Politics of climate expertise. Part II

by Judith Curry

Over at Roger Pielke Jr’s blog, there is a guest essay by Sharon Friedman, who blogs at A New Century of Forest Planning. Her essay is on the topic of scientific integrity.  She makes the following four recommendations:

Here are my four principles for improving the use of information in policy, (1) joint framing and design of research with policymakers (2) explicit consideration of the relevance of practitioner and other forms of knowledge (3) quality measures for scientific information (including QA/QC, data integrity and peer and practitioner review), and (3) transparency and openness of review of any information considered and its application to policy.

The bolded statement is of particular relevance to this topic.  In the politics of climate expertise, which experts should be paid attention to?

Steve Schneider had very clear views on this, as evidenced in this interview with Rick Piltz shortly before his death, about the PNAS paper.  It is the elite climate scientists (which includes geophysical scientists, ecologists and economists) as judged by their number of publications and citations.  Many reputable scientists such as Syun Akasofu (a solar physicist and climate skeptic) were not included in the statistics because he had not published more than 20 papers that were judged to be on the topic of climate.  Seems to me that Akasofu has more knowledge about detection and attribution than nearly all of the biologists and economists included in the “list”?

Given the breadth of the topic of climate change, its impacts, and policy options, it seems that considerable breadth of expertise is needed, i.e. “all hands needed on deck.”  But there seems to be a turf battle over “which experts,” as evidenced by the PNAS paper and the continued appeal to the IPCC consensus.

When I first became aware of the emissions scenarios, to the extent that I assumed anything, I probably assumed that these were put together by the energy companies, since this is the sort of thing I assume that they would be quite knowledgable about.  Hah! how naive of me.

Steve McIntyre has often made the claim that he has greater expertise on the statistical analysis of the paleo proxy data than many of the climate scientists conducting such analyses, and he’s probably right.

The blogosphere itself is challenging the politics of expertise.  Jerome Ravetz states:

The well-known principle, ‘knowledge is power’ has its obverse, ‘ignorance is impotence’.  And ignorance is maintained, or eventually overcome, by a variety of socio-technical means.  With the invention of cheap printing on paper, the Bible could be widely read, and heretics became Reformers. The social activity of science as we know it expanded and grew through the age of printing.  But knowledge was never entirely free, and the power-politics of scientific legitimacy remained quite stable for centuries.  The practice of science has generally been restricted to a social elite and its occasional recruits, as it requires a prior academic education and a sufficiency of leisure and of material resources.  With the new information technology, all that is changing rapidly.  As we see from the ‘open source’ movement, many people play an active role in enjoyable technological development in the spare time that their job allows or even encourages.  Moreover, all over IT there are blogs that exercise quality control on the industry’s productions.  In this new knowledge industry, the workers can be as competent as the technicians and bosses.  The new technologies of information enable the diffusion of scientific competence and the sharing of unofficial information, and hence give power to peer communities that are extended far beyond the Ph.D.s in the relevant subject-specialty.  The most trenchant and effective critics of the ‘hockey stick’ statistics were a University-employed economist and a computer expert.

So back to Sharon Friedman’s statement “explicit consideration of the relevance of practitioner and other forms of knowledge.I vote strongly in favor.  If energy companies and the people participating in the technical climate blogs had been entrained into the process, I suspect that we would be much farther along in understanding the science, the impacts, and the risks.

Instead, elitism and turf protection of climate expertise in a political context has contributed to the situation we now find ourselves in, which is aptly illustrated in this youtube video entitled “Global Warming Panic Described.”

A diversity of voices and expertise is needed, and I look forward to your thoughts on how this might be accomplished.

397 responses to “Politics of climate expertise. Part II

  1. Heh, who is Ravetz’s ‘computer expert’. I can guess the University employed economist.

    • The computer expert is Steve McIntyre, who is hard to classify. He was an expert in principle component analysis, which was new in paleo in the hockey stick. Steve usually describes himself as a mining business consultant, but it was his math skill that mattered. The econ prof is of course Ross Mckitrick.

  2. Roger Andrews

    As a geophysicist I meet Steve Schneider’s criteria for qualification as a “climate scientist” and I’ve probably already forgotten more about global warming than most economists (including Rajendra Pachauri) will ever know. But I haven’t published any papers in peer-reviewed journals. So am I in or out?

  3. Thanks, Professor Curry, for getting to the core problem: Scientific integrity.

    A new paper in Sciencexpress, “Gamma-Ray Flares from the Crab Nebula,” may signal the end of groupthink and hope for reliable information in the future from government-funded scientists on the Sun’s

    a.) Origin,
    b.) Composition,
    c.) Source of energy, and
    d.) Influence on Earth’s climate.

    The new paper in Sciencexpress by 168 co-authors from 55 of the world’s leading research institutions, is remarkably candid in admitting that, “The Crab Nebula is powered by the central neutron star . . .

    A few months after we reported in March 2001 that a neutron star powers the Sun and solves the long-standing solar neutrino puzzle [“The Sun’s origin, composition and source of energy,” 32nd Lunar & Planetary Science Conference]


    One hundred and seventy-eight (178) co-authors claimed to have discovered that solar neutrinos simply oscillate away [“Measurement of charged current interactions produced by 8B solar neutrinos at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory,” Physical Review Letters 87 (2001)]

    71301: http://arxiv.org/pdf/nucl-ex/0106015v2

    I see encouraging signs in the new paper in Sciencexpress, “Gamma-Ray Flares from the Crab Nebula”, for the future of constitutional government and government-funded science.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  4. The question of whom should be “listened to” regarding the topic of potential “climate change” policy questions is one that I would have initially thought would have been simple, but obviously; I have misunderstood the position of those that think they know all the answers on the topic. People at this site have repeatedly referenced….”that is what the climate scientists think” and intimate that “whom are simple people like me to ask questions or disagree with the climate scientists.”

    The key words in the referenced question is “policy”. There is a vast difference in one’s ability to understand or help to discover new scientific approaches or principles vs. the ability to apply scientific knowledge to issues related to effective policy implementation.

    Those is the science community who initially reached the conclusion that the world should discontinue emitting CO2 as quickly as possible, clearly have misunderstood (potentially much of the basic science) but certainly what would be necessary for their conclusions to gain consensus acceptance by the relevant stakeholders. Those are the people who make policy decisions in the worlds various nation states. This would seem to be evidence that “subject matter expertise” in the details of the science is not necessarily what makes a person an effective policy maker.

    Depending on the nation that has to implement these policy decisions (please try to remember we do not have a unified world government but many independent nations with vastly different priorities) the task of policy implementation is quite different. Using the United States as an example (since it is the largest contributor on a per capita basis to GHG’s, those whom are responsible for policy implementation most likely have similar educational backgrounds to those of us reading and posting to this site.

    A high percentage of the readers/posters here have at least technical undergraduate degrees and many have multiple degrees in multiple fields. Guess what, that is not at all dissimilar to the “policy makers” in the United States (Congressional staffers, members of Congress, executives in industry, etc.). For policy positions to be accepted and adopted in the United States it is necessary to explain why the policy makes sense. On the topic of potential climate change this involves pretty straightforward steps.

    • Off on a slight tangent: it’s interesting, isn’t it, that politicians will tend to listen to whomever tells them what they want to hear. I use as an example the great furore over drugs policy here in the UK a few years ago. A scientist, who was also a government advisor, gave a speech directly contradicting government policy on the legalisation of drugs, and he was fired for his trouble.

      The reason this is instructive is because politicians tend to use science to support their policy objectives, or to denigrate those of their opponents. That is what “evidence based policy making” essentially boils down to. It doesn’t therefore matter what the qualifications of any given scientific advisor are, because however smart and honourable he his, he will only find himself in such a job if he is considered to be politically reliable.

      • I suggest to you that the example you illustrate is one where a scientist may have been wronged (I am ignorant of the facts, so I can only speculate), but that government policy decisions are almost never made by scientists. I also contend based upon reading many comments here; that the best knowledge of science does not seem to have anything to do with the best policy recommendations regarding what to do about the science.

        Those supporting the idea that human released CO2 is damaging the world have done a terrible job of explaining the policies and actions they wish to be implemented and more importantly; an analysis that shows what we get for the expenditure.

        How would any sane individual support spending their money with no information about what you will get in return for the expenditure???

      • He was almost certainly wronged, because his views were reasonable. His misfortune was to stumble into a public debate that is pretty much taboo in our media.

        The point I’m making here though, is that – to use an evolutionary metaphor – “reliable” scientists will be selected for by governments when it comes to input into the policy-making process. We have seen this with the many white-wash inquiries over the CRU emails.

        Another example is Al Gore seeing off the DOE’s Chief Scientist, William Happer when the Clinton Administration came in. Happer had been criticised for saying before the House Energy and Water Development Subcommittee on Appropriations, “I think that there probably has been some exaggeration of the dangers of ozone and global climate change”. Again, not “reliable”, so he had to go.

        Do you see how it works, or am I missing something?

      • Richard S Courtney


        You have missed nothing.

        There is an old saying in politics that was again repeated in the House of Commons during the debate on the sacking of the Chairman of the then government’s Advisory Commitee on Drugs.

        It is;
        “Scientists should be on tap and not on top”.

        The saying was repeated in the debate by a member of the then Opposition, and the then government’s sacking of the Advisory Committee Chairman was approved by a large majority of the entire House.

        What he had said was unarguably true according to the science, but it was not what the politicians wanted said so he had to go.

        The behaviour of James Hansen in the US suggests that there may be exceptions to your point in that country, but the sacking of e.g. David Leggetts as a State Climatologist suggests that your point is often valid there, too.


      • Richard- where I seem to disagree with your position is where you seem to strongly believe that scientists should completely divorce themselves from discussions on policy. I think that position is prejudicial in that it assumes they will make bad policy decisions/suggestions.

        Although I have previously written that I have not supported any of the policy suggestions put forth by AGW supporting scientists thus far…..that does not mean that they will not come up with good ideas.

        The science should be evaluated based upon the science, and the policy should be evaluated based upon its impact to the stakeholders (voters) in the country considering the policy.

      • Those supporting the idea that human released CO2 is damaging the world have done a terrible job of explaining the policies and actions they wish to be implemented and more importantly; an analysis that shows what we get for the expenditure.

        This conflates two questions. Increasingly I see people claiming to be “skeptics” of the science when they are merely dissatisfied with the arguments for various policy prescriptions. Things are tangled enough without confusing two issues that can actually be pretty cleanly separated.

        It is simply not in the professional purview of those arguing that “CO2 is damaging the world” (or, perhaps more accurately, “likely to damage the world”) to propose a particular policy. It is their job to ensure that people understand the basis for the concern.

        It is the job of the whole society to engage in the process of identifying a set of reasonable policies which balance short term and long term interests and balance the commitments to adaptation vs. mitigation. Opinions of scientists should carry no extra weight in the latter in the limiting case that the balance of evidence is well understood.

        But as long as the response appears to many scientists to be plainly inadequate, the job of communication is left incomplete. It is then (in Ravetz’s “postnormal” sense) necessary for scientists who perceive matters in that way to say so plainly and in broadly accessible ways. This is where the tangle sets in.

        If the level of obfuscation were to settle down (“climategate climategate climategate etc.”) then vocal statements by scientists would be quite unnecessary and things within the science would quickly settle back to normalcy.

      • Once again your conclusions seem inconsistent with the facts.

        Suggested policies are, or at least should be a direct byproduct of understanding the scientific principals and their applicability to a particular nation. It is very clear that many “scientists” have articulated their “policy opinions” that humans must immediately and permanently seek to eliminate CO2 emissions and that those who emit today should be punished financially. These suggested policies have been promoted based upon implying that they were founded on proven science when they were not.

      • To say that scientists’ opinions should carry no extra weight (once the main policy-relevant conclusions of the science are widely understood) is not to say that scientists should have no opinions.

        I am saying that the policy-relevant implications of the science can be understood independent of decisions about policy preference (though not the other way around). To disagree on policy does not constitute skepticism about science, or, to be specific, about IPCC’s scientific positions.

        There’s nothing to be comparably “skeptical” about regarding policy preference because there is no policy consensus.

        There seems to be fairly widespread confusion about this. It’s a simple and helpful disentanglement of the problem.

      • I absolutely agree that scientists have the same right to have policy positions as any other member of society. Those policy positions should be evaluated in the same manner as any other policy suggestion.

        Imo, the policy positions often suggested by people like yourself and others who believe CO2 must be reduced as soon as possible or catastrophic consequences will result for humanity, had not until fairly recently had their policy positions examined closely. Upon close examination imo, the policies you suggest do not make sense based upon the available science and economics.

        I further agree that disagreement or agreement about policy does not necessarily mean a person agrees or disagrees with everything written by the IPCC.

      • Rob Starkey

        Those supporting the idea that human released CO2 is damaging the world have done a terrible job of explaining the policies and actions they wish to be implemented and more importantly; an analysis that shows what we get for the expenditure.

        How would any sane individual support spending their money with no information about what you will get in return for the expenditure???

        A point well taken. But there is a good reason why a cost/benefit analysis is not given. Here is a good example:

        A recent NASA-GISS paper in Env. Sci. Tech., co-authored by James E. Hansen calls for the shutting down of all coal-fired power plants in the USA by 2030, in order to avoid the global warming caused by the emitted CO2.

        What effect would this step actually have on global warming?

        The paper tells us that 1,994 billion kWh/year were generated from coal in 2009 and that the average CO2 emission is 1,000 tons CO2 per GWh generated.

        So by 2030 Hansen’s plan would reduce CO2 emissions by roughly 2 GtCO2 per year.

        Roughly half of this “stays” in the atmosphere (with the rest disappearing into the ocean, the biosphere or outer space) so the annual reduction after 2030 will be around 1 GtCO2/year and over the period from today to year 2100 the cumulative reduction would be 80.5 GtCO2.

        The mass of the atmosphere is 5,140,000 Gt.

        So the net reduction in atmospheric CO2 would be around 16 ppm(mass) or 10 ppmv.

        If we assume (as IPCC does) that by year 2100 the atmospheric CO2 level (without Hansen’s plan) will be around 600 ppmv (“scenario B1”), this means that with Hansen’s plan it will be 590 ppmv.

        Today we have 390 ppmv.

        Using IPCC’s 2xCO2 climate sensitivity of 3.2C we have:

        Case 1 – no Hansen plan
        600 ppmv CO2
        ln(600/390) = 0.431
        ln(2) = 0.693
        dT (warming from today to 2100) = 3.2 * 0.431 / 0.693 = 1.99C

        Case 2 – Hansen plan implemented
        590 ppmv CO2
        ln(590/390) = 0.414
        ln(2) = 0.693
        dT (warming from today to 2100) = 3.2 * 0.414 / 0.693 = 1.91C

        So Hansen’s plan will result in a total reduction of global temperature by year 2100 of 0.08C.

        But what will this non-measurable reduction of global temperature cost?

        The total, all-in capital cost investment to replace 1,994 billion kWh/year capacity with the least expensive alternate (current nuclear fission technology) is $between $4,000 and $6,000 per installed kW (say $6,000 on average). [Note: If we replace it with wind or solar, it will cost several times this amount, due in part to the low on-line factor.]
        1,994 billion kWh/year at a 90% on-line factor represents an installed capacity of:
        1994 / 8760 * .9 = 0.251 billion kWh

        This equals an investment cost of 0.251 * 6,000 = $1.5 trillion

        Globally some 6,700 billion kWh/year are generated from coal (around 3.4 times as much as in the USA).

        So shutting down all the world’s coal-fired plants by 2030 would cost $5 trillion and result in 0.27C reduced warming by year 2100.

        I think it is pretty obvious why Hansen and his co-authors do not run us through this cost/benefit analysis.


      • Thank you for the analysis.

  5. Amen Dr. Curry! Quantity doesn’t trump quality in publishing. Some of the work by more prolific authors inspired many to become skeptical.

  6. AnyColourYouLike

    On this side of the pond, photogenic astro-physicist and rising startlet of BBC science presenting Prof Brian Cox, recently said much the same thing as Schneider in a Royal Television Society annual lecture, shown on the Beeb: “Look to the peer review”. Discussion here:


    Same message as RC constantly drum out – “show us your citations!” Whatever flaws Wegman’s report may or may not have been guilty of, I think there is little doubt that his revelation of the interconnectedness and incestuousness of a relatively small community of climate scientists name-checking (and peer-reviewing) each others work has rightly destroyed trust in the citations “cliche” (hate the word “meme”). And, as the emails also show a stacked deck; aggressive gate-keeping in the journals (with the apparent collaboration of editors) towards sceptical papers, this whole situation seems a tad…er…unfair!

    Or am I just being a grumbler??

    • Latimer Alder


      Nope. You are not being a grumbler. You are spot on.

      There is something seriously awry with the whole academic system when a researcher’s worth and status is measured purely by the number of papers that he publishes….and how often those are referred to – their citation index. This system has several major pretty fundamental disadvantages:

      1. The focus on quantity not quality….Better to publish ten papers of dross than one of any new insight or original work. This builds in a bias towards simple grunt work processing of pre-existing statistics (for example) rather than any longer-term work involving original experimentation or methods. A quick paper and a notch on the citation post is the objective.

      Proof point: Trevor Davies at UEA has produced over 270 publications in a 30 year career. And he is an administrator (pro Vice Chancellor) by trade. Say one per working month. However good a scientist he may be and however hard he works, the focus here is clearly not on gaining deep insight but on production line processing of academic papers.

      2. A inbuilt bias towards agreeing with the horde to boost one’s citation index.

      If your paper cites researcher A’s paper with approval and confirms or supports his results, then researcher A and his chums are much more likely to cite your work in his next paper….a winwin situation for both.

      Saying that researcher A is talking a load of crap and doesn’t know his arse from his elbow (however sweetly phrased) is not the way to win his love and approval, nor to get his chums to cite you.

      3. An enormous bias towards the sociable and ‘noisy’ high-profile personalities. Those who can attend the right conferences and buy the right amount of beer (or whatever the correct drink of choice is) for the right people. In politics we call it schmoozing for votes…..in academe it’s schmoozing for citations. And favourable recommendations with ‘pal review’

      4. Enormous power of patronage and influence resting in the hands of the ‘top’ researchers. They may, or may not, choose to include your name in one of their papers..they may or may not choose to allow your papers to be published, they may or may not choose to recommend that your grant be renewed.

      Our good hostess here has seen from her personal and professional perspective the sheer vitriol and ordure poured upon her for even daring to suggest that all may not be right with the ‘conventional’ view of global warming. she has the strength of character, experience (and tenure!) to withstand such peer pressure to conform to the wisdom of the elders.

      A younger researcher finding his or her way through the political minefield of climatology is unlikely – unless truly exceptionally gifted – to have developed those skills.

      5. ‘Pal review’ is self-evidently a corruptable system. Especially in a relatively small field like climatology. In commerce, I worked for a company who tried their own version of it as part of our annual appraisals. It took less than three years before it became totally discredited as nothing more than a mutual back-slapping construct. And a way to ostracise unpopular colleagues. We were all thoroughly relieved when it was quietly dropped as it was unpleasant to work within and made normal working relationships more difficult with little benefit. Climategate and all the shenanigans over the Hockey Stick showed just how corrupt the academic system has become.

      6. None of the things I’ve mentioned above are new, or specific to climatology (though it does seem to be particularly prone to the worst excesses of all the disadvantages). All are pretty obvious failings to anyone with even a smattering of understanding of organisational theory and practice.

      Nobody in their right minds when asked to come up with a system designed to quickly come up with the best scientific understanding of a problem would come up with a system anything like the one that exists. It simply isn’t fit to do the job it is asked to.

      So I wonder why the academics are still making such play of defending this deeply flawed system and its results as if it were a religious symbol…perfect in all its forms and unchallengeable in its beauty. To diss it is to blaspheme.

      Is it that they have worked so long within its spell that they cannot possibly imagine any other way of doing things? Or is it just that its a very comfortable system to work in? The rules are known and understood, the results that spew out by the firehose are the ‘right’ ones and – for those at the top at least – the gravy train seems to have no end in sight.

      I’d be particularly interested in hearing from insiders who have also been outsiders about their views of this perspective. I was particularly struck by a remark from Dr. Tobis in his excellent bio piece that ‘managerial expertise is not highly valued in academe’ or something similar. It would be great to hear from him.

      • Let’s not forget the power of “cite count” to obscure the null hypothesis. After all, as Michael Tobis pointed out, reporting a null result isn’t going to help your cite count, so why do it?

  7. randomengineer

    Whereas Sharon Friedman and Judith Curry are seemingly the only ones in this debate with a clue, and men *never* ask directions, would it be considered too much to ask that the ladies drive the climate bus henceforth? Maybe something will get done.

    • lol…a prejudiced sexist post

      • Latimer Alder

        Maybe so…but there’s a lot of truth in it as well. Don’t let the means of expression get in the way of the message.

      • He’s trying to provoke Martha and Louise again! Take cover.

      • randomengineer

        Sorry. Not intended as sexist, but serious. I have 4 daughters, two of whom are working scientists (#4 will be as well after she’s done with school) and I’m inclined to think women are underrepresented in leadership positions — to the detriment of their chosen fields.

      • I took the comment as more of a joke…hence the lol. Our positions have seemed very similar on this topic.

    • randomengineer,

      I agree with Latimer’s comment, but would like to add that I also appreciate the good fun character of your comment. Personally, I high-five both the medium and the message.

      • Latimer Alder

        Yo! No disagreement from me with either of you.

        Personally I prefer robust direct language rather than pussyfooting around with political correctness.

      • Heh, heh. He said ‘robust’. Heh.

  8. Effective policy makers need the “skill” of being able to understand the key questions to ask regarding the “application of science” vs. the ability to “independently be a science innovator”.

    You are unlikely to be able to make good policy decisions regarding a scientific based issue without an ability to understand the relevant scientific issues, but you certainly do not have to be one of the leading experts in the field of the science to make good policy decisions regarding the application of the science.

    Some of those who have claimed to be experts in the field of climate science have completely unsupportable, illogical policy positions.

  9. Judy – I generally confine my comments to your more technical threads, where I feel more comfortable than in realms involving the way scientific knowledge is acquired, judged, and communicated. However, I’ll comment here because the issues you raise are important, and because my agreement with your perspective is only partial.

    Here is where we agree. I believe that the knowledge and skills of outsiders to a field can contribute to advancement in that field. Consequently, no-one should be disdained because he or she is not a member of a recognized coterie of experts.

    Where we differ (if I interpret you correctly) is also significant, and I will phrase my perceived disagreement in a positive sense (what I believe) rather than negatively (what I dispute). I’ll illustrate my perspective with two specific issues that have come up in recent discussions.

    1. In my view, the journal (or other source) in which data are reported is one important criterion among many that should be used in judging the validity of the conclusions – regardless of the actual data content that is reported. As an example, I will give more credence to an article appearing in Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) than in the International Journal of Geosciences. And with trepidation because of the credentials of some who comment here, I’ll also rate GRL above Energy and Environment (E&E). At this point, I want to make a clear declaration to avoid any misunderstanding. I am NOT claiming that every GRL paper is valid, and every E&E paper is invalid – rather I see it as a matter of probability. I state this with the hope that no-one will respond with examples of “good” E&E papers or “bad” GRL ones. That such exist is a given, but does not address my point.

    My perspective is based on my many years, in a different field, as an author of papers, a reviewer of papers, a grant reviewer, and a member of journal editorial boards. Perhaps my reviewer role is most salient. What I have observed consistently is that what appear to be plausible data and conclusions often prove invalid, thereby warranting rejection of a manuscript, when experts familiar with the very detailed fine points of the relevant technology identify serious flaws that would escape the attention of knowledgeable scientists in the same general field but outside the very specific area of the reported research. When those flaws are not discovered, and the paper is published, readers will have no means of knowing whether the conclusions warrant the acceptance they appear to have earned. Journals and their reviewers differ in their skill in this area, and those differences affect the quality of the published articles. In general, my experience has been that journals with a relatively low rejection rate and a low “impact factor” have not been able to screen out questionable manuscripts as well as journals able to be more selective. I don’t claim a perfect match between high selectivity and quality, but there does seem to be at least a loose correlation. Even those who would attribute the selectivity to something other than quality (e.g., journal bias) will, I hope, at least acknowledge the general principle that not all journals do an equal job in ensuring quality. I will simply add that in general, even questionable manuscripts tend to get published somewhere, and so a reader who distrusts the more exclusive, high impact journals retains the option to find and judge articles in the less prestigious journals.

    Elsewhere it has been pointed out that raw data should be archived as a means of permitting anyone who wishes to go beyond what appears in an article in evaluating the validity of conclusions. I agree, but it is well beyond the realm of practicality for all articles to be evaluated this way – there aren’t enough hours in anyone’s day – and so inevitably, much in the way of understanding must entail trust in what is actually published.

    2. An easy way to be dismissed in an argument is to be seen as “appealing to authority”. I believe this is unfortunate, because I think the views of authorities should be considered an important criterion in judging the validity of a scientific conclusion. I base this assertion on several elements.

    a) Scientific data rarely permit 100 percent certainty – indeed, if a conclusion is 100 percent certain, the judgment of experts would be irrelevant (although I suspect they would be in accord with the conclusion). Rather, almost all conclusions involve a probabilistic assessment – how likely is the conclusion correct based on the cited evidence? Once we start evaluating probabilities, however, relevant Bayesian prior probabilities play an important role. Among these is the judgment of authorities – in other words, given both the evidence and the opinion offered on it by experts, how probable is the validity of the conclusion? If our own assessment causes us to assign an 80 percent probability without awareness of expert opinion, how should that change if we discover that the experts view the conclusion as either extremely well justified or probably wrong?

    b) Here, I repeat a concept I employed regarding journal publications. The issue is not whether experts are always right, but in fact, whether they are right more often than wrong. If so, expert approbation adds to the probability a conclusion is right, and disapprobation reduces that probability. Again, I would ask readers not to list examples of expert or consensus opinions that later proved wrong, because there are many. Are they wrong more often than right is the more legitimate question.

    c) I will argue that in the long run, expert opinion has consistently proved right far more often than wrong – at least during the era of modern scientific inquiry. Time is critical here. Erroneous ideas are common, but erroneous ideas that persist for long durations in the presence of active investigation and challenge are not. Conversely, many valid new ideas are often resisted at first, , but within the history of modern science, I’m unaware of many important new ideas that did not gain acceptance within a few decades at most of active scientific inquiry. Some of these required modification of previous concepts, but in general, once a major principle of science had been well researched, it remained subject not to overthrow but only to refinement. Newton’s Laws have been modified by Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, but they still serve us well. Relativity, QM, evolution, and other major conceptual advances continue to be challenged to this day (particularly in the blogosphere), but their status remains quite secure in the eyes of objective observers.

    d) In fact, most great revisions in our scientific understanding have gained acceptance in a gradual but relatively rapid fashion. Even the delays have tended to be characterized by a gradual acceptance as new data emerged. Two examples of delayed acceptance come to mind. One is Alfred Wegener’s plate tectonics, which required more than forty years for full acceptance, but which was accepted once sufficient confirmatory evidence emerged. A second is Stanley Prusiner’s prion theory explaining certain mysterious neurodegenerative diseases (Nobel Prize 1997) – again, acceptance came reluctantly but progressively as alternatives to his theory were convincingly refuted. These delays are among the longer ones in recent scientific history, and in each case, were dictated in part by the paucity of data when the concepts were first proposed.

    Please note that that the acceptance by expert scientific opinion I refer to relates only to modern science within the past few centuries. Even more important, it relates only to concepts that have actively been investigated by modern techniques. Many earlier erroneous ideas persisted for centuries because they were never seriously challenged.

    To sum up this second point of mine, scientific ideas come and go. Many prove untenable, but it is uncommon in modern science for a scientific theory or principle that has been accepted as valid by the recognized experts after many years of inquiry and challenge, and which remains accepted over time by what is considered expert opinion, to be overturned later. Refinements occur, but complete reversals are rare. Authorities perform well enough for their views to affect the probability estimates applied to a scientific conclusion.

    I’ll end by belaboring an earlier point. Nothing else matters when a scientific conclusion is 100 percent certain. When it’s not – where, how, and by whom it is advanced tells us something valuable about the probability – not the certainty but the probability – that the conclusion is correct. Those criteria deserve attention.

    • I’m not sure why one needs to weigh the importance of the journal.

      If I see something published in GRL I look for the data and code. If I can’t get the data and the code, I’m really not obligated to give the article any weight whatsoever. It’s just an advertisement for science, not the science itself.
      Same with an article from E&E. For me there is a very simple threshold. If the world is at stake, how hard is it to supply your data and your code?
      And if you’re unwilling to do that, then how serious is the climate change problem.?

      • I don’t see why that neccessarily contradicts Fred’s argument. The fact that someone has made their data available doesn’t mean that the conclusions they have drawn from the data are correct or at least worthy of publication. That’s still a matter of judgement and people may still have more trust in the judgement of some publications than others.

      • Logic fail:
        “I don’t see why that neccessarily contradicts Fred’s argument. The fact that someone has made their data available doesn’t mean that the conclusions they have drawn from the data are correct or at least worthy of publication ”

        I said “if they DONT produce it, I’m not OBLIGATED, to even consider it”

        I did not say that if they DO produce it, that this fact makes it worthy.

        Big difference.

      • Yes I understand that – I was just pointing out that this doesn’t have much to do with the point Fred was making.

      • Well, I make clear that one doesnt even get to “weighing” of journal importance on my view. So, in short, I’m saying Fred’s points don’t matter until my threshold is crossed.

        When two journals cross the threshold of having acceptable data and code archiving policy’s ( and inforce them) then fred’s chain of logic starts.

      • Well said Steve. That was a lot shorter than Fred’s and, to me, a lot more convincing. And still some of the main Climategate actors refuse to provide data and code:


        And if you’re unwilling to do that, then how serious is the climate change problem?

        Yes, if you still don’t do it, even after the slump in public confidence in climate science caused by Climategate, and after all the inquiries into it say that you must, how can you be surprised that many of us assume that the problem is a phantom?

      • My favorite excuse is IP. Do they even consider how silly it looks to assert IP rights when the planet is at stake?

        Here is a thought, before you even consider asking me to give you my property ( my money ) by taxing me, How about you give up IP rights in code that you HAVE NO INTENTION of commercializing.

        I was recently denied MODIS data, free MODIS data. Why? Well, As best as I can figure they could not figure out that I have no commercial interest. If I belonged to a university, then it would have been clear. But, since Im an independent person they cannot figure out what motivates me. I’m not gunna make a stink about for now,
        and the person in charge seems nice enough. Just confused I suppose. They want to ensure that I have no commercial interest.

      • I agree on this point. However, untangling past obligations is not always easy.

        I have to say that the University of Texas is remarkably friendly to releasing developed within the university with no dependencies into open source. But once there is a dependency, they become very nervous, and the legal people tend to say no.

        Here’s another example that is entirely your government at work, in this case the National Climate Data Center. NCDC hourly station data records still cost $200 per station. This was reasonable the first time I did it twenty years ago. Somebody had to mount two reels of tape, copy the one to the other, and ship the tape. I was paying for the tape, the shipment, the equipment and the time. Now they ship via ftp. It probably costs them about two cents.

        This data was entirely collected at taxpayer expense. Yet if I want to do a little casual analysis on a hypothesis involving a sampling of 200 stations, even as part of my funded work, I have to come up with $40,000 of cash money, or (given the way things are calculated) $80,000 in grant funding. And the fact that I have no commercial interest doesn’t even enter into it.

        On this matter I am on Mosher’s side. But I’ll bet there will be resistance from NCDC, which will have to get a direct line item on the budget to replace this income.

    • Latimer Alder


      ‘Elsewhere it has been pointed out that raw data should be archived as a means of permitting anyone who wishes to go beyond what appears in an article in evaluating the validity of conclusions. I agree, but it is well beyond the realm of practicality for all articles to be evaluated this way – there aren’t enough hours in anyone’s day – and so inevitably, much in the way of understanding must entail trust in what is actually published’


      You are citing a workload problem as a reason fro not doing ‘due diligence’.
      That’s fine and understandable, but you can’t also claim that ‘peer review’ provides a good standard of due diligence and therefore should be trusted.


      And I doubt very much that if only there were more time the reviewers would study it all in detail. Phil Jones, testifying before Parliament gave the game away

      ‘The most startling observation came when he was asked how often scientists reviewing his papers for probity before publication asked to see details of his raw data, methodology and computer codes. “They’ve never asked,” he said’ (Fred Pearce writing in The Guardian, 1 March 2010).

      Phil Jones has published 136 journal articles since 2000..an astonishing rate of one every three working weeks.

      And yet the sampling rate of his data, methods and codes among the reviewers is zero. None. Not one. Nada.

      Either Phil gets a free ride by virtue of his status as a member of The Team, or his experience is quite normal…and ‘nobody ever asks’.

      Whichever way it is, it throws no credit on the ‘peer review’ system which is clearly unfit for purpose. That serious people like yourself continue to have faith in it as currently constituted amazes me. Is it impossible for you to recognise the self-evident faults in the system?

      • Brandon Shollenberger

        Latimer Alder, I think you misunderstood Fred Moolten. I don’t believe he was saying anything about the publishing process in the part you quoted. I could be wrong, but it seems he was saying nobody participating in discussions would have the time to check the archives (or lack thereof) for all the various papers. You and I can’t reasonably make a list of which papers have data archived and which do not. Because we can’t do so, we have to take the conclusions of many papers “on faith” as far as this issue is concerned. In other words, he agrees data should be archived, but he doesn’t think we should try to check every paper to see if it has been.

        Now then, I think this is something of an unintentional strawman. I don’t think most people expect to check each and every paper. However, when someone looks for a paper’s data and find it isn’t archived, it most certainly is a reason to question the paper’s validity.

      • Latimer Alder


        ‘I don’t think most people expect to check each and every paper’

        Why not? In any other field of work there are checks and balances built in to the system (see for example the US constitution). And one of those checks and balances is external – not necessarily sympathetic – review. Like external auditors for public companies.

        Jeez..at the moment the criterion for passing pal review in climatology seems to be no more difficult than spelling their name right, citing one or two of the Great Gods and not suggesting anything counter to the prevailing orthodoxy. Which isn’t exactly hostile from my perspective as a non-academic used to having auditors and inspectors crawling all over my work. And having to ensure it withstands their scrutiny before I get paid.

        Is it too much to expect that somebody should actually get their arse in gear enough to check that the work has actually been carried out, that the conclusions follow from the data and that there has been no outright tampering with either? Especially when, once the paper has been published, it seems to take on an almost mystical status in the eyes of other cliamtilogists….perfect in every way, challengeable only by other climatologists and forever there as a guide to us.

        Or, if even this minimal level of scrutiny is too difficult, let’s put a ‘Health Warning’ on each and every paper from any that hasn’t had it.
        Suggested wording

        ‘Reviewer Content Warning’

        I couldn’t be bothered to check whether any of this is correct or accurate. Nor whether the supposed work was ever carried out at all. But the author is a good guy and bought me a tequila at Cancun, so I’m going to let it through. Don’t blame me if its all BS though..I’m just the reviewer. What do you expect – a minimal standard of professionalism already?’

        PS- workload problems are not a sufficient excuse for failure to carry out basic due diligence. The field of climatology is awash with cash…2.5 billion US in this year alone.


        If you collectively can’t find a way to spend all that wonga to get your field of work up to a barely acceptable standard of integrity, then you certainly shouldn’t be pontificating on really difficult ‘problems’, like ‘climate change’. You are just institutionally incompetent.

      • Brandon Shollenberger

        Latimer Alder, your response makes no sense. It doesn’t address anything I said. In fact, it discusses a subject I specifically said wasn’t the subject being discussed.

        I don’t care to get dragged into your ranting and rambling, so I’ll just say this. Nobody was talking about the peer review process.

      • Latimer Alder

        Sorry. Please provide a list of topics acceptable to you that I may be privileged to discuss on this blog. I do apologise.


        ‘‘I don’t think most people expect to check each and every paper’

        was meant in some other way than discussing the peer review process.

        I’ll tug my forelock and steal away and not bother the learned gentry again.

      • Brandon Shollenberger

        Neither I nor anybody else in this topic has told you what you can and cannot discuss. I explained what was being referred to by certain comments, nothing more. Acting like you’re some kind of victim is ridiculous.

        And yes, when I say, “I don’t think most people expect to check each and every paper,” I am referring to something other than the peer review process. This was made abundantly clear in my initial response to you which began with, “I don’t believe he was saying anything about the publishing process in the part you quoted.”

        After pointing out your mistake, I then offered the correct answer by saying, “[I]t seems he was saying nobody participating in discussions would have the time to check the archives (or lack thereof) for all the various papers. You and I can’t reasonably…”

        I don’t see how you could possibly take these statements as referring to the peer-review process.

      • Latimer Alder

        I have broad enough shoulders to never act as a victim around here. But I am from the UK where irony/sarcasm is a common form of discourse.

        I will make my points about ‘pal review’ elsewhere. Clearly you feel that the existing system is perfect and (like pal-reviewed papers) there is no criticism to be made of it.

        Especially not in a blog called ‘Politics of Climate Change, where topic 3 presented was ‘quality measures for scientific information (QA/QC)’ . I really apologise for raising this point at all in response to Fred who attempted to justify incomplete peer reviews because of workload problems. A little before you joined the conversation.

        Sorry again…back to my humble hovel to marvel at how clever the scientists are nowadays…..and wonder why despite it all increasingly few believe a word that climatologists say…..

      • Yes it’s odd, isn’t it? Given that they work so hard to take themselves seriously, you would think people would be grateful. ;-)

      • Brandon Shollenberger

        I don’t know if this was meant as further irony:

        I will make my points about ‘pal review’ elsewhere. Clearly you feel that the existing system is perfect and (like pal-reviewed papers) there is no criticism to be made of it.

        But in case it wasn’t, let me say something. Nothing I have said, in my entire life, would indicate I approve of the current peer review system. In actuality, I have criticized it many times. And while this may be a vain hope, I am going to try something one last time.

        I really apologise for raising this point at all in response to Fred who attempted to justify incomplete peer reviews because of workload problems.

        This entire exchange happened because I don’t believe Fred Moolten raised the point you think he raised. That’s all I’ve said this entire time.

      • “I don’t think most people expect to check each and every paper. However, when someone looks for a paper’s data and find it isn’t archived, it most certainly is a reason to question the paper’s validity.”

        Huh. Its easy to write a paper that is EXECUTABLE. that’s right,
        executable papers. With the data on an ftp site and the code on an ftp site, you can write a paper that is fully executable. That this idea has been around for 20-30 years or so shouldnt be a shock.

    • Brandon Shollenberger

      If I may be so bold Fred Moolten, I believe your interpretation is faulty. Rather than try to speak for Judith Curry, I will post my views on the points you raised. Perhaps reading them will help you understand Curry’s views better (even if I am wrong in thinking she shares mine).

      You think the source of a claim is relevant in determining the validity of the claim. I agree. A claim appearing in Nature is surely more credible than the same claim appearing on a scrap sheet of paper. On the other hand, the fact a claim is found on a scrap sheet of paper doesn’t mean it is wrong. In other words, the problem isn’t you would give an article published in GRL more credence. The problem is some people would dismiss an article in E&E without giving it a chance.

      Now then, it obviously it makes sense to talk about what the authorities in a field say and believe. On the other hand, it makes no sense to dismiss something simply because it disagrees with the authorities. Put bluntly, what you are talking about isn’t an “appeal to authority.” It is only an appeal to authority when you act as though the authority is infallible; when you say, “This is true because he said so.”

      The points you listed seem to stem from the same sort of misunderstanding. Both of them take a legitimate concern and overstate the extent of that concern. While I agree with you on what you said, I don’t what you said accurately represents the concerns people have raised.

      • Richard S Courtney

        Brandon Shollenberger:

        You assert:

        “The problem is some people would dismiss an article in E&E without giving it a chance.”

        I am a member of the Editorial Board of E&E and I know from much experience that this is true. For example, I was at a conference on AGW organised by Mike Hulme where somebody asserted that papers published in E&E are “not peer reviewed”. Of course, I refuted that and I pointed out that E&E has more severe guidance rules for peer review than e.g. Nature. Indeed, all authors of papers in E&E must ensure that their original data is available for scrutiny by reviewers and any others who request it from them, but this is not a policy of ‘high profile’ scientific journals. (This higher standard of peer review is typical of low profile scientific journals; e.g. the ‘Yamal controversy’ occured when Briffa was – to his surprise and shock – forced to reveal his source data or have his paper revoked by the Editor of RS Philosophical Transactions A.)

        I cannot know if the same falsehood about E&E has been presented at other conferences.

        But I do know that the ‘Team’ fears E&E with good cause; e.g. M&M published the first critique of the MBH ‘hockey stick’ in E&E. Nature had published the ‘hockey stick’ but rejected that critique of it which led to the subsequent complete discredit of the ‘hockey stick analysis.

        The ‘Team’ acted to gain similar control of E&E publication policies as it had obtained over higher profile journals by attacking the courageous Editor of E&E, Dr Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen. They wrote to the university which employs her demanding that she be sacked from her university post if she were to publish a paper she had submitted to them for comment. Her response was to publish the paper before the university had made a decision on the matter.

        So, Fred Moolten is wrong when he writes;
        “I am NOT claiming that every GRL paper is valid, and every E&E paper is invalid – rather I see it as a matter of probability.”

        Most published scientific papers prove to be “invalid” to some degree with passage of time so all publications should be treated with skepticism. But assuming that papers published in E&E deserve exceptional skepticism is an indication of prejudice which flies in the face of the facts. It is a completely unjustifable slur.


      • Great post, Richard, but wasn’t it Phil Trans B (not A) that insisted that Keith Briffa had to cough up his data?

      • Richard S Courtney

        Richard Drake:

        Yes, you are right: thankyou. I mis-typed: sorry.

        But there is a more fundamental issue from all this; viz.

        Low profile journals are forced to have severe peer review procedures to sustain their credibility and, thus, their sales
        high profile journals can operate with cheaper and little-effort ‘pal review’ (and several do).


      • … high profile journals can operate with cheaper and little-effort ‘pal review’ (and several do).

        But not for ever. The credibility already banked won’t last that long.

      • Richard S Courtney

        Richard Drake:

        I hope you are right. The future will tell.


      • Richard S Courtney

        Richard Drake:

        I had hoped that others would jump to comment on my saying I hope the ‘pal review’ in high profile journals would self-correct. But none have, so I add a point to avoid the possibility of it being overlooked.

        As Latimer Alder rightly observes, academics have little to gain from publishing a few highly-researched papers of high quality, but they each gain from dashing off as many papers as possible and thus maximising their publication count. (One effect of this which Latimer Alder did not mention was the growth in numbers of co-authors which journals eventually acted to stop when papers started appearing with dozens of co-authors most of whom could not have contributed to the work in any significant way).

        And as Fred Moulten openly asserts, academics assess the quality of a publication by where it was published and not by the significance of its contents.

        Hence, every scientists who has published in a high profile journal has a personal vested interest in proclaiming the good standing of that journal.

        So, there is much vested interest in sustaining the reputation of a high profile journal whether or not its “credibility already banked” is exhausted.


      • It seems that industriousness in scientific research, accompanied by some high profile press releases, has replaced genuine insight as the objective of scientific research. A big part of the problem is the reward system that scientists are operating under: funding and peer recognition (peers find it easier to count papers and citations than to assess genuine impact.) The success of the industrious (sometimes at the expense of the insightful) reflects adaptation to the “system.”

      • Latimer Alder

        Would it be impolite to observe that if their judgments on others’ qualities are indeed as superficial as

        ‘peers find it easier to count papers and citations than to assess genuine impact’

        then I see little reason to imagine that their judgment in other areas (eg climate science) would be any more sophisticated or insightful.

        I can teach an eight year old to count citations accurately. But I’d hope for rather more ‘nous’ from a professional publicly employed academic.

        Or do I expect too much? Should I just accept that a junior filing clerk in the UK civil service could do equally as well?

    • Your comments, and the comments of those who have responded to you, make several points which many can agree with I believe. I suggest that what we “have” today has been slow to change and move toward the ideal of “better than ever” journalism that many feel we should have and that “scientific associations” (if properly managed by their ‘members’) are capable of.

    • Michael Larkin


      You’re a nice guy, and I think you believe what you say, but for my part, I am very cynical about scientific orthodoxy in general. I could quote many cases of the establishment rounding on mavericks, but I’ll confine myself to one in particular, namely Halton Arp.

      He published a collection of data on unusual galaxies, such as NGC 4319, which is visibly connected to a quasar-like object, Markarian 205. The thing is, the two objects have different red shifts. Really bad news for the standard model, and astrophysicist have done their damndest to ostracise and ridicule him. Journals have refused to publish him, and he has been denied telescope time.

      The standard model must not fail. Astrophysicists with perfectly good eyesight must deny the obvious. There are in fact a few establishment names who are sympathetic to him. Part 3 of the documentary “The big bang never happened” is an eye-opener:


      As regards climate science, it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. Sceptical papers are often deemed inherently wrong, and forces are mobilised to prevent their publication. In the end, only the less prestigious journals may publish, and then the establishment can turn round and claim that the papers are rubbish because of it.

      My general issue is that the way things have been going since WW2 has favoured the formation of powerful elites in a number of areas of science. The system is rigged so that it is difficult for any scientist, no matter how good, to raise competing ideas, particularly WRT certain contentious ideas. I am staggered by the pusillanimity of the establishment – its sheer peevishness and sacrifice of intellectual curiosity for security and kudos.

      But in the end, it is the system that is the biggest problem. To get on and get funded, one has to toe the line. It doesn’t pay to rock the boat, and scientists have mortgages to pay like anyone else. It’s tailor-made for the strangulation of adventurous minds.

      Your inclination is to trust. My inclination is to distrust. It is difficult to have a meeting of minds on this one. As always, time will tell. My prediction is that this sort of thing will come to a head at some point and cause a sea-change in how the scientific establishment will be organised. It needs to become respectable for minority views to get a look in and for orthodoxy to routinely face up to intellectual challenges without circling wagons and resorting to underhanded tricks.

      The establishment has so far been able to get away with it. The Internet is changing this. Joe Public is good enough to sit on a jury and decide whether a man lives or dies, and good enough to recognise injustice in science.

    • I’m always careful about deciding who is really an expert and who isn’t. In my experience a real expert is right much more often than not (the percentage seems to vary according to the type of situation or question). As an illustration, a friend and colleague of mine was an internationally recognized expert in one specific area of technology (lots of publications, chaired international conferences, etc). If you asked him about an actual problem in his area of expertise, he could give you a shopping list of possible mechanisms (not necessarily including the actual mechanism), but was incapable of ranking them in terms of most likely to least likely.

      The two things I look for is ability to concisely communicate difficult technical information, and ability to make a ranked shopping list (including ruling some out) of possible mechanisms, including unpublished ones, which would explain the observations. This is really a form of critical thinking. I haven’t met many of these.

  10. AnyColourYouLike


    You are a scholar and a gentleman, and what’s more a fellow muso! I therefore hesitate to jump in, but why oh why discuss the delicate balance an dintuitive trust of general peer review (rightly and properly) as if Climategate never happened? As if M & M never published papers that cast grave doubts (to be nice about it) on Mann’s Hockey stick?

    You’re general points as abstractions are well taken – whether they apply to the realities climate science publishing in recent history is another question.

    • AnyColourYouLike

      Apologies for typos.

      Time for bed!

    • Your point is well taken. I don’t disagree with your particulars, but I also hope the generalizations I proposed can be thought of as potentially applicable to climate science, as they are to other disciplines – particularly since they encompass the possibility of exceptions. Climate science involves thousands of individuals working in dozens of countries and publishing in dozens of journals, whose contributions converge, sometimes erratically, toward a common understanding of how our climate is changing. If my points about the role of quality journals or expert knowledge are inappplicable here, it will be because of evidence related to those thousands of scientists, and I would welcome hearing about that evidence. I tried hard to explain why I believe that anecdotal evidence about individual cases, even when accurate, is not a fair criterion for judging the performance of an entire discipline.

      Therefore, perhaps my reasonably favorable impression of climate science today deserves to change, but if so, it should not be because undesirable performances by some have been extrapolated to the many, and I will follow the comments in this thread hoping that criticisms will be based on something more than that. I will be particularly interested in the comments of those most expert in the details of the science itself. I know there are quite a few (at least from my experience with the “missing heat” and other threads), but I’m not sure how many are planning to participate in this thread.

      • Tomas Milanovic

        but I also hope the generalizations I proposed can be thought of as potentially applicable to climate science, as they are to other disciplines

        Certainly not.
        The reason for that is that there is no “climate science”.
        The training, knowledge and understanding of a Mann has nothing to do with, say, the training, knowledge and understanding of a Terry Tao.
        If Tao probably could have an expert opinion on Mann’s work, Mann could never understand even partially Tao’s work.
        Yet both could call temselves “climate scientists” if they wanted to.

        I have a very sharp definition about who might have an expert opinion about climate and who cannot.
        The former are the scientists who have worked and have a significant operating knowledge in the field of dynamical systems and more particularly fluid dynamics and Navier Stokes.
        I cannot consider that somebody who has NO significant knowledge in these fields has anything significant and correct to say about the dynamics of the system.

        By this metrics, I have no special trust in the ability of Mann, Hansen, Schmidt, Jones (to name just a few) to say something important or deep about climate dynamics.
        Conversely I will listen with attention to J.Curry, R.Lindzen, Nielsen Gammon or Lucia (to name just a few) because they know what dynamics of such a system means.

        Definitely economists, biologists, statisticians, radiation physicists, computer specialists etc can publish as many papers in as high impact journals as they want, self design themselves “climate scientists”, agree among themselves, create “expert” consensuses, convene in exotic places every month, yet the probability that they say something true and/or important about the dynamics of the system is vanishingly small.

        I more or less agree with what you wrote in general.
        But climate “science” is certainly not a clearly defined scientific disciplin with clearly defined theories and tools like particle physics or quantum gravity.
        By this token one has to be severely selective by considering whether a scientist’s expertise is really relevant to the dynamics of complex systems or not.

        After having sorted all this out, one could quote R.Lindzen who was asked in an inteview “What do you think about the consensus opinions of the tens of thousands climate scientists?”
        He just chuckled and answered the journalist “You are obviously not very familiar with the nature of the climate problems. There is not more than a few dozens of climate scientists in the world.”

      • Brandon Shollenberger

        Fred Moolten, I don’t see much point in going over all the various examples of bad behavior in climate science, but I do want to mention something. The problem with climate science isn’t the behavior of some people. The fact Mann’s hockeystick depended entirely upon bristlecones (and foxtails) isn’t important. The fact he knew this but choose to hide it isn’t important. Someone doing shoddy work and behaving dishonestly doesn’t matter much in the “big picture.” The problem is people get away with it. There is little or no effort to fix things.

        Instead, there is active effort to avoid fixing things. That is the problem. Trotting out a laundry list of issues doesn’t impugn the credibility of a field if those issues get addressed. The problem is in climate science, those issues aren’t getting addressed.

      • @Brandon

        On this, at least, we can agree wholeheartedly. But I might go even further. Not only is there no attempt to address the issues. There is not even a recognition that these issues exist or could possibly be a slight blemish on the perfection of the system and it’s noble practitioners.

        Maybe from ‘the inside’ it is truly inconceivable that there any problems. That orthodoxy has such a stranglehold over the climatologists that they are genuinely blind to them . (If so, en passant, they must be remarkably bad scientists lacking even the slightest imagination). But does it never occur to them that the queue of ‘outsiders’ all highlighting roughly the same systemic failings of the way in which climatology is organised and operates might just have a point.

        Or do they just retreat behind the Mannian thesis that we’re all lying b*st*rds being paid for by Cock Industries or some other bunch I’ve never heard of? And sleepwalk happily into well-deserved oblivion?

        ‘Climate science’ no longer has the ear of the public. The MSM now view it as a drag, not a selling point. Viewers and readers turn off in droves when the next bearded hysteric comes to predict the end of the world if we use an incandescent lightbulb or don’t recycle our Blue Peter milk bottle tops or whatever today’s scarestory du jour is.
        Nobody cares much any more.

        Under three feet of snow in one of the coldest winters in living memory, it is unlikely that Joe and jenny Sixpack are going to worry to much about possible mild global warming some time in the next 200 years. They just think the advocates are nuts. Barking. Bonkers. Away with the fairies. Barmy.

        And the wise politicians pick up on this trend and reflect it in their political actions.

        But the climatologists imagination fails them just when its most needed and fails to do anything about the obvious failings in their system. Their choice….their consequences.

      • Fred, by chance have you had the occasion to read Montford’s “The Hockey Stick Illusion”? Apologies if you mentioned it already because I have not had the pleasure of reading all of your posts.

  11. Dr Curry:
    You write:

    “If energy companies and the people participating in the technical climate blogs had been entrained into the process, I suspect that we would be much farther along in understanding the science, the impacts, and the risks. Instead, elitism and turf protection of climate expertise in a political context has contributed to the situation we now find ourselves in”

    Sonia Boehmer Christiansen raised a similar, but tangentially related point at the blog realclimate.org. She wrote:

    Having myself observed an IPCC negotiation session (as researcher investigating the IPCC)in the mid 1990s, I can only report that Sir John Houghton entered with the final text ready in his hand, and while there was some debate and even opposition, his text was accepted unaltered.(Don’t ask me when and where…I gave all my IPCC papers away but have published a lot in the policy literature.)

    Science and ideology (political belief) cannot be separated in indiviual people. Surely, the oil and coal people, as well as political conservatives, have an equal right and even duty to fight their corner and demand scientific honesty where policy would undermine their interests or beliefs. Smearing opponents has tended to be a failing of ‘warmers’ like Santer and his wider group of supporters.


    Gavin Schmidt’s curt answer is very instructive.

    I can’t believe you wrote that with a straight face

    From the above, it is possible to conclude that scientific elitism alone does not account for some of the barriers standing in the way of “relevant practitioners”. Ideological opposition plays a major role as well.

    Many climate scientists who appear to form a prominent clique harbor overtly environmentalist ideologies and apply them in infantile fashion. For example, it is unthinkable for Gavin to even consider the idea that fossil fuel companies have as much a right as environmentalists to ‘the right science’ as it impacts their industry. Do such beliefs presently come in the way of wider participation in scientific processes? You can bet on it.

    • I can’t believe you wrote that with a straight face

      As Fred so eloquently noted above, expert judgement is required for most conclusions as the data is not unequivocal. That some of those experts are so lacking in self-awareness does not promote confidence in the judgements.

  12. Seems to me the science community needs to be able to provide coherent, verifiable and reasonably understood arguments in support of whatever recommendations are being made. Therein is the problem, as I see it.

    The dire predictions concerning the potential impacts of CO2 were clearly made prematurely, as the climate models upon which such pronouncements were based are not up to the task of making any good long range forecasts. Upon that weak foundation were added wild speculations of pending catastrophe but verifiable evidence remained painfully thin. The highly non-linear nature of the climate is and remains a difficult problem.

    So what did the science community do? Resorted to arrogance (an unfortunate predisposition of academia) and attempted to ram-rod through solutions driven by emotion and politics, as opposed to hard science and engineering. The result is quite predictable: ill-conceived solutions that, at best, only poorly address the actual problem. There are billions of people on the planet and they all want a better life. That requires energy and lots of it.

    Further, the whole idea of dueling “my-credentials-are-better-than-yours” strikes me as less than helpful. No mater what your credentials, if your position “can not stand on it’s own two feet”, then the underlying theory is not ready for “prime-time” or is perhaps just a load of crap.

  13. “(1) joint framing and design of research with policymakers”

    RC has an interesting post on “funding” and science ( we will see if my comment praising gavin gets through) In that comment I pointed out the real issue of the funding effect. In “doubt is their product” David Micheals detailed how the funding effect works. Not by “buying” answers, but rather by owning the questions that get asked. From my own experience, I can only relate that since I owned the model specification, and the data collection and design of experiments for the simulator , people who wanted to ask “politically ” unacceptable questions, were not given a chance. Sure we had “skeptics” on staff who didnt buy our paradigm, but they could only question our results ( which meant more funding for us). They could never propose their own tests to support their pet theory. Our answers were not biased, but the process ( our selection of the NULL) drove the entire process.
    ( note some of P webster’s comments on the subtle importance of owning the Null)

    Recently, I was asked ( along with another reader here) to figure out what it would cost to get a GCM up and running ( NCARs community model). The goal was to allow a lukewarmer ( yes a scientist, published and you all would recognize his name) to run the kind of tests he wanted to run to prove or disprove his theory. He could not get time on any existing assets. The people who own the computer assets own the questions being asked.

    Opening the questions we ask is just as important as opening the data and methods.

  14. I simply do not understand how certain scientists can insist on such (artificially) rigorous standards with regard to the prominence of their experimental conclusions whilst, at the same time, ignoring their complete lack of same in the area of public policy.

    I think the whole ‘turf war” thing with the hockey team and peer review is likely to take years to sort out: what is surely more important in the shorter term is to restrict their prominence in terms of public policy pronouncements, in the sense that their views are no more relevant to public policy than those of sociologists, energy companies, medical professionals, civil engineers etc – the list is endless.

    Let the scientists inform us of their experimental results and let’s have that debate rage on – in the meantime, leave the policy decisions to those who have far more skill than they do.

    Having said this, I do recognise that the climate science community naturally have a louder voice with their personal opinions on what we should do than those who aren’t in the public eye. Perhaps the glint of light at the end of this tunnel is the increased involvement of scientists with a more rational grasp of informed decision-making, such as Dr Curry. The recent congressional hearings seem to me to be a great step in the right direction in the short term.

    ….written from one of the few remaining dry areas of Brisbane!

  15. Fred, would it then have been better if the journal to which Mann sent his first hockey stick had engaged a statitician as one of the reviewers?

    • Yes. Also, I’m pleased Steve McIntyre has finally decided to join the ranks of the published rather than simply sniping from outside.

      • he did that back in 2003 and 2005.
        let’s take a hypothetical Fred. Suppose I want to write a article critical of your analysis. In your paper you point to certain data and you describe certain analytical steps in your method. Now, I go get the data ( with considerable effort and many objections,) and I try to replicate your methods from your written description that has been published and peer reviewed. Further, lets suppose that I am unable to replicate your results.
        using the data you pointed to, using a method that you describe in your paper, My answer differs from yours. What’s the cause.

        1. either you pointed to different data or I got different data.
        2. either you didnt describe your method correctly, or I didnt
        code it the same way.

        What do I do in this case. I write the journal and ask them if they have a policy about supplying data and code so I can figure out whats going on. Kinda hard to write a paper criticizing your paper when I cannot reproduce its results. So then I am directed to contact you. After some back and forth you give me the data, but only the data. I check. I still cant reproduce your work. So I write and explain my problem. ” I followed your method as publsihed, but I cant reproduce your results, could you send me the code”

        Seems normal right? To even write a paper critical of another I have to be able to understand and reproduce your results. Now, I’ll add one more thing.
        Suppose then, that you, refuses to give me the code. And suppose you refuses to give it Because YOU KNOW why I cant reproduce your results, and you KNOW that the problem is you left key steps OUT of your method description in the paper. That’s right, you know the paper doesnt describe the method. you know the code does something different than the method DESCRIBED in the paper. And you knows that I will not be able to reproduce your results without this piece of information.
        further you know that I publish articles critical of your co authors. And you knows your co author really doesnt like me. So you deny me the code, and you write a mail to your co author and say “I gave him the data, but not the code. I know why he cant reproduce the results…”
        and have a good chuckle.

        Would you criticize me for not publishing in this kind of environment?
        OR would you criticize the journals, editors, authors, and institutions for allowing this kind of petty gamesmanship to occur.

        Since Judith doesnt like emails being posted, I’ll leave you the find the climategate mail in question ( in this hypothetical you played Jones and I played Mcintyre)

      • ah crap, wes needs an edits buttons fors the times when we change subjects in long posts. crap.

      • nots to worries, Steve :)

      • steven mosher

        thanks youse guys

      • Is that you Jar Jar Binks?

      • Curious Canuck

        What’s wrong with commenting (sniping is a ‘loaded’ term) from the outside?

        I would say that the longer truths from ‘outsiders’ remain in the ‘unpublished’ that it doesn’t reflect on the outsiders near as much as on the rest of the science that chose to overlook the truth based on contrived technicalities.

        Calling comment from the outside ‘sniping’ while the ‘sniped’ continue to bar door (Read McKitrick’s history of attempting to publish, I believe the stats journal reply was something akin to ‘too obvious for stats journal, but a game-changer for climate science).

        This has been one of the big practical and public relations problems of the CAGW movement, the idea that because nobody is publishing the obvious or the ‘uncomfortable truths’ they can be ignored.

        Emporer, clothes, etc.

        Pielke Sr. comments here on Ross McKitrick’s “Circling the Bandwagons: My Adventures Correcting the IPCC”

        This tells a disturbing story I would think, especially in light of the peer-review quality issues raised by the UEA emails.

        Whether Pielke Sr. is using bold out of habit or out of emphasis on his own words, following the quote from the McKitrick document it appears that Pielke adds the following.

        “His experience is not an extreme example, but is illustrative of the experience that I and a number of my colleagues have experienced with respect to the submission of research papers and scientific research proposals. I discussed this issue of gatekeeping, for example, in my post”

        I’m not pointing the finger at you for the sentiment, I’m point my finger at the peer-review process for undermining its own value and the value of your sentiment. I wish you could trust the peer-review process like you feel you should. I wish I could trust the scientific community the way I used to. I wish we still lived in the kind of world where people (especially children) could go forward and see how an aircraft works.

        We need more Judith Curries, McIntyres, McKitricks and Mooltens who ‘get’ (for instance) what Climate Etc. is trying to do, without the hostility we see on display everday.

        Please don’t think I’m ‘giving you the -gavin’, I’m not. Your a real person taking time to be here and share some valuable thoughts, oberservations and insights and I’m sure I stand with most people here in saying that’s something we appreciate.

      • Curious Canuck

        And to think it as in a line visible at the end of it all through the little window. I meant ..You’re* a real person too :)

  16. I’m astonished to see that we still have people (Fred Moolten) stating that peer review means that papers in some journals are more likely to be true than in others. The thrust of Ioannidis’ work is that pretty much nothing can be assumed to be true and that peer review is no better than a random process at determining whether what’s published is or isn’t true (I dare you to tell me that the research in climate science is better quality then medical research!).

    Part of the problem seems to me to be that the people who form the ‘scientific establishment’, with their long track record of publications, performing peer review, sitting on committees, etc. have an unrealistic notion of how much value their expertise adds. The horrible, expensive mess that very poor quality climate science has got us into indicates to me that that expertise is, in practice, almost worthless in discriminating between good and bad science.

    This is a thorny problem: sometimes society needs to make decisions early (based on models and predictions) to avoid cost later. To do that, you need experts. Who can tell how expert experts actually are – what skill (in the technical sense) their predictions have?

    In terms of scientific integrity, one of the things that’s gone wrong over the past 20 years is clear: individual scientists have decided that their role is to act as advocates. This allows them to conflate their technical (scientific) expertise with their personal political and policy views; this has led some to overstate the certainty of their conclusions. Scientific integrity requires that you confine your comments to the science that you are competent in. If that’s not enough for you – if you want to become a politician or activist – fine, but don’t use your publicly-funded position as a platform. As a scientist, the public pays you for science, nothing more; it certainly doesn’t pay you to exert unwarranted and unaccountable pressure on the political process.

    We have NGOs for that…

    • Your last paragraph is spot on and exactly my sentiments. good post.

    • Brandon Shollenberger

      Ceri Reid, I have two issues with your post. For the first issue, you seem to misrepresent the work by John Ioannidis. In no way does his work claim, “[P]eer review is no better than a random process at determining whether what’s published is or isn’t true.” In fact, nothing in his work supports your criticism of Fred Moolten. It is trivially true differences in peer review can lead to different quality of work being published.

      For the second issue, you seem to contradict yourself. At first you seem to suggest scientists shouldn’t be advocates, but then you seem to suggest scientists can be advocates if they want, but they shouldn’t conflate the roles of science and advocacy.

      That confusion aside, the latter is a sensible position, and I agree with it.

    • Ceri, I agree with much of what you say in your last paragraph. If certain key scientists hadn’t also become outspoken policy advocates then many of the doubts about the peer review process would not have arisen. I know we’ve banged on about climategate a lot in previous threads, but it did (IMHO) suggest that the peer review process has become detrimentally tainted with politics.

    • I agree completely.
      As Richard Feynman said, “Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts”.

    • randomengineer

      Part of the problem seems to me to be that the people who form the ‘scientific establishment’, with their long track record of publications, performing peer review, sitting on committees, etc. have an unrealistic notion of how much value their expertise adds.

      Correct. There have been calls by some that at the funding level we adopt a policy of deliberately funding a percentage of serious non-consensus work. One effect would be obvious, that non-mainstream thought is useful and may lead to wider understanding. Another would be that the tilt you speak of would be more difficult and ought to lead to better assessment and review processes. Essentially, review would necessarily require checking assumptions at the door.

  17. Interesting post Dr Curry.
    Re your points.

    1) i would avoid. You risk ‘brain dump’ should the policymakers be involved from the start.

    2) good idea, though i fear exceptionally difficult in practice. For example:
    – (and as stated above) who is more qualified to perform the statistical analysis on proxy data? a climate scientist or a statastician? or
    – who is more qualified to talk about data quality, integrity and useage, a climate scientist or a cGMP trained scientist?

    3) Spot on imho. I’d add a small addendum; that the reviewers of a paper be more prominent (fully listed with qualifications) on the paper itself, for easy referencing. Also that the review process (or rather final review report prior to acceptance) should be available along with the source data/models.

    Additional to this- any paper submitted without fully archived and accessable data/models/calculations should not get published.

    4) (though you’ve labelled it as 3 again0 typo Dr Curry) Again, can’t argue with that one iota.

  18. There is a point that I can’t see has been addressed here. It’s the negative implications of being specialized; the problem of seeing the forest for the trees. The simplest way to illustrate it is in relative risk. For the sake of the discussion, let’s assume we all agree that climate change is one of the biggest threats facing humanity. Many say it’s the biggest one. To assess that, we have to compare it to other major threats such as terrorism, pandemics and nuclear war. I claim that anyone who is a specialist on any one of these threats, having deep knowledge of one and relatively shallow knowledge of the others, is at a disadvantage when making the comparison. And my experience from different risk controversies is that specialists tend to be either particularly concerned with the risk involving their own specialty, or the opposite, having a tendency to ignore or minimize the risk.

  19. “Seems to me that Akasofu has more knowledge about detection and attribution than nearly all of the biologists and economists included in the “list”?”

    “Seems to me” isn’t a criteria, it’s your opinion. Schneider proposed a set of criteria which are independent of any individual’s personal opinion, what’s the alternative? Should anyone anyone else considers to have relevant expertise and competency be considered equal?

    • Brandon Shollenberger

      Curry pointed out what she perceives as a flaw with the approach Schneider adopted. Somehow, you seem to have taken this as Curry advancing a different approach. This is odd as Curry never offered a criteria of her own.

      Your interpretation of Curry’s comments makes no sense to me.

      • “Curry pointed out what she perceives as a flaw with the approach Schneider adopted.”

        In order to identify that a flaw is a flaw it needs to be shown that the approach reaches undesirable or sub-optimal results. Simply saying “That approach excludes person X whom is someone I think should be included” is not a substantive criticism unless you’re able to show the inclusion of person X is a desirable outcome by some measure and/or a better approach which would include person X and not degrade the final outcome by including or excluding the wrong people.

        “Somehow, you seem to have taken this as Curry advancing a different approach.”

        If one person said “Let’s measure the distance between London and Paris with a ruler” and another person “That’s a bad approach” the other person is both advancing a different approach (i.e. don’t use that approach) while also offering little that could be used to either improve the existing one or produce an alternative.

        If they instead said “A ruler is far too small to measure such a large distance, it would take too long” and/or “A ruler wouldn’t be useful for measuring the oversea area between Paris and London” they’d be offering useful and substantive criticism of the approach without having to actually come up with a better way themselves.

        ” This is odd as Curry never offered a criteria of her own.”

        The point is that she offered neither a criteria with which to replace Schneider’s nor one with which to judge her own criticism. “It seems to me that rulers are bad” and that’s that.

    • randomengineer

      “Seems to me” is a hunch, probably a good one, and worth exploring. It’s not necessary to suggest an alternative so much as to point out that other vectors are possible.

      Schneider’s criteria meanwhile is pretty much what’s already done, just codified, and what’s done has lead to a bit of a mess.

  20. Latimer Alder

    From Sharon Friedman’s four principles.

    (1) joint framing and design of research with policymakers

    Excellent suggestion in principle. The current system is geared towards publishing academic papers, not towards finding scientific answers to help frame policy.

    And these two objectives are emphatically not the same. There may occasionally be some overlap, but that is accidental.

    The whole system as it currently works seems to me to be arse about face.

    A group of researchers plot out what they can best study to get the maximum amount of papers out the door with the minimum amount of time and effort. Having put the magic words ‘climate change’ in the grant application, they are then left alone for two or three years to play in the sandpit until the money runs out. If they are veyr favoured one of the Great Gods will look down upon their work on whatever piece of irrelevance it is and cite them in the next IPCC report and whoosh – the merry go round starts all over again.

    Mweanwhile the ultimate funder..the taxpayers… have almost no control over whether the field of study is relevant or useful. And it is a coincidence if some of the work throws any useful light on policy. Our ‘seekers after truth’ however will feel free to use the public’s money to propound not only their ‘science’ but their political/policy positions in blogs and conferences.

    Is this system one set up to provide useful policy advice? Emphatically no.

    In the commercial world or the military or in NASA – where the name of the game is (or used to be) understanding the problems and fixing them, not prancing about just writing papers about them, I can imagine a very different organisation.

    Starting from the top down, we could analyse the very basics of climate data collection and processing…set up a proper network of observation posts – with all the stuff about auditability and reproducibility and openness that you could wish for. And maybe spend a little time thinking about what data to collect that would throw light on the problem. Mightn’t be very productive for writing papers about, but would sure help a lot in setting the observational stuff on a firm footing.

    Then we might take a look at ‘climate modelling’. Starting with an examination of what we think it’s for…and do we need thirty of the..especially since none of them have shown any propensity to be any good at verifiable predictions……And maybe we cut it all down to two or three …each approaching the problem from a different angle.

    We could then even think about doing some experiments! Rather than relying on just the hysterical outpouring sof our doom sayers, we could take a long look at what the likely consequences if global warming were to be such a problem as people make out..and then go actively look for evidence..or not. Rather than just accidentally stumble upon something and then explain it post hoc as ‘consistent with global warming’.

    And so on and so on. I guess I’m proposing an actively directed programme of research designed to get to the bottom of the problem (if there is one) and fix it (if needed), rather than today’s structure which is designed purely for the comfort and career advancement of the climatologists. That they are the ones most resistant to changing it is no surprise..they have the most to lose.

    We can discuss the organisational/managerial model best suited to achieve these goals another time. But such things have been achieved before….Apollo was a great example from my younger years, the Manhattan project another earlier one …and I don’t see why climate change (if any) wouldn’t be susceptible to a similar approach.

    • Latimer
      I agree that climate research should be directed through funding mechanisms but only because there are such important policy implications. However, we should be cautious about applying this principle across all science as there would be a risk that fields without policy implications would be left high and dry. I would not want to see some research ignored and under-funded just because politicians couldn’t see the point of it. Think what discoveries we might miss. There are dangers of being overly prescritpive.

      • Latimer Alder


        I agree entirely. Such an approach is only relevant to ‘big problems’. But our activists keep on telling us that this is the biggest problem ever. So unusual problems call for unusual solutions. And if we can better direct our resources to concentrate on working on the problem, rather than publishing papers for their own gratification, so much the better.

        And in times of austerity it might be a useful wakeup call to publicly funded academics everywhere that however intrinsically interesting they may find their own little field, they do not automatically have a perpetual licence to use our money to play in their own particular sandpit.

    • Excellent comment, and I also agree with Mosher’s point above about the importance of “owning the questions”.
      Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s a number of large technically based companies in different industries started moving to what was then called “second-generation R&D”. The idea was simple – to move towards demand-driven research rather than supply-driven. Research priorities were set by the natural customers for the work rather than by the researchers themselves. In practice of course the decisions had to be made jointly to allow first and foremost, a useful comparison of “I want an answer to…” and “What we may be able to do is…” and, secondly, to ensure that longer-time-horizon “blue-sky” research was not penalised out of existence. The effect of this shift to more customer-focused research was truly dramatic in many organisations at the time, and highly beneficial in terms of relevance and application of the research activity. In my own organisation, even researchers who had strongly resisted the idea initially found large compensation in the fact that they gained a new respect and relevance in the eyes of operations people; i.e. they were positively welcomed as problem-solvers as opposed to their former status of being the sellers of unwanted vacuum cleaners.
      The natural customers for climate science should be the IPCC as well as any government with a sizable R&D budget in climate science. Perhaps the best hope of improving the relevance and efficiency of the IPCC would be for the UN to reframe its mandate and the subsidiary questions it is expected to address as a priority. We cannot expect efficient, unbiased research as long as the IPCC sees its role – enshrined in its mandate – as proving that man-made CO2 is a major problem. For individual governments, caveat emptor. They need to be clear about their own priorites.

    • Richard S Courtney

      Latimer Alder:

      Well said! You completely summarise the problems.


      • I’ll go one better. It might be better that all government R&D funding to the IPPC be allocated for the sole purpose of falsifying the AGW hypothesis. You’d get buy in from many more stakeholders.

      • Under the falsification model, if it turns out that there is some credibility to the AGW issue, you would have bicameral support for mitigation strategies.

      • Bob,
        It ALL depends on where you timeline temperatures.
        From 4.5 billion years, we are getting colder. From 150 years, we are getting warmer. Even from the last ice age, it takes temperature to melt so it must be getting warmer.

      • I think it would make sense to go back to the MWP .

      • No, it would be clear that adaptation is much more reasonable and realistic.

  21. Fred Moolten says:
    ‘An easy way to be dismissed in an argument is to be seen as “appealing to authority”. I believe this is unfortunate, because I think the views of authorities should be considered an important criterion in judging the validity of a scientific conclusion.’

    The primary issue is broader. It’s not whether it’s rational in the individual case to rely on authority. It’s whether all the individual cases of relying on authority add up to groupthink that unduly strengthens whatever conclusions are already being favored, and whether this inhibits double-checking — independent investigation into the original data and the validity of the conclusions.

  22. Re – “Politics of climate expertise. Part II”

    The discussion rightly addresses more than just “The Politics of Climate Expertise” as this area is not the only area that needs attention.

    Politics and Science do NOT mix, they are a suspension that results from aggitation (politicians generally float to the top of any tank given lack of aggitation).

    • Latimer Alder

      They may be full of wind – hence their flotation to the top – but they are still Joe Sixpack’s representatives in spending his hard-earned taxes.

      And it is long overdue for them to take a serious hard look at how the vast sums of ‘climate change’ money are spent in UK and US, as well as other countries. I wonder if they will find that all the endeavours of the climatologists have advanced our useful understanding one whit in the last fifteen years?

      The climate models still don’t do anything useful, the supposed heat of Trenbeth has still gone walkabout. In UK the Met Office has given up trying to forecast the weather more than a few days in advance and on this blog even the very basics of the misnamed ‘greenhouse effect’ are still in dispute.

      Have the taxpayers received value for money from all this effort? I guess renaming Catastrophic Anthropogenic Warming to Climate Change to Global Climate Disruption is a start. But I could have done that for the price of a Coke or two and a cheese sandwich with pickle. I wouldn’t have spent about 30 billion US on it. Otherwise the list if achievements is blank.

      The boondoggle must surely be coming to an end. As one of the CAGW gurus sort of said ‘we must announce disasters or nobody will listen’.

      Listen up guys….nobody’s listening now!

      • Latimer,
        This is what you get when you follow temperatures to the exclusion of all other physical changing factors.

      • Latimer Alder

        D’accord. And particularly when you concentrate on the nebulous concept of ‘global mean temperature’.

        Which of course isn’t even a physical property that can be measured. It has to be calculated from other physical measurements (max and min temperatures scattered unevenly across the globe). Unless somebody knows otherwise, I can think of absolutely no physical process of any relevance to human life that is determined by ‘global mean temperature’.

        If you were several hundred light years away and had a good enough spectroscope to analyse Earth’s radiation then just perhaps you might be able to measure this number directly. But for any actual consequences for life this number is meaningless. Antarctic ice deosn;t increase because of global mean temperature…it does os because the rate of adding new snow is greater than the rate at which it is removed…depending on local conditions.

        Plants don;t grow more or less because of global mean temperature..they are affected by a whole host of local conditions of which temperature is only one. My prize clematis didn’t die because the global mean temperature dropped a bit in December… it did so because in Surrey, UK we had some of the coldest nights in many years.

        As I mentioned before, it seems to me that the whole structure of climatology is designed for the convenience of climatologists. It just so happened that there were some maximum and minimum temperatures easily to hand. And rather than worry about whether the average of these two figures had any scientific relevance, they charged off down the road of assuming that the numbers meant something of deep significance.

        Can somebody explain to this Joe Sixpack why it should be so? And why I should be worried about a in oncrease in average gloabl temperature from 288.00K to 288.75K – or whatever today’s super scary number is supposed to be?

        BTW – I am distinctly unmoved by a rise in sea level of a few feet over a hundred years. Our forefathers coped without noticing..I see no reason why our generation should be any different.

      • Latimer

        I think the reason why average temperature has been so readily embraced by the political wing of AGW is because it is so easy to add the word ‘global’ to it. As we all know, a global crisis requires a global response. And now our donkey has legs and wings!

        And note to Judy we really really really need to nail this average temperature thingy. BBC’s Horizon program earlier this week was an interesting search into the meaning of temperature spoiled by an oik at the end who showed us that by averaging it we could have global warming.

  23. Over the line Moonbat. If you aren’t ‘deleted’ you ought to be.

  24. Judith,
    Through climate predictions, policies change. This effects the readiness of the population to adverse weather.
    Current science has made huge errors in just following temperatures to the exclusion of all other factors and has put society at risk.
    Due to economic collapse, there is now no available funding for any equipment to the weather conditions. Supplies are short on salt due to the predictions followed for forecasting.
    Lives are being lost due to this unpreparedness and soon the worldwide food supplies will be in short supply due to the weather and the planting of wrong crops to compensate.

    • Judith,

      Starvation of the masses do to lack of crop growth and skyrocketing prices will also be an indicator to an Ice Age.

  25. Moonbat,
    Are you a two year old or an adult?
    Stop trying to be a Rich wannabe. At least he has class.

  26. ‘joint framing of science research with policy makers insures that the process will be even more politically corrupt.
    If joint framing is the answer, was the question, “How to destroy science?”

  27. Towards the end of the interview with Stephen Schneider, referenced in Prof Curry’s post, there is this:

    ‘Schneider: The main thing I want people to remember is that when we’re talking about expertise, we’re not talking about expertise in what to do about a problem. That is a social judgment and every person has the same right to their opinion as any person in climate.’

    Part of the fire and the fury in and around concerns over climate (be they in politics or science or finance) is due, I suppose, to the prominence given to ‘what to do’ about them. Suddenly all of us have a voice, and that includes responding to climate scientists who have ventured into political advocacy of some kind. What, for example, are we to make of Dr Hansen’s piece about China as commented on here: http://hauntingthelibrary.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/hansen-us-democracy-not-competent-to-deal-with-global-warming-calls-on-communist-china-to-save-humanity/ ?

    • I always thought that China and Russia are far more likely to act unilaterally on AGW.

      This blog is written under the impression that the United States is driving the bus. We’re probably not going to be driving the bus.

      • Latimer Alder

        How you mean ‘we’ Kemo Sabe?

        LA, UK.

      • “We” is the West.

      • Chaina and Russia are going to do what makes sense economically for China and Russia. People who think otherwise are simply dreaming with practical no experience.

      • JCH,
        They are acting unilaterally:
        They are declining to join the panic over CO2.

      • Things can change, and you are not thinking through the possibilities.

        It is also possible that a wealthy individual could act unilaterally.

      • With the greatest respect, the thought of anyone “driving the bus” (metaphorically) did not even cross my mind whilst composing the post.

        The post was mostly driven by a sense of alarm and revulsion that it seems to be becoming increasingly acceptable to condone and even praise dictatorial regimes like China on the grounds that they can ‘efficiently’ deal with climate change, without worrying about democracy and human rights.

        I didn’t stress that in the post, as I didn’t want to sound sententious about it, but never mind the future as predicted by certain climate models, the past as experienced by millions who suffered under regimes who claimed ‘efficiency’ and an over-riding need tells me that Dr Hansen’s remarks are reprehensible. Calling on a dictatorship that harvests organs from political prisoners and holds relatives hostage until women come in to be sterilized to “save humanity” is – for me – beyond the pale.

  28. A cold earth has little precipitation, including snow, and we warm.
    A warm earth has much precipitation, including snow, and we cool.
    We have a record warm. Now we are having the record precipitation, including snow to cool us.
    This is a recent record only. If you include the past 10.000 years, this is not any kind of a record. The past 10,000 years has had a stable temperature in a narrow range compared to the rest of the history of the earth. This is a stable system. If you turn up the sun, it snows more. If you turn down the sun, it snows less. It does not matter where the heat come from. If it gets warmer it will cool. If it gets colder, it will warm.
    If you have a Climate Model that is not stable, it is a bad model. If you have a Climate Theory that is not stable, it is a bad theory. Temperature data for the earth, for the past 10.000 years has been higher than now and lower than now, but this is very stable data.

  29. A stable system has problems as well. No one gets rich trying to control CO2.

  30. The experts issue is very important to the understanding of the ‘climate wars’ which I have been following as a hobby (voyeur, if you must) since the 1970’s. The gang over at RealClimate and Joe Romm seem to be the direct representatives of the Al Gore/IPCC/CAGW cabal, self-appointed ‘defenders of the faith’ using almost to exclusivity the ‘listen to us, we’re the experts’ line of reasoning. For years, they defended their position using ‘peer review’ as the gold standard. Now that contrary views are regularly published in peer reviewed journals, despite their best ClimateGate-esque efforts, they have resorted to assertive online gang-rebuttals (which, like the piece on the Forbes article, often resemble an academic gang-r***) where they feel free to simply deny any point of science with which they disagree, peer-reviewed or not.
    It is no wonder that sites like WUWT rank orders-of-magnitude higher in readership, even though Mr. Watts allows a wide range to latitude on the quality of guest posts, some of which are questionable ( WUWT readership is not shy about letting guest posters with sloppy science hear about it in no uncertain terms ).
    Interesting new ideas and insights into seemingly intractable problems or questions often do not come from standing experts, but from students, interested hobbyists, and experts in divergent fields, which is one thing Climate Etc. seems have discovered/highlighted since its inception.
    My congratulations on an excellent site, well-run and obviously well-intended.

  31. Judith – I’m visiting your blog less and less often as the level of discussion is now nearing that which I can find at WUWT, it’s incredibly repetetive and consists mostly of group attacks on individuals and a whole lot of mutual back slapping by that same group (I’m starting to picture them dressed as a load of cheerleaders).

    Very few of the climate scientists that used to visit/post seem still do so, possibly because of the mass attacks they receive – Fred was very reasonable above but even his post received vitriolic responses (see Latimer Alder | January 12, 2011 at 3:54 am and others).

    Is this what you wanted this blog to become?

    • Louise,

      I hope that you will stay.

      Not because we agree: Because diversity advances understanding.

      The lack of diversity was a weakness, not a strength, in the effort to promote the concept the threat of AGW (anthropologic global warming).

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel

    • I don;t think my post was ‘vitriolic’.

      Merely pointing out in a relatively robust manner that the much-idolised ‘peer-review’ process doesn’t do what Fred and others claim it does. And that ‘workload issues’ are not a valid excuse. And I used a few real world examples to illustrate concrete places where it had failed.

      You may not like the way in which I expressed myself, but if that is your only objection, then I feel no need to modify my views. I do feel strongly that the process is inherently courruptible and has on occasion been corrupted in well-documented ways. Supporters of the process as is are welcome to make an equally robust defence.

      But please remember that outside academe, many of us here are used to working under closely regulated and monitored areas…we see no reason why the basic disciplines of the workplace (accountability, auditability, responsibility etc) should not apply to Climatology as well. And just as we would view with some suspicion an employee saying ‘I couldn’t do due diligence becasue I ran out of time’, Fred’s defence that everybody was too busy to even get basic peer review right does not get a lot of brownie points with me.

    • Louise, there is a lot of variation among the threads. The technical threads are clean of attacks etc. and generally take off into serious technical territory after the first 100 or so comments. the discussion threads are more freewheeling. Most climate researchers only participate in the technical threads. As an example, see the most recent technical threads:


      The thread on Confidence in Radiative Transfer Models is still going strong after over 1000 comments
      skip to near the end of the thread for the most substantive discussion

      Check out the Denizens thread, there are serious, well-educated people participating here

      Climate Etc. is a blogospheric experiment, that a number of people find sufficiently interesting to participate in. While some of the dialogue does get out of hand, most of the offending commenters have been working on increasing the civility of their dialogue

      Owing to the large number of comments here (around 300 per day), it is difficult to get an overall sense of what is going on here by stopping by occasionally, which I realize is all that many people have time to do. Most people that spend time here find substantial value in the comments, and manage to filter out the people and comments that they don’t find useful/interesting. And finally, people that spend much time commenting in the blogosphere get used to either ignoring attacks or defending their arguments against them. Re Latimer Adler’s post, the most offensive word seems to be “piffle.”

      • AnyColourYouLike

        ‘Re Latimer Adler’s post, the most offensive word seems to be “piffle.”’

        Somewhat less offensive than “nauseating”, which Louise herself used recently in her drive-by, troublemaking attempt to smear me as a sexist.

        However, I hope she sticks around – if that isn’t a patronising thing to say?

      • I will eliminate ‘piffle’ from my vocabulary.

        But since it could probably be safely used by my maiden aunt at the Vicars’s tea party with little fear of causing widespread offence, I fear its replacement may be even more robust. Would ‘Tosh!’ be more acceptable?

    • Louise
      It is a pity that you feel that way. If you are searching for less volatile debate may I suggest the technical threads. If you look at the recent ‘Missing Heat’ thread you will find a very polite and reasoned argument including comments from a number of published scientists. Fred made his mark there too, but I would be surprised if he felt any of the responses to his remarks were vitriolic. As I am sure you will agree, the more political the subject, then the more likely it is that the language will become heated.

    • I wonder, Louise, if your comment isn’t really a prototype field test of “vitriolic language” as the latest sure-fire, put-down zinger? My opinion is that if certain climate “scientists” aren’t posting here any more because of Latimer’s responses, then it’s because they can’t take the heat and their “science” doesn’t bear a reasoned scrutiny. Latimer may not always be right, but he is always worth a listen on the part of any thinking individual. Indeed, his thoughts on this thread, in particular, have been positively brilliant. I mean, Latimer’s insights are good enough to get you, Louise, back on this blog with a ham-handed effort to shut him down. I take that as a sure sign that Latimer has drawn blood (pardon the vitriolic language with its “potential to incite violence”). Sorry, Louise, your potshot is not getting any traction with me, for sure, or many others, I suspect.

    • Louise, I am tempted to plead with you to stay as well. But, you should be self-aware of some of your own comments. Judith is right, on the political threads it is sometimes ruff and tumble, but generally not so on the tech threads. I no know nothing of your educational background but if you ever had to defend a Ph.D. thesis anything said here is mere bantering. My advice, come back, but only after you grow a pair JC.

    • I’ve found myself scrolling past the five or so usernames that represent about 80% of comments and suddenly finding I’m at the bottom of the page. WUWT at least has a wider variety of commenters and a much smaller number of comments per individual on each post.

      • the commenting style is very different at Climate Etc relative to WUWT. WUWT posters mostly comment on the main post, there is relatively little dialogue between commenters. Here there is much dialogue between commenters, enabled by the way the way the blog discussion is set up and the community that has been attracted here. One other point is that WUWT has an audience that is about an order of magnitude larger than that at Climate Etc (and any other climate blog), and hence a broader diversity of commenters. the comments at Climate Etc. also tend to be much lengthier than at WUWT (and often quite substantive). two different blogs, two different audiences (with some overlap).

      • I would put it down entirely to the fact that WUWT doesn’t have a threaded discussion format – i.e. comments are one great wall of text, rather than a tree structure.

      • Dr C

        In this regard, have you considered looking at or previewing other Worpress templates which allow the blog owner to arrange more than one or two threads to appear in the first screen? WordPress themes ‘Inuit’ and ‘Under the Influence’ are examples and I am sure there are many more out there. I know Climate Etc has settled down to a famililar look you would think twice about disturbing, but a linear one-below-the-other format does tend to focus attention on the uppermost post.

      • thx will take a look

      • Judith,
        I overlap due to some good science comes up and I don’t want to miss it.
        Such as the changing atmosphere is very good one:

      • There’s also a time zone thing.

        In UK we are five or six hours ahead. So there is a preponderance of the (few) UK based bloggers during (your) night (our) morning. It evens up a bit during (your) daytime. Apologies to anybody unacknowledged in other time zones.

      • there is a significant australian/new zealand contingent also

      • i tend to put up new posts around 9 p.m. eastern standard time in the U.S.

    • Louise,
      You and other true believers are visiting less often because you are losing the debate.
      You are losing the debate because anytime apocalyptic claptrap is debated in an open forum, it loses.
      You can and will rationalize this, but you are just eating intellectual comfort food instead of the crow that is called for.

      Moderation note: Hunter, this is the kind of comment that Louise seems to be complaining about. I agree that this kind of comment is not useful, others like this with be deleted. I allow some comments through that are rather rough and tumble if the message otherwise has some content.

    • Louise – old, young, I not know of thee. A mentor of mine once gave me some sage advice – nolo contendere illegitimi carborundum.

    • One problem here is that everyone has the climategate emails and related data. Have you read these – if not, you really should.

      If I had seen action taken (even just a public slap on the wrist) against those researchers who were clearly subverting the scientific process, or even if I’d seen a clear and cogent explanation as to how what they were doing was, counter-intuitively, innocent, I might take AGW more seriously.

      In the rather unlikely event that AGW is real, and we are ignoring the risk at our peril (as most of the world seems to be), it is those scientists who brought the scientific process into disrepute, who will ultimately be held responsible.

  32. I was wondering what the reaction from reader of the site’s information the the NOAA anouncement:

    “2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the global surface temperature record, according to data released today by the National Climatic Data Center. Records began in 1880. The Earth’s temperature was 1.12 degrees F above the 20th-century average, which was the same as 2005.
    It was the 34th-consecutive year that the global temperature were above average, according to the data center. The last below-average year was 1976.

    The global land surface temperatures for 2010 were the warmest on record at 1.8 F above the 20th-century average. ”

    Sorry if this is somewhat off the topic, but the reactions of the reader may be interesting

    • Rob. NCDC does not present the December 2010 temperatures, so I am not sure what they are actually saying.

      • Richard S Courtney

        Jim Cripwell:

        I suspect I know what they are saying but I hope I am wrong.

        As a result of the recent ENSO change the December datum is likely to be low and probably sufficiently low as to put the 2010 temperature below the 1998 temperature (ignoring errors which the plots for public presentation do).

        But taking the average to November as being indicative of the datum for 2010 gives a value very similar to that of 2005 which NCDC says they estimate was the hottest in their data series. So, NCDC has put out a press release saying what amounts to, ‘In 2010 the world was the hottest in the temperature record’. It can be anticipated that the value for 2010 will be revised down when the December value is included, but so what? The message in the press release is what NCDC could reasonably hope the public will remember.

        So, they are saying they have found a way to exagerate global warming.

        Perhaps somebody can provide a better explanation of why NCDC would provide a press release saying;
        “2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the global surface temperature record”
        “The global land surface temperatures for 2010 were the warmest on record at 1.8 F above the 20th-century average ”
        when that cannot be known for another month.


      • Richard. I suspect you are correct. Doing a little arithmetic, and assuming I am doing something sensible, of which I am not certain, the average Jan to Nov 2010 is given as 0.64 C. There is a figure of 0.62 C for the whole of 2010, if I read what NCDC has said correctly. This would imply an anomaly for December 2010 of 0.40 C, which is, as you surmise, is a sigmnificant drop. It, however, sort of agrees with the December values from RSS and UAH.

    • I am not a climatologist – just an interested observer, but I know that the global temperature has been essentially flat for the past 15 years or so. Given that this is so, this announcement is little more than a commentary on the noise in the dataset!

      Clearly there has been warming in the late 20th century, so comparing data with the 20th century average is bound to come out above average unless and until there is a pronounced downturn in the graph!

      Commenting on the data as if it were a sporting event where a winner is always required, seems decidedly odd when the data are noisy.

      My other comment, is that I have read a lot about temperature adjustments that seem to be progressively adjusting temperatures upwards, even when considerations of the urban heat island effect, would naturally suggest that adjustments would be in the opposite direction.

    • OT.

      Ya it’s getting warmer. 2010 is up there as one of the warmest. Talk about “The” warmest is pretty silly. I wish NASA and CRU and NCDC would stop doing it. And, ya I believe in AGW, but talk about the warmest year is a bad idea.

  33. Professor Curry,

    The most dangerous political “fall-out” from the climate scandal is loss of faith in formerly respected institutions like the UN’s IPCC, the UK’s Royal Society, the US’s NAS and its mouthpiece, PNAS, the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee, Nature, Science, BBC, PBS, etc.

    After seeing flaws in the experimental evidence of AGW (anthropologic global warming), and the above institutions defense of this as a “scientific truth,” I too have doubts about previous reports that I accepted without question.

    The ozone hole , the N1H1 virus, DDT, the danger of Cr+6, etc., etc.

    Loss of confidence in world leaders and in the above institutions will be the most dangerous and long-term political “fall-out” from the current climate scandal.

    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  34. When I first became aware of the emissions scenarios, to the extent that I assumed anything, I probably assumed that these were put together by the energy companies

    Actually the World Energy Organization did submit an emissions scenario to the IPCC. It is included in one of the emissions graphs.
    However, it didn’t become of the scenario’s that was modeled.

    The WEO prediction was that ‘Business as usual’ would result in peak fossil fuel emissions in 2030, at roughly the A1B1 level then decline.

    The IPCC Scenario’s are based on the following true statement.
    Coal is geologically evenly distributed throughout the world and is for all intents and purposes, unlimited

    The WEO scenario is based on the following true statement
    The location of economically extractable coal is not evenly distributed throughout the world and tends to be concentrated in areas that are a significant distance from major population centers , the cost of transportation posing a significant challenge as to it’s economic utility

    Long story short, the further one lives from Gillette Wyoming the less economically advantageous it is to use coal.

  35. To all – I appreciate the friendly but vigorous debate regarding this topic, including responses to my two long comments far above. I’ll try to be briefer here.

    Some of what I said has been misrepresented. My points were that –
    (1) Journal peer review improves overall quality. Some journals – particularly those capable of selecting from a very large array of submissions, do a better job than others
    (2) Peer review does not guarantee quality in individual cases
    (3) Most papers get published somewhere, and so authors rejected by premier journals usually get a hearing – and will be judged accordingly
    (4) The views of experts are one criterion among many affecting the probability that a conclusion is correct
    (5) Expert opinion is not guaranteed to be right
    (6) Malfeasance occurs in every scientific discipline, although less in the public eye when the discipline has fewer societal implications
    (7) A scientific discipline cannot be judged by extrapolating anecdotal evidence of malfeasance to the field as a whole
    (8) Contributions to science from outsiders can be constructive
    (9) Archiving of raw data is a good idea, but it is impossible for all raw data to be scrutinized by reviewers and/or readers – scientific conclusions require some degree of trust among authors, reviewers, and readers
    (10) Related to the above, but not previously stated – scientific accuracy is best ensured by the ability of other scientists to replicate one’s results. This is an order of magnitude more efficient than attempts to pore over the most minute details of how a particular piece of recording apparatus was applied

    I also mentioned that several of my statements were based on detailed knowledge of how science operates. Regarding peer review, for example, I would particularly welcome comments from scientists whose experience resembles mine. This includes many years in various roles as author, reviewer of papers, grant reviewer, and member of a journal editorial board in a field with its share of egotism, cliquishness, dishonesty, and bias. Many individuals here are familiar with what gets published. I’m also familiar with what gets rejected and why, and so I would be interested in hearing someone defend the notion that what is rejected is as meritorious as what is published, provided that the defender is equally familiar with the process from the inside. I’m also familiar with the time demands involved, and the practical impossibility of greatly magnifying those demands through additional obligations imposed on journals and reviewers.

    Finally, I hope anyone responding to any of my comments will review the above list. If they disagree with the items on it, I would hope to hear why, but I would also hope that no-one attributes to me claims I haven’t made.

    • Fred – I can’t argue with any of your points…….as they apply to a working system of peer review. The accusation seems to be that a bias has crept in that is affecting what gets published. A sort of confirmation bias if you like where editors and reviewers ensure that only consensus articles are published. This accusation is very difficult to prove (notwithstanding some of the e-mails that were highlighted during climategate) and it is easy to defend against by merely saying that an article was not published because the science was not up to scratch. It would be interesting to hear from somebody who has fallen foul of this situation to hear their thoughts. Regards, Rob

      • Rob – You raise an important point about journal bias, but I believe there is relevant evidence on the point. As I suggested above, almost every paper gets published somewhere, even if Miskolczi had to submit his theorizing to an obscure Hungarian Meteorology journal after all the good spectroscopy journals he approached rejected it. Others have published in a variety of little-known journals, including the International Journal of Geosciences where the Knox/Douglass OHC paper appeared. (Of course, Richard Lindzen is an exception – his prestige enabled the Lindzen/Choi 2009 paper to appear in GRL, despite the fact that the same material submitted by a less established scientist would have been rejected for the errors Lindzen now concedes the paper contained)

        Articles published in these low impact journals are perceived as less persuasive than those published in the premier journals. Whether this is fair is beside the point, because authors want to be taken seriously, and many therefore publish in the lesser impact journals either after being rejected elsewhere or expecting that rejection.

        We therefore have for review two groups – articles published in J. Climate, GRL, JGR, and other high impact climatology journals on one hand, and those published in lesser impact journals on the other. We can compare the articles to determine which have more profoundly advanced the progress of climate science in an accurate direction.

        I’ll leave the comparisons to various readers. My own assessment is that the difference is rather enormous. A few positive contributions have in fact emanated from the second tier publications, but far more from the first tier. Both groups can acknowledge their share of errors, but in my view, the level of inaccurate or misleading conclusions in the second tier exceeds that in the higher impact publications. The second tier articles have been useful at times in identifying errors in the high impact group, and I don’t want to dismiss the value of that contribution, but in terms of contributions that move the science forward rather than apply corrections, they have done little.

        It is obvious that I’ve generalized because the literature is vast, and so thousands of comparisons might be made. What I would invite readers to do on their own is to visit the various chapters of IPCC AR4 WG 1 and 2, and examine the many hundreds of references there for their contribution to scientific advance. They might then wish to cite articles not referenced in AR4 that they believe have contributed as much or more than the referenced ones (obviously, papers after the beginning of 2007 are ineligible for this comparison). I will be interested in seeing how this comparison turns out for anyone who wants to attempt it. As in my other comments, however, I suggest that anecdotal comparisons involving one or a few narrow areas will not provide an objective measure of how the two large groups perform. The danger of invoking selected examples is that we will become embroiled in an interminable controversy over whether the positive Soden and Held contributions to understanding the hydrologic cycle and its feedbacks are more important than the statistical errors in the Mann/Bradley/Hughes “hockey stick” report. Those debates lead nowhere in my opinion.

      • Richard S Courtney

        Fred Moulten:

        You divide journals into ‘high impact’ and ‘second tier’ then assert;

        “The second tier articles have been useful at times in identifying errors in the high impact group, and I don’t want to dismiss the value of that contribution, but in terms of contributions that move the science forward rather than apply corrections, they have done little.”

        OK. Accepting that assertion as being true for the sake of argument, please state 3 papers published in “the high impact group” during the last 10 years that have made “contributions that move the science forward”.

        If you cannot fulfil this request then I submit that your assertion is disproved.

        And please note that I am accepting your desire to avoid “invoking selected examples”. My point is that a mere 3 significant advances in 10 years is not asking much when expenditure on the research tops $5 billion p.a. worldwide (more than $2 billion p.a. in the US alone).

        In fact, the major findings in AGW research during the last decade have all been findings that conflict with AGW, and they have all been published in your “second tier” because the ‘pal review’ of your “high impact” journals has prevented their being published there.


      • AnyColourYouLike

        The MBH Hockey Stick wasn’t just a “report” it was a long and increasingly unlikely saga of Lazarus-like resilience that stretched over many years and many papers, as has been documented ad infinitum over at CA.

        The miraculous properties of this IPCC icon and it’s ability to survive in different forms despite numerous flaws, (usually pointed out by non-professional bloggers) does not speak well to the “robust” nature of peer-review in the “high-impact” journals that continued to publish Mann, Amman & Wahl etc.

        The “boomerang” quality of the Hockey Stick (in it’s various reconstructions) and it’s innate ability to keep rising from the dead has also been well documented by Montford. For Laymen, like myself, it is also illustrated in slightly less technical terms by the parable of “The Cat Came Back”.

        Warning: This Video has not yet been Peer Reviewed!

      • Richard – Your request doesn’t strike me as consistent with your statement that “I am accepting your desire to avoid “invoking selected examples”.” Whatever I cite seems likely to start an argument as to its value. I won’t mention specific papers, but right off the top, my list includes papers by Ramanathan on black carbon – an important anthropogenic warming influence – and by Soden and Held as well as by Getterlman et al on the maintenance of relatively stable upper tropospheric relative humidity in concert with warming – a critical variable in assessing positive feedback and its consequences for climate sensitivity. Other contributions include methods for improving model performance through multi-model ensembles and for assessing solar contributions to long term climate change.

        There are dozens more, but I’m afraid I’ll need to repeat my
        wish not to debate individual papers in a thread not devoted to the topics they cover.

        We could do that in a different venue. For here, gender aside, my reaction would be not too different from what Cleopatra is reputed to have told Marc Antony – “Sire, I am not prone to argue”.

      • Richard S Courtney

        Fred Moulten:

        I regret that I am completely under whelmed.

        You made an assertion and I called you on it by asking for a mere 3 papers published in what you called ‘high impact’ journals which had significantly advanced the science of AGW over the last 10 years.

        Your answer consists of three parts.

        You say you are not willing to discuss it because you “are not prone to argue”. Hmmm

        You assert that a request that you cite any 3 papers of your choosing which had significantly advanced the science was an attempt to start a discussion as to the merits of whichever papers you cited. No! That assertion cannot be true of any paper which had significantly advanced the science: the resulting advance of the science would be undeniable proof of your point whatever the merits of the paper.

        You mention unstated papers on “methods for improving model performance through multi-model ensembles and for assessing solar contributions to long term climate change”.

        But there have been no significant developments published in the ‘high impact’ journals that have made any significant advance to the models or to solar contributions; none, not any, nada.

        You cite a paper “by Ramanathan on black carbon” as an example of a paper that was a significant advance of the science over the last 10 years. No, that was not a “significant advance” made in the last 10 years: it was a development from the significant advance of Jacobson which was published 11 years ago. I am not surprised you are unaware of Jacobson’s because the IPCC AR5 authors were ignorant of it, too. For example, this was one of my peer review comments:

        “Page 2-3 Chapter 2 Line 50
        Replace “second” with “third” because the statement in the draft is incorrect when the effect of water vapour is ignored as is the convention in this Chapter except for Section 3.2.8.
        1. CO2 has RF of 1.63 Wm-2,
        2. particles of sulphate aerosols combined with soot have RF of 0.55 Wm-2 (ref. Jacobson MZ, Nature, vol. 409, 695-697 (2000))
        3. methane has RF of 0.48 Wm-2.
        The authors of this chapter seem to be ignorant of the warming effect of sulphate aerosols combined with soot particles.”

        So, you could only cite the papers by Soden and Held as well as by Getterlman et al that could be claimed to be a significant advance to the science. I will not discuss the dubious nature of those papers because you do not want discussion of individual papers, but the fact is that if they are accepted as making a significant advance (they don’t) then you have failed to cite 3 papers in answer to my question.

        If your original assertion were true then it would have been easy for you to cite any 3 papers that clearly demonstrated a significant advance of the science over the last 10 years and were published in ‘high impact’ journals. The fact that you have failed to do it speaks for itself.


      • Jacobson was in 2001 – Nature February 2001

        You are beginning to earn my contempt, Richard, which is not something easily accomplished. If you are interested in arriving at an accurate perspective on climate change through exchange of comments, I’ll reconsider. If you are obsessed with arguing, I’ll ignore you in the future. I already regret responding to your invitation above, since I should have known you weren’t serious about wanting the information you requested, and had no intention of accepting its validity.

      • Richard S Courtney

        Fred Moulten:

        Say what!?

        You made an invalid assertion.
        I asked you to justify it.
        You tried and clearly failed.
        I pointed out your failure.

        That earns your contempt!?

        You may be able to browbeat your students that way but you are among grownups here. And it is precisely that attitude of ‘proclaiming from on high’ that is losing respect for climate science.

        Anyway, “contempt” from somebody who behaves that way has to be a badge of honour.


      • Michael Larkin


        Could you please address the specific point: was the Jacobson paper published in 2001, or 11 years ago? That wouldn’t invalidate the force of your other points, but fair does, if Fred is correct, that one is invalidated.

      • Richard S Courtney

        Michael Larkin:

        I have withdrawn from contributing to discussions on this thread and I emailed Dr Curry to explain why. I am not “running away” but I see little reason to expend effort here when those such as Collose and Lacis have stopped engaging, leading lights of e.g. RealClimate.org are frightened to become involved, and the most convinced AGW-advocates adopt the attitudes of Fred Moulten.

        There are some AGW-supporters here whom I respect: for example, Dr Curry is sincere in her efforts and has earned my respect, Randomengineer is a true gentleman whom I would enjoy debating our different views with, and Michael Tobis is clearly sincere in his extreme views but does not disregard those who disagree with him. However, Fred Moulten, Dercho64 and Fledderjohn are more typical, and I have beter things to do than to waste time on them.

        However, your request is such that it would be churlish for me not to make this one return to this blog for me to answer it, especially when I have wrongly been accused of being an “attack dog” who “provides misinformation”.

        On examination I find this publication information concerning Jacobson’s paper (which I have had as hard copy since it was first published).

        Nature 409, 695-697 (8 February 2001) | doi:10.1038/35055518; Received 24 July 2000; Accepted 23 November 2000

        Although the publication process for that paper was completed on 23 November 2000 (which was more than 10 years ago), Fred Moulten is right that the paper was not in print until 8 February 2001 and, therefore, he is right that this was within the last 10 years. Hence, I was wrong.

        So, I have returned to this blog to make this post because it would have been wrong of me not to admit that the Jacobson paper was printed in Nature in 2001 and not in 2000 as I said.

        The important point is that there have been no significant advances in AGW science since Jacobson’s paper that was published 9 years and 11months ago. Indeed, advocates of AGW rushed to adopt the MBH ‘hockey stick’ because they thought they had – at last – found a significant advance.

        Much more interesting for those who do wish to continue discussion on this blog would be a debate of why taxpayers have got nothing useful from the tens of billions of dolars they have poured into climate science since 8 February 2001.

        The smear that I present “misinformation” was previously posted on this blog by Chris Collose. In that case I showed that I had made no mistake. The smear has again been posted here again. In this case, I did make a mistake but I did not post “misinformation”.


      • Michael Larkin

        Thanks for your reply, Richard. Glad to see you have answered the question, and that you have conceded that particular point. That’s fine; we can all make mistakes and it’s commendable to admit to them.

        I generally enjoy your posts and look forward to your appearance on other threads.

      • Latimer Alder

        Hey Richard

        Please reconsider.

      • Richard S Courtney

        Michael Larkin:

        This is a clarification and not a contribution.

        I have withdrawn from the blog, not merely the thread, but I will continue to lurk.

        I apologise that I inadvertently mislead you.


      • Michael Larkin


        No need to go overboard, old chum. I genuinely enjoy your posts and I wasn’t after an apology, more a clarification. Please re-think and come back so we can continue to benefit from your wisdom.

      • Insofar as I understand, my purportedly “extreme” views on these matters are rather typical of those of the mainstream climate science community.

      • Tobis–your views are most certainly NOT mainstream (imo). You keep stating there is a consensus in the scientific community that supports your position, but that statement ignores both the definition of the term consensus and the reality of opinion.

      • Fred… Richard is a well known attack dog rife with loads of misinformation that he feels no compunction to justify. I wouldn’t bother to engage him.

      • run away!
        It works for most AGW hypesters when cornered.

      • Other contributions include methods for improving model performance through multi-model ensembles and for assessing solar contributions to long term climate change.

        Some specifics would be nice about the solar contributions, ie which ones,retrodictive analysis have little scientific status please provide ones with predicitons.

      • Judith
        What would be useful at this juncture is a comment from somebody on the editorial staff of one of the publications – Tier 2 probably most useful. Do you know of anyone who might be willing to stick their neck out or is this matter likely to be too sensitive?

      • actually, when i have time, i will do a post on impact factor for the various journals and my interpretation thereof, this is an interesting topic and shouldn’t take me too long

      • Richard S Courtney

        Rob B:

        That would be me. Please see the discussion of E&E above in this thread.


      • Michael Larkin


        Once again, you are a nice guy, but it is obvious that you have a bias. I’m not saying that you’re wrong to have that bias, only that you have it. Hence you see the world through different spectacles than someone who has a different bias – yes, we all have biases.

        The system should be such that those with a certain bias, should they be in the majority, can’t control it so as to suppress contradictory biases. There should be a recognised role for minority views.

        I would draw a parallel here with democratic systems that have a first-past-the-post voting system and those that have proportional representation. In the former, provided one party gets > 50% of the vote, that party controls the agenda, and apart from trying to snipe at them, the opposition parties are pretty much hamstrung. Coalitions tend to be rare – the UK has one at the moment, but that’s an exception.

        With proportional representation, you are more likely to have alliances between different parties in order to form a working majority. Hence it’s more pluralistic.

        Both systems have their problems, of course. And I’m in any case only using it as an analogy. In climate science, a certain “party” has total control. It has a vested interest in maintaining that status quo. It might be fine if its science were beyond reproach, but it has lost the confidence of Joe Public that this is the case, whether or not most of the science is on firm ground.

        But if it is on firm ground, why is it so defensive? Why do papers supporting the consensus often have cursory review, and those challenging it have to go through sometimes extraordinary scrutiny?

        It’s no use arm-waving about anecdote. That’s just the use of language to dismiss something out of hand, however much the utterer engages in soft-shoe shuffling. These “anecdotes” are serious and strike at the core of credibility.

        The field in which you have your editorial experience isn’t, apparently, climate science. Maybe things are much healthier there – I can’t say. Your bias seems to me to be to project that health into the climate science arena. But me, I’m not an editor of any sort and am looking at this arena, plus a couple of others that also interest me (one of them is cosmology, for instance).

        What I see is transparenty obvious gaming of the system so that science has become no longer a matter of the collegiate yet competetive search for truth. There is no benefit in that for any group that can establish a working majority. And those who might otherwise wish to challenge orthodoxy may decide the best course of action is to keep their own counsel, creating the impression that the number of dissenters is much smaller than it actually is.

        One doesn’t have to be a scientist to be able to detect what’s going on, and to see that what is essentially politics rules at least some areas of the scientific establishment. Joe Public is as, or more, expert in spotting and analysing that as are scientists themselves. Their bias is to see the system from that POV.

        The two POVs are irreconcilable. The spectacles are welded in place. The conflict isn’t going to go away any time soon. Until and unless people are confident that any perceived gaming of the system is eliminated, and that there is free competition of ideas, they won’t feel inclined to trust the orthodox view.

      • Perfectly put Michael (as usual!). I hope you’re wrong about those welded spectacles: actually you seem to be a good example of someone possessing those of the removable variety. Let’s hope more people from both sides of this debate can follow your example.

      • Michael Larkin

        I have to disagree with Saaad.

        You seem to be self-falsifyingly at odds with the message you deliver in the very text and tone of that message, however kindly your intentions.

        Do we all have biases? How do biases differ from valid points of view?

        For example, you speak of the (entirely unrelated) topic of first past the post electoral systems, presenting almost word-for-word the pro-proportional-representation case. This is, by any measure, a biased example itself.

        In first-past-the-post parliamentary systems the minority, or “Loyal Opposition” are not powerless as you project, but rather have the authority, responsibility, duty, obligation and role of interrogating the government on every act of legislation, every public action, every activity of governance with vigor and zeal, assured by the constitution of their nation, the tradition of parliament, and the watchful eye of the electorate.

        Your parallel is faulty, because you have a bias that does not allow you to see both sides of the issue you cite.

        If other people’s valid points of view are just their biases, and any person’s right to hold in invalid (due to error, moral reprehensibility, irrationality or whatever) point of view must be defensible on the basis that we all have biases anyway, then you’re making a valuable contribution to error, moral reprehensibility, irrationality and whatever.

        If Fred has biases, name them. Be specific. Be precise. Be accurate. Help us, and Fred, recognize his biases as you see them, so we and Fred can disentangle the bias from the valid point of view. In this way error, moral reprehensibility, irrationality and whatever weakens our discussion with questionable or wrong facts, derail our ability to communicate with products of rabid invective, deflect logic with pleasant-sounding rhetoric and propaganda unconnected to true reason, and so much nonsense more can be identified, tagged, catalogued and acknowledged, so we do not fall into those traps.

        As it is, all you’ve done is point a finger, jump up and down, wrapped yourself in the whited sepulchre of pseudosuperiority, and said nothing that moves us forward. This is not because of your point of view, but because of your habit of sloppily and vaguely defining your terms so they can mean whatever advantages your case at the time, invalidating your argument.

      • Bart R:

        “Do we all have biases? How do biases differ from valid points of view?”

        Yes we do all have biases – they are a result of the myriad influences on our psychological make-up, education, societal groups and experiences from cradle to grave.

        As to the ‘validity’ of points of view I’m not sure there is any such thing. Stalin’s points of view are every bit as valid as Ghandi’s, whatever the moral judgements involved.

        The value of exchanging different views on a forum such as this is surely the attempt to achieve some sort of enlightenment, some breaking of Michael Larkin’s “welded on” goggles…..perhaps….well, it’s a nice idea, anyway.

      • Holding the point of view that a tomato is a fruit is valid.

        Holding the point of view that a cement mixer is a fruit isn’t.

        If Fred is out-and-out wrong because of a perceived bias in your estimation, then point it out and detail the error and how it happened according to your empathic understanding.

        If you just don’t like what Fred’s saying, smearing him with accustion of bias is simply admission that you have nothing to back up what you say.

      • Firstly I have no problem whatsoever with Fred’s comments and have never made any attempts to smear him. Indeed I don’t think I’ve ever actually engaged with Fred on any subject, let alone disparage him!

        As for an “accusation” of bias with respect to anyone, I am merely saying that bias is an unavoidable side effect of the human condition. I’m not ‘accusing’ anyone of anything, merely making an observation.

        As far as your examples of points of view are concerned I think what you are doing is confusing opinions with premises. 1+1 =2 is not a point of view: it is a premise. Similarly, stating that a Tomato is a fruit is a premise, as is stating that a Tomato is a Cement Mixer. Once a premise is established we can then offer opinions on the validity – or otherwise – of the premise, in the hope of achieving a reasoned outcome to the discussion.

        In the meantime I’ve got to go get the concrete out of my Tomato before it starts to dry!

      • Saaad

        I apologize.

        I was insensitive.

        I had no idea you had problems of concretion in your tomato (the dry kind, moreover!)

        One recommends you seek medical advice before disimpaction is necessary. I’ve seen that done to a horse. It isn’t pretty.

        I hear Metamucil can prevent that sort of condition, too, but giving medical advice to strangers online can only be as unwise as accepting it, so all I’ll say further is best wishes on a speedy recovery.

      • That was very funny Bart!!!….not sure I like the sound of disimpaction though. ;-)

      • Michael Larkin


        “Do we all have biases? How do biases differ from valid points of view?”

        A POV is neither valid nor invalid. As soon as something is evidentially (in)validated, it’s no longer a POV. It’s a truth.

        “For example, you speak of the (entirely unrelated) topic of first past the post electoral systems, presenting almost word-for-word the pro-proportional-representation case. This is, by any measure, a biased example itself.”

        You need to clean your own welded-on specs. I stated clearly that both systems have their problems. To be explicit, PR can lead to fragile coalitions, frequent general elections, and a small minority tail wagging a large majority dog. The disadvantages of that have to be weighed against a bare majority doing things that cheese off a nearly equal number of people.

        “In first-past-the-post parliamentary systems the minority, or “Loyal Opposition” are not powerless as you project, but rather have the authority, responsibility, duty, obligation and role of interrogating the government on every act of legislation, every public action, every activity of governance with vigor and zeal, assured by the constitution of their nation, the tradition of parliament, and the watchful eye of the electorate.”

        Golly, how idealistic you are, Bart. The parliamentary whips dragoon the troops of the party in power, make sure they toe the line, and there’s sweet fanny adams the opposition can do about it.

        “Your parallel is faulty, because you have a bias that does not allow you to see both sides of the issue you cite.”

        Already shown that’s incorrect.

        “If other people’s valid points of view are just their biases, and any person’s right to hold in invalid (due to error, moral reprehensibility, irrationality or whatever) point of view must be defensible on the basis that we all have biases anyway, then you’re making a valuable contribution to error, moral reprehensibility, irrationality and whatever.”

        See above. No such thing as a valid or invalid POV. Just biases on the one hand, or truths on the other.

        “If Fred has biases, name them. Be specific. Be precise. Be accurate. Help us, and Fred, recognize his biases as you see them, so we and Fred can disentangle the bias from the valid point of view.”

        I explicitly stated his bias – the projection of the health he sees in one area of science onto climate science. I also explicitly stated my bias as one who doesn’t happen to be an editor of any journal.

        “In this way error, moral reprehensibility, irrationality and whatever weakens our discussion with questionable or wrong facts, derail our ability to communicate with products of rabid invective, deflect logic with pleasant-sounding rhetoric and propaganda unconnected to true reason, and so much nonsense more can be identified, tagged, catalogued and acknowledged, so we do not fall into those traps.”

        Golly, sounds good. Punch the air. Make a macho grunt. Make sure you can look in the mirror and admire your pecs.

        “As it is, all you’ve done is point a finger, jump up and down, wrapped yourself in the whited sepulchre of pseudosuperiority, and said nothing that moves us forward. This is not because of your point of view, but because of your habit of sloppily and vaguely defining your terms so they can mean whatever advantages your case at the time, invalidating your argument.”

        Golly. Thanks for sharing your POV.

      • Michael Larkin

        That certainly was a long way to say, “Fred Moolten is biased because he’s so familiar with the subject.”

        Next time I ask for precise, I’ll add ‘concise’ too.

        So everyone who has any expertise must be dismissed for bias.

        Got it.

      • Not to beat a dead horse.

        But not all the best information on a given subject ends up being published in scientific publications.

        I’m sure there is a scientific journal somewhere that will tell me how much coal in the ground.

        But to make an emissions scenario I need to understand the economics of the coal industry. What are the trends in worker productivity? Are their particular challenges to mining certain types of coal? What are the costs of transporting coal? Is their a trend in coal transportation costs?

        In 2005 EIA did a study on coal transportation rates and attempted to estimate the impact on coal consumption if rail transportation rates increased by 7 percent, considered to be a ‘high’ scenario.

        In 2010 the US surface transportation board did a study as to what actually happened to coal transporation rates. Actual rates increased 40%.

        If the underlying economics of coal production and distribution used to produce the IPCC emissions scenarios was off by an order of magnitude then everything that is dependent on those emissions scenarios is also off by an order of magnitude.

    • Latimer Alder


      ‘7. A scientific discipline cannot be judged by extrapolating anecdotal evidence of malfeasance to the field as a whole’

      Well up to a point Lord Copper. And if the only existing evidence were indeed purely anecdotal or ‘urban myth’, then your case would be stronger.
      But it isn’t. There is plenty of evidence that at least some of the leading participants have acted in ways that are ‘dubious’ (to stay within the bounds of propriety) at best. If you haven’t read Montford’s book The Hockey Stick Illusion, there are more references and proof points than you can shake a stick at of such malfeasance; I commend it to your attention (*)

      And if it were just one or two participants and the other leaders made suitable noises about ‘rotten apples’, ‘important for the field the we clean up our act’, ‘shameful day for us, we want to reform and progress’ and meant it, then we sceptics might be wrong to make such sweeping judgments.

      But there are no such noises. Faced with irrefutable evidence of misbehaviour, the leaders of climatology have stayed completely schtumm, apart from some ludicrously naive and inept handwaving about ‘Big Oil deniers’ and harrassment by FOI requests. Only the participants at RC truly believe any of that tosh…and I strongly suspect that even they have their private doubts. They are just going through the motions.

      And Fred, even you, who I am sure is a true exemplar of probity in all your personal and professional dealings, cannot bring yourself to say anything stronger than ‘malfeasance occurs in every scientific discipline’.

      Which is not a ringing endorsement of a desire to make sure that your discipline rises above the mass of the rest and to be seen as a shining light of integrity. More, sadly, an ‘aw shucks, there’s nothing we can do about it’ sort of resigned acceptance. I clearly do not know your personal circumstances, but if I were a respected senior statesman in my field, I’d wonder if that wasn’t a bit of an abdication of my responsibility to my colleagues and to the public.

      I hope I haven;t misrepresented anything there…just my observations on your points 6 and 7. Please correct me if I have done so.

      *If your sensitivities are such that the word Climategate sends you into a faint,, then ignore the publisher’s subtitle…’Climategate and the corruption of science’…that is not at all what the vast majority of the book is about.

    • Fred, I would not disagree with any of those points in isolation, but I find (4), especially, lacking in context.

      There is no question that it’s good idea to rely on experts in many cases. The question is in what cases and to what degree. As a general statement, I would say there is too much of it already.

      The problem with reliance on experts is that it gives the experts too much power, and power corrupts. Too many experts are free to make superficial, false, meaningless or misleading claims in public, without much risk of getting caught. They can afford to be sloppy.

      Since experts tend to trust experts, at worst you end up with “established facts” that are not much better than urban legends. If no one bothers to double-check these “facts”, they can live for a long time.

      One example from climate science is the idea that atolls such as the Maldives will disappear with sea level rise. Charles Darwin could have told them otherwise in 1841. Atolls build up and rise with the sea. I could have missed something, but as far as I can tell no one has tried to argue against this. Apparently, it has simply been ignored by mainstream climate science.

      If more people were less trusting of experts, a lot of false claims would be exposed sooner.

    • I have a question about this point on your list:

      “(9) Archiving of raw data is a good idea, but it is impossible for all raw data to be scrutinized by reviewers and/or readers – scientific conclusions require some degree of trust among authors, reviewers, and readers.”

      I suppose it is clear that no one reviewer or reader can scrutinize all raw data, on every published article. But on any given article, isn’t the whole point of archiving all data and code so that someone can, if it is desirable, scrutinize all the data for that paper and replicate (or not) the results?

      I confess that when I first began following climate blogs, I was surprised to learn in a comment by Gavin Schmidt that peer review is not intended to review the accuracy of the papers being reviewed. (If I recall correctly this was in response to a question as to why all data and code are not routinely required to be presented to reviewers in the first instance, rather than just being available if requested). I would suggest this has not been the commonly held understanding among the general public – who will make the ultimate decisions on climate policy.

      In an innocuous paper on some arcane point, perhaps it doesn’t matter. But with respect to any paper of consequence that forms a part of the debate on an issue with the implications of climate policy, I think it is essential that those making such momentous decisions NOT rely on “some degree of trust among authors, reviewers, and readers.”

      I guess my point is that, on peripheral issues, relying on “climate expertise” (or any expertise) may make sense. But on issues of the scale of AGW, it is a serious mistake. Everyone’s work, activists and skeptic alike, should be subject to the highest scrutiny.

      • isn’t the whole point of archiving all data and code so that someone can, if it is desirable, scrutinize all the data for that paper and replicate (or not) the results?

        Archiving is a good idea and is routinely required by some journals and institutions. In some cirucmstances, reviewing the archive may lead to perceptions different from those conveyed by the published paper. However, there isn’t nearly enough time and personnel for that type of review as a routine, which is why repeating a study is a more efficient means of arriving at accurate conclusions. The archiving itself shouldn’t be necessary for other scientists to repeat the study, because the required information should be in the paper itself. In fact, it is generally desirable to repeat a study in a slightly different manner from the original as a means of converging on the validity of the conclusions. Exact repetition down to the most minute detail is desirable only when attempted repetitions fail to duplicate the original findings.

      • Sorry for the italics above, which should have ended with your quote.

        Another important point is that it is not infrequent that even the most rigorous scrutiny of original data will fail to explain why a result can’t be replicated. Replication is the gold standard – if a conclusion is repeatedly confirmed, preferably via more than a single method, it deserves credibility. It if can’t be, it is suspect until the reasons for the failure are identified.

      • The purpose of providing code and data goes far beyond “replication” or “repetition”.

        In empirical studies of actual science papers it’s been shown that the original researcher is often unable to reproduce his own results. So, the first reason to request code and data is to actually quality check that the figures printed in the paper were ACTUALLY produced by the data and code cited. So the first motivation is quality assurance.

        The next issue is the issue of the best way of extending and improving known results. I would draw your attention to the recent article by mcShane on the hockey stick. They provided data and TURNKEY code. That allowed more than a handful of teams to take their code, extend it, take it apart, and rapidly respond with cogent criticisms.

        So there are three distinct issues.

        1. Quality assurance. Are the graphs and figures printed the actual outputs from the data and methods used?

        2. “replication” can the results be replicated, preferably by independent methods. For this Code is not logically required PROVIDED that the method described in the paper ACCURATELY and completely describes the ACTUAL Method performed. So, I do not request code merely to rerun it. I request code to verify that the method described in the paper is the method used in the code. If I want to do a independent method, the first thing I want to do is understand the method that the original author used.

        3. Standing on the shoulders of others. When there is a new method or improved method ( see ODonnel and Mcintyre 2010) I want the code so that I can apply that method to other data. Or I may want to extend the method, or test the method under different assumptions.

        The notion that people merely want to “repeat” a study is misleading.

        if you want to know why people want the code and data, ask us.
        I know of no case where refusing to release code or data led to MORE knowledge, more trust, better science. factually, I do know, that refusing to release it, when the planet is at stake, has led to more trouble, more doubt, and more skepticism.

      • Latimer Alder

        Providing exact replicatable details (e.g. exact copies of code and data) also performs the role of keeping the researcher honest. In the same way as the shareholders of a company don’t necessarily want to take the word of their board of directors about the financial position and appoint auditors as well. They help to keep the directors honest.

        And though it may be that within climatology there is absolute trust and confidence in each other’s results, that does not extend outside the field. Montford detailed in his book just how easy it has been for some to be ‘less than scrupulously honest’ without such external sanctions. If they had managed to adhere to the norms of integrity and hinesty then perhaps there might be greater public trust in the word of the climatologists. But currently those words get the same level of trust as the British short term weather forecast….’probably broadly right, but we’ll take a brolly just in case because they’re often very wrong’

        Though it may be inconvenient from the researchers point of view, absolute full and accurate disclosure is the price they will have to pay for future public funding of their work.

        Those of us in the big outside world find auditors and archiving and adhering to the laws of the land an occasional PITA as well. But the consequences of not doing so are far worse than the effort involved in complying. Doing climatology is a job of work like any other and should have no special dispensation.

      • The trouble I have with that approach is that if some is asked to review a paper but they do not have to expertise to do the job properly they would turn down the request with good reason. Equally if someone is asked to review a paper but lacks the time to the job properly, deal with the actual data, why should it not be atomic that they turn down the requests.
        In both cases the request cannot be fully meant through lack of resources , is it really good enough to say ‘I trust them’ so I need not to look at the data as I don’t have the time to act otherwise?

      • Latimer Alder

        There are five billion US swilling around the climatology system every year. That is about 14 million US per day. Just about 570 grand per hour.

        If they seriously can’t organise a way to do adequate peer review out of all that lovely cash, they shouldn’t be put in charge of a whelk stall.

      • “Had we but world enough, and time…” (Andrew Marvell – “To His Coy Mistress”)

        Scientific disciplines differ in the extent to which they can make code or other inputs available as part of published material – when feasible, it should be done. However, I believe the notion that reviewers should have both the data and the obligation to look at more than they do currently is one that tends to come from individuals who have never had to solicit reviews for a submitted manuscript. It is very difficult to cajole good reviewers into service.

        The reason is simple. The best reviewers are busy scientists with their own work to do. They don’t get paid to review (that would raise the already exorbitant cost of journals, but even payment would not be enough to entice many scientists to shirk their time commitment to their own endeavors). As a reviewer, I have often spent8-10 hours on a manuscript, and other conscientious reviewers do the same. It’s an effort performed out of a sense of obligation to science rather than for personal benefit. If I were asked to double that effort, I would refuse.

        I see little prospect of improving science by making scrutiny of additional material a routine obligation, as opposed to ensuring that all relevant data be archived. Ultimately, I think replicability is far more important.

      • If the current system has all the disadvantages you suggest, then perhaps you – as the scientists involved – should start a process of devising a better one.

        The one we have today is a human construct. And not a very good one for all sorts of reasons that we have discussed. Like all human constructs, humans can change it if they want to.

        Some climatologists are extremely good at arrogantly lecturing us humble populace about how we should organise every aspect of our daily lives economically and politically to better suit their ideas about the effects of one particular trace gas.

        I’m sure they would gain better traction if they had been shown to be capable of solving a relatively trivial organisational problem entirely within their own control.

        So here’s an opportunity to use the collective wisdom of all practicing researchers to come up with a better system. You have everything you need….oodles of cash sloshing about, highly talented personnel (or so we are led to believe), considerable freedom of action without external intervention, and as much of a blank sheet as you would like.

        Come up with a sensible system of work review that satisfies your own internal needs as reseerachers (relative ranking, point scoring etc) and also satisfies the external world that something useful other than acdaemic game-playing is going on.

        You might also want to consider that the name of the game for the immediately foreseeable future is the wired world, not the old idea of printed paper. Slow and cumbersome processes based on snail mail ideas are probably gone, never to return. There will be/could be automated tools to help in the grunt work of editing and qulaity assurance.

        You will of course need to engage other stakeholders like the existing journals (if only to ensure access to their archive), consider IP issues, ensure suitable safeguards against groupthink reviewing, and find new ways to check that the work has actually been done as reported.

        But since climatologists claim to know exactly how the rest of world should be organised, solving these small little practical problems should be nothing but an easy training run for them.

        If they fail, of course, then its back to the whelk stall.

    • Lord Frijoles

      Just a few comments: to a true scientist, results published in toilet paper or in “Science” or “Nature” shouldn’t matter. Obviously, I know that INITIALLY, there is a tendency to give more weight to the results that are published in more “reputable” journals. However, one thing that you forgot to mention (or maybe you did but I missed it) is that the peer-review that really matters is the one that takes place after the results are made public. That’s when the results can be scrutinized by a wider pool of experts from around the world (and that’s truer in the age of the internet). My (limited) reading of the history of science tells me that eventually, the truly revolutionary and big ideas win out, regardless of the way in which those fresh concepts become public. As those ideas are scrutinized and more people come to realize, for example, that observational/empirical data are described better by the new and “heretical” concept/model, attempts to silence the heretics become less successful. Since it is clear to me the initial peer-review (i.e.; the one used to get papers published in journals) is, in the wider context, useless and very prone to corruption and manipulation (climategate anyone?) across (I’d say) all scientific areas, my solution is very simple: eliminate journals. Instead, researchers should be encouraged to publish their work in especially dedicated websites. No need for editors, no need for reviewers or editorial boards. Crazy idea, I know, but one that would save us loads of money, time, and would also rid us of the shenanigans exposed by climategate.

      • LF – It’s not a “crazy idea”. Open Access publishing is an appealing concept. It has been tried in an organized fashion – arxiv and in more of a free-for-all manner – the Internet in general.

        Despite the potential virtues, including the ability to circumvent reviewer bias, I have found the results disappointing. The main reason is that in the absence of the peer review filtering process, as imperfect as that may be, unfiltered sources are simply overwhelmed with garbage. The number of refutations of Einsteinian Relativity, of Evolutionary theory, and of almost all other fundamental principles of science is an unfortunate testament to the ability of individuals to delude themselves into believing they are blessed with a unique genius for discerning the flaws in conventional scientific understanding. The problem is compounded by the reluctance of legitimate scientists to associate themselves with these endeavors.

        As a peer reviewer (and reviewee), I’m aware of the imperfections of the process, but also of its necessity in the absence of some better form of screening. As I mentioned in other comments here, almost all papers eventually get published somewhere, and so the peer review process is less a means of blocking publication overall as it is a process that restricts author access to the premier journals. Readers who hope to find good material in the second tier journals are not impeded from looking there, but they, like others, will have to decide how much to weight the quality of each journal based on past experience.

        I do agree with you that post-publication evaluation by experts is valuable. There is already a role for that within the established journals, but perhaps it should be expanded. Again, though, the blogosphere convinces me that experts and self-professed experts are not the same thing, and so it would be useful to have some mechanism for limiting access to qualified individuals.

        Finally, although the literature does not yet include a very robust post-publication review process in a formal sense, the journals are replete with papers that in one way or another challenge the conclusions of other papers. Within climate science, I’m unaware of any important conclusion that has remained unchallenged, often in the same journal that published the original claims. This is part of the means by which science staggers toward something resembling a true understanding of reality.

      • Michael Larkin


        One of the examples you choose is evolutionary theory. Evolution is a done deal. It happened. Just look at the fossil record.

        Evolutionary theory, not so much so. IMO, neo-Darwinism is in as much of a state of crisis as climate science.

        I’m not saying thereby that any crackpot idea should gain wide circulation. However, the dividing line between crackpot and genuinely worth considering can be fine. Still, there does have to be some criterion for discrimination. What I am wondering is if there isn’t some way of combining web-publishing with such discrimination.

        In some sports, they have a seeding system, based on past performance. But that doesn’t need to prevent unseeded players entering competitions and having a fighting chance to show their worth and progress up the ranks.

        Perhaps everything submitted could be published, but placed into “seeding” bands. It wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of gerrymandering by establishment voices, but at least the work would be published and have the possibility of a fair hearing, and the possibility of re-seeding in the light of favourable feedback/replication or whatever.

        My main bone of contention is that the current peer-review system unfortunately lends itself to abuse, so that good work may sometimes be excluded through prejudice. And this, now as never before, is stifling scientific progress and having impacts on the lives of ordinary people.

        It isn’t always a freemarket of ideas governed by survival of the fittest. It’s sometimes an oligopoly designed to elaborate epicycles based on an officially-approved paradigm. Theories can become more and more unwieldy, with that ad-hoc proliferation of entities to deal with inconvenient data. Ockham would be turning over in his grave.

        I honestly don’t think we can carry on this way indefinitely. Sooner or later, the ordure is going to hit the fan.

      • Thanks for your reply Fred. However, I see things a bit differently. As a scientist, I’d be more interested in those ideas you consider as “garbage”, as they have the potential to break new ground on the understanding of our world. But I do agree with you in that at some point, one has to make a judgment about the merits of a paper. And this is where I think Popperian epistemology would help us a great deal. Simply and roughly put, if a paper claims that an established theory/understanding can be/has been refuted, then it is the responsibility of the author to suggest an experiment that can be performed within reasonable parameters and time. Equally important for an idea/theory/model to be considered of merit would be to firmly establish its empirical and logical content (Popper’s demarcation criteria). Frankly, climate scientists/advocates totally lose me when, for example, they claim that both warm AND frigid winters confirm “global warming”, or when they make predictions that will happen 30-40 years or more into the future (about the time all of them will be retired on a comfortable pension). If I may, I’d like to pose a question for you or anybody else: What are the phenomena that Climate Change theory denies? In other words, what’s the empirical content of Climate Change/warming theory?

      • Not to be mischievous, LF, but Climate Change theory would deny (as you put it) one of the phenomena you claim it asserts – Frankly, climate scientists/advocates totally lose me when, for example, they claim that both warm AND frigid winters confirm “global warming

        I haven’t seen any example in the journals of such a claim, and in fact, the opposite is claimed (and validated by multidecadal evidence) – with increased warming due to greenhouse gases, winters will become warmer on average, at least on a global basis. Regional differences will still occur, including for example, those due to changes in the direction of the Arctic Oscillation such that northern Europe grows colder while the Arctic grows warmer – but those are more in the way of internal climate variations that even out over time than direct consequences of global warming.

        Although I haven’t seen predictions of more frigid winters due to the current trajectory of climate change, one prediction that does stem directly from the basic geophysics of greenhouse gas-mediated warming is an increase in atmospheric water due to increased evaporation in a warming world. The increase has been confirmed by measurement. One result of increased evaporation is that many areas vulnerable to drought become even drier, whereas areas where precipitation tends to be plentiful experience more precipitation. In warm weather, that translates into more rain. In wintertime, that will often translate into more snow, and so increased snowfall (but not increased frigidity) is a prediction of the climatology of GHG-mediated warming.

      • Lord Frijoles


        When I wrote those words, I was thinking about, for example, an article by George Monbiot in which he asserted that the current frigid winter in the UK was exactly what “global warming” looks like, or something like that. That’s why I wrote “climate scientists/advocates”. I’ll take you on your word that no such claim has been made by climate scientists. Going back to what I posted, and if possible, I’d like to hear your comments regarding Popperian epistemology applied to climate science. In short, could you please list the phenomena that climate change/warming theory specifically denies? Could you please point me out to the phenomena that would falsify climate change/warming theory?

      • LF – To avoid too many double negatives, I would very briefly summarize most current climatology opinion as denying the opposite of the following:

        1. CO2 can be shown by theory and laboratory measurements to capture infrared radiation at wavelengths emitted from the Earth and air.

        2. Radiative transfer equations confirmed by surface and satellite measurements demonstrate the expected increase in heat transmitted to the surface and atmosphere.

        3. Global temperatures have been rising at an increased rate since about a century ago, following increases in atmospheric CO2 that started several decades earlier, and which can be shown by isotope analysis to be due mainly to fossil fuel consumption.

        4. Expected amplification of CO2 effects by feedbacks are consistent with measurements of atmospheric water vapor and changes in snow and ice. Cloud effects are still controversial.

        5. Other climate variables influence temperature in both positive and negative directions, including aerosols, changes in solar intensity, and periodic internal climate variations such as El Nino and La Nina, but the observed record is more consistent with the additional role of CO2 than with the effects of these other factors alone.

        6. Correlation between CO2 levels and temperature can be shown to have existed for at least 420 million years, even after corrections are made for other climate variables.

        7. Continuation of existing trends is likely to raise temperatures somewhere between 2 and 6 degrees by 2100, with consequences, among others, that include rising sea levels, an increase in extreme weather events, including heat waves and floods and droughts in wet and dry regions respectively, and will affect public health adversely in vulnerable parts of the world.

        8. These conclusions, and the level of certainty they deserve, will continue to be challenged and debated for the foreseeable future.

        9. Each of these items warrants a thread of its own for adequate discussion, rather than an attempt to conduct that debate here.

      • Sounds like a great idea to me LF.

    • Roger Caiazza

      I generally agree with your points but want to expand on one thing that has been particularly true in the case of policy decisions related to global warming. I get the impression that your background is in the world of peer review for technical journals. I have been involved in scientific standards for regulatory rule-making. In that world I believe the science necessary to drive policy there should be a higher standard than the ones you list for peer review. In particular the availability of raw data should be a necessary prerequisite for policy decisions.

      This is addressed in your point 9 “Archiving of raw data is a good idea, but it is impossible for all raw data to be scrutinized by reviewers and/or readers – scientific conclusions require some degree of trust among authors, reviewers, and readers”. Frankly there is heck of lot of published material in peer reviewed journals that doesn’t deserve much scrutiny of all the data but when it comes to a policy decision that will cost billions then scientists should expect complete review of every detail of their analysis. For example, there has been an on-going debate over setting level of the limits of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards since 1970 and the debate centered over different analyses of the data. It was always available. Clearly, there are issues with climate science data availability used for some of the most visible claims made to justify GHG policy regulations.

      That is my biggest problem with the “system”. The justification of global warming policy by EPA and other regulatory bodies has basically been to cite the IPCC and say they used peer review in the academic sense to conclude the science is “settled”. There has been no acknowledgment in that world that there are issues with the data. In addition, the proponents of GHG controls to prevent catastrophe have done such an effective press relations job that companies are very reluctant to say anything critical about the climate science consensus because of the visceral response that would follow. At the very least companies speaking out will get lumped with the tobacco companies denying any link to cancer. As a result I believe we are going to be saddled with politically correct “solutions” that will not have any measurable effects and could cause major economic disruptions.

  36. Given the breadth of the topic of climate change, its impacts, and policy options, it seems that considerable breadth of expertise is needed, i.e. “all hands needed on deck.” But there seems to be a turf battle over “which experts,” as evidenced by the PNAS paper and the continued appeal to the IPCC consensus.

    This is another reason I have difficulty accepting the seriousness of climate change.

    If climate change were the terrible crisis claimed, one would think that those most concerned — climate scientists and climate change advocates — would put aside turf battles and petty conspiring, as well as walk their talk of the good, green, low-carbon-impact life that they would force upon the rest of us.

    However we see almost nothing of the sort.

    The “politics of expertise” is a revealing phrase. It betrays a lack of awareness of the other dimensions of leadership. Thus for climate change everything comes down to controlling the “expert” message and who is allowed to speak as an “expert.”

    I believe the climate change movement will have to go beyond the “politics of expertise” to regain credibility.

    There is a saying that “Leaders go first.” If humanity must change in order to cope with the climate crisis, then climate advocates will have to go first — make the changes in their disciplines and their lives to demonstrate that priority.

    • randomengineer

      The “politics of expertise” is a revealing phrase. It betrays a lack of awareness of the other dimensions of leadership. Thus for climate change everything comes down to controlling the “expert” message and who is allowed to speak as an “expert.”

      The politics of expertise also applies to politics. I for one would be quite happy to see to put into law that any time an office holding politician publicly claims a weather event is proof of AGW that they be removed from office.

      It’s one thing to hold an opinion, but claiming an opinion to be proven reality is something else altogether. If a politician says “yeah I believe in AGW” then this is acceptable, but (ab)using the aftermath of a tornado killing 3 people to flog this opinion (usually to score points against the political opponents) is just wrong. The politician is claiming expertise in such matters.

      There’s a lot of skeptics whose opinions become hardened when they see/hear nonsense like this from politcians. So we also have the “politics of CLAIMED expertise” which seem to derive from “politics of expertise.”

  37. The “answer” to the question: “who should be the climate experts advising Government?”, whether to the Mayor of Atlanta or the hallowed halls of Congress, is: None Of The Above. The experts, clamouring to be heard, will and do reflect the economics of immediacy, the here and now, fitting into the agenda of the populace leader, or more realistically, the politically elite who surround and insolate the populace leader. The plaintive decription of Memory Vault upon the Queensland floods and the short term perspective and political agenda driving funding away from flood control and now its devastating consequences are matched by the Atlanta Mayor who viewed the recent 10 year snowfall as a good gauge for being prepared. We saw the same agenda driven catastrophy in New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina where the funding for levy maintanence was diverted to social programs, certainly popular with the constituents of the nineth ward, but absolutely fatal when a category 3 hurricane struck, for which the levies were designed and origianally built to address, the levies failed.
    The selection of experts by the politically connected and elite is observed in all areas of government and is always agenda driven. This is seen in science boards, the grant review process, and the allocation of funding “tweeking” the grant proposal to “curry” (sorry about that) favor and move one’s score up the ladder. The only change necessary is to change the people driving the agenda. I don’t mean changing their minds or points of view, removing them from their possition of power, making them “former Congressman…..” To me the brilliance of our Founding Fathers was the institution of bicameral government. Most of the other democracies of the world with their Parliaments struggle with forming coalition governance; hence, the immediacy imperative dominates and hence the agenda is to “fix” immediate problems/concerns. Slowing down the ideas of radicals through “advise and consent” leads to more sane and sustained progress. The function of government is to “protect” and maintance domestic tranquility. Proponents of climate change want to impair the populace now for some future harmony with the universe. Is it any wonder that the experts who have advised current governments have been found to have feet of clay? Like all soothsayers who say you must submit and feel the pain for salvation, they have been found to be fraudsters doing great harm.
    I don’t believe there are experts who have a very broad perspective and can advise government, rather, there are piece meal experts who, in the conglomerate, provide a more informative opinion. When momentus decisions need to be made, listening to many different voices, including giving credance to outliers, plus a “mulling over” time leads to better decision making. Slow but steady move the wheels of progress.

  38. The problem academic credentials, as I see it, is not just who has the biggest creds, but rather that in this particular area of policy one’s academic credentials only go so far. To give one example, it has happened hundreds of times that a dam is being built or park established or something and people’s homes are bought out to make way. Towns have been physically moved. BUT no one imagines that a few low-lying coral atolls could be bought out: the world must stop burning fossil fuels to save them. Why? Because scientists tend to jump from physical cause to policy conclusion without examining costs and options (ie policy). They generally have no training or experience in such practical matters. To give another example, I just listened to a climate change webinar about carbon sequestration in a region of US forest. The scientist concluded that older (100+ yrs) can continue to sequester carbon and THEREFORE 7 million acres should be set aside for this purpose. No mention of jobs lost, or potential benefits of such a policy. Merely a leap from a small fact to a big recommendation.

  39. The continuing climate quagmire and loss of confidence in government science reflects a lack of leadership in the scientific community.

    When told of mistakes in an organization, real leaders act immediately and decisively to isolate the organization from the mistake.

    Example: When NASA Administrator, Dr. Dan Goldin, was told in public on 7 January 1998 that we could not access xenon isotope data from the 1995 Galileo Probe into Jupiter [After we predicted in a 1983 paper that excess Xe-136 would be seen there] he replied:

    NASA does not hide data !

    He turned to Dr. Wes Huntress (on-stage) and ordered him to put the data on the web, “within 24 hours”. The results are here:


    The Climategate scandal would be behind us by now if current leaders of the scientific community had Dr. Dan Goldin’s leadership skills.

    • Latimer Alder


      Seems to me that there are no senior climatologists who lead by example..by doing the quality work and having the deep insights. Lots of proclaiming how important they are, but little of substance to back it up.

      Judith (if she will forgive me calling her ‘senior’) is one of the few with both cojones and ability. The others appear to be shallow and superficial. True leaders do so by example and persuasion, not by just shouting down the opposition.

      • Thanks, Latimer.

        How much longer will it be before the Presidents of the US National Academy of Sciences and the UK Royal Society, the editors of once reputable research journals – PNAS, Nature and Science – and leaders of scientific organizations recognize that they are destroying the very institutions that they seek to protect?

        Surely members of the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee realize that the Nobel Prize given to Al Gore did not help his reputation, but it did a great deal of damage to the reputation of the Nobel Prize Committee!

      • Latimer Alder

        It will take a further generation of leaders. Existing ones have arrived at their ‘exalted’ positions only by adhering to the consensus.

        It will be the next set who see that consensus crumbling and who will emerge as ‘catalysts for change’, ‘returning integrity to science’, ‘nullus in verbia’ or whatever slogan they choose. They will mark the definite break with this unhappy and shameful episode of groupthink, intellectual rigidity and second rate conformity.

        Sadly by that time the reputations of those once proud and courageous institutions will have sunk so low that many may be unsalvagable. As will those of their members and cheerleaders.

      • Not necessarily generations, Latimer.

        Already there are encouraging signs of a reversal in the lock-step consensus thinking that destroyed many branches of science before the climate fiasco.

        Only six days ago, one hundred and sixty-eight (168) scientists from 55 of the world’s leading research institutions admitted [1], “The Crab Nebula is powered by the central neutron star . . .

        1. A. A. Abdo and 167 others listed alphabetically, “Gamma-ray flares from the Crab Nebula,” ScienceXpress Published online 6 January 2011, http://db.tt/faxUVnX or


        Since Earth’s heat source is also a neutron star [2], climatologists may now finally be in a position to decipher the Sun’s influence on Earth’s changing climate.

        2. “Attraction and repulsion of nucleons: Sources of stellar energy,” Journal of Fusion Energy 19, 93-98 (2001)

        or “The sun’s origin, composition and source of energy”, in Lunar and Planetary Science XXXII, abstract 1041 (2001)

    • you gotta love those on stage smack downs.

      • I regret, Steve, that “on stage smack downs” may be the only way, or one of very few ways, for those who know everything to learn anything.

      • steven mosher

        ya, as a young kid I watched a general lay the smack down on a VP of engineering who thought he knew more than the general and so he refused to answer questions directly. The general turned the guys projector off, and informed the PM that his program needed to replace the guy who used to be in charge of electronic warfare. Damn. When I got my turn in front of the general, he got answered directly and forthrightly. no hide the decline nonsense. “this is what I know, this is what I don’t know.” liberating experience, to be the expert in an area and to have to say ‘ I don’t know.’

  40. I find the problems revealed by climategate quite worrying for science in general. Talking to non-scientists, I find nobody who has followed the debate, but many who consider AGW, to be yet another scam to extract tax. In other words, people are sensitive to scientific hype, and intuitively respond accordingly. The authority of science is going downhill.

    Perhaps the only solution would be to very deliberately fund research equally on both sides on issues of national or international importance – even if the facts seem to lean one way. The rule should be that if research is still required, then researchers must be able to make their mark in either camp.

    Of course, not all scientific controversies divide into just two camps….

    • David Bailey

      Is the authority of science going downhill, truly?

      I seem to recall part of why we’re in this overly coal-dependent situation is the anti-science, anti-nuclear sentiment of the world in the dying decades of the last millennium.

      Of course, mine is an oversimplified argument, but anything more precise would be blunted against the bowling ball of your premise.

      I mean, “equally fund research on both sides,” sounds like you expect scientists, like political parties and bloggers, to decide the conclusion of their research beforehand, and then see whose rhetoric wins.

      How would this have looked, 100 years ago, with anti-Rutherford or anti-Millikan experiments being funded, on the premise that it’s just as likely that atoms must be like little tiny sticky bun nuclei with electron raisins caught inside?

      • Fear of nuclear power was not anti-science, it was concern about:

        1) Possible acts of terrorism.
        2) Accidents involving the release of radioactive material.
        3) Problems about handling nuclear waste.

        Your comparison with pure science experiments is not relevant.

        The real problem is that as soon as scientists get sufficiently motivated to cheat, science is very hard to control – it relies on absolute honesty.

      • David Bailey

        I appreciate the root of your concerns, and do not wish to seem dismissive of their validity.

        It’s your framing of the issue and the solutions that fall out of that frame that I question.

        And your memory of the world before 1999.

        Possible acts of terrorism? Those possible acts rated at the top of the top three concerns in the anti-nuclear-energy movement in the last four decades of the 1900’s?

        Issues 2) & 3) were, I grant you, the main points of that movement. And, by any stretch, those points are rabidly irrational anti-science mixed with straight up and legitimate acknowledgement of the poor record of deregulation and negligent or idiotic government policy when it interferes in technical administration. Of course, I have a bias. I’ve consulted about technical administration to negligent idiots.

        Scientists in my experience are some of the most motivated people in the world, even without non-scientific considerations in the mix. And your, “science is very hard to control” phrase chills me to the bone, as someone who has studied the history of authorities controlling science.

      • randomengineer

        Is the authority of science going downhill, truly?

        Let’s forget climate momentarily. If you factor in the annual enviro or medical scare, people’s trust re scientific prognostication tends to go down a notch for every failed claim. Bear in mind that climate issues for many are little more than the annual “scare” and distrusted inversely to the claim of magnitude: claim small scary things, these tend to get believed; claim increasingly big scary things, these tend to get ignored.

        What passes for science skepticsm therefore has to be viewed in context with the raft of garbage and misinformation and lies that people are subject to that are science related outside of climate.

        To sum up climate science is the victim of decades of crap aimed at scaring the public one way or another, starting with DDT. It’s doubtful climate scientists are somehow doing something different than any other sceintific discipline; there’s no evil “bwahahahaha” by climate scientists accompanying every paper published.

        But yeah he does have a point.

        I mean, “equally fund research on both sides,” sounds like you expect scientists, like political parties and bloggers, to decide the conclusion of their research beforehand, and then see whose rhetoric wins.

        Bart shoots. Bart scores. “Equal funding” isn’t rational. What’s next, equal funding of paleontologists with creationists? Absurd. On the other hand there are rational skeptic views that aren’t given the air they deserve. The Idsos and their work on MWP data come to mind.

      • Please tell me who sees
        Deep paranoia.

    • I would say not equally funding, but in two particular areas where the skeptics have illustrated some real concerns there are real tests that could shed some light on the controversy.

      let me be very practical and suggest some Study topics.

      A. The surface record.
      1. Funding to get the Boxes of boxes of historical data turned into actual records.
      2. testing the effect of micro site bias. There is one study I know of that is extremely limited and could be expanded up.
      3. testing of the Effect of locating thermometers at airports.
      4. A UHI study using the approach pioneered by Imhoff ( 2010) where
      satillite data products are used to assess the UHI effect. Direct this
      toward the 7000 sites used in GHCN
      5. Update of the metadata for GHCN. its an abomination.
      In short, some of the questions raised by skeptics ( please note I say QUESTIONS) have merit. they deserve examination. And not by merely reprocessing old data, but by doing some new but rather boring science.

      B. Proxies.
      1. bring the proxies up to data, especially the bristlecones and Yamal.
      2. Get Lonnie Thompson ( and others ) to archive data.

      I’d also suggest that funding 25 different climate models is a huge waste of resource.

      • Roger Caiazza

        I agree entirely with this comment. The current situation is a disgrace and because the models are built on the data record you have to wonder about their value.

      • I guess I was commenting at a more general level – how should a government fund research into a topic like AGW, so that the very act of funding research doesn’t bias the outcome!

        Yes, the data and its adjustments need investigation, and ideally, that would be done by an organisation without a vested interest in the outcome.

        Regarding temperature proxies, I think perhaps something more wide ranging is needed – how are these selected and validated independently from the actual historical temperature data that is to be extracted?

        Also, is there any reason whatsoever to expect tree rings to be a better proxy for global temperature, than for the local climate!

      • Latimer Alder

        For your last point you need to believe in a new phenomenon known only to climatologits called ‘teleconnections’.

        This mystical ‘force’ allows a few special trees to be able to react completely differently to their neighbours and be influenced only by global considerations rather than by local phenomena like drought or warmth or cold.

        Amazingly also, the main phenomenon that they do respond to is global mean temperature. Which is incredibly convenient for those who wish to study that particular measure of nothing very useful at all.

        And the final bit of amazement is that it os actually impossible to identify those trees which do teleconnecting until you have dug chunks out of them all and analysed them back in the lab. By some miracle, the ones that give the answer you think you are looking for are just the ones that a climatologit will tell you are doing teleconnections! Isn’t that just one of the most remarkable things about nature and climatology you have ever heard? No wonder you are open mouthed with amazement!

        In next week’s thrilling instalment:

        Why grown adults on climatology courses believe in Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the Man in the Moon!

        Sleep well.

  41. Simply put, Sharon Friedman’s 4 principals are gatekeeping rules. That can’t be healthy.

    • Latimer Alder


      They seem to make a lot of sense to me. Generally designed to improve the process overall.

      Where do you see the problems?

    • Craig,
      Check out shaper00’s latest and reflect on how ironic it is that while Hansen has precisely proven shaper00 wrong, I would wager he will not be able to admit this.
      There is something about CO2 obsession that prevents its sufferers from facing reality.

    • Hansen’s praise of China is an interesting study in assuming motivations.

      5500kcal/kg steam coal is trading on Asian Markets at $140/metric tonne this week. $6.44/mmbtu.

      8800btu/lb Wyoming steam coal was trading at a mine mouth price of $13.25/short ton this week. 75 cents/mmbtu.

      The Chinese are paying eight times what the people of Wyoming are paying for coal yet Dr Hansen attributes Chinese expenditures on renewable energy to Environmental Concern.

      • Perhaps James Hansen should attempt to scale a Chinese coal fired generating station in protest of China’s continued use of fossil fuels as he did in Great Britain. Justice is rather swift and terrible in China.

  42. Dr C
    Kevin Trenberth has attributed the Queensland floods to global warming.

    Why do climate experts predict things only after they happen?

    • Shub, do you have a link for trenberth’s statement? he seems to attribute everything to global warming.

      • Available from Yahoo News here for instance. It is a Reuters report.


        Climate change has likely intensified the monsoon rains that have triggered record floods in Australia’s Queensland state, scientists said on Wednesday, with several months of heavy rain and storms still to come.

        Prominent U.S. climate scientist Kevin Trenberth said the floods and the intense La Nina were a combination of factors.

        He pointed to high ocean temperatures in the Indian Ocean near Indonesia early last year as well as the rapid onset of La Nina after the last El Nino ended in May.

        “The rapid onset of La Nina meant the Asian monsoon was enhanced and the over 1 degree Celsius anomalies in sea surface temperatures led to the flooding in India and China in July and Pakistan in August,” he told Reuters in an email.

        He said a portion, about 0.5C, of the ocean temperatures around northern Australia, which are more than 1.5C above pre-1970 levels, could be attributed to global warming.

        “The extra water vapor fuels the monsoon and thus alters the winds and the monsoon itself and so this likely increases the rainfall further,” said Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

        “So it is easy to argue that 1 degree Celsius sea surface temperature anomalies gives 10 to 15 percent increase in rainfall,” he added.

        To me, it seems mind-boggling that things like 0.5 c of ocean temperatures out of a total 1.5c extra temperature as being due to global warming, can be said. Is this type of attribution really possible at this point? Or is he just offering educated expert guess estimates?

      • Shub,
        My take is that it is just SWAG, without the science- just a required genuflection to the CO2 obsession.

      • Trenberth’s comments seem entirely consistent with what I’ve read on the expected effect of increased temperatures on the strength of monsoons. AR4 specifically mentions an increase in the intensity of the Australian monsoon.
        Of course it’s not possible to say “global warming caused the flooding” and Trenberth doesn’t say this. But it is perfectly reasonable to point out that increased temperatures probably contributed to the amount of the rainfall and that in a warmer world we expect more of this kind of thing.
        Which is not to say that we can possibly predict specific events will occur in specific places at specific times.

      • Latimer Alder

        But I thought AGW caused the big drought too.

        Was that also because of the increased amount of rainfall?

      • Trenberth’s statement that you quote is much more reasonable than the usual statements he makes about attributing extreme events to climate change. The reason people keep asking that question is because Trenberth has made such attributions previously (starting with Hurricane Katrina).

      • Judith, apologies if you have seen already, but the text of Trenberth’s talk to the AMS is posted at WUWT.

      • Trenberth has claimed that the failure of Copenhagen means that more ‘climate disasters’ will take place (‘inevitable’). By the way, I must confess, I don’t know the meaning of the term ‘climate disaster’.

        The major failures in making progress, such as in Copenhagen in December 2009, imply that we should be more accepting that climate disasters are inevitable, …

        He then goes on to say:

        Indeed, 2010 provided many such examples from the New England flooding and “Snowmageddon” in the Washington D.C. area…

        I did not know that snow in the winter of February 2010, was a climate disaster!

        What is Trenberth saying in his AMS speech???

        I don’t think you can call this ‘reasonable’. It is unbelievable.

      • Some places will experience increased rainfall and flooding, others will have increased drought. This is because the pattern of rainfall is likely to change as well as the overall amount, and some places rely on other sources of water such as glaciers and snowpack rather than (or as well as) rainfall.

      • Great.

        So with our super dooper magic ace wizzo climate models, we can predict which places will get which. Fantastic.

        So start predicting. Australia would be a good starting point.

        What are the next ten most likely ‘extreme weather events’ that are predicted by the best models we have today. And will be significantly different from Business as Usual that would have occurred without AGW. As shown by the pre-AGW historic record.

        You don’t have to be too specific about exact location. By State will do, just to make it easier for you.

      • Well first of all if you really have such little idea about the predicted impact of AGW that you need others to spell it out for you in such detail then how can you possibly justify your opinion that climate change is not something we should worry about?

        Anyway, in answer to your question, the models don’t make specific predictions of extreme weather events but here are some impacts of AGW which are predicted for Australia.

        More powerful monsoons leading to increased risk of flooding in northern states.

        A decrease in rainfall and increase in heatwaves in southern and western states leading to increased drought and bush fires.

        Severe coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef.

        Severe damage to biodiversity in the Queensland Wet Tropics due to loss of rainforest and other changes to habitat caused by rising temperatures.

      • randomengineer

        More powerful monsoons
        A decrease in rainfall and increase in heatwaves
        Severe coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef
        Severe damage to biodiversity

        Worldwide funding of climate study is $5Bn USD annually, and the results after a couple of decades of this are something one could have guess at if you simply did some basic Gedankenexperiment?

        The more realistic answer is 42.

      • Actually you’re right – predicting that these things will occur is pretty basic stuff, you don’t neccessarily need fancy models, although you might if you want more detailed projections.
        Which makes me wonder why some people have such a hard time accepting that such things are likely to happen.

      • Latimer Alder

        Any timescales on these? Any numbers that we can judge the accuracy by? Anywhere I should look to see the actual references?

        And don’t assume that everyone posting here is completely ignorant of rhetorical skills.

      • Sorry, I should have provided some references.

        There is an excellent summary here


        which gives the various different impacts based on various changes in temperature.

        For more details on the Wet Tropics see


        There is loads of stuff out there on coral bleaching, you can just google it, or see


      • Latimer Alder

        Interesting. I started with reading about bleaching and this is what I found.

        Coral bleaching, apart from being a relatively short term phenomenon that reefs can recover from, seems to be a consequence of a sudden change in temperature, not of its absolute value. So if the temperature increases by a few degrees suddenly (over a few days) and stays there, then bleaching is likely in some species.

        Fine and dandy, but global temperature changes are not remotely like that. They are very very very slow….not a couple of degrees in 24 hours, but less than one degree in a century. This bears no more relationship to a sudden change of temperature than the sustained sea level rise of 2mm/year does to a sudden tsunami of 3000mm or more in a few seconds.

        Please show me where my analysis is wrong, because at first sight it seems we are talking about apples and potatoes.

        Is there an observable absolute seawater temperature above which corals cannot survive? If so what is it, and how many of the reefs are close to that limit?

      • I don’t know if there is a specific defined temperature above which coral cannot survive, I think it can vary between different locations. In general it seems that sudden and sustained increases above the normal summer temperature cause bleaching incidents, which is why coral bleaching has coincided with el-Nino events in the past. As you say, coral can recover from bleaching given time and cooler temperatures but it appears that ocean temperatures have been rising to the point that bleaching is becoming more common and widespread, even in non el-Nino years and the coral has less chance to recover and is being damaged permanently.
        It’s no use saying that temperatures can’t rise quickly enough for this to happen, it already is happening. Read some of the links from the SS page – for example regarding the bleaching in SE Asia last year

        “According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Hotspots website, sea surface temperatures in the region peaked in late May, 2010, and by July the accumulated heat stress was greater than in 1998. Local dive operators recorded water temperatures of 34 C, over 4 degrees higher that than long term average for the area.”

      • Do you believe that the rainfall patterns would remain the same if humans did not emit CO2?

      • They may not stay exactly the same but we wouldn’t see the kind of changes which are predicted over the coming century without human CO2 emissions. Unless you can point to another mechanism which would be expected to cause the same kind of temperature increases.

      • This is correct. The Trenberth vilification is in full swing on this blog. His statement in the NYT about this was:

        “It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability,” Dr. Trenberth said. “Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.”

      • What a cheap dodge that only proves AGW as it stands is non-falsifiable.

      • This isn’t an argument about falsifiability. It’s about the extra energy in the atmosphere intensifying weather events, such as more drought due to extended heat waves and more precipitation during storms because of a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor.

      • Latimer Alder

        Please explain the philosophical difference between this position and ‘heads I win, tails you lose’. Because any such distinction has escaped me.

        AS I understand: if it rains a lot its global warming. If there’s a drought its global warming.

        And if its very hot, its global warming. If its very cold its some complicated bit of stuff to do with polar ice caps because of global warming. And if it just carries on much as before nobody really notices.

        Hyopthetical question:

        What weather events would be unequivocal evidence of global cooling. I know that this isn’t happening, but since the understanding of AGW is nowadays so sophisticated, surely we can make a small Gedankenexperiment.

        In fact it might be an interesting experiment to run our models with decreasing amounts of CO2 and see what they predicted.

        Any ideas among all you climatologits?

      • I’ve asked this same question many times…..the ensuing silence is palpable.
        As far as Mr Trenberth is concerned, I think I detect a slight whiff of the “missing heat” controversy in almost everything he says.

      • It has nothing to do with the heads and tails argument. It is about the hydrological cycle. Neither the rain or drought prove anything. The warmer atmosphere holds more water, so rains can be heavier. Droughts can be intensified by warmer atmosphere. Aside from that, attribution of the warming is another hypothesis. Increased greenhouse warming has it’s own “fingerprints”, that also do not “prove” anything. It only adds further evidence and weighs the probability that consensus statements are based on.

      • I understand but you must presumably have defined parameters for your “fingerprints”, assuming you are talking about the anthropogenic signal. All I’m trying to ascertain is what climatic signals fall outside your parameters and are therefore evidence for some mechanism other than anthropogenic CO2 for the warming.

      • A. Lacis did run the GISS ModelE with decreasing amounts of CO2. (Lacis et. al. 2010)

        For a discussion at Peilke Sr. blog:


      • randomengineer

        This isn’t an argument about falsifiability.

        Actually, it is.

        Extremes and such are measurable. If one can show that the rate of records being set is increasing at a rate that is well over and above the cumulative rate prior to the 1970’s then it’s *possible* that attribution could be made. Records are set worldwide all the time. The question is whether or not weather is so volatile as to be setting records in such a way as to preclude any possible natural explanation.

        The other bothersome aspect re Trenberth’s claims is that AGW advocates are always yelling at skeptics who like to show the relatively flat temps over the past 15 years: “sorry but this isn’t long enough data to say there’s a trend.” And yet… there’s a breezy day. Ahah. Must be global warming, and this proves it. If short term events can *prove* AGW then surely the same short terms ought to be applicable in the other direction.

        Claiming evidence of global warming causing weather problems based on 0.6 deg C temp rise since the industrial revolution isn’t science. It’s not even astrology.

      • If one can show that the rate of records being set is increasing at a rate that is well over and above the cumulative rate prior to the 1970′s then it’s *possible* that attribution could be made.

        I’m afraid that probably would not be possible, at least without severe bias.
        Prior to the last few decades, records were not hunted down and collated nearly as diligently as now, as there wasn’t anything going on that anyone would want to link them to. In other words, they simply weren’t newsworthy.
        You would require a rather large army of people to find and pore through long-forgotten reports and logbooks which have been gathering dust for decades, globally.

      • Not true in the case of Australia and her extreme weather events Peter.
        This nation was built on farming, “on the sheeps back” as we say. Australians have always kept good records of the weather which was/is vital to the people living on the land.

        Try this link to BoM and see if you can glean an increase in flood events since 1840


      • A comment that only proves contrarianism as it stands is non-falsifiable.

      • What does it say about AGW when people start associating it with every weather- or climate-related event or phenomenon?

      • What do you mean by “every”?

      • I take it you’ve not read Kevin Trenberth’s AMS meeting talk?
        Perhaps you should ask that question of him.

      • ya willard keep up with things. If you engaged in dialog some of this stuff would stick with you. Peter Webster ( you should remember him, if not just ask, I’ll give to the cliff notes) occassionally makes appearances here, so when he contributes it’s a high entropy ( in the shannon sense) event. You go find his comment on Trenberth. Then try contributing to the dialogue. or not.

      • This question:

        > What does it say about AGW when people start associating it with every weather- or climate-related event or phenomenon?

        depends on the “every”. It does not depend upon my mental states.

        What does it tell of contrarianism when all it can do is to botch up its questions with underdefined or overdefined quantifers?

      • What does it tell of contrarianism when all it can do is to botch up its questions with underdefined or overdefined quantifers?

        What does it say about alarmism when all it can do is to botch up its reading of this thread?

        My reply to you was actually:


        where I said:

        I take it you’ve not read Kevin Trenberth’s AMS meeting talk?
        Perhaps you should ask that question of him.

      • So Peter317 asks a question that only TRENBERTH can answer.

        A question that is not obviously related to falsificationism.

        But the word of the day being TRENBERTH, and as long as Peter317 and Mosher can keep mentioning it anything goes, I suppose.


        See, caps lock. Let’s keep our priority in check.


      • steven mosher

        willard, sorry but it’s Trenberth who has botched up the conversation with his use of the word “every.” You should note that his comment got the attention of other scientists, namely Peter Webster, as well as others, like me, who wonder what in god’s name he was thinking when he said it.
        The mis use of that word says very little about any side of the debate since it is used so loosely by both. But in general if an expert like Trenberth mis uses it, then my first thought is “who made him the expert” and perhaps there is something wrong with our ‘expert picker mechanism’

      • i’m hoping to have time tonite to put together a thread on trenberth’s statements

      • AnyColourYouLike

        Trenberth’s lecture looks like a highly conscious first-strike in the “surge”- type propaganda tactics being talked up a few months ago, to counter the public doubt/apathy in the wake of Climategate.

        The highly provocative attempt to turn the tables on sceptics, via the Null Hypothesis reversal, clearly has everything to do with political posturing to see what he can get away with, and nothing to do with scientific debate. It’s a clear attempt to gerrymander the terrain from under the feet of sceptics, simply because they were winning, and to make up new rules based on his own “Royal” authority.

        It will be interesting to see how much the MSM (whom he somehow manages with a straight face, to criticise for not being on-side enough) help him to get away with this brazen sleight of hand.

      • AnyColourYouLike

        McIntyre has pitched in. He has some “interesting” communication history with Trenberth, and some damning quotes from the mails besides.


      • AnyColourYouLike

        Oops, forgot the link.


      • Ah.


        It’s TRENBERTH that has botched up the conversation.

        So TRENBERTH is making you do it, right?

      • Willard,

        let’s see. It was Trenberth and Jones who, prior to the authoring of AR4, appear to have agreed to treat mckitrick’s paper differently than others (I’ll redefine the peer reviewed literature if I have to.. expert credibility again) It was Trenberth and Jones who did, in fact, treat that paper differently. ( that is also an uncontested fact) It was, in fact, them who invented a result. ( also an uncontested fact) And now it is Trenberth, a spokesman for the science if I ever saw one, who is trying to redefine the burden of proof. So, he was, he is, and he will remain to be a topic of the dialog, until such time as the legitimate questions we have raised are answered. Did he make us do it? no he just made it easier to do. Get a clue about damage control in public relations

      • Gryp have you heard the term “having an each way bet”? If so, would you kindly tell us your understanding of this term. Thnx.

      • You are misinterpreting what’s being said here. An increase in precipitation and drought comes as a result of a changing hydrological cycle. If falsification is the goal, falsify the hypotheses in the literature that pertain to how a warming atmosphere effects the cycle.

      • You first have to show an increase in precipitation and drought, and then you have to show that it cannot be attributed to other factors. And then you still have to show that a warming atmosphere cannot be attributed to any factors other than anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
        So I’d say it’s a rather large leap of faith from the one to the other.

      • Part of the issue is that there is no “hypothesis” set out in the literature. There is an ensemble of models, however?

        As a theory AGW has made few if any hypothesis.

        A a collection of simulation results the theory has made billions of hypothesis.

      • I’m unsure about what you mean here. It isn’t a model that supposes a warm atmosphere’s energy can assist water transform to vapor more easily than a cool atmosphere with less energy. If the results of the models are based on this base piece of physics knowledge, what do you mean by, “A a collection of simulation results the theory has made billions of hypothesis.”

      • steven mosher

        “It isn’t a model that supposes a warm atmosphere’s energy can assist water transform to vapor more easily than a cool atmosphere with less energy. If the results of the models are based on this base piece of physics knowledge,”

        It is precisely a model ( a set of physical laws .. numbers and entities). all physics knowledge is a model.

      • Latimer Alder

        For once I have to agree with grypo.

        It is a matter of simple observation that a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapour at saturation than a colder one. You simply need to hang your washing out on two different days to simply demonstrate the effect. Which I happen to have done this week.

        You don’t need a ‘model’ to make this observation.
        Unless you have been reading another contributor’s favourite book make s a big play of the use of the idea of a ‘mental model’, and ‘proves’ thereby that purely by thinking about something we are using a ‘model’ of some description. Hence everything we do uses ‘models’. Since we use them in everything, it follows therefore (to him) that any criticism of climate models in particular is illogical and unfounded.

        Which is a pretty trivial insight to me , but seems self-huggingly clever to others.

      • “It is precisely a model ( a set of physical laws .. numbers and entities). all physics knowledge is a model.”

        Yes, but I was wondering about your use of the ‘billions of hypothesis’ comment in regard to me discussing what is in the literature. I thought possibly you may have been discussing “predictive” modeling with complicated ensembles. My point in this sub-thread is much more basic because that is what I assume Trenberth is talking about in his media interviews. If we are discussing the same thing then I understand your point now.

      • It isn’t a model that supposes a warm atmosphere’s energy can assist water transform to vapor more easily than a cool atmosphere with less energy.

        So that’s the difference between an atmosphere at global average temperature, and one that’s a few tenths of a degree cooler then, is it?

      • How annoying for him to be asked the wrong question.

        I bet he’s quite vexed at the stupidity of the questionners who should know their place and pay due deference to expert opinion…as personified by KT himself. Who thinks:

        ‘Who do these people think they are? Probably not 1 in 100 has a PhD in Radiative Physics so isn’t even qualified to ask questions about AGW. Have them removed as annoying to my karma. I only wish to speak to those who truly understand and b…r the little people who pay my salary’

      • Andrew,
        Then the projections are meaningless, since this event is not even in the top five in the brief recorded history of Australia.
        What this actually proves is that CO2 is not forcing the climate of the Earth to manifest itself in ways that are unusual.

      • Is it the sixth?

      • Hunter,

        It doesn’t “prove” anything one way or the other. No one said that because of CO2 forcing every flood in Australia would be the worst ever. Still, if there are only five worse in the recorded history of Australia this one still counts as “unusual” in my book.
        And bear in mind we are still in the relatively early days of AGW – the worst predictions regarding more powerful monsoons and increased flooding are based on higher temperatures than we have now.

      • Latimer Alder

        Can you provide some references to these predictions – and their timescales, please?

        I did ask yesterday, but maybe you didn’t see my comment. Tx

      • I’ve answered it now.

      • Latimer Alder


      • Look by Trenberth’s logic all weather can be attributed to global warming, but for global warming the weather would be different. therefore, any weather, even normal weather, is a consequence of global warming. The concept of extreme events will cease to have any importance. There are roughly 2.5 Million cities in the world. Chances are one of them will have an extreme event. That will be caused by global warming. But the bonus is that the weather at the other cities will also be caused by global warming. And hence because it explains everything, it will explain nothing.

        It used to be that those of us who believed in climate change understood what we meant by climate and what we meant by weather. By climate we meant changes in long term statistics. This we could explain. But now the weather has become the climate. Make sense yet?

        ok, then take these crazy pills and see what you think.

        God I hate it when people on my side of the debate are stupid.

        I wonder if any of my fellow believers will suggest that scientists should speak publicly without heavily qualifying that statement. Maybe we should require licenses to speak about the climate ( arnt weatherman certified or something)

      • > I wonder if any of my fellow believers will suggest that scientists should speak publicly without heavily qualifying that statement.

        Quantifying would do. Distinguishing tokens and types would even be better.

      • The solution is underdetermined by Quantification and types and tokens merely kicks the can down the street.

        A few questions will disqualify any candidate you care to offer. And they are factual questions that have nothing to do with science. Odd, that questions, about non scientific issues should disqualify someone from speaking about their area of expertise, but it’s true.

      • > The solution is underdetermined by Quantification […]

        The solution. One solution. To everything.

        Let’s try to understand first. What does Trenberth mean?


        > [T]ypes and tokens merely kicks the can down the street.

        Let’s see.

        Exercise to the reader. Find where that sentence comes from:

        > [T]he odds have changed to make certain kinds of events more likely.

        Some background:


      • Right, climate means the long term statistics and weather means the day to day and season to season variability, but Trenberth’s remarks do not imply that this distinction disappears. What he is saying is that if you have a different climate you will get different weather which I hardly think is a controversial observation – ask any Brit who has gone to live in Spain after retirement (and consider why they may not feel the need to do so in future).

      • Michael Larkin

        Much enjoyed, Steven! :-)

      • One sympathises Stephen.

        Rants like this hurt both sides and science as a whole.

      • There is a certain asymmetry here that people should be aware of my now. It’s the case, for example, that WUWT can post bucketfuls of articles that have no merit whatsoever. And the readers who violently agree or disagree by turn do not question the credibility of the site. It has free reign to throw stuff out there and let the readers decide. That’s part of the brand. There is no spokesperson for the skeptical “position” because there is no skeptical “position”. Consequently, people can say all sorts of stupid things, inconsistent things and the brand is actually enhanced ( you have to talk about the iron sun to get kicked out of the tent) On the other side, on the AGW side, the brand is synonomous with anything a recognized climate scientist says. And so any disagreement, and mistake impacts the brand. Hence the need for them to position Judith outside the brand. Hence the reluctance to find any fault in Mann. Having established our brand with the utterly brittle concept of consensus ( a stupid move) we are given a choice that nobody likes.
        1. Change the brand and suffer a temporary loss of market share.
        2. enforce brand discipline by regulating who gets to speak.

      • > Enforce brand discipline by regulating who gets to speak.

        We need to discipline our speakers.

        Trenberth, bad speaker.

        Let’s discipline him.

        Moshes shows the way here.


        Hum. No. That can’t be it. So:

        > Change the brand and suffer a temporary loss of market share.

        Ah. Better. We need to change the brand.

        Climate change. Brand change. I like it.


        So we have a choice, and the first one is bad. Tough.

        The other can be anything. Let’s say INTEGRITY. Let me see if I can park that domain.

        Damn. Integrity dot com is taken.

      • The question that needs to be asked and answered: are the current events different (stronger as you suggest) than past events, which occurred under a cooler climate.

        A look at historical records indicates no.

      • How would you know that? The comparison should not be of crests, but the water delivered by the weather event to the drainage basin.

        A press report said the crest was one meter below the 1974 crest. What does that mean? Did the weather event deliver one meter less water? Maybe, maybe not. It might depend a bit on flood mitigation efforts since the 1974 crest.

        I live very close to the medical district in Houston. Tropical Storm Allison did significant damage here. Since then an extensive network of large drainage tunnels has been built. Presumably it will take a much larger amount of water to ever again reach the crest of Allison in the medical district. So say there is a storm and the flooding in the medical district crests one meter below the Allison mark. Does that mean the storm was smaller than Allison? Maybe, maybe not.

      • Also at WUWT

      • as PW pointed out looks like trenberth has an interesting NULL.

      • Look, Steven Mosher talking about Trenberth !

      • Actually, the comment is about PW. Giving credit to PW for his
        his “find.” On the internet this is regularly called a “hat tip”
        We credit people who find things and reward that behavior so that other people will engage in the same kind of behavior. when you find things to note, post them.

      • You’re right: it is about paying lips service. Paying lips service a second time. Without linking to PW’s questioning of Trenberth’s null. A null whose interpretation rests on tokens and types.

        Tokens and types. Kicking the can.

        I should have said:

        > Look, Steven Mosher mentioning Trenberth’s NULL !

        Talking about is not mentioning. Like using and mentioning. Two different things.

        Can we mention someone’s name to use it?

        Who’d think of that!

      • I’m curious, do you dispute the atmospheric CO level in the late 19th Century? Do dispute the OHC is higher than it was in Australia’s 1974 flood?

        Do you think a La Nina with an atmospheric co level of around 300 is directly comparable with a La Nina with an atmospheric CO2 level above 380?

      • Sorry, SB: CO2 level of around 300.

    • “Why do climate experts predict things only after they happen?”
      Because until literally a few days before the rains, they were busy predicting continued drought.
      The insult of linking the historical weather patterns of Australia- drought and flood- to ‘climate change’ (whatever the he** that means) is to anyone who is actually thinking.
      A few Australians post here. I hope they will take the time to comment about this.

      • In Brisbane we have brand new desalination plants, edifices to all the advice coming from the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology (to say nothing of various other prominent alarmists), that drought would increasingly be the norm for the Eastern seaboard of Australia.

        In fact periods of drought, followed by monsoonal deluges, is a familiar pattern in South Eastern Australia, including SE Queensland: the only unusual factor has been the coincidence of a decade-long drought and the upsurge of Climate Change alarmism. Now we have two desal plants that are likely to be nothing more than expensive follies.

        Suddenly, the cAGW crowd have changed their tune and are now saying that warmer oceans mean more cloud and increasing rain events for Eastern Australia. They also say that average temps will increase….doesn’t low-level monsoonal cloud reflect heat? Wouldn’t this scenario produce a negative feedback? Queensland has certainly been cooler so far this spring and summer. Very Orwellian. This is precisely why the concept of falsifiability is such a necessary constraint for this “one size fits all” hypothesis.

        Fortunately I think there will be some very hard questions asked about the climate predictions that have led to such a waste of resources…..and don’t get me started on the Traveston dam fiasco – I might get a little hot under the collar!

      • I’m an Aussie. I live in the northern suburbs of Brisbane.
        I can say, from 51 years experience, that almost all Australian droughts are broken with floods. a simple google research will verify this. If someone finds any different, please share.

        Australian climate (of the eastern seaboard) is driven by ENSO. We had a quite strong El Nino during the early months of 2010 which switched very dramatically to a deep La Nina which doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. What else but extensive floods on the eastern seaboard would one expect?

        Here in Queensland, we are in the early stages of our WET SEASON. Considering the depths of this strong La Nina, further heavy rains, especially around about Easter time is assured.
        Bookmark it and hold me to account if it doesn’t happen.

        Trenberth, being a prominent professional, should have refrained from linking this flood to AGW. AGW didn’t cause the 74 floods nor the vicious 1893 flood nor any of the myriad other wet season La Nina year floods in between those non-suv dates.

        That he didn’t, speaks volumes about this mans unrestrained agenda and does his credibility no good.

  43. Roger Andrews

    In the intro to this thread, Dr. Curry asks “In the politics of climate expertise, which experts should be paid attention to?”

    The problem I have with this question is the assumption that there are such things as climate science “experts”. An expert is someone with both technical expertise and a proven track record, like the surgeon who removes your appendix, the engineer who designs your car or the plumber who fixes your leaking pipe. But where is the scientist who can fix the climate, or for that matter even prove that the climate needs fixing? He/she doesn’t exist.

    In climate science there are no experts, nor is there any “expert judgment”. The best-qualified people we have are still floundering around in the face of numerous uncertainties, unable to agree in some cases even on basic fundamentals, yet still trying to do what no one has ever succeeded in doing and maybe never will – predict not only what the earth’s climate is going to be like in a hundred years’ time, but also figure out how to make it behave the way we want it to. Predicting what the stock market will do over the next 100 years is child’s play by comparison.

  44. Too much wrong has been done. First, bring on the political revolution, to STOP “implementing climate policy”. Those who would implement know not what they do, get them stopped. Second, cast all of those defending the IPCC consensus, or even peer-review, out of their comfortable “authoritative” positions, because theirs is the rottenness in climate science. Third, set up a new, independent authority, of hard scientists OUTSIDE of climate science, not in it, with the sole task of winnowing out the chaff that now inundates climate science, and identifying once and for all the true nuggets that should be built upon (such as the Venus/Earth data I recently advanced, as have others before me, that definitively disproves the greenhouse effect). It doesn’t matter if they don’t “know” climate science, I guarantee they can learn, and learn it far better than the “consensus” of today.

    • Harry, I suspect that scientific leaders are well aware that their empires may soon collapse.

      What happens to the reputations and job security of all these “science leaders” if Earth’s climate continues to cool?

      What happens if the new paper in ScienceXpress [ http://db.tt/faxUVnX ] confirms neutron repulsion as the energy source that powers the cosmos, the Sun,and sustains life on Earth?

      Bureaucrats may start abandoning ship.

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel

      • Oliver,
        Like snake oil salesmen, they change tactics and stay the course but blame the cooling on AGW.

        In a way, they were correct up until the planet physically changed in the 1970’s. Then became unpredictable and now is on the massive cooling end.
        But so much trash of everything generating CO2 causing climate change.

  45. At the risk of trying some readers’ patience, let me repeat part of a recent post by Roger Andrews (12 Jan, 6.15pm):

    ‘The problem I have with this question is the assumption that there are such things as climate science “experts”. An expert is someone with both technical expertise and a proven track record, like the surgeon who removes your appendix, the engineer who designs your car or the plumber who fixes your leaking pipe. But where is the scientist who can fix the climate, or for that matter even prove that the climate needs fixing? He/she doesn’t exist.’

    I think goes right to the heart of our troubles over climate pontifications and hasty policy making. The confident assertions of what might be called ‘highly concerned scientists responding to the outputs of computer models as if they were (soon to be) established facts’ are very hard to refute in the media or in the minds of the politically engaged by those who are essentially professing ‘we just don’t really know’. Facile or loaded ‘cost-benefit analyses’, or specious references to a ‘precautionary principle’, can instead win the day. I think they have won the day, and we are faced with dealing with the ensuing mess in our industrial, educational, and political systems.

    • John,
      I learned that our current concept and laws of physics and thermodynamics was garbage when I learned the science off a turbine I created that defied these laws. Researching this in the past history of the planet also found that our current laws of relativity also turned to garbage.
      So, current science expanded on incorrect science and this is the result.
      Theories upon theories.

      • I have spent many years studying the laws of physics, and they all seem pretty robust to me. They allow us to make sense of many parts of the climate system, and some in considerable detail such as within thunderstorms. But we are far from being able to model hugely complex systems such as that associated with our climate, especially when it comes to features, and the net effect of features, which do not yet exist. We can track many aspects of the initiation, and intensification of Atlantic depressions for example. We can go out and observe them to help keep our models on track. But for next month’s depressions, we are struggling badly, and for the overall impact of such depressions over many years, we can only speculate. We are dealing with a complex interactive network of factors, with important, potentially very influential events taking place on space and time scales ranging from the tiny to the huge. We are not in a position to make confident, reliable forecasts on climate, and it seems to me that it is an abdication of a basic adult responsibility to make such forecasts coupled with dire warnings of doom and disaster. There is no expertise involved in that, other than the ancient ones of rhetoric and the political manipulation.

      • John,
        There are a great deal of answers in the past to understand how climate was concieved. It just takes a great deal of digging and researching many fields to understand the timeline of the planet.
        Every individual spot on this planet is unique to what is happening at a single point in time. Current physics blurrs a great deal as so much is happening at a single moment that it is very hard to conceive individually.
        Rotational motion is an afterthought. Storing and compression of mass and gases were missed totally with motion.

  46. A diversity of voices and expertise is certainly needed. One way to “accomplish” this diversity is to show some charity in reading voices that might sound strange to our own ears. If this principle of charity is to be general, it shall be applied both to contrarian voices, but also to the voices coming from the established standpoints. Looking at how Schneider’s opinion is being portrayed by Curry might suffice to illustrate my point.

    Judith Curry is interpreting Schneider as holding this position:

    > It is the elite climate scientists (which includes geophysical scientists, ecologists and economists) as judged by their number of publications and citations.

    This position is supported by a reference to this interview:


    Here is what Schneider says in that interview that looks like what Curry is trying to interpret:

    > It really matters what your credentials are. If you have a heart arrhythmia as I do, and I also have a cardiologist, and you also have an oncological problem as I do, I’m not going to my cancer doc to ask him about my heart medicine and my cardiologist to ask about my chemo, I’m going to the experts. Who’s an expert really matters. People with no expertise, their opinion frankly does not matter on complex issues. And in my opinion shouldn’t even be quoted when we’re talking about the details of the science.

    Curry never really questions that view, a view that looks quite commonsensical to us. Notice that Schneider never talks about “elite”, but about “experts”. Let’s wonder why Curry introduce the concept of “elite”. Notice also that the “elite” is being exemplified by geophysical scientists, ecologists, biologists and economists.

    Interestingly, that interview contains a question regarding the “skewing” of people in terms of credibility:

    > CSW: I believe Judith Curry argued that, on your various lists, under “convinced of the evidence” you were including people who are ecologists and biologists, and who aren’t really experts in the climate change detection and attribution research. So that somehow skews your notion of how to sort people out in terms of credibility. What’s your response to that?

    Schneider offers two responses. Here is the first one:

    > First of all, there are a couple dozen people in the world that work in ecology […] who actually look at the bloom dates of roses in your grandmother’s back yard and when birds come back. We do detection and attribution studies. Those people are in the IPCC and they are legitimate experts and they have published research in Science and Nature and PNAS and places like that.

    Here is his second one:

    > But she does have a point, that not everyone in IPCC is an expert in detection and attribution. That’s certainly true. But when she said that the IPCC group that we used in our PNAS study should be cut down to something like 20% of the original. That’s hundreds of people, that’s still quite a lot of people. If you look at the “unconvinced of evidence” group, virtually nobody in it has ever published a paper on detection and attribution. So, by Judy’s own logic, that means it’s virtually a null set. That means there’s almost nobody in the unconvinced category who has any expertise whatsoever in detection and attribution. So, if you take her logic, and apply it symmetrically to the “convinced” and “unconvinced” you narrow the “convinced” group down to a smaller but still clear and robust population and the “unconvinced” has virtually no expertise, and their opinion becomes completely irrelevant.

    We note that that Schneider has already conceded some of Curry’s criticism. We note that Curry has not acknowledged that concedo. We also note that Curry is not discussing Schneider’s counter-argument.

    All we have is the example of Syun Akasofu, together with a criticism already made and already answered, and the labeling of Schneider’s position as “elitist”. (Let the reader look that Schneider has also responded to that charge of elitism, in that very interview.)

    However correct this might be, and as sharper00 already noted, we are still very far from a constructive solution to the “explicit consideration of the relevance of practitioner and other forms of knowledge”. If this is the topic of this blog post, this is a topic void of any constructive thesis whatsoever.

    And so we’re left with the usual blog-editorial pattern: we need to solve this problem; this solution won’t do; let’s editorialize about the fact that this solution is not inclusive enough (e.g. it’s elitist); let the commenters editorialize about the current state of institutions from there.

    A diversity of voices does not mean not much if it falls on deaf ears.

    • one quick comment (back at work finally!). Of the skeptics, there is a preponderance of those that study detection and attribution (lindzen, spencer, christy, douglass, knox, akasofu, etc.) There are few skeptics on the ecologist/economist side. If you just pick scientists that analyze climate data (atmosphere/ocean) and/or contribute in some way to climate modeling, there is a large proportion of skeptics among those that analyze climate data.

      What i am trying to do is start a dialogue on the politics of climate expertise. Steve Schneider has generally framed this for a long time (culminated by the pnas paper and interviews before his death). I’m saying that we need to rethink this because of the breadth of the problem and the diversity of legitimate perspectives.

      • Judith,

        I would have liked to have this argument in the blog post as you just explained it. It would also be interesting how the changes you’re asking for make Anderegg & al’s results look. If whan we want is to evaluate the expertise of the players in climate debates, we should try to frame something, not only criticize what has been done.

        In any case, you must admit that it has nothing to do with elitism, since the names you quoted are fairly known and established.

      • It’s sort of daunting to speak for Steve, but somebody has to. I imagine he would say something along these lines.

        I don’t know Knox and Akasofu, but I was unaware that Lindzen, Spencer, Christy or Douglass had published anything with any significant statistical content, never mind detection and attribution studies as those are usually understood. I will acknowledge that they “study data” but that is not the same thing at all. After all, the ecology experts you dismissed in the first place also “study data”.

        I would appreciate any references to attribution work by any of those you mentioned.

      • If you take a broad look at the detection and attribution problem, it includes assembling and analyzing the main climate data sets (esp temperature), analyzing feedbacks, analyzing climate senstivity, analyzing natural variability (internal and forced), statistical attribution studies, in additional to the climate model attribution studies. This population would include Lindzen, Spencer, Christy, Douglass, Akasofu, and other skeptics (this is the kind of thing that most of the skeptical activity is focused on) and would not include the hordes of biologists and economists that were on the PNAS list.

      • Judith, having got myself heavily involved in “Politics of Climate Expertise III” in the last 36 hours – the first time on Climate Etc. – this post and your previous response to Willard on 13th may be my gateway to what you’ve been aiming for with the Politics of Climate Expertise series. Very worthwhile.

        Sorry to be slow but I’m very interested. The gap between the famous sceptics you name here (and their density) and the ecologists/economists is I believe a key point. I’m not sure I agree though about the sceptic density of economists on their own. Anyway, I hope to contribute a little better as time progresses.

      • Sorry, I’m unconvinced by this. I have never heard any of these people described as detection and attribution specialists.

        Of the five you mention, only Christy has a reference in the TAR chapter on detection and attribution, which is probably as good a roster as one could come up with. Christy is fourth author on

        Gaffen, D.J., B.D. Santer, J.S. Boyle, J.R. Christy, N.E. Graham and
        R.J.Ross, 2000. Multi-decadal changes in vertical temperature
        structure of the tropical troposphere. Science, 287, 1242-1245.

        I think Christy is considered a specialist in remote observation and it would be in that capacity he is cited.

        What you seem to be saying is that if you can draw an arbitrary closed surface through the space defined by the expertise of those cited by Anderegg, you could contrive to include a higher representation of skeptics. Sure, but frankly that seems like an uninteresting ex post facto cherry pick.

      • Well it depends on who is allowed to define the term “detection and attribution” as a specialty and who gets to pick the references and the experts. I do not think Andregg et al. did a good job of this, especially since the litmus test question was the IPCC very likely attribution statement.

    • “If you look at the ‘unconvinced of evidence’ group, virtually nobody in it has ever published a paper on detection and attribution.”

      I have wondered for some time, isn’t the acquisition of the type of expertise being talked about here more than a little self selecting? Keith Kloor had a post last year on a study of lead wheel weights and the risk of their adding lead to the environment. The substance and the merits of the article aside, who would go out and spend weeks picking up lead wheel weights and doing a study, other than someone who already believes they are a problem? (If only he could have found a way to connect the weights to global warming, maybe he would have gotten added attention and more funding for his research, and be famous today!)

      If a scientist did not already think that excess CO2 was a problem, why would he spend his valuable time, and research dollars, looking for attribution? On the other hand, why would a skeptic do research and try to publish a paper at all (let alone 126) on a subject that he does not believe is of central importance? Isn’t it the case that it is the rise of climate/CO2 alarmism, and the massive costs of remediation, that has caused many whose attention was directed elsewhere to finally begin to look into this area? In this circumstance, does counting papers tell you anything of value?

      I wonder if the alchemists responded to their critics by saying that only other alchemists could critique their work? I am not equating climate science with alchemy, but I wonder if “appeal to authority,” or reliance on “experts,” shouldn’t be more suspect in a relatively new science like climate/AGW.

      As for Schneider’s comparison to reliance on experts in cardiology and oncology: climate scientists admit that their models have not been validated, while the common diagnostic tools in cardiology and oncology have. The climate scientists may raise all the arguments they like why such validation is not necessary, but I think the public has, will, and should view them with less credibility for their failure (inability?) to do so.

      • > If a scientist did not already think that excess CO2 was a problem, why would he spend his valuable time, and research dollars, looking for attribution?

        Curry just noted that of the skeptics, there is a preponderance of those that study detection and attribution: Lindzen, Spencer, Christy, Douglass, Knox, Akasofu, etc. If Curry is right, that should suffice be able to say that it’s possible to spend valuable time and research dollars, looking for attribution without thinking that excess CO2 is a problem.

        On the face of it, reconciling what Curry and what GaryM might need some work. Might someone need to believe that excess C02 is a problem to do that work?

    • That paper was a rather silly exercise in expertology by non experts in expertology. ( they effed up the statistics as well, but nevermind)

      • I thought it was a paper about expert credibility, not expertology.

        I am willing to concede, at least for the sake of argument, that their “broad analysis” effed up the statistics of the “distribution of dissenting researchers relative to agreeing researchers.” Any idea how their analysis might be improved?

      • steven mosher

        read romanM. The co authors ( probably due to their lack of statistical training) made some fundamental statistical mistakes. These mistakes should have been caught in a peer review, but who is going to check a paper authored by Schneider and point out a glaring error? In any case the errors have been pointed out publicly, the co authors have been informed of how they can fix it and no correction has been published.
        science marches on. Thanks for bringing up the opportunity to review the deference given to some authors by their pals to load up the publication count.

      • Any Idea why they refuse to publish a correction when their error has been pointed out by an expert with credibility in statistics?

        hint if you want to do a paper on expert credibility, you best have some experts with credibility doing the stats.. or paint a bull’s eye on your toe and pull the trigger. If you care about the planet why use cheap graduate student labor? I mean seriously for all our feigned concern about the planet, we really do produce some shoddy work. Makes you wonder that maybe the argument about credibility works against our long range interest. That since we believe in our own credibility arguments to the detriment of our position. That maybe some credibility from outside the regular team might be in order.
        Na, the team in place has been winning hearts and minds. They just need a little coaching in rhetoric.

      • Latimer Alder


        Shouting that

        ‘we’re right because we say we’re right and we’re the only people qualified to say we’re right and shut up all you nasty little uneducated proles who aren’t fit to even have an opinion’

        is a real crowd-pleaser. And has led to universal approbation and reverence.

        My man Joe Sixpack expresses it more succinctly:

        ‘Arrogant Smug B*s**ds!’

      • You’re coatracking the daily turmoil, Moshpit.

        Makes you wonder about your dialoguing.

        As long as your SEO advisor is happy, anything goes.

        Talk about integrity.

      • Wrong again.
        If I wanted to drive analytics I would use a link to my book in my name. That, however, wouldn’t do much to drive the numbers under the current algorithm. And I really don’t need to drive organic. I’m #3 in organic. Finally, the book is well into the long tail ( less than 10 units a month) , so any additional marketing expense is silly. I do this for fun and to keep skills sharpened. Again, same mistake Mann made WRT McIntyre. Funny how patterns of misperception replicate

      • Focus on the lesser sentence. Interpret that sentence litterally. Do the touch-down dance.

        SEO. Branding. Must be Moshes’s book. Can’t be anything else.

        Can’t be INTEGRITY ™.


        So I’m wrong. That’s the memo. Hence it’s the lead:

        > Wrong again.

        Not only wrong. But again. About the most important thing that is said, no doubt about that.

        That’s dialoguing.

        A real PR lesson.

      • They counted things that were of great interest that were visible to be counted. Were they not supposed to count the things for some reason? Were they supposed to keep the counts secret?

        I cannot understand the objections to the Anderegg publication.

      • It’s the one thing that makes me most skeptical of climate science. Seriously.

  47. THE FLAW: Confusing the journey with the destination

    My friend Cliff helped me recognize an important difference between the purpose of scientific and legal investigations.

    Science: A continuous journey of discovery – strictly adhering to the scientific method.

    The law seeks “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

    Many flaws in our current system of science and politics result from the unstated but unrealistic goal of trying to use science to obtain:

    “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

    Scientists of integrity never claim to have: “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

    • Oliver,

      It is far more difficult to pick the fiction from the science. These theories are so interwoven and built upon.
      Put current science and physics 3 or 4 billion years into the past and they litterly implode into a massive mess of garbage when the planet was quite a bit different.

      • Latimer Alder

        Examples? With some evidence please?

      • Latimer,
        I tried that once before with mechanics of coil springs and motion and lost everyone.
        I can tell you from my own research when evaporation started to occur. I followed the date to the oldest salt mine which pretty close matches to the date of the second and current string of Ice Ages.

        I have noticed over time, people, including you Latimer start to understand the knowledge I have accumulated by understanding motion, compression, history, etc. Stuff climate science failed to follow or include.

      • Latimer Alder

        Sorry Joe

        The best way to make sure you understand something is to explain it to somebody who doesn’t.

        If you can’t even do that, then I think you are just spouting hot air.

        You have not produced a single shred of evidence about anything, Nor made any suggestions of what you think is wrong with ‘conventional’ physics other than dark mutterings about rotation and compressed gases.

        If you have something concrete to say, get up and say it. Simply, so that we can all understand your meaning. Example: The Cat Sat on the Mat.

      • Latimer,
        Simple mechanics is the easy part. Try placing values to the materials to coincide with a good proxy to this planet. Some presentations cannot be reproduced due to the enormous heat and pressure so proxies have to be used to show this function.
        “Example: The Cat Sat on the Mat.” and compressed the spring under that mat. Now factors of the cats weight and how much of the cat sat on the spring? How much compression did it exert? What is the weight compression of the fully compressed spring?
        The place on this planet where the experiment was done(differing gravity and pressures)? Was heat or cold involved to effect the compression of the material? ETC.

        Latimer, I am talking exact science and not the garbage of general theories that are just good enough to current science.

      • Latimer,
        Here is an example of combining separate areas into one understanding.
        Cold compressed gases turn to liquid.
        When gases heat they vibrate.
        A sand compactor vibrates loose sand into a hard compacted mass.
        So, by logic heated gases should be able to compress more when thousands of pounds of pressure are exerted creating a more dense compating of gases. Now will this show up as a liquid or a solid?

      • Joe–with all due respect
        re: your example of compressing gasses….and how does this happen when there is a pressure relief value? (space)

        generally, you seem to have opinions as to what is happening, but like others theories (even respected scientists) if they can not be demonstrated to policy makers to be accurate, they are meaningless…..

      • Sorry Rob,
        I was refering to the compression of creating a planet and why we currently still have activity under the planet surface after 4.5 billion years.
        You are right, they are meaningless to everyone else that is not seeking the truth.
        I gave up on policy makers long ago as the system is too tied up into itself to look at anything new or change mistakes.
        So, all I can be is Johnny Appleseed and plant seeds of an alternative science that is looking for exact and correct science.

  48. This is interesting and on topic


    Prof Stewart Franks writng to David Karoly signs off thusly

    “You are arguably the best example of the corruption of the IPCC process, and the bullshit that academia has sunk to.

    Shame on you ”

    Note that “Franks was interviewed by the ABC’s PM program, as was Karoly, on the alleged affect of man-made warming on the floods. The alarmist’s opinion was broadcast, and the expert’s was not. ”

    So an expert’s opinion will not be heard if it does not support the dogma.

    We are doomed, I tell you. We are all doomed!

  49. Kevin Trenberth’s AMS speech is a travesty. It would be below even for any of the consensus bloggers who frequent here, to defend it. It is super weird.

    • Shub

      Is it missing heat?

    • I found Trenberth’s preprint troubling. I admire him as a superb scientist, but his skills as a communicator are questionable. In my view, he has a strong case to make, but then weakens his argument by overstating it. The use of the term “denier” is certainly unfortunate, not because deniers don’t exist, but because not everyone who disagrees with him is a denier. He would be more persuasive, I believe, if he abjured the inflammatory rhetoric and focused on the science – particularly given that his audience will be the AMS.

  50. Willis Eschenbach

    Judith, I must confess, I found her comments terrifying. She says she wants:

    (1) joint framing and design of research with policymakers

    So the government is already funding the scientists plus hiring its own scientists. This exerts a huge effect on what gets studied and how it is studied in the first place. Now she wants government officials to sit down and tell the scientists how they should study it … why does this not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling?

    (2) explicit consideration of the relevance of practitioner and other forms of knowledge

    I am not at all sure what she means by this. What is the “relevance of practitioner” when it is at home? Does she mean that the government should have some official means of determining whether the “relevance of practitioner Willis Eschenbach” is up to the task? And when the subject under discussion is how to use scientific knowledge, exactly which “other forms of knowledge” is she talking about?

    (3) quality measures for scientific information (including QA/QC, data integrity and peer and practitioner review)

    Generally, the governments, universities, and scientific journals do not seem to need more “quality measures”. They need to strictly, rigorously, and even retroactively apply the measures that they have been ignoring for years. Then we can discuss what other measures she might see as necessary.

    (3) transparency and openness of review of any information considered and its application to policy.

    Since she accidentally gave this one the same number, let me deliberately give the same answer. We have the FOIA and various “sunshine laws”. Government and government-funded folks need to start obeying these both in letter and in spirit, rather than run and hide from them as NASA and CRU and others have done.

    So in summary, the first two of her recommendations make me very nervous, they mean more government control of the direction of scientific inquiry. The government is free to direct its own scientist employees in any fashion it chooses. But increasing the government’s influence on the form and direction of all policy-related science will not make me sleep better.

    And the last two recommendations are mis-direction. We don’t need to show you no steenkin’ new rules. We need for the various governments, universities, and funding agencies to ENFORCE THE EXISTING RULES.

    Once again, I see this as part of mainstream climate science’s unwillingness to face the real problems. The real problems are not poor communication and a need for new rules and policies.

    The real problems are bad science, and un-enforced and ignored rules and policies for things like peer review, closing dates for IPCC submissions, data archiving, and transparency. Once you guys start talking about those things, I’ll believe you have awakened to the ugly reality of climate science in 2011.

    And once you guys actually start doing something about those problems, I’ll believe you are serious about them.

    Until then, not so much … calls for greater archiving such as she has made are meaningless nonsense. The NSF has the power to enforce its own rules, and it does not do so. The University of Pennsylvania has the power to enforce its own rules, and it does not do so. NASA and the CRU and Science Magazine and the IPCC have the power to enforce their own rules, and they do not do so.

    For her to blithely talk about the need for new policies and rules in the face of that is a sick joke.


    • Willis, which do you prefer: Sharon Friedman’s statement, or statements made by climate scientists and government officials that “everything is fine.”

      • Dr. Curry

        Given the choice of increased gatekeeping on scientific thought at the hands of any party, however well-intentioned, and complacency, one appears to be between the devil and the deep blue sea.

        Why do we have to absent ourselves from the moral imagination (what a wonderful term) to find a better resolve?

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Which statement do I prefer? I thought I had made myself clear, but once again my self-estimation of my writing skills betrays me …

        I prefer actions, Judith. Her statements are like all of the existing policies that are being ignored. They mean absolutely nothing unless they are acted on.

        Like I said, when someone actually starts doing something, I’ll believe that the issue is being taken seriously. I wrote an open letter to the incoming Director of the NSF to see what I could actually accomplish in that regard. I have written to urge the Journal editors to enforce their own archiving policies. I filed FOI requests to try to force the transparency she prates about.

        Vague calls like Sharon’s for things like transparency are comforting for those that utter them, because I’m sure she feels like she’s actually doing something. But at the end of the day they are meaningless. Until established climate scientists start doing things like putting the pressure on the NSF to bop Lonnie Thompson on the head, the circus will continue.

        I’m sorry to be so blunt, but when, oh when are you mainstream climate scientists going to get serious about this stuff, and stop just quacking about it? Why do I have to be the one to write to journal editors and the NSF to get them to clean up their act, why aren’t you guys up in arms about the blatant public traducing of scientific ethics? When is the point when someone inside the system stands up and publicly says that there are problems, deep problems, in the field?

        Instead, most mainstream climate scientists either applaud or worse, stand silent when Kevin Trenberth raves about how the problem was that the climategate emails were illegally obtained, and how nothing at all wrong was revealed, oh, my, no, and how the investigations whitewashed found everything clean as the driven snow … yeah, right, Kevin, I can understand why you would keep repeating that, any kid who ever stole a cookie understands your motives very well.

        But I don’t understand either the applause or worse, the deafening silence from the field … don’t you guys’ gag reflexes ever kick in?


      • If webster and/or I have time tonite, will respond to some of trenberth’s recent statements. Webster is the one who actually spotted Trenberth’s AMS abstract and posted it a few days ago, which is where i assume it is being picked up from. The issue is time. I can say “hogwash.” but that isn’t useful. needs analysis, which takes time, and I am unfortunately very short of time this month.

      • WRT trenberth. There is a substantive scientific question that nobody has asked either Trenberth or Jones WRT the Michaels and McKitrick paper they discussed in one of the mails.

        There is one simple sentence in Ar4 that is at issue.

        It would be nice to have a discussion about that one sentence with folks on all sides to see if we can’t agree that.

        1. the sentence is important.
        2. the issue is scientific
        3. folks deserve a thoughtful answer to a well posed question.

        If you like I can detail the exact passage and the precise question.

        Steve’s already done this, but all the discussion goes in six different ways.

      • So now it’s Trenberth.


      • Willis Eschenbach

        “But at my back I always hear,
        Time’s winged chariot hurrying near” …

        All the best to you, dear lady. Things have to happen in their own time.


      • Willis it still stuns me that the key issue about Trenberths mail and the treatment MM04 got in AR4 has still not been addressed.

        have a look at my comment over there and tell me what you think

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Yea, Mosh, I suppose I should be stunned. But nothing those lying fools could do would surprise me any more. I would have bet good money that Trenberth was smart enough to shut up and just let us suspect that he’s a liar and a fool. Instead he leaps to the pulpit and removes all doubt …

        And yet people think it is just a communication problem.

      • I think it’s time to write sensenbrenner. And I do not like the idea of scientists being dragged into the committee room. I may not agree with Ross’ work, but at least I didn’t make crap up out of whole cloth. It bothers me that legit questions about his work
        get ignored because experts with “credibility” have carte blanche to invent things ex nihilo.

      • T.

      • You are going strange and too cryptic.

      • Well, the premise seems to be that it’s just a communication problem in the sense that the “deniers” are assumed to be winning because they are more arrogant and cocksure than the mainstream climate scientists. So climate scientists have to be even more arrogant and cocksure to compete. But the problem is that they have this exactly backwards. Contrary to what they believe, the skeptics are winning by being less arrogant and more respectful.

        So these climate scientists are like the Chinese emperor that died from drinking an elixir of immortality. The more they fail to convince most people, the more they intensify the strategy that failed them in the first place. To me, this looks like a feedback loop that has to run until it crashes.

      • Pretty much.

        The playbook laid out by Trenberth ( as we pointed out in the book) was to just accuse the skeptics of being lazy. ‘do your own damn science’

        30 seconds of thought ( or advice from a professional) would have dissuaded them from this kind of stupid tactic. That’s my main beef with guys on my side. You had scientists coming up with PR strategies and they have no experience or expertise in dealing with the public.

      • Trenberth.

  51. I see Lubos Motl has a thing or two to say about Kevin Trenberth’s missive to the AMS (American Meteorological Society)


    “Just to make you sure, you’re not being criticized for admitting that the climate science doesn’t allow us to calculate temperature change with a 0.6 °C precision or the corresponding energy flows; right now, science can only explain what can be explained at this moment. You’re criticized for denying this ignorance in the context of the policy discussions and for claiming that this ignorance doesn’t exist when you want to self-confidently claim far-reaching things about the climate in the future and when you use these bizarre statements as arguments in the scary totalitarian society you are dreaming about.

    We’ve had enough of the priggishness and unjustifiable moral superiority of mediocre and obsessed pseudoscientific would-be scientists such as yourself, Mr Trenberth. The American Meteorological Society should show you the door, and if it fails to do so, the AMS and other institutions should be showed the door away from the U.S. budget for the fiscal year 2012. The funding of this junk should drop from $2.5 billion to zero simply because it produces zero value.”

    Go Lubos!

  52. Here is Trenberth’s email response to one Helen Angstrom about his AMS speech:

    To: Helen Armstrong
    Subject: Re: Your address to AMS

    Because science is evidence and physically based, it is based on facts, and one who says otherwise is a denier. The events in Queensland are indeed a portent for the futures and a sign of global warming. Since you live in the neighborhood, you perhaps should take note.

    Kevin Trenberth

    To anyone who were attempting to defend Trenberth’s logic about the Queensland floods, things can get no more direct. Trenberth’s riposte to a Queenslander to start believing in global warming (‘take note’) is fear-mongering. It is sickening.

    This is a classical example of bad communication. Trenberth frames some of his ideas very badly, mixes them with a whole lot of persecutory paranoia about Climategate and his visions for a utopian future and presents them to a public. He then, responds angrily to public responses which are critical. What did he expect – only bouquets and no brickbats?

    Why does he do this? Why can’t the doyens of climate science shut him down? He is harming his own larger side – that of climate scientists, in campaigning as a champion for his petty climate advocacy faction.

    • Why can’t they shut him down? Because they share the conspiracy theories. As I stated before in this thread, ‘Since experts tend to trust experts, at worst you end up with “established facts” that are not much better than urban legends.’ The alleged evil and irrationality of the “deniers” is one conspicuous example.

    • Yes here is another Trenberth quote about “deniers” that will no doubt be a big source of discussion:

      Debating them about the science is not an approach that is recommended. In a debate it is impossible to counter lies, and caveated statements show up poorly against loudly proclaimed confident statements that often have little or no basis. Scientific facts are not open to debate and opinion because they are evidence and/or physically based. Moreover a debate actually gives alternative views credibility.

      • He could be right about what he says about caveated statements showing up poorly, if your time frame is only the duration of that discussion. On the long term, anyone who keeps ignoring the difference between a plausible hypothesis and an established fact will lose credibility.

      • Let’s not forget Climategate.



        But today, Trenbert.

        And Climategate.

      • ‘Trenberth’, above.

    • Trenberth, Trenberth, Trenberth, Trenberth, Trenberth, Trenberth, Trenberth, Trenberth, Trenberth, Trenberth, Trenberth, Trenberth, Trenberth, Trenberth.

  53. ‘Helen Armstrong’ above.

  54. Brilliant from Trenberth….portents, signs, deniers. Sounds very medieval to me. Mind you, perhaps the language is appropriate – after all he does rely on the modern equivalent of sheep’s entrails for his prophecies of doom.

    Isn’t it about time that the likes of Trenberth and Hansen were retired from the debate? I feel genuinely sorry for the likes of Michael Tobis who is constantly trying to make reasonable scientific points against a background of this breathless advocacy which continually undermines his position.

    I, for one, would love to hear the case made for a measurably concerning anthropogenic warming signal free from the stigma resulting from people who seem to have more in common with latter day prophets than modern day science.

  55. I think you’ll need to add more scientists to your hit list in regards to this subject.

    “If left unchecked, climate warming will continue so the things that we’re having hints of now, foretastes of now, will come stronger,” Richard Sommerville, a climate scientist at the University of California at San Diego…
    “The world is warming up … It’s warming for sure and science is very confident that most of the warming is due to human causes.”…
    Now, climate scientists see “the changed odds, the loaded dice that favors more extreme events and more high temperature records being broken,” he said…
    “Because the whole water cycle speeds up in a warming world, there’s more water in the atmosphere today than there was a few years ago on average, and you’re seeing a lot of that in the heavy rains and floods for example in Australia,” Sommervile said.

    Oh geez, and this was a nation story and not a talk in bunch of square scientists, like the AMS! And get Moreno on this guy quick. I think the Trenberth stuff will die down soon.

    “This is no longer something that’s theory or conjecture or something that comes out of computer models,” Sommerville said. “We’re observing the climate changing — it’s happening, it’s real, it’s a fact.”

    Hurry, before all these warnings from scientists are taken seriously! Tell them we need proof! Empirical proof for which raindrops are hurting people!

    • Yes, this kind of talk is common among climate scientists. It freely mixes facts (the planet has warmed, most skeptics would agree) with more or less plausible hypotheses that have little empirical support (attributing various specific weather events to global warming). And there is no need to “get Moreno on this guy” since these climate scientists are destroying their own credibility by not making the distinction.

      • But whose going to figure which rain drops are caused by natural variability and which ones are caused by CO2? We need to destroy the reputations of everyone who suggests we use common sense to realize that there is no way in distinguishing the two. This is not a time to use probability to make the safe bet. Right? Lines of evidence are not proof. Proof is proof!

        This is surely a job for someone on the internet! Or every skeptic blogger on the internet…it seems.

  56. Suppose climate science didn’t exist. If I wanted a crash program to develop it, I would hire:
    -known metrology experts from fields with similar metrology issues
    -known IT systems and database experts from fields with similar systems and database issues
    -known data analysis experts (statisticians) from fields with similar data analysis issues
    -known modeling experts …
    -known atmospheric physics experts…
    -known weather pattern experts
    -known oceanographic experts
    and so on.

    And most important don’t forget a project manager, quality expert, and communications manager with appropriate track records.

    It’s relatively easy to find actual experts with certain skill sets in well established areas, especially the hard sciences. How do you differentiate the experts from the “experts”? They should be able to clearly explain complicated issues in their area of expertise. On a given topic, they should be able to tell you both what the known and theoretical considerations are, as well as ranking them in order of importance / likelihood. They should also have demonstrated their expertise in doing what you ned them to do.