument, the 3rd point is contingent on the 2nd point, and the 2nd point is contingent on the 1st point, making the physical basis of climate change the foundation of the overall argument.
Both “sides” present their case
Using Johnston’s legal analogy first introduced in the consensus thread, lets consider the arguments presented by the side representing the IPCC and the side representing the NIPCC (each presented as a legal brief), with the IPCC side making the primary case and the NIPCC side rebutting the IPCC’s case. Note, there is no “smoking gun” here; the case is a circumstantial one that depends on evidence, expert witnesses, and the strength of the arguments.
The IPCC side presents a case consisting of 3000 pages of evidence (arguably more, if you count the previous IPCC reports) that are supported by refereed journal publications plus additional documentation. The “expert witnesses” are the 2500 or so people that participated in the IPCC process (more if you include the previous IPCC assessments) plus the numerous statements from professional societies and petitions and other statements/petitions that have been signed by scientists. The basic argument underlying the 1st point on the physical basis for climate change includes evidence about infrared emission and absorption by greenhouse gases, increasing greenhouse gases from human activities, observations of increasing surface temperature, attribution of the surface temperature increase to human activities, and climate model projections of future climate change. The gist of the argument for the 2nd point is that there is a broad range of adverse impacts that can be attributed to anthropogenic climate change. And finally the gist of the argument for the 3rd point is that stabilization of atmospheric CO2 is feasible.
The NIPCC’s case focuses on point #2, arguing that the effects of warming (even if caused by humans) won’t be dangerous and might actually be good. Their case consists of circumstantial evidence (a much smaller pile than that presented by the IPCC) and “expert witnesses” (a longer list than the IPCC has).
The IPCC side claims a consensus of scientists that “matter,” and attempts to discredit the expertise of the group supporting the NIPCC through discussion of the qualifications and motives of the experts supporting the NIPCC. The NIPCC side counters by criticizing the motives of the IPCC experts. While the NIPCC side definitely scores some points on point #2, the IPCC attempts to discredit the NIPCC’s case by focusing on their arguments re point #1; whereas the NIPCC’s arguments on point #1 may have less support than the IPCC’s arguments, the level of uncertainty is sufficiently large that a decisive victory isn’t justified by the evidence.
Judge Judy’s verdict: The IPCC side fails to make a convincing case on points #2 and #3. The IPCC side has a lot of evidence to support point #1, but needs to do a much better job of actually making the argument. The “expert witness” strategy is a red herring (lose it); arguments from consensus don’t carry much weight in a scientific argument particularly when both sides claim a large number of experts as part of their consensus. Both sides are ordered into counseling where they work together to sort out the scientific issues, clarify the uncertainties, come up with better scientific and logical arguments to explain and interpret the evidence, and present justification for the different sides of each argument.
Pondering a better frame and narrative for the scientific argument
A large compilation of scientific evidence (updated every 6 years or so) combined with expert judgement in a consensus approach doesn’t comprise a robust scientific argument, in my opinion. The crux of the argument made by the IPCC regarding the physical basis for climate change seems to be attribution of 20th century climate change that is based upon model simulations and comparison to observations. For such an argument to be convincing at a high level of confidence requires a much better understanding of what we can learn from a complex system model and how to actually design and interpret the model experiments.
But my broader concern is about the logic of the arguments being made. Causal calculus, counterfactual reasoning, belief revision and other logical frameworks can be applied in a formal way to the problem. I’m trying to envision some sort of chain of evidence and arguments that is nested in a tree-like structure using the hyperlink capability of the web (a logical narrative of a complex problem). Such a framework would uncover weak arguments and circular reasoning (a topic that I will expand on in a future post on the IPCC’s attribution argument.) I’m hoping the discussion on this thread can generate some ideas on how this might be done.
In the absence of formal logical arguments, individual people put different logical frames on the interpretation of evidence. A classic example of this is the reaction of the climate establishment vs the climate skeptics to the NRC report on the evaluation of the hockey stick (North Report). While the report contained some harsh criticisms, the reaction of climate establishment (and even North’s public statements) were that the criticisms didn’t “matter” to the overall case. The skeptics were incensed by this; they thought these criticisms should have been a death knell to the hockey stick argument and a major blow to the overall AGW argument. So is climate science some sort of “teflon” science whereby criticisms and refutations just bounce off?
The “doesn’t matter” versus “death knell” interpretations can be explained by the use of two different logics represented by the jigsaw puzzle analogy and the house of cards analogy. Consider a partially completed jigsaw puzzle, with many pieces in place, some pieces tentatively in place, and some missing pieces. Default reasoning allows you to infer the whole picture from an incomplete puzzle if there is not another picture that is consistent with the puzzle in its current state. Under a monotonic logic, adding new pieces and locking existing pieces into place increases what is known about the picture. For a climate scientist having a complex mental model of interconnected evidence and processes represented by the jigsaw puzzle, the evidence in the North report merely jiggled loose a few puzzle pieces but didn’t change the overall picture. The skeptics, lacking the puzzle frame but focused on the specific evidence of the North report, viewed the evidence as collapsing the house of cards and justifying major belief revision on the subject. Which frame is “correct”? Well, both frames are too simplistic and the use of both frames are heuristics used in the absence of formal logical arguments. The puzzle frame is better suited to the complexity of the problem, but as a mental model it can be subject to many cognitive biases.
While I don’t have any solutions, I do think this problem with the logic of the scientific argument is at the heart of framing and narrative challenge that the climate establishment has in communicating climate change to the public. Not to mention the need for a better logical framing and argument of the scientific case itself. This is a huge challenge given the complexity of the system under consideration. Strategies for taming the complexity monster have to start with acknowledging its existence and that simple approaches to understanding and reasoning about climate science are inadequate.
Postscript: I just finished reading the Royal Society assessment. Overall, I give it a much higher grade than the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers (SPM). I know about half of the scientists on the Working Group; they are absolutely “top drawer.” I don’t disagree with anything they say for the first 7 pages. Then they characterize some statements as “Aspects of climate change where there is a wide consensus but continuing debate and discussion.” The “wide consensus” is not a good way of putting this, too bad they didn’t have an Italian flag. A better way of saying it might have been “our best judgement based upon current evidence and background knowledge” and actually using the word “uncertainty.” The list of “Aspects that are not well understood” is far too skimpy. As a narrative, this makes much more sense than the IPCC SPM, and assesses a lower level of confidence, which is appropriate. Overall, I give it a “B” grade (compared to a C- for the IPCC SPM).
The more promoters of ‘global climate disruption’ focus on marketing their beliefs, the more they turn people off.
Most people recognize slick marketing for what it is.
The social movement of AGW is quickly reducing itself to nothing but slick marketing- that is increasingly, as the 10:10 video demonstrates so painfully, repellent.
I suggest that those in climate science who want to earn back credibility start by disavowing in clear terms the fear mongers. That climate scientists demand full disclosure of those who steer large information organs while at the same time promoting their own work or the work of their cronies.
That climate scientists who care about integrity call for full reviews and audits of data, data quality, communications, money, peer review by credible parties.
Climate science has made extraordinary claims about the end of the world as we know it, and has received billions in public and private money based on a credibility that has largely vanished. It is time for a full accounting.
I must say, I don’t believe Dr. Curry would qualify as equivocal (that is advocating the term “climate disruption”, though I could be wrong on that), nor do I suspect she finds the 10:10 video funny or productive. I personally think that this blog is clear evidence that Dr. Curry is constructively doing most of those things you ask for, including a “full accounting”. This issue is not intuitive. I think we can all move things forward by being civil and listening, reasoning and learning from those who disagree with us. I find myself posting here regularly because I find my intellect challenged and am really loving it.
As for the end of the world as we know it, I live in Sudbury, Ontario. In the late 1960’s, the astronauts came here to be exposed to a moon like place (well actually to see shatter cones, but the only reason you could see them so clearly was the total lack of vegetation). Now I can walk in a forested park 1 mile from downtown. I can look at the INCO superstack that is soon to be de-commissioned because the amount of SO2 in the gas is too small to create the required draft. These things came about because people (greens, corporates, even engineers like me) came together and decided to make a difference. Dr. Curry is promoting a dialog that will bridge gaps and I applaud her for that.
Jeez, I sound like an acolyte! You’d hardly know I disagree with a (?the?) fundamental premise of her science.
Yet again, just tell me where :
Climate science has made extraordinary claims about the end of the world as we know it,
It is utter rubbish. Back it up or retract it if your statements are to have the slightest credibility.
YOu can call it ‘rubbish’ all you like, but until you offer evidence that AGW is anything different from what I say, you are just filibustering.
Like sea levels rising and flooding cities and entire countries?
Storms like Katrina will become the norm.
Climate tipping points that will plung us into an ice age (or will cause someplace to turn into something else… rain forest to savanah, dry to wet, wet to dry, etc).
Those are just off the top of my head.
Hunter, you said it well!
Judith, establishment climatologists need to forget about “framing, messaging and narrative” and spend their time reviewing the basic principals of science.
It might help if they considered how close their lockstep attitudes came to that of the “scientific-technological elite” that President Eisenhower said on 17 Jan 1961 might threaten the “supreme goals of our free society.”
With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Thank you very much.
I think after the 10:10 debacle, we may finally see what you are suggesting.
Thanks for pointing out Johnson. Excellent evaluation from a brief scan . One major IPCC weakness is that it argues from ignorance. E.g. by ignoring ocean oscillations it concludes CO2 is explains all. Note Johnson’s quoting Richard Lindzen:
Fitting temperature to ocean oscillations increasingly appears to fit the data better than to anthropogenic CO2.
You state: “The NIPCC’s case focuses on point #2, . . .”
However, a major NIPCC effort was to highlight in Point #1 reports more recent than IPCC showing opposing evidence.
E.g. See Ch 5: Solar Variability and Climate Cycles
Per your complexity discussion, NIPCC includes new information based relationships between solar and climate phenomena.
E.g. see Nicola Scafetta http://www.fel.duke.edu/~scafetta/
Further on IPCC’s argument from ignorance vs including ocean oscillations, see:
title=”AMO+PDO= temperature variation – one graph says it all”
title=”Climate Modeling: Ocean Oscillations + Solar Activity R²=.96″
Why put such faith in IPCC’s models when such simple alternative models more than double the goodness of fit?
Especially in light of how existing models achieve their fit:
Kiehl JT,Twentieth century climate model response and climate sensitivity. GRL vol.. 34, L22710, doi:10.1029/2007GL031383, 2007
First you need to be clear what the issue is. The issue is that a hypothesis has been proposed that human activity has caused significant global warming by increasing the CO2 level, manly from burning fossil fuels, and this hypothesis has to supported by specific falsifiable claims that uniquely are related to the hypothesis. The skeptics have made no hypothesis, they are attempting to show that the claimed hypothesis is invalid. Thus the level of supporting evidence needed by the skeptics is far different than the advocates of the hypothesis. Remember Einstein’s comment about the fact that any number of claims can be supported in a hypothesis, but if even one claim is falsified, the hypothesis is falsified.
The claim that the temperature has increased the last century or so has been agreed to by all, including skeptics, although the accuracy of the exact level has been questioned. However, the skeptics point out that there is much evidence that the increase rate and level do not appear to be unusual, from the best evidence available, so that point is of no special use to support AGW. The claim that the CO2 and methane increases are due to human activity is generally agreed to by skeptics, although the exact level of increase over previous times has been questioned. The fact that CO2 and methane are greenhouse gases and greenhouse gases affect the surface temperature has also been agreed to by the skeptics. However, the fact that water vapor and clouds are the main source of the greenhouse effect, and the fact that there is no solid supporting data that positive feedback to boost the CO2 effect occurs, and in fact that there may be negative feedback from water vapor making more clouds, makes any claim of “significant” AGW, rather than mainly natural variation, not supported (even the skeptics admit there is some effect, but small). Claims of more storms, rapidly rising ocean levels, melting polar ice, etc. due to AGW are either falsified, or not settled, and do not support AGW. Melting glaciers seem to be fully explained by the natural warming cycle combined with soot (not CO2), and in the case of Kilimanjaro, by local deforestation. In fact, there is not a single critical claim for the hypothesis that is clearly supported.
The above make the hypothesis untenable in it’s present form. This does not mean a modified version can’t be made, but until some clear falsifiable claims are demonstrated, and the hypothesis stated has no claims that are falsified, the hypothesis is rejected. The present statements of large local variation being caused by CO2 is even more unsupportable.
Purely out of interest, what sources have you read to support your position?
For example, if clouds have a strongly negative feedback , how come the Earth is the temperature it is, and how come we have plenty of evidence for ice-free poles – cloud feedback of sufficient negativity would stop this happening for natural reasons, too.
The fact is that there is no source of natural variation even postulated that could account for the post-1975 warming, and to postulate that the greenhouse effect is wrong but some unknown mechanism kicked in at exactly the same time with the expected results is not creditable.
As far as effects go, the Arctic sea ice is blatantly and rapidly melting, both polar ice caps are undergoing mass loss (Greenland more so), and sea levels are rising. These are observations. Oh, and a prediction is that we will see more extreme weather events, not that any one event is caused by CO2. That it a common error.
As far as falsifying AGW goes..
– We could see an unexpected drop in CO2 levels, showing that we were wrong all along about the source of carbon dioxide. This would mean that the basic theory was right bit the ‘Man Made’ bit wrong.
– The temperature trend could start to go down FOR A SIGNIFICANT PERIOD. Note that a significant period is not the standard ‘since the last record year’.
– A new theory could come along that explained all of the data and observations in a more simple/elegant manner.
We have multiple lines of evidence pointing to a climate sensitivity of 2.5-3K for CO2 doubling; if you claim this is wrong then you have a LOT of explaining to do. We also have plenty of geological evidence for rapid climate shifts and rapid sea level change, which means that anyone claiming that the climate is stable also has plenty of explaining to do.
Note your comment: “Arctic ice is blatantly and rapidly melting, both polar caps are undergoing ice loss… These are observations.”
For an interested layman like myself, the issue of ice loss at the poles has been puzzling. WUWT’s Ice Report #24 of 26 September 2010 shows a recovery of Arctic ice since 2007 and an increase in Antarctic ice in comparison with the 1979-2000 average. Further, WUWT attributes the variations in polar ice extent primarily to wind (if I follow their argument) with winds alternately expanding or compacting the polar ice fields. Actual loss of polar ice to melting in 2007, WUWT attributes to unusual wind conditions (unusual, but with historic precedent) that drove sea ice into warmer latitudes where it melted–not melting due to above freezing temperatures at higher latitudes.
On the surface, WUWT’s analysis seems reasonable but at a dramatic contrast with your observations of blatant and rapid loss of ice at both poles (which you presumably attribute to temperature rise at Arctic latitudes). Could you please take on the WUWT’s Ice Report #24 and demonstrate its deficiencies and help me (maybe others, as well) sort out what appear to be conflicting claims about polar ice loss.
‘Recovery since 2007’. No, and frankly if you take that statement seriously, then you have disavowed yourself from ever been taken seriously.
Loss from Greenland is fairly well documented, with obviously a range of estimates. Ditto for the Antartic ice sheet.
O. K. Andrew. As a matter of fact, I don’t “believe” WUWT’s claims about polar ice loss. Likewise, I don’t “believe” your claims. I’m trying to sort out the conflicting claims (didn’t I say that?). Therefore, could you please take apart the article at WUWT that I referenced that gives a different graphical representation of the Arctic ice conditions, among other things. For example, I would appreciate you showing why I should put more confidence in the graph you’ve cited vice the graphs at WUWT. Similarly, I note that you have not addressed your claim that Antarctic ice is declining, as well. Finally, you’ve not demonstrated that the ice loss, to the extent there is ice loss, is due to melting at polar latitudes vs. compaction by wind or ice loss due to wind driven ice movement to lower, warmer latitudes.
Let me add, Andrew. I’ve offered you a reasonable and temperate series of posts. Your flip and contemptuous reply does you no credit and my estimation is that your reponse imperils your credibility and status as a “serious” person, not mine.
Regardless, I’d still like you to take apart WUWT’s analysis, to include your critique of their sources of ice extent data vice the one you reference.
Well, after digging down to the WUWT page – (thanks for the link), what do I find..
Arctic sea ice – 3rd lowest on record, in all three graphs, over 2 standard deviations below the norm.
Antarctic Sea Ice – slightly above normal.
Not sure what I’m meant to be taking apart there, it confirms what I am saying. Picking a freak year and then saying there is a recovery is a bit like picking 1998 as a start date for temperature – statistically invalid.
Google should be good enough for both the Greenland ice sheet and Antarctic ice sheet:
Andrew, we need to keep this simple. Your claim is that Arctic ice is “blatantly and rapidly melting” and that the Antarctic is also experiencing a net loss of ice (as opposed to some sort of localized loss that does not result in a net loss).
Since 2007, the Arctic ice extent has increased in 2008 and 2009, per the graph you, yourself, supplied. The decline in Arctic ice year-over-year in September 2010 (still higher that 2007 and 2008 per WUWT and your own graph) is attributed by WUWT (if I understand WUWT’s argument) to a one-off meteorological event unrelated GHG and to wind driven ice compaction (which reduces ice extent but not ice quantity). The WUWT article also claims that the extent of Antarctic ice is greater than the average for 1979-2000 and has been trending in that direction. Your claims and those of WUWT are in conflict.
What you need to do to “take apart” the WUWT article apart is the following:
-Show that WUWT’s data, represented as fact, is not, indeed fact.
-Show that WUWT’s interpretation of the data is not cogent to the extent that the WUWT’s data is sound.
-Demonstrate that the recovery of Arctic ice since 2007 is not the start of a new counter trend to the previous trend of ice loss.
-Demonstrate that the increase in the Arctic ice extent since 2007 is somehow a form of “blatant and rapid melting.”
-Demonstrate that WUWT’s claim that the current Antarctic ice extent is greater than the average for 1979-2000 is inaccurate.
-Demonstrate that any “blatant and rapid” loss in Arctic ice is, in the main, at least, due to melting, vice any other significant cause(s). That is, demonstrate that Arctic ice loss is due the migration of above freezing temperatures to higher polar latitudes (Please see Dan Hughes’ post of 1 October 2010, 9:45 am, below, for other possible mechanisms of ice loss that you need to eliminate as causes of ice loss, in order to sustain your claim about melting Arctic ice. Also, please dispatch WUWT’s explanation of ice loss in terms of wind-driven effects).
Again, to keep this simple, Andrew, you must show a “blatant and rapid” melting of Arctic ice, both now and, more importantly, into the future to the exclusion of any other possibility or mechanism. Also, you must show that Antarctic ice extent has declined in comparison to the average 1979-2000 ice extent. Otherwise, you are ethically bound to withdraw you previous claims about polar ice and provide a revised claim, if you are so inclined. Intellectual honesty demands such a course.
First, I note that you completely ignored my post and the links given.
Second, I have never stated that the Antarctic sea ice extent has declined. I’m not sure why I should then prove this. To me this says that you are just repeating talking points; I stated that the Antarctic ice sheet (the bit on land) is undergoing mass loss.
Third, you keep claiming that the Arctic sea ice is ‘recovering’ – or worse, assert that it is recovering and then ask me to ‘disprove’ the claim. Trying to claim that a trend started in noisy data 3 years ago is just wrong, and repeating the claim or rephrasing any way you like will not change this fact.
Fourth, if you are serious about establishing truth, please try and make your own arguments rather than demanding that another person ‘take apart’ random blog poste that you can’t even be bothered to link to.
I’ve read Erik Conway’s article on Antarctic ice loss that you linked and I think I have understood it, within my layman’s limitations–but welcome your corrections if I’ve not properly or fully understood the article.
As I understand the article, the Antarctic surface temperatures are actually decreasing with an increase in the build up of snow and ice on the Antarctic ice sheet. The article then goes on to describe the loss of ice in terms of the Antarctic ice sheet, not the loss of Antarctic ice generally which includes both sea ice and sheet ice. Indeed, unless WUWT’s data is wrong, the loss of ice sheet ice does not translate into a reduction of the measured extent of Antarctic ice since the ice shed from the ice sheet apparently just bobs around offshore to be captured in the sea ice portion of the ice extent measurement.
The mechanism cited in your linked article for the ice sheet loss is only partially due to warming. Warm water, infiltrating the West Antarctic ice sheet is posited to cause melting of the bottom portion of the ice sheet extending into the ocean. How much subsurface melting occurs is not addressed in the article. However, since the combined Antarctic sheet ice and sea ice extent is not declining (if WUWT’s data is credible) then it is likely a somewhat small loss.
The mechanism proposed for the loss of Antarctic sea ice appears to be primarily a mechanical one, not a temperature related event (beyond the initial loss of ice mass due to warm water induced sub-surface melting). That is, when the portion of the ice sheet that thrusts into the sea looses sufficient sub-surface mass due to its contact with warm water, then an acceleration of the ice sheet movement occurs and cracks appear at the surface of that portion of the ice sheet in open water. As those cracks fill with liquid water seasonally and then quickly re-freeze, there is a mechanical, wedging of the ice sheet so that a portion breaks off.
As best I can judge your linked article, it does not support a contention that there is an aggregate loss of Antarctic ice when both sheet ice and sea ice are considered. Also, the mechanism of sheet ice loss is at least partially, I suspect predominantly, mechanical and not a function of warming. Finally, to the extent that the sea ice is melted by warm water, the article does not link this phenomenon to global warming, at all. For all we can tell from your linked article, the noted ice loss may merely be the effect of a change in the circulation pattern of a warm water current for reasons unrelated to a putative global warming.
So in summary, Andrew, I find that your linked article does not support you contention of ice loss, generally, in Antarctica. Likewise, there is no support in the article for a surface temperature rise in the Antarctic and surface melting of Antarctic ice–indeed, the article adopts the opposite view.
I think, Andrew, you’ve a ways to go to make your case for Antarctic ice loss as a global warming indicator. Not saying, of course, you won’t get there.
One of the quickest tells one is AGW extremist is to use wiki for anything to do with climate.
One of the quickest ways to ‘tell’ a denialist is that they characterize their ‘opponents’ as extremists.
Andrew, did you notice that the graph you referenced actually shows recovery of sea ice in the Arctic since 2007. Please look at the graph (the black line). This is delicious enough without me putting too fine a point on it, but Andrew, you kind of led with your chin on this one.
The main problem I see with the statement “since 2007 etc.” is not with its truth, but its use in the argument. You can use this argument to claim that the arctic ice is “recovering”, a claim which seems bogus if you look at the chart. This 2007 has been cherry-picked to argue against what seems to happen in the arctic, at least to the laymen who are not believing any story.
While you do the work mike you is asking of you, could you please bring me a cup of coffee?
Thanks so much for the reply. I appreciate your point, but however cherry-picked, the recovery of Arctic sea ice since 2007 undermines a contention that Arctic sea ice is “blatantly and rapidly melting. I mean on the face of it.
But believe me, Willard, I’m a skeptic in the true sense of the word. If Andrew can show me that WUWT doesn’t know what it’s talking about in Sea Ice News # 24 with respect to Arctic and Antarctic ice coverage either in terms of WUWT’s representation of the “facts” or their interpretation (or both), then I’m all ears. Likewise, I am open to a demonstration that the Arctic sea ice recovery since 2007 is an anomolous statistical blip in an otherwise “blatant and rapid” melt of Arctic ice.
Just wanted to make clear I have an open mind and eagerly await Andrew’s next post on the subject.
That cup of coffee sounded good. Think I’ll got get one myself.
Thank you for your response. I got tired of waiting for Andrew. I sit now with an espresso in a mug.
I think Andrew is getting a bit edgy because if you look at the 2007 claim, it looks a lot like the 1995 claim. You know, the old trick about the “fact” that there was no warming since 1995. (The very same Richard used that one too, but let’s not digress: I surmised he used them all.)
So on the face of it, a skeptic must agree that the rhetorical ploy looks very similar. It’s all déjà vu all over again. In fact, my actual comment too. And yours too, we must admit. Why do we keep repeating ourselves?
Let’s blame the Intertubes.
I just posted my reply to Andrew’s latest post. I need another cup of coffee–can I get you one?
Sorry for the delay, mike. Bit busy here. I have my espresso now, thanks anyway.
I see that you are still burdening Andrew with two separate desideratums.
The second one is way to remote to this topic and should be resolved elsewhere. I know that you have every right to ask about Andrew’s understanding of the matter, but in my most humble opinion, the time spent reading the article will only be well spent if you pursue your inquiry by contacting specialists and (why not?) the authors themselves. I am sure any reasonable skeptic should agree that this discussion in this very thread is not the place to find all the causal links you are looking for.
The first post is more interesting for our topic, as it deals with a point regarding the burden of proof that might be useful for Intertubes commenters.
I am afraid that your explanation of what one needs to do to “take apart” is way too narrow. Taking apart does not necessarily entail refuting any premises, i.e. contradict the “facts.” Taking apart does not entail refuting necessarily the interpretation of these facts, as the interpretation is again something that goes into the premise of an argument. (A reasonable skeptic shall note that all your other desideratums are of the same nature.)
These are good ways to take apart an argument, but these are in now way necessary. For instance, one could argue that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. One could also claim that the conclusion, even if we were to accept it, “ignores the question,” i.e. is irrelevant.
I am sure a reasonable skeptic could find many other ways to take apart an argument.
In any case, I believe that your conclusion does not hold:
> Otherwise, you are ethically bound to withdraw you previous claims […]
Since we can do much more than attack the premises of an argument to take it apart, I believe I have proven that this conclusion does not obtain at all.
I will note that this last sentence of yours:
> Intellectual honesty demands such a course.
might very well consist of an ad superbiam. Attacking the opponent’s pride so directly seems kinda uncool. I bet you don’t talk to your skeptic friends like that. Unless, of course, you expect to silence them.
Finally, I note that you did not answer the argument that Watts’ article is based on cherrypicking.
Please get another cup of coffee, put down the thesaurus, and encourage Andrew to answer my previous post if he can. He has made a claim of “blatant and rapid melting” of Arctic ice and loss of Antarctic ice. The burden of proof is on him to support his claim. Your suggestion of alternative strategies of supporting arguments may have merit, but let’s see what Andrew provides. Frankly, I find your comments in this area hard to follow–partially because I don’t speak Greek, but mostly because your comments are unfathomable.
As for your overly protective claim that I attacked Andrew’s pride, let me note that Andrew is fully capable of a snotty comment or two himself(I’ve received one myself) with little regard for others’ pride, as you call it (look through Andrew’s other posts on this site). Regardless, intellectual honesty requires retraction of an unsupported claim. If Andrew is man enough to make bold claims, he needs to be man enough to retract them if he can’t support them–my insistence on that ethical principle is no attack on anyone’s pride, just an assumption, on my part, that Andrew is man enough to take personal responsibility for his comments. I recommend that Andrew needs to learn to fight his own battles, Willard; it’ll be a maturing life-experience, I’m sure.
Finally, I don’t have any skeptic friends. I also don’t have any anti-skeptic friends. I’m the only person I know who’s interested in the whole climate science business. Everyone else I know has a real life. On the other hand, the way I spoke to Andrew is the way I speak to everyone (except my wife, of course–I’m not suicidally stupid).
You’re again relying on pride with you’re “man enough” refrain. This is not an ethical concern, but a blatant appeal to the emotions one feel when our honour or pride is under attack, and as such amounts to a fallacy. Justifying this fallacy by saying that Andrew does that too is a fallacy: look for tu quoque in your thesaurus. Using these fallacies is not a way to attract friendly responses, in climate discussions or elsewhere.
I believe he answered, by the way, so don’t mind me. I’ll return to my cup of coffee, without expecting that you will ever consider that Anthony Watts was cherrypicking or that your interpretation of what one needs to “take apart” an argument merits corrections.
If my count is accurate I’ve garnered six “fallacy/fallacies” and one Greek phrase from you–that is both a record and a badge of honor. Thank! Two points:
-I don’t care if I get friendly reponses or not. I just want answers. I just want facts and reasoned interpretation of facts. Nothing else. Except for a couple of life-long pals, I married my best friend and she’s all the friend (and woman) I need.
-There has been a cooling trend since the early pre-Cambrian and a warming trend since the middle of the last ice age. And once you go beyond these trends and their “cherry-picked” start points then you can rustle up any other trend your heart might desire, up, down, sideways, or up and down and sideways. And all such trends begin with a “cherry-picked” start point. Want a warming trend? No problem–cherry pick the right start point. Want a cooling trend?–samey, samey. Again, they’re all “cherry-picks.” So if you’ve got more to offer, Willard, than shouting “cherry-pick” in a crowded theater, then I’m interested Otherwise, your little “cherry-pick” stunt is not worth my while.
Incidentally, Willard, Andrew sent me a post despite your best efforts to hide him behind your skirt. Good for him. Andrew’s got some spunk, I see (but needs a little work). I’m cobbling together my reply now.
> Again, they’re all “cherry-picks.”
So either three years or from Pre-cambrian to now, samey, samey. If we were talking about a stock ticker, that would make an interesting investment strategy.
Listing fallacies is not the same as explaining them.
An interesting post. I’ve always avoided the stock market because I could never figure out when to get in and when to get out. Sounds like you’ve cracked the code. So what’s the market going to do?
You see what the ice does in the chart you linked. Would you buy or would you sell?
I didn’t link any chart, Willard. You’ve posed a very oracular-sounding question. I feel there’s a right answer, but I can’t figure out what it is. Hint, please.
You’re right: you did not put up any link. You simply cited the link. Here is the link:
Here is the one I had in mind when I was thinking about my thought experiment:
Pick any chart you want, Anthony’s, Tamino’s or anything else. Tell me if you buy or sell.
This is not an oracle. If I had one, I would not propose this thought experiment.
To recall some history, Andrew has stated that Arctic ice is undergoing a “blatant and rapid melting”. To make clear my position, I’ve merely asked him to defend that proposition. My own position, is that I’m glad that I’ve found someone like Andrew who knows such things and, attempting to take advantage of his superior knowledge, asked him to explain some anomalous data appearing in WUWT’s Sea Ice News–data inconsistent with a “blatant and rapid melting”. I’m still waiting for a forthcoming reponse from Andrew. And that’s the origin and still current status of this whole more than slightly preposterous thread.
The closest I’ve come to an answer from Willard/Andrew to my original question was a claim that the growth of sea ice extent since 2007 was an inconsequential pause in the “blatant and rapid melting” of the Arctic ice (or something like that). My further question then, posed upon receipt of the above reply, remains: I’m glad you know the above, but how do you know that you know it?–couldn’t it also be the case we are seeing instead the beginning of a new counter trend to the previous trend of Arctic sea ice loss? Again, I’m still waiting for a forthcoming response. In the meantime, our extended little chit-chat has, most recently, meandered into the stock market, of all places, and Willard now wants a stock tip from me (I don’t even own any stocks) advising him whether he should buy or sell Arctic ice. This is all a little bewildering to me.
Now to WUWT’s latest Sea Ice Report No. 25 (sorry, I apologize for the inconvenience, but I don’t know how to do links).
-WUWT’s Sea Ice report No. 25 shows a graph, attributed to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The NSIDC chart tracks the extent of sea ice for those Arctic locales for which there is at least a 15% ice coverage. The graph shows that in September 2010, the measured sea ice extent was below the 2009 level but above (barely) the 2008 level, at its minimum. Further, the graph then shows a rapid recovery of Arctic sea ice extent in late September/early October so that it now closely approaches the comparable 2009 level.
-The September 2010 decline from the September 2009 sea ice extent (The 2010 extent is still greater than 2007 and 2008) is somewhat analyzed in a NSIDC press release quoted in WUWT’s Ice News No. 25 as follow:
–According to the NSIDC press release, the September 2010 sea surface temperatures are not as warm (i. e., cooler), as those of the prior three years. Further, the 2010 sea ice extent decline is not, repeat is not, attributed to melting–NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve advises that “other factors played a more predominant role [than melting].
–WUWT’s Sea Ice report No. 25 also includes a graph from the Denmark Meteorological Institute that measures Arctic sea ice extent, but only for those areas holding a minimum of 30% sea ice vice NSIDC’s 15% threshold. That graph shows a Sept/early Oct 2010 increase of Arctic sea ice to an extent that now exceeds the comparable 2005 extent. Hardly evidence for a “blatant and rapid melting” of Arctic ice in Sept/early Oct 2010.
–So in Sept/late Oct 2010, the Arctic sea ice extent did not experience significant, if any melt, and most certainly not a “blatant and rapid melting.” Rather, the Artic sea ice extent contracted in 2010 by compaction, likely wind driven, reducing the sea ice coverage in the of 15%-29% range, but dramatically increasing the extent of the now-compacted sea ice with coverage in the 30% and greater range. Again, not the slightest evidence of “blatant and rapid melting” of Arctic sea ice.
There, let me ask, yet again: How does Andrew know that Arctic ice is undergoing a “blatant and rapid melting?” Is WUWT’s Ice News data wrong? Is that it? Is the three year recovery of ice in the Arctic just a cherry-picked counter trend that is meaningless in the face of the unrelenting and inevitable “blatant and rapid melting” of the Arctic ice? Is that it? If so, tell me how you know that. Also, please tell me when the “blatant and rapid melting” will resume. Also, please advise why the “blatant and rapid melting of the Arctic ice hasn’t resumed already? Likewise, please explain why we ever had a counter trend to the “blatant and rapid melting” of sea ice, however inconsequential, in the first place? I want to know the secret, you know Willard/Andrew. Please tell me. I want to be able to advise you Willard as to whether Arctic ice is a buy or a sell at the moment. I really do. But you guys won’t let me in on the secret. C’mon. Pretty please. Tell me!
My apologies, I mis-characterized your views in my summary. I believe your position is rather that Arctic ice is experiencing a blatant and rapid decline with loss of ice at the South Pole, as well (and I presume the Antarctic ice loss is not blatant and rapid, at least in comparison with the Arctic ice loss).
Regardless, your views and those expressed in WUWT’s Ice News #24 seem to be dramatically at odds with one another–again, thanks for any help in sorting out this difference of views.
Andrew said: “For example, if clouds have a strongly negative feedback , how come the Earth is the temperature it is, and how come we have plenty of evidence for ice-free poles – cloud feedback of sufficient negativity would stop this happening for natural reasons, too.”
Clouds can be a strong negative feedback and still not prevent ice-free poles just as climate can be chaotic yet be “pushed” around by planetary motion. I’m not saying this is the case, but if cosmic rays do modulate clouds, it could well be that when there is a sufficient flux clouds play a “thermostatic” role, but when there is a dearth of flux, they don’t. And as far as warming from 1975 goes, that appears to be due to ocean cycles. The simplest hypothesis is that, not a complicated GCM.
“As far as effects go, the Arctic sea ice is blatantly and rapidly melting, both polar ice caps are undergoing mass loss (Greenland more so), and sea levels are rising.”
My comment might be too far off topic, but I think this comment by Andrew is a very good illustration of some of the problems that I have seen in communications, framings, and narratives from the global climate disruption community.
This statement is an example of the complete lack of comprehensiveness relative to presenting direct and specific causality that seems to me to be pervasive and entrenched within the global climate disruption community.
The processes that can lead to reduction in the mass of ice compared to a reference period include: (1) air temperature above the freezing temperature for longer periods of time, (2) increased water temperature for the case of floating ice, (3) increased rates of sublimation of solid to vapor, (4) increases in the ice-air and ice-water surface area (smaller chunks of ice have more surface area than a single chunk having the same mass), (5) decreased precipitation under conditions suitable for freezing, (6) increases in the absorbed radiative flux compared to the reference period, and (7) increases in precipitation onto the ice under conditions suitable for melting. There are most likely others.
Which of these, or combination, has been identified by measured data to be the dominant factor in the observed reductions in ice mass? Any comprehensive statement about the mass balance for ice should indicate clearly and specifically that the change in the ice mass has been shown to be due solely, or primarily, to an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere. As Andrew has done here, it is left as an implied causality. It can seem at times that the purpose of such statements is to mis-lead ; not to bring clarity to the discussions.
The plots of the extent of sea ice at the North Pole and a representative temperature for the region show that the extent of the ice begins to decrease before the temperature reaches the melting point.
Arctic ice floats on water and about 90 percent of the ice is under water. As a zeroth-order estimate of where to look for the dominant physical phenomena and processes that govern both the thermal and structural responses of the ice I say look under the surface. Not above the surface.
Additionally I have read that the surface of some ice might be presently covered with more soot and stuff than in the past, thus increasing the direct radiative energy input component to energy (and thus the ice mass) balance for the ice. Look there, too.
The Antarctica ‘polar ice cap’ sits on solid ground at a very high altitude. It is very cold down and up there ( -50 to -70 C IIRC ) and the temperature very likely never gets even close to the melting temperature. The changes in the ice mass near the South Pole are due exclusively to the structural changes occurring in the extremely small fraction of the ice that is floating on the Ocean surface.
I am open to be corrected on any of aspects of my comment. Corrections to incorrectos will be appreciated. I will eagerly study any reports and papers that provide detailed analyses of the mass and energy balances for important ice regions. Especially those that investigate the contributions of all the possible physical phenomena and processes and compare the results of the analyses with measured data.
The problem I have, is that writing a post such as yours requires very little effort – you reference no sources and make no positive arguments – but would require a large amount of effort for me to address, effort that I simply do not have to spare.
So, I would simply ask you to do your own research in the literature and see after that if you still have any questions. There is plenty out there. If you can’t be bothered to do the legwork, I’m sorry, feel free do declare victory or whatever.
Again, your quote:
“… scientists with a heritage in physics, chemistry and biology … ”
Not geologists, eh ? A very common bias amongst “climate” scientists
Judith Curry – ” Overall, I give it a “B” grade (compared to a C- for the IPCC SPM).”
Setting yourself up as a superior authority who can grade your peers. Not arrogant at all.
I product I have seen used in the IT architecture world that is similar to what you want is http://www.troux.com/products/troux_platform/. It is used for linking a raft of different types of entities, but has a database underneath it so queries can be performed (e.g. show all software that supports a specific business goal).
The tool itself last time I saw it (a few versions ago) was a bit unwieldy, but I think it is the sort of tool you are after.
I still don’t see the legal analogy as more than a thought “experiment”, and in that sense I think it has some use for exploring new ideas. I also think you may have a hard time talking about framing or narrative without sounding anti-scientific to some of the readers here. I guess the idea that science proceeds with anything short of hypothesis falsification can just seem preposterous.
There’s a quote from Einstein cited above, that is actually (reportedly) more along the lines of “no experiment can prove me right, but a single one can prove me wrong”. This is a classic example of Popperian falsificationism, which was very prominent in Einstein day (see Wikipedia:Falsifiability), the idea being that nothing could ever be proven in science, but theories could be falsified. This was basically the last great theory that tried to identify some core principle behind scientific practice. The problem is that subsequent philosophers, sociologists and historians of science have since agreed that falsificationism as a means of demarcation is, by and large, a “false” theory – falsification as some core principle of science is a comforting myth, which does have some basis in methodological practice (particularly in the experimental sciences) but is a poor framework for understanding how science works. Arguments and theories are variously confirmed or supported in science, and they are falsified as well, but neither process is unequivocal. Battles over evidence go on for generations, and the few theories which are actually falsifiable in practice can see long contests over whether a replication attempt was actually a falsification, or whether the interpretation of the results or experimental setup was mistaken.
To get back to the topic at hand, maybe framing is the issue (I’m going to leave narrative alone for now), but I’m happy to hear that there’s a new framework of argument in the works – lest people get the idea you’re just trying to cook up a new spin. I like the idea of producing new ways of considering evidence and communicating argument – there’s definitely room to try something new.
There are many modes of scientific reasoning. If a problem cannot be effectively tackled by the old approach, try a better one.
Tom, you do realise that “grading your peers” is what every scientist does when he or she reviews a paper for publication, don’t you?
There is nothing wrong with Dr. Curry giving any review a mark.
By bundling up a stronger point with a weaker one you make it easier to justify disregarding it. For example:
2. Climate change is already having adverse impacts, and further change would have dangerous impacts
3. Actions are needed to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations, which is feasible
Could easily be:
2. Climate change is likely already having adverse impacts
3. Further change over the next decades will very likely have adverse impacts
4. Further change over the next decades may have dangerous impacts
5. The least risky action to prevent possible adverse impacts is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations
6. Stabilization is economically feasible
ie uncertainty over attribution of current impacts should not significantly affect predictions for broad adverse impacts over the next century, while claiming that stabilizing emissions is not *politically* feasible should not impact whether or not it is *economically* feasible or the least risky option.
When I think about it, the whole situation seems Kafkaesque.
Had the hypothesis of AGW never been raised, one wonders whether, looking today at the climate record and weather events, someone would now be raising the alarm and saying that something unusual is happening. And, were that so, whether anyone’s first thought would be that the primary suspect is anthropogenic CO2 rather than natural influences.
We are where we are, and the millions or maybe billions of words written on this issue mainly exist because environmentalism exists and has such an influence in Western societies. Science does not exist in a vacuum independent of this. There are in fact all sorts of interdependencies between science, environmentalism, politics, and the role of the MSM, which isn’t really something that merely reports dispassionately, but has an interest in hyping issues to maximise sales and advertising revenues.
I don’t think one can look at the science as if it exists independently of other factors. Or, perhaps, more accurately, whilst one can in theory do so, in practice, one can’t because scientists, like the rest of us, are subject to their influence. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the object that needs to be analysed is not just a complex scientific entity, i.e. all the science that is relevant to climatology, but also, of the complex entity of which it is but a part.
“Judge Judy” is making her judgement from a specific and unique viewpoint. She is influenced by her science, but also, by society at large, not to mention personal conscious and unconscious experiences that have shaped the way she thinks and acts. The same goes for everyone, really: whatever stance we take is for unique reasons. Whilst we may share elements of a stance, we do not share in every particular the reasons for evincing them.
I think we’re too far into the quicksand to easily extricate ourselves. As I see it, the glaring omission is adequate attention to the null hypothesis. What is the probability that observed warming is overwhelmingly dominated by natural rather than anthropogenic influences? WRT point 1:
“Global climate change is occurring, and it is very likely that most of the climate change in the latter half of the 20th century can be attributed to human causes”
I ask myself what it is that leads people to believe, by implication, that the null hypothesis is very unlikely. I would like to see what you, Dr. Curry, have to say about that.
I see a way to frame this issue that would be honourable for both sides. It would be the admittance into debate of the two hypothesis as deserving equal attention; if one wanted a catch phrase, it might be “Is it nature, or is it us?”. But the null hypothesis has been marginalized and practically excluded; it isn’t PC to even discuss it seriously.
There is no body akin to the IPCC, and equally regarded, that exists to study the alternative hypothesis. Best would be just the one body to study both, with scientists holding either view being equally free to investigate, be funded and publish without the slightest fear of vilification. The IPCC report would then consist of two separate sections, one for the null and one for AGW, with a summary and conclusions drawing from both.
As it stands now – and we have strayed so far from balance that many can’t even perceive the bias – the framing is heavily skewed towards implicit acceptance of AGW as a fact. It has become something that usually only be *attacked* by dissenters denied other ways of contributing. The notion of “heroes” and “villains” is embodied in the very framing – whether or not it is explicitly articulated.
In such circumstances, it seems arrogant and condescending for consensualists, however well-meaning they might be, to call for eschewing the more obvious signs of contempt for differing opinion. IMO, the contempt is institutional, in the same way that racism can be institutional and, effectively, invisible to members of an institution.
Feel free to tell us what the ‘Null Hypothesis’ is for climate change.
The null hypothesis for climate change is, I would say, that it is now happening, and always has happened; in the past, from exclusively natural, non-anthropogenic factors, and in the present, overwhelmingly from natural factors. My post wasn’t about this, but AGW.
The null hypothesis for AGW is that current global warming is overwhelmingly caused by factors other than GHGs.
Sorry, should have said “anthropogenic GHG’s”
But it’s also somewhat hard to sustain the null hypothesis.
Since in this case, the null (or non-AGW) hypothesis is:
‘There exists a natural factor other than solar and aerosol effects which is simulating to a high degree of fidelity the effects we would expect from the increase of man made GHGs, and at the same time this increase in GHGs has negligible effect’.
Ah, Andrew, my dear fellow, you want even the null hypothesis to be framed in terms of the AGW hypothesis, and also to exclude known factors of your own choosing, not known factors of anyone else’s choosing, still less unknown factors that no one could by definition choose.
This is what I meant when I mentioned “institutional” bias; it is the invisibility of even the possibility of a different viewpoint, let alone its possible validity. This is why dialogue at present is at an impasse.
No, I want the null hypothesis in terms of climatology.
Otherwise it makes no sense.
No, you want the null hypothesis in terms of something that actually supports the hypothesis you happen to agree with.
Otherwise, it makes no sense to you.
No, you want the null hypothesis to be impossible so you can continue to deny there is a problem with your belief.
And do please tell us what the fuss is about, if AGw is not about ‘global climate disruption’?
I think many of us would not even accept point #1.
(a) There is nothing exceptional about current temperature levels. The ‘unprecendented in a thousand years’ story has been abandoned, even Phil Jones admitting that the MWP may well have been as warm as today. The new RS document does not even mention paleoclimate at all or make any such claim.
(b) There is nothing unusual about the rate of change of temperature. Over the last decade of course there has been no warming at all, causing consternation in private among climate scientists (see climategate emails) while in public they pretend it is all consistent with their models – Mc & Mc & H 2010 (now published in Atm Sci Lett) shows this is not the case. Climate scientists seem to have run out of excuses about this.
The warming from the 70’s to the 90’s was at about the same rate as that from 1910-1940. The argument that one can be explained by ‘natural forcings’ and the other can’t is bogus.
(c) ‘global’ climate change is not occurring. The US is no warmer than it was in the 1930s and most of Antarctica has not warmed significantly.
Andrew, perhaps Michael’s should have spelt out exactly what he means by the null hypothesis. I think it would be that nothing unusual is happening and there is nothing that needs explaining,(Occam’s razor if you like), the climate naturally fluctuates in an irregular way that we don’t properly understand.
I have spelt out what I mean by the null hypothesis in response to a query from Andrew Dodds. Perhaps I should have been clearer than I was.
PaulM writes ” I think many of us would not even accept point #1.”
I would be one of these.
I think the existence of a scientific consensus is entirely relevant, and should carry weight in the public discourse (though not so much in the scientific discourse itself).
If you get a second opinion on your health condition, and it confirms what your specialist said in the first place, your trust in the diagnosis probably increases. (If you are a medical professional yourself and are confident that they’re both wrong, it becomes a different story of course) Now imagine that you collect the interpretations of medical professionals all over the world, and by and large they their conclusions converge to the same broad picture.
This happens to be how the IPCC comes to its conclusions. If the professionals do their work seriously, than the existence of a consensus amongst them is absolutely relevant (though of course it is not absolute proof). The only way in which you can ignore a consensus amongst experts as being irrelevant (e.g. merely “a show of hands”; “science is not a democracy”), is if you can somehow show that the professionals are all lying or incompetent. Not likely.
said it very well
• “If consensus has emerged through the normal course of scientific research
• If a scientific consensus has been stable over time
• then it may well provide the best basis for public policy (in cases where the scientific evidence is relevant, e.g. climate change, health)
Scientific progress is a usually a gradual process. “Skeptics” and their supporters often bring up Galileo as an example of that the scientific consensus can also be wrong, and has been wrong in the past. True enough, but as Sagan said: “They laughed at Galileo, but they also laughed at Bozo the clown.
The theory that increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases could influence the climate was perceived as wildly strange and improbable at the time of its first proposition (nineteenth century). But rather than that one person suddenly overturned current wisdom, it is a matter of accumulating evidence by many scientists over a long time period that gradually changes and sharpens the scientific picture of what is happening. That is typically how scientific progress works these days: cumulative, piece by piece.
The likelihood that a tiny minority of scientists, or some new piece of evidence, radically alters this picture, which has been stable for a long time and has lots of independent lines of evidence backing it up in a coherent framework, is very small indeed.
New evidence has to be reconciled with the existing mountain of evidence; it doesn’t simply replace it. Observing a bird in the air doesn’t disprove gravity. Small changes here and there in our understanding of specifics, that happens all the time. That’s how the mountain of evidence has been built in the first place, and that is how it continues to be shaped. That’s science at work.
A natural consequence of science is that over time, as evidence accumulates and points in a certain direction, is that the experts start agreeing on the most likely explanation (eg that smoking increases the risk of cancer; that GHG emissions will cause a positive energy imbalance of the planet which will warm up as a result). A consensus is a natural part of science.
“Every scientific theory either rises to the level of consensus or else it is abandoned. Every single one. Consensus implicates a consilience of evidence and a preponderance of evidence for the best explanation. Consensus is how science works, and it is the difference between truth as we know it and poorly supported speculation we don’t.” – anonymous (”ali baba”) (http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2009/10/consensus_what_is_it_good_for.php)
Bart, there’s no problem with consensus per se. The problem is when consensus becomes a chief part of the case made to the public. Its like trying a court case by bringing in 2500 character witnesses. The evidence and the argument needs to be primary.
Bart’s main topic is not consensus per se, but consensus as expressed by the IPCC; the epistemological is just there to argue that this consensus was reached via scientific means and following scientific standards. So what Bart is in fact contradicting Judge Judy on two counts.
The first is by claming that it’s kosher to invoke 2500 expert witnesses at the bar, and to point at the fact that their testimonies agree with each other. This contradicts Judge Judy’s interpretation of 2500 scientists as mere “character witnesses.”
The second is by claiming that this practice works in accordance to Peirce’s division of “scientific labour,” as science converges toward truth. Judge Judy says this ain’t so.
Resolving these two points might be more productive than trying to say that Bart is merely talking about “consensus per se.”
Bart, I should have put this in my original post (I’ve used this before on C-A-S and RC):
Charles Sanders Peirce outlined four methods of settling opinion and overcoming disagreements, ordered from least to most successful:
• the method of tenacity (sticking with one’s initial belief) and trying to ignore contrary information.
• the method of authority, which overcomes disagreements but sometimes brutally.
• the method of congruity or “what is agreeable to reason,” which depends on taste and fashion in paradigms.
• the scientific method whereby inquiry regards itself as fallible and continually tests, criticizes, corrects, and improves itself.
To the extent that a group engages in the first three actions in establishing itself as a consensus, the consensus is artificial and should be challenged.
I believe there is a ‘consensus’ among many today, I find myself among them, that the UN IPCC fails to achieve the scientific method and has been resorting to the first three in the last several years. Indeed, that now the matter is one that is greatly complicated by the fact that the IPCC appears to be ‘political’ only and is intent on social and economic change –not truth of a scientific matter.
Love this Peirce bit….the ONLY way to settle the scientific issues is through the scientific method.
Keep pushing for its application to help resolve the unknowns and uncertainties of climate science, before huge societal changes at legislated into existence.
(a) I have only your word for this. Not that it actually matters – what matters is how we explain current observations. Especially the 1975 onwards period.
(b) This is simply incorrect. If you can explain the post 1975 period with natural forcings alone then I challenge you to do so, it is not sufficient to declare it bogus. And no, I’m not grubbing through stolen private email.
(c) Is just bizzare.
Must try harder.
a) Why is 1975 onwards important?
b) how about ‘wish fulfillment’, ‘much ado about very little’ and: Not stolen, not private and you are rather transparent in using that as an excuse to dodge the issue. Each e-mail was work related, produced on work time, and held on servers owend by publicly funded institutes. Nothing demonstrates how AGW believers avoid the issues by how they so carefully avoid the evidence. Denial in action, frankly.
Why the preoccupation with 1975 onward period. Why not 1998 onward. This is now 12 years. While this summer had a high temperature, it is clear that the next several years will go down, so a period as long as the 1975 to 1998 will likely be flat to downward in temperature anomaly. Even many warmers agree the next decade or so will likely be cooling on the average. What you have done is called cherry picking. If you read:
http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dnc49xz_0fb228shr&hl=en (Limitations on AGW) you will see an analysis that assumes all of the net heating from 1940 to the present is due to human activity, and still shows it is not a problem. In fact part of the heating in that period may be due to human activity, but not likely all, so that is even an extreme case.
Andrew Dodds said: “If you can explain the post 1975 period with natural forcings alone then I challenge you to do so, it is not sufficient to declare it bogus.”
Looks like it has been explained (and this would be the null hypothesis?)
“AMO+PDO= temperature variation – one graph says it all”
I think that one of the great problems with communicating is our tendancy to put layers of complexity over often simple concepts. To illustrate this I would mention that I write various climate history articles; example here
I try to make these interesting as well as historically and scientifically accurate, so a narrative or ‘theme’ is important. In order to compile these articles I accumulate literally hundreds of pieces of source material. I am currently doing this for a forthcoming article;
“Historic variations in sea levels’ which basically takes up where Chapter 5 of AR4 left off, by putting modern sea level rise into its historic context from the Holcene through the Roman and MWP period to the present day.
What is very noticeable is that somewhere around the acceleration of the computer age (mid 80’s) clear narrative prose and diagrams often gave way to;
a) Confusing graphics
b) Confusing and complex text.
For example I have had to re-read several pieces of work then go to a counter reference in order to try to gauge its meaning. My thoughts whilst reading this stuff can be broadly summed up by ‘Are they saying that sea level has risen or fallen?’ Therefore the author has obviously failed to get their ideas over clearly.
As an example of clear narrative prose can I point you to Giles Slocums elegant demolition of Callendars Greenhouse theory, back in 1955.
There is very little writing of this high quality today-everyone is too busy creating pretty graphics to worry about the words and the structure.
Hope this helps.
Tony, good point. when I started out, there were no computer graphics. It was a lot of work to draft a figure and you thought about it carefully since you only wanted to draft the figure once. Now with computer graphics, we get a core dump of figures without much apparent thought. There is a challenge to elegantly conveying graphical information. Simplifying too much can be a problem, there has been much criticism over the IPCC using simplified hockey stick figures. Another thing, scientific writing for journals is pretty turgid. I have been working on a better writing “style”, that I have used in two publications (one published, one submitted).
If you can show a failure or non-inclusion into a hypothesis, who do you go to? Experts in the field will defend their research and claim personal attacks instead of the science being incorrect.
Even the term global climate is incorrect when you can prove clouds DO NOT CROSS the equator. Quite easy to show in the satellite imaging, yet not included.
This planet is totally interconnected in many processes that act together, yet we only focus in individual areas.
Planetary mechanics have never been included into science (rotation, pressure, compression, centrigual force, gravity, electro-magnetics).
When you understand these processes, you will understand also how our power generation schemes are also inept. These processes uses a whole circle of space yet are not included in efficiency figures.
Rotating a circle is is relative to power generation and planetary rotation.
Science NEVER figured out how compression can store energy and change density with motion.
How about the scientists communicate and reveal to us what is the ideal temperature of the earth.
It seems that consensus scientists “believe” that today’s temperatures are already damaging so it seems logical to conclude they must feel that a cooler climate would be more productive.
Where does the consensus climate science community want to set the earth’s thermostat?.
I’m trying to envision some sort of chain of evidence and arguments that is nested in a tree-like structure using the hyperlink capability of the web (a logical narrative of a complex problem). Such a framework would uncover weak arguments and circular reasoning (a topic that I will expand on in a future post on the IPCC’s attribution argument.) I’m hoping the discussion on this thread can generate some ideas on how this might be done.
I have done some thought on similar tree-like decision diagram a few years ago.
In the case that it gives some ideas, the purpose was to find what kind of theoretical approach would be most consistent with observations.
The system is defined by atmosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere.
The time scales are < 1000 years so orbital parameters and litosphere dynamics are neglected.
1) The state of the system is given by the state of a finite number of fields.
Some are scalar (P,T,Rho,albedo etc), some are vectorial (velocity, em field etc).
2)The fields are coupled.
3) Therefore any climate/weather theory is a strongly coupled field theory.
Any physical description of the weather/climate is equivalent to giving the time and space evolution of the n fields Fi(x,t).
4)Is the field dynamics deterministic?
The "simplest" model of the system would describe it by Navier Stokes , energy and mass transfer equation and equations of state. This is a system of PDE and it can be conjectured that it has a unique continuous solution. So this system is deterministic. However as already NS is not tractable analytically, this model is not tractable analytically either. The only way to study it are numerical methods. The feasability to simulate the system numerically depends on its size.
There is not enough computing power to simulate numerically a system of PDE when the size of the system is large.
5)Can a complete set of equation be written or, alternatively can it be proven that the above model in 4) is a suitable approximation to a more accurate model? My answer would be perhaps and no.
Again if a simple version of a model is not tractable or tractable only with certain conditions, then it makes no sense to use the same approach (solving numerically PDE systems) on a more complex model.
6)In the following we stick with the explicit model described in 4.
We have not the solutions for the fields but we conjecture that they exist and are continuous and unique. We cannot solve the PDE numerically because the size of the system is too large. The problem is much too complex. Therefore simplifications must be attempted. There is NO rationnal argument that the system could be described by a model simpler than 4) which is itself already a simplification of the complete coupled field theory.
7) I have found only 2 possible simplifications and it is not guaranteed that they work anyway. Perhaps you can see another way.
7.1) Reductionism. I give up on finding the complete dynamics of the fields (solutions of the PDE system) and will try to decouple the fields.
7.1.1) By reducing the space scales. The hypothesis is that the fields are spatially weakly coupled. The fields can be numerically studied over a small cell and it is supposed that what happens far away doesn’t matter. The problem looks then more like a system of ODE than PDE. The spatial independence allows to use the chaos theory tools too. To be operationnal one should define and demonstrate rigorously weak coupling and fast decay of coupling with distance everywhere.
7.1.2 Looking at cases where only 1 field varies significantly in time while other are either independent, constant or with known variation. This is an adhoc strategy which can sometimes work and sometimes fail. In any case we are here much farther from rigorous formulations of the theory. The danger here is that the number of implict assumptions may be very high and sometimes ignored.
Drop completely the idea of finding deterministic field solutions and postulate that a stochastical description of the fields is possible.
This is vaguely equivalent to the ergodic theory approach of dynamical systems like hamiltonian systems.
The challenges here are triple. First it must be proven that a stochastical description is possible. As we already know from the ergodic theory even if it applies on much simpler systems this is absolutely not granted. For example hamiltonian systems (planetary orbits) are not ergodic.
Second we must define the random variables that will be used in the stochastical description and justify why it is these rather than those variables that will be used.
Third it must be proven how these stochastic variables can be rigorously deduced from the dynamical equations describing the fields in 4).
This approach is equivalent what is called “random field theory” and which is used for brain research. Useless to add that we really don’t know much about the brain …
Thanks Tomas. This is very helpful as I struggle with my first modeling post over the weekend. Something definitely will be posted on mon, but i am getting eaten alive by the complexity and uncertainty monsters.
You seem to be seriously asserting that AGW as promoted in the public square is not claiming that CO2 is going to cause a global climate disruption.
Instead of dismissing skeptics as hopeless wicked stupid people, why don’t you tell us in a few sentences what you think the message of AGW actually is?
The very way the argument is stated begs the question:
David, I don’t think is is begging the question, its about a legal brief type case intended to persuade.
You state: “my broader concern is about the logic of the arguments being made” but “I don’t think it is begging the question”.
Legal evaluation of the problem includes exposing logical fallacies in the arguments. See
Logical Fallacy: Begging the Question
<blockquote"Description of Begging the Question
Begging the Question is a fallacy in which the premises include the claim that the conclusion is true or (directly or indirectly) assume that the conclusion is true. This sort of "reasoning" typically has the following form.
1. Premises in which the truth of the conclusion is claimed or the truth of the conclusion is assumed (either directly or indirectly).
2. Claim C (the conclusion) is true.
Your/IPCC’s very statement of the problem implicitly assumes that:
* Global climate is warming.
* CO2 is causing global warming.
* Anthropogenic CO2 is a cause of the rise in CO2.
* Anthropogenic CO2 is a cause of global warming.
* Global warming is having adverse impacts.
* Anthropogenic CO2 is having adverse impacts.
* Anthropogenic CO2 is increasing.
* Anthropogenic CO2 will cause increasing adverse impacts.
* We must stop global warming from having increased adverse impacts.
* Reducing Anthropogenic CO2 will reduce projected adverse impacts.
* Therefore we must reduce anthropogenic CO2. etc.
Each of these premises or statements is generally considered contentious by some or most of those not advocating “global warming” in itself, as well as the collective argument. To show the impact, consider stating the argument from the opposite viewpoint:
* Natural causes dominate climate change.
* Global climate has NOT been warming since 2000 (or as projected by the IPCC).
* Rising/declining CO2 is a consequence of warming/cooling the ocean.
* Anthropogenic CO2 fluxes are small compared to oceanic CO2 fluxes.
* Anthropogenic CO2 is not a primary cause of global warming.
* Global warming has beneficial impacts.
* Anthropogenic CO2 has small but beneficial impacts.
* Anthropogenic CO2 is increasing.
* Anthropogenic CO2 will increase beneficial impacts/reduce harmful impacts.
* We must restore/increase global warming to increase beneficial impacts.
* Increasing Anthropogenic CO2 will increase projected beneficial impacts.
* Therefore we must increase anthropogenic CO2. etc.
Consequently I conclude that the very statement of the problem by IPCC is a logical fallacy that “begs the question” of assuming contentious premises. To progress the logical/legal evaluation, the case must be recast in neutral statements which can then be logically/legally evaluated relative to the evidence submitted.
I think that David Hagen has good points in that fallacy lies at the heart of the IPCC argument for point #1, and that exposure of fallacy is legitimate in legal evaluation.
If one does not prefer “Begging The Question”, then try this:
Fallacy: Affirming the Consequent
Definition: Any argument of the following form is invalid:
If A then B
The only situation in which “Therefore, A” is valid is:
If and only if (IFF) A then B
The IPCC discards TSI / SSI and vulcanism as significant forcings, leaving only Anthropogenic CO2 as “A”. The IPCC then multiplies the effect of “A” by positive feedbacks to achieve a catastrophic “B”.
However, the literature suggests many natural variations that give rise to observed “B”. Further, there are sources of atmospheric CO2 other than man, as David Hagen observes.
The “If and Only If” condition is not satisfied.
Judith – another thoughtful piece. You write “The skeptics, lacking the puzzle frame but focused on the specific evidence of the North report, viewed the evidence as collapsing the house of cards and justifying major belief revision on the subject.” You rightly criticise this dichotomy, and it’s not true of me, nor, I suspect many sceptics. I would happily subscribe to the jigsaw analogy, but being a sceptic, I respond to the revelation that one piece is amiss by questioning the veracity of all the others, and of the entire picture they present. If I may offer an analogy of my own, each revelation of dodgy climate science – and these have been many and varied – comes like the thirteenth stroke of the clock – you don’t just disbelief it, you also question your the trust you placed in its predecessors.
Sorry, bit late at night, that should have been “you don’t just disbelieve it, you also question the trust you placed in its predecessors.”
..”Strategies for taming the complexity monster have to start with acknowledging its existence and that simple approaches to understanding and reasoning about climate science are inadequate.”
The more simple and direct the question the better.
Take this piece as an example. What did you set out to say? How well did you say it? What did you want to do or achieve? Did you want to tell us something and/or open a discussion? Did you want unrestricted or restricted feedback to a specific question?
I first assumed you wanted to focus on something, and to restrict feedback to that something. As I read through the comments and noted how they meandered my opinion began to change and I questioned my first impression of what your intent really was.
Logic is a dead forgotten ancient art on the modern blogosphere. Will take sometime to reestablish it me thinks. Wonder if Plato and Aristotle used sticks or rocks or both to keep the discussion on track? Is there an e-rock or e-stick to be had?
Confusius say: Keep it simple;-)
Keeping it simple:
There is a consensus that humans are causing the climate to change and that this will be dangerous/catastrophic for the human race and demands stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
Climate change and variability is dominated by natural causes, and humans and ecosystems have adapted in the past and will in the future.
Which simple statement do you prefer? Which is correct? Complex problems are, well, complex.
> There is a consensus that humans are causing the climate to change and that this will be dangerous/catastrophic for the human race and demands stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
can be analyzed as a component of simpler statements:
1. There is a consensus that humans are causing the climate to change.
2. There is a consensus that this will be dangerous/catastrophic for the human race and demands stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
3. There is a consensus that demands stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
The first statement could be completed to qualify the impact of humans.
The second statement can be further analyzed:
2.1 There is a consensus that this will be dangerous for the human race.
2.2 There is a consensus that this will be catastrophic for the human race.
It could also be noted that the “will be” is underspecified.
The third statement is the clearer one, but still lacks the contextual shift that separates it from the first two.
So analyzing linearily still holds a place in discourse. In any case, we should not conflate the complexity of a problem with the tools we use to tackle it.
Ref. your – “I’m trying to envision some sort of chain of evidence and arguments that is nested in a tree-like structure using the hyperlink capability of the web (a logical narrative of a complex problem). Such a framework would uncover weak arguments and circular reasoning (a topic that I will expand on in a future post on the IPCC’s attribution argument.) I’m hoping the discussion on this thread can generate some ideas on how this might be done.”
The above was your key statement for me in terms of where you wanted to go today. I failed to pick up on the significance of what you’re now asking. My fault. So sorry.
Personally I prefer: “Climate change and variability is dominated by natural causes, and humans and ecosystems have adapted in the past and will in the future. There is a (growing) consensus that humans are causing (some) climate to change and that this will be dangerous/catastrophic for the human race and demands the stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gases. (How say you?)”
I say OK. With all the evnironmental changes humans have caused, we must have screwed something up in the past few thousand years.
PS: The “simplicity” I was speaking of was in your plan of attack, not the issue(s). Thought you were going to go at it by the numbers and ‘try’ to focus the responses on specific issues rather than open and general discussion;-) Again, sorry I missed what you were about.
Judith my child,
The planet is 4 + Billion years and has achieved a remarkable accomplishment of evolving to the current life that is inhabiting it now.
If we harm ourselves, the planet will adapt and change as it has always done.
Overheat the planet? Not likely, the planet has made many contingencies for solar flares, meteors, volcanoes, whatever.
From where I’m sitting, climate science has overall done a commendable job at arriving at scientifically sounds conclusions by following the scientific methods.
Oreskes argues this case by looking how climate science has performed according to
1) Methodological standards (induction, deduction, falsification)
2) Evidential standards (reliability, consistency)
3) Performance standards
4) Inference to the best explanation
5) community standards (Kuhn)
See her ppt (starting at p 40)
and book chapter
Besides Weart’s history of global warming, these are also essential reading to make sense of the whole climate debate I find.
To the extent that a group engages in the fourth action as you described (following the scientific methods) in establishing itself as a consensus, the consensus is meaningful and relevant. When a vast majority of experts agree, the burden of proof has shifted to those who think they’re wrong.
Bart, when considering a complex system, and methods that are at the forefront of science and whose epistemology is a topic of considerable debate, these simple rules don’t hold up in the linear approach outlined by Oreskes. As I continue with my narrative of complexity and uncertainty, I hope to convince you that it is premature to draw conclusions with high confidence on this topic.
What is “linear” about Oreskes checking how climate science stoof up against various scientific methods?
And as you Feynman quote also alludes to, even in complex systems it is possible to know some things with high confidence, while the overall detailed working of the system is still covered in clouds.
“When a vast majority of experts agree, the burden of proof has shifted to those who think they’re wrong.”
I’m somewhat of a fan of Rupert Sheldrake, who has some rather unorthodox views on ESP (though has a pretty good record in the field of plant physiology and biochemistry). He’s got one of the sharpest intellects I’ve ever come across, and I was privileged to meet him once.
He may or may not be right about ESP, but about one thing I really do think he is right. Namely, that 10% of all scientific funding should be set aside specifically for the pursuit of contrarian viewpoints by suitably qualified people.
This one thing could act as a major corrective for groupthink. In the end, it could well pay for itself ten times over, and lead to “the majority” becoming less complacent and more attuned to constructive counter-opinion.
Bart Verheggen writes ” When a vast majority of experts agree, the burden of proof has shifted to those who think they’re wrong.”
This absolute, complete and utter nonsense. Nullius in Verba. When experts present overwhelming measured data on a particular subject, this would be a legitimate starting place. But the opinions of experts, no matter how many, who they are, what their qualifications are, etc, has absolutely no place whatsoever in any argument on the merits of the science. The only thing that matters is the science, in this case, the physics that they present. Opinions are worth nothing at all.
Jim Cripwell- Would it make any difference to you had Bart said “When a vast majority of experts come to the same conclusion, the burden of proof has shifted to those who think they’re wrong.”
I think that’s what he meant.
I would tend to agree IF those who disagree are in the same professional circle, or related fields which interact. Otherwise, there is no burden outside of this area. None falls on non-related circles, fields, specialties, etc., and so on. (This includes the general population, obviously.)
Pat Cassen writes Reply Jim Cripwell- Would it make any difference to you had Bart said “When a vast majority of experts come to the same conclusion, the burden of proof has shifted to those who think they’re wrong.”
Absolutely not. Proper physicists do not rely on opinions. They rely on factual, measured data. If the factual data lead to their conclusions, then that is a different issue . But the important point is that the discussion must include the factual data. Without that, all opinions are meaningless in physics.
This, IMHO, is what is fundamentally wrong with the whole debate on AGW. People are only talking opinions, and not facts. Who cares what the Royal Society thinks about what the IPCC has done. I dont, except that it shows that the RS is way out in left field, and, I suspect, will regret that it ever expressed its opinion on AGW. I tried to express this point of view when Judith started the discussion of consensus, and noted my belief that a scientific consensus is an oxymoron; a contradiction in terms. I am looking forward to the discussion of the validity of models, since, to me, one of the fundamental problems of the IPCC approach is that it seems to equate to output of non-validated models with factual data.
Please, let us return to what physics ought to be about. Factual measured data. The let us discuss what the data means. Let us ignore all opinions, except those on what the factual data means. It is only when the factual data is absolutely overwhelming that anything can be considered settled.
Here’s how to solve an old saw, a saw as old as Parmenides, without even putting the science/opinion dichotomy:
Scientists, among them physicists, produce science. This science is no opinion, even if it’s no real truth, not yet. Let’s say it converges toward truth. Scientists, seeing that their science converge with the science of scientists, agree with each other, maybe not about every aspects of theories, but enough so that they can share some opinions together. This agreement between their science and their opinions converges well enough that a minimal basis can be delineated and promoted, with sufficient caveats regarding uncertainties, I know, I know. And so we have the public promotion, a matter of opinion, of science.
So even when we accept the opinion/dichotomy, we can make sense of what the IPCC is doing. The trick here is to consider the possibility that the opinions cohere with the science. Even if you believe that science is a matter of fact, and only of fact, once you cross the policy line, you can only express opinions, as if policy was a matter of science, well, it would be science, not policy, right?
Usually, physics fan dwell at scienceofdoom.com: a good place to talk about “factual data”, whatever that means.
Willard writes ” And so we have the public promotion, a matter of opinion, of science.”
I have no objection to this, as long as everything is abstract and theoretical. But when politicians talk of spending billions of dollars in order to decarbonize our society, I object very strongly.
Willard sais it much more eloquent than I, but I meant much the same: If scientists, through the normal course of science, on the basis of accummulating evidence that points more or less in the same direction, arrive at a consensus, than that becomes accepted theory and thus the new “null hypothesis”. If you think they have it all wring, you’d have to show how the accummulated evidence supports your pet theory better than the mainstream consensus theory.
“the new null hypothesis”? This is a very interesting redefinition of the null hypothesis, and although at least it shows that the alarmists are starting belatedly to grasp the notion, it is surely wrong. The null hypothesis is that there is no – or no discernible – causal relationship between the variables being studied. As such it cannot be “renewed”, or “superseded” and it must be given due weight at every step in the experimental process, not just at “milestones”, as you imply. And it is indispensible to scientific advance – without it, there is no provocation either to devise a better experiment, or discard the theory, and you end up waffling inconsequentially about consensus and weight of opinion.
Nope. You can simply lookup the definition for yourself, it might save time.
Your example is just that – an example. Of “a” null hypothesis. The null hypothesis is just a default position. Precisely what that default position is depends on what you’re testing.
“If the factual data lead to their conclusions, then that is a different issue .”
Well of course. The scientists I know reach their conclusions on the basis of “factual data”, not opinions expressed on the internet (where many people seem to get their info) or anyplace else. So we agree after all :-)
And the factual data is discussed in the professional literature, and among the scientists themselves, despite what you read on the internet about climate scientists.
By the way, I would not be quite so dismissive of ‘opinion’ as you seem to be. I would be very surprised if you, as a practicing scientist, never asked your colleagues for their opinion about one thing or another. And even found it useful.
See Judith’s cite to: Johnston’s legal analogy
Johnston reviews arguments on both sides.
The argument at Oreskes’ link states the common opinion without the concerns. e.g. on CO2 increasing global warming, this assumes positive feedback from water and clouds.
However, see questions Roy Spencer raises:
Five Reasons Why Water Vapor Feedback Might Not Be Positive
Until those are quantified, I can’t tell whether global warming/cooling is dominated by water or CO2, nor the sign let alone the magnitude of the feedback.
The CO2/Temperature feedback argument depends on cause and effect. Does CO2 cause global warming, or does global warming cause the ocean temperature to rise, increasing CO2?
How do you determine the phase and magnitude of these equations?
Geological records suggest temperature leads CO2.
Does that still hold or not? If so/why not?
Are clouds dominated by anthropogenic CO2?
Or by cosmic rays modulated by solar cycles?
Or by the Jovian moons impacting the sun and in turn the earth?
Thus the complexity Judith refers to. It may be some/all of these in varying degrees in varying times. Until the physics, magnitudes, phases, and feedbacks are all are quantified, I don’t know which how important each are nor even which comes first.
The consensus among the Aristotelian college did not scientifically establish that Galileo was wrong. Nor did the attacks by the Liga disprove his findings.
Referring to the IPCC as “activist scientists” is quite ridiculous if indeed they represent the mainstream science, which is indeed the case. Makes me highly suspicious of their argument.
The IPCC is a political body, a part of the UN – a body seeking to promote world governance. Its funding is political. A finding that there is CAGW will obviously boost the case for world government.
To suggest the IPCC is NOT “activist scientists” is ridiculous. Their consensus is but the effect of a common vested interest and common funding.
To the extent that a group engages in the fourth action as you described (following the scientific methods) in establishing itself as a consensus, the consensus is meaningful and relevant. When a vast majority of experts agree, the burden of proof has shifted to those who think they’re wrong.
Indeed,we can use the evolution graph on the complexity link as a fine example of how incorrect paradigms become entrenched in scientific folk lore as “laws” eg West.
Well use Makarieva et al as an example
The validity of the fundamental laws of nature and of good theories based on them has been tested on such a great amount of empirical data that it is a good theory that can tell you whether the empirical data are of good or bad quality rather than the data tell you something about the theory. For this reason, good theories can be used for making predictions, like the existence of many elementary particles was predicted in
theoretical physics prior to their actual discovery. How justified is the use of models for making predictions?
During model development the priority is given to reaching a satisfactory agreement between the data and the mathematical structure of the model. On the basis of theavailable sets of data points taken from the general ensemble of all empirical evidence the modelers determine linear and non-linear correlations between the chosen measurable variables, including their temporal changes. The resulting time dependence of model variables allows one to make a forecast for the future. Such a forecast, however, is nothing but a limited extrapolation of what has been observed in the past. With changing the empirical datasets the model structure and forecasts change. With inclusion of ever growing amounts of observations the models become more and more complex, while their agreement with the available observations naturally improve. Thus, an ideal model ultimately comes as an exact and convenient, i.e. mathematically formalized, representation of all the available data. However, to the degree the model is a model and not a theory, it lacks the predictive power. Because of the obvious fact that it cannot be expected that the calibrations made on the basis of the knowndata will remain valid in the domain of predicted (i.e. still unknown) data. This is a conceptual, fundamental problem with the modeling approach. The universal laws of nature predict things.
Based on our own scientific expertise, we can illustrate the above points with specific examples of models that were judged to be most successful based on their agreementwith the data and claimed derivability from a “universal” theory, yet shown to confront the fundamental laws of nature. As one can see, the problem transcends across the natural science as a whole. The biological model of organismal growth (West et al.,
2001) misinterpreted the energy conservation equation and replaced it with the one conflicting with the energy conservation law. Despite that, the model showed perfect agreement with the data. After the error was identified (Makarieva et al., 2004) it took the model’s authors four years to explicitly admit it (Moses et al., 2008) and re-formulate the model. The re-formulated model re-calibrated using the same data as the original
(wrong) one showed equally good agreement with the data and got equally well published (Hou et al., 2008). Thus, irrespective of conflicting with the energy conservation law or not, the model agreed with the data, was widely cited and raised little concern in the reading audience
From another aspect Dodds found the consensus” wanting”
“Kleiber’s original data is a mess, a complete mess,” says Dodds, “but it became something everyone believed in. The idea of quarter-powers begins to take on this spooky, magical quality. Nobody can explain it, but it’s a secret law of the universe. It’s quarterology!”
Over the next decades, hundreds of animals’ resting metabolisms were measured or estimated, from microbes to whales. The results in various groups of animals ranged from slopes of less than 2/3 to greater than 1. But as Vaclav Smil wrote in a sweeping “millennium essay” for Nature they were “close enough to the 0.75 line,” and concluded that “the 3/4 slope is representative for all” animals.
“Some data seems to fit this 3/4 line — if you’re looking for it!” says Dodds. “It was pre-supposed to be true — and became a universal overarching law that somebody needs to explain.”
Instead of explaining it, in the 1960s a Scottish conference on energy metabolism simply voted, 29-0, to enshrine 3/4 as the official exponent. Then, in 1997, an elegant, though controversial, paper by Geoffrey West and colleagues was published in Science that claimed to derive 3/4 from first principles, drawing on ideas about fractals in networks and the growing length of tubes.
“The problem is their paper fell to pieces mathematically. It just didn’t work. Unfortunately, I showed that and published a paper with my advisor and a fellow student in 2001,” Dodds says. They also reanalyzed data from Kleiber and six other scientists and concluded that there is little empirical evidence for rejecting 2/3 in favor of 3/4. “But we didn’t have a better theory,” Dodds says, “or some way to clean it all up.”
Brown admits the so called scaling law is indeed not ubiquitous PNAS 2010.
And just to make sure that the efforts of reframing by 10:10 do not succeed, here is a link to their video showing why there is no pressure from AGW activists to cooperate with their demands:
10:10 seems oddly unhappy about people seeing their work. I think it is great for poeple to see it.
I don’t care for the jigsaw puzzle or the house of cards analogy.
The “multiple lines of reasoning/evidence” argument has always seemed like: 10 or 12 mediocre arguments equals a good argument. They don’t. 10 or 12 mediocre arguments equals a mediocre argument.
I don’t know what “making the case/argument” means, in terms of the science. The science is what it is and anybody is free to have an opinion. It only becomes important when “making the case” really means “implementing policy” – is that what JC really means – making the case for decarbonization policy? If so, I’d suggest JC consider the following: decarbonization policy is not warranted and most people are smart enough to see that.
When you’re losing the argument, it can be helpful to consider the possibility that you are wrong.
But maybe I misunderstand.
Bart Verheggen wrote
” When a vast majority of experts agree, the burden of proof has shifted to those who think they’re wrong.”
Well, I thought the far greater number oif experts who thought the overblown debt ridden financial model would work were completely wrong. Who has history proved right Bart, me or the vast majority of experts?
You greatly overestimate the collective knowledge of experts and hugely overestimate their collective common sense.
Judith. You say: “Keeping it simple:
There is a consensus that humans are causing the climate to change and that this will be dangerous/catastrophic for the human race and demands stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
Climate change and variability is dominated by natural causes, and humans and ecosystems have adapted in the past and will in the future.
Which simple statement do you prefer? Which is correct? Complex problems are, well, complex.”
Of course you appreciate that actually it is all much more complex than that.
“There is a consensus” might not mean much.
“Humans are causing climate to change”. Probably unarguable, but it is a complex matter. Roger Pielke Sr makes a strong case that humans are affecting local and regional climate through land-use factors – deforestation, desertification, industrial agriculture, interference in natural hydrological cycles etc. Humans are releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. But are the quantities really significant in the overall carbon cycle? Do we really understand the overall carbon cycle? What about the effects of CO2 fertilisation causing greater sequestration in vegetation? What about warmer temperatures causing the oceans to outgas CO2?
“This will be dangerous/catastrophic for the human race”. Well it all depends on what is really happening. Desertification is devastating for those families directly affected, and for those who lose access to food as a result. CO2 caused warming? I don’t think we know.
“Demands stabilisation of greenhouse gases”. Even if it were possible (given China, India, developing country growth), stabilisation might have very little effect on anything if the CO2 caused warming hypothesis is no correct, or if Roger Pielke Sr is correct, and land-use factors are a much greater factor in local and regional climate disruption.
“Climate change and variability is dominated by natural causes”. This may be true or it may not be true. Most likely it is true in part, but as argued above, land-use factors are likely to be causing observable change in some/many areas. Don’t confuse this with natural causes. Don’t confuse it with anthropogenic CO2 caused warming.
“Humans and ecosystems have adapted in the past and will in the future.” Another huge and complex topic.
I think that it is very clear that the uncertainty monster and the complexity monster are very much alive. Those arguing the opposite would appear to have a weak case.
The Hockey Stick controversy is an example of how the consensus “framed” the evidence to present the wrong picture: a) The correct way to frame the picture was to start by admitting that climate models couldn’t be correct if the MWP were significantly warmer than the present. Despite the grapes growing in England, Vikings living in Greenland, and other widely publicized anecdotal evidence, hemispheric and global temperature reconstructions provided NO substantial support for the hypothesis that the MWP was significantly warmer globally than present. Therefore, the MWP does not invalidate current climate models. In fact, reconstructions suggest that global temperature probably began to exceed MWP temperature sometime during the twentieth century – but this is of secondary importance. b) Instead, the evidence was framed to support the picture that scientists had proven that current temperatures are the warmest in at least a millennium and that the MWP is negligible compared with twentieth century warming. Unfortunately, that picture fell apart when a few pieces (dubious proxies, dubious statistics) were removed and the MWP reappeared. All of the attempts to pretend that the original “house of cards” is still standing has been devastating to the credibility of climate science. The North panel should have focused on the solid case for picture a) and then described what improvements were needed before part of picture b) could be accepted as the scientific consensus.
The big problem is that the same community of paleoclimatologists that brought us the Hockey Stick also have compiled the evidence demonstrating that past shifts in climate are only compatible with a climate sensitivity of about 2-4+ degK for 2XCO2. As long as the MWP can not be used to demonstrate that climate models are invalid, the MWP is unimportant. (Yep, scientifically, it “doesn’t matter”.) However, given the paucity of solid observational evidence showing that climate models produce the correct feedbacks, the credibility of estimates of climate sensitivity based on past climate change is critical. Who wants to buy another Hockey Stick from this group of used car salesmen? (That’s the “death knell”.) IMO, credibility won’t be resurrected as long as the apologists for Mike’s Trick, Hide the Decline, “Himalaya-gate”, “Amazon-gate”, etc. are on center stage.
The Hockey Stick team fails rather clearly.
They require the believer to ignore the history and accept reconstructions.
The more coherent interpretation would be to admit that the ‘state of the art in climate science is not good enough, when trees and such are used as proxy thermometers, to find something like the MWP, so scientists will continue to work and try to find proxies that are actually proxies.’
instead we have to consign the third world to poverty and the west to impverishment while nothing is done to actually ‘fix’ anything and it is not at all clear anything was ‘broken’ or ‘feversih’.
Judith: The current emphasis on “climate disruption” is a minor nuisance compared with the myth that 450 ppm CO2 = safe <2 degC temperature rise. The negotiations at Copenhagen and legislation in Congress are based on the idea that climate scientists have defined what needs to done to prevent CAGW. Where did this idea come from.
Correspondingly, what ever happened to the debate over mitigation vs adaptation? Both represent equally greater complexities strongly impacting global as well as individual economies with associated macro feedbacks.
The (oil) “Export Land Model” projects increasing domestic oil production against declining production will result in oil exports declining even faster. See:
Declining net oil exports–a temporary decline or a long term trend?
There is now strong evidence for this:
Verifying the Export Land Model – A Different Approach
This will strike far faster with much greater impact than any “climate change” due to “anthropogenic” causes. When will “climate science” wake up to this complex economic roller coaster causing shortages that will have devastating impacts on transport and associated economies until alternative liquid transport fuels can be developed?
Here is a plot showing two, at first sight, totally unrelated events.
According to the prevailing science neither can affect the other.
So what is going on?
McCracken data (red curve) is beryllium10 (10Be) concentration recovered from the Greenland ice cores.
Greenland 10Be deposition is heavily influenced by the North Atlantic precipitations, volcanic eruptions, etc; the same factors affecting CETs. These are large effects and current science is not able to totally separate them.
Why is this important to climate science?
The same Greenland 10Be data are used to date and reconstruct past climate data from various proxies.
Case of a dog chasing its own tail?
1. “Global climate change is occurring, and it is very likely that most of the climate change in the latter half of the 20th century can be attributed to human causes.
If this point was really based on such solid evidence as claimed, with potentially dire consequences, I can’t see how anyone could object to a full, open and independent reappraisal of all of the science including temperature records, methodologies, historic CO2 levels etc. Not a review like those seen in the U.K, but a fully comprehensive review by scientist from inside and outside of the climate field. Scientist that are respected for their integrity and beyond reproach.
All evidence, debate, disagreement and uncertainty to be published, with no IPCC, NGO , Scientific Society or Governmental influence.
Terms of reference: To reappraise the climate science that point 1. is based upon and determine if the claim really is as well founded as the statement implies.
It needn’t take long. Six months might be sufficient. Nothing less will convince people, and without public support, this isn’t going anywhere fast.
From what I’ve learned during the last 7 years, there little that doesn’t have a question mark over it for one reason or another. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong, only that methods, observations or conclusions have dubious qualities.
All the debate about communication will be pointless if people perceive it as just a different flavour of the same old highly motivated spin.
Judith : Jim posted this link
In a single stroke, this deals with your complexity problem.
The problem is complex only because people have been looking in the wrong place and have therefore had to work harder and harder, introducing complexity after complexity, trying to make their hypothesis fit observations.
Andrew Dodds said, re falsifying AGW : “A new theory could come along that explained all of the data and observations in a more simple/elegant manner. “.
Well, it looks like we have one : natural forces demonstrably explain the data and observations far more accurately and in a more simple/elegant manner than AGW.
OK, we still need some mechanisms behind the natural forces, but at least we now know where to look.
Because the US equals the globe…?
I’ve been reading this blog site from the start. I know there are some here, but what happened to most of the people who support the idea of CAGW? Is it my imagination, or are the majority of posters sceptics? Can you speak to this issue Judith?
Steve, people are landing on this site from WUWT, ClimateAudit, AirVent, DeepClimate, BishopHill (those are the most common links to the site). I haven’t checked the blog rolls of the other sites to see where Climate Etc. is mentioned.
Steved Schuman writes “Is it my imagination, or are the majority of posters sceptics? ”
Maybe the majority of scientists are skeptics.
The Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch survey indicates that most climate scientists are not contacted by the media for comments. Could it be there is a silent majority who don’t believe all the hype but remain silent due to their more notorious and powerful peers? It would be great if we could get some of the guys in the trenches to post here.
> Maybe the majority of scientists are skeptics.
Maybe here lies an equivocation between very different uses of the word “skeptic.”
I believe that to her credit our host fosters ‘scientific scepticism’ or put another way ‘open mindedness’ and frank discussion. If one were to characterize the general tone of the responses here as coming from people who have been historically labeled ‘Sceptics’, it would seem that to their credit they possess something the “Believers” (whoever they are) do not. Frankly, I don’t see how you can be anything but open minded here; and that is good.
CAGW believers rely heavily on the “consensus” notion. Debate and skepticism undermines this, so they tend to avoid avenues such as this that permit them.
Judith – Scott Johnson of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. did a “cross examination” of global warming science. The link is here:
This is a fascinating work and touches many points raised in this post and in the comments, and was done before McShane and Wyner’s paper on “the hockey stick” came out (which IMHO, strengthens Johnson’s case).
As someone who was very interested in those proceedings, I will give you another interpretation of what was going on.
At the time before the North report, there were numerous puzzle pieces laying about the edges of the table, with some more interconnected than others. Smack dab in the middle of the table was this one string of puzzle pieces that seemed to clearly show what the jigsaw puzzle was going to turn out to be. This one string was talked about everywhere and in all sorts of publications, everywhere you turned you see it included in a publication. There might have been other pieces mentioned, but none as often or as up front as this one string (its even been on the cover).
So later people find out that prominantly featured string is not actually true. They have seen it talked about so much as THE proof of what the jigsaw puzzle will look like that they think all other pieces are only supporting pieces of it instead of the other peices being able to stand on their own (in jigsaw talk, you have the main picture done and all that is left is filling in the holes vs. multiple smaller sections done with none interconnected).
If the sceptics had a mental image of a house of cards, it is mostly because of the focus climate science/policy/media used in conveying a small part of the jigsaw puzzle.
It was a easily understood graph that showed what all the other more complex puzzle pieces showed. If asked for proof that man was causing climate change, during that time the response would have been that graph. If you asked 5 people for a list of pieces that proved what the puzzle will look like, I would be the graph would have been at the top of everyone’s list. THAT is why it turned into a house of cards.
One problem I have with the house of cards and jigsaw puzzle frames of reference is that people building them are not likely to see anything else outside of what they are doing. If all you are doing is looking for puzzle pieces to fit with a picture showing man caused climate change, you will miss seeing the ones that show natural climate shifts.
Something that I don’t understand and which no one has been able to explain to me in a scientific manner: if we are still arguing over whether or not it was warmer or at least as warm in the past as it is currently, how do you know what caused that warming if it did exist (more papers now are showing that it was at least fairly close)? If you can’t tell me how the climate warmed or cooled in the past, then it seems to follow that you also may not really know what is causing the current warming.
The first joust in this thread made we wish that we had some kind of general and accepted place in which these measurement questions can be considered, and some kind of conclusions reached. Ice melting, seas rising, temperature shifting, hurricanes and their frequency — and so on.
What seems to happen in practice is that people brandish the data they like, or the ‘peer-reviewed paper’ that they like, as though it is the last word, ever. This applies to both sides, it seems to me. I find it almost impossible to choose between data-sets or papers arguing opposite conclusions from similar data. But the fact that these disputes occur does allow me to say, with what I hope is decent confidence, that in a given area, it is not entirely clear what is happening, and with less confidence, that the science here is not yet settled.
I was prepared to accept that there had been measurable warming in the 20th century, but over the last three years the accumulation of pointers to dodgy and ‘adjusted’ data now makes me doubt whether we really know anything about 20th century warming. I used to rest my acceptance on the melting of glaciers since the early to mid 19th century, but it now appears that the advance and retreat of glaciers is not explained simply by the warming of the air.
I agree that we need a better approach to the whole issue of the way we argue, but I’d like measurement to have a place somewhere. It seems basic to me.
And I note, in respect to the PDO paper referred to on this thread as the answer to everything, that it seems to rely on smoothed data, and has been subject to some serious questioning on Anthony Watts’ blog (and I strongly approve of such criticism).
In the WUWT article, a statistician criticizes the PDO paper, but concludes the correlation is still there between PDO+AMO and the temp record. It certainly appears many research groups would do well to take in a professional statistician to keep them on the straight and narrow.
Given that Climate “science” differs from the various “-ologies” from which it recruits its membership solely in the application of a huge dollop of statistics to a small quantity of largely uncontroversial science, one its more astonishing aspects is the apparent absence of any serious statistical talent in its ranks.
Don Aitken writes “I agree that we need a better approach to the whole issue of the way we argue, but I’d like measurement to have a place somewhere. It seems basic to me.”
Let me support this plea very strongly.
Agreed. A colleague of mine is working on a paper that strikes at the heart of this issue, I’m waiting for that to come out before taking on the AMO-PDO issue. I will have a thread sometime soon on issues with the historical sea surface temperature data sets.
I understand that correlation does not imply causation, but it does implyh that or a common underlying cause or causes. Since the heat capacity of water is much greater than that of air, I think the SST is driving near surface air temp. If that is the case, then the first component of the climate system that must be modeled successfully in order for the model to be true is the ocean system. It appears most of the heat from the Sun will be absorbed by the oceans, so getting that part right before tackling land would be a giant step.
Yes the idea that temperatures have more or less leveled out since 1995 relative to the decades before that, despite rising CO2 levels, is sometimes ascribed to the extra heat “hiding” deep in the oceans where we have yet to measure properly. (But why didn’t it hide out there before 1975?)
> I find it almost impossible to choose between data-sets or papers arguing opposite conclusions from similar data.
This is exactly the point of the IPCC assessments.
The LAWS of thermal dymanics should be part of climate understanding but these LAWS do not include motion or pressure in their LAWS.
Are these LAWS correct?
As a follow up to my earlier post about where are the proponents of CAGW, as a sceptic, I want to have my ideas challenged. The problem has always been creating an environment to have civil discussions actually promoting our understanding of climate rather than reactively digging deeper into the resistance of our own beliefs.
Steve, Agreed. I want to have my ideas challenged as well. And is this not a possible explanation for why there seem to be a lot of us skeptics on this blog. Judith really has created a place where the science of AGW can be discussed on a level playing field. Might it not be possible that when a such a level playing field is created, the arguments in favor of AGW dont look so good.
It’s possible. I agree that many of the common public claims regarding AGW don’t hold up well under close scrutiny, but then again, neither do a lot of skeptic arguments. This may be a “level playing field”, but there isn’t a scorekeeper. I don’t see anyone “winning” any arguments here (or at least, no one admitting defeat) – instead we have a demographic of commenters generally split along certain lines. That split could be intimidating to those in the minority, either that or there just aren’t that many of them in the population here to begin with. And I’m not suggesting that the skeptics quiet down and play nice so we can make the atmosphere more welcoming – I honestly don’t know what the answer is.
Last time I did a quick count on here, I’d say comments here are about 6-1 against the IPCC consensus viewpoint.
Some disincentives to participate that occur to me off the top of my head:
– The consistent use of the term CAGW – its essentially meaningless.
– The widespread repetitions of accusations of fraud.
– The deeply ingrained assumption that “climategate” exposed corrupt and fraudulent behaviour and that all the enquiries have been whitewashes covering up real and serious scientific problems.
– The wide disparity between different “skeptical” viewpoints coupled with a belief that each different position is actually the “real” skeptical viewpoint. In my experience, if you actually engage in detail, you inevitably end up descending into accusations that you are arguing against a caricatured or extreme “skeptical” position that some supposed “majority” do not share, which is just a variation of the “no true scotsman” fallacy.
– The lack of self criticism. It’s irritating that really simple and obvious falsehoods or conspiratorial rantings are allowed to slide unless challenged by someone who explicitly takes the “consensus” position. For example, individuals that have elsewhere argued that CO2-induced warming is really and it is just sensitivity/uncertainty they take issue with rarely – if ever – jump in when someone espouses a view in contradiction of radiative physics. To a casual observer it comes across like an echo chamber.
– The lack of “new” arguments. An awful lot is just repetition of the same lines that have been repeated for months or years. Frankly it is *boring* to go over old tropes like CO2 rises lagging temperature rises in the ice-core record, and generally futile in any case.
– Annoying “I’m rubber and you’re glue” reframing activities, where criticisms of “skeptics” are simply reversed and reused.
“CAGW’ is the exact term for what is being pushed: Catastrophic Anthropomorphic Global Warming.
If it is not catastrophic, please let us know so we can stop with the $billions per year and actually solve some problems that actually make a difference.
– The accusation s of fraud are because people in the real world know fraud when they smell it, and climategate stinks of it.
-The whitewashes are because….they are admitted whitewashes. Deal with it.
-If you would like to deal with the CO2 lag, please do so.
Frankly you sound like a nice demonstration of sour grapes.
Hunter, a suggestion. Look up these two words: anthropomorphic, anthropogenic. Which seems most appropriate in this context?
I, too, am a skeptic that relishes a different point of view and free-wheeling debates of the issues. In that regard, Dave, thanks for hanging in there despite the disincentives you confront and list in your post. Some thoughts:
I can imagine there’s a feeling of being outnumbered on this blog, if you are an “anti-skeptic” (my attempt to coin a new word). Please encourage some of your like-minded colleagues to join in. This blog is wide open. Astonishingly so. The more the merrier, I’d say.
No doubt, dealing with the same issues over and over again is boring. But this is an influential blog with some reach and it has great educational value. Repetition is one of the most effective tools of education. No doubt you regard the adverse impact of global warming to be a matter of urgent concern–so I sincerely thank you for hanging in there despite the bother and boredom. Indeed, if your view of global warming is correct, then I can’t think of anything more worth someone’s while. Again, thank you.
With regard to the rest of your concerns, if you find a skeptic who “offers up scary scenarios, makes simplified, dramatic statements, and makes little mention of any doubts they might have” (to quote a famous climate scientist), then this is a free fire-zone blog–blow them away, especially me (my best educational experiences have been adroitly administered a$$-chewings and debates where I’ve had my posterior handed to me. I now take a perverse pleasure in such experiences).
I’ll try to provide some new fodder for the debate :)
Dave H, I think you make some good points. As a sceptic, of course, there are many reciprocal feelings about the other viewpoint. I think the best way to deal with these issues is focusing on them one at at time, with the understanding no definitive answer may be available. Let’s just see what we can learn. Try your best to convince me of your argument, I promise to listen.
Bart October 1, 2010 at 5:06 am
I think the existence of a scientific consensus is entirely relevant, and should carry weight in the public discourse (though not so much in the scientific discourse itself).
Bart(Judith & co.), It is just about that time of year for the media to start flooding us with the incessant annual “we only have days for our last chance to save the planet” blitz in preparation for the annual save the world UN Catastrophic Global Warming conference.
It is all well and good that you put such weight in your consensus. I am sure that learning and well intentioned efforts take place in your tiny isolated circles. However, some years ago your world of deep thought and mental masturbation decided to cross the line into the rest of the world’s reality and propose to all humanity actions that would leave no man, woman, child or farm animal unscathed.
The USA, China, India, Russia and the countries in the world that make up the “climate justice” beneficiaries pool are not now or in anytime in the foreseeable future going to implement anything other than token measures to react to your “consensus” catastrophic anthropogenic global warming predictions. Obviously you don’t have to take my word for it, you can just watch the years tick off on your calendar as you have been doing year after year anyway.
Each and every one of you so called “Climate Scientists” will have earned not only my wrath but the wrath of billions of other habitants of planet earth if Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is a reality. We will blame each and every one of you because as a scientific body you have not been credible to the majority of the people on planet earth.
If a massive comet were on it’s way to a collision path with earth, all countries would join together and do whatever was needed to avert the disaster. I have no doubt of this. This is just one hypothetical. We would not accept scientists who hid their work regarding their calculations. We would not be tolerant of whitewashes. We would not put up with the crap that academics have been getting away with for the last few decades regarding Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming.
The entirety of planet earth does not live in your little academic world. In our world if an engineer makes plans for a bridge, a ship or an aircraft his calculations are a matter of public records and he is held accountable. If he is mistaken or lead astray by special interest he is prosecuted, jailed, fined or worse.
“Climate Science” is not building a bridge or an airplane. “Climate Science” today is telling the world to turn away from development and allow millions & millions of people to die and continue to live in abject poverty because your “consensus” leads you to “believe” that in 100 or more years the earth “may” become warmer as it has in the past.
So far in the IPCC reports there has been no evidence to support the drastic actions that “Climate Science” has been demanding. You have a tiny group of Climate “Scientists”, a group of dysfunctional governments that are all too willing to accept handouts based on “Climate Justice” and the European Union which needs to fund itself and after the ratification of the Lisbon treaty declared that it will fund the bureaucracy via carbon taxes.
Go on like this year after year Bart, if the dwindling status quo is good enough for you rest on your consensus laurels and think that we will accept your excuse that it is up to the whole rest of the world to prove you wrong. If climate science were a division of a commercial organization and was not unreasonably subsidized by politicians catering to special interests you would be out in the streets.
Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming has plausibility but you and the rest of your troupe have not demonstrated to me or the rest of the world the merits of your consensus. Ignore the facts of life and the ineffectual way you and climate science has communicated.It would really suck if I was in the middle of a crowded theater and because I was a jerk or could not express myself nobody would listen to me and everybody died. If you have something to say Bart, say it in an effectual way. Back it up with facts and observational data and studies that can be replicated. Consensus doesn’t cut it in the real world. Try consensus with a corporate or IRS audit and see how far you get.
In ten years I will most likely be able to restate the same thing. Heck I am in good health I can probably tell you the same thing in 20 years.
Paul in Sweden writes “So far in the IPCC reports there has been no evidence to support the drastic actions that “Climate Science” has been demanding”
Thank you, Paul, for your comments, with which I heartedly agree. I quote the one that I think is most important. As I noted before, I am looking forward to the discussion on models, which Judith has promised for us in the near future. Models are one of the places where, I feel, the IPCC has been presenting evidence that is simply not valid in a scientific sense.
Bart Verkeggen writes “Wanna bet” On what.
Bart, I have been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City more times than I can remember(fingers & toes) in all that time I have never ever even put a coin in a slot machine. I am not a betting man. I find the “consensus” hypothesis of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming plausible.
Bart, I am directly asking you to state what the ideal average temperature of the earth should be. It seems that “consensus” climate science views today’s temperatures to be already damaging and the trends that are speculated are catastrophic.
Bart, what is the ideal global average temperature of the earth?
Paul in Sweden,
That;s a non-sensical question. There is no “ideal avg temp of the earth”. There are however today’s climate’s that societies and infrastructures are adapted to. Human civilization dates entirely within the Holocene, with its relatively stable global avg temperature.
There’s nothing more or less ideal to a certain sea level compared to another. But throw in human infrastructure, and drastic changes in climate, sea level, precipitation regimes and what not are going to be problematic. That’s the point.
Bart Verheggen October 2, 2010 at 4:58 pm
Paul in Sweden,
That;s a non-sensical question. There is no “ideal avg temp of the earth”. There are however today’s climate’s that societies and infrastructures are adapted to. Human civilization dates entirely within the Holocene, with its relatively stable global avg temperature.
It has been proposed by some in CAGW community that the earth has a fever. It has also been proposed by some in “climate science” that today’s temperatures have already adversely effected civilization. This indicates to me that today’s temperatures are considered less than ideal. However, I infer from your comment that the temperatures variations experienced over the past 10-12 thousand years should be considered stable and within the natural range of climate.
Our society with all of it’s machinery, irrigation advances and modern hybrid crops have adapted to less arable land and shorter growing seasons provided by the climate of this part of the Holocene. It seems nonsensical that it is proposed that it is undesirable to have farmland now frozen and inaccessible returned to production again. These once productive now dormant farmlands include coastal northern latitude lands that when productive were not underwater. It seems unreasonable to accept the doomsday sea level and climate projections of the CAGW community as they are contrary to recorded history and current observational evidence.
If we were to colonize and teraform a planet we would want increased growing seasons and not the reduced growing seasons that modern society has adapted.
The “wanna bet” comment was in reply to Paul in Sweden, when he wrote “In ten years I will most likely be able to restate the same thing. ”
That same thing Bart are my statements regarding the ineffective efforts of the “climate science” community to state it’s case. You seem quite satisfied with yourself and believe others should prove you wrong. It is my sincere belief that you and your associates in the “climate science” are kidding yourselves. In the coming weeks we will once again hear how we have only days left to save the planet at the upcoming global climate conference. Next year will be the same, so will the year after that.
Anthropogenic Global Warming seems to be plausible. If it is real and perhaps catastrophic and in the coming years the governments of the world have not reacted in a meaningful manner this would be due to the fact that you and your associates within the “climate science” community failed to put forth evidence and a convincing or even believable argument to do so. In ten years I will probably tell you the same thing Bart. “Climate Science”, we have a failure to communicate.
The “wanna bet” comment was in reply to Paul in Sweden, when he wrote “In ten years I will most likely be able to restate the same thing. ”
Those seriously thinking that there’s no such thing as AGW and thus presumably believe that there are approximately equal chances of global avg temp going up or down are invited to take up a bet, info at the link provided above.
For the 100 years skeptics have been able to say the same thing.
For the past 20 years skeptics have been able to say the same thing.
You have utterly failed to show any reason skeptical grandchildren should not be able to say the same thing.
You only have scary models and (mis)interpretations of the historic record.
I see a comment trying its darndest to push responsibility away from the commenter.
Paul: Grow up!
Who champions the “Good Shepherd/Climate Scientist” who shrugs his shoulders and proclaims “I told them where to find green pastures and water, it is not my fault they all died”?
Øystein, I am all grown up and like the majority of the people on this planet I am not willing to vote for radical energy and societal policies based on the evidence and arguments presented by the “Climate Science” community thus far.
“Climate Science” has failed to articulate the existence of a problem or the ability of mankind acting in unison to resolve the alleged problem.
Øystein, get real! The UN climate meeting later this year in Mexico is going to be the same as failure as COP15 in Denmark last year. This looks to be an endless cycle. It must really suck being a climate scientist sitting up in a tower looking down in the valley seeing the impending train wreck and nobody believes or listens to your warnings.
Actually one of the tells that the AGW social movement is useless is how many failed meetings are held. Another is that even the touted successes- Rio and Kyoto, for instance- are actually failures as well: Nothing actually came from them.
Promoting AGW is a very lucrative and fun industry: Big trips to cool locations, a lot of meetings attended by movie stars, celebrities, artists, and corporate elites, fawning attention by the media, etc. And best of al you get to do it again next year because nothing ever gets done or changes.
Not one agreement from one ‘climate conference’, other than the agreement to meet again next year, has accomplished anything at all. And skeptics have been specifically excluded from these cool meetings. They have failed because of what the believers, promoters and profiteers have done. Not because of skeptics.
Yet the hard core true believers want to blow up the skeptics now.
paul writes “And skeptics have been specifically excluded from these cool meetings.”
On the lighter side, on April 1st last year, Joanne Nova put a piece on her website that Bill Kinninmonth had been invited to head a delegation of skeptics to be part of the Copenhagen Conference. I was stupid enough to believe her.
The Royal Society paper left me behind right at the starting gate, and I’m rather afraid the esteemed Judge Judy did, too. The very first point of contention is whether human influences are “mainly responsible” — say 75% — for the late 20th century warming, or merely correlated in time with no causation — say 0% — , or some other percentage. It doesn’t do to rush ahead to the next topic before some agreement on this one. We cannot agree to disagree and move on. Not on this topic. No matter how much we strengthen the later links in the chain, we can’t yank on the chain until link 1 is solid enough to bear some weight.
Link 1 is a thorny kind of problem. How can you legitimately make a claim of “mainly responsible” until you have shown that all simpler alternate explanations have been considered and eliminated. Or until you have a clear, proven causal relationship.
I may be mistaken, but most Asian experts I have heard on this topic are solidly in the camp of “human causes are negligible”. I do not see any obvious reason to think that is an ignorant position. Unpopular, yes. So?
What am I missing? I don’t mean what climate evidence am I missing, but rather what process am I missing? Judith’s question seems to be how we can come to an understanding without ever settling link 1, or without settling it until sometime later.
Of course we can make progress. But come to an agreement? This isn’t a diplomatic process where some leader progressively makes commitments on my behalf. Here I make my own commitments, thanks.
Number of erudite commentators here.
Anyone to comment?
CO2 & Arctic
anonymously, if public pronouncements are subject to acquiescence.
There is also this
CO2 & Arctic etc.
How about this journal:
And this paper:
How about one of the best journals in the world and this paper:
Or this paper in Science:
What about NASA:
I can throw out as many papers showing it is not caron dioxide as you can throw out papers claiming it is. Whee does that get us?
Most of papers are long winding regurgitation of well known or discredited consensus or otherwise. I have shown 3 sets of best data we have, from very reliable and respected sources, covering last 150 years.
CO2 & Arctic
Contrast is obvious.
In final analysis it is good data that counts, recalling distant past (with corrupted reconstructions see here ) is only clouding the issue.
There are coincidences, causes and consequences. True scientist endeavours to ponder and explain all. Nothing else will do, otherwise name of ‘climate science’ will be tarnished for long time to come.
Just simply show everything in science openly and discuss it openly (even outside of formal science community) then what possible communication problem can exist? If science does anything else, then you have an insoluble communication problem.
Well said, sir.
You seem to ignire a very important point – scientists whould not be advocates and should never e “worried” about how their science is viewed. A good scientist puts it out there, and has a vigorous discourse with other scientists. The only time policy matters is when you get called to discuss it, you should never, as a good scientist, attempt to drive a discourse, a point-of-view, or a “meme” with your science. Science is very hard, dispassionate review and acquisition of data is very hard, and scientists are simply not well trained on how to remove their own bias from experiments. We need better scientists, before we can even approach better science.
How can you have better scientists when they are all taught the same way with the same focus?
Any outsider is scorned and shunned for even implying there could be a problem.
There are vested interest by the current scientists for their careers and pay checks. If your theory or science is crap, are you going to give the money you accepted back? Or, will you make the theory work in your best interest by incorpating more garbage into the science?
Peer review is like minded people.
Agree, but the outsider issue is but one. Scientists inside are treated the same way as outsiders if they do not hew the party line. The problem is huge, we need a re-education for scientists, which includes broader teaching in ethics and bias.
I’m sorry, what was the question again? We seem to have gone all over the map on this one. What was it we were supposed to focus on?
The issues of framing, messaging and narrative would not be such a big issue if they were not trying to spin the science. This is overselling and it is death to the salesman. Far better to explain the science, the points which are not being debated, the points which are debated and let the chips fall where they may.
The focus on framing and narrative is what allowed Phil Jones to follow Michael Mann’s “trick to hide the decline.” A public does not like to learn about scientists using a skillful technique to fool them into not knowing about the decline. Scientists come off looking like used car salesmen.
For someone who wants a long career in sales, the #1 rule is – Tell the truth!
ClimateGate and the peer review that pushes an agenda in the climate change debate is not the biggest going science fraud, the biggest one is Big Pharma:
This is tip of the iceberg stuff…
Is your primary point that “business” can/will tarnish any science? Seduce any scientist? And “Climate Capitalism” ain’t the only game in the Big Apple?
I am not saying any particular interest will or business will tarnish science, I work for a large company that does not use bias in its science and even allows competitors and consumers to test our products. What I am saying is science has huge problems, and the funding kabal creates great opportunities for fraud and games. Here is a great article, but multiply by ten in big pharma, and likely by 5 in climate science:
We have a long road ahead if we are to trust or science apparatus again, and I think we will never go back. We are destined for our science to be political, like everything else, and thus it cannot be trusted any more than Hannity or Olbermann.
Hope you’re wrong in your prediction but inclined to think you’re right.
Having read the whole previous thread before commenting is my usual MO, in order to respond to the whole set of ideas already put forth with out picking any one post or poster to argue with, I dislike debate, (goal to separate and destroy), but I rather relish discussion whose goal is to expand the total knowledge base by considering which parts are viable and how to better focus on the hidden truths just out of reach of many of the individual posters, but is common knowledge, in the core of the discussion of the unadulterated facts.
The progression of adding new pertinent data points and viewpoints that shed light on previously unknown or poorly defined areas of knowledge, is the growth in awareness that is the benefit gained from the real scientific pursuit of improvement of older ideas by incorporating new data and processes recently found by the use of new sources of information.
There recently have been added several new satellites that are able to monitor some of the unknown parameters poorly defined in the past. In addition the ocean temperatures at depth and the flows of currents due to the increased salinity at the poles during their winter freeze processes that concentrates it into water at less than 4 degrees C, that then covers the ocean floors world wide.
The THEMIS and new SDO solar observation platform are adding new insight to the interactions of the Solar activity, solar wind production and modulation by coronal holes, sunspot, and flares, and the production in changes in strength of EUV and Uv in the STI spectrum, and their resultant interactions not only with the Earth, but the relationships of interactions of the entire spectrum of electromagnetic processes.
There is new work posted on the interactions of the solar current sheet as it flows out across the entire solar system and how it affects the newly discovered “ribbon of neutral plasma interactions” at the edge of the heliopause, and how that entire body of new understanding is giving us a much better picture of the basis of electromagnetic dynamic interactions with the Sun coupled through the planetary bodies out to the interface with the galactic fields beyond.
More recent rediscovery of atmospheric ion and lightning interactions with the ionosphere by elves, sprite, blue jets, and aurora, and their modulation by solar activity levels are new things to incorporate into the climate effects to be considered.
From the new information being found there is now a base of data from which to consider the dynamics of the interactions of the magnetic coupled effects of the planets in the flowing solar wind to add them to the consideration of the end affects on global weather and climate.
It would be nice as well to add the study of how the Lunar tidal dynamics affecting the atmosphere to cause the production of the Rossby waves and the jet streams because of the declinational components as well as the precipitation time of day correlations based on the phase relationships, and how the interactions of the beating of those two frequencies of cyclic interactions produces the QBO, PDO, el nino SOI, and pulses in trade wind speed.
Their combined effects are very good at adding understanding about how the pole ward/equator ward movements of the jet streams produce the shifts in warming and cooling patterns seen in the ~60 year patterns, that is further modified in short bursts of 5 to 6 days at Synod conjunctions of the outer planets that modulate the production of severe weather especially tornadoes and hurricanes.
What bothers me about all of the wasted funds, time, and scientific resources discussing the dead end “no value added” focus on changes in the GHG CO2 “potential effects” when the main drivers are being ignored, with less than that spent in the last 10 years, real answers could be found that will improve forecasting lead times considerably, but is being done just because they cannot be taxed.
Nice post Richard – truly new data is the only thing moving science forward currently, we spend far too much time doing “next step” obvious science that adds little value.
May I take this opportunity for putting, so eloquently, my precise feelings on this subject.
Your particular acknowledgment of the recent work surrounding Solar effects (carried out by the likes of Henrik Svensmark) that do not seem to be getting included in the mix, perhaps as it would undermine much of the CO2 argument.
The Royal Society document, item 56 went thus:-
‘There remains the possibility that hitherto unknown aspects of the climate and climate change could emerge and lead to significant modifications in our understanding’
A rather empty statement if this increasing knowledge is being ignored
because it does not support the original CO2 hypothesis.
Problem with Svensmark’s theory is period 1950-1970, solar activity was strongest ever, but global temperatures declined. Only our own Earth’s magnetic field strength shows reasonable correlation with the estimated temperatures during last 2000 years, but that may just be a coincidence.
I view the issues that Svensmark raises as at the knowledge frontier, in the white territory of the Italian flag. He has presented what is a slim slice of “green” on the italian flag, there hasn’t been much actual refutation (“red”) other than to say his arguments are unconvincing. The IPCC AR4 (section 2) has this to say about the subject: “Whether solar wind fluctuations (Boberg and Lundstedt, 2002) or solar-induced heliospheric modulation of galactic cosmic rays (Marsh and Svensmark, 2000b) also contribute indirect forcings remains ambiguous.”
Thanks, I occasionally look up the IPCC’s assessments regarding some of the less ‘tangible’ effects I happen to be interested in.
Not sure how signor Berlusconi would react at someone messing about with his national symbol, perhaps n/10 would be a bit more precise.
JC, Clouds, a dynamic in climate that the IPCC admits it knows very little but recognizes the significance in our climate remains a knowledge frontier that must be explored.
Judith I feel that the position that you continue to push is that the earth’s climate is dominated by anthropogenic CO2 emissions.Perhaps I am mistaken in evaluating your position. Stepping out on a limb I would say that myself and the majority of people believe that there is no silver bullet or one thing that changes the course of our global climate.
Your statement that Svensmark’s hypothesis regarding cloud formation is all well and good but I think you should also qualify this regarding the IPCC CAGW theory by stating that it the IPCC anthropogenic CO2 hypothesis is equally unconvincing which I feel you have failed to do since your blog’s inception.
Thank you Paul.
It is not coincidence that Weather Action in the UK who use the same Solar and cloud effects to predict major weather events worldwide have a vastly superior degree of accuracy over the UK Met Office.
They saw the snowstorms and the Pakistan floods weeks ahead
and could even advise when they would stop.
IPCC have a lot to learn from this area and they should not be so quick to turn their noses up at it especially as they admit to ignorance in this area along with the RS.
As far as the AR4 rebuttal is concerned – in the words of Christine Keeler “well they would, wouldn’t they ?”
Paul, you haven’t been reading me closely. See my analysis on the doubt thread in terms of the Italian flag.
I read Bart’s(or Keith’s) Italian flag post talking about your Italian flag at his blog. I confess that I skipped the thread here. This is a mistake I will soon correct. :) As you are a straight shooter Judith I(for now) accept your assessment of my comment being in error.
Dr. Curry: “…there hasn’t been much actual refutation (“red”) other than to say his arguments are unconvincing.”
Although Svensmark’s proposition is certainly worth pursuing further, your statement is unfair to the authors of these papers (and those of references therein), all of whom present evidence against the idea that cosmic rays substantially effect cloud cover:
Latest report from CERN is inconclusive:
In summary, the exploratory measurements made with a
pilot CLOUD experiment at the CERN Proton Synchrotron
have validated the basic concept of the experiment, provided
valuable technical input for the CLOUD design and instrumentation,
and provided, in some of the experiments, suggestive
evidence for ion-induced nucleation or ion-ion recombination
as sources of aerosol particles from trace sulphuric
acid vapour at typical atmospheric concentrations.
Concur with the most sentiments expressed above.
In the 1980’s when there was upswing in temperatures from nearly 3 decades of decline and the ‘danger of a new ice age’, CO2 was a good science. But then too many jumped on the bandwagon, vested interests, opportunists and politicians turned minor effect into ‘religion’.
There is a danger, if this consensus of ‘doubtful science’ is overturned, with likely cooling coinciding with current solar activity decline (which may last 20-30 years), another bandwagon is waiting on the ‘rail sidings’ ready to roll.
The same vested interests, opportunists and politicians will insist on instant solution, but instant solution can’t replace good science.
thinking about your interesting article and, at the same the current brouhaha over a certain video, whose author repeated a ‘claim’ based on a much discredited 2002 WHO report, of ‘climate change’ causing ‘300,000 deaths’ reminded me of an excellent article written by Ben Pile, a Politics and Philosophy student, at his very interesting blog Climate Resistance:
I wonder if you’d care to peruse and tell me what you think: His basic thesis seems to be that, rather than ‘science’ being the premise of ‘policy’, ‘policy’ or politics has always been prior to the science, at least so far.
“1. Environmentalism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It rules out the possibility that the world can continue to improve, which carries the consequence of making people ever more subject to environmental changes, whatever the cause of that change.
2. Climate politics are prior to climate science. Although environmentalists argue that they are responding to climate change, it is transparently the case that catastrophe is the premise of climate politics, and more significantly, it is the premise of any scientific research which posits a necessary relationship between climate change and the social-effects of climate change.
In other words, the argument for action to mitigate climate change takes its own conclusion as its premise. It makes it necessary that climate change will cause Nth order effects simply by positing that it is necessary that climate change will cause Nth order effects.”
I find many of his posts both highly intelligent and highly cogent.
I found this post and your prior post, Role of scientists in communicating climate science, to be very interesting, especially as related to messaging and narrative. Your links to Matthew Nisbet’s blog and his posts on Framing Science and Re-framing Climate Change As A Health Issue were informative , as well as, Keith Kloor’s interview with Michael Jones in his Climate Narrative post. I agree with your POV that “the communication challenge is a symptom of the main problem, which is the framing and narrative of the overall scientific argument (the IPCC assessment reports) and how the evidence and arguments are presented.”
It seems to me that one approach would be the framing and narrative of scientific arguments into clusters where there is either 1) very little disagreement, i.e., a high degree of consensus, unanimity, or whatever you want to call it) or 2) considerable disagreement. The hoped-for outcome would clarification of relative importance of 1) versus 2).
In my comment on your prior post (September 30, 2010 at 7:13 pm), I spoke about David Bray and Hans van Storch’s recent report on results of their 2008 world-wide survey of climate scientists:
CliSci2008: A Survey of the Perspectives of Climate Scientists Concerning Climate Science and Climate Change (BS10)(http://coast.gkss.de/staff/storch/pdf/CliSci2008.pdf)
The overall results were
1. On the average, 364 climate scientists responded to the survey
2. Respondees were asked to answer 100 questions using a Likert 1 – 7 scale (LS )
3. The mean LS score and standard deviation for each question is listed in the BS10 report along with a graphical display of the frequency distribution of the LS scores
4. The frequency distribution graph of the LS scores provides a sense of the degree of consensus among the respondees to a specific question.
Since I favor a higher resolution methodology to evaluate the degree of consensus (unanimity) than provided by the graphical displays in BS10, I normalized the STDEV of the responses to the questions and then rank-ordered the results. The average of the STDEVs was 1.346 and the STDEV about that average is 0.167. I defined what I considered to be reasonable ranges for classifying the degree of consensus (DC) where DC is measure in s.d. units (1.s.d. = 0.167):
Very low (5): greater than 1.5
Low (30): 0.5 to 1.5
Medium (34): 0.5 to -0.5
High (25): -0.5 to -1.5
Very high (6): Less than -1.5
The number in parenthesis is the number of questions in that specific DC range. In terms of clusters, there are 1) 31 questions in the high/very high degree of consensus cluster and 2) 34 questions in the low/very low degree of consensus cluster.
Here are some examples:
Q56 “How convinced are you that climate change, whether natural or anthropogenic, is occurring now? (not at all 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very much)” Response: LS score =6.445, STDEV = 0.977, DC = -2.204 (very High)
Q57 “How convinced are you that most of recent or near future climate change is, or will be, a result of anthropogenic causes? (not at all 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very much)” Response: LS score =5.678, STDEV = 1.430, DC = 0.520 (Low)
Q56 “How convinced are you that climate change poses a very serious and dangerous threat to humanity? (not at all 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very much)” Response: LS score =5.573, STDEV = 1.524, DC = -2.204 (very low)
So what? Some would argue that since the LS scores for all three questions are either high or very high, the fact that DC for Q57 and Q58 is low and very low, respectively, doesn’t matter. Perhaps not but 249 out of 371 (~67.1%) respondees indicated “7” for Q56 compared to 128 out of 370 (~34.6%) for Q57 and Q58. Apparently 121 respondees were less convinced for some reason about the state of climate science related to Q57 and Q58 compared to Q57. IMO, the differences in DC for Q56, Q57 and Q58 do matter.
Perhaps the responses to the following five-part question are related to the differences in DC for Q56, Q57 and Q58: “The current state of scientific knowledge is developed well enough to allow for a reasonable assessment of the effects of __________. (strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree0;
Q 27 “… turbulence.” (strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree); Response: LS score = 3.420, STDEV = 1.335, DC = -0.064 (Average)
Q 28 “… surface albedo.” (strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree); Response: LS score =4.574, STDEV = 1.243, DC = -0.617 (High)
Q 29 “…land surface processes.” (strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree); Response: LS score = 3.686, STDEV = 1.180, DC = -0.932(High)
Q 30“… sea ice.” (strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree); Response: LS score = 3.819, STDEV = 1.290, DC = -0.330 (Average)
Q 28 “… GHGs emitted from anthropogenic sources’.” (strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree); Response: LS score = 4.660, STDEV = 1.429, DC = 0.448 (Average)
Interestingly, the LS scores for Q27, Q29 and Q30 are slightly less than “4” whereas the LS scores for Q28 and Q31 and nearer to “5”
There are more interesting examples in the clusters of DC from BS10 but this comment has become too long to include any more.
Thanks for pointing out the von storch and bray survey. I found the results to be quite surprising, in terms of the overall agreement of the people surveyed.
I was’t too surprised given the demographics (Pp 14 – 10), i.e., respondees:
1. Working in US (39.2%), GE (16.3%), UK(15.2%), AU (5.9%) and CA (5.9%)
2. Working in academia (53.3%) and gov’t/public funded research (47.1%
3. Involved in physics of the climate system (78.1%)
“But my broader concern is about the logic of the arguments being made. Causal calculus, counterfactual reasoning, belief revision and other logical frameworks can be applied in a formal way to the problem. I’m trying to envision some sort of chain of evidence and arguments that is nested in a tree-like structure using the hyperlink capability of the web (a logical narrative of a complex problem). Such a framework would uncover weak arguments and circular reasoning (a topic that I will expand on in a future post on the IPCC’s attribution argument.) I’m hoping the discussion on this thread can generate some ideas on how this might be done.”
This is in fact much to ‘broad’ for me to get a handle on. Do you mean a mutual auditing of the logic of various arguments, both scientific and otherwise, or some kind of mutual groping towards what should be considered ‘logical framing’ of an argument prior to discussion?
I think one idea is to ensure that assumptions are made explicit and conscious, even if one has to extract ( some times like bad teeth! Ah! ).
For instance, in the ‘overarching argument’, as you frame it, of the IPCC, and I think your accurate, 2. assumes present and future impacts as ‘adverse’ without reference to the social, economic and political context which might mitigate, neutralise or, indeed, find advantage in these ‘impacts’. Ie, the assumption is taken for granted that ‘impacts’ of climate change are ‘adverse’ (even if a rare reference to possible ‘positive’ impacts is made) .
One of the reasons for this is the mechanistic, reductionist framing of science itself – ie they forget that it is human society of which we are speaking and human agency and not just a passive, inert, ‘dead matter’ which is supposedly ‘adversely’ affected. (In fact, they double human society into, on the one hand, an active ‘polluting’ felon – or benign ‘environmentalist’ – and on the other hand, a passive amorphous victim. Does this not show the power structures which the UN and hence the IPCC can’t help but reflect?)
As Ben Pile would have it in the article I referenced:
Let us say there is an nth order affect of climate change of greater precipitation – more mosquitoes – and hence more vectors for disease such as malaria. It does not therefore necessarilary follow that more malarial cases must occur. Why? Because ‘human agency’ can help to eliminate malaria (drainage, ddts etc etc) breaking the causal chain.
What I am illustrating, however, is that the logic here was not explicit and therefore was not examined by the IPCC. And in order to have a proper and informed discussion all cards had to be on the table – they weren’t.
Anyway, is that illustrative of what your getting at?
I think I agree with you. But having a tough time.
yes this is one good example. there is too much circular reasoning and leaps of reasoning and missing premises in much of this.
Of course, the rejoinder to the above argument might well be that dreaded phrase ‘all things being equal’. But what does this ‘all things being equal’ mean? For instance, why do people still suffer from malaria when it has been all but eliminated in the first world? The answer almost definitely is lack of development and poverty. Hence, would not it be more logical to put the nth order possible affects of ‘climate change’ into the context of poverty reduction (indeed, wealth creation!) and development, even if this might increase ghgs (in the short term) and hence ‘climate change’? A true cost/benefit analyses? And, of course, a similar argument can be made about all development vis a vie societal vulnerabilities to nth order affects of ‘climate change’ (rising sea levels, flooding, extreme weather events, food production, biodiversity, population growth etc etc).
It is the narrow unexplicit set of assumptions and the consequent lack of a wider human context that sometimes severely weakens the IPCC and NGOs in general.
Coerrection to my
I’m having difficulty posting a correction to my October 3, 2010 3:13 PM comment. Here’s my fourth attempt:
Q56 “How convinced are you that climate change poses a very serious and dangerous threat to humanity? (not at all 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very much)” Response: LS score =5.573, STDEV = 1.524, DC = -2.204 (very low)
Q58 “How convinced are you that climate change poses a very serious and dangerous threat to humanity? (not at all 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 very much)” Response: LS score =5.573, STDEV = 1.524, DC = 1.067 (low)
Sorry, your message got caught in the spam filter.
I have made four attempts to post a corretion to my October 2, 2010 3:13 PM comment. I give up … I’ll try again tomorrow.
I’m sorry, I sent my last comment before I read your comment about my prior comments having been caught in the spam filter.
Your point #2 is interesting. However, I think it’s missing a “2a”, I believe.
“Climate change is already having adverse impacts, and further change would have dangerous impacts”
“2a. A warming climate will have more adverse impacts than beneficial impacts”
2a needs to be arrived at by reasoning, not by anecdotal evidence.
Perhaps the reasoning behind 2a has been presented by climate science and I’ve missed it.
I failed to mention something in my earlier post:
The apparent fact that the literature reports more adverse effects than beneficial effects may be an indication of outcome-bias among scientists, rather than evidence for the preponderance of adverse effects, unless 2a can be demonstrated to be true by reasoning.
It can certainly be argued that change in and of itself carries a cost, and that man has no right to do something that creates “winners” and “losers” among nature and cultures. Those are worthy issues but are asides to my 2a. My need for 2a is to help me understand why, after the initial cost of change is gone, should there be more downside than upside. It seems like Occam’s razor would favor a neutral outcome, more or less.
In response to Bart and others pushing the “consensus” line, I’d suggest as a working definition that any science that has truly achieved an uncontentious status will be found in basic textbooks on the relevant subject. On perusing my copy of F. W. Taylor’s Elementary Climate Physics, I find statements like
This all sounds to me like a science with many areas of uncertainty in key building blocks of its foundations.
The existence of a scientific consensus about the big picture does not preclude the existence of large uncertainties. I have never claimed that there is no uncertainty.
But uncertainty is not the same as knowing nothing.
That to me is the crux of many of these disagreements.
Bart, you’re right that we need to distinguish between consensus and certainty. However, there are quite a few of the more vocal in the ‘alarmist’ camp who specialize in muddying the waters by pretending that the big picture consensus supports their own certainty about things that are, in fact, (as you rightly say) subject to large uncertainties.
For example, on the issue of climate sensitivity, the IPCC quoted a range of 1.5 to 4.5K. This is a large uncertainty, in my book. With 1.5, policy response c/would be more weighted to adaptation. With 4.5, a heavy emphasis on mitigation would be unavoidable (if we could persuade the Indian and Chinese governments to come to the party). Yet all we ever seem to hear about is activist scientists and activist organizations pushing mitigation.
PS Bart, what would you see the consensus as encompassing? I ask this because an earlier thread “No consensus about the consensus” highlighted the difficulty in getting an agreed version of what the consensus actually is.
Bart Verheegen says the burden of proof is on those who disagree with the consensus of the experts.
– Not if the experts have a common source of funding.
And especially when these experts come up with findings that boost the interests of their funder. The IPPC CAGW consensus is more or less equivalent to the consensus of tobacco-funded science that said smoking was perfectly healthy.
Did the von Storch study indicate where the consensus was being funded from?
…the burden of proof is on those who disagree with the consensus of the experts.
However, in a democracy, when the consensus of experts has large, expensive, intrusive implications for ordinary citizens, the burden shifts back to the experts and their advocates to convince the citizenry of that consensus.
There is no help for it other than wishing that the US (or UK etc) were China for a day as Tom Friedman sometimes fantasizes in his columns.
If the trust between scientists and the public were intact, or at least much healthier than it is today, this wouldn’t be that big a deal, but it isn’t — as Dr. Curry has pointed out — so it is a big deal.
I applaud Dr. Curry for seeking to restore that trust.
JC: “The problems in making the overall the argument aren’t associated with any particular incompetence on the part of climate scientists, but rather arise from the complexity of the climate system. It is this extraordinary complexity that makes reasoning about the climate problem extremely difficult.”
Since the only major country were the climate change has faced massive political opposition is the U.S. maybe the communication problem has less to do with the intrinsic complexity of climate science and more to do with the political and cultural dynamics of the U.S. The U.S. is also the only developed country where evolution is not widely accepted. The key variable then is the political culture of the country and not the complexity of the science.
If true then the refraining issue may involve exposing the those with a vested interest in the status quo.
Judith, you say:
Again you want to present the issue as being a PR problem, all about “framing” and “narrative”. Nonsense. The problem is bogus science and the associated outrageous doomsday predictions. If you fix those, you won’t have a “communications challenge”, any more than say high-temperature physics has a “communications challenge”.
Please, please, please stop claiming that bad science can be cured by improved communication. It doesn’t do any good, you’re just putting lipstick on a pig, you are not helping climate science climb out of the pit. You are distracting people from the main problem, which is the abysmal science, scientific malfeasance and overblown hype from far too many practitioners of climate science.
I’m sorry, but spray-painting excrement so it resembles gold doesn’t make it smell any better … and that’s all you are doing to climate science. Forget about all the “communication” and the PR and the “framing” and the “effective public communication”. This is not a PR issue, or a framing issue. Poor communication is not the problem.
Poor science is the problem. How about focusing on that for a while?
Willis, you apparently haven’t been reading my blog very much. I am NOT talking about PR (I wasn’t talking about PR in my building trust essay either). I am talking about the overall logic of the scientific argument in this post.
Judith, thanks for your reply. You say:
The problem with claiming the “framing and narrative of the overall scientific argument” is the “main problem” is that it missies the real main problem. The main problem is that far too many AGW supporting climate scientists have lied, cheated, concealed data, massaged data, “hid the decline”, used “Mikes Nature trick”, conspired to successfully subvert the IPCC process, worked to prevent opposing scientific views from being published, made foolish mathematical mistakes and then lied about them, hidden adverse results, claimed that they were the victims of “anti-science witch-hunts”, exaggerated their findings. Meanwhile, the rest of the AGW scientists are pretending to be deaf, dumb, and blind to the transgressions … and you think the “main problem” is how the evidence and arguments are presented? Really?
Judith, when far too many of the scientists on your side of the discussion have been caught lying and cheating, and almost all the rest of the scientists on your side (with your conspicuous exception) are studiously avoiding naming and shaming the miscreants and are pretending that there is no problem, at that point nobody cares about “framing” and “narrative”. You can frame a lie however you might like, but it is still a lie.
For example, you say:
Incompetence? I would welcome incompetence on the part of climate scientists. Instead, we have malfeasance and illegal avoidance of FOI requests. The problem is not that climate is complex. Many of the systems studied by scientists are complex.
The problem is that far too many people on your side of the fence are outright crooks, and y’all refuse to disown them. Instead, you wave your hands and claim that the problem is communication and framing and incompetence. Sorry, that doesn’t work. Here’s the rude reality.
Until you clean up your own backyard, improved communication is useless, because nobody will believe your claims. At this point we’ve been lied to too many times to believe anything you say.
For example, it doesn’t matter how well you frame the IPCC assessment reports. An organization that allows Michael Mann to promote his knowingly fraudulent “Hockeystick” and allows the resurrection of the “Jesus Paper” is a corrupt, politicized organization, and people have noticed that.
So you can frame the IPCC Reports with flowers and unicorns if you want, it won’t make any difference — we know the IPCC is a fraudulent and visibly partisan organization, so the flowers and unicorns mean nothing. You keep wanting to put a new coat of paint on the house of climate science, when the problem is that the foundation of climate science is rotten, the builders were dishonest and sloppy and cut corners, the materials are shoddy, and the structure is built on sand.
And your suggestion, improved communication, won’t fix any of those.
Stop pussy-footing around, Willis, and tell it like it is.
But seriously, whilst I sympathise with a lot of what you say, there are ways of making your point without being discourteous.
Michael Larkin | October 17, 2010 at 5:00 pm
My apologies for any discourtesy to either you or Judith, Michael. Perhaps you can teach me the polite way to say that some climate scientists have been publicly shown to be liars, frauds, and cheats, and that most climate scientists refuse to speak up against that.
I see the problem from the other side. From my perspective, the problem is not that I am willing to be bluntly honest about the transgressions and malfeasance of far too many leading climate scientists.
The problem is that the other climate scientists are not willing to be honest about those transgressions. Instead, they want to claim that this is just a communications problem, an issue of framing, a difficulty in the way that they are putting out the IPCC message, a media problem, a problem in the way that they are putting their ideas together, a difficulty in explaining their thoughts.
In a funny way, Judith is right, because it is a communication problem, just not the one she thinks — most mainstream AGW supporting scientists (with Judith a welcome exception) are unwilling to even say one word about, much less tell the truth about the fraud, dishonesty, exaggeration, performance-enhancing mathematics, and scientific malfeasance that is far too common in the field. As a result of their silence in the face of clear evidence of wrongdoing, people have reasonably (although incorrectly) concluded that the entire field is a fraud. It’s not, there’s plenty of decent, honest climate scientists out there … who almost to the last one are studiously avoiding touching the topic in public. Which, you know, kinda makes it look like the whole thing is a conspiracy of silence surrounding a giant scam … which it is not, in my opinion, at least.
But I can certainly understand why people feel that way. We don’t like being lied to, particularly by scientists. And most folks don’t have the insider knowledge to pick and choose between scammers and scientists, so they go with the safest path and don’t believe anyone’s claims.
That’s the real communications problem in climate science. A large number of the leading, world-renowned, best-known AGW supporting scientists lied to the public and conspired to fix the IPCC outcome and worked to prevent the publication of opposing evidence and pushed results that they knew to be fraudulent, and they got exposed. Busted. Condemned by their own words.
And almost every other climate scientist turned their heads, looked at the sky, whistled, and said nothing, not a single word about the rot that had been exposed at the core of the AGW scientific elite. Not a word. Communication problem, I guess …
So Judith, you are right. At this point most people don’t believe a word of what you and other mainstream AGW scientists have to say, and reasonably so … but talking about how to reframe the IPCC Reports won’t fix that.
You didn’t offend me one bit. I’m a big fan of the many postings you have made over at WUWT. Moreover, there is much truth in what you say. However, I don’t feel you are achieving much by venting here. As you yourself acknowledge, Dr. Curry is an exception in many ways to the kind of behaviour you deplore.
She knows what she knows, and believes what she believes, and I believe she is sincere in that. This is her blog and, agree with her or not, one has to admire her courage and refusal to rise to any kind of provocation.
You could have said, politely, as I am now going to do, that it isn’t a matter of reframing the issue (things have gone much to far for that to work). Something much more fundamental is required, namely, genuine dialogue amongst people with open minds.
Is that possible? Quite possibly not. But of all those on the side of orthodoxy, I think Dr. Curry is trying hardest to set an example. Had all her colleagues been as open to dialogue as she is, we’d never have come to the present sorry pass.
I would just add that a “genuine dialogue amongst people with open minds” is indeed a way of “reframing” the problem. “Framing” as it is understood in the social sciences is not confined to disreputable PR practices – it is an inherent part of any presentation of any “issue”. To suggest that what concerns us could be framed better is by no means the same as asking, “how can we better sell our point of view” – but rather, it asks how can we better approach or define this particular problem/issue.
Willis, Michael is correct, I am trying to facility dialogue amongst people with open minds that is evidence and argument based. At the end of the day, the bad behavior and other shenanigans are a side show to the science, of sociological and political import and interest but of no lasting importance to the science; the science will shake itself out with time. So while the behavioral/PR issues provide much entertainment in the blogosphere and is of undeniable political import, that is not what we’re focusing on here. All I can do in this regard is maintain my own personal and scientific integrity, and get on with the science.
First, Judith, my thanks to you for your active involvement in the climate discussion, and for your blog. I also want to go on record again as acknowledging that you are a rarity among AGW supporting climate scientists in your willingness to publicly state and defend your ideas. Great stuff.
Next, I wish that I could be as sanguine about all this as you are . You say:
You are correct, science will “shake itself out with time”, in the year 2110 this era of mass climate hysteria will be just a footnote in science history books. But that is scant comfort today. Right now, bogus results are being hyped to justify taking money out of my pockets, and food out of the mouths of the poor. Poor people going hungry is not a side show to me, and I fear I have no convenient ivory tower where I can go and act as if there were not large real-world costs today from scientists refusing to call out and disown bad science.
And right now, the reputation of climate science has never been worse. Today. As a scientist of little brain, this concerns me.
You seem to think that if climate scientists just tended to their knitting and did their work, it would all blow over. And I agree, it will … but maybe not in our lifetimes, and I’d prefer not to wait that long. I’m not sure you understand the depth of the public feeling about this.
There is nothing worse that can happen to any one of us than being conned. We would rather admit a dozen defeats than admit that we had been fooled once. It strikes at something deep inside us. And we all have the same response to being conned. It makes us very, very angry.
Thanks to the Climategate emails, the general public now knows that we were conned by some of the top, world-renowned AGW-supporting climate scientists. Not only that, but the public also knows that many of the rest of the AGW-supporting climate scientists were silent partners in the con, who saw the bad science and either approved or said nothing. And worst of all, the public has seen the shameful coverup of the sham investigations into what was revealed by Climategate.
That’s not going to blow over for a long, long time. And if responsible climate scientists do not start addressing these issues in a serious manner, it may never blow over. Since the issues have not been addressed, it is not clear to us if AGW climate scientists have learned their lesson or not.
For example, what safeguards have they put in place to prevent it from happening again? How did the IPCC get twisted and bent, and how can we definitively plug the holes? What is wrong with a culture that starts plotting how to avoid Freedom of Information requests before they’ve gotten the first request, and how can we disown it? How did an unknown recent graduate (Michael Mann) get named a lead IPCC author and allowed to promote his own incorrect claims? What’s up with the journals and the US National Science Foundation not enforcing their own archiving policies?
AGW supporting scientists don’t want to admit that there was rot at the core of climate science, much less deal with those kinds of issues that have arisen from the rot. Yes, you can bury your head in the science, and simply do the best quality work you can do. But until AGW climate scientists deal with the real issues, people won’t believe your results. You remember the ancient aphorism, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”? Because the public remembers it.
Until AGW climate scientists face up to the ugly issues, until you deal with the fact that some of your members flat-out conned the public, and the rest of you stood by, people won’t trust you.
And why should they? Not only did some of your leading lights con us while you did nothing. They conned us, and then despite the plain evidence, by and large AGW scientists refused to admit that anything was wrong at all, claiming it was just “boys being boys”, saying that secretly concealing adverse results was an innocent “trick”, and the like. And then the investigations into the actions revealed by Climategate have been a pathetic joke. Now, since by and large y’all really don’t want to talk about these issues (with your shining exception), you haven’t discussed them enough to understand the nature of the rot, much less to figure out how to fix the rot.
As a result of the inaction and continued avoidance of these issues, we have no reason to assume climate scientists won’t con us again. AGW scientists certainly have done nothing to reassure us, to make us think that anything’s changed.
According to the head post, you think the main problem in communicating with the public is
So I’m not wandering off-thread when I say that is not the main problem in communicating with the public. The main problem in communicating with the public is that AGW supporting climate scientists conned the public, the public is enormously embarrassed and angry that they were fooled so thoroughly, and the public’s memory is long.
As a result, until you deal with the issues, they’re not going to believe what you tell them no matter how good your science might be.
And that is the real tragedy, the real cost to science …
And with that, let me return you to the ongoing discussion of framing, wherein we could profitably consider whether CO2 was framed by the IPCC, and might indeed be innocent of all charges … or ponder what that alternative meaning of “I was framed” has to do with the idea that we can fix our problems by simply “framing” them, rather than by dealing with the actual issues underlying the problems.
IMO, you’re still having a go at Dr. Curry, and that’s my point about your discourtesy. She has gone much further than anyone else on the side of orthodoxy in acknowledging the kinds of problems you mention. You should nip over to RC and have at it with Gavin; if he’d engage you (unlikely), I’d watch the fur fly with relish.
However, if you insist on coming to a Queensbury rules boxing match with a howitzer, don’t be surprised if some in the peanut gallery cry foul. Softly, my friend. No one is saying that there isn’t merit in your points. It’s just that this is the wrong venue to pursue them quite so aggressively.
You know a great deal more than I do about climate; enough, probably, to engage in meaningful and civilised intellectual debate with Dr. Curry. Where else are you going to get that chance, and we, the chance to observe and learn? Why waste your talents on merely letting off steam?
Come on, Willis. Pit your not inconsiderable brain against Dr. Curry, not your brawn. I’m just as angry as you about some of the shenanigans that’s been going on, but here, at this blog, I’m looking to learn something about the science by observing a dialectic in action. There’s nowhere else I can think of where this is even a remote possibility.
Michael Larkin | October 17, 2010 at 11:57 pm
Michael, you are correct that Judith has “gone much further than anyone else on the side of orthodoxy in acknowledging the kinds of problems you mention”. I am well aware of that, and have commended her for that both here on this blog and elsewhere.
However, that does not entitle her to make specious claims, or to retire from the fray. She says the big problem in communicating about climate science to the public is that somehow the climate scientists haven’t framed it properly, they haven’t put the ideas in the proper order and tied it up with the right kind of bow or something. The problem, she says, is in the order in which people are trying to communicate the information, because the second point depends on the first point. Or maybe it depends on the third point, I’m not sure, but the communication problem is that people are not putting the points in the right order, because as she says, “the 3rd point is contingent on the 2nd point, and the 2nd point is contingent on the 1st point.”
My brain (and not my brawn) says that is nonsense. The problem is that the public were conned and are very angry about that. As a result, it doesn’t matter which point is contingent on which other point. People are really, really pissed off that they were conned. And they are even more furious about the cover-up, as Nixon found out the coverup is more damaging than the crime.
So almost nothing that a climate scientist says at this time will be believed, because their leaders were shown to be con men, and the scientists have done absolutely nothing to fix that. That’s the communication problem.
I understand that, just like other climate scientists, Judith really, really, really doesn’t want that to be true. She desperately wants to believe that the problem is simply in the scientific facts, and not in the fact that an unknown amount of the so-called science was simply con-men pushing bogus claims. She spends much time above trying to convince us that if we just put the second point after the first point, then the communication problem would be solved. She wants to think that if she just goes back to doing science, that the science will settle itself out.
And she is right, the science will settle itself out … but that’s just like putting the points in the right order. It makes no difference. Because people won’t believe the science, settled or not, until the scientists earn their trust. The science will settle itself out … but the broken trust won’t. People have long memories for con jobs.
And the bad news is, Judith and the others going back to doing “science as usual” doesn’t fix the broken trust. Quite the opposite. It makes things worse.
Why? Because nothing has been done to fix the blindingly obvious problems, and now climate scientists are saying the show is over, move along folks, nothing to see here, no harm no foul, they’re just going to go back to work as if nothing happened. They haven’t fixed the problem, but the public could understand that. Some problems are hard to fix, and this is one of them.
What we can’t understand is that you haven’t even tried to fix the problem, and now you want us to forget about it and go back to your work.
Judith, I want you to be very clear about this. We are not going to forget. These issues are not going to go away.
I understand that you just want to “maintain [your] own personal and scientific integrity, and get on with the science”.
What you don’t seem to understand is that in this situation, that just makes you look guilty. I know you are not, but dear lady, you are working very hard to make yourself look guilty as hell.
Why? Because nothing has been done to fix the problem, and now you appear to be washing your hands of the whole thing. There was a heap of crimes and malfeasance and lying and cheating and conning of the public that was revealed. For you to hold your nose now and look studiously away from the real problems and say you are just going to “get on with the science” merely confirms the public perception that neither you nor anyone else really wants to fix what is wrong, and that you are complicit in the coverup.
And that is lethal to your credibility. You can put the first point before or after the third point, it makes no difference. You guys conned us, and now you just want to walk away to hide in the thicket of your precious science? Now you choose to waste your precious time trying to convince others that the reason nobody gives a sh*t what climate scientists are saying is that you have the points in the wrong order?
Really? The real problem is that the points are presented in the wrong order? Do you truly believe that? You have time to laboriously expound and defend that kind of self-serving pseudo-scientific explanation, but you don’t have time to deal with the rot at the heart of climate science.
I understand that I am in an unenviable position here, the kid that says that the Emperor has no clothes is always accused of discourtesy. However, I fear that there is no polite way to tell somebody that they are butt-naked, and that people are pointing and laughing. It doesn’t go over well no matter how it is phrased, it’s inherently discourteous.
I don’t like that, Judith, but it is also the truth. For evil to triumph, it is only necessary for good people to do nothing … and with Climategate you AGW climate scientist folks have made doing nothing into an art form. So sure, Judith, you can just immerse yourself in the science and do nothing about the underlying questions, that works as far as fixing the science goes.
But if you think that addresses the issue of your “personal and scientific integrity”, I fear that you are in for some disappointment.
PS – Michael, you wanted to “learn something about the science by observing a dialectic in action.” I know this is not a pretty dialectic, but it is a dialectic with all the action a man might want. My issues are scientific, just not the scientific issues that AGW scientists want to deal with.
Willis, there is no science in your post. And you are pointing your arrows at the wrong person. Don’t be surprised if no one here wants to engage you with this kind of dialogue.
It is NOT Judith’s job to sort out ALL of ‘climate science’,
direct your arguments to those that have kept their heads down.
Isn’t it enough for you that RealClimate has ‘excommunicated’ Judith, for ‘failing’ as a scientists.
Lobby your politicians, speak to journalists, be nice….
The other ‘side’ are not very good at nice.
A good friend of mine, co-edited one of the IPCC reports (with the hockey stick in) we are still very good friends. A debate only happens when sides stop shouting at each other… If only one side is shouting and not listening, the public will eventually notice and ask why?
Judith, I for one do want to engage with what Willis says. He writes well enough that his strictures can only offend if the cap fits, in which case the wearer should look to his (or her) own remedy. I suspect Michael would object less if Willis were to say the same thing, but less elegantly.
The wish for “better communication” is a red herring. To paraphrase McLuhan – “the medium IS the message”, the medium in this case being properly conducted, properly peer-reviewed science. Indeed one way of looking at the scientific method and the peer-review system that is its natural extension, is as a system of communication. That is, having tried, over the centuries, all OTHER ways of communicating science and found they got them into trouble, science developed the Scientific Method as its EXCLUSIVE means of communicating its findings. Infuriating to public servants looking for simple policy guidance, but better than the alternatives, the results of which we see today.
I wrote to you in respect of an earlier exchange between you and Willis shortly after Climategate. I predicted then that your attempts to heal science by improving “communication” would fail. You clearly didn’t believe me, and that’s fine, but I can’t really sympathise when nine months later with I see you rewarded for your persistence some more jabs from Willis’ pen.
Here’s what I wrote:
“Credibility is a combination of expertise and trust.” Maybe, but a scientist must devote him/herself entirely to the former, trusting that the latter will follow. Cruel, I know, but giving priority to the cultivation of trust in “outsiders”, over cultivating expertise in their field, was in a very real sense what got these guys into trouble. It’s no good advocating a return to genuine peer review if the principle objective is the “restoration of trust” – you’ve got to do it for its own sake and for the benefit of the science, and hope that the trust will ensue, as it surely will. Much good science has survived temporary public disfavour.
“Climate research and its institutions have not yet adapted to its high policy relevance.” With respect, that is precisely what the Hockey Team have done far too well, although the adaptations are not to your taste or their credit. If they had done less “adapting” and more sticking to time-honoured scientific method, they wouldn’t be in disgrace today. The first such adaptation was to call themselves “climate scientists”. When I was taught science in the 60’s there were meteorologists and there were climatologists. Now we have “climate scientists”. Isn’t “Climate Science” just a field invented by and for AGW believers who either choose not to call themselves meteor-/climatologists, because that’s not where the grant money is, or who in addition may not do so because they are in fact neither? If so it should neither have surprised nor greatly impressed us if they “overwhelmingly” endorse AGW. It’s just what “climate scientists” do. If it is to enjoy trust in future, it must convince us that it has shed its predisposition to alarm. If not, it will wither on the vine as scientists migrate back, if they may, to their fields of true expertise, and that still carry weight and trust.
“…blamed on difficulties of communicating such a complex topic…” – this is a recurring theme amongst CRU apologists – the suggestion being that had the Jones’ and others’ refusal to share their work been handled by a PR organisation trained to dissemble, rather than by scientists with no such training, and having to pick it up as they went along, all would have been well. I understand that is not your intent, but you risk association with a reprehensible argument. And there are several objections to your own:
1. Trying to communicate the complexity of climate science to lay-folk like me is futile and unnecessary. We laiety, and that includes most of the political establishment, will always have to rely on “proxy data” (if you will forgive the allusion) to assess competing hypotheses, and chief among these is our ability to see that the readily-grasped precepts of the scientific method, including its ineluctible extension, peer-review, are being adhered to.
2. The trouble seems to me that since I was taught science in the 60s, ordinary people no longer understand the Scientific Method in the way that used to be instinctive to anyone with a good high-school education. Worse still, many scientists, sometimes in the name of “post-normal” science, seem shockingly innocent of basic tenets of science. Everywhere in the climate debate (now that we are finally having one) the mistake is made by so many climate alarmists (and too many sceptics) that it is the job of sceptics to present counter-theories to their own. It is not. What matters is whether AGW theory survives proper scrutiny, not whether those scrutinising it can do any better. It is up to the proponents of AGW to present their theories in the form of falsifiable argument. The Climategate emails and code reveal the excruciating efforts of the high priesthood of AGW to do just that, their continuing failure, and the lengths to which they did or were prepared to go to conceal their work, with all its inadequacies, from proper peer review.
I hope this helps you appreciate the lay person’s view, and wish you well in your efforts to rehabilitate science. However I think you’re going to have to be willing to spill more blood than you imagine, or will find agreeable. The Emperor is naked, and the answer is not to try to reclothe him, but to banish him for the conceited ass he is now seen to be. Efforts such as your own, to resolve the issue through reform, with a token smattering of contrition, will undoubtedly earn the appearance of success – the MSM is consumed with a desire to stop the agonising process of retrospectively reporting its own recent gullibility. Politicians share that desire, mutatis mutandis. Their complaisance will be easy to get. But a public conspiracy of silence is not the same thing as a renewal of public trust in science, although they may seem very similar. And AGW will be allowed to die a quiet death, leaving billions misspent, and pointless, growth-inhibiting legislation on statute books the world over, where it will be obeyed in the Anglosphere and northern Europe, and elsewhere ignored.
But the conspiracy of silence won’t hold out here in the blogosphere, and you surely know it. If you really love science, and want to restore it’s dignity, I’m afraid you need to get a bit nastier. And if you don’t, the job you find repugnant will be done by others who will relish it, which would be a shame, because I think you could do it infinitely better, if you could only grasp the sceptical nettle.
I haven’t changed my views. What has happened in climate science is an atrocity, no less. I share Willis’ frustration that you seem unable to accept that, while again saluting your courage (which tends to deepen the frustration!)
If my earlier remarks about the Scientific Method being THE medium of communication for science, the way forward for climate “science” consists of three steps:
1. Resolutely restate the principles of the scientific method, and loudly and clearly denounce those who have flouted it.
2. Fix the peer-review system so we can be confident that the CRU shenanigans cannot be repeated.
Not much else you can do but pray.
Willis, I don’t think you are being fair to Judith. Not everyone is comfortable with the role of “firebrand” … particularly in the face of systemic and deep-rooted problems. Apart from taking considerable heat and unwarranted scorn from her peers, the positions I have seen Judith take here (while perhaps quieter and more diplomatic than you might prefer) are not inconsistent with a path towards a more positive outcome.
I noticed that Judith’s name was amongst those who made a submission to the IAC. I also just spotted the following at Nature:
Judith. You need to know that you are very much appreciated for your courage in standing up for what is right. Your blog is so refreshing as well and much appreciated as must be evident by the very high traffic figures that you have generated so far.
And you should be congratulated on your calm handling of the moderation issues, allowing quite direct comments from Willis among others.
As to what Willis is arguing, I must say that I have a great deal of respect for what he is saying. I think that he is being a bit tough on you, pretty much the only currently working climate scientist who is clearly and courageously standing up for what you believe is right. But his main points are accurate and well expressed.
I can confirm that Willis is colourfully describing how I feel about the way climate science has conducted itself and how nearly all scientists in the field have idly let it all happen, when they must have known what was going on.
It is not convincing when climate scientists say that they won’t read the Climategate e:mails, because they were “stolen”. That they won’t read “The Hockeystick Illusion” because it is written by a sceptic.
The Wegman “plagiarism” issue reflects very badly on the climate scientists in my view because they are attacking one person for what looks like normal “fair use”, but not attacking the many other examples of similar “fair use” where exactly the same words have been used by others. See CA “CopyGate” thread.
And nothing is said when NCDC takes unfinished Surface Stations Project data/information without authority and then publishes a paper without attributing/acknowledging Anthony Watts work.
And it also seems “OK” for the leading journals to completely abrogate their own written policies regarding data archiving etc. And where is the uproar about the continuing revelations about the tampering (adjustments) to the temperature data (have a look at the NZ temperature record) without explanation.
From my viewpoint, the thing that has driven the politics of the issue over the past few years has been that the alarmists, particularly James Hansen and Al Gore, have been successful in scaring the wits out of the public and convinced them that CO2 is the most serious problem facing the public. Schneider and Gore acknowledged the need to “exaggerate” to convince the public and that is clearly what has been done – in their minds the end clearly justifies the means.
The politicians, when faced with polls showing that 70% of the population are gravely concerned about CO2 warming, are clearly in a very difficult position on this.
That is why it is just so important that scientists challenge poor quality science coming out from the climate scientists. It is important to speak up.
The danger of course is that asking questions/challenging them results in being called sceptic/denier and also the very real outcome that grant funding could dry up.
There are good reasons why it is retired scientists and engineers speaking up. They are now safe from losing their jobs, or access to grant funding.
There are consequences of speaking up, as you have found. And I acknowledge you have done far more than us, mostly anonymous, posters. I am personally putting my hand up in relation to an issue that I have some insight into that may be of interest shortly, and have had to go through a process of considering what it might mean for me and my family.
To sum up though. It looks to me clear that the public is waking up to the fact that the Emperor has no clothes. And their is probably nothing now that the courtiers (the climate scientists) can do, but acknowledge that they were mistaken, and resolve to deal with the issues professionally from now on.
To Willis and others:
My own view on the failure of scientists to speak out publicly against what they might see as reprehensible behaviour goes like this.
First, specialisation has gone so far and so fast that there is a tendency for people to stay safely inside the domain that they know very well. There are few generalists left. My guess is that many of those who are agnostic or sceptical are older, more unworried and more widely educated (and experienced) than those in the 25-45 age group. I think I would be right in thinking that description applies to many who post here.
Second, my experience after a working lifetime in education, research and government, is that natural scientists are more respectful of ‘authority’ than people in the social sciences and humanities. Couple this with #1 and you get a tendency not to speak out. When I was a young scholar I noted how hierarchical science departments were, with ‘prof’ the god at the top, the one who got grants, wrote references, found career moves for you, and so on. While there has been some change, away from the ‘god professor’ role, I still think that science and medicine departments are more hierarchical than the others. So ‘authority’ (peer review!) rules OK.
Third, everywhere in our system, the growth in scale has led to a growth in managerialism that was hardly present fifty years ago. Some scientific bodies are of great size in membership (50,000 is a lot of members), and even the learned societies now have hundreds, even thousands of members. Consulting them about anything is really difficult, and by and large the organisations have become captive of the few who take an interest, roll up to meetings, stand for election, and so on. In consequence, only a few people really ‘speak’ for large bodies. (There is a comparable effect inside the IPCC, as I understand it, where a handful of writers magically ‘speak for’, even become, ‘2500 scientists’.
Fourth, scientific bodies of all kinds have moved from being apolitical to occupying what I would call a ‘quasi political’ stance. That is in part because governments now rely very much more than they used to on ‘expert’ advice of all kinds. This closeness to government is advantageous to science because it is the basis of the money flow, but it can have pernicious effects. The statements supporting AGW by many learned bodies and professional organisations are there because those who run the organisations see them as advantageous for the body, not because the science compels such statements.
Fifth, in this particular case of AGW, there is a quite widespread quasi-religious belief about that humans are wickedly destroying their own nest, and have to be stopped. There is enough of this ‘zeitgeist’ for politicians to take it seriously. A senior former minister said to me that politicians, having given credence to it, now have the problem of ‘managing expectations’. I think he is right. While I have no doubt that most ‘climate scientists’ are like all other scientists I know — that is, devoted to what they do, and careful in how they do it — there are some whose science and belief systems are fused together. There are others, like Hansen and Schneider, who seem to me to believe that the end justifies the means, a view which I don’t share at all.
Now, if you put #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5 all together, you have a rich mess, and it is not surprising that the ordinary, reasonably well educated citizen has a great deal of uncertainty about it all. And I would agree that the outlook suggests even more uncertainty, and less government action (ours is now talking about ‘energy efficiency’ rather than ‘combatting climate change’, which is a good start.
So, to bring this long essay to an end, I doubt that anyone is going ‘to clean up the mess’. Things are the way they are, and I see no sign of any radical change in my #1 to #5. As in so much else, the best changes come incrementally, and I think that is what is likely to happen here.
The most convincing analysis of the overall situation I have read so far.
I agree that it is an excellent analysis!
I promised Willard that I would answer this essay by Don AIikin. Although there are some insights here, it makes me very uncomfortable.
I realize that Willard is only an ally insofar as process is concerned; that in substance he is stubbornly neutral. This alone is a matter of frustration. I do not believe that present circumstances admit of neutrality. Yet I can understand the philosophical condition: if I tell Willard he must trust me or trust the process of which I am part, and tell him that the trust can only be validated by many years of serious study, he will, as a matter of rigor,, understanding the risks of argument to authority, remain neutral. Nonetheless I count Willard as a friend.
On the other hand, time continues to waste away, and the burden we visit on our descendants continues to grow.
I supposed that the essay responded to prior provocations up-thread, and reviewing, I find that Willis Eschenbach has been the one throwing flaming missiles. The problem with Aitkin’s calm theories about “failure of scientists to speak out publicly against what they might see as reprehensible behaviour” is that there is a presumption that scientists perceive reprehensible behaviour that is remotely commensurate with the reprehensibility of the attack.
The question, that is, has been framed such that most members of the community necessarily have nothing to say about why we have nothing to say. It’s a “why have you stopped beating your wife” question.
That said, there are interesting questions here. There is a real generation gap, to be sure. On the whole, those scientists who are most opposed to stepping out of the pure science role, and who are more sanguine about the risks, are older? Is it the callowness of youth as suggested here? Or is it because the stronger personalities have been weeded out among older, more experienced scientists? Is it perhaps because older people are less likely to live to see the questions decided by nature, and thus have less, both personally and professionally, at risk?
Secondly about natural scientists being more respectful of authority, wll certainly so, and this is very much as it should be. This is because natural science reveals unequivocal truth, and experience reveals the most farsighted and important contributors. It’s an odd sort of sport, where only the best players can actually see the ball, and so have to be the referees as well as the competitors. But everyone values this well enough that it works. And there are plenty of indicators as to who the most insightful are, though awkwardly, the less insightful the player, the less effective their mechanisms for identifying leaders.
Third, this idea of decision-making by dfilibuster in large groups is real enough, but it applies less to the hard sciences than anywhere else, precisely because there are independent and more or less objective ways of determining actual leadership. Responsible authorities in a scientific organization realize that they are not the top of the real heap, and defer consistently to the real leaders or are voted out. Again the tarnished but not lost capacity of science to identify truth makes science much stronger than other institutions against this corrupting trend.
Fourth, the emergence of science as an advisory force in politics is several generations old, and the problems we are seeing, far from being aboutr the excesses of this influence, are rather, in my opinion, the consequence of its decline. In the past the near-unanimity of all major science bodies would not have been taken for a political football. As matters of some subtlety become important to governance, this increasingly becomes problematic.
Fifth, whatever else this ends and means business means, science is not religion. Nevertheless, scientists can have confidence in certain positions that may strike otehrs as ridiculous. This is not because of trust in authority, but ultimately because of trust in reality. (The authority of scientific leaders emerges, as I said before, from their capacity to identify aspects of reality that turn out to have the force of truth. And the force of truth is about explanatory power; about relationships between disparate observations, fields and issues, about everything holding together.
So in short, at least to the extent that we see five independent components, I am five for five in disagreement with the analysis, as well as being in disagreement with the premise.
I think this essay, while intelligent and on the whole well-intentioned, ends up devaluing science and scientists in the quest for the endless quest for an explanation of why a few relatively minor transgressions in an obscure and unimportant corner of a discipline have not been dealt with in the most austere Old Testament rigor.
The reason nobody has come up with a good explanation for why nobody has been denounced is partly that there is so little there to explain and so little there to denounce.
To proceed from misunderstanding that to constructing a worldview of partisanship, hierarchy, and prejudice to explain it succeeds in getting just about everything backwards. The social phenomena of science always have been and always will be inexplicable to those who do not believe in the progressive discovery of truth that the scientific community achieves, and do not understand the social mechanisms by which it achieves them.
In short, Judith, Willard, Don, Willis, no. Just no. This is not the answer you have been looking for. You aren’t even asking the right question.
“The social phenomena of science always have been and always will be inexplicable to those who do not believe in the progressive discovery of truth that the scientific community achieves.”
I think Kuhn did an okay job, though he did believe in a somewhat perverted form of scientific progress. There were many others who explicated all sorts of social phenomena in science without belief in a progression towards a single truth. Such explanations do lead down a slippery slope where truth can be forgotten about altogether (to their detriment), but they did help to illuminate social aspects of science previously hidden by invoking truth as the only explanation.
However, I do agree that the lack of response to Climategate from many scientists is hardly complicity in “the coverup” – not everyone in the scientific world thinks this is a big deal. Beyond that, I can imagine some reasons why those who do have concerns would hesitate about speaking up, and loss of research funding is not one of them. Still, coverup is the wrong term to use in this broad sense.
If not Cover-up, then how about
It doesn’t really get any prettier. The fact is that a “pseudoscientific” deception was practised on the public for two decades, and that a great many scientists who knew or ought to have known this chose to say nothing. Many still do. They bear their share of responsibility for the disgrace in which climate “science” finds itself.
Well, you can explain away anyone who disagrees with your “fact” as an “ought to know” and assign responsibility however you want, but there’s few things that interest me less here than pointing fingers at the guilty party.
That’s where you part company with me and, I believe, Willis. We believe a cleaning of the Augean Stables is a necessary precondition to restoration of integrity in science. Willis, I hope I correctly reflect your position?
Well SCCG (“so-called climategate”) is a very big deal in the estimation of enough people that one can’t ignore it, but the fact remains that when you ask people what it is about they can’t seem to articulate anything but vague though intense hostility and resentment and some garbled and tendentious stories about scientifically and ethically trivial matters. We cannot dismiss it as a social phenomenon. It is a game-changer in the whole structure of public discourse and may poison the relationship between science and society for a very long time. I wouldn’t sell it short that way.
And I’m hardly saying science in general nor climate science in particular is perfect, though it is a very bad idea these days to air one’s gripes publicly. (You never know what random thing Morano will decide to mangle up and feed to the blood-craving jackals; best not to give him much to work with.)
But the idea that the social dysfunction at the root of all this madness lies entirely or mostly within the scientific community is not something a genuine skeptic would take at face value. A person of a skeptical cast of mind would have to weigh the alternative that something might be wrong in the way the public is approaching the science, and that this might well be the biggest part of the problem.
This is why Don Aitkin’s piece so fascinates me. It is a serious and not entirely unsympathetic attempt to critique the scientific community. But it so thoroughly fails to understand where the scientific community gets its ethics and where it gets its confidence that it turns every single point it makes upside-down or inside-out.
Then of course we get folks like TomFP who can’t resist taking the opportunity of a posting from someone like myself to vent about the imaginary conspiracy with its imaginary sinister motivations yet again. It’s unpleasant to be openly hated for who and what you are. Given that I am an absolutely incompetent liar and therefore rarely try it, the fact that people like TomFP considers me part of a “deception” is not a happy turn of events. Of course, I can’t say anything to affect his opinion now, most likely.
I’d like to know what could have been done differently so that the such a large swath of the public wouldn’t have ended up so distracted by paranoid fantasies about about as unconspiratorial a bunch of people as you can imagine as to be unable to engage on evidence. I don’t think the climate science community alone could have prevented it, even with perfect information.
I would be tempted to reply in detail, but someone who can write that sceptics “can’t seem to articulate anything [about Climategate] but vague though intense hostility and resentment and some garbled and tendentious stories about scientifically and ethically trivial matters ” has obviously not been paying attention, and doesn’t deserve the effort.
I’ve been trying to get a straight answer to that question for almost a year. See:
TomFP has an ingenious response. “I am not going to tell you. So there.” I stand in awe of his rhetorical prowess.
I found this, published almost a year ago, an excellent summary. If you can point me to anything in it that answers to your description of “vague though intense hostility and resentment and some garbled and tendentious stories about scientifically and ethically trivial matters”, and tell me why, I’d me much obliged.
Pay attention, there will be a test!
There is, of course, and as I suspect you are well aware, such a wealth of well-considered and damning analysis of Climategate that I couldn’t possibly try the patience of other users of this site with a list, so this will have to do for a start. I have read plenty of counter-analysis, and none of it impresses me.
Actually this essay is pretty good
In my opinion the assassinationscience essay begs the question. I have not yet looked through the entire collection of emails that TomFP refers to but starting at the beginning leaves me unimpressed as an initial impression.
For instance, there is this associated with Sep 19, 2006: “His reluctance to report a “null result” (namely, that the data do not show anything significant) is extremely disturbing, as it flies in the face of standard scientific practice, which requires that all results be reported. The fundamental problem is that any censoring of results that do not lead to a predetermined conclusion will always—by design—bias the corpus of reported results towards that conclusion, in the same way that a gambler who always brags about his wins (but stays silent about his losses) will appear to be hugely successful, even if his losses have, in reality, far outweighed his winnings (as is generally the case, in the long run, except for the extremely skillful). ”
It sounds eminently reasonable, but it’s wishful thinking! I wonder if anyone can refer me to publication of null results and failed experiments in other fields. I will venture that it’s exceedingly rare. It certainly doesn’t up that citation cont, does it?
Is this a flaw in science? I would agree that it is. Is this something disreputable about climatology? Hey, we didn’t make the rules. So, nope.
Michael thank you for bringing us closer to understanding the perversity that has overtaken climate “science” in the last couple of decades.
A null result (are you paying attention? there WILL be a test) is a null result, and MUST be reported as such. Non-negotiable. Your concern seems to be that REPORTING a null result doesn’t give you anything to PUBLISH, as though it would be unreasonable to ask scientists to slave away at an experiment and then have nothing to “up their citation count”! And you seem to see no real problem with falsifying results to show a finding where there was none, if the effect is to make the work publishable! This is very much the line of thinking I have always assumed was misleading your field, but saying so without evidence would have been gratuitously insulting – I’m grateful to you for supplying that evidence. I shall make good use of it.
If your experiment yields a null result, that is your stimulus to abandon or improve it until you DO get a result. Your post exactly illustrates why climate science has ended up banging its head against a brick wall of spurious logic – it has studiously disregarded the null hypothesis (sorry Judith, but I never tire of pointing this out – it really is THE bugbear of climate science), and thereby denied itself the opportunity to devise better experiments which might have given it something worthwhile to published.
I leave it to others to comment on your assertion that this sort of thing is par for the course in science in general, or is the peculiar preserve of climate “science”, but I suspect it only prevails in the CAGW echo chamber.
Once again, Michael, thanks!
TomFP, I certainly don’t advocate misrepresenting a null result, But exactly to whom is one expected to report it?
The discussion in question was about how to get a publication out of messy data. Nothing more or less. If you submit “nothing much happened” to a journal they will not publish it. They shouldn’t but they won’t.
Of course, the final grant report should say “nothing much happened” (usually it is sugarcoated a bit) but what you write in the grant report is typically never heard from again. Perhaps it should be posted and indexed, but it isn’t.
None of this has anything to do with climatology. Maybe what you are being aghast by is simply the ordinary conditions of science. I have worked in the private sector. I admit it is mind-bogglingly different and in some ways crazy.
For one thing, since scientists had email and treated it as an entertainment long before the business world had it as a documentary record, scientists still treat email very casually, as a private club, as informal conversation over beer. That alone accounts for much of the confusion regarding the hacked emails.
Science still mostly works, though. But the cultural assumptions are different and your reply to my good faith effort at an explanation is at best a very clear symptom of that.
You write “I certainly don’t advocate misrepresenting a null result”, and then go on to do precisely that. Your reasoning seems to be that it is acceptable, given that to do otherwise would impair the chances of receiving attention and further funding. It doesn’t seem to occur to you that perhaps it ought to!
I leave it to those in other fields of science to comment on whether my opinion that this is reprehensible is a “cultural assumption”, or just a statement of good scientific method.
I’m sure the points made in this article could be claimed by both sides, but it’s a bit distressing that if the study’s conclusions are true, nobody on either side will be convinced, but their beliefs would only be hardened in the face of cognitive dissonance.
I believe that your reading of Don Aitkin’s first comment was made in anticipation of something like his second.
My understanding of Don Aitkin’s first comment seems to me a good explanation as to how science works the way it is working. I don’t believe that it explains how it has derailed, as I don’t believe that science once was a Garden of Eden where everything was pure and perfect. There might never have been a normal science, except on Thomas Kuhn’s blackboard. (I caricature with the only intention to keep short. It’s just a wink to your Old Testament reference.)
In fact, I believe that Don Aitkin’s analysis applies not only to science, but to other big institutions. To claim, for instance, that other kinds corporations fare better simply forgets some kind of “resolution effect”. I’ve heard enough horror stories to be weary of any golden standard anywhere. Reality is certainly not what it ought to be. As anyone who writes can attest, the more you pay attention to details, the more the details get messier and messier.
So I don’t think his overall analysis in the former needs to be justified by what he says in his second. I also observe that the second one contains way more claims than questions. I could say more about Aitkin’s second post, but it was not directed at me.
So I’ll simply return to my box and prepare coffee.
PS: I am quite sure that readers don’t like when you say to another commenter to pay attention. In any case, I am quite sure I don’t.
Willard, I didn’t say these tendencies don’t exist. My point is precisely that these complaints are better mitigated in physical sciences than elsewhere. Don’s comment is specifically comparative of science with other subcultures. While the tendencies exist everywhere and need to be resisted everywhere, physical science has corrective mechanisms that prevent much of the damage. The informal (though not entirely unfunded) opposition on climate matters needs to be subjected to comparable scrutiny. An honest appraisal will find that it lacks such correctives.
I have more to say about your postscript.
I don’t like it when people construct and propagate arguments that show they are not paying attention. I think “please pay attention” is an appropriate response. It can be read as paternalistic and obnoxious, I suppose, but the fact is I was responding to a casual indifference to the fabric of the subject at hand.
Willard, you are very insightful as to behavior and rhetoric but almost indifferent as to content. I accept this; it is at least honest. Since we have two sides that are so substantially opposed as to content, though, at least one of them must be wrong. It is one thing to suggest one is not competent to weigh the content. (It’s interesting to contemplate how that should affect one’s behavior in a case of urgency.) It’s another to willfully or negligently scramble the content.
Ice cores are not tree rings to a person who is paying attention.
When they are scrambled in an offhand and contentious remark, it indicates that it is not evidence but assault on character that motivates the person making the remark. “Please pay attention” was intended as adult understatement for the schoolyard epithets that came to mind immediately.
Of course it wouldn’t matter if climate scientists devoted themselves – as you confirm – to “upping their citation count”, if the peer-review system remained robust. But as you will learn (I’m being generous) if you (can bear to) read the rest of Costella, when the Team started to feel the cold wind of disconfirmation blowing up their skirts their response was to “fix” (with considerable success) the peer review system.
Don’t miss Kerry Emanuel’s comments on the so-called climategate business.
NAS here refers to the National Association of Scholars, “an independent membership association of academics working to foster intellectual freedom and to sustain the tradition of reasoned scholarship and civil debate in America’s colleges and universities” , not the National Academy of Sciences. Excerpt follows:
As a climate scientist and member of NAS, I am inclined to agree with those who have described it as the “greatest scientific scandal of our generation”, but the scandal I see is very different from the one that has been presented to NAS members. Climategate is merely the latest in a series of coordinated, politically motivated attacks that represent an aggravated assault on scholarship that should be of concern to every member of NAS who, if they are like me, joined this organization because we were tired of seeing scholarship enslaved to ideology, particularly in academia. NAS has been at the forefront of the battle against such assaults on reason as campus speech codes, affirmative action, deconstruction, and other horrors perpetrated mostly from the political Left. A true test of NAS’s commitment to reason and scholarship is whether it is prepared to take on an attack that this time is mounted largely from the Right.
What the emails show are a few researchers behaving in a manner unbecoming scientists and gentlemen. The true scandal is the attempt to catapult such behavior into high crime and to dismiss an entire scientific endeavor based on the privately expressed sentiments of a few (a very few) researchers working in an environment of ongoing harassment. At the time of this writing, three separate panels convened in Great Britain, and two investigations conducted by the Pennsylvania State University have cleared the authors of the controversial emails of any serious wrong doing, and with good reason. Meanwhile, the gross mischaracterization of what those emails actually contain continues unabated.
I find this statement of Kerry’s to be rather inexplicable. Climategate was not a politically motivated attack, it resulted from blogospheric auditing activities. Kerry is a self-declared small government Republican (U.S. political term, associated with the political right), so his personal politics don’t seem to be entering into this. Whereas Steve McIntyre’s politics are rather leftish and he is most definitely not part of any organized right wing attack. I agree that we don’t want scholarship enslaved to politics. I also agree with “researchers behaving in manner unbecoming to scientists and gentlemen.”
The day will arrive when the liberator of the emails will be celebrated.
You seem to be taking “politically motivated” quite literally.
I interpret it as meaning that it wasn’t some sort of random computer hacker poking ‘fun’, but rather there was an intent to show CRU in a bad light in order to bolster the “skeptic” case that climate science is a fraud/wrong/biased/no need to for higher taxes.
I think it obvious that the CRU email affair resulted from this sentiment/intent, which indeed could be described as politically motivated I find.
Bart, the laundry needed hanging out to dry or it was gonna rot.
bart, I am not at all politically motivated in this regard. the hack or whatever was clearly motivated by CRU’s shenanigans with the FOIA requests. I agree that the motivation was to make CRU and the scientists look bad. Taking the next step to saying this was politically motivated by not wanting to pay higher taxes, rather than cheerleading and support for Steve McIntyre’s auditing activities, requires a substantial leap that is not supported by anything that I can see.
Dr. Curry, I think Bart was being a bit droll with the taxes part. If you drop everything after the last slash, do you really find that it requires an intuitive leap to perceive “there was an intent to show CRU in a bad light in order to bolster the “skeptic” case that climate science is a fraud/wrong/biased?”
Well i definitely agree with intent to show CRU in a bad light. Steve McIntyre’s main beef is lacking in transparency and lousy statistics. I don’t see any prima facie reason to infer more than that from the hack.
Well, I am not attempting to portray McIntyre and his supporters as Machiavellian plotters, but to paint them as merely a disinterested crusaders for scientific truth and objectivity is disingenuous, in my humble opinion. If the science in question were entomology or metallurgy, I can assert without fear of contradiction that the issue wouldn’t be nearly as high profile or contentious.
One’s political stance should not be, in and of itself, a reason to invalidate or marginalize their views. But let’s please not pretend that people have political stances about an issue of such magnitude.
PDA, McIntyre’s opinions on energy policy are rather leftish. Many people with right wing political stances have “adopted” McIntyre
I’m not trying to place McIntyre on the left-right axis, or paint him and his supporters – or skeptics in general – as monolithic ideologues. What I’m saying, and I think this jibes with what Bart meant above, that there was an ideological component to the CRU hack that went beyond a concern with ‘transparency and lousy statistics.’
Well the point I am making is that there is not necessarily an ideological motivation to the hack.
We could be just having a semantic difference about the word “ideological.” If what you’re really asserting is that the CRU hack was about ‘transparency and lousy statistics” and nothing else, we’ll have to agree to disagree.
Well, it might have been concern that transparency, lousy statistics and questionable science were being used as the basis for radical and far reaching international policies on climate and energy.
That’s the kind of thing that I meant when I wrote that “there was an ideological component to the CRU hack,” yes.
Ok, but this is different from emanuel’s right wing conspiracy
Willis’s comments about public anger come from the misperception that the IPCC AR4 report was all about the Hockey Stick, and that Mann’s climategate problems basically overturned this strawman. I say misperception, of course, because if you look at the Paleo chapter (6) in that report, you don’t see the Hockey Stick, and the MWP gets all due attention, and this would really surprise a lot of those angry people. Let alone that the rest of the report has nothing to do with tree rings to make the arguments about future climate. We can’t ask the public to read the IPCC report for themselves, but a lot of damage is done by those who use strawman arguments constructed just to put it down, and who rely on the public not looking for themselves and seeing how objectively the subject is really treated.
So the obvious question is how to prevent people from doing this again with this or the next report. It could be via a short public-targeted version of the science report (not the executive summary for policy-makers) that people can go to in an easily accessible form, maybe more like 100 pages with pictures, rather than 1000, and a proportionately reduced price. It would extensively refer readers to specific parts of the main report for more details. The art of course is to write such a condensed version that is immune to refutes of any kind, but explains the science convincingly along with remaining uncertainties.
So they didn’t make use of that ‘Hockey Stick’ graph at every IPCC PR opportunity then… Sir John Houghton never appeared with it as a backdrop? (he still uses it)
Al Gore didn’t jump onto a cherry picker to take a ride to the top of the hockey stick, to scare everyone with ‘proof’ of ‘unprecedented’ man made global warming then.? – in the ‘Inconvenient Truth…
Without it, and the other derived ‘sticks’ the evidence is ‘thin’, for unprecedented vs natural, just correlation and reading the ‘climate’ signs, ice, glaciers, polar bears, etc.
As a member of the public, I had never even heard of the hockey-stick until I began doing my own due diligence. Merely that “thousands and thousands of scientists” had concluded etc. etc. (as is increasingly turning out to be the case, without doing any due diligence, either).
Perhaps the graphs included in http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch6s6-6.html#6-6-1 were not intended to be “hockey sticks” …. but to my iconically-challenged eye they might well be considered reasonable facsimiles.
This, combined with the misrepresentation of M&M 2003, and a concluding paragraph that begins “The weight of current multi-proxy evidence, therefore, suggests greater 20th-century warmth…” does not leave me with a high level of confidence that your “100 page solution” will be any more enlightening than the press releases that keep telling us “it’s worse than we thought”.
That IPCC luminaries, when communicating with the public, choose to use phrasing such as “[AR4 will reveal] climate change to be a barrage of intergalactic ballistic missiles” is no less, well, alarming.
Barry Woods, Gore’s elevator trick had nothing whatsoever to do with the hockey stick. The time scales differ by an enormous factor, and not exactly the same quantities are being displayed.
Please try to pay attention. This will be on the test, whether you like it or not.
“Please try to pay attention” – oh we are, MT, we are, although CAGW alarmists desperately wish we weren’t. The days when we accepted the “consensus” on the basis of an outmoded faith in the integrity of the scientific method are long gone. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed. If so, pay attention, Tobis, there will be a test!
Your “read the small print” riposte will not exonerate the IPCC and its cheer squad from the charge Barry makes. If the true meaning of IPCC pronouncements is only to perceived by ignoring the public blandishments to which Barry refers, and poring over the small print, then isn’t it at least guilty of failing to communicate clearly, even if not of the greater charge of actively misleading?
Yes, politicians and scientist advocates should maintain discipline in following the IPCC script, which is very moderate when read with an open mind. It is unfortunate that a more interesting narrative can be made by the opposition who are free to just make things up. So who is the public going to be more interested in listening to? This is the dilemma, and it does motivate the Gores of this world to sell the IPCC message in a more entertaining way. I believe it can be done more carefully to avoid criticisms of misleading parts, and with the same strength of message as An Inconvenient Truth.
Yes we are paying attention, and we know perfectly well there is an almost bizarre disconnect between the small print and what IPCC chooses to publicise. It’s one of the many objectionable aspects of the climate scam.
mostly for Michael Tobis:
Thank you for your comments, which somewhat mystified me. But I’ll start with an answer to an unspoken question. Why did people like me get interested in the AGW issue anyway — interested enough for it to have become my principal intellectual hobby?
A general answer is that I remain curious, and have enough basic knowledge to ask questions about almost anything (and for thirty years acted as an assessor of proposals for spending large amounts of public money both in my own country, Australia, and in Canada). A number of posters on this site seem to have the same kind of interest and appreciation. We ask questions, and keep asking them until we get what seems to be a satisfactory answer.
But the more specific reason was the assertion coming from our political system that humanity was so menaced by AGW that quite draconian laws would have to be introduced to combat it. Since dealing with big scientific issues has been part of my life I turned to this one. What I found was deeply puzzling. The argument (this was 2007) seemed to me both tenuous and based on authority. The data seemed dodgy. Measurement seemed awfully spotty. And yet quite senior scientists in our own Academy and the Royal Society were saying sagely that the AGW theory was absolutely right. Indeed the RS was quite patronising about sceptical responses to it. Governments here and elsewhere were busying themselves in preparing legislation that seemed, both in its grand design and in its likely trivial ameliorative outcomes, almost nutty. I had never seen anything like this before. So AGW moved off the periphery and came into the centre of my attention. And I had some time to devote to it.
Not only that, I knew excellent scientists who were sceptical, like Bob Carter and Ian Plimer, who had once been members of a research funding body that I chaired. Both were top scientists; Carter chaired one major leg of the Oceabn Drilling Program, Plimer won one of Australia’s top prizes for science. Another was the former Australian Statistician, the late Ian Castles, who wrote excellent papers about the sloppy use of statistics in the Stern Report. They have their counterparts in the UK, the US and Canada. You simply can’t dismiss the views of people like these. But no one from the orthodoxy would debate the issue. The media, the political parties, the bureaucracy, the scientific establishment — they were all of one mind.
And the more I read, and the more closely I looked at the issue, the more worried I became. How could an area in which variables were said to have Low Scientific Understanding be the basis for 90% certainty? Since my background is social science and history I have tried to analyse the context in which all that we are discussing on Judith’s admirable thread has come to pass.
That’s a long introduction. Now to your comments, of which I’ve simply picked out a few key phrases.
‘the reprehensibility of the attack’. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t attack people, or personalise. I have responded to people who have attacked me, but try to keep the exchange civil. I accept that there are people out in the blogosphere who do attack and insult, especially when they are pseudonymous. I’m not responsible for them. But if I think there are straightforward questions to ask, and ask them, and am then told that I don’t have the knowledge/expertise/status/ standing/whatever to deserve an answer — and this is what has happened to me for three years — then I feel that all is not well in the AGW camp. A good question deserves a good answer. They just aren’t provided. If they had been there, I would have been put back in my box long ago.
‘a few relatively minor transgressions’. I think it’s much more than that, and indeed had the CRU emails not surfaced I would have said the same as I have done earlier in this thread. Whatever else ‘climate science’ is, it doesn’t seem very good science to me. I accept that theoretical physics does few experiments. And no one derides the string theory people. But then they are not suggesting that we need to radically transform our economy and society, and condemn the third world into continuing poverty, either. It seems to me that if you want to propose powerful remedies, you have to have powerful arguments and powerful evidence on your side. But what has been offered is just not good enough. And no one is prepared to say so. Well, Judith has implied it, and all credit to her.
‘not asking the right question’. Perhaps you could tell me what the right question or questions would be. I have a stack of questions which I could offer, and have offered, without gaining an answer of any power. They are all familiar to those on this thread.
I remain unsure of why you think I am devaluing science. Nothing could be further from my intent. I have lived and worked among scientists all my life, and could have easily become one. School choices at 15 put me down the path I went, but I could just as easily have gone the other way.
An excellent post. And your introduction to CAGW almost exactly mirrors my own, save that I suspect you are much better able to understand the science than I. But I think/hope we share an understanding of the scientific method, and could see when it was being flouted. But as you say, if this was String theory, I would have stayed in my box.
I have no objection to scientists pursuing their passions, even if they include trying interminably to confirm highly improbable and counter-intuitive hypotheses, just as I have no objection to poets slaving over their precarious calling – I just don’t want to pay for either. And when the attempt to make me do so (and as you say, to deny to the poor of the world the means of betterment our society was built on) ceases, I will gratefully climb back in my box and stop tormenting warmists with reality. Until then…
A good post, Don Aitkin. (Being Aus, I know your background)
I have had some contact with both Plimer and Carter during my 30+ years as a geologist – my standing is nowhere near theirs, but I am sufficiently competent in my field to hold my own. Both of these distinguished geologists have my respect for their ability and knowledge
The issue you raise – especially that of being refused any sensible answers on the grounds that you are too ignorant to deserve an answer – are at the very core of the disconnect. I do not expect this to change, because the mass media technique of labelling “deniers” has worked very well so far in propagandising the general populace: committed advocacy scientists see no point in disturbing that. In fact, their silence is deepest on this exact point
Although in my view Judith Curry may still have some “leftovers” from this Inquisitorial mind-set, she is obviously determined to expunge and expose in an analytical method. For this, I am grateful
What are your references for “the assertion coming from our political system that humanity was so menaced by AGW that quite draconian laws would have to be introduced to combat it,” that will “radically transform our economy and society, and condemn the third world into continuing poverty” and “deny to the poor of the world the means of betterment our society was built on?”
I’m not going to take the risk of mindreading, but it seems to me that much of the reaction to climate science and climate policy is based in the assumption that it’s all a stalking-horse for a new global power structure. And as is often said around these parts, extraordinary assertions demand extraordinary evidence.
What are the draconian laws, and who is proposing them? What assessments have been done on the affect of any such laws on the global economy, and what is the provenance of these assessments?
You are of course welcome to the opinion that climate science is the narrow end of the wedge to bring about some socialist new world order, but a decent respect for the opinions of mankind would seem to impel that you give your reasons for such opinions, rather than just begging the question.
PDA – there may be a hint in the following UN document and the
commentaries thereon, if you follow these links.
Hints sure, but is it enough? Is there any evidence Maurice Strong is still setting the policy agenda? Global Governance is only a sinister term if equated with One World Government, and judging by the history of global governance such efforts are more likely to result in a toothless treaty than a radical restructuring of the economy.
Of course, if there actually was a plot to destroy the economy and kill the poor we would only have hints and scattered quotes to go on, right?
However I might disagree with these more extreme interpretations of what’s happening, there is a basic fact that proposed policies to address climate change will have an economic impact (positive as well as negative), do have implications for taxation, and are therefore a cause of public concern. I won’t speculate on how this influences people’s view of the science, but it does give them a stake in these decisions.
But, given the persistent and dismal failure of implementing world-sweeping changes on this issue, maybe that’s the wrong bogeyman to be rallying against at this point.
I think that attributing a political (or perhaps more accurately an ideological) motivation to either promotion or doubt of AGW is unhelpful but it is a rhetorical trick that many on both sides of the argument find easy to slip in to as it stops having to address more difficult questions. The ‘it’s a Socialist conspiracy’ line is comparable with the argument that all skepticism is funded by Big Oil.
Then again, perhaps I merely think this because I’m a skeptic but also a European liberal. I’m still waiting for my cheque from ExxonMobil and also for my place in the new World Government.
I think there are some interesting (psychological and sociological)questions as to how environmental science in general and climate change science in particular have found fertile ground in the developed world amongst the political class (OK, excluding a large portion of the US Republican party) , the educated middle class and the anti-establishment / anarchic younger adults. Oh, and add to the above that the main beneficiaries of carbon trading would be major multi-national corporations, so there is a big business-based financial incentive to keeping CO2 as the climate change demon (after all, there’s little money to be made in attempting to control natural variability of the sun or ocean currents, but a lot more in things that are definitely related to measurable human activities).
“What assessments have been done on the affect of any such laws on the global economy, and what is the provenance of these assessments?”
I think you can also reverse the above and say where are the assessments (i.e. cost/benefit analysis) on the effectiveness of emission controls, attempts at technological control and on carbon taxes / cap and trade legislation?
It seems to me that (other than the extraordinarily pessimistic Stern Report) the calls for action is based are the Precautionary Principle, which of cause is inherently flawed because its arguments can always be reversed (in fact, applying the PP, I should just have stayed in bed this morning):
1 PP says we must cut CO2 emissions to prevent harm from climate change (e.g. potential for increased damage and life lost from extreme weather events)
2 Any sudden or rapid cut in CO2 emissions (whether because of direct legislation or indirectly as a result of cap and trade or a high carbon tax) inevitably necessitates (at least in the short term) a reduction in power generation and transport, which consequently hurts economic development, placing more people (in both the developed and developing world) in hardship, which has a direct correlation with worsening health. Applying the Precautionary Principle would say that we should not therefore act in this way as such actions can have a large (but poorly quantified) detrimental effect.
I think that attributing a political (or perhaps more accurately an ideological) motivation to either promotion or doubt of AGW is unhelpful but it is a rhetorical trick
It was nothing of the sort. It was a direct response to the statement that “the more specific reason [Don Aitkin got inerested in AGW] was the assertion coming from our political system that humanity was so menaced by AGW that quite draconian laws would have to be introduced to combat it.” In other words, Don Aitkin explicitly stated “a political (or perhaps more accurately an ideological) motivation to… doubt of AGW.” No rhetoric. No trick.
I think you can also reverse the above and say where are the assessments (i.e. cost/benefit analysis) on the effectiveness of emission controls, attempts at technological control and on carbon taxes / cap and trade legislation?
As assertion was made. I asked for evidence in support of the assertion. It’s an entirely reasonable request.
OK, I see that my words have not been clear. Let me restate my position.
1. Judith has been in the forefront of scientists calling for reforming and fixing the system. I have acknowledged her for this many times, and do so again.
2. Yes, I would like more scientists to speak out against bad science as Judith has done. But that was not my main point. I was addressing the subject of this post, which is the effective public communication of climate science.
3. My main point is that the failure of public communication of climate science is not due to how the message is being presented.
It is due to a deep, well-founded, and abiding distrust of the people who are putting forth the message. This means that changing the form or the frame of the message won’t help.
In other words, the reason that so few people in the US see climate as an important issue is not because AGW supporters have done a poor job structuring the arguments, as Judith says above.
AGW supporters have spent millions on the selling job. They have put it out to everyone from kindergardeners to grandparents in every conceivable form and style, with every possible structure of argument, and in every possible medium from movies to songs to comic books. And in the face of that, even with Al Gore spending $300 million on pushing his AGW agenda, people simply aren’t buying it.
People don’t believe what climate scientists have to say because the people have been lied to and they know it. The boy has cried “Wolf” too often. People feel like they were conned by AGW climate scientists.
So the choice of medium and style is meaningless. Reframing the overarching argument won’t work. Until the trust is restored, rearranging the order of the presentation won’t help.
And that is what I wanted to say to Judith. The public doesn’t get the AGW message, but the issue is not the quality of your science or (as you say in the head post) the way you present and organize and explain your science.
The issue is that the public doesn’t trust AGW scientists at all. Not one bit. That is what is at the heart of the challenge of communicating climate change to the public. Judith says:
I agree that we need better framing, understanding, and argument of the scientific case(s) themselves, as Judith says. But the logic of the scientific argument is not the communication problem with the public. The communication problem is that the people were fooled badly, and those AGW climate scientists who fooled them neither acknowledged nor apologized for their actions, and most of the AGW scientists (except Judith and a few others) stood silent.
So in the people’s anger and determination not to be fooled by AGW scientists again, they either don’t believe anything, or they just don’t pay attention. It doesn’t matter how good the scientific logic is. They’re not buying.
Politically, the fact that the AGW scientists have alienated the public is perfectly fine with me, because it may keep us from idiocies like spending billions on the EPA restrictions, restrictions that the EPA itself estimates may result in a cooling of about three hundredths (3/100) of a degree C by 2030.
Scientifically, however, it sucks that the public doesn’t believe scientists. I hate it that the public view of climate science is one of mistrust and suspicion. I don’t like it that climate science has sunk so low. That’s not good for you, me, or anyone. So more than anything I would like to see the trust restored.
I hope that makes my position clearer.
Interesting post, Willis. While I partly agree with what you say, I think a good deal of the disconnect between the public and global warming as an issue for society to address is due not so much to public awareness that they have been lied to (I am not convinced that public knowledge of this is as widespread as you think) so much as people getting turned off by the increasingly shrill tone of the rhetoric. The result is much the same. People have switched off.
The implications for communication of climate science are much the same, as well. Framing doesn’t matter.
As a further point, I’d like to take up Pielke Jr’s contention that public willingness to accept action on climate change is not necessarily a sticking point. There is sufficient willingness there if the politicians can come up with the right package. The main attribute any legislation would need at the moment is that it would have to be cheap. A very low carbon tax, with the proceeds used for research on improving no-carbon energy sources, might be possible.
If Pielke is right, public views about the rights and wrongs of the science may not be all that relevant.
Thanks Willis, this is a much better way to put it.
Don Aitkin touches on a lot of issues in a thoughtful way. I have a different perspective however (not identical, but close to Michael Tobis’)
Curiosity is a very good start to widen one’s knowledge of a new field. Curiosity is best expressed by asking question; not by fielding baseless assertions. (It’s not different in other science with societal relevance, e.g. health: http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/web-iquette-for-climate-discussions/ )
That is one problem with many so called “skeptics” (though not necessarily with Aitkin personally; I don’t know his blog history. My comments are meant to be general rather than personal, as was mt’s comment about the reprehensibility of the attacks. In all likelihood he didn’t mean you personally.)
At RC for example it is an oft recurring theme of someone asking a question. A genuine question gets answered; an assertion that runs counter to mainstream understanding often gets short rift. Not ideal, but at least understandable if you look at the history of the public debate: Talking points keep resurrecting long after they’ve been explained and rebutted, as if they were zombie arguments. People’s patience with those is wearing thin. Not good, but understandable, I think.
Your main reason for becoming interested in the AGW debate were the claims of having to transform our economy because of AGW. This to me shows two things:
First, a good chance of having a preferred view of the science as being (at least partly) wrong, because a strong dislike for the perceived policy consequences. A risk at confirmation bias.
Second, and less hypothetical, it confuses the science and the politics. Reality, and our understanding thereof as embodied in the science, is what it is regardless of what policy people prefer. Science as a process is concerned with trying to understand reality as best as we can. A claim (that Aitkin did not make but some other implicitly do) that science was tainted by confirmation bias would be akin to a giant conspiracy of the most improbable kind. See mt’s longer comment above for a good exposition of what science entails.
A comment such as “But then they [strong theory people] are not suggesting that we need to radically transform our economy and society, and condemn the third world into continuing poverty, either. “ betrays such a confusion. Climate science is about physics, radiative transfer, earth sciences, etc. It’s not about a radical transformation of our economy.
If that’s what you’re arguing against, then argue against a radical transformation of our economy. (You may find many climate scientists on your side btw.) But don’t argue against the science instead! That would be arguing a process which has nothing directly to do with the claim you’re opposing.
Being suspicious of the science because of a dislike for the perceived policy consequences doesn’t make sense.
Part of the issue here is how difficult it is for a layperson to make sense of the popular debate. To paraphrase mt, the less specific expertise someone has, the less effective their mechanisms for identifying leaders in that field of expertise.
I’ve linked the following post of mine before, but it remains relevant as it discusses this central question of how to distinguish sense from nonsense in the climate change ‘debate’:
“Being suspicious of the science because of a dislike for the perceived policy consequences doesn’t make sense.”
Wrong … being suspicious of a branch of science (note, you use “the science” – a spot of cognitive dissonance there) which refuses to answer genuine questions but then proposes drastic policies through it’s chosen world-zenith of scientists deserves suspicion
Again, I am grateful to Judith for the honesty of the threads here. Once I searched RC for threads on “geologists” out of curiosity. One such thread ran for over 7 pages (at which point I stopped reading, curiosity satisfied) of unremitting and ignorant abuse, post after post. Attempting to defend this as “answering genuine questions” is just silly
Claiming that this view is informed by some paranoid fear of “conspiracy”, as you have, is simply an ad-hom straw man. Genuinely addressing questions, as Judith is doing, resolves issues very clearly indeed, without the perceived need for psychobabble
To the best of my knowledge, I’m a question-asker not a ‘baseless assertion fielder’. And I didn’t take MT’s ‘reprehensibility of attacks’ tag personally. I’m not taking your remarks personally either.
I appreciate your response, and agree in general with some of what you say. But while it may apply to others, but I don’t think it does to me. I don’t think I’ve confused the science with the politics, and as for the cost of the proposed mitigation, it would hardly affect me personally. No, I think I put my assessor’s hat on and asked, ‘if this were coming to me for funding, how would I respond?’ And in addition, since I’ve been in the policy world for a long time, I just shook my head at the policy process. It looked awful, and reminded me of a Minister’s telling me of the interesting talk he had had with a man on a plane about [cold fusion, nuclear waste disposal, put in your own candidate], and what were we doing about it.
I was rather put off by RC when I ventured there, and felt like someone who’d entered a private meeting where any welcome was cool/hostile rather than warm/welcoming, unless I made the right noises. But, for example, a Q&A sequence that doesn’t usually get very far goes like this: (very much simplified)
Q. How do you explain warming in the first half of the 20th century?
A. That’s mostly natural variability.
Q. Well, why doesn’t natural variability explain warming from 1970?
A. Because we need to put anthropogenic forcing into our models to explain it.
A. You don’t seem to know a lot about models…
Now that may be a bit cruel, but there’s a lot of dialogue like that. And I recall, thirty years ago, acting the simpleton when an over-confident applicant wanted a lot of money for a large mathematical model of the economy (early days then):
Q. Look, I don’t know much about these models. Could you tell me how they work?
A. [Sets off at high altitude…]
Q. I’m sorry, I’m not with you there.
A. [Comes down 10,000 feet, but still way up high]
Q. Um, sorry…
A. [nettled] I don’t know, you ought to know more than this if you’re to ask me questions.
A. Ah, well, you see, I have to explain all this to the Minister, and he knows even less than me…
Actually, that was a bit unfair, because I was a bit older than him, and one of my first big papers had been a large simultaneous equations model of the outcome of a series of national elections, searching for local, regional and national forces. He didn’t know that. But it was his attitude that got me: only an expert can ask me questions. To which I would reply: not if you want taxpayers’ money — they have a right to know how their money is being spent, and what likely outcome they will get for the expenditure.
I could have added, in my first post above, that today our electorates include large numbers of well- educated people who have some confidence in their own capacity to digest information, come to conclusions, and act accordingly. Of course, they may be wrong (and so might I be), but they should not be treated as dummies. There has to be real debate, and real answers to inconvenient questions. So far, there has been very little of it in public.
I think, with all the qualifications that you have put in on Judith’s blog, that you would agree.
I agree with you that nobody should be treated like dummies. It does not encourage an open discussion. It makes everybody look bad. It’s a real waste of time, so arguing “I’m tired of zombie arguments” makes no sense.
I believe that there should be a facility to turn these kinds of call for step by step introductions akin Wikipedia. For instance, when persons are questioning the physics behind climate science, I gladly refer them to
The blogger there is of the opinion that there is no dumb question. It’s no dummies’ guide (insert irony mark), but if you ask a question that has already been discussed, you’ll be gently get pointed at them. Sometimes, simple technological questions can help solve complicated pragmatic problems.
To exemplify how it’s easy to derail a discussion, I’ll note two policy claims you make.
First, you seem to say that RC and other scientists “want taxpayers’ money”: this can be read as a legimate concern regarding policy matters; this can also be read as a very common populist talking point; the reaction to that might very well be suboptimal in the middle of a discussion on aerosols.
Second, you seem to imply that “doing something” costs lots of money. People reading that, however educated they are, can see that it presupposes that doing nothing will cost “nothing” compared to doing something. This certainly begs a question that must be answered before proclaiming that acting now is more costly than doing nothing.
I would like to know how to assess those costs. A link could suffice. Please bear in mind that I expect an answer that might make me feel that I am treated like a dummy.
I also note that PDA asked you to support specific claims you made. I fail to see where you addressed them.
I agree with your last paragraph indeed. The difficulty is in distinguishing between sincere questions and baseless assertions masquerading as questions.
I am sure that some of the former get misclassified as the latter and vice versa. I’ve probably, no surely, been guilty of that myself too, though I try very hard not to be judgemental too quickly.
Also, I think RC has been mostly catering to those who are already well versed in climate science. It’s an ‘advanced’ blog so to speak, and ‘beginners’ may indeed feel intimidated/patronized by the typical response they may get (very dependent however on their specific question and on how they phrase it!).
@ Bart —
I think that your characterization of the RealClimate.org blog is rosy. This may cloud your understanding of why it is held in low repute by many people who question parts of the pro-AGW Consensus.
To be more specific, I have come to enjoy the technical posts, as expositions of the mainstream pro-AGW Consensus stance. The comments section is another matter.
As a political forum, it’s akin to other high-volume, hyper-partisan sites — though many such websites take pains to foster the free exchange of ideas. The RealClimate hosts aggressively use their comment-moderation powers to buttress their own perspectives. It’s thus a poor source for learning about the scope of scientifically-literate opinion, on any subject relevant to the AGW debate.
In my opinion, this policy explains the relative dearth of intelligent, informed dialog at RealClimate: one side is routinely muzzled.
Bart. Can we take just one question that so far as I can see has not been answered. Or if it has been, not answered satisfactorily. You clearly are convinced, so maybe you can explain the justification for the positive feedback assumptions required in the models to reach the conclusion that the warming from doubling atmospheric CO2 levels will be any more than around 1 deg C.
There are a number of credible scientists who argue that the feedbacks are
neutral, or possibly even negative. Surely this area of the science is not settled? Or if it is, can you perhaps provide cites?
“a number of credible scientists…”
That’s a wonderfully vague phrase.
Zero is a number. And it’s close to the correct number.
Michael. Challenge my phraseology if you will.
However, that is not an answer to the question. Give me a credible cite that makes the case for the positive feedback assumptions and professionally addresses and deals with the arguments of those arguing for neutral or negative feedbacks, and I am willing to be convinced.
You’re claiming the numbers on a climate sensitivity of zilch or even negative.
So, cite away.
– From periods in the past where we know the net forcing and the climate response after equilibration of the climate system reasonably well (e.g. last glacial maximum and Pinatubo) we can deduce climate sensitivity to be around 3 (+/-1) deg per doubling of CO2.
– With a very low climate sensitivity (eg 1 deg in the absence of a net feedback) you can’t explain the amplitude of past climate changes. The challenge of coming up with a physics based and coherent picture that explains both past and current climate change with a sensitivity of 1 is open and has not been met AFAIK.
No sensitivity is not a given as uncertainty is large in Volcanics ie the small problem with the Giss Model getting the sign of polar temperatures inversed eg Stenchikov et al 2006 ,Joshi and Jones 2009
Recent work has suggested that GCMs underestimate
northern Eurasian warming following volcanic eruptions because
they underestimate the increase in the Arctic Oscillation
(AO) index associated with stratospheric volcanic
aerosol (Stenchikov et al., 2006). However, given the limited
spatial and seasonal scale of the anomalies, this effect cannot
account for the globally and annually averaged temperature
A recent study describing the GISS modelE simulation
suggested a number of possible contributing factors to the
apparent discrepancy (Hansen et al., 2007), although they
do conclude that there is a reasonable agreement with their
model. Starting a model simulation from an initial state that
has cooled from previous eruptions, which is not done in
many of the CMIP3 simulations, may reduce the simulated
response to Krakatau by 10%. However HadGEM1 was initialised
from a control simulation that incorporated a mean
volcanic aerosol, which may explain why V cools slightly
less than the average of the CMIP3 models (Fig. 6). There
is an uncertainty on the level of the direct radiative forcing
from the volcanic aerosols, which the GISS study estimates
as ±50%. Using a different observational data set than used
here, they suggest that as the observed cooling over land and
over SSTs following the 1991 Pinatubo eruption agree and
that there may be an issue of the accuracy of the SSTs in
the 1880s. However the estimates of observational uncertainty
used here suggest that SST global means are more accurately
known than land global mean temperatures (Brohan
et al., 2006), mainly due to the larger coverage of SST observations
at the time.
There is no uniqueness theorem for volcanics ie we are bounded by singularities.
I’ll have more time in a day or two, so this is brief.
‘taxpayers’ money’ This is shorthand for what I think is/was a prevailing view in the research domain: that there is money for research, and if I get some, it’s mine. More, that research funding is akin to a prize. I used to think like that myself, but changed over time when I became responsible for its spending. Publicly funded research is to some degree about ‘excellence’ (give to the best) but is more about outcomes (why are we doing this at all?). IMO publicly funded research has a strong contractual element in it, and it is reasonable for the ‘public’ to know what is being done and why/how it is in their interest. I am only too aware that from another perspective the search for research money is a game, and that the ambitious often play dubious games. The attitudes revealed in the CRU emails are those of game-players, and are sometimes appalling.
Specific examples (PDA). I’m sorry that I missed this — it’s partly the way posts appear. Our Prime Minister referred to AGW as something like ‘humanity’s greatest moral challenge’ and introduced a bill that was hundreds of pages long, was internally contradictory, proposed an emissions trading scheme that would be expensive and produce little reduction of emissions, if at all, and contribute nothing to global reduction. It also seemed to put the onus of proof onto the defendant, and gave the government much greater powers than it had previously possessed. That bill died, and so did he, politically.
I have not studied the American counterpart, but it also seemed to be an extraordinary document. And it has not passed. I guess that it was the combination of extraordinary claims of an approaching catastrophe unless we did something now, the lack of convincing data and argument, the opacity of the models, the appeals to authority, the genuine awfulness of the proposed legislation (both in its sloppiness and its ambit claims for greater government power) that I had in mind. Did scientists speak up for all this? Yes, they did. Two of the IPCC’s lead authors were Australian, and they spoke up loudly and often, one of them also as the President of the Australian Academy of Science. No debate was allowed. All differing opinions were waved away. Other scientists would tell us that in fact things were even worse than the IPCC’ predictions. And this still goes on.
If PDA wants something more, I’ll do my best to find it.
Thank you for your reply.
I’d like to know a bit more about the contractual element of research. Discussing this contractual element seems to be at a level of generality that very different than revealing “attitudes” in emails as “games”. On the face of it, discussing the CRU emails here is a fairly common talking point: “yes, but Climategate.” (The other very common one is “yes, but RC moderation.”) A discussion is never complete without having someone saying it. Yes, but Climategate.
Speaking of morals, here is an analysis of the ethical problems that encounter claims “that proposed climate change policies should be opposed on grounds that they cost too much”:
> (The other very common [talking point] is “yes, but RC moderation.”)
Er. Presumably you are alluding to my remark upthread. Rather than a talking point, that was a brief response to Bart Verheggen’s paen to RC (also brief). I agree with you, that not-raising the subject at all is the best way forward.
I hope you don’t mind me alluding to your comment. Please bear in mind that I was also alluding to Michael Larkin (the “flying fur”), Bart (the “zombie arguments”), Aitkin (the “private meeting”), and ian (“geologists”).
Among RC’s shortcomings, I believe the most important one is that the comment threads are simply way too long to read. Right now, I have 380 unread RC comments in my RSS reader. I rarely read the comments, unless they’re made by people I recognize (you, AMac, for instance) or because someone linked to it.
Gavin just recognized that long threads lead to OT:
WUTW has the same problem, I believe.
Moderating is a gruesome work. Moderating as a hobby is beyond me. The only apt description of what it takes to do that is this:
In any case, I believe that even if RC moderation might explain why things are as they are, it never justifies it. Saying “RC moderation made me do it” is often a poor excuse; comparising with “yes, but RC moderation” often changes the subject.
I’m not saying that we should never talk about RC moderation. In your case, Bart “made you do it,” so to speak.
It must still be important to note that “yes, but RC moderation” gets lots of ice time, too much for what it deserves.
> I hope you don’t mind me alluding to your comment.
Heh, please do!
We agree again. It’s ultimately pointless to complain that publishers run their printing presses as they see fit (AKA “censorship”). At least in the current happy circumstances where anybody can start their own blog with minimal effort and for free. Even me. Attracting and retaining the quantity and quality of readership that one wants: that’s the rub!
> Attracting and retaining the quantity and quality of readership that one wants: that’s the rub!
Here is an idea. If every interested party could maintain a compendium of everything one needs to know about ONE little question, we could build a nice collection of links for the casual reader.
I have in mind Science of Doom. I also have in mind something like your Tiljander research. If someone ever bugs me with Tiljander, I won’t even read his argument and pass and refer to your site.
That’s the only way I can see a network of distributed intelligence working properly. Of course, that does not prevent people to create more social gatherings, like here. In any case, the commenters decide what happens. We are running the show. That’s power. From great power, comes great responsibility.
Willard, since the only still people likely to raise the Tiljander matter are AMac or people directly influenced by AMac, referring the questioner to AMac has a certain elegance to it.
However, the contrast between Science of Doom (classical physics radiative transfer) and Tiljander (a single disputed data source in a small set of publications whose importance in themselves is largely symbolic) could not be more stark.
I am reminded of the old Superman/Batman collaborations, wherein Superman would rearrange the time/space fabric of the universe while Batman did his part by engaging in a punching match with a thug in a grey suit and a fedora.
The amazing thing is that AMac may get a bigger and more engaged audience for his far narrower and more controversial expertise.
Ya know , there is this thing called the science paper. Has the advantage of being archived. Being non-editable by stealth after the fact by author. It requires synthesis. It meets far higher standards editorially in terms of writing. It has firm reference notes, so one can tell exactly which other papers to look at. And which papers for which issue. It has MUCH better quality control in the figures and captions and labeling of graphs. It has some review for scientific errors (not absolute, but helpful).
And it does not prevent salon style discussion. If anything both author and reader will have a higher quality discussion after the effort involved in writing or reading a paper! Or you can just jerk around like Watts and McIntyre and Eschenback on blogs gladhanding each other . For YEARS! I’m the first to bonk Mike on the nose. Something about him that I don’t like. But I was right on his side, when he wrote that editorial saying that real AGW critics at least write papers.
1. low numbers.
in search of a third strike…
I’m not entirely sure what you would like me to do, but here’s a shot at it.
In research-funding schemes with which I am familiar there is a competition for a finite amount of money. There are more applicants than money. The money is awarded for excellence, in context, and the contract says that the researcher will undertake the proposed research, and report its outcome. A null finding is a perfectly acceptable finding, incidentally, though one would rationalise it in a positive way (‘leads to a promising new possibility’) as part of a further application. Now while researchers are inclined to point to the grants they have received as though they were prizes, and in a sense they are, the real relationship between the funder and the researcher is a contractual one. If it were a proper prize, once the money was handed over that would be the end of it.
And while excellence is an important criterion, there is also an underlying theme that what we do in research, especially that supported by public funding (‘taxpayers’ money’) will lead to the betterment of humanity, if only the humanity in the country that provided the money
I hope that makes sense.
I’m not sure that your exchange with me warrants my returning to the failed bill and providing you with excepts from its hundreds of pages. It is an appallingly drafted piece of work, as is the American equivalent. You can download it, if you wish to do so (I think), and I’ll find the link if you wish to do the work.
If we were, as was proposed by some, and vehemently urged by others, to suspend coal exports, we would be depriving the importing countries, all of them developing, of the means to create electricity, the one widely available form of power without which you can’t have rural schools, health services, and so on. I have watched what was done in Thailand over the last forty years, and the effects of extending electricity, schools and health services into the country has been extraordinarily good for the population.
That point makes me want to add, generally, that the whole context in which governments create carbon taxes and ETSs has to be considered, as well as the actual bills. We don’t know, when the proposals start, what the final outcome will be, and the talk can be quite scary. In both the Australian and American cases, the final bill was a travesty both in technical terms and its plain failure to have any good effects at all, in terms of what was ostensibly being proposed.
This description of the realities of research funding does indeed make sense, albeit it does not solve the three problems that have already been underlined in my previous comments:
The first one is that I fail to see the connection between this description of the realities of research funding with your overall argument regarding “attitudes” and “games”.
The second one is that this description of the realities of research funding has no bearings on the moral aspect of talking about contracts.
The third one is that this descriptions of the realities of research funding is presented at a so low level that I could now feel that I am being treated like a dummy.
I am sorry that I missed the point about games, about which more in a moment. I am probably a dummy myself, and I confess that I don’t carry around with me all the points that people make in previous posts. But I simply don’t know what you want in your second point. As for the third, I don’t know you or your background, and was trying to explain what research funding agencies do to someone in what we like to call the ‘intelligent lay audience’. If you know all this, then I’m sorry you felt patronised, if that is what it was. I was trying to be helpful.
Games: Set up a pot of money and a set of rules to govern access to it, and you will find that some of the applicants are game-players: they adapt what they want to do to what they think you would like as an outcome, however tortuous the reasoning. Some do it with elegance and skill. A friend of mine applied to pure research and applied research funding organisations for the same work. To the first he talked about passage through membranes; to the second he talked about a bovine parasitic disease. He was successful in both. Some game-players find a senior associate in the same field whose name will carry more weight than theirs, but whose connection with the real work may be slight. Others lard their application with references to key work in the field though their own connection with that work is in fact slight or non-existent. All such gamesters hope that the peer review system will have glazed eyes. Sometimes it does.
Really bad games involve trying to ensure publication of one’s own work and/or the stifling others’ work through gaining access to the peer review system and even the editorial control of journals. The CRU emails showed this in operation. In the funding field a counterpart is the organised sending of letters of support for X, not simply to the research-funding organisation but to the government, or the suggestion that a member of the peer system be replaced because he/she is biassed. I could go on, and have written about it. It’s old and not online, but I’ll dig out the reference if you’d like it.
Professor Aitkin, I don’t know anything at all about the CPRS other than what you just wrote and a few minutes Googling the subject From what you’ve said, though, I can’t see anything “draconian” about it, nor any indication of how it would “radically transform our economy and society, and condemn the third world into continuing poverty.”
It seems like more than a bit of a mess, as was the US Waxman-Markey bill, but hardly a Reichstagsbrandverordnung. If there is something you can point me to that explains its “draconian” nature I would certainly be interested in reading it.
I suggest that all those buying into the idea that RealClimate moderation is at fault take a good hard look at RealClimate posts and comments.
I am unskilled at science, but rather excessively acquainted with science and scientists, and the idea that they lie for a living is excessive and wrong.
I find RealClimate interesting and useful.
If you find your comments over time are “censored” there, it is probably because you substituted politics, opinion, and prejudice for a genuine search for the truth. I have a great deal of respect for some of Dr. Curry’s work (and she has, as has been humorously stated elsewhere, forgotten more science than I ever knew) but her personal reaction to comments on her failure to delve deeper into information and truth rather than prejudice and propaganda is not a sign of knowledge and wisdom, though understandable.
Susan, I suggest you spend some time at this blog. “failure to delve deeper into information and truth rather than prejudice and propaganda” is frankly a ludicrous accusation to make. I found it a waste of time trying to provide any substance on the other blogs, most notably realclimate, which is why I started my own blog.
Realclimate may have changed its editorial policy considerably in the last year or so, if that is the case then all well and good.
There certainly was a time when they seem to brook no criticism, no matter how polite, to the point, or accurate. They seemed to have a very low threshold for the accurate.
I am a true AGW believer but I am on occassion capable of being critical and I am afraid that polite and to the point, but critical seemed to lead to a substantial number of posts failing moderation. One of my final offerings was a thoughtful criticism of a paper that did pass moderation only to be deleted the next day.
It was only one of many such criticisms, but it was the only one that was not about a paper that RC was criticising.
Now they are entitled to do as they please, they can run whatever policy they like, that is fine.
Regarding this blog, would it be true to say that you find Judith’s contribution to the debate to be unhelpful.
If so may I enquire as to whether you are a player to any extent, you say that you are not a scientist,but excessively acquainted with science and scientists; perhaps a compaigning activist or professional environmentalist of some sort?
Susan. You say: “If you find your comments over time are “censored” there, it is probably because you substituted politics, opinion, and prejudice for a genuine search for the truth.”
You can test the truth of this assertion at http://www.rcrejects.wordpress.com which is a repository of comments rejected at RC and other climate sites. A large number of rejected comments have been collected there since the blog began in early 2009.
In terms of the buiding of the narative I always come back to a piece of the puzzle that is bothers me. It is a paper by Hansen:
Global Warming in the 21st Century: An Alternative Scenario
Now whatever the particular merits of the paper it seems to have a particular interest in that it is a case when Hansen was regarded as being unhelpful.
My reading of his open letter to (firstname.lastname@example.org) is that Hansen protested that he was unfairly treated by Nature. He has also stated the following:
The UCS sent to its members an “Information Update” discussing our paper, providing me with a copy the day before it went out. The essence of their discussion seems to be that our paper is controversial, potentially harmful to the Kyoto Protocol, and not a helpful contribution to the climate change discussion as it “may fuel confusion about global warming among the public”.
I must confess that I find it difficult to see how someone with Hansen’s bone fides, could come in for that sort of treatment so thoughtlessly. It is not like he was going to roll over and play dead.
I am not sure how well his paper has stood the test of time but it does seem to have been a useful contribution to the debate at the time it was written even if it did not fit in with the prevailing narrative. The saga reads like it was percieved that his scenerio, if acted upon, only a way of buying time, but about 50 years of time. More darkly, perhaps somehow it would not be punitive enough or scary enough.
It is things like this that really cause me to wonder, it is almost like he was being treated like a heretic.
Alex, do you have a web link for this paper and his open letter? thx.
It is wrong to overload one old paper with significance but it does highlight something else that fascinates me, the possibility of an alternative narrative emphasising progress.
It might or might not hold much water, but perhaps a main plank of skepticism, the temperature record of the last 10-15 years could have been interpreted or spun as vindication of AGW theory and the broader intergovernmental process (e.g. Montreal Protocol). Importantly it could demonstrate that the stick is attached to the horizontal stabiliser, when you pull back on it, something positive happens. The nose nose starts to pull up.
It is of course a narrative, and hostage to happenstance like all others, but it would not have been without merit. It might even have truth in it. It would have fitted into the “We have started and we will finish the job” rhetoric. That is, make the fact of starting, propel us to the end, progress begats progress. At the risk of being absurd, some old style politicians would have known how to capitalise on it, namely FDR, and Churchill.
Unfortunately I feel that politicians have strayed from their native language and oftimes try to use the terms that the professionals use, in this case scientists and environmentalists. In particular I doubt that talking about CO2 equivalents is or was a smart move, it turns the problem into a monolithic elephant when it would have been better to have kept the segments seperate, and more easily bitten off, chewed, and swallowed. We have already largely swallowed the halide segment even if it will take a very long time to digest.
Finally if this be an existentail crisis then “buying time” would be the highest priority, do the easy bits first and quickly and use the grace there bought to project the present into an acceptable future. Most of all if we have successes, laud them. If this were war I cannot imagine that the failure of the ice caps to monotonically recede, or for the temperatures rise to cease accelerating would have been seen as anything else but a positive. One small but important step towards a victory that will be achieved and will have been the making of mankind.
yes there is current thinking along the lines that Hansen orginally proposed
yes there is current thinking along the lines that Hansen originally proposed
Open Letter: http://naturalscience.com/ns/letters/ns_let25.html
I may have got the wrong end of a stick but it is a strange old stick.
Very interesting. In all honesty, i wasn’t paying big attention to all this back in 2000. Hansen clearly stepped on the toes of people who didn’t want any distraction from the UNFCCC CO2 stabilization policies. The whole “heresy” thing is really disturbing.
In the light of the Scientific American’s “heretic” piece, which I was not aware of, I am pleased that I posted about Hansen when I did. But I really do not know what to make of it all. At least you may turn out that you have unimpeachable company. If they did describe Hansen as “unhelpful” it is akin to doubting the loyalty of Moses.
Thanks for the link to the open letter. I was unaware of the hostile reception of the Hansen paper, which paper I considered to be part of the conventional wisdom of the scientifically informed viewpoint on climate change. I’d appreciate a link to the Nature report that Hansen replies to.
This plea for political solidarity from UCS is interesting to me.
Despite my misgivings about the Waxman-Markey ACES bill I said little about it during its promulgation, based on a similar request for “solidarity” from people more interested in politics than in science.
In retrospect, I think these cases do straddle a line. It is one thing for people to forebear on explicitly political matters, another to forebear on matters of science. So I’m still inclined to think that I should have, as requested, shut up about my misgivings on Waxman.
But I’m not sure; it feels like an artificial sort of distinction. A counterargument is that a bill of law is an artifact. Thus it can be seen as a form of engineering: bringing an artifact into the world to serve a purpose. Whether it is well-engineered or not depends on whether its purposes are well-specified, whether its benefits are well-identified, and whether its risks are well-constrained. In the case of Waxman, I would be able to argue that it was not (and unable to argue that it was). Therefore, someone interested primarily in exposing the best possible evidence should have spoken up regardless.
The pull on the other side was a belief that some progress was possible last year at Copenhagen, and that this was optimized if the US showed up with some sign of internal progress.
It is difficult to weigh these objectives against each other because they are so categorically different.
I think even in the absence of the obvious hostility that has emerged in discussions of climate, never mind the active promotion of misinformation, it is difficult to get a balanced idea of scientific evidence across to the public.
Roger Pielke Jr. thinks about these problems a lot. I always get in trouble when I try to summarize him, but I think he believes that the role of a scientist is to state the truth, and it is the job of others to interpret it.
I am unconvinced by that. The Hansen paper shows why; the conclusions of that paper, which ought to be very helpful in the search for a reasonably safe and efficiacious strategy, are not scientific but policy-related. A dry statement of the warming impact of black carbon seems to catch nobody’s attention. The political sector, like the press, like everybody else, is wrapped up in its own obsessions. It is necessary for the people with the information to stand up and say “Look! Here’s something important you are missing!”
The missing public role is judgment. We seem to have no collective competence in judging who is really representing the best of science and who is just representing a pre-cast agenda. We have been relying on the press, who have been relying on the political establishment, who have been relying on connections to the academic establishment, who had connections to science. A couple of generations ago this seemed to work but nowadays all of these connections are badly damaged.
Sorry but I have no more links, actually I struggled to find the ones above, it is quite sometime since I originally found the Hansen paper, I remembered only its content not its name. Perhaps someone might like to gather those to bits up an keep them safe. I don’t think (but might me wrong) that it is listed on his page of published work.
One major slip-up in the above Hansen paper is not to elaborate on the ocean heat content, and thus missing main ingredient of the current global warming.
“The ocean is the only place that the energy from a planetary radiation imbalance can accumulate, because of the low thermal conductivity of land and the limit on ice melting implicit in observed sea level rise. Global ocean data (Levitus et al. 2000) reveal that ocean heat content increased 2*10^23 joules between the mid-1950s and the mid-1990s.”
He assumes that the rise is due to ‘a planetary radiation imbalance’ accumulation.
However, there is a far more important factor: ‘equator-poles’ ocean current system’s efficiency.
More efficient system will transfer heat from the tropics to polar regions, thus retaining more of the initially absorbed solar energy = increase in ocean heat content (current GW, MWP).
The less efficient ‘equator-poles’ ocean current system releases the excess of the absorbed solar energy in the equatorial regions = cooling (less warming) of mid- and high latitudes (LIA).
North Atlantic Precursor is a ‘measure of the efficiency’ of the
Atlantic Drift Current.
The question of framing matters primarily in the political sphere. US politics in 2010 clearly does not favor the expert or expert opinion. The model followed by the UN FCCC strongly depended on expert advice convincing governments to act to protect the interests of mostly unborn citizens. It worked nicely in Ozone Depletion and many figures in IPCC experienced the power of scientific assessments in that exercise. Many people have tracked the science, process and politics from the Montreal Protocol and ozone depletion through the climate train wreck in Copenhagen. If you focus on the details of the arguments, you might attribute great importance to the actions of certain high profile people. Although I have followed the good guys and the bad guys with interest since the late 1980s, I think that the different outcomes were dependent more on the nature of the problems than on the nature of the actors.
Ozone Depletion is a complex problem and one needs to understand chemistry, air motions and polar stratospheric cloud formation to get it right. But the southern polar vortex provided a simplifying set of conditions that permitted an approximate understanding to master the main observations. Jim Anderson could model the evolution of south polar ozone abundance on his HP-45 once his team measured 1 ppb of ClO in the vortex. In the absence of an Antarctic Ozone Hole, we might still be trying to tease the signal from the noise in global ozone abundance.
In the case of CO2 and Climate, the signal to noise problem is more difficult. The industrial era is a couple of centuries old, but most people agree that the signal of AGW only emerged in the last 60 years. The radiation imbalance needed to explain the observed warming is too small for the satellite instruments that have flown to accurately measure directly. But the climate community has been very diligent in assembling a suite of observations (Dr. Curry’s aptly named Jigsaw Puzzle) that demonstrates the emergence of the signal. My personal experience of the atmospheric science community is that no one is fully satisfied with the arguments and evidence, but that the overall picture convinces them of the IPCC narrative. Around a table at AGU in December or at a relevant Gordon Conference, you might find each party with a different gripe, but a pollster would find broad agreement on the conclusions. And pollsters have found a broad consensus in expert communities defined in a variety of ways. It may be possible to morph the gripes into a ‘house of cards’ frame – but my personal sample of scientists fails to show an erosion of support for the 4 main points over the last difficult years. Mostly, we follow the refereed literature and as public support for climate science wanes, Dr. Lindzen’s publications say that the recent warming has occurred and that up to 30% of it is due to human activity. Dr. Christy’s data does not contradict Had-Cru’s or NASA GISS’s or NOAA’s or that of the Japanese Meteorological Service. So while the public fractures on climate change, Professor Lindzen’s climate sensitivity is inching up toward the lower end of IPCC’s. In his exchange with Dr. Dessler (11 Oct) I think I heard him say maybe 0.8C. The house-of-cards framework emerges mostly in the public sphere where the discipline and practice of science is strange and arcane.
IPCC may have pressed its data a little hard to get 90% certainty regarding most of the recent warming. I look forward to Dr. Curry’s number. But I also think that the attribution task is devilishly difficult prior to the satellite era. The importance of aerosol effects (direct and indirect), the inhomogeneity of aerosol abundance, the uncertainty concerning the prevalence of the salient characteristics of the aerosol makes this a tough problem. Determining global sulfate, organic and black carbon abundances and distributions is daunting enough today (and not yet accomplished, IMO). Good luck on the first half of the last century.
The models clearly trade off aerosol effects against climate sensitivity. And in that regard, they indicate real uncertainties that policy makers face. As long-lived green house gases accumulate, we will have to take actions that protect climate without being able to accurately predict their outcomes. Uncertainty is one of the dominant realities of our world, and IPCC clearly shows that in its range of sensitivities. This is not news, but it is a test of out civilization.
The use of the precision of the satellites permitted Murphy et al. (JGR,2009) to show convincingly without models that the amount of energy added by anthropogenic CO2 to the climate system has been huge and is growing. I am an experimentalist and was impressed by this observational result (that is largely consistent with models). So the signal-to-noise ratio is growing – as is the problem that will be faced by future generations. The argument about how certain IPCC could have been and should have been about attribution 4 or 5 years ago should not detract from the discussion of how to protect climate while accounting for uncertainties that are advertised by the IPCC. The First Law Analysis shows that more than enough energy was added to the climate system by anthropogenic CO2 to explain the effects identified in the warming. While CO2 accumulates, the warming will continue, and that is the fact that we need to respond to.
Climategate was forecast…
I am absolutely certain of one thing. The minute you believe your own hypothesis, you are a dead duck as a scientist. People in positions of trust, with media collaboration, have violated the principles of the scientific method. “What is the current scientific consensus on the conclusions reached by Drs. Mann, Bradley and Hughes? [Referring to the hockey stick propagated in UN IPCC 2001 by Michael Mann and debunked by McIntyre and McKitrick in 2003.]
Ans: Based on the literature we have reviewed, there is no overarching consensus on MBH98/99. As analyzed in our social network, there is a tightly knit group of individuals who passionately believe in their thesis. However, our perception is that this group has a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism and, moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that they can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.”
If this is the natural evolution of a ‘publish or perish’ culture, what next?
AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORT ON THE ‘HOCKEY STICK’ GLOBAL CLIMATE RECONSTRUCTION, also known as The Wegman report was authored by Edward J. Wegman, George Mason University, David W. Scott, Rice University, and Yasmin H. Said, The Johns Hopkins University with the contributions of John T. Rigsby, III, Naval Surface Warfare Center, and Denise M. Reeves, MITRE Corporation