Lisbon Workshop on Reconciliation: Part III

by Judith Curry

At the Workshop, there was an interesting  presentation made by by Jeroen van der Sluijs, who also presented this at the public event.   The talk addresses paradigms of uncertain risk, and how to act under conditions of uncertainty.

Paradigms of uncertain risk

‘deficit view’
•  Uncertainty is provisional.
•  Reduce uncertainty, make ever more complex models
•  Tools: quantification, Monte Carlo, Bayesian belief networks

‘evidence evaluation view’
•  Comparative evaluations of research results
•  Tools: Scientific consensus building; multi disciplinary expert panels
•  focus on robust findings

‘complex systems view’
•  Uncertainty is intrinsic to complex systems
•  Uncertainty can be result of production of knowledge
•  Acknowledge that not all uncertainties can be quantified
•  Openly deal with deeper dimensions of uncertainty (problem framing indeterminacy, ignorance, assumptions, value loadings, institutional dimensions)
•  Tools: Knowledge Quality Assessment
•  Deliberative negotiated management of risk

How to act upon such uncertainty?

As an example, a practical problem was provided, wheregy 5 scientific consultants addressed the same question: “Which parts of this area are most vulnerable to nitrate pollution and need to be protected?”   Each of the 5 consultants gave a different answer. The following different approaches are outlined:

  • Bayesian approach: 5 priors. Average and update likelihood of each grid-cell being red with data (but oooops, there is no data and we need decisions now)
  • IPCC approach: Lock the 5 consultants up in a room and don’t release them before they have consensus
  • Nihilist approach: Dump the science and decide on another basis
  • Precautionary robustness approach: protect all grid-cells
  • Academic bureaucrat approach: Weigh by citation index (or H-index) of consultant.
  • Select the consultant that you trust most
  • Real life approach: Select the consultant that best fits your policy agenda
  • Explore the relevance of our ignorance: working deliberatively within imperfections

I left the meeting with a memory stick full of van der Sluijs’ papers and presentations.  From van der Sluijs et al. paper “Beyond consensus: reflections from a democratic perspective on the interaction between climate politics and science:”

Three strategies to deal with scientific uncertainties in the science–policy interface

When the science–policy interface is confronted with complex issues that are characterized by many scientific uncertainties three coping strategies may be distinguished .

Interfacing strategy 1: quantify uncertainties

In the ‘Linear Model’ of interfacing science and policy,  science informs policy by producing objective, valid, and reliable knowledge. To develop a policy is then a matter of scientists delivering the facts and then, in a second step, policy makers sorting out diverse values and preferences. In classical terms, the true entails the good; in modern terms, truth speaks to power. This interfacing model implicitly assumes that scientific facts linearly determine correct policy: good governance is getting the facts right and calculate the optimal policy. The belief is that being based on scientific facts, the power that is exercised is effective, legitimate, and based on unambiguous objectivity and indisputable rationality. This approach implicitly assumes that there are no limits to the progress of man’s control over his environment, no limits to the capacity of science to know and understand, and no limits to the material and moral progress of mankind. This is the classic ‘technocratic’ view of governance dependent on an assumed perfection/perfectibility of science in theory and also (progressively) in practice. Within this Linear Model, scientific uncertainty is seen as a temporary shortcoming in knowledge. The related interfacing strategy is to quantify and push back the uncertainty by more research, for example, creating increasingly complex climate models and through perturbed physics ensemble modelling . Calculation is seen as key to well-informed good governance. This approach is limited by the fact that not all uncertainties can be expressed quantitatively in a reliable way. What’s more, in practice uncertainties do not become reduced with more research: the problem appears to become ever more complex . It further assumes that there is only one correct scientific description of the system that is analyzed: in other words it assumes that the system and problem are not complex. It thereby ignores that multiple – often conflicting – scientific interpretations of the same available knowledge are tenable. The drawback of this approach is that there is a semblance of certainty, for example, because the numbers coming from the increasingly complex models suggest that there is more knowledge and more certainty than is actually the case.

Interfacing strategy 2: build scientific consensus

In response to the phenomenon that science does not speak with one voice to policy but tends to speak many, often conflicting truths, to power, the emergence of a Consensus Model can be observed in an attempt to ‘rescue’ the Linear Model from conflicting certainties and multiple framings. Within this interfacing model uncertainty is primarily perceived as a problematic lack of unequivocalness. One scientist says this, the other says that. It is unclear who is right and which scientific viewpoint should guide the decision making. The solution has been a comparative and independent evaluation of research results, aimed at building scientific consensus via multidisciplinary expert panels. This approach is geared towards generating robust findings representing ‘the best of our knowledge’ that is used as a proxy for the scientific truth that is needed in the Linear Model. The drawbacks of this approach are that it leads to anchoring towards previously established consensus positions, it hides diversity of perspectives thereby unduly constraining decision-makers options, it underexposes issues over which there is no consensus whereas it is precisely this dissent that tends to be extremely relevant to policymaking.

Interfacing strategy 3: openness about ignorance

In the Consensus Model, the core activity of the Linear Model, the experts’ (desire for) truth speaking to the politicians’ (need for) power, is left unquestioned and unchanged. Confronted with complex issues with high decision stakes, uncertain facts and values in dispute, scientists may still aim to deliver truth, but often there are many competing interpretations of the same problem (conflicting truths), none of which can be refuted given the state of knowledge—so that a consensus can only be an enforced reduction of complexity into single ‘best of our knowledge’ claim. In case of such complex issues, both the Linear Model and the Consensus Model are not fit for the characteristics of the issue addressed, because the truth cannot be known at the moment the decision needs to be made, and can thus not be a substantial aspect of the issue. Building on these notions, an alternative model of science and policy has been proposed: the Deliberative Model, in which the appreciation of a plurality of (often irreconcilable) perspectives is key. Within this interfacing model uncertainty is seen as something that unavoidably plays a permanent role in complex and politically sensitive topics. This approach recognizes that ignorance (lack of understanding of the complex climate system) and values play a central role. The search is for a robust policy, which is useful regardless of which of the diverging scientific interpretations of the knowledge is correct. The drawback of this approach is that uncertainty and minority interpretations are so much in the spotlight that we may forget the items that actually do enjoy broad scientific consensus .

Epilogue: towards a more democratic perspective

To move beyond consensus the deliberative model offers a promising complementary approach to interface climate science and policy, based on openness about uncertainty and ignorance, systematic reflection, and argued choice. This remedies the basic weakness of the Linear Model that underexposes the scientific as well as the political dissent. It can fruitfully broaden the option space for decision making and enhance societies’ capacity to deal with uncertainties surrounding knowledge production and knowledge use in the management of climate risks. To this end, both the scientific and the political climate debate need more space and attention for diversity and uncertainty in knowledge and views. Consequently, it is necessary to make climate science less political. This can be accomplished by offering room for dissent within climate science and communicating about it with policymakers. It should also be acknowledged that climate policies can be justified in moral terms without any need for recourse to abstract climate or economic models. An excessive mutual dependence between science and policy should also be prevented. The political climate debate would benefit from clarification of the political values and visions that are at play in climate change. The climate debate could be expanded by paying attention to socially attractive development perspectives. The growing focus on climate adaptation also has the power to highlight and expand the political climate debate.

Note: tell me how all this sounds, and whether you object to any of it.  Think about this before I tell you that I carefully excised the words “postnormal”  in the text (it was used about 4 times in the text i lifted from van der Sluijs’ work) and I also excised the name “Ravetz”.  If you don’t see the word “postnormal,” I suspect that there is far less objection to the actual concepts.

Van der Sluijs’ web site is here.

351 responses to “Lisbon Workshop on Reconciliation: Part III

  1. Nice. I’d say the democratic approach still leaves open a lot of loose ends, regarding just how this process would look like, especially near the end where decisions have to be made. It aims to make the science less political, but only by making the decision-making process more explicitly political. Arguments based on the linear model and scientific fact can still conceivably enter through the back door, so it by no means guarantees liberating science, but I like where it is heading. This is broadly consistent with where my thinking has been in the past year: the real improvements in decision-making should happen along the political, not the scientific dimension.

    • The political system is the system making the policy decisions. That is its job.

      • Exactly. The question is how and on what basis, particularly when science is involved. What is the role accorded to scientific knowledge, in its various forms, in the decision-making process.

      • The question here is what the political, decision making system should do when there is little or no scientific knowledge, because the scientists disagree. Normally the rational thing is to do little, except try to resolve the science. That is pretty much what we are seeing in the USA. It is a bloody brawl but that is how the political decision system works here. Mind you, whether the scientists disagree is itself a central issue of contention.

        All three of these Interfacing Strategies seem to ignore the fact that policy decision making is a highly distributed social process. The US Congress is not a person, it is thousands of people, answering to millions. The notion that there is a definable interface is too simple to be useful. It is a complex diffusion process, where polarization is the rule. Proposals to change that are pointless.

  2. Post-normal science seems to seek some reason to justify hiding or ignoring “scientific uncertainty” instead of accepting that the uncertainty on a number is as important as the number itself.

    I am reminded of the many years of careful measurements of the solar neutrino flux, and its uncertainty, by the late Nobel Laureate Raymond Davis.

    If politicians want to act as if scientific uncertainty doesn’t exist, that should be their problem. Ray Davis was greatly admired by many for refusing to compromise observations for those who simply wanted answers.

    • This is completely incorrect. the focus of PNS is uncertainty.

      • The PNS focus is to justify ignoring uncertainty.

        Remember the claim:“The science is settled!

        I’m not blaming climatologist, Professor Curry. They copied the technique that was used during the space age to claim The SSM is right: The Sun is a giant ball of Hydrogen!

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

      • It is not completely incorrect.

        The focus of PNS is to diminish the percieved import of uncertainty by various means, while maintaining the persuasive connotations of ‘science’.

        PNS is just politics, and is posessed of every bit of the ugliness, deceit and bullying that characterizes the rest of politics that doesn’t pretend to be science.

        The characterization above of the ‘linear model’ as:

        <iIThis approach implicitly assumes that there are no limits to the progress of man’s control over his environment, no limits to the capacity of science to know and understand, and no limits to the material and moral progress of mankind.

        Is false. The model of ‘truth informs power’ does NOT assume that all truths are known, or even knowable. It does NOT assume that there are no limits of science to know and understand and control the environment. It does dictate that when science does not have the ability to know, does not understand, or cannot control, then you quit pretending that what you are doing is science. You admit that what you are doing is attemtping to impose your values using the police power of the state, and you argue for such policy on that basis. You are doing what you want to do, not what we HAVE TO DO TO SAVE US ALL FROM CERTAIN DEATH.

        That schtick is older than the hills, and long predates science. “Give us your property and your virgin daughters to save us all from the wrath of the gods” is not “post normal paganism”or any such crap, it is just plain old opportunistic scare politics, and it quite often was perpetrated over climate change phenomena. Crop failures, plauges, droughts, hail storms, floods … once the justification for confiscating property and eliminating political rivals … and now again.

        The promise of science and its fundamental value to our society is to take us away from such political mysticism. As other posters have commented, there is nothing new about dealing with decision making processes in the face of absent or uncertain science. There is nothing new about that. The only thing “PNS” brings to the table is the pretense that scientific uncertainty can be disposed of while retaining the imprimatur of science.

      • Thank you, JJ, for so stating the problem with PNS so concisely:

        “The focus of PNS is to diminish the percieved import of uncertainty by various means, while maintaining the persuasive connotations of ‘science’.”

        With kind regards,
        Oliver K. Manuel

      • Bluntly, how do we convince them when we don’t have facts??

    • Yes, Professor Curry, “the focus of PNS is uncertainty”, . . as the focus of a thief is on your jewelry.

      The Climategate scandal illustrates how PNS focused on uncertainty.

      Politically it seemed expedient to reduce the public’s perception of uncertainty by having hundreds of co-authors agree on the danger of CO2-induced global warming.

      When that didn’t work, it probably seemed expedient to award the Nobel Prize to Al Gore, the UN’s IPCC, and their army of co-authors that all agree on the danger of CO2-induced global warming.

      PNS focused on uncertainty: PNS gave politicians permission to ignore Eisenhower’s 1961 warning and go ahead and use government science as a tool of government propaganda, despite uncertainties.

      • Oliver K. Manuel,
        While Judith has been recently trying to ditch the PNS label because of the reactions it appears to generate, there are others who will continue to use the term to refer to an idea and approach that is wholly different from your concerns. I’m not sure how many times this has to be pointed out – perhaps you have actually read and understood the PNS literature and are for some reason comitted to appropriating the label for your own purposes, but I think it’s more likely that you have not gotten that far and simply continue to misunderstand what you are talking about. I would therefore kindly request that if you are concerned about propaganda and the covering up of uncertainty, you refer to them as such, and if you require a label for your concerns to find your own.

      • Zajko,
        While I am certain the people who developed the concepts of PNS did not intend the outcome of what we see today, the sad truth is that climate science is victim to carrying out the negative aspects as described bby so many here.
        I think that simply dropping the term’s use by those engaged in it is not actualy addressing the problem.
        If you take the time to review what Eisenhower said in the clip that Oliver K. Manuel refers to (….frequently….), I think you might find it of interest.
        I am in now way trying to defend iron suns or obsessive repetitive posting. But I do believe that there is fire behind the smoke, and dismissing the point because of the one making the point is not addressing the problem.

      • No need to “defend” the iron Sun.

        It will collapse if anyone finds a better explanation for the experimentally observed enrichments of lightweight isotopes and lightweight s-products in the photosphere [“The Sun is a plasma diffuser that sorts atoms by mass,” Physics of Atomic Nuclei 69 (2006) pp. 1847-1856].
        http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0609509v3

      • Thanks, Zajko.

        Perhaps hunter (below), Eisenhower, JJ and I (above) have all misunderstood PNS and you have not.

        Few PNS advocates will appreciate JJ’s insightful comment:

        “The focus of PNS is to diminish the percieved import of uncertainty by various means, while maintaining the persuasive connotations of ‘science’.”

        The late Dr. Michael Crichton expressed similar concerns at the Michelin Lecture in Caltech, 17 January 2003, exactly 42 years after Eisenhower’s warning on 17 January 1961:

        “Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

        There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”

      • Well, I’m not sure how hunter really feels about PNS from the comment above, but yes, you and JJ display something I would call a misunderstanding of PNS. As it does seem to be impossible to have a coherent discussion with you, I must return to ignoring your comments.

      • Will you also ignore President Eisenhower’s 1961 warning of the danger, Dr. Michael Crichton affirmation of the problem in 2003, and e-mail confirmation in 2009 of climate data manipulation?

      • “…but yes, you and JJ display something I would call a misunderstanding of PNS.”

        I understand PNS well enough, having seen it put to practice by its adherents who, unlike Judith, were happy to call it by its name. THEY are responsible for the connotations that the term carries to me. If they aren’t doing it right, please take the matter up with them, rather than accusing me of misunderstanding. You can start with Hulme.

      • Ah alright, now that’s getting a little closer to an actual argument – because Mike Hulme is someone who has actually cited PNS in his work (I am however not sure exactly when he became aware of the concept, since as far as I can tell his “social” turn happened somewhat recently)
        So I’m guessing Mike Hulme did something improper? Or maybe something he did was inconsistent with PNS? If you elaborate that might be nice, but please be sure to explain how this is a case of PNS “in action”.
        And are there any examples other than Hulme? (like any of the theorists who actually developed the concept?) My list of PNS advocates is rather small, but at least up until this point I think they have been on the outside of the IPCC process/consensus (with the exception of Hulme).

      • Well, given that your understanding of PNS is so (now admittedly) limited, perhaps you should study it some more, before you run around bad mouthing other people for what your ignorance percieves as their lack of understanding. You can start with Hulme’s 2007 Guardian article.

        There is more to a product than the sales pitch.

      • My understanding of PNS definitely has its limits, I just happen to have read a lot of the texts involved (even if I don’t always remember), and I didn’t see much to indicate you had done the same in your earlier comment.
        Hulme indeed wrote an article in 2007 citing the need to use PNS to understand the climate debate and the claims made at both of its extremes. I think you could also read his 2009 book as sidelining certain disputes about climate science as illegitimate, or just being about values rather than the science as purported. So in that sense I understand your concern about the language of PNS being used to push through a political agenda.
        But fundamentally PNS is an idea – it does not belong to Hulme and he does not represent some sort of grand PNS project to impose a single set of values or confiscate your property.

      • Zajko,

        Climategate is a case of PNS “in action”.

      • Jeroen van der Sluijs is clearer in his exposition and it’s easier to get a handle on what PNS is, and the techniques evolved to handle it reading his stuff.

  3. Regarding “The search is for a robust policy, which is useful regardless of which of the diverging scientific interpretations of the knowledge is correct.” If the diverging science is on whether or not there is even a problem, then there is no such robust policy. More specifically the best decision may be to do nothing. I do not see this fundamental fact reflected.

    • There are many problems, which may or may not be independent of AGW. These can be brought to the foreground instead of arguing about climate sensitivity.

      • I do not understand, due to vagueness. With AGW we either make massive changes or we do not. There is no robust policy that is useful either way. Do we shut down the coal plants or not, etc.?

      • AGW overlaps with other problems – energy & food security, poverty/development, disaster vulnerability etc. With or without AGW these will be major issues, and while climate change is uncertain, natural disasters are a sure thing, as is a world with greater energy constraints. But certain policies do make less sense if we take AGW out of the equation – rapidly moving off coal (or enacting some sort of carbon capture scheme) is a good example. I’m personally worried about coal prices spiking alongside oil like in 2008, but EIA estimates about 120 years worth or reserves which do not have the same recovery problems relating to oil. Coal does have a number of additional consequences related to pollution, mountaintop removal etc., but the main concern is CO2. Even there I don’t think the associated uncertainties justify a “do nothing” approach, but in the context of interrelated global challenges decisions do need to be made.

    • Michael Larkin

      David Wojick said:

      If the diverging science is on whether or not there is even a problem, then there is no such robust policy. More specifically the best decision may be to do nothing. I do not see this fundamental fact reflected.

      Sweetly put, David. This is exactly my issue. There may not be a problem at all, and if there is not, then doing anything may be what creates one.

      I believe Mosh intimated earlier that the situation is what it is and that PNS is there to deal with it. But if the underlying assumption that there is a serious problem in the first place is wrong, then PNS plays into the situation. Maybe at most all it can do is aim to make the best out of a bad job.

      It’s difficult to analogise, but if someone accuses another person of a serious crime, the police may investigate and decide to prosecute, so that a trial ensues. Maybe PNS is a bit like ensuring the trial process is carried out in the best possible way without an embedded presumption of guilt or innocence.

      All well and good, but if it’s a high-profile case, lots of people may take a passionate interest in it – not excluding involved policemen who are quite convinced the accused is guilty; and by affinity, non-involved policemen, though ignorant of the detailed facts of the case, may also be convinced.

      IOW, belief (justified or no) plays into and can exascerbate the situation. Not to mention the drive to secure a prosecution and avoid institutional embarrassment. It’s good to have the checks and balances of the trial process, but that doesn’t prevent the trial occurring, which, if the accusation (perhaps well-meaning) is false, is just an expensive irrelevancy.

    • David, you probably have a better handle on this PNS stuff than I, but it seems reasonable to say that even if we grant it some utility, it can ONLY function in an argument where there is, as a bare minimum, at least one threat whose existence all acknowledge. Do you agree? I see no threat from the climate. How do I participate in an argument which presumes the existence of one?

      And Judith, sorry, but de-branding PNS does nothing to enhance its appeal. It still looks like an attempt to hide the null hypothesis behind a wall of statistics, only this time by getting permission first.

      • “I see no threat from the climate. How do I participate in an argument which presumes the existence of one?… It still looks like an attempt to hide the null hypothesis behind a wall of statistics”

        This is an important point, which gets to the heart of the dispute between sceptics and alarmists. A lot of sceptics think the AGW hypothesis is sufficiently falsified already, so the ‘urgency’ clause does not pertain, and so ‘special treatment’ of the issue is not required. I have a lot of sympathy for that view as the alarmists have failed to answer a lot of pertinent questions about their hypothesis, or provided at the very least shaky and questionable workarounds to them in order to keep their wagon rolling.

        I think this may be why the organisers of the Lisbon conference said at the outset that the purpose was not to try to force a compromise, but to provide an arena of civility where the debate over the science can take place without the personalisation harsh wording which makes the sides deaf to each other.

      • Yes- and if the focus of the argument becomes whether there is an urgent problem or not, attention will inevitably switch back to the uncertainty of the science. Yikes – back to square one.

      • The uncertainty of the science is the skeptical position. It cannot be downplayed, handled or moved away from. But if it is properly addressed, scientifically, it can be resolved.

      • “The uncertainty of the science is the skeptical position. It cannot be downplayed, handled or moved away from. ”

        Agree.

        “But if it is properly addressed, scientifically, it can be resolved.”

        Not proven. Further research may, as Jeroen points out, reveal further and deeper complexity and uncertainty. So it might not get resolved. It might get handled properly though.

        You would have thought that analysis of Nature will eventually reveal whether co2 or the Sun is the main driver. Could take a while though.

      • If honest science was done, the “resolved” part would be confirmation that CO2-backradiation-powered-warming is a bit player, immediately overwhelmed and absorbed by potent homeostatic feedback processes.

      • I don’t think the sides are deaf to each other, they just disagree deeply. The debate itself has developed in incredible detail, with thousands of scientific sub-issues. The problem is that every argument has a counter argument, and every line of reasoning ends in uncertainty. This is what it means for the science to be unsettled.

    • Indeed. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. The claim that this time (never before demonstrated to have occurred) CO2 rise will devastate the benign climate our civilization depends on is indeed extraordinary.

      And the best proofs available are a kind of 90% confidence amongst the self-styled experts whose careers depend on a positive answer.

      Not up to the mark, sorry.

  4. The discussion on the previous thread and my view that there was little new here got me digging back into my past. Through the hazy (“if you can remember the ’60s you weren’t there”) I recalled the work of C West Churchman as one that had influenced me, and the constant friend of those with failing memories, Wikipedia, reminded me of his work on “wicked problems”. I see some have in fact given climate change special status in the form of “super wicked problems”.

    • It is probably bad etiquette to reply to oneself but the comment follows some reflection on the three possibilities offered, and a long history of thinking about the system and how it is being analyzed, for which I can probably in part thank Churchman.

      Before launching forth into the detail of my reflections I should be clear that obviously if problems are intractable, complex and uncertain then they are difficult and we need sophisticated ways of managing them, and that there is much room for improvement in the way we are dealing with it. (But at the same time don’t knock muddling through a la Lindblom.)

      Now turning to the three options and thinking from a systems view point (we are talking about interfaces between systems here) the only difference between the first and the second is that the political process has been extended into the domain of science. The boundary has been shifted for where we the apply a particular decision making style.

      To view this therefore as something that “rescues” the linear model is just projecting too much into it all. In my view there are just different classes of problems that require different systems to process.

      Again thinking about the difference between the second (and first) and the third all that is happening is that in the third the domain of “facts” that are under consideration is just more explicitly including uncertainty (and different sources of uncertainty). Consequent upon this the politics on both sides become more complex and the appropriate decision making style changes.

      What I object to in this is the idea that in policy analysis there is some kind of progression from unevolved to a higher plane (just re-read the language used above), rather than just using the appropriate approach for the characteristics of the particular system we face.

      This kind of “best approach to particular problem” has a long history in policy analysis, and since climate scientists do it all the time why shouldn’t they just recognise it other disciplines?

      The practical issue with all this is that much of climate science is quite amenable to being dealt with in policy terms by simpler decision making techniques, and the principle of parsimony says that those techniques should therefore be used.

      Further, IMHO many of the things that make the science complex and uncertain are a consequence of the way in which the discipline has chosen to approach the science (without one suspects due consideration of the optimum way to address the key policy issues)*. Accepting this complexity and introducing highly sophisticated decision making to cope with it just locks this in.

      We should match the decision making process (including the appropriate policy/science interface) to the problem at hand. Climate science has some difficult problems, but equally many are simply the consequence of the science having been done poorly or the methods being adopted. Solve those and simpler decision making techniques may well be perfectly OK.

      *To elucidate a bit I often feel large chunks of climate science are a bit like Newton looking at a billiard ball and deciding he needed quantum mechanics to describe its motion.

  5. Hrm.

    Not much Game Theory brought into play, as there are certainly other options for analysis of the 5 Experts.

    For instance:

    A) Have the Experts debate, round robin style, with each pair judged by anonymous vote of the other 3. This excludes each Expert from championing said Expert’s conclusions directly.

    or,

    B) Have each Expert collaborate with two others, one at a time, to produce five new reports as collaborations; if the collaborations show ‘expertise’ (ie the same expert’s views dominate in both their new reports), then the two experts with this quality should collaborate on a third and final report.

    or,

    C) Have each Expert repeat their reports, broken into two sections: 1) Areas of Minimal Uncertainty; and 2) Areas of More than Minimal Uncertainty. Rank the conclusions from each report based on their uncertainty score (lower is better), and decide how to act based on what is most certain.

    etc.

    • Steven Mosher

      collapses into interfacing strategy #2.
      “The drawbacks of this approach are that it leads to anchoring towards previously established consensus positions, it hides diversity of perspectives thereby unduly constraining decision-makers options, it underexposes issues over which there is no consensus whereas it is precisely this dissent that tends to be extremely relevant to policymaking.”

      • Steven Mosher

        This is an interesting question, though my intention was to expand the strategies for reasons.

        1. Game Theory helps translate from informal language into mathematical formalism. If you apply some weighting scheme for counting total ideas, diversity, perspectives, options, issues and dissent, then run through the proposed schemes, you can score which produces the best totals, depending on your decision-making criteria.

        2. I’m not sure that the blanket descriptors are adequately nuanced to express to the reader what they mean.

        “Anchoring previously established consensus positions?”

        Does this mean 5 Experts all agree by a fair and open discussion that some (most) new ideas didn’t work out to be true or useful, or really new? Wouldn’t that be the experience of most of the history of ideas? We’re in the territory of adverse rewards of proxies: the Experts have values distinct from those of Policy-Makers, and cannot so long as they are rewarded according to the valuations of systems that produce and support Expertise be expected to give Policy-Makers maximized return. It’s no different from the problem of shareholders trying to establish rewards for the CEO’s of public companies: if the CEO has interests that conflict with long-run share price, or is compensated in ways that adversely reward decisions in the shareholders’ interest, the shareholder suffers.

        “it hides diversity of perspectives thereby unduly constraining decision-makers options”

        This is certainly an issue in (A) if the decision makers make no effort to track the debates for themselves and the scoring is not turned over to the decision makers with annotations and critiques; however, both the other two options implicitly propagate diversity of perspective and make wider options available, I think.

        Running simulations on differently weighted systems scored on the categories above might predict which method provides the best long-run outcomes. In a complex system with irreducible Uncertainty, isn’t some sort of model likely to provide the best way to judge such methods?

        “..underexposes issues over which there is no consensus whereas it is precisely this dissent that tends to be extremely relevant to policymaking.”

        Absolutely could. This is a weakness more of (C) than of (A), and least of (B), though, I think.

        Propose your own algorithm that could be tested by simulation for long-run optimal policymaking that would be less vulnerable?

      • Steven Mosher

        I think the main issue is resisting the urge to reduce the solution space.

      • Wouldn’t providing sets of constraints to Policy-Makers to allow them to reduce the solution space to a single candidate be the point of the Expert reports?

        If the 5 Experts provide 5 candidate solutions (or 50, or 5000 sub-solutions) within their reports, but the system offers no guidance as to how to select among the solutions and sub-solutions, there’s a design problem in the decision apparatus.

        Also, in any set of Experts, one might expect some common sub-solutions which, though they might not be optimal, may satisfice for the sake of Policy.

        It isn’t atypical of decision systems to be paralyzed for extended periods on areas of conflict while areas of common agreement, or even simply where acceptable trade-offs are negotiated, for action to go forward.

        The problems we’d want to avoid one imagines is paralysis or rejection of ‘necessary’ (ie long term net interest of population) actions and acceptance of needless or ‘bad’ (long term net loss to stakeholders) decisions based on the Experts.

      • The point is this. Some problems are irreducibly complex.
        Applying ad hoc filtering mechanisms to reduce the solution space may “look” scientific, but without some basis for applying the solution space reduction the argument is that the policy makers should be presented with the full range of uncertainty.

        Basically if you look at your suggestions they are replacing the policy function with a “hidden layer” of solution space reduction practices. Give the policy makers one option. Then they really dont function, do they?

        The assumption you make is that the solution space must be reducible. That’s a design assumption

      • steven mosher

        We seem to be speaking at cross purposes.

        Given that the example we’ve been handed should never happen in real life, as Experts shouldn’t hand Policy-Makers ‘predecided’ reports with only terms the Policy-Makers could call irreducibly uncertain, it’s not so much of an assumption as a life experience.

        If a consultant produced only a report with one single option by mysterious processes of impenetrable jargon, saying “do or die” as his cost/benefit grid — which appears to be the baseline design assumption of the model we’ve been handed — he’d be very short for the profession.

        In my experience, expert reports analyze alternative options and assign a grid of predicted costs and benefits vs each alternative, leaving the policy decision makers to weigh which alternative best fits their agenda.

        It’s the job of the expert report to provide descriptions of the constraints that can reduce the solution space.

        It’s the job of policy makers to apply those constraints to reduce the space to the solutions that will be pursued.

        It’s never been my experience that policy makers can, or should, decide which science is correct, but only which action to take based on knowledge as it stands according to costs, risks, benefits and uncertainty.

        The usual model of such reports includes Option Zero (‘Do Nothing’, analogous to the Null Hypothesis) or continue-as-is for comparison, plus a list of practical alternative recommended courses of action, or if only a report on the cost/risks without call for solutions (useless document that would be), with a weighted scheme of costs, risks and uncertainties for all considerations.

        These predicted costs and benefits are ideally coldly and objectively set out (all of them so far as any expert can), and although I could see a situation where five experts disagreed on some few points, it’s outside of my experience for qualified experts not to be able to quickly determine all factors that could be considerations of the report associate both costs and risks with each factor by well-researched market-based consensus, and it is outside of my experience for well-researched consensus market-based costing and probability (as distinct from consensus science — the former is accounting, a field of consensus; the latter is not) to be rejected by policy deciders.

        What are they going to say, “the experts all agree on how much it will cost, but because we don’t want to pay that much we’re going to pretend the figures are something else?”

        Hrm. I must amend. Except for some politicians and academicians, it’s outside of my experience.

        Uncertainty might become a large area of dispute in such conflicted situations, but decision-making under uncertainty is a field unto itself, and is the problem of the policy-maker (including resolving the disputed uncertainty level), not of the experts.

      • Steve– regarding climate change policy, can you gave an example of “Some problems that are irreducibly complex”? I just do not see the climate policy questions as all that complex. The science yes, the policy no.

      • “The point is this. Some problems are irreducibly complex.
        Applying ad hoc filtering mechanisms to reduce the solution space may ‘look’ scientific….

        Which is simply a rhetorical dodge to avoid applying Occam’s razor to scientific problems. Once a problem is coherently and concisely laid out according to the actual (not imaginary) evidence, scientific solutions can be proposed.

        But what PNS or PMS or PoMo attempts to do is simply abandon Marxist canons of rationality (“discourses”) in order to obscure the failure of actually existing socialism to conform to Hegelian postulates. This is called “problematize.”

        This is what emerged from the PoMo debates of the 1980s and 90s and why practicing scientists never took it seriously: it was too embarrassing, especially after physicist Alan Sokal’s Social Text hoax.

        It took a while for far flung humanistic fields, lacking in independent reality tests, like English literature, to abandon the pursuit of pseudo-problems for engaging with real human experience of life. Science has rarely had this luxury.

        Meanwhile, in the academy, the most popular major concentration of the 1980s – English – was supplanted by more practical fields like business. “Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman-to hope that “climate science” assume a similar trajectory of failure?

        Philosopher Stephen Hicks explains this pathetique for you more completely, here. But the key reactionary intellectual legacy of failure is identified here, in brief.

        It is a stunning brief expose. You see leftist environmental agendas allied by academic postmodernism’s retreat into obscurantism and terrorist direct action, alike. So is PNS.

      • “Which is simply a rhetorical dodge to avoid applying Occam’s razor to scientific problems. ..in order to obscure the failure of actually existing socialism to conform to Hegelian postulates. This is called “problematize.””

        Occam’s razor doesn’t qualify as universal law, nor is it quantifiable. It does not necessarily supply a rational basis for choice, particularly when dealing with a system as complex as climate.

        And I don’t think PNS is setting out to obscure anything. Ravetz isn’t the simplest of writers, but then what he’s trying to cover isn’t the simplest of problems either.

      • Steven,

        “The point is this. Some problems are irreducibly complex.”

        I didn’t know you were an intelligent design advocate!!

        8>)

  6. Quite right to excise ‘post normal’. However, the idea that important decisions under scientific uncertainty are something new still seems to have survived, and this is what is so idiotic about the concept. Think about how people actually decided in situations like this in the past. One case is wars, they had to decide what weapons systems or methods to invest in. For instance, take the question of convoys in submarine infested areas in the two world wars.

    Another is disease, people have had to decide what public health measures to take. Recently for instance the UK had to decide whether to vaccinate under 5 year olds against swine flu (they decided not to).

    The fact is, this is not a new or surprising situation, and it does not matter if the uncertainty comes from ‘science’ or from the fog or war or simple lack of data.

    The problem people are having in climate science is similar to the problem they tried to solve by invoking Pascal’s Wager, aka the Precautionary Principle. They keep wanting to justify the adoption of measures which the evidence does not justify, and so we get all this idiotic talk about the post normal etc.

    Decision making under uncertainty, regardless of where the uncertainty comes from, is the subject. It has almost nothing to do with ‘science’.

    • Atomic Hairdryer

      Agreed. Drop ‘PNS’ and PNS becomes the norm that business, the financial markets, medicine or intelligence deals with routinely. Life is seldom certain, the future even less so, so we have to make decisions based on the best available advice. The role of science should be to provide that advice, warts and all so decision makers can act.

      Out of the three strategies, I prefer the third or deliberative model because that’s the most normal to me. It offers the most information to policy makers to make informed choices. If there are areas of uncertainty, that may also show where funding or resources are needed to reduce that uncertainty. Strategy 1 just paralyses. Strategy 2 gets combatitive and doesn’t scale. When has the entire world ever agreed on anything, especially when it hits many of their pockets?

      Worst thing to do though is pretend uncertainty doesn’t exist, or attempt to deny it because that only encourages suspicion and scepticism and makes gaining (or regaining) the public trust harder. PNS to me seems more of a science/policy interface challenge, and should not mean climate science can take short cuts, or try to game the system.

      • “PNS to me seems more of a science/policy interface challenge, and should not mean climate science can take short cuts, or try to game the system.”
        PNS is pure politics, no science.
        And science did try to take shortcuts and “game the system”. PNS tries to obscure that fact.

      • This is the sticking point for me with PNS; that it has the label “science”, with all the connotations that “science” comes with. Culturally we depend on our ability to identify easily the distinction between science and politics, between science and religion, between the tangible and the ethereal, between knowledge and belief and between that which is certain and that which is uncertain.

        In society, we (end-users) depend on these distinctions to be rigid – with the understanding that science advances, causing shifts in understanding and migrations from unknown to known, and occasionally back again, through the process of scientific discovery – and we depend on the distinction to be strictly boolean in nature and, fundamentally, in presentation.

        Whatever role PNS as a mechanism within science may play, it is essential to recognise that the labelling of PNS as “science” poses a cultural threat, like a Trojan horse, when miscommunicated to society as “scientific advancement”. We define so much of our own understanding of our very existence and the purpose of that existence along tram-lines of knowledge and belief, known and unknown.

        Any blurring of the culturally boolean boundary between science and non-science, or between science and pseudo-science etc., I would argue, carries with it an unacceptable risk to the popular perception of hard sciences and to the long-term integrity of science in society. But, given our many-centuries-long progressive integration of science into our cultures, I find it difficult to imagine that the effect of such an undermining of our understanding of what “is” and what “might be” will be limited simply to our perceptions of science.

      • Atomic Hairdryer

        PNS to me seems more of a science/policy interface challenge, and should not mean climate science can take short cuts, or try to game the system.

        This short sentence summarizes pretty concisely what PNS really means to me, as well.

        Let’s say that the postulated premise is that AGW, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, has been the primary cause of recently observed temperature increase and represents a serious potential threat to humanity and our environment.

        As far as I can read it, this is the stand of IPCC (IOW, the “majority consensus”).

        The problem I see is two-fold:

        1) As Eisenhower pointed out, there is the danger that politics will “drive” science. I am not talking of government-sponsored projects with a specific deliverable, which require a scientific or technical development process, but basic science. This has undoubtedly already occurred to some extent in climate science, where essentially all the costs are covered by taxpayer funds distributed by policy-makers who have their own political agendas. This could become a dangerous situation if it results in “agenda-driven science”, IOW if “climate science takes short cuts to game the system”. There is considerable evidence that this has already occurred to some extent.
        2) Uncertainty remains great. In fact, the whole premise that “action” is needed “urgently” is totally uncertain in itself. So it becomes necessary to downplay the high level of “uncertainty” in order to justify the need for “urgent action”, cloaking it all as the “precautionary principle”. The cost of “action” is much less uncertain – it is generally acknowledged to be extremely high. And finally, the actionable proposals made to date (such as the complete elimination of coal-fired power plants in the USA), while very costly, do not have the potential for changing our planet’s climate to any measurable extent. So we have very costly solutions to a highly uncertain problem, which will not result in any real solutions.

        The real sense of urgency should not be to initiate mitigation actions now but rather to make sure that there really is a problem that needs solving in the first place.

        Based on the evidence out there, I have not concluded that we are at that point yet, nor do I believe that PNS (as I understand it) will get us there.

        On the other hand, I could see that “ the deliberative model, stragtegy 3 – openness about ignorance” could be the best approach, as long as

        The search is for a robust policy, which is useful regardless of which of the diverging scientific interpretations of the knowledge is correct.

        This could, for example be a “wait and see” policy, with the definition of certain adaptation programs to be implemented if and when really needed.

        The statement was made:

        The drawback of this approach is that uncertainty and minority interpretations are so much in the spotlight that we may forget the items that actually do enjoy broad scientific consensus.

        I do not see this as a disadvantage. After all, the “broad scientific consensus” could still be wrong, precisely because of the high level of “uncertainty” (even if there has been no “gaming of the system”).

        Max

    • You need to know sociological and post-modernist vocabulary to understand the phrase properly. In those contexts, “norm” and “normal” refer to the cultural standards and prejudices and shared illusions within closed groups. Only those enlightened by proper post-modernist, and thus “post-normal” viewpoints and eddycation, are qualified to assess theories and sciences and opinions freed from the shackles of mere normative thinking.

  7. I’m trying to find a good reading list for deliberative democracy and decision making on issues relating to environment. So far the references in this Lovbrand, Pielke and Beck paper is the best I have (http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/2010.28.pdf).
    There is a bit of an assumption that more deliberation and democratic involvement is always better, but it can also really gum up the works. I’m still trying to sort out many of my thoughts on this.

    • The wheels of democracy move slowly, but are the surest way to make sure the populace doesn’t do a Ceausescu on you later on.

      • Democracy is highly overrated. Some of the worlds worst mistakes were accomplished democratically.

        The problem is the lack of alternatives.

      • Yeah, but there’s more than one way to do democracy. In recent years I’d venture to say that there has been an increase in public participation for some government projects (town halls etc), and calls for it in scientific/technological circles. There’s a few formulations of deliberative democracy out there, and they are not free of criticism (and not of the freedom-hating sort). The question of what form of public participation should be implemented in what forms of decision-making is not one I have an easy answer to.

      • “The question of what form of public participation should be implemented in what forms of decision-making” is the basis for an extensive area of research and publication, and quite a few academic careers. Because it is new to this discussion, does not make it a topic that is either new nor undeveloped in other areas (especially resource management, policy and impact assessment).

  8. Why does the issue of climate change really need to have an alternate policy making process vs. other major policy decisions that government implements?

    You described what you think of as the different decision models, but I would guess that the overwhelming number of all policy decisions are made currently via your linear model. The “Deliberative Model, in which the appreciation of a plurality of (often irreconcilable) perspectives is key” is great during a discussion phase, but would be very risky or expensive if brought to implementation.

    The really key point Judith raised is when she established the goal.

    “The search is for a robust policy, which is useful regardless of which of the diverging scientific interpretations of the knowledge is correct.”

    Defining what you are trying to accomplish is the most important task imo. Judith’s stated goal seems great at first look, but may need some tweaking.

    In regards to climate change how would you handle the difference when one person thinks a warmer earth is good and another thinks it is bad. Is it possible to have policy robust enough for both? As much as I respect what you have been accomplishing, I don’t think the goal can be to “have policies that are regardless of the diverging scientific interpretations”. Some of those interpretations would result in policies that are economically unfeasible, while the lack of that same policy by some will be considered to result in the death of hundreds of millions.

    From a practical standpoint the goal Judith posted can not be fully accomplished. There is however substantial areas of practical agreement. Building appropriate, intelligent infrastructure would seem to be a point of agreement by all.

    • In regards to climate change how would you handle the difference when one person thinks a warmer earth is good and another thinks it is bad.

      Let’s think about the recent proposals to do large scale prescriptions of statins with the aim of reducing heart disease. You don’t hear anyone invoking Pascal’s Wager, do you? What you find is a more or less agreed measure, deaths averted per thousand or million treated, compared with side effects per thousand or million treated. We agree that the question is balancing these two, while admitting that the side effect risk deserves heavier weighting since they emerge later and will not all be known at the start of the program.

      What we do in this case is pilot studies to reduce uncertainty. The problem with climate is that the warmist lobby does not want to do that. A key aspect of the argument is that this one is somehow different, in this case the lack of knowledge does not justify us in trying to get more certainty. The argument would be laughed out of court in almost any other area of public policy.

      The issue is not that one thinks a warmer planet is good and the other thinks it bad. The issue is that one thinks there is reason to think that continuing CO2 emissions will lead to catastrophe, and therefore that hugely expensive measures which will have very serious implications for human life and well being are justified. The other thinks there is no evidence of anything much being going to happen, and thinks that we should spend our efforts on doing things with proven benefits for people, like bringing them electricity, safer cooking fires, freedom from malaria, clean drinking water.

      If we agreed how much warming was likely to happen, there would be little or no debate. Just as the debate about statins is not particularly pointed, we are getting to know the risk reward ratio, and as we do, its rather clear that mass prescription is not sensible. The problem with climate is that we have a lobby which is (a) convinced of pending catastrophe (b) simulateously anxious to take drastic action now without having proved it.

      Its a bit like people getting very emotional, in the public health area, about the importance of substituting polyunsaturated fats for animal fats in the diet and taking cholesterol lowering drugs. We have to act now, you can hear them saying, if there is only a small chance that this will avert a heart disease epidemic…

      Later we discover that when people do this, the death rate rises. You have to prove that the mass action you propose is proportionate and cost effective. Climate does not get a free pass. There are no exceptions. Invocations of Pascal’s Wager in disguised form, or talk about post-normal science, are all ways of trying to evade this.

      • It is not the model by which the decisions need to be made which is the issue.
        The central issue is whether or not you believe there is data to show that increasing CO2 emissions will result in a catastrophe for humanity or not. That determination will guide the “policy decisions” by whatever model you use to reach a decision.

        Regarding climate change the “policy choices” seem to be pretty straightforward-

        1. Do you believe that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that additional CO2 will lead to a catastrophe? Yes/No
        a. If you believe “yes”, then it would seem to come down to whether an individual nation can afford to and will be willing to take actions the actions required to convert from CO2 emitting technologies.
        b. If you believe no- then a whole series of longer term actions can be implemented

      • Unless Obama and the Congress is ready to militarily enforce the terms of any such agreement it is dead. Most countries will, at the best, CHEAT on the agreements or not be able to meet their commitments.

        The benefits of our totally stopping CO2 output from industrial processes is already vanishingly small. Having a few industialized countries not substantially reduce their output makes the whole thing useless.

        It is what makes people like me see conspiracies. There is no possibility of useful reduction, yet, we are to hand over control of our societies to some vague regulatory agency.

      • “Taking action” sounds great.

        But what “action”?

        Carbon taxes (direct or indirect) will obviously not change our climate one iota.

        “Reducing CO2 emissions from X to Y” is not an actionable proposal. It is simply a politician’s desired goal.

        I have seen no actionable proposals to date that will have a perceptible impact on our planet’s climate.

        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.
        http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/2010/2010_Kharecha_etal.pdf

        But it turns out that this plan would only result in an imperceptible calculated decrease of global temperature by year 2100 of less than 0.1C at an investment cost of $1.5 trillion.

        If this plan were rolled out worldwide it would cost $5 trillion and result in a calculated temperature reduction by year 2100 of less than 0.3C.

        I’ve posted the calculation on another thread but can repost here if anyone is interested.

        Truly “much ado about nothing”.

        Max

      • Rob
        “If you believe no- then a whole series of longer term actions can be implemented” – I do believe no – and I conclude that we should do nothing to counter climate change. I believe every cent spent doing so is squandered, and should cease forthwith. If that’s what you mean by an “action”, then fine, but if not, why? wherefore?

      • TomFP- I think you might be supportive of smart planning for infrastructure to ensure availability of adequate low cost energy that is a clean as possible, you might also support construction of dams and water retention facilities necessary to provide freash water and safeguard againest floods.

      • Even if you believe that CO2 might be harmful, there’s still little you can do about it.
        The proposed “solutions” are so ineffective that it seems to me that no sane engineer could ever advocate them.
        So, beside the question “is there CAGW?” yes/no,
        the second question is: will building wind mills and panels help in any quantitative way ? IMO – NO,
        Is blocking of all new power stations (carbon or nuclear) effective ?
        No, but they’re doing it anyway.

        Is a biofuels mandate a sane thing to do ? No, Al Gore conceded it, yet those things are still the law.
        So, here we have PNS in action – we implement a lot of insane programs. We cannot claim so far that uncertainty has led to inaction……

  9. Dr Curry-

    First, thank you for attending the Lisbon conference. Anytime there is an attempt to talk with others rather than at others some good will result.

    I am sorry that the session on nonviolent communication was a bust, because one of the best books I ever read was Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD. (ISBN 1-892005-03-4, Puddle Dancer Press, 2003).

    Perhaps one of the reasons that particular session was not as successful, is that the principles of nonviolent communication (NVC) are all about feelings. We have been taught that feelings have no place in the physical sciences. The technical writing courses that I took, 30 and 40 years ago, even taught that technical papers should be written in the third person.

    However, after a 40 year career as a research engineer, I can attest that feelings are important. There are many scientists and researchers who regard a questioning of their work as much of an attach on them as a punch in the nose. For many people, the ego gets very involved in the work. In climate science, it is not hard to put names on “people” on both sides of the global warming debate.

    My hope is that in the future, those trained in NVC will talk more with scientists to try and tailor NVC to the science side of the deliberative model.

    • Yes, the NVC presentation and group exercises were about feelings. I agree that feelings and professional ego seemed to have played a big role in what we saw in the CRU emails. Its just that the majority of the participants in this particular Workshop had personalities that weren’t very driven in this way (which is indicated by the fact that they agreed to participate in this workshop; people involved in the CRU emails did not choose to participate although at least a few were invited). It just didn’t resonate with this particular group overall; my quick assessment of the participants was that maybe a half dozen of the participants might have been relatively sensitive in this way, but the majority were not.

  10. Dr Curry: I like the sound of the last sentence in your excerpt from Van der Sluijs essay: “The growing focus on climate adaptation also has the power to highlight and expand the political climate debate.” One thing is certain about climate: it will continue, as it always has done, to change, regionally and globally, on a wide range of timescales. There’s nothing we can do to stop that happening. So we will need to adapt.

  11. Stating there may be a problem is already telling me we should do nothing until more data is gathered.

    If there is not a reasonably clear set of data showing there IS a problem, getting ahead of the imagined problem is just as likely to cause a different problem as fix the assumed problem. Wasting resources fixing the wrong problem also decreases our ability to respond to real problems. Continually crying wolf alienates those you are depending on to back the solutions that are selected in this Witch Doctor method.

    DO NOTHING until real data is gathered to indicate a real direction.

    • Steven Mosher

      deficit view of uncertainty.

      disregards situations in which uncertainty is irreducible.
      disregards situations in which action is required now under portions of the outcome space PDF.
      disregards situations where unknowns unknowns abound.

      • Steven,

        I haven’t been to the right seminars to understand what you wrote.

        Go talk to Mr. Briggs about certainty.

      • Steven Mosher

        you think more data will reduce the uncertainty. DID YOU READ?
        here: I can copy the text for you but I cannot understand it for you.

        In the ‘Linear Model’ of interfacing science and policy, science informs policy by producing objective, valid, and reliable knowledge. To develop a policy is then a matter of scientists delivering the facts and then, in a second step, policy makers sorting out diverse values and preferences. In classical terms, the true entails the good; in modern terms, truth speaks to power. This interfacing model implicitly assumes that scientific facts linearly determine correct policy: good governance is getting the facts right and calculate the optimal policy. The belief is that being based on scientific facts, the power that is exercised is effective, legitimate, and based on unambiguous objectivity and indisputable rationality. This approach implicitly assumes that there are no limits to the progress of man’s control over his environment, no limits to the capacity of science to know and understand, and no limits to the material and moral progress of mankind. This is the classic ‘technocratic’ view of governance dependent on an assumed perfection/perfectibility of science in theory and also (progressively) in practice. Within this Linear Model, scientific uncertainty is seen as a temporary shortcoming in knowledge. The related interfacing strategy is to quantify and push back the uncertainty by more research, for example, creating increasingly complex climate models and through perturbed physics ensemble modelling . Calculation is seen as key to well-informed good governance. This approach is limited by the fact that not all uncertainties can be expressed quantitatively in a reliable way. What’s more, in practice uncertainties do not become reduced with more research: the problem appears to become ever more complex . It further assumes that there is only one correct scientific description of the system that is analyzed: in other words it assumes that the system and problem are not complex. It thereby ignores that multiple – often conflicting – scientific interpretations of the same available knowledge are tenable. The drawback of this approach is that there is a semblance of certainty, for example, because the numbers coming from the increasingly complex models suggest that there is more knowledge and more certainty than is actually the case.

      • Steve wrote regarding the “linear model”- “This approach implicitly assumes that there are no limits to the progress of man’s control over his environment, no limits to the capacity of science to know and understand, and no limits to the material and moral progress of mankind.” –

        That statement seems to be completely untrue.

        Under the description of the lineal model a politician or decision maker makes a “policy decision” based on the available facts. There is no inherent reason why that politician/decision maker can not consider those facts in exactly the same way as a group does under the “Deliberative Model”.

        As previously written, the key issue is:

        “that some believe there is reason to think that continuing CO2 emissions will lead to catastrophe, and therefore; that hugely expensive measures which will have very serious implications for human life and well being are justified.”

        Others do not believe in that result and therefore do not support those “expensive measures”.

        It is not the model by which the decisions need to be made which is the issue. The central issue is whether or not you believe there is data to show that increasing CO2 emissions will result in a catastrophe for humanity or not. That determination will guide the “policy decisions” by whatever model you use to reach a decision.

      • Look, the first response was terse with terms that are unfamiliar to me. You now post the log winded, complex explanation that appears to lean toward my view of there not being sufficient methods or process to deal with uncertainty.

        Please try and simplify for us simple minded.

      • Steven Mosher

        My understanding of this is that it is sophistry built on a series of strawmen and assertions starting with the labeling “Linear Model”.

        I particularly liked:

        “This approach implicitly assumes that there are no limits to the progress of man’s control over his environment, no limits to the capacity of science to know and understand, and no limits to the material and moral progress of mankind.”

        None of us would like to own up to being like that in polite company, would we?

      • Steve, if I thought the climate presented a problem, I would be interested in reducing the uncertainties surrounding that problem. I don’t, so I’m not.

        That is not inconsistent with kuhnkat’s observation that the data are inadequate to justify action. The data are inadequate to establish the existence of a problem, let alone justify action.

        The world has many known problems. Spending on them ALL the resources currently spent on researching and “combatting” CAGW is the only “action” I want to see.

      • Deficient view of uncertainty:

        Claim that for whatever situation you find uncertainty to be inconvenient, that the uncertainty is irreducible. To keep people from asking that you support this claim, make it with snarky condescension. Use belittling phrases like “you think more data will reduce the uncertainty. DID YOU READ?” Use caps to really drive the point home that they are too stupid to question you.

        Talk about “situations in which action is required now under portions of the outcome space PDF” as if the outcome space PDF is not subject to the same irreducible uncertainty that you baldly assert for the problem itself. Dont let the little fact that you have no ennumerated PD keep you from appealing to the F.

        To further obfuscate that point, offer as analagous examples situations like ‘asteroids coming at the earth’ or ‘Star Wars’ – situations where the existensial threat is known and the only uncertainty is how to deal with it. Assume that the peope who are too stupid to question your claims will be too stupid to notice that with CAGW, it is the very existance of the alleged threat that is subject to the gross uncertainty.

        Above all, remember that scientific uncertainty is only an obstacle to achieving your pre-existing policy goals if you allow people to assign higher value to objective truth than they afford to your subjective feelings about what the truth might be, or what you believe the truth should be. Once you get them over that hump with a healthy dose of ‘post normal science’, then you can dismiss all competing scientific hypotheses and reasoning by simply attacking the motives and values of those who hold those inconvenient ideas, while STILL claiming scientific truth for your preferred position. This is the ‘post normal scientific method’ (see Hulme, 2007), and it is a far superior method of inquiry as compared to that stodgy old ‘normal’ scientific method that sometimes just doesnt work well enough to justify us taking what we want in the name of science.

      • Bravo, JJ. Cynical but so true.

      • On the bright side, PNS can equally easily be used to hoist the alarmist section of the AGW camp on their own petard. You might say that it is therefore useless and obfuscating, and indeed you do, but I would contest that it makes these non-scientific forces such as value judgement and confirmation bias explicit. That has a value in itself as far as I see it.

        It also claims a space in the process of policy making for ‘the extended peer community’ along with it’s stuff from ‘investigative journalism’ and ‘leaked documents’. i.e. the skeptical blogosphere and the CRU emails.

      • “You might say that it is therefore useless and obfuscating, and indeed you do, but I would contest that it makes these non-scientific forces such as value judgement and confirmation bias explicit.”

        No, it doesnt. It has the opposite effect. We dont need PNS to argue values. We’ve been doing that for milennia without PNS, thank you very much. I am not suggesting we stop.

        PNS advocates need PNS to elevate arguments about values to the status of science, and to hopelessly intermingle objective inquiry with subjective commentary.

        PNS is nothing new. It is simply politics, masquerading as science. It is like Creation Science in that regard, and in its effect. Creation Science sounds all nice and flowery, when you listen to its advocates explain it. Simply doing traditional hard science, within the epitimological framework of the presuppositions of faith knowledge. We humans have and employ many types of knowledge, and faith knowledge simply complements those areas of science that science is not equipped to answer. Sound familiar? Read the PNS description above. That is what they say. It is different when they do it.

        Creation Science aint science. It is religion. It is fine to do religion. It often addresses human needs that science does not. Dont call it science, and dont substitute it for science.

        PNS is not science. It is politics. It is fine to do politics. It often addresses human needs that science does not. Dont call it science, and dont substitute it for science.

        Calling these things science allows these other things to illegitimately trade on the connotations and reputation of science, and that ruins those connotations and the reputation of science.
        And we are having enough ~!#@! trouble with that already.

        Dont just read the box – open it and look at the toy inside.

    • Kuhnkat,

      Are you telling us that you never act under uncertainty? Seems impossible to me.

      • No.

        I am telling you that I do not act until there is somthing to base my actions on. Climate Science has given us nothing to base actions on.

        You blithely use the term uncertainty. Whether I will die tday is uncertain. Should I act like I WILL die today? Of course not, unless there is actual data on a much elevated risk of my dying. Talk to real statisticians about the certainty in Climate Science and other botique sciences. It is a delusion.

      • kuhnkat,
        An interesting excercise is to think about things that cliamte science has actually done to predict- ahead of the event, not after- anything.
        Then think of any claim by the climate science community regarding CO2 influence that has actually shown…any CO2 influence.

      • Agreed.

    • Stating there may be a problem is already telling me we should do nothing until more data is gathered.

      What kind of data do you think we need to gather in order to establish if there is a problem?

      • We would need data/information that would demonstrate (for the United States as an example) that:
        1. increasing CO2 would be bad for the US and;
        2. that the US could take certain specific actions in regards to point #1 that would be more cost efficient and effective to implement than would other alternatives.

        Is that not reasonable? Quite simple?

      • But there is already plenty of research in respect of point 1. And I don’t think the problem with point 2 is that we don’t have enough data – it’s just a tricky calculation to make.

      • Andrew,

        For all the assurances of CO2 and RTE’s guaranteeing heating of the atmosphere, I have seen no papers presented on numerous forums experimentally quantifying how much that warming will be. The few papers warmers have given me on greenhouse experiments have all been contaminated by water vapor and do not appear to fully support the models even then. I have heard about experimental data of co2 in tubes and would love to read the papers. Heck, most of what I read is just about IR and no quantification of the actual energy change. There even appears to still be confusion over planck and molecular bond emissions.

        For all the talk of how many photons are emittied or not emitted, again no one is presenting papers showing reasonable measurements of the actual energy transfer that happens during these interactions. The physics is alledgedly understood fairly well, BUT, the empirical quantification showing what results in the real world is lacking.

        The most contentious is the amount of cooling reduction caused by backradiation. A first step would be to demonstrate empirically how much that is in an environment without water vapor and excluding other factors. The next step would be to demonstrate the levels with differing amounts of both.

        For a gross example E = MC2. If the nuclear weapon dropped over Nagasaki had actually been 100% efficient and this equation fulfilled, there would have been a bit larger area destroyed. There can be a huge distance between basic, factual physics and what happens in the real world.

        The models are apparently based on the basic physics that can not fully describe all the interactions between particles due to the complexity of the equations and our incomplete understanding. The magnitudes of many processes are modelled on these assumptions and empirical measurements (which are continually being condemned by the modellers). Until we have better empirical data to compare with the modelled interactions there is little that can be done to improve the models or change the dialogue. We all are too sure of ourselves.

        I would point to TSI, OHC, sea level, humidity, temps, Sea Ice, nothing is good enough for either side except the highly adjusted surface temps from GISS and not even they fully support the models and appear to conflict with other measurements!!

        You have to go back and look at the data available when James Hansen made his original predictions and presentation to congress to understand how pie-in-the-sky his assumption of AGW was!!! The elevated temps of the 90’s hadn’t happened yet, satellites had less than 10 years, sea level was not rising at 3mm/yr, we still had the previous warming periods warmer than now… Basically there was nothing showing even elevated temps at the time. In fact, we were recovering from the Global Cooling mania!!!

        After 20 years we see that there may not be a problem. At the time AGW was popularized there was less reason to worry then now. Yeah, we need more data and fewer true believers to work with that data.

      • kuhnkat,

        The net effect of a doubling of CO2 in teh absence of feedbacks is about 1.2C – this has been discussed a great deal here and despite what some people claim is really not controversial. See the series “CO2 an insignificant trace gas?” as Sceince of Doom.
        There has also been a large amount of research on the subject of climate sensitivity – see here (especially the Knutti & Hegerl paper referenced).

        http://www.skepticalscience.com/detailed-look-at-climate-sensitivity.html

  12. The disasters we have seen in the last couple of years show the effects of concentrating on possible problems. The floods in Australia could have been somewhat mitigated if their original plans for extending their dams and flood control had been implemented instead of being sidetracked in planning for the imagined continuing drought and spending enormous amounts on desalinization plants which are now mothballed.

    In Britain the last three winters have been especially rough for a country that had been planning for hotter summers and warmer winters when they were hit by normal to harsh winters without planning for snow mitigation or the effects of reduced power production by wind turbines that do not perform well in the unexpected conditions.

    There are more examples if you look around the world. We have been trying to solve a problem we do not yet have, and may never have, and it has negatively affected our ability to respond to what should have been normal variation.

    We have too many real problems to waste time on poorly defined issues. Again, DO NOTHING without reasonable data.

    • In hindsight we see the world 20/20, or so we often think.

      “We have too many real problems to waste time on poorly defined issues. Again, DO NOTHING without reasonable data.”

      Might I suggest that it may be better to phrase your admonition as “DO NOTHING NEW without reasonable data.” We certainly have been fighting a lot of wind mills and ignoring a lot of pressing problems of the present that might be called Old Business and Daily Chores. The discussion on which methods of decision making, under what conditions of certainty, with little or no time, etc., etc., is all very nice and academic. But as we already know, it’s always been so in the real world. Life’s a mess, and we all have a kitchen that needs to be cleaned, and a house that needs to be painted, and a roof that needs to be replaced.

      “How” you identify and solve a problem is academic. Getting your hands dirty and bloody and doing it is the real world. Mistakes are always made. We do the best we can, one day at a time, with what we have and know and are able to do.

      I know Scientists are Real People and there are good and bad in the lot. But I generally think we’re doing a fair job selecting the best and brightest. I know Politicans are kind’a Real People too. But I do think we can do better selecting the best and most honest.

  13. This seems like a very doubtful approach. You’re trying to have a debate over science with people a high proportion of whom know very little about the subject; who have no idea what the basic threads of debate are, and who fantastic notions of both the scientific community and are bombarded by all sorts of misinformation about the political world (e.g. anyone to the left of Milton Friedman is a Marxist).

    That’s not going so well, so let’s try debating Philosophy of science. Well if that doesn’t work, shall we next try string theory?

    I’ve begun to read Fred Pearce’s With Speed and Violence. Maybe that’s the sort of thing that would help mitigate the mythology being spun about the global warming “conspiracy”, where scientists are motivated to manufacture a huge lie to justify a “power grab” by Marxists or “Liberal Fascists”.

    As he illustrates, there is plenty of disagreement about what might happen, but an awful lot of plausibly awful scenarios which our lack of complete understanding makes it impossible to rule out.

    In the face of that, you just have to wonder, do we really want to continue this experiment of massively changing the composition of the whole earth’s atmosphere and hope that it won’t have any particular bad effect? Also, global warming “alarmism” (yes, they get to call us a bunch of Chicken Littles and much worse things for years while insisting on the dignity of being called “skeptics”) seems to have led us to forget the umpteen other reasons for not doubling our carbon consumption yet again – the risk of massive spills, the wrecking of the environment — blowing tops off of mountains to get at a little coal, and exacerbating an awful political situation with the sine qua non of industrial civilization being intertwined with many of the most troubled nations on earth. One day we may wake up and find that China has decided to invade a major oil producer on its borders out of concern for chaotic conditions in that country, and we’ll say “uh-oh”, we don’t want them doing that sort of thing.

    And then there is the notion that I have that the state of knowledge (and the growing price of carbon based fuel) is ripe for the development of non-carbon based sources of energy which would be available almost everywhere, and frankly weaken the position of all the unstable oligarchically ruled oil producing nations (I’ve heard Israel is very interested in green energy for that reason).

    • This is a classic of its kind. First we invoke Pascal’s Wager to argue that we should do something for whose necessity or effectiveness there is no evidence, because of risk. The usual argument is that cost = risk x costs. So if the future of humanity is at stake, it is only right to incur huge costs to avert disaster. Of course, the problem is this justifies almost anything if we make up outlandish enough scenarios. It would, for instance, justify preventive first strikes! It would also justify preventing an ice age by increasing carbon emissions.

      That you say is outrageous! There is no reason to think there is any danger of an ice age. Quite. Pascal would probably have said there was absolutely no danger that failing to accept that Henry VIII was the apostolic success of St Peter would lead to eternal damnation. Quite.

      Then the argument takes the other classic illogical turn, which is to say that we want to take the proposed actions anyway for other reasons. Well maybe.

      The logical problem is this. If our reason for doing A is to produce B, it must be that doing A is the best, or at least a good way of producing B. So if the justification of CO2 emission reductions is to clean up the environment, this must be a cost effective way of doing that. You immediately consider as you think of this that particulates have killed many and caused much illness. How much illness has CO2 caused? And you ask the obvious question, if we could clean up the particulates while leaving CO2 emissions, or maybe increasing them, should we do it? Yes, we should. If we are reducing CO2 emissions for the sake of the environment, this must be the most cost effective way of doing it. But it plainly is not. After all, we installed scrubbers, and they have done very well. We have got lead out of gasoline and out of paint. We did both of these while increasing CO2 emissions. Focus on what we are trying to do, and you’ll discover that reducing CO2 is a very perverse way of doing it very expensively and very badly.

      What is it with climate, that it seems to deprive people of the power of logical thought?

      • RE “This is a classic of its kind.”
        Thanks, and I will gladly return the complement.
        RE “First we invoke Pascal’s Wager to argue that we should do something for whose necessity or effectiveness there is no evidence, because of risk. …”
        You’re tarring me with what somebody else said; I have no truck with Pascal’s Wager, which is not too different from Dick Cheney’s “1 Percent Doctrine”, and so yes it does indeed “justify preventive first strikes”, and your 1st 2 paragraphs are more or less true via elementary logic. But in the midst of this, you slip in reference to “outlandish scenarios”.

        So that is what you’ve said so far. The scenarios are outlandish. That plus 2 paragraphs of mostly tautology. By definition (or again more or less tautologically) if scenarios are outlandish, it must be wasteful to expend time and energy on them. But at some point you need to get out of this logic chopping and tell us what you know about the scenarios, and why they are so preposterous. For instance, you might start with a point by point refutation of the book I just mentioned. You need to at least say something more substantial or you’re just wasting people’s time with obvious platitudes.

        w.r.t the rest of your comments, I made no mention of reducing CO2 in order to deal with particulates, or lead, or anything else. I alluded by way of illustration (of the cost of going deeper and deeper into the earth for carbon based energy sources) to the blowing up of mountains and massive oil spills, and I have the impression that the one in the Gulf of Mexico is nothing compared to ones that have occurred in less fortunate countries with little or no cleanup measures. None of this is addressed by “scrubbers” or lead-free gasoline.

        RE: “Then the argument takes the other classic illogical turn, which is to say that we want to take the proposed actions anyway for other reasons.”

        Not really. I find the global warming arguments extremely compelling, but I notice something peculiar – that we seem to forget that long before “AGW” became a common topic, we saw many causes for alarm over the downside of doing so little to hedge our bets about energy sources, and back then we had little concept of the potential of China, e.g., to match and raise our own carbon fuel appetite.

      • Hal Morris,

        our oil spill in Alaska was qualitatively, if not in absolute quantity, the worst we have had. The gulf spill has literally evaporated and been eaten with few real impacts on animals or plants.

        I ask you, what have been the long term effects of the Alaskan spill? I mean, it has been 30 years for us to quantify how bad it was. Please point me to the papers delineating the horrific death and destruction of the animals and environment that this spill caused.

        Now that we have that myth out of the way, you seem to have a thing about blowing the tops off mountains. You apparently are too propagandized to know that Canada has strict policies that requires replacement of those mountain tops after they have been removed. Even here we do not allow coal miners to leave their mountains relandscaped. In case you haven’t heard, hydraulic mining has been restricted for generations also.

        Maybe you are referring to China and some of those other countries that overrestrictive regulatory policies have forced companies to move to?? As you suggest, there are probably horrendous environmental issues in those third world countries. Too bad you haven’t bothered to link any, although it is easy to find links to Chinese problems.

        As far as hedging our bets on energy availability, again I think we can lay the blame at the feet of the environmentalists who have stopped Nuclear options dead and refuse to accept carbon options that are reasonable. Forcing unreasonable options on the economy simply hurts it and removes investment funds that MIGHT have gone to new energy research.

      • kuhnkat: “Please point me to the papers delineating the horrific death and destruction of the animals and environment that this spill caused.”

        Start with this one (and references therein):
        Long-Term Ecosystem Response to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

      • Pat,

        Table 1 would appear to be the money bit of this brief arm wave. Funny but there isn’t one number in the table. Simply SUGGESTIONS that there are long term effects. Please, don’t insult your self by passing trash like this.

        If they can’t take a couple of numbers out of their data and put them in the main paper I can’t be bothered to hunt through through their data to find it for them. Would you like to?

      • k – This “brief arm wave” is a review citing a few dozen papers (“references therein”). As I said, start here.

        Can’t be bothered? Hey, you asked to be pointed.

      • Pat, where are the numbers. I asked for a paper not an administrative review that gives no hard data.

        Why don’t you compile those numbers for me??

      • Pat, I would add that there was nothing strong enough in the table or document to make me want to waste my time looking for large damage in the supporting papers. Again, if you think it is buried in there somewhere I would ask you to point me to it.

        I have spent years reading papers I have been pointed to that are supposed to support a point that doesn’t. You need to show me where your point is supported. It is not apparent from the paper you pointed me to.

      • C’mon, kuhnkat, your “numbers” are a couple of clicks away. They’re not buried. And I’m not pushing a point; you asked for “papers delineating the horrific death and destruction of the animals and environment that this spill caused”, but can’t be bothered to follow through.

        Here’s one at random from the references just to show that anyone can do it:
        “This work adds to a body of literature describing the timelines over which vertebrates were exposed to residual Exxon Valdez oil…”

        Now if you don’t like what you read, or find fault with it, or have better information, fine. But just read. You asked “…what have been the long term effects of the Alaskan spill?” You want me to cut and paste the results of several dozen research papers? Forget it. You really want to know, it’s there for you.

      • Pat, give me a number.

        If you read this stuff you must have read a number. what percent of any species was suppressed, killed or had long term reduction in numbers due to the accident. A number and a link to the paper.

        I have no interest in wading through that dross if there is a 5% decrease or suppression or whatever. Just like AGW, what can be explained by natural variation is of no interest to me in explaining the damage done by this spill.

        Remember I asked for major damage proof, not “we think there is a reduction in numers and an increase in mutations and birth defects.” I am asking for a high level or certainty not the usual environmentalist type whining that can be natural issues and used to ask for funding more research.

      • Kuhnkat, I started out here simply responding to your request for a pointer to some data. Silly me. Finally, I see your point. No worldwide disaster from the Alaskan spill. Nothing comapared to tsunamies and earthquakes. A tiny percentage of animals killed. No discernible residual economic effect on GNP. A handful of fishermen and natives affected. Nothing to worry about. These things happen, and eventually all is well.

        “Just like AGW, what can be explained by natural variation is of no interest to me…”

        Got it.

      • Pat, you mean my original statement that you actually copied finally sunk in??

        ““Please point me to the papers delineating the horrific death and destruction of the animals and environment that this spill caused.”

        Yes, I openly admit that up to 50% of the otters in the area were killed by the disaster. What has that meant to the long term health of the area?? Apparently not a heck of a lot based on the table in the paper you pointed me to.

        I am continuously amazed by people who are so positive that evolution and survival of the fittest is what created us, yet, they seem to think that incidents that don’t even qualify as minor blips in the history of the earth are going to cause some catastrophic change in the environment. Care to explain that??

      • Anybody remember the Monty Python skit where John Cleese enters a small room sits down and a table across from another player and primly says
        “I’d like to purchase a 30 minute argument”.
        The other immediately says
        “No you don’t!”.
        Cleese answers
        “Yes I do!”
        This goes on for a while until Cleese indignantly say “This isn’t an argument! This is just contradictions!”
        The other guy starts calling him names and Cleese answers with “Well I never” and such like until he again becomes indignant and says
        “This isn’t an argument! This is just abuse!”.

        Not sure quite how it ended, but none to satisfactorily for the tall prim man in the bowler hat.

      • Funny, I never said anything about Alaska. Here’s something of interest though:

        According to Nigerian federal government figures, there were more than 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000, and there are 2,000 official major spillages sites, many going back decades, with thousands of smaller ones still waiting to be cleared up. More than 1,000 spill cases have been filed against Shell alone.

        By all means, let’s get rid of those pesky regulations so we can catch up with Nigeria, or China which you mentioned. And heaven forbid we should try over time to internationalize regulations and stop companies from shopping for the least regulated countries.

      • Hal,

        the article you linked to starts with an oil line explosion that caused a spill and a fire. Are you going to deny that virtually all of these are caused by indigent peoples cutting into lines to steal?

        Yes, I agree that these companies are horribly irresponsible in the way they access resources. Would you like to suggest we go over there and take over the country so the corrupt government can’t keep giving the multi-nationals passes??

        How about we stop doing business with these companies here in the US. Oh yeah, we would cut our own throats because Obie is blocking all new development and what he isn’t blocking the enviros are blocking through the courts…

        So, what IS your solution to obvious problems around the world. I notice that China has passed the US in CO2 production and has polluted lakes to produce the rare earths to build our ecologically correct infrastructure, is killing their people mining coal and building coal powerplants… Damn, you just can’t catch a break can you. Hey, has Russia ever cleaned up all those radioactive sights without us paying for it??

        Oh, I know, how about we return to our old gun boat policies where we sail the fleet into ports around the world and have Hitlery deliver ultimatums to everyone that either they clean up their messes or we are gonna level their cities??

        Come on Hal, tell us how you are gonna save the world by destroying the economies of the US and Europe while allowing everyone else to pollute worse than we ever did!!!

      • Hal,

        the article you linked to starts with an oil line explosion that caused a spill and a fire. Are you going to deny that virtually all of these are caused by indigent peoples cutting into lines to steal?

        Nope.

        Yes, I agree that these companies are horribly irresponsible in the way they access resources. Would you like to suggest we go over there and take over the country so the corrupt government can’t keep giving the multi-nationals passes??

        Nope.

        How about we stop doing business with these companies here in the US.

        Speak for yourself

        So, what IS your solution to obvious problems around the world. I notice that China has passed the US in CO2 production and has polluted lakes to produce the rare earths to build our ecologically correct infrastructure, is killing their people mining coal and building coal powerplants… Damn, you just can’t catch a break can you.

        Oh no, I can’t catch a break. Your devastating logic is killing me

        Oh, I know, how about we return to our old gun boat policies where we sail the fleet into ports around the world and have Hitlery deliver ultimatums to everyone that either they clean up their messes or we are gonna level their cities??

        Nope. Not a good idea. How do you manage to think of these things?

        Come on Hal, tell us how you are gonna save the world by destroying the economies of the US and Europe while allowing everyone else to pollute worse than we ever did!!!

        I don’t know how to save the world. Do you? Maybe wu wei – by not doing, all things are done? I’m just trying to point things out as I see them. “Calling a spade a spade” as somebody on your side of the debate said somewhere along the line.

      • What, you didn’t see the picture at the top of the page you linked??

        Hal, what you said was sarcasm about reducing regulation that has absolutely NOTHING to do with what is happening outside the borders outside of the US!!!

        What you INTENDED was that we should all Kumbaya behind one of the most corrupt organizations on the face of the earth, the UN, which has done absolutely nothing to help anyone without pocketing much more than they gave, and give THEM the power to do exactly what I was sarcastically describing. You haven’t foprgotten the Oil for Food scandal have you?? How about all the scandals of UN forces raping women in Africa and giving them Aids, how about, well, you get the idea I am sure.

        Whether Hitlery is shilling for the UN or the US does not make it right. Without the gunboats nothing is going to happen until we do get rid of the UN and put rational HONEST humans in their place.

        I have no expectations of this happening this century or next.

      • It sounds as if everything you think you know about how “people like me” think comes from Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or some such person who spend most of their time giving their creative versions of what people on the other side of the divide think.

        “Hitlery” I like that, who came up with that, Monica Creepy-Crowley? Sounds like one of hers.

        So, Kuhnkat, we just can’t go on meeting like this. I’ve had enough.

      • The central issue is whether or not you believe there is data to show that increasing CO2 emissions will result in a catastrophe for humanity or not.

        This, clipped from a reply to my earlier comment, is the heart of the matter. All this talk about scientific models, post normality, precautionary principle, is all a load of horse manure. This is the only issue. If you have not established this, there is no basis for action. If there is none, that means none. It does not mean that there is a basis for doing my kind of action.

        Lisbon conference, discussions of scientific method, other reasons for limiting emissions and so on , its all total waste of time, its nothing to do with the key issue.

        This is the thing that is causing the AGW movement to twist and turn. The aim is to move to action which is unjustified by the evidence, and this is what causes all these intellectual contortions. The fundamental problem with them is they are always asking for a free pass for anything to do with climate.

        The consequence of this post rational way of thinking became vividly apparent to the UK in December. Post rational thinking said that the UK could move to wind powered electricity generation on a grand scale. Over December, for several days, in a pattern of weather which always occurs in winter, the wind fell to nothing. The power generation from 3,000 turbines, normally about 2% of UK generation, fell to 0.1%.

        The central issue was then seen to be what it always had been: are turbines actually a sensible way of generating a nation’s electricity? And the answer, after you get through flannelling about denial, post normality, precautionary principle and all the rest was: no, there is no power coming out of the damned things.

        Its called post rational engineering, aka wishful thinking.

    • Hal

      How about an actual policy suggestion? It sounds like you are advocating “being one with nature”—-but what does that mean regarding specific actions?

    • This seems like a very doubtful approach. You’re trying to have a debate over science with people a high proportion of whom know very little about the subject; who have no idea what the basic threads of debate are, and who fantastic notions of both the scientific community and are bombarded by all sorts of misinformation about the political world (e.g. anyone to the left of Milton Friedman is a Marxist).

      Not sure what you’re reading, but it’s not the same stuff I am. Many of those here are involved with a scientific community of one sort or another. There are a few who have their own alternative viewpoints – if you disagree with them , then don’t read them.

      As for politics, anyone who’s been involved in the subject for more than a few weeks (on either side of the dance floor) understands the politics only too well. For some of us – well, speaking for myself – I’ve lived with politics of both the legislative and the scientific varieties since 1960. It was part of the job as well as part of life in the place I lived ( Washington, DC). I think others here have had similar experience. I would suggest that this group is as qualified to discuss the various subjects as any other group you might like to suggest. And certainly more qualified than ANY of the many politicians I’ve crossed paths (and swords) with over the years.

      Keep in mind that “plausibly awful scenarios” without “reasonable certainty” are not sufficient reason to destroy the economies of the world and extend both the ensuing poverty and the susceptibility to disaster to ALL the planet’s peoples.

      • “to destroy the economies of the world and extend both the ensuing poverty and the susceptibility to disaster to ALL the planet’s peoples.”

        Now that’s what I call alarmism.

      • Try “realism”, Hal. It fits better.

      • yeah hal,

        signifcant impact from altering the climate is just anti-science alarmism….but an increase in tax would destroy the economy of the world.

        Damn climate alarmists!!

      • Let’s see how this goes – start with increasing taxes – you got the first step. But then you failed to take the next step. Taxes don’t stop CO2 emissions, but they DO slow down the economy.

        OTOH, shutting down coal plants does reduce CO2. So does increasing the price of oil/gasoline beyond reason. And those are the next steps apparently advocated by the alarmists. So let’s just take those 2 and run with them.

        Let’s increase the price of gas (including diesel, heating fuel, etc) – what happens? First thing is that people start driving less. You might think this is a good thing, but then you probably live in a city. Think about living in the country – say in Montana where it’s 100 miles to the nearest Walmart – or hospital. Where your job is 40 or 50 miles away and you’re already making close to minimum wage. How does that play out? It means a lot of people can’t even afford to work. So unemployment goes up.

        And what about all those who work the oil rigs, the refineries, the distribution systems, the auto workers, the dealerships, the mechanics, the parts manufacturers …. the list is endless. So what are you gonna do with all those people? How are you gonna feed them? Do you really think you’ve just improved their lives? Or do you think you just made a lot more poverty?

        How about if you’re an independent trucker and the price of fuel gets to the point where you can no longer make a living driving the truck? Who gets hurt? First, the trucker cause he can’t feed his family, then – YOU. Think about what you buy, what you eat, what you wear – where do you think it comes from – Santa Claus, maybe? All those things get moved by TRUCK – and the largest part are moved by independent truckers. Shut them down and you shut down the economy in the developed countries. Oh yeah, you do reduce CO2 emissions, but you also make a lot of homeless, jobless – and very hungry – people – with the attendant skyrocketing crime rate.

        Then, of course, you’d like to shut down the coal plants – NOW? OK, so what are you gonna do with all those coal miners, the processors, the truckers, the distributors? How much did you just increase unemployment? How are you gonna feed the families of all those people. Remember, you just shut down the trucking industry so there’s no way to move either the people out or food and other necessities in. And I can tell you from personal experience that those people aren’t gonna move. So…. More poverty.

        OK – so now you’ve shut down CO2 production in the developed countries – and extended both poverty and susceptibility to disaster to the people thereof. So now what happens to the Third World countries?

        Oh, you say you don’t believe the susceptibility to disaster thing? REALLY??? Picture Katrina without private automobiles, without sufficient fuel for trucks, buses, etc to move the people out of the danger area. And without the ability to provide relief to those people.

        You DO know, of course, that most of the world’s population is already poverty-stricken – India, China, Africa, SE Asia, Central America? What income the poor in those countries have is to a large degree from production of goods for Western consumption. When that industry evaporates, so does their income. So the poorest become even poorer. And starve. Which certainly does NOT increase their resistance to disease – or their ability to survive or recover from disaster (think Pakistan flooding, tsunami, hurricane, etc). Tell me again – how does it improve their lives?

        So why would that industry evaporate? Increased energy prices, of course. Or maybe you don’t realize that once you’ve shut down the trucking industry in Western countries, you’ve also shut down most of the shipping industry, both for lack of fuel and because there’s no incentive to keep on producing and moving goods that can’t be sold.

        Now – tell me again how and why you have NOT destroyed the economies of the world and extended both the ensuing poverty and the susceptibility to disaster to ALL the planet’s peoples.

      • It is only the US, Europe, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand he is going to shut down. He will allow China and maybe India to continue producing even MORE pollution of all types than what he is shutting down creates!!!

        Why would he not shut them down?? Because they aren’t dumb enough to allow themselves to be shut down!!

      • kuhnkat –
        I assumed “total shutdown” in my thinking but, as I said that was an assumption. There are a lot of ways that could play out but they ALL end up with horrendous results for the poor. And with the middle class becoming the “new poor.” The truly rich “might” still live relatively high on the hog, but it wouldn’t be nearly as “high – or nearly as much fun as it is today.

        Note that: 1. I wasn’t being very organized there and so may not have been as clear as I might have been.
        2. I didn’t cover a tenth of the ripple effects of shutting down coal plants and increasing energy costs.
        3. If China, India and other “developing nations” are exempted, then all bets are off except for – how long it will take for them to enslave the Western nations. And that “may” happen anyway. I wonder if the alarmists are foolish enough to think they’d be exempt from that? Or stupid enough to believe it wouldn’t/couldn’t happen?
        4. But the obvious point is that if China, etc are exempted, then there’s no/nada/zero point to shutting down the Western nations’ CO2 output cause if they’re right, we’re all gonna fry anyway. And if they’re wrong, then we’ll have thrown away 5,000 years of civilization for nothing.

        Bottom line is only the stupid or ignorant would think it’s a good idea to destroy the very technological base that would enable humans to survive whatever future climate change (hot or cold) will occur. Which would kinda make the whole debate ridiculous if it weren’t for those who are so convinced that only their brilliant ideas can save the Earth. Notice that they apparently don’t care about saving humans – only the Earth. Which is, in itself, a ridiculous proposition given the geologic history of the planet.

      • Jim, I actually agree with you, just being sarcastic about what they seem to INTEND!!

        I don’t think China and India will be able to hold their economies together without large sinks for their products. China especially has stretched themselves about as far as they can. They may still come out of the collapse better than the West as much of their countries don’t have as far to fall and splat.

      • kuhnkat –
        Never imagined we were very far apart on this :-)

        You’re right that China, in particular, fuels much of their economy by feeding Western “materialism”. And if the alarmists get their way they’ll take down the Chinese (and Indians) as well.

        China also has “other” internal problems that may take down the government.

  14. If the facts cannot be known then any solution is as good as the next. That seems rather obvious. The obvious consequence when nobody is right then is that what ever the response is should be the least costly and least displacing to the populace that will be left with the tab. One such response is to do nothing and it satisfies the two suggested points.

    Another interesting consequence is the response does not even require a problem since the process doesn’t require facts, only consensus.

    I’m left with this final question. If the facts cannot be known how are the problem solvers chosen and empowered to even suggest a solution? How can they presume they are the problem solvers and not another group that also has no answers? Why is the response not simply “we don’t know”? And the answer is that it is not a scientific problem but a political problem. They are chosen by people who know less than they do about the problem but have budgetary power.

    There is always a great deal of acrimony when some scientist who, let us just say he is an astronomer, waxes long about climate – well outside his field. His qualifications are challenged, he is held up to ridicule for venturing outside his field, etc. This comes up every time some NGO claims they have a bzillion signatures from scientists that are for or against climate disruption driven policy change. The protest is most of those signatures are from butchers, bakers, etc., but not climate scientists. So using that as a well-known reaction to voicing ideas outside their training, what is the source of faith that would lead us to expect scientists will be accepted in a dual role of scientist and political adviser guiding policy and implementation, both direct consequences of their pet idea, and which is what all this reconciliation leads to? As a minimum this is extremely self-serving if one can influence policy that leads to grant money that funds your research that leads to your advocacy and influence of policy that … It’s a logical loop.

    It is also a problem we already have and have witnessed thanks to the contents of FOI2009.zip

  15. A decision maker faced with this set of alternatives is more likely than not to adopt the null policy hypothesis – “do nothing”. (And I note that is precisely what the worldwide majority of decision maker have done.)

    At the moment climate science is pretty certain – say 99% – that CO2 is a greenhouse gas on the pure physics of the thing. Beyond that virtually every fact can and should be contested. The models have, in general, failed to predict or even allow for the current warming plateau. As this blog so ably discusses, uncertainty is the norm in climate science.

    As scientists interact with decision makers they have to recognize that an uncertain conclusion, even one with a small probability of catastrophic outcomes, does the decision maker very little good.

    The decision maker has to balance “doing something” – potentially a very costly something – about an ill-defined and uncertain threat against the costless policy null of doing nothing.

    Announcing that some science is suggesting some facts which, on a straightline projection, have some probability of causing some harm is simply not going to cut it with decision makers.

    Decision makers have to weigh the real and quantifiable costs of action against what, frankly, appears to the be the rather uncertain, nebulous benefits such action may create. There is nothing post normal about this calculus. Spending real money or cutting GDP in real terms has real consequences, right now, in the sense that these choices mean that other choices cannot be made on other files. Before decision makers are likely to incur those costs and consequences they are going to, rightly in my view, demand numbers of engineering quality. Because the “other side” has precisely those numbers. 10 billion on wind farms means 10 billion not spent on vaccination or public health or third world water. And the cost of that choice can and will be measured in human lives lost.

    If climate scientists can do no better than wildly uncertain probabilities they need to get back to the lab until they can. Because, in the unlikely event that decision makers take action on largely conjectural predictions at a real cost, then there will be real costs at the margins and people living today won’t be living in a few months time. Acting on uncertainty can and will kill people; wise decision makers will not and cannot make such decisions unless and until they have “engineering” hard numbers backed by uncontested observational data.

    • Jay–

      I disagree with your conclusion that a policy maker who does not believe that additional atmospheric CO2 will lead to a catastrophic future will be more likely to decide to “do nothing”.

      It is completely logical for policy makers today to not support tearing down existing coal based power plants, while at the same time supporting the construction of new power plants that are both non CO2 emitting and cost effective.

      It is completely logical for policy makers today to support the building of infrastructure (dams, sewers, electrical distribution systems, etc.) that will provide for adequate fresh water retention and for flood control in the event that future weather conditions are somewhat more severe that are being experienced today.

      • Except that many policy makers are infected with environmentalism also.

        Here in California we have no coal plants but buy from out of state that does use coal from necessity. We are taking down dams and not building nuclear while also preventing the construction of even natural gas, solar, and wind. This would seem to be the dream of Obie also.

        Where do you see logic in this REALITY?

      • I do not see the decisions of CA policy makers as generally logical, but CA voters could vote them out of office. I also did not see CA voters presented with good information before they were voting. Policy makers can make bad decisions regardless of the process.

        The policy process Judith is proposing would not seem to improve anything regarding policy implementation. Although I think it needed “tweaking” I did like Judith’s goal.

      • My point being that Policy Makers in general are as much at fault here as the scientists with which they partnered.

        Yes, Californians could vote them out of office if they hadn’t already become dependents on the State long ago. The smart Californians are taking their investment money and businesses out of state at a steady rate.

    • Jay, I agree with all you say, except for your
      “in the unlikely event that decision makers take action on largely conjectural predictions at a real cost”

      Jay, my electricity bill already contains a surcharge to support “renewables” – if we could rely on the policy-makers to be as circumspect as you say they are I, for one, would not be here.

      Reagan’s quip “Don’t just do something, why not stand there?” puts the case nicely.

  16. For me, the key quote in the post is from the epilogue:

    “…it is necessary to make climate science less political. This can be accomplished by offering room for dissent within climate science and communicating about it with policymakers.”

    This leads to the plea I made at Lisbon. Make a deliberate choice to realign research/funding priorities to include parallel lines of investigation into the causes of climate change. This approach has the best chance of bearing the fruit of greater knowledge, reducing uncertainty, and giving the rational voice of science a legitimate say in determining policy.

    But take note; this is more than merely paying lip service to ‘allowing dissent’. It requires a structured system for comparing, evaluating and cross validating information generated from the different approaches. Which raises the question of what the structure of that system will consist of, and which organisation is trusted to perform such a task.

    Perhaps experts in handling uncertainty such as the people who wrote the paper referred to in Judith’s Italian Flag posts, and experts such as Jeroen van der Sluijs could offer something more concrete in the way of a proposal tailored specifically to this issue?

    It would be a good way of settling the question of whether their formulations are capable of being translated from the general to the specific.

    I for one was impressed with Jeroen’s lucid thinking and clear delivery. He seemed to be more than just a clever salesman to me.

    • Steven Mosher

      yes, The funny thing is that people seem to think that PNS makes science political when its goal is just the opposite.

      • The new “deniers” logo?

      • Get with the plan Mosh, Judith has excised mention of the dreaded TLA you mention in this thread so people can react with their brains rather than their knees.

      • Excuse me as a latecomer to this conversation. What is “the dreaded TLA”?
        Thanks.

      • I could tell you, but then Judith would have to kill me. ;)

        Just take it as read that for the purpose of this thread, it makes no difference if you don’t know.

      • Is this blog turning elitist so soon? If so that will be the death of it.

      • A TLA is itself a TLA, with one L less than a IVLA, as the Romans would say. I trust I’ve made everything clear.

      • “Three Letter Acronym” is the obvious first guess and was mine but there is no context or example of a “dreaded TLA”. It is the nature of inside humor that the majority are out of the loop, but it can look bad even when innocense abounds. Worse is the appearance of insider coaching which is by intention manipulative. That has no upside at a forum that emphasises tranparency in a thread that characterises PNS as embracing honesty as a foundational element.

        If it happens to be much ado about nothing then that too has a lingering downside. Hackles are raised.

      • OK, sorry about that. We had a debate about PNS in general in the last thread, in this one, Juith was trying to home in on the substantive practical application of the ideas and have a dispassionate discussion about that without hackles being raised or knees being jerked by the ‘dreaded TLA’.

        It seems to have worked reasonably well, and I appreciate the forbearance of the people who for whatever reason flat out reject it.

      • steven mosher

        arrg.

      • PNS has become quite a sideshow. I think a survey is in order to ask how many working climatologists (or perhaps any other scientists) spend any time thinking about PNS. Very likely the majority haven’t even heard of it. Has the majority of journeyman climate scientists, looking for a new angle for contributing some insight into some aspect of climate forecasting, with the aid of pollen counts, trapped oxygen bubbles, or cross sections of sedimentary rocks on the bottom of some sea — has the majority even read Thomas Kuhn? Probably they read him once, said “huh” to themselves and put him back on the shelf.

        So you think this PNS is changing the way people do research? That a large proportion of researchers is reading it avidly and thinking “Wow, this is just the justification I’ve been looking for to just make anything up!” How many people who think like this have ever met a working scientist?

        As tallbloke maybe understands, if I’m not mistaken (about either him or what I’m about to say about PNS) PNS has been trotted out as an attempt to work up some methodology for engaging with the critics the vast majority of whom are outside the field, the worst of whom spend most of their time calling (most climate scientists) liars and Marxists or dupes of Marxists (it is far harder than say 30 years ago to find a Marxist in a history department let along a Climatology lab). It’s an attempt to say “You say you want to have a conversation? OK, let’s try to have a conversation; let’s try to find some sane way of responding to your concerns”.

        I don’t think it will work though. Mostly, it seems to be providing people who’ve been trained to label people liars and Marxists at the drop of a hat (if the hat fits, wear it) another excuse to do just that — because we seem to be talking some sort of post-whatever gobbledegook.

        We don’t need to come up with such a new buzzphrase (though it’s always a good way to make a name for oneself – with all due respect, but I think that might be one of the motives of its proponents) — we don’t need this PNS to make bring up the level of uncertainty under which life-critical decisions have to be made, in the fog of war, or in the operating room. And it’s rather pointless when, with a few exceptions, you’re dealing with people who really aren’t just complaining that you want to influence big political expensive political decisions with too little certainty. Rather, (with a few exceptions) they’re saying that you’re lying like crazy because you have some dreamy idea, like some 1930s “red” intellectual of a “power grab” that would save the world by putting everything under one imaginary benevolent government.

        I agree with Judith Curry, and commend her, for saying we have to somehow engage with the skeptics/deniers because they will greatly effect what is or isn’t done — but IMHO, PNS ain’t cuttin’ it.

      • Hal, PNS has gotten very little traction in the climate community. Steve Schneider and Hans von Storch are the main proponents from within the climate community. I find their ideas on certainty management to be useful (framing, quality, pedigree, etc, see the Italian flag thread), and I particularly find some of the papers by Jeroen van der Sluijs to be very good.

        Do you you prefer the high levels of confidence in the science cited by the IPCC, and the “truth to power” pathway of the IPCC to the UNFCCC carbon stabilization treaty? The PNS strategy of dealing with this issue is much better than the IPCC/UNFCCC strategy, IMO. They basically match the decision framework to the level of uncertainty. If the level of uncertainty is very high, they stress resilience as the best strategy (which basically means economic development to reduce vulnerability, which is basically what the libertarians have been arguing for). For scenario uncertainty (which the IPCC strategy arguably is, even though they don’t seem to admit it), the strategy should be robustness: no regrets strategies that are win-win whether or not CO2 turns out to be a problem of the magnitude suggested by the IPCC.

      • Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are two levels of uncertainty here, one of which seems to be entirely absent:

        If my model is correct, I can compute uncertainty.
        If my model is incorrect, calculating its uncertainty is meaningless.

      • Robinson,
        Reading any text written by van der Sluijts should assure you that he is discussing precisely the problem you present.

        Similar considerations using different terminology are presented by Roger A. Pielke Jr. in his book “The Honest Broker”.

      • No, there is also ambiguity (conflicting certainties) and also ignorance. In the climate debate, we see lots of conflicting “certainties”, which basically arises because people don’t aknowledge what they don’t know (ignorance)

      • Actually they deny what they don’t know, which is deeper than not acknowledging it. In fact the greatest uncertainty by far is in how much uncertainty there is. This would be funny if it were not so serious.

      • It’s surely even worse than that. Watching a lecture by the Physicist Lawrence Krauss, I was struck by the idea that in 100 billion years, there will be no cosmic microwave background and you will look out into the sky with a telescope and only see our galaxy (all other galaxies now being so far beyond the “horizon” as to be undetectable).

        So any civilisation of the future trying to understand the nature of the universe will be absent a theory of a big bang, inflation, dark flow, dark energy, etc., unless of course it’s possible to arrive at such things a priori.

        This is an epistemological point that I am ill equipped to conclude (my IQ falls below the threshold required for reasoned philosophical debate on this issue), except to say that I’m completely mystified as to why, given we’re inside the bounds of natural variation (according to the Vostok and Greenland cores – correct me if I’m wrong), there is any need for a debate at all.

      • But Dr. Curry, you are now talking about PNS as a policy strategy. This is not science, much less post normal science. Thus the term PNS is completely misleading. What you are talking about has long been called a No Regrets Policy (NRP). NRP is language that can work in the USA, while PNS is not.

        But in either case the implication is that AGW-based policies have lost the political fight for now. Given that this appears to be true you are on the practical track.

      • “NRP is language that can work in the USA, while PNS is not. ”

        NRP certainly does not cover all the ground PNS does, but it’s an interesting observation. Why do you think it is that PNS is ‘language that cannot work in the states’?

      • Think of this blog as a focus group and look at the negative reactions and confusion that PNS elicited. The name is too weird for Americans. It may do well in Europe but there is a different school of philosophy there. I cannot imagine a US Congressman using the term “post-normal.” They would be eaten alive. It sounds like a euphemism for crazy, as in “Jones has gone post-normal.”

      • Lol. Fair point. It nearly made some contributors here ‘go postal’ too. :)

      • Never wanting to miss the roots of any good joke, I now owe a debt to Wikipedia on “going postal”. There must be scope for further merging of the concepts. The post-normal man always shoots twice? Is that a risk management thing?

      • Sounds more like grounds for divorce to me.

      • I resemble that remark. :-)

        And I’m likely to be a sceptic for a long time.

      • This blog is certainly some kind of focus group, I just still don’t know what for. But I basically with David (can I call you David?), it’s just too bad the term has a certain amount academic inertia already behind it, where the resistance is not so strong, and where it will probably stick around. Unfortunately PNS also has some other components other than the name that defy popular understanding (and most of which I don’t have a problem with). What it has going for it is the relative failures of the existing models.

      • Feel free to call me David, Zajko. It is clear that Dr.Curry has an interest in new academic research on decisions systems. Given that the politicization of climate science is something we have never seen before, not at his scale anyway, this is quite understandable, and useful. But I work in the policy world, not the academic world, so my perspective is rather different.

      • Actually, the term PNS is just an attempt to put lipstick on the pig of a process where research scientists give engineering advice they are not qualified to give. Suppressing CO2 production is an engineering decision made by people with no engineering background. Yep, that’s PNS.

      • Dr Curry

        Your question “Do you you prefer the high levels of confidence in the science cited by the IPCC” is an odd one. The point is surely not whether we “prefer” the IPCC’s high levels of confidence (personally I think high levels of confidence are much preferable to low ones) but whether they are justified by the science itself.
        Everything I’ve read on the subject leads me to accept that the high level of confidence expressed by the IPCC on the broad questions of whether AGW is real and likely to be a threat is representative of the view of the large majority of climate scientists and of the underlying science itself. Given that the policymakers have signed off the IPCC reports themselves we must assume that they are persuaded that the high level of confidence is justified – certainly they claim that this is the case. Just because there are some people who disagree or there are political difficulties to contend with when making decisions doesn’t in itself mean that they (and those of us who share their concerns) are obliged to alter their assessment of the certainty of the threat we face. Decision making in the face of political difficulties is not the same a decision making in the face of uncertainty and poses different questions.
        You obviously believe the level of certainty is overstated by the IPCC – in fact you seem to take this as a given, as do those who make authoritative sounding claims that “we don’t know” if AGW is happening or if it is likely to be dangerous. Well it’s not a given, and just saying things like “people don’t acknowledge what they don’t know (ignorance)” isn’t going to persuade anyone – you will have to actually make a case and persuade people much better qualified than me if you want to get some kind of agreement on this. If there is no such agreement on this issue then I don’t see how PNS will help.
        As for “strategies that are win-win whether or not CO2 turns out to be a problem of the magnitude suggested by the IPCC” that is essentially saying that we should forget about policies which specifically address AGW as a distinct issue which presents its own set of problems and just do stuff which the skeptics want to do anyway. You are advocating surrender and selling it as compromise. Sorry, but a lot of us are not buying that.

      • Andrew,

        You apparently missed the explanation where the summary for administrators is completed before the science parts which then have to be brought into alignment with the summary. Sorry to have to disabuse you.

      • You apparently missed the explanation where the summary for administrators is completed before the science parts which then have to be brought into alignment with the summary. Sorry to have to disabuse you.

        Do you have a link for this?

      • Andrew,

        this article references where you can find the IPCC’s instructions to write the Executive summary and then insure the Science sections, to be released 3 months later, do not conflict with it.

        http://www.canadafreepress.com/2007/harris020207.htm

      • You are quit right Andrew. The idea of compromise entails surrender by the AGW hardliners, as compromise always does in politics. Many of us believe that the AGW political movement has failed and it is time for a new road. In the USA the funding of climate science is now in the hands of a skeptical House. The general scientific community is very sensitive to political winds and it is quite possible that the AGW hardliners will lose control of the climate change research programs. Hence the proffered compromise. Otherwise there is a very real threat that the entire program will be zeroed out of the budget.

      • David,

        Thanks for the frank answer. I’m not against compromise per se – to an extent you always have to work with the political situation as it is and even here in the UK where all major parties accept AGW and the policy makers speak fine words about action on climate change us “climate hawks” won’t get everything we want. But that doesn’t mean we should give up and just accept it – we will keep on trying to put pressure on politicians and influence the public debate to get the best deal we can.

        Obviously the situation in the US is a peculiar one, and from where I’m sitting it seems pretty obvious that for the time being any hopes of meaningful legislation (or any legislation at all) to combat climate change are dead – Obama had his chance in the earlier part of his term and didn’t take it. I don’t know so much about the particular situation regarding the funding of climate research but it seems apparent that politics has competely overtaken science, so on this particular issue I don’t doubt a deal will have to be made and given that there are those in positions of influence who would quite happily scrap all funding for climate research altogether I guess such a deal would represent a genuine compromise. What isn’t a compromise is when only one side makes concessions and the other just gets to do what they wanted to do anyway.

        But even in the US the political situation may change again in a couple of years and those who believe AGW to be a real threat will continue to argue their case strongly and push for action. My perception is that they will always have a harder task in the US than in many other countries but given the stakes involved it is still a battle worth fighting.

      • Strangely, despite all this talk about doubt and uncertainty, the prevailing wind here is pretty much 100% certainty that the scientist are wrong and there is no AGW.

      • Dr Curry

        It occurred to me just now when responding to Steven Mosher that the issue around PNS is a bit like whether you believe in “do as to other as you’d have them do until you” because you’re a Christian, or have rational self interest.

        The latter is simpler and the implications are clearer, and likely to be preferred by skeptics – if you see what I mean.

    • Tallbloke, I agree that this makes sense and is where science should be going– “…realign research/funding priorities to include parallel lines of investigation into the causes of climate change…” But there is no place for the kind of structure you describe, not in USA science anyway.

      I would call it Compromise Science not PNS. Politics is the art of compromise and that is what is needed. Climate science needs to compromise with the skeptics.

      • Hi David,
        In the last thread, there were objections to your idea of compromise, though some were overly simplistic and didn’t address what you mean by it. I’m happy to let the chips fall where they may with regards to attribution, so long as the process stands up to scientific standards.

        My current reading is that the error bands are larger than the claimed signals, and so any one of several causes for climate change could be predominant. This being so, there is no logical objection to several lines of enquiry being pursued, which is what I argue for.

        This hasn’t happened previously, because the AGW advocates who gained a hold over the peer review and publication processes have seen a need to preserve a speciality-wide consensus around their preferred hypothesis by excluding other possibilities through a variety of means. Dismissing alternative causes with inadequate data, keeping the papers of opponents out of the journals, starving other disciplines of funds etc.

      • But the AGW advocates still have the hold you describe, and they deny your claims about error bands, bias, etc. If you are talking about restructuring the actual climate change research program then you are asking for a political compromise with the AGW proponents, because they have a lot of political power than can’t simply be ignored. Compromise is the only alternative to the status quo. Not compromise on belief but compromise on research, by giving skeptical issues their space in the program. But this means cutting back on AGW-based research.

        Mind you I have never been clear what this reconciliation idea meant, other than compromise in the form of agreeing to disagree.

      • I think that’s what it always means. Anthony Watts cited Northern Ireland when ‘Lisbon sceptics’ went postal on WUWT. I thought that was a great analogy. But you can bet your bottom dollar that Protestants and Catholics still disagree on the history of Ireland, the troubles and much that goes on today. It’s just that there’s been a mighty compromise. Thank God.

        Your point about AGW advocates still holding power over things like the IPCC and peer review is true enough though and that is where some highly symbolic gestures need to be made, just as in NI. Steve McIntyre as WG1 lead author, anyone?

      • “If you are talking about restructuring the actual climate change research program then you are asking for a political compromise with the AGW proponents”

        NoNoNo.

        We shall DEMAND it.

        :)

      • Now you sound like Greenpeace. If you want to chant in the street feel free.

      • :) LOTSA WINTER LOTSA SNOW
        WE DEMAND THE RIGHT TO KNOW! :)

        :) NOW MY ASS IS TURNING BLUE
        NATURAL FORCE NOT CO2! :)

        :) DOWN WITH HANSEN DOWN WITH MANN
        CARBON FORCING’S DOWN THE CAN! :)

        Lol. :)

      • steven mosher

        I believe our thinking went like this.
        One could argue that there has been a rush to judgment about the role of C02 ( I would say this is NOT the case, but I’m going to entertain the notion to see where it leads) What would any good police force do to forestall such an objection from the defense attornies of C02? Well they would spend a bit of time looking for other suspects. And so, some floated the idea of looking at the BEST suspects that skeptics point to.

        Then of course discussions about the vast array of crazy ideas that people throw out ensued and those of us who believe c02 is guilty, merely asked that some filtering of skeptical positions be put forward. What’s the best damn idea you guys have?

        Gamma rays? sun spots? natural variation? magnetic fields, the planets?
        gremlins?

        How much nonsense will people be forced to to wade through? And whats the track record of ANYONE on either side of the debate admitting to an honest mistake? Is there really any point in listening to any skeptic when they won’t put forward testable hypothesis? it was also noted by warmists that the IPCC owes better documented forecasts.. more falsifiability.

        If you had to ask me which argument by skeptics deserved the most attention it would be the argument about natural variability. Within climate science natural variation is recognized as a possible explanation, so more attention on that could be the basis of a common ground.
        As for the other stuff.. guys need to do more homework before they can get peoples attention. Speculation about other probable causes is a rather weak card to go all in with

      • Steve. Everything you list except gremlins is part of natural variation. The basic natural variation research program is obvious. We now know that climate varies naturally on a lot of scales. We do not know why it does that. Let’s figure it out so we can tell why it is varying now.

        There are a number of distinct variations that have been identified, ranging in scale from ENSO, PDO, abrupt events, and MWP-LIA, up to the ice ages. There are a number of candidate mechanisms that have been postulated, such as various ocean circulations, various indirect solar forcings, chaos, and Milankovitch cycles. None of this is understood and the climate change debate cannot be settled until it is understood. (How can you not know this?) There is more to study here than we can afford. Paring it down will be the hard part.

      • HEY!!! you don’t think Gremlins are NATURAL??

        They sure the heck aren’t man made!!

        8>)

      • Steve– If there has not been a “rush to judgement” regarding CO2 being a detriment to humanity then what else should it be called? If someone is advocating dismantling existing power plants because they emit to much CO2, but can not produce any reliable evidence that the CO2 is harmful….what is it?

        Do you believe there are any reliable models that demonstrate that a warmer world is really worse for humans overall in the long term?

      • What would any good police force do to forestall such an objection from the defense attornies of C02? Well they would spend a bit of time looking for other suspects. And so, some floated the idea of looking at the BEST suspects that skeptics point to.

        First thing – very few police investigations get past the most obvious suspects. Which is one of the reasons the majority of murders remain unsolved. The FBI is notorious for grabbing the FIRST “person of interest” and running their life – and the investigation – into the crapper, while ignoring “other” suspects. That’s become a standing joke even among (some) police officers.

        gamma rays? sun spots? natural variation? magnetic fields, the planets?
        gremlins?

        Natural variation is a no brainer – I think even Trenberth admits to “some” of that.

        Sun spots – you should read some archaeology texts. The Incas, Arabs and Chinese all knew about sunspots and their effect on climate – and agriculture. It’s kinda like Southwest US archaeology – it took 100 years before anyone thought to ask the Indians what all those petroglyphs meant – even though it was their people who made them. After all, they were only ignorant savages, right?

        Magnetic fields? Well, has it occurred to you that the North Magnetic Pole is moving faster than anyone expected? Does it mean anything? Who knows? But don’t you think someone should pay attention to it? And why it should or should NOT affect climate?

        Then – you DO know about the CLOUD experiment, don’t you? You DO know that it HAS apparently produced the expected type of reaction -production of clouds under controlled circumstances? And what’s one of the main questions for climate science right now? That would be cloud effects, wouldn’t it? As related to “feedback?”
        Heh!

        Oh, yeah – don’t want to forget about those gremlins. In the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, gremlins were the subject of serious discussion because there were “many” unexplainable aircraft crashes and the mechanisms for material failure/stress fractures were just being discovered. And I was taught that even “gremlins” could NOT be dismissed as “impossible”. Improbable, yes, but not impossible.

        So – are the sceptic contentions REALLY so unbelievable that they should be scrapped? Or would a good scientist investigate them – as is being done with the CLOUD experiment? Or as the archaeologists have done with sun spots and ancient cultures – and the correlation with climate and agricultural practices?

        What’s a good scientist to do? Ignore evidence of ancillary data and causes – or investigate it?

      • Steve Mosher says:
        “Then of course discussion about the vast array of crazy ideas that people throw out ensued”

        It did? Must have happened in the space of time I was at the John then. My memory has it that when the organisers mooted the idea of spending some time looking at alternative hypotheses the most prominent AGW proponent and the most prominent AGW data auditor came over all tired and ended the session for the day.

    • Tallbloke, on reflection I think you may have something by taking Ravetz et al at their word when they say they mean no harm to traditional scientific method. I don’t believe it’s true, but your insistence on a structured pursuit of “parallel lines of investigation”, although a peculiar way of restoring to climate “science” the parsimony it should never have lost, is perhaps no less valuable for that. I personally doubt that you’ll be rewarded, except to the extent of having “smoked them out”, as your penultimate paragraph suggests. But if you are you’ll have made a real advance, so go for it.

      One word of warning – the EU is a deeply corrupt organisation that has long dealt with irksome “citizens” by making them feel listened to and then ignoring them. CAGW alarmism has incalculable advantages for Eurocrats, and I would be sceptical of any signs of, er, scepticism on their part.

  17. Excuse my naiveté, but once again you’re begging the question:

    “How to act upon such uncertainty?”

    In my view analysis of the past is far more instructive than analysis of the future. I rarely see any kind of discussion on this point. A good example would be to ask the question, “What affect did the banning of CFC’s have on the ozone layer?”

    Analysing the results of past action to similar problems will give you far more information than “guessing” probabilities of future outcomes. Am I alone in thinking people have missed this very basic point?

    • I’m sorry, both DP and Jay Currie have articulated my opinion on this far better than I myself can. I should have read the thread before adding my comment!

    • Robinson

      It’s a little O/T, but I recently looked into this question and found that the 1987 Montreal Protocol has done a fine job of banning CFCs but has had no discernible impact in the ozone layer. The Antarctic ozone hole is just as large as it ever was.

      • Well, that is instructive, isn’t it!

      • Actually, it is.

        The Montreal Protocol was done under the same “Oh My God, we’ve GOT to DO something – NOW or we’ll all FRY” type of scenario that the alarmists are trying to perpetrate today. And yet, the ONLY place the ozone layer was “apparently ” affected was over the Antarctic. Column measurements in the Northern Hemisphere showed no effect at all even though 90% of CFC usage was in the NH. There were models – just as there are today – that said the ozone layer was thinning. But there was NO – repeat NO physical evidence of ozone layer thinning whatever – except the Antarctic. But the “decision makers” were stampeded into another save the world decision for which there is STILL no evidence of necessity – only the ASSUMPTION that it was the proper action.

        It’s entirely analagous to the present situation with AGW.

      • It’s even more instructive than you think. Although the Montreal Protocol has so far had no apparent effect on the Antarctic ozone hole, it’s nevertheless considered a success. Why? Because CFCs have a long atmospheric residence time, so the lack of any visible improvement up to this point was predictable. But not to worry. We can still be confident that the hole will have gone away by 2040 or 2050. Computer models say so.

        And what about CO2? Well, CO2 is also thought to have a long atmospheric residence time, so even in the unlikely event we ever do succeed in cutting global CO2 emissions we again won’t know for many decades whether the cuts worked, and maybe not even then.

        How does this figure into our current estimates of scientific uncertainty, which is the subject of this thread? Basically it doesn’t. But if we can’t determine how bad a problem AGW really was for fifty or maybe even a hundred years after beginning the massively expensive process of trying to stop it we have yet another problem on our hands.

      • And even better for the AGW types, they tell us that increasing Ozone will also increase warming so it is definite that there will be long term warming!!

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  18. Judith,

    I don’t guess.
    I find concrete evidence.
    The salt changes in the oceans can tell you a great deal IF you are will to dig.
    This tells why the concept of thermodynamics’s is incorrect.
    The salt did not magically appear on its own on the ocean surface. Centrifugal force is ALWAYS present and the change of pressure has brought it to the surface.
    Meteorologist weight of measure has changed which has scientists stumped as they calibrate everything from this weight. (speculation has it that the weight change may have occurred when it was cleaned???)
    Meanwhile evidence is mounting that the pressure has changed. LESS pressure. This would help in the elevated evaporation process and generate more energies in storms.

  19. Judith,

    All of science concept is a balance. An exact opposite to whatever energy source.
    This is an impossibility with a planet that is slowing down and changing as there was NEVER a balance in the first place.
    Our one dimensional construct in science is incorrect for the multi-level diversion this planet has put in place.

    In essence past theories are incorrect.

  20. Climate politics is a dull topic tiresomely distracting scores of investigators from research on natural climate variations.

    Condensing the presentation to succinctly focus on the fundamental issue which not only deserves attention but also demands it absolutely:

    1) “[…] implicitly assumes that there are […] no limits to the capacity of science to know and understand […]”

    2) “[…] recognizes that ignorance (lack of understanding of the complex climate system) […] play[s] a central role.”

    3) “[…] limited by the fact that not all uncertainties can be expressed quantitatively […] in practice uncertainties do not [necessarily] become reduced with more research […] assumes that the system and problem are not complex.”

  21. Climate Time line

    1970’s – somebody notices it is cooling, ramps up the press, claims of thermageddon spew forth, we’re all going to freeze.

    Process check – no, that isn’t green and requires using more energy. The climate cooperates and begins warming

    1980’s – somebody notices it is warming, ramps up the press, claims of thermageddon spew forth, we’re all going to fry in a hell of our own making.

    Process check – much better. Solution is green, big oil is the problem, no shortage of targets to demonize, nature cooperates, CO2 is an excellent foil. All is well.

    2000 – We have a problem. Nature is no longer cooperating, warming has stopped, CO2 continues to rise, models are failing, and uncertainty has come out of the closet. We have a problem and it’s a travesty we don’t know why.

    2010 – The movement is stalled, the science is failing, the models are no help, confidence and support from a compliant MSM is in critical decline, and uncertainty is the new darling of doubt.

    Process check – We have to manage uncertainty. We need to find a way to make it part of the acceptable equation. We need a clever way to both devalue the importance of uncertainty while hiding it in plain sight. Damn that Feynman and his cargo cult crap!

    2011 – PNS is reborn, repackaged, and put on climate science shelves at eye level where it cannot be ignored. It is the last great hope of an unprovable hypothesis.

    Process check – nobody’s buying it. Feynman was right…

    • I wish you’d stop treating Feynman as your ventriloquist’s dummy. I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate it.

    • I agree with Robinson below, quite insightful. Therefore, you are certain to catch some flak.

    • dp, I wish you and others would stop using Feynman as your ventriloquist’s dummy (If I wrote this before, sorry, but it looked like the comment got stuck in limbo).

      • Hal – I assure you that Dr. Feynman is not a character in that depiction. That he was mentioned at all is because his writings regards the cargo cult science is for me the anchor piece for what honest science is and what is not honest science. Feynman was pragmatic but I don’t think he would accept PNS as worthy. Feynman could say “I don’t know” and not buy into the notion that scientists that lack adequate facts remain valuable to affect policy. That is the door that leads from science to advocacy where science has no role.

    • Minor edit, they noticed the cooling at least back in the early 60’s.

      http://omniclimate.wordpress.com/2008/10/09/yet-more-evidence-of-global-cooling-consensus-in-1961/

    • Best. Post. Evah. I wet. And Feynman invoked. Even better.

    • 2011– Every national scientific academy in the world agrees with IPCC. Sceptics still yet to come up with cause for observed temperature increase other than magic.

      • Shhhh, J Bowers – you’re ruining the magic. ;-)

      • 2011– 83% of Brits view climate change as a current or imminent threat, 68% agree humanity is causing climate change, while sceptics “represent a fringe position”.
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jan/31/public-belief-climate-change

      • and what would you do J Bowers? What policies makes sense to you?

      • J,

        the article states: “Asked if climate change was a current or imminent threat, 83% of Britons agreed, with just 14% saying global warming poses no threat.”

        With sloppy writing like this, do you know where we can find the actual poll questions? I looked in the link at the bottom and came up empty. If I were living in Britain, or even back east, I would also be saying I was worried about Climate Change, but I WOULDN’T be worried about global warming!! 8>)

      • The poll’s linked to in the first paragraph of the link I provided.

      • J,

        Thanks J. I found it this time. It does say Climate Change with no other information.

      • Which observed temperature increase are you referring to? Or do the ones previous to the most recent one not count?

      • If you have been following this conversation at all then you should know the answer to your posit is “I don’t know”. And since we also don’t know what the trend will be (run-away, cyclic) we don’t offer a solution. What is the solution for a problem you can’t prove you have? What is the solution for a problem you think we have? How can you postulate a cause for warming if it isn’t known that it is or is not natural variability or that the recent increase was anything more than a consequence of chaotic influences?

        One great annoyance for me in all this is the claim that science has always acted on uncertainty. At times, yes, it has. And it was recognized those actions were a crap shoot (Where good science and policy goes bad: de-salinization plants in Oz rather than managing episodic flooding, drilling 20,000′ below a seafloor 5,000′ under a precious biosphere to seek oil that is abundantl available on dry land, for examples), but can anyone name a project of doubt on the scale of this one where unspeakable trillions are to be spent, redistributed, productivity disincentized, where people’s lives across the world will be thrown into uncertainty, where this trans-generational mindset will, by design, crush the willful and spirited energy and creativity of human kind until it is finally overthrown democratically or otherwise? One nudges the debate precariously towards Godwin’s Law to find a corollary in history.

    • dp:

      Feynman could say “I don’t know”

      And that’s the nub of the matter, IMHO. Scientists, for one reason or another, no longer say, “We don’t know”

      It used to be the case where 20 scientists looking at a theory, without there yet being any measure of proof/disproof, would say just that: “We don’t know”
      Nowadays, if 19 of those scientists said, “We think/believe the theory is true” and the remaining one said either, “I don’t think/believe the theory is true”, or, “I just don’t know”, the executive summary would then conclude that there’s a 95% probability that whatever it is that the theory predicts will come about.

  22. +1, insightful.

  23. Not all aspects of the climate science topic suffer from equal or the same type of uncertainties. For example, it is pretty certain that the middle Holocene was warmer than today (at least in the N. Hemis). From this, we can conclude that since the world did not end then…etc. Likewise, the current and/or irreducible uncertainty regarding paleoclimate reconstructions using treerings, including things like comparing individual years to previous centuries, means we can be pretty certain that it is NOT possible to say 1998 was the warmest year in a millenium, as one famous scientist is wont to do. Likewise, glaciers can be documented to have started receding in many places (like Europe) at the end of the LIA about 1750 to 1800–which means their recession preceded most GHG increases. So, some facts can be established pretty well. In these cases, it is clearly inappropriate to keep making claims about these particular issues that conflict with facts. In contrast, the reliability and precision of climate models are a big confusing Rorschach test, where whoever looks at their output sees “good” results or “sloppy” results, as their personality and world view dictate.

    • In contrast, the reliability and precision of climate models are a big confusing Rorschach test, where whoever looks at their output sees “good” results or “sloppy” results, as their personality and world view dictate.

      Ha. And when I grow up I want to be the Dr. Hermann Rorschach of GCMs, who gives every person their Psychodiagnostik. My fees will be very reasonable for such a life-changing experience.

    • “For example, it is pretty certain that the middle Holocene was warmer than today (at least in the N. Hemis). From this, we can conclude that since the world did not end then…etc.”

      In the northern hemisphere only; in summer but colder in winter; for reasons completely unlike today; not with 6.7 billion people trying to maintain large-scale agriculture; then we hit the Subatlantic period around 5,700 years ago and cultural artefacts in the historical record suddenly change. Sorry if I’m not particularly reassured.

      • J Bowers:

        …not with 6.7 billion people trying to maintain large-scale agriculture

        So if it happened before, it can happen again for completely natural reasons, as it did before
        And, if that did happen again, for completely natural reasons, as it did before what would we do about it? How would we prevent 6.7 billion people from starving?

        Cause is not effect, effect is not cause – please don’t conflate the two.

      • “So if it happened before, it can happen again for completely natural reasons, as it did before”

        You mean astronomical forcing? Nah, not this time. Astronomical forcing and GHG forcing – please don’t conflate the two.

        “How would we prevent 6.7 billion people from starving?”

        Ummm, make sure there crops don’t burn or get ruined by deluge by pumping up the temperature? Doesn’t seem that much of a mystery to me.

      • … make sure there crops don’t burn or get ruined by deluge by pumping up the temperature?

        Umm, or get ruined by drought or deluge or reduced by shortened growing season as happened during the Little Ice Age and the Dark Age Cooling? Or get covered with a couple of km of ice, as has happened with great regularity during humanity’s (relatively short) history?

        We have at this point very little idea what controls the climate, and even less how to exert a significant influence on it. Any claim to the contrary is simply a delusion of grandeur against all (repeat: all) the evidence. What we need to do is what we have always done as a species in the face of climate change: adapt. Hey, the polar bears have, why can’t we?

      • I’m not talking about what’s (supposed to be) happening now.
        So I’ll rephrase: What’s to stop whatever it was that happened then from happening again, if not now then at some other time in the future?

      • I forgot to add:

        What were the reasons for the MWP?
        Even if it was only NH summer, it was still a large anomaly by any standards, and which lasted at least a century.
        So what caused it? It must have been something substantial, not so?

      • “What were the reasons for the MWP?”

        Depends which part of the world and over which years, I guess. One things for pretty sure; if climate sensitivity to CO2 is a lot less than 3C then we’re really in a pickle. Think about it.

      • So you don’t know what happened then, and why, but you can precisely quantify what’s happening now? I see!

      • “for completely different reasons” really? How do you know that? And it was not only summer since it shows up so nicely in the Greenland ice sheet (in “snow”). Calling any past warming as due to “different” reasons is called special pleading unless you can prove it is different.

      • “Calling any past warming as due to “different” reasons is called special pleading unless you can prove it is different.”

        How does – “The orbital relationship between the Earth and Sun was different back then” – do? Or will we now be told that such things didn’t affect temperature on Earth back then? Oh, that’d be logically fallacious, too. Still unconvinced, sorry, I’ll stick with NOAA: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/holocene.html

      • What’s the mid-Holocene period got to do with the MWP????

      • Responded to already.

      • Where?

  24. Prior to Lisbon Workshop Slogan:

    Act On Global Warming Because The Science Is In, The Politics Are Irrelevant

    After Lisbon Workshop Slogan:

    Act On Global Warming Because The Politics Are In, The Science Is Irrelevant.

    Andrew

    • steven mosher

      Actually one of the notions we talked about and is being talked about here is that the science is never IN. With complex systems sometimes there is an irreducible amount of uncertainty. The whole PREMISE of some people at the conference is that more science may not give us simple policy options.

      • Yeah, thats what he said.

        You just filled in how the science was rendered irrelevant.

        PNS at work.

      • Steven Mosher,

        Then we’re back to nowhere. If the science isn’t IN, you only have scaremongering to garner support for your policy.

        Andrew

      • steven mosher

        No science is ever IN. Do you not understand that all science is contingent. All science has uncertainty. The issue is how you handle the uncertainty.

        You’re using a computer right? Do you know how uncertainty plays in the design of the processor?

      • Do you understand that we never know everything, yet decisions need to be made?

      • You want us to accept uncertainty but want us to act even though we actually understand how uncertain the science is.

        You funny bro.

      • Wow.

        All this talk here of how uncertainty is downplayed/ingored etc, yet here you are saying that decisions can’t be made if there is uncertainty – ie. you demand 100% certainty.

        That certainly is ironic.

      • NO.

        People are continually making decisions that are in no way necessary or supported by the LACK OF INFORMATION!!!

        I have no need for 100% certainty.

        Climate Science cannot even provide us with a reasonable estimate of the uncertainty. Try that for a first step rather than charging into what are we going to do about it.

      • Probabilities tell us how uncertain things are.

        What is it you think you need to know?

      • Michael,

        I have an investment opportunity. I am telling you that there is a 98% probability that you will not lose your initial investment and a 95% probability that you will quadruple that investment.

        Do you think that how I compute those probabilities, and the reliability of the information I use to make those computations just might be of interest to you BEFORE you make up your mind to trust me??

        Of course I am telling you that you have to invest with me within an hour or we will miss the window and I can’t provide you with verification in that time.

        Give me your money Michael.

      • I think that there is a 99% probability that you have no idea what you are talking about.

        Physical science can be checked against reality, which puts it in a different category to economics. In your example, if i don’t invest with you in the hour, I still have all my money.
        With climate, if we do nothing because we aren’t 100% sure whether or not to take action, or what action to take , we can be 100% certain that we continue to pump huge quantities of GHGs into the atmosphere, with a 90% likelhood that it is warming the planet.

      • Michael,

        you are right, I do not know what I am talking about. Unfortunately for you professional statisticians have looked at the IPCC report and find there is a certain lack of support for the certainty, or uncertainty, numbers they give. Convince peole like Mr. Briggs and I will have to follow along like a sheep to be sheared.

      • “All science is contingent”

        Everything is contingent (except God), Mr. Holmes. ;)

        If you want me to buy Global Warming because “science is contingent” lol you’d better go to some better seminars and get a new sales pitch, because that one doesn’t work.

        Andrew

      • Any consideration of defining a process where it is decided if there IS enough reason to present something to the policy makers in the first place??

        Y’all are still way over there on the fringe where you apparently think there is something the policy makers need to do!! Many of us are over here where we think the policy makers need to go on vacation till after their natural term of life ends.

      • kuhnkat,

        I think these busybodies need somethin’ to do. Get out and learn a trade or find a hobby or something already. Find something constructive to do with your life.

        Andrew

      • A well-paid vacation, with their pockets lined by their friends in the energy industry who they have for decades treated as corporate charities, and set up a friendly infrastructure with intrinsic subsidies for, arguing that cheap energy for them to rake in profits on now is well worth picking the pockets of other people’s children?

        Before they go, they need to clean up the mess, no?

      • Bart R,

        If it could be guaranteed they had no more input I would just be happy for them to go, along with their corporate and institutional cronies of course.

      • kk

        It ever work out that way, so far as you’ve seen?

      • And they weren’t proposing to use science to study complex systems, the politics of climate, and the uncertainty within climate science?

        There are certainly limits to science but does the quote in this post really stack up when it has the scientific method applied to it?

        So often people forget that meta systems are susceptible to rational analysis too.

  25. With respect to the way we debate/decide these issues, compared to others, there are commonalities between climate change and other issues which are dominated by emotion (not facts). For example, certain people are convinced that they are going to be poisoned by food and so become “organic” or something. If they try to convince you, their argument is pure emotion (fear) and handwaving–no data. Similarly for child vaccinations risk. When the “arguments” put forth are like this, it gives a clue to the nature of the POV of the debater. Now let us examine climate change. There is much press coverage of claims of catastrophe, and yet perusal of even the IPCC report does not show catastrophe, merely inconvenience (even if forecasts were true), and actual data on tornado frequency or flood freq or drought or anything does not show any trends over the past century. Thus we are presented with a “fear” argument based on “take my word for it” catastrophes which can neither be documented nor are they certain nor severe. This then is not a policy debate about what to do in the practical world, but is a world-view debate about the evilness of humanity and how we must change our ways. As long as proponents of social change continue to claim we are about to exterminate all life on earth or that sea level will rise 20 ft in the next 90 yrs, we are facing a debating tactic of unfounded fear as a power grab. AND these people (Gore, for example, or Hansen) refuse to even debate because they do not want to engage in decision making, they want to define what must be done strictly on their own terms.

    • John F. Pittman

      With respect to POV, I think this thread misses an important point, though it was touched on briefly by Craig and others. There appears to be a misconception, or mis-identification of the Rio Declaration. Whether it was meant to be, or not, the declaration replaces the methodology of what worked previously in the environmental arena, with an untested, or worse failed methodology. It was a stealth regulation, though some may quibble it is a wannabe regulation. The methodology previously embodied in the environmental law was the finding of harm. This was replaced, or is being tried to be replaced with the precautionary principle. In the previous methodology, stakeholders, which included those opposed to the regulations, could fight, but did so against a proven harm, where measurements that could be and were made, and results that could be tabulated and compared. The science could be audited and often was. In contrast, how does one measure an unknown, and the policy success from one’s adherence to it?

      For example, I will contend that warmer is better for known physical reasons, just as sure as CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas. In biological systems, though we most often refer to sunshine as the source of all life, it is energy. Or more correctly, available usable energy is that source of life. A typical example of this is that at 65F certain species will become able to start their reproduction cycle, or store energy in some adapted form. All things being equal, a warmer world will mean that these species will benefit. The problem of the precautionary principle is that one can make assumptions of the unknown, and come up with two legitimate, opposite solutions. The IPCC has made one, I just made another. If we actually include the extent of human knowledge that we do know and the impact of our activities, we should conclude that there are these two legitimate, but opposite solutions. But it will also force us, or it should, to admit the depth of what we do not know. As Craig has pointed out, we know that species not only survived at warmer temperatures, they thrived. Thus my argument is that the Rio Declaration and AGW as presented presuppose a knowledge for policy that does not exist, or can yield opposite legitimate solutions for policy if examined openly. Note that both may be real. We may equally well spend or waste the money if we control CO2, or we may equally well spend or waste the money if we go BAU. How does one expect the consensus to agree to this? As this would be an expected outcome of option 3, will the implications of its wickedness be accepted?

      The untried or failed methodology is the autocratic implementation envisioned by the IPCC and its version of cap and trade. The truth of the environment is that the poor can not afford to preserve it, and autocrats cannot or will not protect it. Yet the Rio Declaration embodies this, and this is the policy that was pushed unsuccessfully at Copenhagen.

      In the real world, where based on past geologic change, we know that an ice age will occur. We do not know for sure that there are going to be catastrophic effects of CO2. We have measured those ice age changes, we have not measured such catastrophic changes as have been hypothesized for our emissions of CO2. Will such openness of what we know lead to the logical conclusion that it should, that we should support BAU? If it does not, doesn’t it mean it has failed the reality test? If we refuse to start with BAU as the preferred solution, what does that tell us of the assumptions, or worse the refusal to adhere to strategy in a workable manner? This does not mean we will end up with that conclusion, but that it is where to start.

  26. The paucity of experimental evidence in climatology should in fairly short order be partly remedied. We know that global cloud cover has decreased about 4% since satellite measurements became available in 1985. This occurred during a period of exceptionally vigorous solar cycle maxima. We are now looking at what is shaping up to be a grand minimum the like of which hasn’t been seen in living memory. Nature altered an independent variable in a dramatic fashion. What, if anything, will be the consequences? Will cloud cover increase? Will GMST trend downwards? Global circulation models offer no answer as changes in solar irradiance are treated as so trivial as to be irrelevant. Will Svensmark be vindicated? Time now will surely tell.

    Before long we should see results from the CERN CLOUD experiment that may greatly improve our understanding of atmospheric microphysics. The ARGO system has been fully operational for three years. Let’s give it another ten. The PDO has gone into its cool mode. What will that bring?The trend in GMST has been flat for a decade. Over the next decade will it remain the same, go up or go down? It is hard to imagine a twenty year period with no upward or downward trend. Things like that only happen in the entrails of the Mann Hockey Stick. There is a whole bunch of uncertainty out there, isn’t there? And a lot it defies quantification and is immune to expert judgement.

    In terms of policy there is a difference between the wait and see and do nothing options. Tallbloke’s suggestion that multiple parallel and — one would hope — competing lines of investigation should be funded is sound. We have at least two competing paradigms of climate change. One is anthropocentric and its competitor is naturalistic. The first would lead us to believe that the primary forcing agent in climate change is CO2. The second would lead us to believe that solar activity and cyclical changes in ocean current systems are the primary drivers with CO2 at best a bit player. They can’t be both right and the only way to sort them out is through future observations and analysis. So, let’s share the research grant wealth more equitably and let the best paradigm win.

    You don’t need PNS in order to figure out that wait and see is the only sensible climate policy for now. Common sense will suffice.

    • Hi Ken,

      I think we can couch it in terms more palatable to the people who will need to have a face saving position than that. By doing some proper research and assessment on the solar-oceanic hypothesis we can provide a better estimate of natural variability, which can then be subtracted from the co2 forcing computed with no natural oscillation, taking into account Nir Shaviv’s findings ref cloud feedback to solar activity in his JGR paper on using the oceans as a calorimeter.

      Then we can get a better idea of how much of a problem co2 is, if it is a problem at all.

      • Can you give us a URL for the Shaviv paper?

      • Sure, it’s linked on his blog at this page:
        http://www.sciencebits.com/calorimeter, which provides a useful summary.

      • Tallbroke, I agree with Ken. They give the world climategate, Hanson, Mann, Jones, Trenberth and the rest of the post-normalist hucksters and you think they need to save face. Occum’s Razor, tallbroke. Do the simple experiment for 30 years and let the data speak for itself. Enough of the seminar-laden psychobabble.

      • Blob, I understand your frustration and anger, but since the people channeling the funding for the science to be done don’t think we have 30 years to spare, we have to work out a way to make the best of a bad job and box clever while we do it.

        Of course, the Republican majority might simply decide to stop funding climate science altogether, because of the actions of the people you name. This would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater in my opinion. So I’m in favour of trying an approach which advances the science, rather than bringing it to a dead end.

        You may disagree, and you are as entitled to your opinion as I am to mine.

      • Tallbroke, I trust the Blob was a typo. Nah, not angry, just frustrated over the nonscientific, hyper-politicization of the AGW issue. Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all opposed to funding climate science such as sat temps, PDO, AMO, ocean-atmosphere interactions, aerosols, feedbacks, honest surface temps, etc. We all benefit from knowledge gained here. At the same time we all know that central political argument is CO2. Why not advocate for the simple experiment. Ten years have already passed were no correlation exist between CO2 and temps. Rather than spend enormous resources on mitigation efforts of dubious benefit, 20 additional years of proper science is a logical approach. If after 30 years there is a significant relationship between temps and CO2, I will be the first to jump on board with mitigation. No one believes that will be too late. If it turns out that there is no significant relationship, well then drill, baby drill.

      • “Tallbroke, I trust the Blob was a typo”

        Heh. I give as good as I get. :)

        “Why not advocate for the simple experiment. Ten years have already passed were no correlation exist between CO2 and temps.”

        I asked Hans von Storch at the Lisbon conference how many years it would be before AGW was falsified if temperatures stayed flat or fell. He said the data was too uncertain to be sure. I wonder if he self realised the irony of invoking uncertainty to keep the AGW meme alive. I didn’t get the chance to pursue the issue as this was during the coffee break at the public event on the last day. He skidaddled immediately after it.

        This is why I’m working on my solar system dynamics theory of climate change. If I can prove that solar activity is modulated by the motion of the solar system masses and their associated fields, we will be able to accurately hindcast solar activity and get a better idea of its correlation with climate changes. Hopefully that might short circuit the need for your 30 years of accurate data, although getting from reconstructed changes in TSI to temperature with an uncertain sensitivity value will prove to be a challenge.

      • Thanks Tallbroke. I will follow your work on solar masses. I agree with you that if successful, to be able to hindcast solar activity with climate would be seminal. Yours truly, Blob

      • tb “This is why I’m working on my solar system dynamics theory of climate change. ” I’ll be interested to see how the Italian Flag treats 2 or more rival hypotheses and 2 or more nulls.

      • I will be getting to Part II of IF hopefully next week (this is relevant to my tardy submission to the special issue in Climate Change on framing and communicating uncertainty to the IPCC)

  27. Judith: I very much appreciate the dropping of the PNS labels – it brings in too many surplus issues. At the same time, I am not sure why there should be a generalized solution to addressing big complex societal problems that abound with uncertainties as to nature, causes and possible solutions. All three (if not more) of the strategies may be relevant under particular conditions.
    I think Steve Mosher’s point about not limiting the possible solution set(s) deserves more discussion.
    I also believe that there is a danger of “target fixation” or an overly narrow definition of the problem as if there is only one problem.

    • The resilience and robustness strategies leave room for many different options. This is the intended topic of my post on decision making under climate uncertainty part II, which i despair of getting to.

      • It’s only a personal opinion but I don’t think you should despair. I think many more are now interested and engaged on uncertainty. We realise that a new language is needed and I for one am open to the contributions of Ravetz and friends. There is a good deal to learn and you have earned the trust of many. Most of all, those without a voice – those without electricity, for example – need you to get these answers right. I say you and I mean plural. If you can find any others like you.

      • Here is a summary of our “Uncertainty and Climate Change Adaptation” scoping study. It links the type of uncertainty that dominates in the adaptation challenge at hand to the choice of a suitable policy strategy to address these uncertainties, including robust decision making and resilience.

      • Do you have a scoping study for policy? Is a policy change mandated by something? What are the uncertainties in the policy paths? It seems one can be wound up in gyers of dulling lucubrations seeking a way through this.

  28. Roger Andrews

    The introduction to this thread contains the following statement: “… it is necessary to make climate science less political. This can be accomplished by offering room for dissent within climate science and communicating about it with policymakers.” But this goal can be accomplished only if policymakers consider the implications of the scientific dissent communicated to them and make rational decisions on the basis of it, and so far their track record in this context has not been exactly stellar.

    The fundamental problem is that policymakers don’t want to hear about dissent and uncertainty – they must either be in favor of something or against it, and gray areas don’t help. And after having removed the gray areas to their own satisfaction almost all of them seem to have come out in favor of action to “combat” global warming. But to justify the need for such action they then feel compelled to make claims of looming climate catastrophe that admit of no scientific uncertainty whatsoever. For example:

    Barack Obama: “Not only is it (global warming) real, it’s here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.”

    Tony Blair: “Global warming is too serious for the world any longer to ignore its danger.”

    Bill Clinton: “It’s the only thing that I believe has the power to fundamentally end the march of civilization as we know it.”

    Ban Ki-moon: “The danger posed by war to all of humanity – and to our planet – is at least matched by the climate crisis and global warming.”

    Even more remarkable are the specific claims that extend the limits of scientific certainty beyond those that climate science has so far been able to establish. For example Angela Merkel: “We have no time to lose … global warming must not exceed two degrees Celsius.” Nicolas Sarkozy: “We know that we have to limit it to 2 degrees and that if we don’t succeed, it will be a disaster.” Joe Biden: “We know what the cause (of global warming) is. The cause is manmade. That’s the cause. That’s why the polar icecap is melting.”

    It’s always been unclear to me why world leaders should have chosen to embrace worst-case climate change scenarios that are at best weakly supported by the scientific evidence when they could as easily have used best-case scenarios as an excuse for doing nothing. But embrace them they have, and this raises the question of whether we could expect anything different if we did succeed in presenting them with estimates of uncertainties that included a wider spectrum of scientific opinion . I venture to suggest that they would ignore these estimates too and continue to embrace whatever policy position they found most politically convenient.

    • Roger, that IS a rather sticky wicket eh wot??

      While Dr. Curry and the other rational types try to corral all us wacko sceptics the AGW types and politicians continue to bull ahead with insane policies that are doing so much damage to the economies of the world.

      • Roger Andrews

        kuhnkat

        Well, I don’t know that I’m a “wacko sceptic”. There are in fact some aspects of global warming theory that I happen to agree with. All I was trying to point out was that simply doing a better job of communicating uncertainties to policymakers was unlikely to achieve much. We would in fact do better to try to communicate them to the people who elect the policymakers.

      • Apologies for the flowery language. You are right.

    • Roger, you are right about politicians wanting binary, yes/no, points.

      But what is amusing is that as the air has gone out of the AGW hysteria, the political cost of “doing nothing” has dropped as fast as the price of a carbon credit.

      At this point, President Obama can deliver a State of the Union Address without mentioning climate change and it barely causes a ripple. Politically, for better or worse, climate change is a dead letter.

      Which, I suspect, will be good for climate science as the scientists will not be under so much pressure to back up the scare of the moment stories and we will, slowly have less of the Chicago blizzard = Global Warming, Yasi=Global Warming nonsense.

      In conditions of significant uncertainty the correct policy response is to do nothing and await further evidence. It is not to incur substantial and irrecoverable costs on a long shot bet.

      • I realize you may have better arguments, though I haven’t seen them, but this kind of thing is used so often as the “closer” (of debate), that merits some comment:
        “(1) In conditions of significant uncertainty the correct policy response is to do nothing and await further evidence. (2)It is not to incur substantial and irrecoverable costs on a long shot bet.”

        W.r.t. (1). A doctor says you have a tumour and there is a 70% chance it will kill you. That is “significant uncertainty” about whether you need to do anything or not.
        W.r.t. (2) Here you introduce a sort of bait-and-switch. Acting on a 70% chance you will die is not taking a “long shot”. So there is really a big disconnect between (1) and (2). Now you may retreat to other ground, but for the moment I’m critiquing this particular logic to see whether we should discontinue it, or cross it off whenever we see it.

        Now, to complicate matters further, the doctor is vastly oversimplifying when he says there is a 70% chance. He is thinking “It may be this, it may be that, it might mutate; your immune system might react this way or that way”. I don’t blame the doctor for this. He is doing some mental weighing; doing a sort of weighted averaging of different models where at least there may be probabilities of a certain outcome for a certain age group. Now it might be worth looking at some of his thought process, depending on how well I am able to follow them. Maybe on one point I would think “My uncle died of X and you can get his charts from Dr. Y.” So then it would have been worthwhile going into the deep weeds.

        But the argument “there’s some uncertainty therefore it’s obvious we should wait for certainty” which may never come, or may come far too late is worthless, and I will simply cross if of if I’m reading a paper, and if the person has nothing else to say, then they have nothing to say, period.

      • However, the physician has not derived his estimate of uncertainty from a computer model with no predictive validity. It is based instead on clinical experience. Based on following x number of cases over y period of time, tumors of this kind became malignant 70% of the time. There is no comparable process in climatology.

        Your example is ill chosen and entirely irrelevant.

      • In that case, by your own criteria, there’s no need for action on AGW because the case for the actions that have been proposed rates far below 70% certainty.

        OTOH, you fail to specify “what ” action you would take. So there’s no way for anyone to determine if your preferred action would be reasonable or viable.

      • Roger Andrews

        inpostion

        I don’t think all the air has gone out of “AGW hysteria” yet, but I suspect that it probably soon will. And once it does I agree that scientists will be able to consider things more objectively. The question, however, is whether there will be enough funding left to consider things.

    • Roger
      I don’t think we should be suprised that politicians want a simple yes/no type of analysis to inform policy making. IMHO, politicians will always seek to justify their policy position in the most robust terms in whatever field we are talking about. If they don’t, then opponents will try to unpick the basis of a proponent’s viewpoint. In climate science this has led to the unequivocal political statements you have highlighted in your comment. In other words, science can highlight all the uncertainy it likes, but policy makers will twist it into a strong position one way or another. Not sure therefore, whether any of Judith’s 3 methodologies could be made to work as they assume that politicians seek the same intellectual integrity as scientists.

    • How could the motivation be unclear? Ask which position transfers the most power to government.

      • Roger Andrews

        Well yes, there is that. And if we accept that politicians are indeed interested only in power then it becomes pointless to try to educate them in the intricacies of climate science. They just won’t want to know.

      • That assumption is of course absurd. You have no data to even begin to think that most politicians are interested only in power.

  29. Lubos Motl shared a letter from a group of 18 climate scientists sent to US Congress (http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/141453-scientists-put-aside-politics-and-focus-on-climate-science).
    I think the content, choice of words and general tone illustrates how far apart the different players are with respect to the scientific facts, the risks associated with whatever the “facts” are, and how scientists can best communicate to our political leaders.

  30. I really think people are maiking much more of the situation than is really there. People (including scientists engaged in research) have been making decisions with incomplete and uncertain information for centuries. Not only is ther no need for a “new” process, the 3 options discussed above don’t encompass existing approaches which appear to be better than these proposals.

    Everyone keeps making the same mistakes over and over – merging the scientific definition of a problem with identifying the solution of the problem. These are two very different questions with very different scientific input and decision making characteristics. On top of it, the AGW problem has been defined in a way that says what the solution is – an absolute no no (example: problem- my car isn’t going fast enough solution – go faster).

    All I’ll say further on the topic is consensus approaches tend to lead to risky shifts and lower quality solutions, but make implementation of more risky, lower quality solutions more platable to the people involved.

  31. One of the major problems for scientists right now is their image of no longer being honest brokers of science.

    http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/interesting-information-in-eos-on-the-interface-of-climate-science-with-the-public-and-policymakers/

    When half the scientists at this AGU session think it was OK for Al to “stretch the truth” in his alledged documentary, I think we have found the real problem. The scientists no longer have respectability or veracity for us to honour. They need to clean their stables before they will make any headway.

    • Yes, kuhnkat, that is the problem.

      Government-paid scientists have been trained with grant funds the way Pavlov’s dogs were trained with dog biscuits.

      Former President Eisenhower warned of this danger on 17 Jan 1961 (See video above).

      Exactly forty-two years later, Dr. Michael Crichton noted this root cause of the AGW scare in his Michelin Lecture at Caltech on 17 Jan 2003 (See text quoted above).

      His book on this subject, “State of Fear”, was published in 2004.

      The validity of Eisenhower’s and Crichton’s concerns were documented in e-mail messages that were made public five years later – in 2009.

      Despite all the hand-wringing, the climate scandal will probably hasten the day when NAS , NASA, DOE, etc. admit that they have deceived the public about the nature Earth’s heat source – the Sun.

      http://arxiv.org/pdf/0905.0704

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

    • I followed the link you gave; no documentary is mentioned; I search for “documentary” the word isn’t there. The informal poll in which there was about a 50:50 split on whether it was “alright” to stretch the truth concerned the fictional movie “The Day After Tomorrow” (I never saw it; it sounded pretty stupid and likely to muddy the waters). Anyway, I wouldn’t put too much stock in what people think is alright to do in a fictional movie.

  32. Of course, a deliberative model is all about institutionalized discourse (Habermas, Rawls, Kant). It requires free and equal participants, and doesn’t work if there is missing information, or powerful interests influencing discourse.

    Real skeptics are responsible people: they appreciate mistakes made on their ‘side’, and recognize that value conflicts accompany all problem identification, and solutions or actions.

    I am always surprised when people argue that ‘the environmental lobby/AGW has a lot of political power. Do we see strong environmental regulation? Do we see legally binding targets? No and no. Exactly what kind of political power it is that for three decades has had little representation in government or influence on government decision-making, is a bit of a mystery.

    There are numerous evidential lines of causation of the current warming, pointing to human activity. We can’t be completely sure what would happen in the event of a nuclear bomb, either – but science gives us a pretty good idea, even if it’s not all settled.

    The resilience approach is good as far as it goes, and scientists will continue to correct errors. It recognizes that the basic science, with uncertainties, is in. Responsible and informed skeptics do not deny the basics and they will participate in peer reviewed science and solutions-focused initiatives.

    The concept of resilience also appreciates that there are strong links between healthy ecosystems and healthy communities. As those in development or public health are aware, local initiatives have been developing for years, despite the lack of international agreements to address climate change and other impacts on natural resilience and biodiversity.

    Communities have been moving forward with conservation, energy independence, local agriculture, and resilience initiatives without the ‘permission’ of those in power. This sort of action is part of participatory democracy, but absent from an institutionalized deliberative framework.

    • Martha:
      As someone who has some land I am trying to develop I can assure that there are plenty of environmental regulations – some thoughtful, many over-reaches and of questionable value.
      The power and resources of the environmental lobby are significant and they are very influential within the political process – Al Gore being a prime example.
      My preference for thinking about the nature of effective discourse, decision-making and problem-solving is to focus on the interpersonal level – not the institutional level – Argyris rather than Habermas.

    • John F. Pittman

      Martha
      as an environmental engineer I can attest your knowledge is lacking. One need only consider the Clean Water Act, RCRA (resource conservation), CERCLA and amendments (Superfund), SARA (community-right-to-know), Clean Air Act and amendments, Organic and Synthetic Fiber Rules, Montreal Protocol, etc, to show that the environmental lobby has had a lot of success. And in case you did not see the ruling, a US court just ruled that EPA was within its legal rights to pursue the Greenhouse Gas Rules. You will find it in today’s WSJ.

      I would need clarification of what you mean by strong, since for the regulations except for the just started GHR, people have been sent to jail, and audits of the receptive media show that pollution is down as measured in air, water, and groundwater that were regulated under the current regulations. The bindings were strong enough to send people to prison. Also, most of these regulations have come into force either in the last three decades or even before.

      • Bernie and John,

        My response is ‘yes, but’… :-)

        First, I do not see the world as just made up of the United States.

        Second, just within the United States, I think we should consider both national and local perspectives, and the situation of specific industries, when we discuss the overall strength or weakness of protections.

        In some sectors, especially for some sectors governed by both EPA regulations and local environmental legislation, protection law is strong. There are national standards related to air, water and food quality that have effectively advanced standards that I don’t think we would want to be without.

        On the other hand, for example, we have a coal ash disposal crisis in the U.S. despite the EPA. Protection is only as good as the interests it chooses to protect.

        The concept of environmental protection includes climate bills. We don’t have one.

        And of course, corporations with lots of money just accept paying fines for regulatory violations as the cost of doing business and/or go to other countries to pollute freely.

        Since federal environmental laws are just a part of global and local environmental protection legislation, I prefer to try to consider the whole picture to assess relative strength or weakness of even national protections. States and local governments are mandated to pass their own regulations, as identified by communities. However, in the absence of national regulations in many sectors e.g. the coal industry, and in the absence in many states of locally developed regulations and mechanisms for enforcement of state standards, much pollution continues.

        I appreciate examples and the plight of some individual landowners. I think there are indivicual situations that result from local legislation that are unfair, at least from an individual perspective. Overall, however, the activity of environmental protection is designed to regulate and reduce harm from industry and motivate environmental and social responsibility.

        Is it doing that? I would say the network of protections is weak and lacks coherence, but specific protections are strong.

        Maybe that clarifies my comments for you, John. Maybe we do not share a similar perspective or focus.

        Bernie, do you mean the empowerment approach of Chris Argyris? Or do you mean some other Argyris?

      • John F. Pittman

        My claim did not indicate that the US was the world. I did indicate where a working environmental system was working. Your claim did not indicate that it was world wide you were watching. You asked “”Do we see legally binding targets? No and no.”” I provided information contradicting such a claim. If it is only about GHG I will use your same reasoning, AGW is not the world’s only environmental issue. :) Your point of considering local issues as well as national is a requirement in the promulgation of regulations. States can pass stricter regulations and have. Some of the laws such as the Clean Water Act have mechanisms where the public can make EPA and the state regulatory agency enforce the regulations or face possible punitive damages in court. As to specifics, the Organic and Synthetic Fiber Rules were for a specific industry. SO I can tell in the United States it has not only been considered, but there are regulatory options available to the public for those who do not comply.

        Your example of one potential failure, coal ash is just that, a potential failure. The coal ash has been a problem in the cases I am familiar with due to the small provable harm. There have been certain exceptions, but with maximum contaminant level (MCL’s), if one so much as stores it incorrectly, one can be made to clean and treat. That I can attest to, because I have been involved where those who incorrectly stored coal ash were made to clean up and pay. The disposal problem I am aware of is NIMBY, Not in My Back Yard, more so than a real environmental threat. Because, I can attest that if metals from coal ash disposal meet MCL in water or groundwater, the public can force cleanup or seek punitive damages. The protection is afforded by the harm not the interests. That is an incorrect statement as far as I know. If you know a case, link it please.

        We do not have a bill due to a political failure, if you want to call it a failure, not environmental. The finding of harm of CO2 is being contested, and has not made its way through the courts. The US politicians did not reach agreement. Though you may think that the concept of protection includes climate bills, under US law, there has to be a finding of harm. If the critics are correct and EPA tried to sneak in the Precautionary Principle, then the courts may well find, that climate bills are NOT an environmental issue, yet. And until harm is found, unless you get the politicians to agree to it, the EPA could have the courts tie their hands on the matter since it would not be an environmental concern. On the other hand, the EPA has already won on one issue, which does indicate that EPA is trying to develop protection, And yes, it will apply to the US and not the world. But note Copenhagen was the world, and they failed to reach agreement. But perhaps the people at Copenhagen, thought the US was the world.

        If it is cheaper to pay fines, they cannot be doing too much damage or the fines would mount astronomically. They do go to other countries, such as China, and yes, it was argued to accept less strict regulations to keep industry in such places as the US, but it lost. This should be considered a SIW, a self inflicted wound. Because many of the pollutants do effect the world, and the comparative emission pollution rate for China versus the US is 2 to 10 times as much for the same goods produced for bio-magnifying, accumulating pollutants. I found that study a while back.

        If coal ash is an measurable environmental problem of known harm, it is regulated by the EPA. It is certainly regulated in terms of reporting for the listed industries under SARA. The part of coal ash problems I know of are regulated, so I cannot address your point, and instead have found coal ash has been addressed. That you disagree, does not make it the environmental regulation of coal ash false, but rather you wish a different result. If it is an exemption for power companies, that is a political issue, not an environmental issue.

        The cases I know of individual landowners also falls into that category you alluded to. The US is not the world, and one individual landowner is not the environment. That pot – kettle idiom.

        I would say you offer little to back up your contention that the network of protections are weak and lack coherence, while admitting specific protections are strong. Environmental law and regulations are quite specific. It has not been their weakness, but their strength. When the finding of harm is made, either there has to be Congressional intervention, or legal fault with the finding, or the regulations that do carry prison sentences will be promulgated.

        My perspective is from found harm. If harm has not been found, in that sense it is not environmental. My focus is on systematic betterment. And though it could be that GHG will not be found as harmful now, that does not mean GHG will not be found harmful in the future. And that is one of the powerful aspect of the finding of harm, if true, EPA can get it done after not being successful the first, second, or how many times.

        But of course, this applies to the US and not the world. I believe that the world failed at Cancun as well.

    • There are numerous evidential lines of causation of the current warming, pointing to human activity.

      Sorry, no, there aren’t. There is not, in fact, even one. All of the available evidence — in fact, “numerous evidential lines” ranging from satellite data to ARGO buoys to historical weather balloon data to South African stalagmites point to natural variation due principally to changes in solar activity and other cosmological causes; none carries even the slightest suggestion that CO2 might be causally involved.

      This is why the only portion of the UN’s AR4 relevant to the question of causation — WGI, Ch. 9 — presents no actual evidence, or even references to possible evidence, but simply cites the models under a thick layer of sciency bafflegab.

      I’m afraid you have been misled, Martha, by propaganda. And this is my entire case against the whole notion of “reconciliation” in science. Michelson and Morley didn’t go out and hire PR consultants to convince the public of the existence of the aether; they designed and performed an ingenious experiment. And when the results were unexpected, they published them in great detail anyway, even though the conclusion contradicted the “consensus” of the time. They did not undertake an effort to “reconcile” with believers in the aether, nor did the “consensus” undertake to stifle their publication or “reconcile” with them.

      But then, these were actual scientists.

  33. “There are numerous evidential lines of causation of the current warming, pointing to human activity. ”

    Two points:

    1) The world is not currently warming in any statistically significant way, and hasn’t been for over 10 years.

    2) There are numerous evidential lines of causation of the recent warming, pointing to natural variation too, but proper assessment of them has been excluded from the policy making process by those who only want one side of the story to be heard by policy makers.

      • 1) Grant’s formulation is rather similar to Trenberth upending the scientific method by declaring the null hypothesis should be reversed.

        2) Conclusion number one from the linked NASA workshop:
        “The relative shortness and quality of the instrumentmeasured climate record only allows us to quantify characteristics of climate variability at timescales up to 10–20 yr.”

        Uh huh. Colour me unimpressed.

      • tallbloke is unimpressed. Colour me…unsurprised.

        Other readers may get more out of those links.

      • What I get is that AGW hypesters are desperately trying to control how their work is reviewed and audited.
        There is a lot of smoke, in other words.
        Maybe there is a fire.
        That they are terribly wrong about the doom they have been peddling is clear to anyone paying attention.

    • steven mosher

      “1) The world is not currently warming in any statistically significant way, and hasn’t been for over 10 years.”

      You realize of course that if the secular trend from AGW is lower than the IPCC thinks and natural variability is larger than they think, then you will of course find short periods where warming apparently stalls.

      • Works for me. Except warming hasn’t ‘apparently stalled’. It HAS stalled.

        Or maybe for you ‘warming’ is shorthand for ‘alleged anthropogenic warming’?

      • steven mosher

        Dont be so sure that it has stalled. Once you include the proper amount of uncertainty you will see that the error bars support an upward trend.

        ha, did you think that the same claim you make for TSI could not also be applied to the global record? that is, within the error bars there is a positive probability that the trend is still up.

        neat trick huh?

        wink

      • The linear trend over the sunspot record from 1749 rises from around 40SSN (around my empirically determined ocean equilibrium value) to 63SSN just before the big crash in solar activity in 2004. Leif thinks the early records need upping to match the modern record. But then a couple of years ago he was saying the SSN during the Dalton minimum was too low, and the sun doesn’t vary that much. The current low cycle 24 looks like it will be even lower than the Dalton sunspot count, so his hypothesis is falsified if the present cycle doesn’t pick up.

        This changes everything, and explains why Leif is keen to have every tiny speck appearing on the sun counted as a sunspot, even though they weren’t counted in the past.

        The error bars in temperature measurement are significantly reduced by the satellite age. You can say it’s still warming at the rate it was during the 90’s while the cloud cover was reduced if you like, but don’t be surprised if folks point and laugh. ;)

      • steven mosher

        Sorry, you said it wasnt warming in the past 10 years.

        I pointed out a “trick” you have tried to use to support your position where you argue that the trend consistent with your hypothesis is consistent with the error bounds of the secular trend in TSI.

        But if you prefer satillite data for the globe, then
        1. RSS is positive (without your trick) over the last 10 years.

        http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/rss/from:2000/to:2011/every/offset:%20/plot/rss/from:2000/to:2011/trend/plot/gistemp/from:1979/to:2010/trend/plot/rss/from:1979/to:2010/trend

        And this is a nice piece of analysis for hadcrut.

        http://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/phil-jones-was-wrong/#more-3350

        You see the problem with short tterm trends is that the error bounds are huge. you’d find similar trend error bars for RSS.

      • Steve Mosher
        “Sorry, you said it wasnt warming in the past 10 years.”

        I said there wasn’t any statistical significance to temperature trend in the last ten years. Difference.

        “I pointed out a “trick” you have tried to use to support your position where you argue that the trend consistent with your hypothesis is consistent with the error bounds of the secular trend in TSI.”

        What I pointed out to you at the conference was that the sun would have had to change so little in the last 250 years that it was possible to argue it made no difference to or could account for all the warming trend since the little ice age within its error bounds. However, if you look at my latest post, you’ll see that the long accepted SIDC sunspot series secular increase is consitent with my hypothesis.
        http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/the-sun-climate-link-brief-synopsis/

        I agree that the shorter the trend the bigger the uncertainties. 35 years of warming from 1978 to 2003 is hardly a convincing trend length to base big decisions on either.

      • Shouldn’t that last bit be, “25 years of warming”?

      • I will add one last gotcha.

        You point to satillite temperatures.

        Do you therefore accept all the physics required to produce them as being true? You realize that the sensors measure brightness and that physics models are required to turn that into temperatures. be careful

      • I wish you and some others wouldn’t lump all techniques, formulae and numerical analysis, whether well-tested and proven or finger-in-the-sky guesswork under the apparently ubiquitous term “model”.

        If you are trying to muddy the waters, then well done; the easily-fooled have been fooled. However, if you are truly confused then just be specific with your terminology and it’ll work wonders for you and for everyone else.

      • Now look, Steven.
        Evidence suggesting CO2 might possibly be responsible for increasing temperatures:

        Correlation between CO2 level rises and temperature rises, mid-1970s to mid-1990s (roughly two decades).

        Evidence suggesting CO2 is irrelevant to increasing temperatures on any scale of importance:

        Non-correlation in ANY other historical period or timescale, from months to millions of years.

        OK. My home is in Las Vegas. I know where I’ll put my money.

  34. Judith, I haven’t read all the comments yet, so this may be redundant.

    But under “How to act upon such uncertainty?” you list a number of possible courses of action. They don’t include any assessment of the consultants’ predictive skills. Why not? Unless this is the first time any of them has looked at such a problem (which would make them a strange choice of consultant), they will have a track record of varying degrees of success. Why should that not be the FIRST thing you ask for, and as good a guide as any to the likely accuracy of their present prediction?

    • Latimer Alder

      Good idea.

      In horse racing, only the tipsters with a decent predictive record make a living. Why is climatology any different?

  35. Judith,

    Please keep the term PNS so critical explorations of it can be openly deal with.

    PNS has some self-negating baggage that I think cannot be overcome. The baggage is tied to its roots in post-Kantian & post-modern philosophy; roots which have had a profound influence on the philosophy of science. My view is the attempt by organizers of the Lisbon Conference to revive it (PNS) into a quasi-socio-polic0-science process for matters related climate topics is self-defeating due to PNS’s self-negating roots.

    Until the roots are cleared of a bias towards European style authoritarian modes of economic/social/political action as evidenced by what we saw in Europe/Soviet Union/PRC in the late 19th and all of the 20th centuries, then PNS is stillborn wrt to future climate matters.

    An independent basis other than PNS is recommended; one based on processes derived from a much wider base within the more global Western Civilization and from within an increasingly open & transparent scientific society. The strong and accelerating renaissance/reformation I see occurring in climate science away from the problematic IPCC consensus science needs a corresponding baggage free process. The PNS process is an essential part of the previous climate science problem and should be retired.

    Happy Lunar New Year from Taipei!!!

    John

  36. Judith,

    You have not come to realize yet that past temperature data has absolutely no bearing to future projections due to the planet changing the perimeters.

  37. As JJ noted near the start of this discussion, The focus of PNS is to diminish the perceived import of uncertainty by various means, while maintaining the persuasive connotations of ‘science’.

    The statistical error (SE) on the mean value of a quantity that is defined by N measurements is approximately SE = [(N)^0.5 ]/N.

    Thus, SE ~10% for a quantity defined by 100 measurements, SE ~ 1% for a quantity that is defined by 10,000 measurements, etc.

    Having no way to reduce SE, politicians adopted PNS to reduce the perception of error by pretending that

    N = Number of consensus scientists who agree with the politicians.

    • Dear Oliver,

      “Having no way to reduce SE, politicians adopted PNS to reduce the perception of error by pretending that”

      Should read:

      “adapted Special Pleading and rebranded it PNS…..”

    • Oliver,

      Many politicians hide behind the IPCC report as a shield for the policy changes they have enacted.
      After all they are the experts…don’t ya know?

      I see this as a disaster with many lives lost for reputations being held.

  38. Hal;
    Try out the Clipmate (clipmate.com) package. It saves temp &/or perm copies of all copied material for later inspection, edit, or pasting. Also allows creation of a “new” clip, with spellcheck, which can then be directly pasted wherever you want.

    Marvelous tool I’ve used for a decade; wouldn’t be without it.

  39. A translation of the De Spiegel article is here (h/t Bishop Hill)

    http://thegwpf.org/science-news/2361-climate-war-continues-despite-reconciliation-meeting.html

    Definitely worth a read

    • Well, it is not any wonder whatsoever that ‘the climate war continues despite reconcilliation meeting’.

      The description of the meeting provided here demonstrates that it was not a reconcilliation meeting, though it was billed to the participants that way. One would not expect reconcilliation to be the product.

      The meeting was organized by proponents of ‘post normal science’, and was evidently structured according to the tenets thereof. Wholey inappropriate. ‘Post normal science’, whatever you think its merits are or are not, is a system of POLICY decision making in the ABSENCE of scientific knowledge. On the other hand, the participants in the meeting were by and large individuals who have issue over the actual science – the methodologies employed, the validity of the results presented, and the legitmacy of scientific conclusions drawn therefrom. However interesting different methods of policy analyis may be, they do not address the source of the dispute over allegedly shoddy science. No wonder reconcilliation of these issues was not forthcoming – it was not the organizing principle of the event. Not to say that such matters were not addressed (the evidently were)but rather that the framework under which they were addressed is not fundamentally concerned with such issues.

      PNS assumes that ‘facts are uncertain’, and from that determination shifts the focus on to making political decisions without facts, instead using values and ‘expertise’ and ‘extended facts’, and all manner of other non-scientific criteria. All well and good, but absolutely irrelevant to people who have a beef over the facts. PNS cannot fascillitate reconcilliation of such disputes …. to the contrary, PNS depends on the existance of such disputes to accomplish its objective of non-fact based decision making.

      It is rather like recieving marriage counseling from a divorce attorney. It may very well help you decide who gets the records collection, but that really aint what you’re there for.

      • Hi JJ,
        One of the organisers said right at the start that the purpose of the conference was not to achieve ‘reconciliation’ in the form of compromise, but to provide a space “where the fight could take place” in a civilised manner. This was on the whole successful, the attendees managed to remain polite, but firm.

      • It is also rather obvious that in addition to facts being uncertain a priori, a remedy is an imperative end point. The option to do nothing does not exist. This seems to be counter-intuitive. How can it be known a remedy is mandated if the facts are not known?

        Another scenario:

        * It is suspected that global temperatures are rising and it is abnormal and unprecedented
        * It is suspected that CO2 is involved and is the prime cause
        * It is suspected that humans contribute the anomalous CO2
        * Understanding feedback mechanisms in this complex system are impossible without a revolution the technology
        

        This has pushed us over the PNS tripping point.

        THEREFORE:

        * smart people must act absolutely to affect policy that reverse this dangerous warming trend
        

        The bullet points require no basis in fact – the consensus agrees and PNS is the enabler. With a little help from a compliant MSM and conciliatory behavior on the denier’s part, real work can happen.

        I wonder if Dr. Winston Royce had a hand in PNS evolution.

      • steven mosher

        “The description of the meeting provided here demonstrates that it was not a reconcilliation meeting, though it was billed to the participants that way.

        Wrong. It was specifically specified that the workshop would “talk” about the conditions for “talk.” Further that it was premature to discuss specific issues. They wrote: The aims of the workshop will be modest: to establish the basis for further dialogue and a more inclusive follow-up.

        “The meeting was organized by proponents of ‘post normal science’, and was evidently structured according to the tenets thereof. Wholey inappropriate. ‘Post normal science’, whatever you think its merits are or are not, is a system of POLICY decision making in the ABSENCE of scientific knowledge. ”

        Wrong again. There is no absence of scientific knowledge. All understanding is partial and contingent. Further it is not a “system”
        of policy decision making.

        “On the other hand, the participants in the meeting were by and large individuals who have issue over the actual science – the methodologies employed, the validity of the results presented, and the legitmacy of scientific conclusions drawn therefrom. However interesting different methods of policy analyis may be, they do not address the source of the dispute over allegedly shoddy science. No wonder reconcilliation of these issues was not forthcoming – it was not the organizing principle of the event.”

        Wrong. a good number of policy related issues bear directly on the science, specifically what science is done and what science is avoided.

        “PNS assumes that ‘facts are uncertain’, and from that determination shifts the focus on to making political decisions without facts, instead using values and ‘expertise’ and ‘extended facts’, and all manner of other non-scientific criteria. All well and good, but absolutely irrelevant to people who have a beef over the facts. PNS cannot fascillitate reconcilliation of such disputes …. to the contrary, PNS depends on the existance of such disputes to accomplish its objective of non-fact based decision making.”

        Wrong. PNS observes that facts are uncertain ( they always are to some extent) the most important uncertainty is the sensitivity to doubling, for example. Another fact in dispute “natural variability” So, for example, one could make a political decision to spend more time and effort and resources resolving these “facts”

      • Steve “So, for example, one could make a political decision to spend more time and effort and resources resolving these “facts””

        One could indeed. But why SHOULD one? As Latimer Alder has tirelessly pointed out, all the signs are that we would get nothing of value from our investment.

        Steve, you seem to be incapable of believing that anyone could honestly assess the climatic evidence and NOT conclude that there is some kind of a problem, however much they might dispute its extent or implications. That’s the view that got climate “science” into the state it’s in. Perpetuating it in more conciliatory tones isn’t going to fix the problem.

        The number of people who simply don’t believe that there is a problem to argue about is rising, not falling. Until you have persuaded them of the error of their ways, you don’t have the basis for any argument at all, post-normal or otherwise.

  40. My problem, like that of others here, is the very notion of “policy relevance” itself. On the basis of past performance, when a policymaker asks, “Which parts of this area are most vulnerable to nitrate pollution and need to be protected?” he will, regardless of the answer, finally choose a measure which succeeds in devastating all parts of the area with sulfate pollution but keeps his own job secure.

    If we do not know whether proposition X is true or not, then we figure out some way to test it. If we cannot perform this test until we know whether proposition Y is true or not, then we figure out some way to test Y — and so on downward recursively. Plodding, but science.

    If it’s a genuine emergency then we take immediate no-regrets measures. “Is the Nile flooding because of heavy rains in Lake Victoria, or because of seismic activity in the northern Sudan?” “I have no idea, but get back from the river, you idiot!”

    • Professor Curry,

      The Lisbon Workshop seems to have been an unsuccessful attempt to “sweep the Climategate dirt under the rug.”

      A lot of influential folks in positions of power, including world leaders and leaders of the scientific community, have good reason to be concerned.

      Climategate is just the visible tip of a cancerous growth in the scientific community that includes hiding and manipulating expensive, first-class, data from analysis of the Allende meteorite that fell in 1969, the Moon samples that were returned by the Apollo Mission later that same year, and the Genesis probe that finally entered the atmosphere of Jupiter in 1995.

      The story continues to unfold, and more will surely be revealed.

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

  41. Steve,

    “Wrong again. There is no absence of scientific knowledge.”

    Wrong. PNS does explicitly address itself to those circumstances where scientific knowledge is absent. That is in fact its organizational statement:

    “A science is in the post-normal condition when the facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent.

    All else follows from that. Your response to this point is particularly telling, as it exposes the pernicious danger of PNS. Here and several other places in the threads that address this topic, you have said:

    “All understanding is partial and contingent.”

    Or other words closely to that effect. You take that statement to be coherent with the organizational statement of PNS. That is wrong, but it is an error that even very bright persons such as yourself can be expected to make regarding PNS. And that is precisely why I object to PNS as insidious.

    First, why it is wrong to equate your epistimological claim (“All understanding is partial and contingent”) with the primary operating assumption of PNS (“facts uncertain”). Clearly, the folks who made this statement “A science is in the post-normal condition when the facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent. were attempting to make the point that PNS is not promoted for all circumstances, and thus they assume that each of those four criteria are sometimes present and sometimes not. In fact, they go on to explain that regular old ‘normal’ science that we regular old ‘normal scientists’ do is fine for other circumstances, when facts are not uncertain, or values are not in dispute, etc, etc. So they are using the term ‘facts uncertain’ to mean something very specific that only obtains some of the time, and that something is clearly not compatible with “All understanding is partial and contingent”.

    In this context, “facts uncertain” means the specific instance where “science cannot provide a conclusion”. In regular old ‘normal’ science, that is the same as “scientific knowledge is absent”, for despite the consideration that all understanding is partial and contingent, regular old ‘normal’ science has two states: “we do not know that” and “we do know that”, the difference between the two being the existance of a well stated, falsifiable hypothesis that has withstood rigorous test. When science does not have that, science must state “we do not know that”, and that is the opening that PNS seeks to fill.

    Of course, you can be forgiven for the err. PNS trades on ambiguous terms like ‘uncertain’ that have many different and important connotations in many different and important contexts in the field of science. You and other similarly bright people can be expected to run afoul of those ambiguities. And that is why PNS is pernicious. It opens the door with the promise that “PNS is only for this special circumstance, where facts are uncertain. It is not for the other times when ‘normal’ science provides the certainty that policy makers need”. Then it rips the door off the hinges when someone says “All knowledge is uncertain.” Hey Presto! Science is done for, replaced with some falderal composed of ‘quality’ and ‘expertise’ and ‘extended facts’ and ‘values’ and other non-science.

    Enough for now.

    • Steve,

      “Wrong again. There is no absence of scientific knowledge.”

      Wrong. PNS does explicitly address itself to those circumstances where scientific knowledge is absent. That is in fact its organizational statement:

      “A science is in the post-normal condition when the facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent.

      #############
      Let me make this brutally simple for you. There is a difference between the ABSENCE of knowledge and facts being uncertain. We can, for example, say that we have scientific knowledge that the average temperature on earth is between -273K and 100K and still be uncertain about the actual, factual, average.

      next you seem to have a misunderstand about the contingency of knowledge.
      NORMAL science itself admits no certainty. That is, normal science itself holds that all science is contingently true. no ‘truth” of science is certain. Things could have been otherwise and they may be otherwise. So yes all scientific knowledge is uncertain. It is never proven. It is accepted as “true” because it is useful and it has no been falsified yet. But since it is falsifiable IN PRINCIPLE it can never be certainly or necessarily true.

      • Steve–can you ever answer what policy questions/decisions you believe are so complex regarding climate change??? I keep asking and you never answer.

      • Steve,

        I’ve been in the business probably longer than you’ve been out of diapers, and I certainly do not agree with your statement,

        “NORMAL science itself admits no certainty.”

        That statement better describes the actions and attitudes that I observed in Al Gore, the UN’s IPCC, and other proponents of Post-normal science.

      • Sorry, Steve.

        Normal science admits uncertainty.

        Post-normal science gives politicians permission to proceed as if there were no uncertainty.

        Least we get further confused with double-talk and arguments over terminology, I think everyone knows that it was lock-step, consensus pseudo-science that produced the current Climategate scandal.

      • Latimer Alder

        Sorry to be picky, but I very much hope that the temperature of -273 to +100 is measured in degrees C, not degrees K. I can’t conceive of a temperature less than 0K.

      • Steve

        The weakness in this argument is “the decision is urgent”

        There is just too much uncertainty to be able to make that judgment (unless the “decision” includes: “do nothing now expect identify possible adaptation measures to be implemented if and when needed”).

        Would you include this alternate under the “urgent decisions”?

        Max

      • should be “do nothing now except identify…”

      • Steve,

        “Let me make this brutally simple for you.”

        You really need to drop the condescension. We are much closer together on this topic than you appear to realize, and where we differ is not something you comprehend yet. Assuming that I am beneath your contempt is not going to assist you in understanding that. That, and it is simply rude, and I do not deserve that. Neither do most of the people here on which that you have used that attitude.

        “There is a difference between the ABSENCE of knowledge and facts being uncertain.”

        That depends entriely on the meaning that is assigned to ‘knowledge’ and ‘facts’. Those meanings vary depending on the philosophical framework that you are operating within e.g. normal science vs PNS. It is those in some ways subtle but important changes in (and/or comingling of) meanings that I object to WRT PNS.

        “We can, for example, say that we have scientific knowledge that the average temperature on earth is between -273K and 100K and still be uncertain about the actual, factual, average.”

        More accurately, we can avoid the use of the ambiguous word ‘uncertain’ (which takes on many different meanings depending on context, and most of them are not scientific in origin) by restating your example in the terms of ‘normal science’. To wit: We know that the average temperature of the earth is between -273 and 100K. We do not know the where within that range the average temperature lies.

        Here, ‘to know’ aka ‘knowledge’ is the definition of that term used for ‘normal science’. This is not a claim to absolute truth, but nor is it wide open to any old claim. It specifically refers to the result of a vigorously tested, well stated, falsifiable hypothesis.

        Thus, in the context of ‘normal science’ there is no such thing as ‘uncertain facts’ . There are things that we know (from your example, bounds of the earth’s average temperature) and things that we do not know (a specific value for the earths average temperature within that range). Those things we know are ‘facts’. Those things that we do not know are not ‘uncertain facts’, they are not facts.

        Some questions we ask my be informed by our knowledge. To build upon your example, we may ask “Will the earths average atmospheric temperature cause the streets to run with molten rock”. If we know (‘normal science’ knowing) that the average temp is between -273 and 100K, then we can answer that question with scientific knowledge. No, the earths average temp wont do that. (Extreme values might )

        If we ask, “Will the earths average temperature melt all of the polar ice” and all we know (‘normal science’ knowing) is that the average temp is between -273 and 100K, then we cannot answer that question with scientific knowledge. The other way of saying that is that, if we answer that question, it will be in the ABSENCE of scientific knowledge. I.e. ‘uncertain facts’ = ‘absence of knowledge’. See above.

        “next you seem to have a misunderstand about the contingency of knowledge.”

        No. What I have is an understanding of the different ways that different philosophies handle the contingency of knowledge. I also understand that, although those different philosophies handle the contingency of knowledge in very different ways, they often use exactly the same terms to describe what they are doing, using very different meanings for those terms.

        “NORMAL science itself admits no certainty.”

        AKA ‘All facts are uncertain’ . Thus the PNS criterion of ‘Facts uncertain’ obtains IN EVERY CASE. It ceases to become a differentiating criterion, and the demarcation between ‘science’ and ‘post normal science’ is diminished, furthering the muddying process started by referring to something which is not ‘science’ by that name.

        You continue to illustrate my point for me.

        PNS is not science. Much of what PNS describes as ‘facts’ are not what science calls facts. ‘Uncertainty’ has meanings within PNS that are unintelligible in science.

        These things matter.

  42. many thanks to all for the continued dialogue and willingness to explore and examine the issues. I just finished this post:
    http://ecomythsmith.blogspot.com/2011/02/spencer-challenge.html
    at my own blog and realized that much of its content is as a consequence of personal reflection on the various discussion threads here.

  43. Judith

    I particularly like the “Epilogue: towards a more democratic perspective”.

    Max

  44. Joe Romm at Climate Progress has a lengthy post on the Lisbon Workshop
    http://climateprogress.org/2011/02/03/new-scientists-fred-pearce-jumps-the-shark/

    Romm says he is doing yet another post on this, can’t wait.

  45. It is not clear that uncertainty can certainly be reduced. Additional facts may in fact increase uncertainty. One of the joys of the Anthropocene is that since human actions create uncertainty, there is no certain way forward.

    • Additional facts may well increase uncertainty, just as the answers to scientific questions always spawn more questions.

    • It is not clear that uncertainty can certainly be reduced. Additional facts may in fact increase uncertainty. One of the joys of the Anthropocene is that since human actions create uncertainty, there is no certain way forward.

      This is not a new phenomenon. There has never been a certain way forward.

      Uncertainty about the future has not been created by human actions, but is a natural fact of life.

      All the expensive computer models in the world are actually no better than the oracles or prophets of earlier times in eliminating uncertainty.

      It may be true that “the more we know, the more we realize that we do not know” but this does not mean that “additional facts increase uncertainty”; they help to reduce it instead (especially if they conflict with previously held assumptions and paradigms).

      Our goal must be to reduce uncertainty to a minimum while recognizing that we can never eliminate it.

  46. “A science is in the post-normal condition when the facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent.”

    Facts are uncertain. Yes.

    Values are in dispute. Yes.

    Stakes are high. Maybe, maybe not.

    Decisions are urgent. Postulated but uncertain.

    So the only thing that really stands out here is “uncertainty”.

    And this is nothing new.

    Max

  47. Any argument that ends with (implied or explicit) “the government(s) must DO something” is a priori a bad idea. It results in stuff like unread 3000-page bills getting passed in the dead of night on a weekend.