Uncertainty gets a seat at the “big table:” Part IV


Hearing on “Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response”

17 November 2010

Judith A. Curry, Georgia Institute of Technology

I thank the Chairman and the Committee for the opportunity to offer testimony today on “Rational Discussion of Climate Change.” I am Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. As a climate scientist, I have devoted 30 years to conducting research on a variety of topics including climate feedback processes in the Arctic, energy exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere, the role of clouds and aerosols in the climate system, and the impact of climate change on the characteristics of hurricanes. As president of Climate Forecast Applications Network LLC, I have been working with decision makers on climate impact assessments, assessing and developing climate adaptation strategies, and developing subseasonal climate forecasting strategies to support adaptive management and tactical adaptation. Over the past year, I have been actively engaging with the public (particularly in the blogosphere) on the issue of integrity of climate science, and also the topic of uncertainty.

The climate change response challenge

Climate change can be categorized as a “wicked problem.”[1] Wicked problems are difficult or impossible to solve, there is no opportunity to devise an overall solution by trial and error, and there is no real test of the efficacy of a solution to the wicked problem. Efforts to solve the wicked problem may reveal or create other problems.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Intergovern-mental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have framed the climate change problem (i.e. dangers) and its solution (i.e. international treaty) to be irreducibly global. Based upon the precautionary principle, the UNFCCC ’s Kyoto Protocol has established an international goal of stabilization of the concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. This framing of the problem and its solution has led to the dilemma of climate response policy that is aptly described by Obersteiner et al.[2]:

  • The key issue is whether “betting big today” with a comprehensive global climate policy targeted at stabilization “will fundamentally reshape our common future on a global scale to our advantage or quickly produce losses that can throw mankind into economic, social, and environmental bankruptcy.”

In a rational discussion of climate change, the question needs to be asked as to whether the framing of the problem and the early articulation of a preferred policy option by the UNFCCC has marginalized research on broader issues surrounding climate change, and resulted is an overconfident assessment of the importance of greenhouse gases in future climate change, and stifled the development of a broader range of policy options.

The IPCC/UNFCCC have provided an important service to global society by alerting us to a global threat that is potentially catastrophic. The UNFCCC/IPCC has made an ambitious attempt to put a simplified frame around the problem of climate change and its solution in terms of anthropogenic forcing and CO2 stabilization polices. However, the result of this simplified framing of a wicked problem is that we lack the kinds of information to more broadly understand climate change and societal vulnerability.

Uncertainty in climate science

Anthropogenic climate change is a theory in which the basic mechanism is well understood, but in which the magnitude of the climate change is highly uncertain owing to feedback processes. We know that the climate changes naturally on decadal to century time scales, but we do not have explanations for a number of observed historical and paleo climate variations, including the warming from 1910-1940 and the mid-20th century cooling. The conflict regarding the theory of anthropogenic climate change is over the level of our ignorance regarding what is unknown about natural climate variability.

I have been raising concerns[3] since 2003 about how uncertainty surrounding climate change is evaluated and communicated. The IPCC’s efforts to consider uncertainty focus primarily on communicating uncertainty, rather than on characterizing and exploring uncertainty in a way that would be useful for risk managers and resource managers and the institutions that fund science. A number of scientists have argued that future IPCC efforts need to be more thorough about describing sources and types of uncertainty, making the uncertainty analysis as transparent as possible.  Recommendations along these lines were made by the recent IAC[4] review of the IPCC.

Because the assessment of climate change science by the IPCC is inextricably linked with the UNFCCC polices, a statement about scientific uncertainty in climate science is often viewed as a political statement. A person making a statement about uncertainty or degree of doubt is likely to become categorized as a skeptic or denier or a “merchant of doubt,”[5] whose motives are assumed to be ideological or motivated by funding from the fossil fuel industry. My own experience in publicly discussing concerns about how uncertainty is characterized by the IPCC has resulted in my being labeled as a “climate heretic”[6] that has turned against my colleagues.

Climate change winners and losers

A view of the climate change problem as irreducibly global fails to recognize that some regions may actually benefit from a warmer and/or wetter climate. Areas of the world that currently cannot adequately support populations and agricultural efforts may become more desirable in future climate regimes.

Arguably the biggest global concern regarding climate change impacts is concerns over water resources. This concern is exacerbated in regions where population is rapidly increasing and water resources are already thinly stretched. China and South Asia (notably India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) are facing a looming water crisis arising from burgeoning population and increasing demand for water for irrigated farming and industry. China has been damming the rivers emerging from Tibet and channeling the water for irrigation, and there is particular concern over the diversion of the Brahmaputra to irrigate the arid regions of Central China. China’s plans to reroute the Brahmaputra raises the specter of riparian water wars with India and Bangladesh.

The IPCC AR4 WGII makes two statements of particular relevance to the water situation in central and south Asia:

“Freshwater availability in Central, South, East and South-East Asia . . . is likely to decrease due to climate change, along with population growth and rising standard of living that could adversely affect more than a billion people in Asia by the 2050s (high confidence).”[7]

“Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005).”[8]

The lack of veracity of the statement about the melting Himalayan glaciers has been widely discussed, and the mistake has been acknowledged by the IPCC.[9] However, both of these statements seem inconsistent with the information in Table 10.2 of the IPCC AR4 WG II and the statement:

“The consensus of AR4 models . . . indicates an increase in annual precipitation in most of Asia during this century; the relative increase being largest and most consistent between models in North and East Asia. The sub-continental mean winter precipitation will very likely increase in northern Asia and the Tibetan Plateau and likely increase in West, Central, South-East and East Asia. Summer precipitation will likely increase in North, South, South-East and East Asia but decrease in West and Central Asia.” [10]

Based on the IPCC’s simulations of 21st century climate, it seems that rainfall will increase overall in the region (including wintertime snowfall in Tibet), and the IPCC AR4 WGII does not discuss the impact of temperature and evapotranspiration on fresh water resources in this region. The importance of these omissions, inconsistencies or mistakes by the IPCC is amplified by the potential of riparian warfare in this region that supports half of the world’s population.

A serious assessment is needed of vulnerabilities, region by region, in the context of possible climate change scenarios, demographics, societal vulnerabilities, possible adaptation, and current adaptation deficits. A few regions have attempted such an assessment. Efforts being undertaken by the World Bank Program on the Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change to assess the economics of adaptation in developing countries are among the best I’ve seen in this regard. This is the kind of information that is needed to assess winners and losers and how dangerous climate change might be relative to adaptive capacities.

Climate surprises and catastrophes

The uncertainty associated with climate change science and the wickedness of the problem provide much fodder for disagreement about preferred policy options. Uncertainty might be regarded as cause for delaying action or as strengthening the case for action. Low-probability, high-consequence events in the context of a wicked problem provide particular challenges to developing robust policies.

Extreme events such as landfalling major hurricanes, floods, extreme heat waves and droughts can have catastrophic impacts. While such events are not unexpected in an aggregate sense, their frequency and/or severity may increase in a warmer climate and they may be a surprise to the individual locations that are impacted by a specific event. Natural events become catastrophes through a combination of large populations, large and exposed infrastructure in vulnerable locations, and when humans modify natural systems that can provide a natural safety barrier (e.g. deforestation, draining wetlands). For example, the recent catastrophic flooding in Pakistan[11] apparently owes as much to deforestation and overgrazing as it does to heavy rainfall. Addressing current adaptive deficits and planning for climate compatible development will increase societal resilience to future extreme events that may be more frequent or severe in a warmer climate.

Abrupt climate change[12] is defined as a change that occurs faster than the apparent underlying driving forces. Abrupt climate change, either caused by natural climate variability or triggered in part by anthropogenic climate change, is a possibility that needs investigation and consideration. Catastrophic anthropogenic climate change arising from climate sensitivity on the extreme high end of the distribution has not been adequately explored, and the plausible worst-case scenario has not be adequately articulated. To what extent can we falsify scenarios of very high climate sensitivity based on our background knowledge? What are the possibilities for abrupt climate change, and what are the possible time scales involved? What regions would be most vulnerable under this worst-case scenario?

Weitzmann[13] characterizes the decision making surrounding climate change in the following way:

“Much more unsettling for an application of expected utility analysis is deep structural uncertainty in the science of global warming coupled with an economic inability to place a meaningful upper bound on catastrophic losses from disastrous temperature changes. The climate science seems to be saying that the probability of a system-wide disastrous collapse is non-negligible even while this tiny probability is not known precisely and necessarily involves subjective judgments.”

When a comprehensive decision analysis includes plausible catastrophes with unknown probabilities, the policy implications can be radically different from those suggested by optimal decision making strategies targeted at the most likely scenario. Weitzmann argues that it is plausible that climate change policy stands or falls to a large extent on the issue of how the high impact low probability catastrophes are conceptualized and modeled.  Whereas “alarmism” focuses unduly on the possible (or even impossible) worst-case scenario, robust policies consider unlikely but not impossible scenarios without letting them completely dominate the decision.

In summary, the IPCC focus on providing information to support the establishment of an optimal CO2 stabilization target doesn’t address two important issues for driving policy:

  • reducing vulnerability to extreme events such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes
  • examination of the plausible worst case scenario.

There are no “silver bullet” solutions

Xu, Crittenden et al.[14] argue that “gigaton problems require gigaton solutions.” The wickedness of the climate problem precludes a gigaton solution (either technological or political). Attempts to address the climate change problem through a U.N. treaty for almost two decades have arguably not been successful. The climate change problem now walks hand-in-hand with the ocean acidification problem, the link between the two problems being the proposed stabilization of atmospheric CO2. The proposed solution to the wicked climate problem and ocean acidification in terms of stabilization of atmospheric CO2 has revealed and created new problems in terms of energy policy. Energy policy is driven by a complicated mix of economics and economic development, energy security, environmental quality and health issues, resource availability (e.g. peak oil), etc.

Even if climate change is not the primary driver in energy policy, the climate-energy nexus is a very important one. Not just in the sense of anthropogenic climate change motivating energy policy, but weather and climate are key drivers in energy demand and even supply.  On the demand side, we have the obvious impact of heating and cooling degree days. On the supply side, we have oil and gas supply disruptions (e.g. hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico) plus the dependence of hydro, solar, and wind power on weather and climate. What is perhaps the most important connection, and one often overlooked, is the energy-water nexus, whereby power plants requiring water for cooling compete with domestic, agricultural, industrial, and ecosystems for the available water supply.

The complexity of both the climate and energy problems and their nexus precludes the gigaton “silver bullet” solution to these challenges. Attempting to use carbon dioxide as a control knob to regulate climate in the face of large natural climate variability and the inevitable weather hazards is most likely futile. In any event, according to climate model projections reported in the IPCC AR4, reducing atmospheric CO2 will not influence the trajectory of CO2 induced warming until after 2050. The attempt to frame a “silver bullet” solution by the UNFCCC seems unlikely to succeed, given the size and the wickedness of the problem. The wicked gigaton climate problem will arguably require thousands of megaton solutions and millions of kiloton solutions.

Moving forward

Climate scientists have made a forceful argument for a looming future threat from anthropogenic climate change. Based upon the background knowledge that we have, the threat does not seem to be an existential one on the time scale of the 21st century, even in its most alarming incarnation. It is now up to the political process (international, national, and local) to decide how to contend with the climate problem.  It seems more important that robust responses be formulated than to respond urgently with a policy that may fail to address the problem and whose unintended consequences have not been adequately explored.

The role for climate science and climate scientists in this process is complex.  In the past 20 years, dominated by the IPCC/UNFCCC paradigm, scientists have become entangled in an acrimonious scientific and political debate, where the issues in each have become confounded. This has generated much polarization in the scientific community and has resulted in political attacks on scientists on both sides of the debate, and a scientist’s “side” is often defined by factors that are exogenous to the actual scientific debate. Debates over relatively arcane aspects of the scientific argument have become a substitute for what should be a real debate about politics and values.

Continuing to refine the arguments put forward by the IPCC that focus on global climate model simulations projections of future climate change may have reached the point of diminishing returns for both the science and policy deliberations. Further, the credibility of the IPCC has been tarnished by the events of the past year. It is important to broaden the scope of global climate change research beyond its focus on anthropogenic greenhouse warming to develop a better understanding of natural climate variability and the impact of land use changes and to further explore the uncertainty of the coupled climate models and the capability of these models to predict emergent events such as catastrophic climate change. And far more attention needs to be given to establishing robust and transparent climate data records (both historical and paleoclimate proxies).

Regional planners and resource managers need high-resolution regional climate projections to support local climate adaptation plans and plans for climate compatible development. This need is unlikely to be met (at least in the short term) by the global climate models.  In any event, anthropogenic climate change on timescales of decades is arguably less important in driving vulnerability in most regions than increasing population, land use practices, and ecosystem degradation. Regions that find solutions to current problems of climate variability and extreme weather events and address challenges associated with an increasing population will be better prepared to cope with any additional stresses from climate change.

Hoping to rely on information from climate models about projected regional climate change to guide adaptation response diverts attention from using weather and climate information in adaptive water resource management and agriculture on seasonal and subseasonal time scales. Optimizing water resource management and crop selection and timing based upon useful probabilistic subseasonal and seasonal climate forecasts has the potential to reduce vulnerability substantially in many regions. This is particularly the case in the developing world where much of the agriculture is rain fed (i.e. no irrigation). It would seem that increasing scientific focus on seasonal and subseasonal forecasts could produce substantial societal benefits for tactical adaptation practices.

The global climate modeling effort directed at the IPCC/UNFCCC paradigm has arguably reached the point of diminishing returns in terms of supporting decision making for the U.N. treaty and related national policies. At this point, it seems more important to explore the uncertainties associated with future climate change rather than to attempt to reduce the uncertainties in a consensus-based approach.  It is time for climate scientists to change their view of uncertainty: it is not just something that is merely to be framed and communicated to policy makers, all the while keeping in mind that doubt is a political weapon in the decision making process. Characterizing, understanding, and exploring uncertainty is at the heart of the scientific process. And finally, the characterization of uncertainty is critical information for robust policy decisions.

Engagement of climate researchers with regional planners, economists, military/intelligence organizations, development banks, energy companies, and governments in the developing world to develop a mutual understanding about what kind of information is needed can promote more fruitful decision outcomes, and define new scientific challenges to be addressed by research. The need for climate researchers to engage with social scientists and engineers has never been more important. Further, there is an increasing need for social scientists and philosophers of science to scrutinize and analyze our field to prevent dysfunction at the science-policy interface.

And finally, climate scientists and the institutions that support them need to acknowledge and engage with ever-growing groups of citizen scientists, auditors, and extended peer communities that have become increasingly well organized by the blogosphere. The more sophisticated of these groups are challenging our conventional notions of expertise and are bringing much needed scrutiny particularly into issues surrounding historical and paleoclimate data records. These groups reflect a growing public interest in climate science and a growing concern about possible impacts of climate change and climate change policies. The acrimony that has developed between some climate scientists and blogospheric skeptics was amply evident in the sorry mess that is known as Climategate.  Climategate illuminated the fundamental need for improved and transparent historical and paleoclimate data sets and improved information systems so that these data are easily accessed and interpreted.

Blogospheric communities can potentially be important in identifying and securing the common interest at these disparate scales in the solution space of the energy, climate and ocean acidification problems. A diversity of views on interpreting the scientific evidence and a broad range of ideas on how to address these challenges doesn’t hinder the implementation of diverse megaton and kiloton solutions at local and regional scales. Securing the common interest on local and regional scales provides a basis for the successful implementation of climate adaptation strategies. Successes on the local and regional scale and then national scales make it much more likely that global issues can be confronted in an effective way.

[1] Rittel, Horst, and Melvin Webber; “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning,” pp. 155–169, Policy Sciences, Vol. 4, Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Inc., Amsterdam, 1973. http://www.uctc.net/mwebber/Rittel+Webber+Dilemmas+General_Theory_of_Planning.pdf

[5] Oreskes, N. and E.M. Conway, 2010: Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming.  Bloomsbury Press, 368 pp.

222 responses to “Uncertainty gets a seat at the “big table:” Part IV

  1. The hearing was interesting. Attendance wasn’t too high, apparently there are alot of other things going on. Some very quick reactions (I’m currently in a meeting at NASA HQ).

    Panel I: There are still a lot of misunderstandings about the basics, in terms of how this little trace gas CO2 can actually have such an impact. We need to do a much better job of explaining this. Heidi Cullen’s written testimony provides a very nice history.

    Panel II: Some fireworks between Santer and Michaels; Michaels seemed to come out on top. Michaels has some interesting stuff in his written testimony on attribution in the latter half of 20th century. Richard Alley scored many points in my book about discussing the uncertainties and providing clear explanations.

    Panel III: All of the presentations/written testimony were interesting. Not much fireworks here, but good food for thought.

    I felt ok about how my part went. Not sure what the immediate significance of this hearing will be, but it will set the stage for the next two years. More later.

    • More research of the natural variability, no gigaton solutions and regional adaptability. Excellent. The rest ?

    • PolyisTCOandbanned

      This on the other hand was an interesting post!

      I would be interested in more about the Santer-Michaels disagreement and if you think Michaels was triumphant because of being right (or Santer over-reaching) or because he is better at expressing himself (but not more right).

      • Hmm. I thought Santer got the better shots in.

        They needed girls carrying cards in the ring.

      • PolyisTCOandbanned

        I agree Santer made more sense.

      • Richard S Courtney

        “Santer made more sense”? Really?

        Michaels pointed out that the IPCC’s own data did not support an IPCC assertion.

        Santer asserted (rightly) that if inherent errors of the data are included then the IPCC assertion might be right.

        So, Michaels showed there is good reason to dispute the IPCC assertion and the best Santer could respond was that the IPCC assertion might be right: i.e. Santer showed Michaels’ statements were correct.

        And that is why onlookers recognised that Michaels ‘won’.


    • “Panel II: Some fireworks between Santer and Michaels; Michaels seemed to come out on top. …”

      They were doing some basic arithmetic. Could you show your math on how Michaels came out on top.

    • Heidi Cullen’s overall discussion on the basic science and the early scientists doing research on CO2 and the greenhouse effect is good.

      However, she opened with noting that the results reported in the fourth IPCC assessment from 18 climate models estimated a doubling of CO2 would result in temperature increase of 3.6 to 8.1 degrees F, and that those results were generally in line with what Arrhenius calculated. I suspect a lot of climate scientists might disagree with this expected temperature increase. She then states that this is a life-threatening issue.

      After the several pages of the science, she then gets into (in my opinion) the typical alarmism about droughts and heat waves expected to be more severe, 3 feet of sea level rise by 2100, threatening survival of plants and animal species that won’t be able to adapt this quickly . . .

      . . and not any mention of ‘uncertainties’, as if the feedbacks WILL results in these temperature increases. That’s where I take issue.

      The ‘known unknowns’ , which I would identify the AMO, PDO, and solar cycles (we know they are there, the effects are not entirely known because of the lengths of the cycles), add SO much uncertainty to the climate from all that I have read. It is interesting to me where temps might go in the next few years because of these. And what about ‘unknown unknowns’?

      I do agree, it is in the best interest of mankind to develop new energy sources, though not at exorbitant expense vs. performance (current wind/solar). Still a lot of effort needed in this arena, both from a ‘political’ point of view, as well as technical.

      And (for what my ‘less than expert’ opinion is worth), I very much enjoyed your statement, and agree that it was a good, balanced, rational examination of the current ‘climate change’ situation.

      • Heidi is one of the worst of the fear mongers, building her career and social standing on crying ‘doom!’ by way of CO2.

    • pcknappenberger

      For more information on Pat’s late-20th century analysis, see this post at World Climate Report: Most of the Observed Warming since the Mid-20th Century Likely Not from Human GHG Emissions?

      Santer’s protestations about having not included sulfate aerosols don’t make sense to me. The IPCC already was well aware of the impacts of sulfates on the amount of “observed” warming, while virtually all (except the MM reference) of the citations used by Pat were published after the IPCC’s assessment, so their impact couldn’t have been taken into account. And, the impacts were assessed by the original authors to apply to the amount of “observed” warming (which already included aerosols). Ramanathan and Carmichael’s black carbon assessment was an exception to this, but they cast their changes directly on the amount of positive forcing–which ties directly into total warming.

      So, at least as far as I can reckon, sulfates don’t have anything to do with Pat’s analysis. Perhaps someone can take be through the logic that concludes that they do.

      -Chip Knappenberger

      • If aerosols create .4C of cooling, then the temperature would have been 1.1C. Even if Michaels is correct, that the other factors create .306C of warming, then you still have to account for the .7C.

      • You’ll find that somewhere in the difference between ACRIM and PMOD’s assessment of TSI (Approx 0.4C), and the defects in the overblown temperature record (approx 0.2C).


      • “ACRIM” mis-measurements do not account for .4C of warming. This is the conclusion of the person who signed the letter you posted. Dr. Richard C Wilson.

        The TSI trend is significant for direct solar climate forcing. The response of climate to TSI variation is
        complex, but a sensitivity is predicted by global circulation models at ~1 K per 1% change in TSI (18). If sustained, the ACRIM TSI trend is near that required to produce, on 200-year time scales, a climate change comparable to (but in the opposite sense of) the estimated 0.4 to 1.5 K average temperature decrease during the Little Ice Age climate anomaly (3, 19). The climatic effect of greenhouse warming over the next 50 to 100 years is estimated to be 1.5 to 4.5 K (19). By comparison, the TSI trend could produce additional warming of ~0.4 K in 100 years, a potentially significant contribution.

      • 0.4K in a hundred years, yes. And if that was the solar contribution over the C20th out of the ~0.7K-~1K of warming, then then the co2 sensitivity is overestimated.

        Also, this is the potential solar contribution from a consideration of TSI only. It doesn’t include the several other effects the sun could be having on climate from larger magnitude changes of wavelengths within TSI which would increase that 0.4K figure further.

        That’s what uncertainty is all about. We don’t know. Yet.

      • Chip, please tell me you are kidding? Assume there are three factors causing a change, two positive and one negative, for instance A=1, B=1 and C=-1, giving a net change of 1. How can it possibly be valid to say ‘look B=1 and that is the net change therefore A must be zero’? This is unsupportable nonsense.

      • pcknappenberger


        Thanks for the comment. I saw your comments over at ScienceInsider and wanted to ask you about them as well.

        Your math is not worked through enough.

        For instance, let’s look at Ramanathan and Carmichael’s conclusions. They claim a (central estimate of the) TOA radiative forcing from black carbon of 0.9W/m2. The value for GHGs is 3.0W/m2. So, BC is making up ~25% of the total positive forcing and thus is responsible for 25% of the “observed” warming regardless of how much warming is being offset by other aerosols. This ~25% number is a much higher percentage, as far as I can tell, than considered by the IPCC in the AR4.

        At ScienceInsider, you claimed that the Solomon results were irrelevant. Why is that? If they are not a response to GHGs (and it is not clear that they are), then the warming identified by Solomon (which is a portion of the “observed” warming) must be removed from the IPCC’s GHG total.

        And as far as Thompson et al. (and to a lesser magnitude McKitrick and Michaels or the other papers which suggest an urban/economic/etc. influence), these results show that the warming trend that the IPCC identified as “observed” at the time of the AR4, was too high by some degree. In other words, some of the IPCC’s “observed” warming was really due to measurement errors or other problems with the thermometers and not from GHGs.

        Tallying all these non-GHG influences up, and you have a situation where, in my opinion, the IPCC’s “very likely” that “most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century” is not supportable as there is a pretty good chance (>10%) that other influences can explain more than half of the magnitude of the warming identified by the IPCC in its AR4.


      • Would people like me to start a thread to discuss this aspect of Michael’s testimony? I don’t have time to write anything of substance on this right now (tied up at NASA HQ, then my next technical post is the Italian Flag). By i can pull the text from Michael’s testimony onto a separate thread if there is interest.

      • pcknappenberger


        I’d be glad to take part in a discussion if a new thread develops.

        To me, the logic of the reasoning makes sense, but perhaps I am missing something. And am happy to find out.

        For starters, there are several posts where this is walked through in greater detail than presented in Pat’s testimony:

        at MasterResource.org

        and at World Climate Report


  2. Well done

  3. Judith,

    This statement is concise, clear, accessible and well-argued. I trust that the members of the committee will read it!

    Every good wish,


  4. Do you geniunely think that Rep. Rohrabacher’s ‘confusion’ about the importance of CO2 is correctable? Or was his swing through the standard tropes (mars is warming, the sun did it, the mwp!) rather just a bit of political theater? And doesn’t that determine how these ‘confusions’ should be addressed?

    • Seemed to me that there was a lot of political theatre involved.

      The Chairman’s anecdote about stumbling blindly through the whiteout until guided to warmth and safety by the power of his greater intellect and ‘science’ was well told, but I think it was more likely a parable than a piece of personal history. The Santer/Michaels engagement was clearly set up as theatre (maybe with some scientific content as well). But what the heck..politics is not only a matter of intellectual debate..it must sometimes engage the emotions as well.

      This was the first time I have watched such a discussion from the US and I was quite impressed. Compared with the vacuity of similar parliamentary discussions in UK on this issue (*), the cast was of very high quality, decorum was preserved and many interesting points raised. Judith gave excellent testimony clearly and well. I’m glad I watched it.

      (*)But I still maintain that our system of ‘blood and guts’ debate for set piece high significance questions is far superior to the anodyne proceedings in the House and the Senate. Oratory is important.

    • Rohrabacher believes those things.

  5. Watched the whole thing Dr C,

    Your submission was good.

    They put you in the wrong panel. The remaining were wonks filling up their time with words – pregnant women and green shelters?

    Baird just dismissed all the blogs and asked you “Eh, what do you have to say?”.

    As much as you are an atmospheric scientist, you have become a representative of the blogs, Dr C, and although you did a good thing to point out that some of the blogs are more technical and people are knowledgeable, this did not answer to Baird’s blanket criticism.

    At the same time, Gavin Schmidt wrote commenting on this aspect, on Eli Kintsch’s commentary:

    “The “blogosphere” is going to save us”. Not. ”

    Baird and Gavin are completely wrong and blinded by their own honeyed words perhaps, to see that,….but for the blogs, particularly the skeptical ones, the entire exercise of their Congressional hearing would not have even taken place. Climategate, the hearing, the exposure of errors in the IPCC reports regarding the Himalayan glaciers, the Amazon rainforest, African crops, Netherland sea levels – all caused directly, or brought to light by skeptical blogs alone.

    The lukewarmer blogs do a lot of analysis and ask a few questions, but they do not contribute in serious fashion to any penetrating critiques of the IPCC/UNFCC or climate science-society interface in general. Much of their time is expended characterizing and refining their climatologic political stance and/or arguing about inconsequential technicalities, which are easily dealt with by sitting down and reading textbooks or publishing in the literature directly.

    Seen this way, your IPCC/UNFCC criticisms, as ’embryonic’ as they are, do not fall in the lukewarmer camp. Like you say- everyone wants “world peace”, that counts for nothing (well, I am not sure if they are embronic – they are atleast in the beginning stages).

  6. Excellent presentation.

    What if there is an abrupt global cooling trend instead of a warming trend?
    That is putting all the eggs into one basket.
    Definately will be having wild swings in both ranges until the planet settles on one side or the other.

  7. Thank you, Professor Curry, for being there and for speaking on behalf of sanity.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

  8. They put you in the wrong panel.
    I agree and this was my original point as well – Judith Curry cannot honestly be involved in a “response” session given her views about the high priests of science becoming policy advocates because that is in essence what she is doing as well. I posted regarding this on the older thread here .

    • I am discussing the issues at the science-policy interface, and how it has become dysfunctional. Please tell me exactly what policy you think I am advocating for. Using the word “uncertainty” and thinking that counts as being “against” clean green energy doesn’t count as advocating for a policy. I am also discussing a role for climate scientists at the science-policy interface in terms of engaging with decision makers to try to understand what their needs are for scientific information.

      WIth regards to scientists being policy advocates. If they want to advocate for a specific policy, that is their choice. However, when they are attacked, they should not claim that it is their science that is being attacked.

      • Prof Curry,
        As I stated on the other post, advocating against a global policy that assumes CO2 as a control knob, advocating for focus on local/regional solutions that emphasize resource management, water and population is policy advocacy as I understand it.

      • “resource management”= land-use

      • I am giving my judgement as a scientist that global policy that sets emissions targets based on global climate model simulations are not robust. That is what I have said. This does not mean I am in any way opposed to clean green energy.

      • I support all the measures that you have proposed and I support giving them your expert judgement as that is what we (I) expect from scientists with expertise. Likewise, I support the Hansen-types who offer expert judgement and those who sign petitions urging politicians to focus on this issue.

      • My argument is NOT with hansen. He knows what he is doing in terms of advocacy/activism, and he doesn’t sign those silly petitions.

      • Sorry to bounce between threads (my fault), but in this context can you now say that you re-iterate your vision of climate science that you outlined in this post >
        Specifically the following:

        # no petitions signed by members of the IPCC or national academy members
        # Nature and Science not writing op-eds that decry “deniers”
        # no climate scientists writing op-eds that decry the “deniers”
        # no climate scientists talking about “consensus” as an argument against disagreement (argumentum ad populam, h/t Nullius in Verba)
        # IPCC scientists debating skeptics about the science
        # climate scientists stop talking about cap and trade and UNFCCC policies because the science demands that we do this
        # no more professional society statements supporting the IPCC

        Do you still have an issue with scientists signing petitions, talking about cap and trade etc?

      • They can do what they want, but this is ideology/dogma whatever, it isn’t good science and it isn’t good politics and it isn’t good policy.

      • So they should just keep quiet while others sow confusion and/or spread misinformation? In what ways do you think it is actually legitimate for scientists to defend the conclusions they have reached given that a) in their professional judgement their findings have serious implications for teh planet and for mankind and b) the large number of high profile voices proclaiming that the scientists are at best mistaken and at worst liars and crooks engaged in a huge conspiracy? And please don’t resort to saying that b) is purely the fault of the scientists themselves.

      • I second Andrew’s question as being the major issue of (apparent) disagreement here. This is the million dollar question that I would appreciate Judith Curry to address. (apologies of you already did)

      • I have no problem with anyone defending what they believe to be the truth. I take grave issue with defending a position based on known untruths, distortions of the truth or obfuscation of the truth, all of which are blatantly obvious in the Climategate emails and McIntyre’s (and Montford’s summary) ongoing publicly accessible diarization thereof. In my mind, anyone who defends the obviously egotistical rantings of such liars is complicit in fraud, fraud against all real science and humanity. Now, dig out the code, dig out the data, get the apologies ready and let’s move on.

      • Maybe the best thing to do would be for the climate science community as a whole to adopt decent standards of transparency and openness. Then they oculd hold many fewer seminars on how to spin their message, and spend that valuable time on simply telling the truth. The change would be refreshing.

      • Oh, and why shouldn’t publications which are dedicated to the pursuit of scientific knowlege criticise those who who are wilfully trying to undermine it.

      • Because:
        1) They are not rationally criticising their arguments regarding the uncertainty Judith points out clearly, but instead attempting to vilify and demonize them, and
        2) Those critical of the ‘consensus’ are not trying to undermine the pursuit of scientific knowledge, they are demanding that it is done diligently, ethically and transparently, and replicably, in accoordance with the scientific method.

        Too much to ask?

      • Not at all, if that is what they are actually doing. But there are others out there who clearly have their own agenda and are wilfully spreading misinformation. I’m not confusing them with the genuine skeptics, for all I know they are relatively small in number, but they are highly vocal and have a high profile, and in some cases some influence.

      • AnyColourYouLike

        Why don’t you name names Andrew? It’s hard to evaluate your vague assertion of “others out there” otherwise. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but you should be more specific about who you regard as “genuine” sceptics, and those who have “their own agenda.” Otherwise how can the veracity of your statement be evaluated?

      • ACYL,

        Sure – amongst the most egregious culprits are messrs Monckton, Plimer, Inhofe, Morano, Delingpole, Durkin, Booker (I’m writing from a UK perspective so apologies if the last three are not familiar) and large sections of the UK press. I’ve seen some pretty bad examples from the media in other countries as well although I’m not able to say how typical they are.

      • AnyColourYouLike

        Hi Andrew, I’m British. Also a Guardian reader and a BBC fan. However that doesn’t blind me to the fact that for every Delingpole or Booker, there’s a Monbiot, who isn’t a scientist either and is if anything probably more provocative in his advocacy of CAGW than either of those two are on the sceptic case. Let us not forget the Bob Ward’s or the James Randerson’s of this world either.

        Durkin got one, admittedly flawed, documentary on Channel 4 a few years ago. How do you believe that compares to say William Connelley’s severely activist biasing of Wikipedia over the last several years?

        Also “large sections of the UK press” are sceptical?? Come on, that’s news to me Andrew. The Grauniad, Independent, are vociferously pro AGW, the Times is fairly neutral, and the Torygraph is home to both Delingpole and Booker. Also, as you well know, very few sceptic voices are ever heard on the Beeb, ITV or Channel 4. Are you sure we live in the same country?

      • Hi ACYL,

        My point isn’t about the relative space in the media given to pro- and anti-AGW arguments. I do think that the “anti’s” get much more space in the press than is warranted by the strength of their argument, but ultimately newspapers can print what they like and I don’t object as long as they get their facts right. Not do I mind that the prominent “sceptics” are not scientists – I think that good writers have an important role to play in communicating the issues to the public. My beef is that I think that a great deal of the “skeptical” coverage is based on distortions of the science or no science at all. The Express and the Daily Mail are particularly bad in this respect (for example the latter featured three articles in as many weeks by David Rose where his sources claimed they were misrepresented) but the Sunday Times and the Telegraph have both had to withdraw stories in recent months. I just don’t think the coverage in the Guardian and Independent is comparable, even if it is not always perfect. Monbiot for example is certainly not everyones’s cup of tea but I’ve never seen him wilfuly misrpresent the science.
        As for the BBC, it certainly gets plenty of criticism from “warmists” and I think they do go out of their way to appear “balanced” (what actually constitues balance is in itself an interesting question) but overall their coverage of the subject is very poor, not neccessarily because it is too sceptical but because it is superficial and doesn’t trust its audience to be able to handle complex arguments (like a lot of its coverage of serious issues). I suspect that might be someting we can agree on ;)

      • “My beef is that I think that a great deal of the “skeptical” coverage is based on distortions of the science or no science at all. ”

        It won’t come as any surprise that I think the same about the alarmist coverage. ;)

      • Yes, we are still waiting on those publications to condemn calling skeptics ‘deniers’, to deconstruct Hansen’s ‘tipping point bs’, and to demand that all of the e-mails be released and actually reviewed.
        Let me know when this happens, and I will recusbscribe.

      • And with regards to extreme weather type events, I make the point that these are not going to go away by using CO2 as a control knob, and point out that there is currently a substantial adaptation deficit to our current climate in terms of coping with extreme weather type events.

      • The weather & climate robust economy/society. This needs articulating.

      • Asserting that CO2 is a control knob is a massive excursion into policy pushing.
        And is a nice fantasy, to boot.

      • “…is a massive excursion into policy …”

        Where you draw the lines regarding policy is all about values, hunter, at least that is what I hear.

      • Over valuing CO2 until it balloons into a global climate control knob is a pretty big value.
        Obsessing on CO2 comes at a cost of other, more reasonable and more useful policies.
        As it is, the assertion that CO2 is the world’s climate control knob is just the latest bit of marketing from the folks that gave us global warming/climate change/global climate disruption/tipping points/etc. ad nauseum : useless wasteful prayer beads for the faithful.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Fantasy? Do you live in this country? You ‘re paying the EPA to set rules to control carbon emissions as you spew.
        Time to yell at your elected reps.

      • AEG,
        The yelling has begun already. Were you busy huffing something medicinal over the last couple of weeks and missed the news?
        By the way Canada just killed off their idiocratic climate bill.
        so today not only did we get to hear someone intelligent speak in front of Congress, for a change, but we get to see Canada join in killing off the CO2 obsession movement.
        A pretty darn good day.

      • The topic is ‘climate change’ and a pair of professional shooters give expert testimony. What a hoot to hear the Rear Admiral talk of opening up the Northwest passage and have to deal with ‘boundary conditions’.

      • Judith,

        “WIth regards to scientists being policy advocates. If they want to advocate for a specific policy, that is their choice. However, when they are attacked, they should not claim that it is their science that is being attacked.”

        To me, that would depend on what is being attacked. Sure, the scientist in question could try mindreading and conclude that it’s really the advocated policy direction that is being attacked, but why doesn’t the attacker then attack that directly, rather than taking on the science by proxy?

      • Scientists who advocate for policy are not paying sufficient attention to uncertainty and they are attacked for presenting maybe’s as facts. Quite rightly this applies both to their advocacy and their scientific output. Or if it doesn’t apply correctly to their scientific output, why are they, as scientists, advocating for policy formulations which are founded on the assumption the science is settled?

  9. PolyisTCOandbanned

    Judy, your statement here as well as your other posts seem textualistic and gobbledigookish. Lot of long words, but not a clear idea, new insights, and then the support for them. I find myself skimming over your posts.

    Less wordiness and more real ideas would be better. Also, you need to use a logical thought heirarchy and stay on on topic. There is some either wandering or lack of showing the structure.

    I’m not saying you are right or wrong. Just that it’s not clear what you are saying. And it’s not fun to read.

    Seems a little bit vapid and what an aministrator would write to seem important. I’m sure you are capable of meaty, gutty writing. But I also suspect a lot of your time as a chair of a deparment and being on panels and the like has led you into being a bit vague and pompous.

    No offense, but maybe something I am saying will resonate and end up helping you change and improve.

    • “I’m not saying you are right or wrong. Just that it’s not clear what you are saying. And it’s not fun to read.”

      This is pretty much were I’m coming from as well. I rarely know whether I agree or disagree with Dr Curry because I rarely find it clear what exactly was being said. My eye keeps wanting to scan through the text looking for explicit declarations or conclusions but it finds none.

    • polyis
      Pay attention.

      JC writes:
      “When a comprehensive decision analysis includes plausible catastrophes with unknown probabilities, the policy implications can be radically different from those suggested by optimal decision making strategies targeted at the most likely scenario. ”

      This is different from the IPCC method.

      • “This is different from the IPCC method.”

        I don’t think anyone is confused about whether Dr Curry is proposing something different to the IPCC method but I think lots of people are confused about what exactly is being proposed and why it’s better.

        Every time the topic is addressed it seems to change, for example today’s testimony relies on Weitzmann which is being introduced into the discussion for the first time.

        Having read all the posts here as well as the comments I see little evidence that other people have a strong grasp of what’s being argued either even among those who agree.

      • My original plan was to have the three part series on decision making under climate uncertainty finished almost two weeks ago, but external forces got in the way. These ideas will be developed and clarified in the forthcoming posts

      • sharper,
        Since you quoted me,

        I know where and how, this formulation from JC is different from the IPCC approach.

        I would wait for JC’s further input before guessing why ‘other people’ are ‘confused’.

      • “I would wait for JC’s further input before guessing why ‘other people’ are ‘confused’.”

        In instances where people have stated that they’re confused they’ve given their own reasons. It’s the people who claim not to be confused at all that worry me.

      • Heh. All you have to do is read the passage that I quoted and read the relevant passage/s in the IPCC/UNFCC approach,….and compare.

      • Curious, why must someone give a detailed counter to a method that is flawed? I have seen this same argument repeated in the blogosphere dozens of times.

        Why must someone who criticizes something as flawed have detailed and exacting plans to replace something a group of people took years to come up with?

        Why is it not ok to say the current method is flawed and here are a few ideas to kick around that might be better.

      • “Curious, why must someone give a detailed counter to a method that is flawed?”

        That’s how science works. Explanations are replaced with better explanations, not “no explanation”. A particular individual doesn’t necessarily have to produce a coherent alternative to AGW however those claiming to be skeptical have, in general, failed to produce one.

        “Why is it not ok to say the current method is flawed and here are a few ideas to kick around that might be better.”

        Every method is flawed. The issue is whether the flaws are large enough either to produce a different conclusion or favour an alternative explanation.

      • Since when has the answer – we have insufficient data to reach a conclusion – stopped being a valid answer? You can argue we do have enough data but you can’t argue that the argument in and of itself isn’t valid.

      • “Since when has the answer – we have insufficient data to reach a conclusion – stopped being a valid answer?”

        It hasn’t stopped being a valid answer. The problem in this case is that for the “a conclusion” part of your sentence ten different AGW skeptics will give you ten different conclusions they think there is insufficient data for.

        In some cases we don’t have enough data to reach a given conclusion and scientists will generally readily admit to this where appropriate.

        “You can argue we do have enough data but you can’t argue that the argument in and of itself isn’t valid.”

        That again depends on which “the argument” you mean. The argument concerning whether the greenhouse effect is thermodynamically possible is not scientifically valid. The argument that C02 is a “trace gas” and has no effect on climate is not scientifically valid. The argument that human C02 emissions do not build up in the atmosphere is not scientifically valid. The argument that warming trends are a mere artefact of adjustment is not scientifically valid.

        You’ll see all of those and more regularly in climate change discussions. Not all arguments are valid and attempts to dismiss them produces the same “Help! Help! I’m being repressed!” rhetoric we see for pretty much every argument which doesn’t have widespread acceptance.

      • Regardless of the individual arguments, the acceptance that it is possible to argue against one position without having a position of your own makes your argument that one hypothesis must be replaced with a different one invalid.

      • “makes your argument that one hypothesis must be replaced with a different one invalid.”

        No it doesn’t, I pointed out that there are positions which are not widely accepted as solid explanations thus you can argue against them (and many do) without another to replace it.

        In other cases there is a widely accepted explanation, in such cases a coherent alternative is required.

        I don’t accept that an argument which applies in any one instance therefore applies to any and all instances, I pointed out it depends entirely on which argument you’re talking about.

      • Then it isn’t a science opinion, it is a personal opinion. So now you are saying I instead of in science suggesting a totally different reference.

      • Stilgar, warmists don’t understand disconfirmation.

        When I try to view the webcast, I get a 404 error – can anyone help?

    • I would have liked two more days to clarify and simplify the arguments and improve the writing. The time crunch that you have to prepare testimony is very tight, which was exacerbated by my being on travel 4 out of the 6 days that I had to prepare. Some of these themes will be revisited in the forthcoming Parts II and III of the decision making under climate uncertainty, at which point i will have more time to do a better job with the writing.

      • PolyisTCOandbanned

        I feel bad for being mean to you, since you have a good heart, are a nice lady, and have worked your tush off in this field for the last 30 years. And you worked hard to do a good job here.

        Sorry, Poly like to hit. It keeps things snappy. ;)

        That said, I think clear ideas and real communicated concepts (right or wrong) are the step to learning something. Don’t blow me away with big words or lots of paragraphs. Blow me away with the key ideas and with making the (needlessly) complex, simple. Note: this is not a request to omit relevant technical detail. But I just honest, have a hard time groking what your point is.

      • Be careful what you wish for, for some day you will get it.

      • PolyisTCOandbanned

        Well, that would beat the 5 year tease from McI.

    • Judith,

      I regret to say that I agree with Poly, I ended up skimming this, and scrolled to the end in the hope of a more concise conclusion!

      There are so many ill-considered but eloquently expressed calls for action from the AGW enthusiasts, that I wish you had started and ended with one or two clear ideas. I can think of paragraphs I would have loved to have seen, but I would not dream of putting words into your computer!

      The concept of a “Wicked Problem” may be less obvious to politicians, for whom most problems are of this type – e.g. do you increase defense spending, or decrease it – you can’t test the effect of any change – you just have to do it, and you never really know if it worked!

  10. Judith

    I believe you did an excellent job of summarizing the situation. While I also personally believe that the US Congress should be more energetically working a comprehensive energy policy that would also benefit the environment, I now better understand your reluctance to promote such a position. It will be interesting to see how your well reasoned testimony is interrupted in the blogs.

  11. Dr. Curry,
    You have brought some desperately needed fresh air to this.
    Thank you very much.
    And on the one year anniversary of climategate!
    Keep up the excellent work.

  12. Is the Santer/Michaels and Alley dialogue available?

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      I should be available at the hearing web page. Micheals testimony was pretty much as expected. He led off with his recent paper about warming trends and said that the trend was at the low end of the model range, when in reality it was just the trend for the last 10 years, which is inconclusive at best. The debate ran throughout the 2nd panel. It starts about 1.5 hours in, the whole thing lasted close to 4 hours.

      And FWIW, I thought Santer won the debate on the substance. “Punched him in the mouth” figuratively :-).

      • It wasn’t even a fair fight. Micheal’s attempted to undermine the idea that 50% of the post-1950 warming was due to emissions by using 4 examples of possible warming factors and subtracted them from the .7C of observed change. Santer pointed out that he hadn’t even taken into account the cooling effects, namely aerosols that cancelled out his conclusions. Basically Micheals did his job by casting false doubt by using select data, and some isn’t even confidently known produced any warming, and used no error bars. I really hope people realize that’s what’s he’s paid to do, in part.

      • Oh, that part of the money that goes into Michaels’ pocket from coal companies, is the very part that induces skeptical thoughts in his brain and utter them at Congressional hearings?

      • It is a possibility. Other possibilities include that he is very ideological, seeing as he is Fellow at CATO, a highly business-centric and anti-regulatory think tank, and allows this to shield him from possible futures that include government action. Or his skeptical ideas are of pure scientific motivation and these groups give him money to set a stage to where he is more prominent than his publication record would suggest he should be. But the point I was making is that he wouldn’t be getting paid an extra %40 if he wasn’t saying such things.

      • if you stick to the math problems you will do better. Pointing out where he gets his money doesnt make him right or wrong. i happen to think he is mistaken. Much better just to get right on the numbers and not speculate about the rest. The math results are independent of his motivation. His motivation can only explain why he would persist in an error after it was pointed out.

  13. cagw_skeptic99

    I really enjoyed reading this presentation and hope that there can be rational discussions based on it. Continuing to flog the idea that essentially all the coal fired power plants in the world must be shut down to ‘save the planet’ was never anything but idealistic nonsense. Discussions about rational methods for adaptation, open data sets and methodologies, and honest disclosure of scientific uncertainties are ways to actually make a difference.

    Years of idealistic propaganda and managed data have produced essentially nothing other than increased cost of energy and food due to resource diversion into areas that are almost completely waste. Alcohol from food, cap and trade, windmills, and subsidized solar panels contribute essentially nothing and come at high human, environmental, and monetary cost.

    • AnthropoceneEndGame

      Yes, of course, the increase in energy costs (and the anticipated increases with peak oil) has nothing to do with what who actually controls the energy. OPEC is a free, unregulated market, right?
      And any mention of controlling emissions from coal plants, well that would carve into profits and cost the energy consumer, wouldn’t it?
      Full steam ahead for fossil fuels.

      • cagw_skeptic99

        The increases in costs imposed by cap and trade, and CO2 sequestration, are in addition to whatever the energy supplier manages to extract from their customers. I fail to see how they are logically related except that the consumer pays the sum of the both.

        Controlling emissions of sulfur, mercury, nitrogen oxides, and soot from power plants is a good idea and normally well worth the cost. You seem to think that controlling these or CO2 might cut into the profits of the suppliers, and that isn’t something that makes sense to me. Their fees for complying with these mandates will almost certainly include profit in addition to what they were already paying, and the idea that these taxes and regulations are not paid for by the consumer is one I just can’t follow.

      • Right. OPEC has been SOOOO effective!

    • I suggest you have missed the key points that Ms Curry is making on several levels. She is not suggesting that Coal plants are good, or that efforts should not be mades to promote more “clean energy”. She is stating that the situation is complex and that multiple improvements and better planning is needed. No, it is not essential to shut down all coal fired plants, but it would be better to build other types of facilities in the future.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        I was responding to cagw.
        You don’t get it and it’s not that ‘complex’. Those other types of facilities you mentioned? They’re not being built. POLICY IS ALREADY BEING IMPLEMENTED. Read that again for clarity. Retrofitting existing coal plants is feasible, but not being done. 150 coal plants are going to built in the USA over the next few years without carbon emissions controls. I call them ‘soviet style’ coal plants. You can debate uncertainty in AGW all you want, but the ‘future’ is already here. Combine that with skyrocketting oil and gas prices in the next few decades. The energy future, at least in this country, has already been decided. It’s as primitive as it can get.

      • cagw_skeptic99

        Carbon emission controls for a coal fired power plant mean carbon sequestration. There aren’t any filters or scrubbers that remove CO2 gas or change it into something else, as can be done with real actual pollutants like mercury, sulfur, etc. Carbon sequestration has never been actually accomplished for any operational power plant and, I believe, nearly all attempts have been abandoned because they cost too much or have proven to be impractical or dangerous.

        Soviet era nuclear plants led to massive contamination of the surrounding earth. Even a best of class coal fired power plant isn’t perfect, but the chemical reaction that occurs when the coal is burned produces CO2, from the carbon that is part of coal, and no one anywhere has a practical solution. Perhaps Dr. Curry hasn’t said so, but unless you can realistically replace the coal fired plants that produce more than half of the entire world’s electricity with something else that actually works, finding ways to adapt make a lot more sense than railing for solutions that simply do not exist.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Nope, you’re wrong. Leave it to the Germans:
        See’ First Siemens CO2 Capture Project For Coal Fired Plants in the US’.
        The truth is we could be denying primitive new coal plants unless they incoporate BMPs for CO2. We could be retrofitting the old junk.
        Let me say it again: the future is already being decided by the energy cartels. You can jump and shout and insist that CO2 is nothing more than plant food. But rational risk assessment would say you’ve erred, and terribly, since there are no options. POWER decides, not science.

      • cagw_skeptic99

        So more of your tax money and mine is being spent on yet another planned plant. Someday we will probably read that this project is over budget and experiencing technical difficulties. In any case, when the subsidy ends so will the CO2 sequestration. Amino acid salts will come from where and go where for all the power plants you want to retrofit? Most of the people lobbying for this kind of nonsense seem to be unable to perform simple arithmetic calculations. Who do you think will provide the money to retrofit the old plants, and fit the new plants, that provide more than half of the earth’s electrical generating capacity? The Chinese, Indian, and others are building coal fired plants as fast as they can, and the growth in CO2 emissions from those new plants will dwarf all the efforts of Europe and the US for the foreseeable future.

        If there is a problem to solve, and that remains to be proven, it will be solved by adaptation for at least the next few decades. Wishing it wasn’t so won’t change anything at all.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        “Who do you think will provide the money to retrofit the old plants and fit the new plants?”
        You’re right, we should watch the third quarter for coal company returns before we even consider burdening them with any regulations. Or maybe we could just nationalize the US coal industry and get over these tedious Qs. How about it?

      • Maybe we should just keep burning coal with freely flowing CO2 until we get more nuclear plants on-line. Your Hail Mary fixes won’t make any difference anyway.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        That’s right. There is no solution. We just burn. Why bother? Why bother with nuke plants? Let’s just burn coal and see what happens in a hundred years. Hell, you’ll be dead. Why not? Let’s view the future as one giant, global science experiment.
        Hail Mary.

      • If you want to make a dent in coal use, travel to China and try out your spew over there. You’ll be lucky if the only thing that happens to you is prison.

      • The entire Universe is one giant physics experiment. That is the nature of life – it is a big experiment – and you can’t do anything to change it.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Why do you show up here? You should be on the lecture circuit.

      • Who stopped the retrofit?
        Obama and his greens.
        Once the misanthropes stop blocking the nuke power we will do just fine.

      • There is no reason to change anything about coal in the US except to build more plants. India and China won’t stop using coal, so it is ridiculous, not to mention pointless, to curtail fossil fuel use in the US. We need to do more development of nuclear including small nuclear reactors, and this with the sole goal of energy independence. You seem to be detached from reality.

  14. Your presentation was calm, thoughtful, clear, concise and precise. Very well done indeed. (The chemist in me struggles not to mention the ocean acidification hooey, but this isn’t the time or place, so I won’t).

    • AnthropoceneEndGame

      No Nick, go ahead and tell us about the ‘ocean acidification hooey’. Have you published? Maybe you can point to some lit on the subject

      • More seriously than AEG, I was quite struck by the experts’ comments on acidification. If anyone knowledgeable would like to address the issue one way or another, I would be interested to read their remarks.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Start online with the Ocean Acidification Network. I would not expect the shmoes here to supply you with citations. You get junk like ‘it’s hooey’ from trained chemists w/ opinions.

      • What is the current pH of the oceans now?

      • AEG – How many species will a lower pH help?

      • AnyColourYouLike

        Rob B

        I just made a similar comment on part V thread.

  15. PolyisTCOandbanned

    1. who’s the Panel 1 Heidi hottie? What’s her background?

    2. I really don’t get the latching onto “record highs” or “lows”. It would seem that the change in the AVERAGE is more important to the system AND more observable (more days!) than the change in “records”. For that matter, Co2 warming is supposed to have more impact raising winter temp, than raising summer. supposed to have more impact raising temps in the cold areas than in the hot ones. The whole latching onto “records” is just dumb and PR type fascination. Stupid human tricks. :(

    • PolycysTICOandbanned,
      Thank you for your well reasoned and insighteful comment. We are blissed.

    • Who is the hottie?

      She is a propagandist.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        What makes her a propagandist? Why are you not a propagandist?

      • And of course you and the other AGW cultists are all goodness and light.

      • Anthropo,

        You have filled up this entire thread with your repetitive mindless junk. You have responded to every post offering anything constructive.

        Your trolling distracts from the main flow of the thread and comments. Trolling is fine, as long as you can occasionally present your thoughts directly and accept critiques. You do trolling alone and distract others.

        Cool down a bit.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Your opinions are worthless. Why not just answer the Q. You take pot shots “she’s a propagandist” and then tell me to cool it. Where do you get off? Are you the tone manager here? Give it a break, you set no example.

      • Anthropo,
        Read a bit carefully man. All I am saying is – dont spam and vitiate the atmosphere. Am I the only one saying this to you?

        Will you try pulling the same trick on Realclimate? Some self-policing is essential here.

        If you want an answer for why the “hottie is a propagandist” – you could have asked – simply. Instead you call names at every turn.

        You want to engage in any discussion , or score brownie points that “I asked lots of questions at Curry’s place, but no answer. Heh”? It is up to you.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Pay attention:
        My Q to you was ‘why is she a propagandist?’. That’s was YOUR ad hom. YOU called her a name. Point out where I’ve called any one names. I did say someone lied and provided evidence. Let’s engage, or police yourself before you point fingers and play tone cop.

      • I called her a name. Why did you spring to her defense, by calling me names?

        Even that would have been fine, if you had backed up your name-calling.

        Calling people names is not ‘ad-hom’.

        If I’d said I saw no need to believe in her scientific assertions, because she is a propagandist – that would have been ‘ad-hom’.

        I could put some of these words in caps as well.

        You can have the last word. I think my point has been made.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Okay, he’s my last word: you’re a hypocrite.
        Why is she a propagandist?

  16. Rattus Norvegicus

    I thought that Mr. Geer’s testimony on the impacts being seen right now in the Northern Rockies was very clear and accurate. He certainly has a good handle on the impacts of climate change on conservation biology and explained the issues quite well.

    • Interesting. To me it seemed to lack qualitative and quantitative metrics. My first thought is always how do you know that and how are you sure that you are not fooling yourself with your causation/correlation ?

      This is probably just the difference in thought modes between someone with a Physics back ground and someone with a Biology background is my guess.

      • Rattus Norvegicus

        That would be a good guess, since before I went into comp sci, I studied ecology (I made the switch because the ecology program required some computer programming, I took a course, found I was good at it, and realized I could make enough money as a software engineer to pay my student loans…).

        But yeah, if you can’t take climate science, you’ll hate ecology.

  17. An excellent submission, it will be interesting to see the various responses.
    Or will it be ignored?

    • Its the fag-end of the session Barry. Wait until the new House sits in January to find out the answer.

    • AnthropoceneEndGame

      It’ll all be ignored. I watched Spencer on C-Span. Where did that go?
      I told him under his book review at Amazon (where he took the liberty to review is own book Climate Confusion) that he was making public proclamations on C-span that were based on unpublished findings. He just deleted his review along with all of the other negative comments. It ALL goes no where.

      • Oh well, it was HIS testimony, not yours. Sounds like you see yourself as the end-all and be-all. You seem to have some sort of God complex.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        In fact I have Jesus on the mainline right now . Tell him what you want, Jim. Or, just call him up, and tell him want you want.

      • AEG, you really should stop blogging after the second bottle/smoke/hit/tab. Or are you playing Ry Cooder’s Paradise and Lunch?

      • AnthropoceneEndGame


  18. Marc Hendrickx

    Dr Curry,
    You mentioned AR4 WGII Table 10.2 in your house testimony, be careful with this table it’s full of errors, among them the claim that temperature in a part of Sri Lanka rose at 2 degrees per year between 1961 and 1990.

    IPCC still have not corrected these despite being informed in August.

    See http://abcnewswatch.blogspot.com/2010/11/ipcc-errors-remain-un-corrected.html

  19. Great Job Judith, especially liked the important concept of a consistant peleo-climatactic data set. thanks for pointing out discrepencies in south Asia rainfall projections and for focusing often on uncertainity in science.
    Your efforts and energy are inspiring, thanks

  20. Judith,

    You seem to be on an intellectual par with the questioners. They appeared to be examining this issue with definite pre-conceived convictions.

    Your intellect is no replacement for wisdom. No wisdom was demonstrated.

    There were no calls for evidence of this “wicked” problem.

    That’s the elephant in the room. You are all protecting the appalling waste of billions of dollars on a plan to de-industrialize first world economies.

  21. My main issue with the recommendation of a shift in focus away from coordinated global action to local + regional progress is that this is likely to be confounded by the free market. Capitalism cannot account for costs that have no obvious financial impact (for example, long-term environmental debt).

    The whole point of a global solution is to encourage the existing capitalist framework to continue to grow and flourish, while also being coerced into accounting for intangible costs that will likely result in negative impacts not adequately factored into existing financial systems. Even the risk of said impacts is not factored into existing costs.

    Local approaches that attempt to account for these costs out of principle will be hampered by external competition that does not. For example, currently the UK government is proud of its progress towards cutting emissions, but much of this has been achieved by shifting the manufacturing base to other countries where production is cheaper thanks to lower standard of living and lower regulation. Without fair global incentive to do otherwise, the pea can always be moved to a different shell.

    • cagw_skeptic99

      My understanding of the shift in focus is not the same as yours. No country is likely to cripple its economy by shifting away from fossil fuel to power its transportation and industrial capacity. Believing that this would happen and acting upon that belief has cost many European countries a lot of money and done actual harm to Spain among others.

      Suggesting that regions look at their coast lines and engage in long term planning to get critical infrastructure on higher ground is adaptation on a regional or local basis that might actually provide benefit. Places that experience damage from tides and wind driven sea water now need to be monitoring sea levels and adapting; and that is true whether the increase is six inches in fifty years or a larger or smaller number. Suggesting that places where droughts and floods are already happening engage in mitigation seems like obvious common sense, and needs to be done whether the climate changes or not.

      Continuing to attempt to reach zero carbon emissions, as many of the CAGW activists advocate, is just engaging in an unrealistic and possibly damaging waste of time and money. Unless someone figures out how to make a cheaper alternative available at the massive scale required by the global population, adapting to coal fired electricity is the only realistic choice. Nuclear energy can work for some countries, but is a really long term matter. Peak oil gets mentioned from time to time, but really not much oil is used to make electricity; methods are: coal, nuclear, hydro, natural gas, and the rest are basically noise.

      • > Unless someone figures out how to make a cheaper alternative

        But this is precisely the point. Account for environmental costs and pretty much everything out there is a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels – its just that fossil fuels do not account for their long-term negative impact in terms that can be understood by the free market.

        Also, cost-effective alternatives do not appear by magic – they require funding to develop, and funding requires necessity or principle – and even when they do appear there is cost associated with switching an entrenched infrastructure. There are no real incentives to change (indeed, there are big disincentives), so without external stimulus there is a huge amount of inertia in preserving current systems.

        Why switch from oil to an equivalently priced alternative if there is a cost in making the switch? Why fund alternatives if oil is cheap?

        > Peak oil gets mentioned from time to time, but really not much oil is used to make electricity

        Virtually all transportation is oil-based. Given that we have alternatives to fossil fuels for everything apart from aviation, it amazes me that there is not a concerted effort to shift all other transportation away from oil in those sectors in an effort to preserve what we *do* have for air travel (let alone plastics).

      • and funding requires necessity or principle – and even when they do appear there is cost associated with switching an entrenched infrastructure.

        It seems to me that the case as far as the politicians are concerned is mostly about energy security. Actually I’ve thought this all along. There’s no way a few bearded tree-huggers working in an academic backwater could have gained so much traction without this kind of impulse. But as Lindzen pointed out during the discussion, there is a certain lack of integrity inherent in simply saying that the ends justify the means, especially if the means involve destroying public trust in the integrity of scientists.

        In my view if government is so concerned about energy security, it should just come out and say it. We certainly wouldn’t argue against a principled stand as far as that is concerned. Sanctioning billions in research and development grants for alternative energy sources is also reasonable under these circumstances.

        I predict that Global Warming as a reason for these things will drop out of public consciousness over the next 10 years and politicians will make the case directly for diversification of energy sources based on the security issue alone.

      • Its a sad reflection on the arrogance and dubious probity of politicians, and their tame media orchestra, to assume that they must deceive, spin and propagandise- that the public can not be trusted by telling it how it is.

    • cagw_skeptic99

      The free market understands costs quite well. Only those who believe that CO2 will someday have massive costs believe as you do, and there are not enough believers like you to impose those costs on the rest of the world. You might find enough believers in Norway or Germany, or maybe someday in the US, but none of that will matter because the Chinese don’t believe and neither do most of the rest of the developing world. And their growth will offset anything your side could conceivably do.

      Investing in research is a good idea, but there are already tremendous incentives that you don’t seem to see. Anyone who can move vehicles for less money than $100+ plus oil barrel prices will make lots of money, but my guess is that the solution will have nothing to do with government funding nor government directed research on CO2 problems.

  22. “To what extent can we falsify scenarios of very high climate sensitivity based on our background knowledge?”

    This is the interesting question.

    Initial conditions and size and rate of external influences in chaotic systems determine size, rate and patterns of change.

    Considering climate sensitivity (or the way the earth heats to an external forcing) to be dependent on conditions as it must be, means it is likely to vary widely (seen 1.1C to 12C reported) and have different phase states each with a range of variation, and shifts between phase states (tipping points) could potentially be times of very high or low sensitivity (due to a hystersis like effect such as the difference in rate of melting and forming of ice sheets would produce). All of which means that statistical trawling for an average range of CS is really a misconception of the system and is at best only going to represent the true sensitivity for 50% of the time and mask the potential for high CS probabilities.

    It is also important to keep in mind that a choatic system will tend to react more vigourously to a greater and faster applied external influence implying that the faster a change in an external influence occurs the greater and faster effects it will induce (the rate of CO2 input today is 8x higher than occured in the PETM in direct PgCy-1 comparision and 290x in terms of % of CO2 doubling per year).

    Also the pliocene was 3-5C hotter with a CO2 of 325-400ppm, or 25-42% of a doubling compared to pre-industrial, this is sobering especially as the pliocene lasted for millions of years and thus all natural variations due to sun, clouds, etc would have been played out, and thus suggests a CS higher than expected.

    So when would a high CS be likely?

    When the planet has a white ocean turning black (all the sun in arctic is in the summer therefore ice in the winter is somewhat irrelevant to this)??

    So an important question and means high CS consideration and adaptation planning are essential and high definition local possibility scenarios critical.

    The implications of having to lower atmospheric CO2 to mitigate the size and rate of change are deep as it means a paradigm shift in thinking, ecomonics, politics, power production and availability and social structure. And that isn’t mentioning the others stressors to human existence humans have induced, like inappropriate water use (lawns in Las Vegas), biodiversity losses, land use change, toxins, pesticides, waste, pollutions, fertilisers, monocultures, deforestation, alien invasives, and gross over exploitation of resources.

    If you can influence policy makers due think deeply and holistically about all these considerations, as at present the earth eco-systems are highly stressed and climate change is only likely to worsen the situation as it will induce drought and deluge, extreme events, habitat changes (moisutre and temperature (image the effects of the jetstream moving siginificantly northwards on Western Europe rainfall patterns!)), invasive species and increased pests. Overtime the eco-systems will redevelop adapted to the new system but in the mean time of change there ability to furnish human demands likley be greatly inhibited and do keep in mind that renewables aren’t exactly environmentally friendly either, wind farms kill birds, bats, have need large swaves of land, massive amounts of materials and even warm up the atmosphere and alter local weather patterns.

    Between a rock and a hard place it seems, but thats life!

  23. I couldn’t help noticing you concentrated on the mistakes of the IPCC and allied groups. In one way this makes sense – receiving misinformation that seems deliberate from scientists seems outrageous, while we are used to hearing it from politicians and corporate advertisers.

    And yet, the misinformation in the Minority Report of the senate may have more impact in thecoming years than that of the IPCC. There are a great many people who pretend that the whole idea of anthropic global warming has been proved fraudulant, that it’s somehow arrogant to believe humans could effect the climate despite what the math (not IPCC math, the math of the skeptical scientists who think warming will be much less that the IPCC implies) says.

    I gather the people who think you are ‘supposed’ to be on their side have been less pleasant to you than the ‘skeptics’ in recent times, but there is already a blog where problems with the IPCC report are discussed frankly – but problems with the Minority Report are considered off topic and discussion is cut off. I hope you’ll discuss both sides here – and in public.

    • I think this is misguided. Perhaps you are looking at this from a US-centric viewpoint. Governments all around the world take note of what the IPCC says (in fact they are involved in the IPCC process, for example commenting on drafts). They make policy decisions that are based on what the IPCC says. They repeatedly quote the IPCC’s misleading and unsupported claims in their speeches. They do not take any notice of the Senate Minority Report – how many examples can you find of non-US leaders quoting the Minority Report? Furthermore, the Minority Report is not a proper report at all, just a cobbled together list of unrelated paragraphs by skeptics. You greatly overestimate its importance.

      • Well, that has a grain of truth – I am in fact American. Note, however, that Judith Curry was testifying to the American congress – and the recent twists in American politics have brought power to those who quote the Minority Report (and the sources therin) and reject the IPCC report.

        Given both our size and our per capita carbon consumption, I think most of the governments you refer to would agree American participation is highly desirable for any successful climate accord.

        Even in parliments where the Minority report itself is not mentioned, I think many of the same sources are.

  24. PolyisTCOandbanned

    I watched Michaels. He gives me a bad vibe. First, he’s not really doing much heavy lifting as a working scientist (number of papers, amount of insights). Second, he’s working for a DC think tank, not a university. Third, he seems like he only looks for things to help his “case”, not things on either side. (Lindzen is a bit more of a truth seeker, even if mistaken). Fourth, he’s old.

    • PolyisTCOandbanned

      The thing with leaving out aerosols was telling. I would not trust the guy if he were reporting on a business or military or intelligence or structural engineering etblacetera estimate and only reported some unknowns that go in one direction and ignored the others.

  25. PolyisTCOandbanned

    I’m watching Rohrabacher, now. What a dork. I feel bad for him. He’s trying to understand. He’s got some little factoids. He sorta did some work. Heck he seems like a nice guy. Plus I am a Rethuglican. But Rohrbacher is just not sophisticated. And trotting out stuff that he read from Rush Limbaugh’s referred Warwick Hughes (or WTFIUWT) is just not getting it done.

  26. How could Curry watch that and think Michaels came out on top?

    I just want to know. I’ll listen, but right now I’m like the fan who thinks Calvin Johnson caught the pass for TD.

    • PolyisTCOandbanned

      It was not a TD. He has to show more control. There’s a long history on this of people trying to cover up poor catches by spiking the ball when they did not have control. The idiot WR did not know the rule. It was not a TD.

      that said, Santer schooled Michael’s. I will allow him one free dark alley hit. ;)

      • I have a lot more respect for Santer after seeing that he probably could hold his own in a good alley fight.

  27. Soooo what if the earth is cooling which seems to be the unadjusted trend.

    • cagw_skeptic99

      Haven’t you read the new propaganda that claims that colder winters in the NH are an expected effect of CAGW? It seeems that the ice that melts in the summer, and the possibly open water that occurs in the summer but disappears in the winter, will now be the explanation for a series of colder winters.

      See when we have a few hot days on the East Coast or in Moscow, it is a demonstration that CAGW is happening. When a cold front from Antarctica blows all the way to the equator and causes much death and suffering in the SH, it is just weather.

      Colder weather is obviously expected from a warming earth. And we are likely to get twenty years of colder weather if the PDO and the Atlantic currents move colder together. Ten or twenty years of abnormally cold weather will be described as an anomaly by the true believers.

  28. PolyisTCOandbanned

    Watching last panel now:

    1. Judy comes over better when hearing her remarks. I take back a little hitting. That said, I still think if she would be more direct (less wordy), emphasizing key ideas and decisions rather than using admin-speak, we would be better off. for instance, if we need to change the funding model so is less of a NSF dolling out grants to professors and more central, government directed record keeping (e.g. Brit Met taking over for the East anglia with crappy record keeping). For instance, saying we need to fund more small scale and less coupled models. Or whatever. But make it more clearly action/decision oriented.

    2. I’ve been readint the Proceedings articles on opening Arcitc for a while. the USN pretty much takes it as given that the Arctic is going to open. The skpetics from WTFIUWT who think it is just variation are deluding themselves. and also, the CO2 prevention efforts will fail (not get political head). USN pretty much just takes it as a given that the Arctic will open (it’s really happening already). Issues of sea-lanes, resource fights for seafloor and Canadian ice sheilded islands, increases neccessity for icebreakers and search and rescue. More sensors needed in theater. The Russkis…the Russkis. It’s all something that they see coming and influences primarily ship buys and ship development (where you really have a 40+ year outlook).

    • A man in a uniform enters the room and he forgets all about the hottie.

    • For someone complaining about Judith Curry’s lack of clarity you sure have a confusing stream of consciousness. Perhaps you should try instituting an editing process between your random thoughts and what your fingers type. :-)

      • PolyisTCOandbanned

        I was trying to demonstrate how lazy and sloppy being an Internet commenter can be. I can bring it AND show it, when forced to by an editorial process. But it is not habitual. In this, I’m probably similar to most people. this just points out the benefit to readers of an editorial process and writing real papers.

    • You being a person with military experience, what are the odds the lefty geeks have bamboozled the Admiral on the recent rate of sea level rise rate being 3.5 mm per year? He’s been in a boat, right?

      • PolyisTCOandbanned

        I thought I conveyed my insight already. But to clarify. I don’t think the USN has any magic insight*. I just take their attitude as another factor, leaning me a bit to the AGW consensus side. To clarify. I don’t think they are geniuses for wearking a uniform (or the opposite). And yes, they could be impacted by groupthink or a prevailing view that they just accept, which might be flawed. But overall, they have some technical ability AND some independence. So again, I don’t see them as some expert oracle. But they are a small thing that makes me take AGW a little more seriously. And again, the attitude in the USN Proceedings has been pretty far from the “does man make AGW” or even from the “should we cap and trade and stop it” debate. I honestly think there attitude is just that it will happen pretty much in line with the models. That the skeptics will NOT be right. Nor will the Gore-lovers put in place a big CO2 reduction. So, they basically just see the Arctic opening up and are pretty mich anticipating needing to think about and buy ships and do movements based on that being a more open theater than in the past. And really, some of that is already happening. Commercial shipments in select areas (some part of Russia) and in select times of the year are just beginning to start.

        P.s. This is a very “Bayesian” (i.e. hunchy) type of inference from me. I want to be clear that I’m NOT talking from some special expertise. Just saying what a few articles in USNI made me think. And I actually don’t feel BAD sharing my lack of special knowledge and level of hunchiness. If anything, I think it is important to be clear on that, so that others don’t overweigh a thought I share.

        P.s.s. I’m not saying I was ever in. I might just watch a lot of movies and read Tom Clancey and use those words and stuff. ;)

        *there are probably some observations they hold that are not shared, like sub mission reports in the Arctic, espeically navigation. But even if they show that the “dance” of winding through ice corridors in the Bering sea has gotten easier (and I have no knowledge thois to be the case), I doubt that would be dispositive. I would expect that any secret info they have fits the general consensus and the region where they would see most change would of course be the Arctic. Sealevel changes to date would be so small in comparison to tides and weather that tehy have no operational impact (at this time).

      • PolyisTCOandbanned

        Just to clarify my comment. When I see stuff coming out from McKinsey talking about global warming responses or the like, I very much dismiss that. McK has a big brand name, but really their analysis on macro stuff is pretty thin (micro and specific problem is better). And for sure, they don’t really have the capcity to re-examine scientific stuff. they just kind of go with a big issue and probably take as given the prevailing technoliberal views. So you can’t count their articles as new expertise for the idea of AGW happening or not. If anything they scare me a bit as they seem to be wrong so often (Enron, dotcoms, financial mess securitization, etc.). But that said, I really wouldn’t take their articles as meaning much.

        USN views is a different thing. Again, they are not some super experts. and Judy is right this is a wicked problem. But they do have some technical expertise and in some ways are a little outside the whole IPCC-dominated science grant group. So I think their thoughts are additive.

  29. PolyisTCOandbanned

    Listening to the Q&A now. Was getting a chubbie for the National Climate Service discussion. Seemed like several of the panel had very good remarks and there was some real energy there. I could hear the pain from the Admiral wrt getting needed simulations and Judy was VERY helpful here, having real nitty gritty experience in the “torture” of getting good tabulated observational data.

    Sorry about the stream of consiousness but that is how I roll…

  30. In any event, anthropogenic climate change on timescales of decades is arguably less important in driving vulnerability in most regions than increasing population, land use practices, and ecosystem degradation.


    Congratulations Prof.Curry

  31. PolyisTCOandbanned

    (chubby becoming woody, intellectually of course)

    1. Liked the North China comment.

    2. Don’t care for the alternate energy blabla. Everyone is getting on that horse as if they think we have someone who can invent a solar cell and solve all our problems. I’ve seen these cycles in alternate energy funding and it’s not a no brainer of finding some good economical better energy.

    3. The blogosphere discussion was interesting. I basically agree with the Chair on his observation of the poor tone AND quality of blogosphere (and I think this extends even to the “technical” blogosphere. For sure, McIntyre has been a 5 year tease and a series of hoi polloi yuckyucks gladhanding each other in the comment sections. That said, it’s not going away. Not sure that the Curry engagement is exactly the right way to engage. But it’s something. Think if Judy had shared some more particular and specific experience, that would have added to the discussion. I really dug the Graham-cunning English guy with his little catch on the formula error for the uncertainty bounds for CRUtemp, for instance.

    4. I zoned out on the whiteout story. Got that point he had in the end, but he blathered long…

    5. Were those staffers sitting in the chairs next to the Chair at the end?

    • “McIntyre has been a 5 year tease and a series of hoi polloi yuckyucks gladhanding each other in the comment sections.”

      Looks like ‘good on the micro, but bad as a macro-analysis.

  32. I am not sure why anybody is discussing “Peak Oil” as a problem since Compressed Natural Gas is so abundant, portable, and cheap. 4 years ago I was riding around Sydney AU in Ford taxis all run on CNG. About 3 decades ago Parnelli Jones won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a gas turbine engine now banned because it was so much faster than piston engines. Also 3 decades ago a gas turbine truck hauled goods from East to West coast. Compressed Natural Gas is the next transportation fuel. Germany during WW II developed synthetic oil. 60 years later, synthetic oils can be used for crank case and transmission. Synthetic oils with additives can be made that will last 100’s of thousand miles as well as being recyclable. Additives to oil for transportation are developed right here in USA: buy Lubrizol stock. Jet fuel grade kerosene can be processed from Canadian Oil Sands with current technology. Expensive? yes. Now water, that is a significant issue particularly for crops and livestock. Considerable research will be needed to see how we can husband our available water and try not to ship it from hither and yon. To feed the hungry, you need seeds that are adapted to many different climates. Enter Genetically Modified seeds; more, not less . Maybe take the ear wax from a hog, modify it, incorporate it into the plant’s genome and make a plant grow faster, more seeds, needing less water, and resistant to local pests. Just guessing of course. Crazier things have been tried and succeeded before. So for Peak Oil, not a problem since the technology for CNG and synthetic oils already exists. Adapting to our future? Just don’t set artifical barriers, such barriers only exist in people’s minds.

  33. Bruce of Newcastle

    Dr Curry – congratulations for a very clear submission. Thank you for putting into words that which I as a foot-in-mouth scientist could not have done.

    A “wicked problem” indeed. I would add that even as a science and policy problem it would be a “wicked problem”. However, as you did not include, it now has significant religious and ideological components which make it definitely “wickeder”.

    If I may I will take you to task on a minor point on the precautionary principle. In the climate space very little thought is ascribed to the precautionary principle of acting and much emphasis is on the p.p. of not acting. In industry we must consider both – missed opportunity vs disaster. You may be fired for either, though human nature ascribed higher ‘weight’ to disasters over lost opportunity. In this case the cost in lives of ‘acting’ on climate looks to me to be much higher than that of not acting, since by raising the cost of energy the impact on the people who are vulnerable can be large. Examples being the impact of rise in food prices due to biofuel subsidies, and the death from cold of poor people who cannot afford more expensive energy. Examples of these are a matter of record, whereas the fatality cost due to global warming is arguably zero to date.

    I do not know what the right answer is in terms of policy mix. However I strongly welcome the attempt to insert the fundamental principles of science (back) into the equation. It may well be that a few years we will see the whole thing disappear from the political space if, as I think, the anaemic solar cycle 24 imposes some unexpected cooling onto the temperature record.

    • Bruce of Newcastle

      Apologies for the boldface problem. If you can edit (or delete) my post before it affects subsequent posts it would be appreciated.

    • Well said. But do we really have a problem? Modest historical warmings have proved to be beneficial. Have we been so bombarded and cajoled into assuming that a severe problem is coming, that it has obliterated rational thought? If warmings are no longer to be regarded as ‘optimums’, it supposedly implies that coolings are to be welcomed. Very strange indeed.

  34. If by “the rest?” you mean where can we read the other statements then I’d like to second that. Are the transcripts up on a website?

    Congratations Judith, but i’m not sure what you are doing involved in this debate, you’re far too reasonable.

  35. Willis Eschenbach

    A most interesting presentation, Judith. Congratulations.

  36. I was very impressed by your statement, Judith. A cut above the others, and proposing a way forward rather than going over old ground. Congratulations, and thank you.

  37. Well my fave was definately Dr. Alley. that guy is a HOOT! When he was using his noggin as an explanation of the variable wobbles of the earth, I almost had an heart attack I was laughing so hard!

    Man if I was 30 years younger I would definately try to get into one of his courses!

  38. Congressman Bartlett asked why common ground has not been found between those concerned about co2, energy independence and “peak oil”. I offer the following explanation.


    Warmers want energy that does not emit CO2 because they look at the climate data and conclude that CAGW is a credible threat that needs to be addressed. Their energy sources of choice are typically wind and solar.

    Skeptics look at the same climate data and conclude the evidence for CAGW is just too weak to justify accepting the current high cost and unreliability of wind/solar. They look at Europe and notice that nuclear has given France the smallest carbon footprint and wind/solar has not been effective in any European country in keeping energy both low cost and low carbon.

    What about nuclear? Some warmers support it (e.g. Dr. James Hansen) but others do not because of toxic waste streams, lingering concerns about safety, cost, and the potential for proliferation.

    What if we could have nuclear power that was far “greener” than current technology, cost considerably less, was even safer and more proliferation resistant? What if this “greener” nuclear technology had already been proven in working prototypes?

    Welcome to LFTR (liquid fluoride thorium reactors) technology. Demonstrated in the 60′s, the thorium/uranium fuel cycle molten salt reactor (LFTR) approach was abandoned to concentrate efforts on the uranium/plutonium fuel cycle pressurized water reactor (PWR) during the cold war bomb making era, an era when lots of plutonium was considered a good thing, not something to be worried about.

    LFTR (compared to current PWR): A waste steam 10,000 times less toxic (some variations of LFTR can actually burn PWR waste). Cost <50%, thus competitive with coal. Even safer (no fuel rods to melt, no high pressure radioactive water to escape, passive criticality control ….). More proliferation resistant.

    What about the politics? Replacing coal with LFTRs is far easier politically than imposing cap n trade or carbon taxes. $10B invested over 10 years could update this technology and make it ready for commercialization. LFTR is attractive to both Democrats/warmers and Republicans/skeptics. It is very green, cost competitive and can be put into production for a realively modest sum.

    American Scientist “Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors”


    “Energy Cheaper Than From Coal”


    Mechanical Engineering Magazine “Too Good to Leave on the Shelf”


    Dr James Hansen LFTR endorsement


    LFTR nuts to bolts.


    • They look at Europe and notice that nuclear has given France the smallest carbon footprint and wind/solar has not been effective in any European country in keeping energy both low cost and low carbon.

      You aren’t from Ontario are you?

      Here is the thing with nuclear reactors … Radiation damage. They have an annoying habit of prematurely aging and falling to bits because the destructive effects of the radiation on the construction material.

      Welcome to LFTR (liquid fluoride thorium reactors) technology. …

      Hello re-build and bankruptcy.

      The French and Chinese could find themselves with a lot of expensive big carbon footprint white elephants. (“Big carbon” because it takes a lot of concrete and energy to build and deconstruct one of those things)

      Dr. James Hansen of NASA supports it does he? I’m sure he is very familiar with harsh wear and tear of a high radiation environment. NASA tentatively plans to de-orbit the International Space Station In 2016

      I truly wish that nuclear power generation is viable. It’s not so easy because of the unavoidable corrosive environment.

    • Charles Hart,
      You forget the social underpinnings of AGW.
      For the AGW community, this is about punishing the wickedness of the big CO2 emitters, the need to pastoralize the future with nice friendly energy and the evil nature of those who dare doubt AGW dogma.

  39. PolyisTCOandbanned

    Bla bla bla. I been hearing this junk about new an improved nukes since Jerry Pournelle and the 70s. It hasn’t happened. Go play with the SOFC beleivers.

    PWRs or dirty old BWRs are what there is. And they cost a lot of $$$$.

    • Can you please go away and take the anti-nuke enviro profiteers with you?
      Then we could build all the nukes we need and could be as good as the French.

      • PolyisTCOandbanned

        Two words: Homer. Simpson.

      • Richard S Courtney


        You say; “Two words: Homer. Simpson.”

        I do not believe you. You are not Homer Simpson because he is as fictional a character as PolyisTCOandbanned (although both display similar intelligence levels).


  40. I too appreciated Dr. Curry’s remarks, which were on target: defining what problems there really are and what can realistically be done is far more than the SOP of the advocacy crowd.

    Like Dr Hansen I’d like to see nuclear and per Charles Hart above this isn’t the first time I’ve heard the merits of Thorium. My own wish would be to fast track spaceborne solar power. NASA has proved it can build big stuff in space, and eventually parking an SPS rig over (e.g.) Africa to help developing nations with energy that doesn’t risk nuke proliferation is a political plus. Build enough of these and you can sell them to India cheaper than they can develop fossil fuels which solves the ‘global’ problem in a hurry. A *real* discussion, effort, and a plan for energy independence is needed. Whether or not AGW is a calamity looking for year X, we need a rational and achievable plan.

    And yet… I see even today on this blog calls for stopping the use of fossil fuels and using “alternatives.” Apparently the people calling for this don’t seem to grasp that “alternatives” like wind and PV don’t work. If they did, somebody really clever would figure out how to make it profitable, and companies would be lined up to buy it. Not happening. Utilities are *forced* to buy “green” stuff because, let’s face it, everyone knows it doesn’t work.

    Meanwhile, I’d love a car I can afford that could do freeway speeds hauling 5 kids to a game 125 miles away , not spew emissions, and get fantastic mpg (or equiv.) I don’t want to spend $60 on a fillup that doesn’t last that long, and frankly, nobody else does either. Just throwing this out there, but I’d guess that car companies might get this. If they could engineer what everyone would like to have, they would do so. They haven’t. The best realistic advanced tech vehicle you can get is the Chevy Volt, which still requires a gas engine.

    The point is that if these things existed or COULD exist in the near term, the free market would put fossil fuel companies out of business overnight. We continue to use fossil fuels — for now — simply because this is what works. Everyone is aware that oil is too valuable to simply burn, and whoever can make the discovery that allows us to NOT waste oil will be rich beyond the dreams of avarice. There are plenty of extremely smart people who are working on this problem (the hubris-laden notion that the smartest folks in the room are climate scientists and their vocal AGW fans is a bit amusing) which equates to saying that the free market is on the job, and the government need not meddle.

  41. quote
    but we do not have explanations for a number of observed historical and paleo climate variations, including the warming from 1910-1940 and the mid-20th century cooling.

    For values of ‘we’ and ‘explanations’ less than 100%.

    An impressive presentation that even a politician should understand.

    Who, by asking politely, got the average CO2 forcing figures from Tamino for the 1910-1940 and 1970-2000 warmings, .25 and 2 w/m^2 respectively.

  42. Well Done! I have a feeling you’re going to be asked back when the new gang gets organized. Have a great day!

  43. I was surprised that the ocean acidification scare received so little controversy, given the contradictory evidence available for many months now:

    seems the shellfish are OK:

    the Barrier Reef’s OK:

    what’s next, the trees?

    • The AGW faithful don’t need no evidence for the OA crisis to exist. In fact the utter lack of evidence is for the AGW community, proof that things OA are much worse than predicted.

    • AnthropoceneEndGame

      Did you bother to read your WHOI citation?
      It ends with this:
      “The bottom line is that we really need to bring down CO2 levels in the atmosphere”

      • Obviously it ends like that; one doesn’t deviate from the narrative and expect to be taken seriously in the future.

        A KU prof in Lawrence KS recently went on a diet eating little other than ho-hos and other complete junk food. He lost weight. His contention was that calories (and only calories) counted. He was correct. At the end of the article though he backtracked from saying he proved his point by repeating the nutritional narrative that “junk” food is bad for you. One may prove the narrative incorrect but one may not *say* that it’s incorrect. Such is the nature of consensus and/or belief.

        You confuse peer pressure and team enthusisam. Read the proof in the article, not the obligatory gratuitous peer-pecking.

        (I wonder what Jane Goodall would make of this place?)

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        “I wonder what Jane Goodall would make of this place?”
        Do you take Jane seriously?
        See US News 5/6/07, ‘Preserving a Legacy’.

        Jane would say you have less intelligence than her beloved chimps. Go eat a Ho-Ho, you’ll feel better.

  44. Perhaps someone has already posted this, but AAAS did live written coverage, with RC’s Gavin Schmidt plus Joe Romm as commentators. AAAS clearly has no clue.

    • “AAAS clearly has no clue.”

      I’m reading through the comments now, can you highlight which ones you think reveal they have “no clue”?

      • AAAS had no skeptic commentator, just two AGW the-science-is-settled extremists. Unlike the Committee, AAAS has no clue that the tide has turned and the debate is finally on in prime time. I laughed pretty hard at this.

      • So basically you can’t support your contention with any reference to the comments.

      • Are you kidding? Gavin and Joe’s comments were pure them, classic AGW. How many do I need to point to? My contention is based on the people, not their comments, but they made predictable pro-AGW comments.

      • > My contention is based on the people, not their comments […]

        An awowed ad hominem is a rare thing of beauty.

      • Sorry but I don’t know what “awowed” means. But mine is not an ad hominem as I am not claiming any proposition is false. AAAS is just stupid policy-wise. Do pay attention to the thread.

      • > But mine is not an ad hominem as I am not claiming any proposition is false.

        That’s an awowable statement. An ad hominem entails one claims a proposition must be false. Just wow.

        Let’s repeat the statement:

        > My contention is based on the people, not their comments […]

        And now we have a statement of the same kind:

        > AAAS is just stupid policy-wise.

        Just wow.

      • You are right – I realize this now. There was a point when Eli was asking for links to counter the Curry-bashing link spam that he solicited, in the first place.

      • > AAAS has no clue that the tide has turned and the debate is finally on in prime time.

        Join the bandwagon!

  45. Yes, what Wojick said:

    You can see the entire regular cast, on the live chat. Spencer Weart drops in somewhere in the middle. AGU rapid action organizer, John Abraham was there. Yours truly was there too :) – the lone skeptical chat voice.

    There was a constant shower of links by Gavin and Romm.

    A good bit of Curry bashing as well – although not as much as expected.

    • Exactly. Uncertainty got a big place at the big table but nothing at the AAAS table. (The Michaels bashing was heavy.) The contrast is striking. If AAAS wants a place at the policy table it needs to wise up. Either that or pull the hole it has dug itself in after it and pray for a better day.

      This is true for the entire activist scientific community. The game is now tied so your team lost. In politics a draw is a loss for those advocating radical action.
      See http://pewresearch.org/databank/dailynumber/?NumberID=1126

  46. Judith: I was able to watch your oral testimony and have the impression it was very different (less critical) from that written above. You may have started with the section called “Moving Forward”. Without explaining WHY we need to CHANGE COURSE (sorry for the shouting capitals), there is no reason for anyone to change what they are doing (saving our planet, our economy, or our freedom and destroying the integrity of science).

    The performances of Lindzen, Alley, Santer and Michaels were a perfect example of what we need to move forward from – hardened political positions on climate change that obscure:

    1) areas of scientific agreement (2X CO2 directly causes +1 degC; feedbacks are important but hard to quantify by observation; the Clausius-Calperyon equation is only relevant to water vapor feedback in the regions near equilibrium; all current climate models show that the direct warming from GHGs will be amplified 1.5-4.0X, by differing amounts of several feedbacks.

    2) Areas where uncertainty and differing perspectives on uncertainty are responsible for disagreement (climate sensitivity is 1.5-4.0, why the range of results from climate models isn’t a measure of the uncertainty in climate models, Is the IPCC consensus on climate sensitivity consistent with the proposal that 80% reduction in GHGs is appropriate for limiting temperature rise to 2 degC?).

    • PolyisTCOandbanned

      Good post. Which side are you on? ;)

      • What difference does it make? A post is either factually correct, analytical, and interesting or it isn’t – whether or not it supports your preconceptions. I hope I’m on the side of science and common sense, but politics makes it hard to be sure where that is.

  47. G. L. Alston;
    Your car, sir.
    125 mi. each way, freeway speeds, 5 kids, for under $5? Put in your reservation for TeslaMotors Model S. Late ’11, early ’12. Range 160, 240, or 300 mi. depending on battery option chosen. Top speed 130 mph, wicked accel. 5 adults + 2 jumpseats. ~$50K, carry and operate for about the same as a $35K ICE car.
    P.S. If you live in OK, there’s a 50%-of-purchase-price income tax credit.

  48. Oops, the link above has been changed: teslamotors.com/models
    (link-speak for Model S).

  49. I,ve just finished seeing the nearly four hours of the inquiry. (Could not watch it live from Spain).
    I loved your testimony, especially at the end, in the questions part, when you took a stand in favour of the blogosphere, and, most of all, when , with the utmost elegance and a total absence of histrionics , you demolished Richard Alley’s stand, by stating the fact that there are no reliable data about the ice ; that they contradict each other, and that some data even record ice floes in the Mediterranean sea.
    ¡¡¡ Bravo!!!

    • “Richard Alley scored many points in my book about discussing the uncertainties and providing clear explanations. …” – Judith Curry

      Ice in the Mediterranean? What on earth to do?

  50. “This has generated much polarization in the scientific community and has resulted in political attacks on scientists on both sides of the debate, and a scientist’s “side” is often defined by factors that are exogenous to the actual scientific debate.”
    Great statement. Overall a holistic approach to the issue.

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  53. Judith, How come you said; “but we do not have explanations for a number of observed historical and paleo climate variations, including the warming from 1910-1940 and the mid-20th century cooling”.
    When its obvious to all that this is the 61-year solar barycenter cycle, which had peaks in 1879, 1940 and 2001?

  54. “Continuing to refine the arguments put forward by the IPCC that focus on global climate model simulations projections of future climate change may have reached the point of diminishing returns for both the science and policy deliberations.”

    You can say that again. In fact the experience of the last 15 years of global average temperature totally discredit the climate model predictions. Obviously they are worthless for long term planning. Such a result is to be expected when model design is not debated and far from transparent. One example: everyone knows that Australian climate is heavily influenced by the Nino changes, or the southern oscillation index, yet we don’t even know whether it is included in the models. I suspect it is not and we would need more research to include it. Also the on/off nature of climate change makes nonsense of the idea of continuous dynamic climate models.