by Judith Curry

I am trying to germinate an idea on how to move forward on the climate debate.  Bear with me through this argument, and let me know what you think.

The blame game

It has been very fashionable in recent months to analyze the failure of policies to address the global warming problem, a few examples:

  • Matt Nisbet’s analysis (discussed on this previous thread)
  • A recent article in The New Republic entitled “The blame game,” this quote sums it up:  “What the hell went wrong?
  • Greenfyre’s perspective:  it seems that few people read Greenfyre, but it is representative of the genre and more literate and entertaining than most.
  • And in terms of scholarship, this latest issue in the Sociological Quarterly.

In short, the blame is being placed on “deniers,” the mainstream media, conservatives and libertarians, and tactics used by the environmental movement itself.   The science itself is a non-issue in this matter: the incontrovertability of the Tyndall gas effect has somehow been translated into high confidence knowledge of what is going on with the climate system and what should be done about it.

Neither the scientists nor the state of the science gets any blame in these analyses.  And Climategate is typically dismissed as an insignificant factor. This is despite these findings from three recent studies:

  • Talking Past Each Other: this study found that science had a very high salience for both skeptics and “deniers” (which was not the case for the believers and convinced).
  • Climate Change: Partisanship, Understanding, and Public Opinion: “Democrats and Republicans with high confidence in their understanding [of climate science] also stand the farthest apart.”
  •  In a Michigan State University press release on a new study, lead researcherAaron M. McCright said: “Instead of a public debate about different policies to deal with global warming, a significant percentage of the American public is still debating the science. As a result, we’re failing to significantly address one of the most serious problems of our time.”
So despite what the convinced and believers say, climate science does “matter” in this debate, since it is an issue of high salience for the skeptics and deniers (the believers and convinced are in “denial” on this issue).  The influence of skeptical scientists on political and opinion leaders is arguably substantial.  So lets look at the failings of the climate scientists, in terms of making their case and garnering the public trust.  

Of nerds, smugs, and simplifiers

Andrew Revkin and Randy Olson have recent blog posts discussing “Climate, Communication, and the Nerd Loop.”  Olson’s thesis addresses the endless bemoaning of the climate community on a “failure to communicate” climate science and its risks, whereby the media is blamed, unscientific ignorati are blamed, evil corporations and libertarian think tanks are blamed, etc,

Why don’t you find out what happens when you get so overly caught up in the information of communication that nobody in the world wants to listen to you? I’m gonna start calling this “The Nerd Loop” — where cerebral people think the solutions to communication lie in being more cerebral. I’m sorry, but in general, the “thinkier” you get, the tinier your audience.

Steve McIntyre starkly disagrees with Olson’s diagnosis of the problem, in a post entitled “The Smug Loop“, and calls for an “engineering quality exposition” of the climate change science:

In my opinion climate communication has not been “cerebral” enough for professionals and scientists from other fields. . .   while the niche of professionals and scientists from other fields is not a large percentage of the total population, it is an extremely important niche for the climate communication business (not simply in its own right, but as potential opinion leaders) and one ill-served by “climate communicators”. “Emotional” messages aimed at the “general public” are not what this community wants or deserves.

In numerous essays and including my testimony, I have decried the oversimplification of climate science, the neglect of formal arguments and uncertainty management, and overconfidence in conclusions.  These are the issues that concern skeptics and scientists and professionals from other technical fields.  And these are the people that influence politicians and other thought leaders on this subject.

Regardless of what the smug simplifiers say, I maintain that the climate science “matters,” both as science qua science, in the public debate, and also to inform policy.  Hence, scientists chasing their tails to find a magic bullet communication gimmick isn’t going to have much of an effect on anything.  The key issue is this: how can academic climate scientists, scientists and professionals from other technical fields, and the technical climate blogosphere do a better job of sorting through the scientific issues and data and models surrounding climate change, make arguments with better justification, and manage the attendant uncertainties?

The climate blogosphere has demonstrated the power of the internet  in communicating climate science and auditing climate science.  Can we take this to the next level, to meet Steve McIntyre’s challenge for an “engineering quality exposition” of climate science, increase transparency, promote data mining, and actually use the internet to enable large-scale collective intelligence to address the scientific and policy challenges associated with climate change?

The polymath project and the future of science

A post at Michael Tobis’ blog entitled “Can we do this?” introduced me to Michael Nielsen, his ideas on open science enabled by the internet, and the polymath projects.  For an introduction to Nielsen’s ideas, check out the following:

One of the projects that Nielsen is involved in is the Polymath projects. 

Polymath projects are massively collaborative mathematical research programs, in which a single problem, group of problems, or other mathematical task is worked on by a large group of mathematicians. The key word here is collaborative: this is not a competition to be the first to solve the problem, but is instead a team effort, in which each partial insight or other iota of progress gained by any one participant is shared with the other participants via this blog (and also the wiki). All interested observers are welcome to jump in and participate in any of these projects, regardless of mathematical level, though it is recommended that one read and understand the guidelines here first.

From the Wikipedia:

In a 2009 post on his blog, Gowers asked the provocative question “is massively collaborative mathematics possible?” This post led to his creation of thePolymath Project, using the comment functionality of his blog to produce mathematics collaboratively.

The initial proposed problem for this project, now called Polymath1 by the Polymath community, was to find a new combinatorial proof to the density version of the Hales–Jewett theorem.  After 7 weeks, Gowers announced on his blog that the problem was “probably solved”,[5] though work would continue on both Gowers’s thread and Tao’s thread well into May 2009, some three months after the initial announcement. In total over 40 people contributed to the Polymath1 project. Both threads of the Polymath1 project have been successful, producing at least two new papers to be published under the pseudonym D.H.J Polymath.


On his thread about Michael Nielsen’s Youtube video about Polymath, Michael Tobis asks the following question:

Sustainability is in some ways a harder problem than proving a theorem, no matter how subtle the theorem. And the global conversation has bad actors, looking out for their own interests while pretending to argue for the common interest. I don’t think crowdsourcing informed wisdom is going to be easy. But what other choices are on offer?

Using the collaborative, open, internet-driven polymath model would be much more challenging for the climate problem, owing to the “wickedness” of the climate problem (for more about climate as a wicked problem, see the Hartwell paper and also my testimony). But given the wickedness, is there a better way to tackle the scientific and policy issues surrounding the climate debate than an internet-based “poly” approach?

So how might Polyclimate work?  It needs to be viewed as independent and unbiased.  People knowledgeable about open science and open knowledge would need to be involved in setting this up.  Social scientists and philosophers of science would need to be involved to assess the process and dynamics.  People active in the blogosphere are the most likely participants, initially anyways.  This could be organized by a group of climate bloggers, or by an independent group such as Berkeley Earth that secures funding from a range of sources.  A blogospheric “federation” type approach might be the way to go.  Lets discuss the possibilities.

Comments from Michael Nielsen

My post on Hidden Knowledge was spotted by Michael Neilsen, who contacted me via email.  I tried out the polyclimate idea on Michael, and he provided some initial thoughts:

I’ve written a few thoughts below as a first reaction to the idea.  It’s mostly a brain dump from my book about open science, which I’m just finishing corrections to.

A crucial question about mass collaboration is when problems can be attacked using mass collaboration, and when it will fail.  I believe the key question is whether the community involved in the collaboration has a “shared praxis” or not.  By this, I mean a powerful set of shared techniques and agreed-upon methods of reasoning which all participants agree to use.

Without this shared praxis, the community bogs down and continually fragments around basic questions.  You see this in many areas: artistic criticism, political decisions, and so on, with people disagreeing over basic values that are relevant to the problem.  This fragmentation prevents mass collaboration from being used directly to solve such problems.  (Of course, it can be used in other ways, e.g., voting is an example of mass collaboration, but it has a different function.)

But with a powerful shared praxis, the group can make nontrivial progress that everyone in the group _agrees_ is progress, and adds to the group’s collective knowledge.  Such a shared praxis is available in mathematics, and was crucial to the Polymath Project.  It meant that when individuals had clever insights, those insights could be accepted by others in the group, and added to the group’s collective knowledge.  It was that gradual agglomeration of insight that led to the success of the project.

For climate change the issue of a shared praxis seems complicated.  I think it’s pretty near a dividing line.  Reading online discussions of climate, it’s obvious that many people don’t even share the same basic modes of reasoning: what one person counts as “evidence” is ignored by others, basic standards of logic are outright ignored, and so on.  

JC’s summary

I agree that the praxis is critical, otherwise this will degenerate to the kind of discussion we had on slaying the greenhouse dragon: fun, we all probably learned something, but we didn’t really make much progress on anything.  It will be a challenge to see if we can establish a shared praxis for problems related to climate in an online forum. We would probably need to start with a problem of limited scope, where it is clear what techniques are appropriate, and what are not.  It will be a substantial challenge to establish
legitimacy and maintain a healthy community, etc, but hopefully it’s possible to overcome such problems.

Michael Tobis raises some additional relevant issues/challenges on his post entitled “Open science, but not yet.”

IMO this would be a fabulous scientific and social experiment.  I don’t want to carry this idea too far in this initial post, I think it is best to float the idea then discuss how we might approach this collectively, to develop “buy in” and build a community for this. I look forward to your ideas.

510 responses to “Polyclimate

  1. It would be nice to see some action. Energy insecurity alone should be enough, but the talk seems to never end. Oddly, many that seem to demand action now only waffle when real parts of the solution are recommended. If $5 a gallon gas can’t get someone off center, what can? Are only Treadle pumps, the future of Solar and wind mills the only acceptable options?

  2. It’s so hard for man
    To admit the humbling truth.
    We don’t know much, yet.

  3. Willis Eschenbach

    Judith, while I find the idea fascinating, I fear it may be premature.

    For example, for me the most important unanswered question is whether the earth has homeostatic phenomena that tend to keep the temperature within a fairly narrow range. As you know, I say yes, it does.

    However, this is antithetical to the prevailing paradigm, which that the climate is as mechanistically predictable as a ball on a pool table because temperature is a function of one and only one variable, forcing.

    So if we are to crowdsource understanding. I think we’d need to go way back to the start and discuss very simple questions. Because in genealogical terms, my point of view splits off from mainstream climate very early on, and so the answer to my question colors all succeeding theories and models about how climate works.

    Interesting issues, thanks for bringing them to the fore,


    • Willis Eschenbach

      I agree that the homeostatic mechanisms are a keystone to understanding the science of the polyshell.. but.

      Homeostatic mechanisms can be categorized into safety valves (the heat reaches the melting point of wax, the wax falls away and the sprinklers flood the room with water), buffers (the sacrificial anode of zinc oxidizes, preventing the steel hull from rusting), negative feedback mechanisms (as price goes up, demand falls), etc.

      However, polymaths know from countless examples across multiple fields that such homeostatic mechanisms:
      a) work only over a specific range and outside that range either have minimal effect or invert into liabilities;
      b) tend to be costly;
      c) never are perfectly efficient;
      d) are generally ablative, and not usually immediately self-resetting.

      The narrow question then isn’t is temperature a function of only one variable but, “Does temperature on the scale wherein its dominant function is of the variables we can control through decisions about emissions and land use matter?”

      I generally see no need to ask the narrow question, as it requires a great deal more skill to answer and is a good deal more specific than needed to decide the type and scope of answers about what we can control, however the bulk of the science seems to strongly support that yes, temperature matters and will burn through the homeostatis of the polyshell over the millennial scale due to those controllable but unmanaged factors of emission and resource use of the commons.

      As some commonly suggested safety valves include catastrophic cyclones, the melting of ice reserves in glaciers and polar caps, alterations of the thermocline of the seas, alteration of the heat profile of the deep ocean and thereby destabilizing deep isoclines, desertification, increased cloud and the resultant precipitation, undetermined chaotic alteration of the microbial growth of soils and the differential growth of plant species, most of which do not reset within millennia or are extremely costly, or both, isn’t the homeostatic argument at its end the same as the catastrophic argument?

    • Strange that you should mention “the climate is as mechanistically predictable as a ball on a pool table ” and climate computer models in the same comment.



    • Willis

      The point you make is so basic to the problem we have today that it hurts.

      Steve McIntyre has raised the same point.

      The simple, straightforward explanation of what makes our climate work is the existence of a system of internal checks and balances, which tend to keep things within a fairly narrow range. We see this at work on a daily basis, with clouds acting as a natural thermostat.

      On the other hand, there is the more complicated hypothesis that our planet’s climate is being whiplashed between catastrophic extremes caused by very small changes in forcing leveraged by powerful feedbacks. This is not based on real-time observations, but rather on model simulations based on interpretations of reconstructed climate swings occurring millions of years ago.

      Steve McIntyre asks simply for

      an “engineering quality” exposition of how doubled CO2 leads to (say) 3 degree C and thence to problems. More cerebral, rather than less cerebral.

      That’s a pretty basic challenge.

      Yet the proponents of the dangerous AGW premise have been unable (or unwilling) to respond to this challenge so far.

      And, until they can do so convincingly, I’ll stick with the simpler and more straightforward conclusion that our planet’s climate has its own internal “thermostats” that have kept it within fairly limited extremes, rather than the more complicated suggestion that our climate is very sensitive to small changes in forcing leveraged by strong positive feedbacks, leading to a 2xCO2 sensitivity of 3C and, hence, to a catastrophic AGW problem.

      The counterargument a) that there is no scientific explanation for “natural thermostats”, b) that they therefore cannot assume to exist and c) that the climate is therefore inherently unstable, is simply an evasion of the basic challenge.

      The challenge stands.

      Let someone respond to it (at an “engineering quality” level and in a “cerebral” rather than “emotional” fashion, as Steve has requested).

      Responses, which are simply hypothetical discussions or side-tracks, are simply diversions intended to obfuscate rather than clarify.


  4. David L. Hagen

    I second Steve McIntyre’s call for “engineering quality exposition”.

    Key issues I would like to see solved are:

    1) Causation vs consequence
    2) Causes, magnitudes and uncertainties of cloud modulation/variation
    – See work by Roy Spencer on clouds/causation, and by Henrik Svensmark on cosmoclimatology.

    Providing a resource page for related original articles, reviews, and serious technical discussion would be helpful on such issues, from all sides of the science. (Compare WUWT’s resource pages for popular info.)

    Bringing in statisticians to address uncertainties would help too.

    Cloud monitoring
    On research, I understand satellite uncertainty is currently too great to quantify cloud variation. However, digital cameras are plunging in price. Would it be possible to collaboratively develop a CCD imager to monitor both clouds and insolation? Then deploy say 10,000, akin to the argo project.
    At $100 ea x 10,000 would be about $1 million.
    Even at $500 ea x 20,000 would cost about $10 million.

    That is a very small fraction of $424 million NASA lost when the rocket failed again.

    Maintaining cleanliness, long term calibration, and statistical analysis would be major issues. e.g., could modern white light LEDs, blackbodies, and 24 bit A/Ds be used for calibration?

    • Paul Vaughan

      David L. Hagen wrote, “Bringing in statisticians to address uncertainties would help too.”

      You want more untenable assumptions underpinning nonsensical estimates? Caution sternly advised.

      • David L. Hagen

        Agreed, check with the statisticians BEFORE doing the experiment or modeling, and especially before averaging. e.g.,
        See William Briggs‘ articles Start Here e.g.,
        Do not smooth times series, you hockey puck!

        Now I’m going to tell you the great truth of time series analysis. Ready? Unless the data is measured with error, you never, ever, for no reason, under no threat, SMOOTH the series! And if for some bizarre reason you do smooth it, you absolutely on pain of death do NOT use the smoothed series as input for other analyses! . . .If, in a moment of insanity, you do smooth time series data and you do use it as input to other analyses, you dramatically increase the probability of fooling yourself! . . .No matter what you will be too certain of your final results!

        (Brigg’s emphasis)

        Do not calculate correlations after smoothing data

        In other words, smoothing induces spurious correlations. . . .
        Pass this article on to at least one person. That’s an order!

        And to ensure the message got through, see:
        Do NOT smooth time series before computing forecast skill

        The real temperature is the real temperature is the real temperature, so to smooth is to create something that is not the real temperature but a departure from the real temperature. . . . Also, to about frequency spectra, or measuring signals with noise, miss the point. Techniques to deal with those subjects can be valuable, but the uncertainty inherent in them must be carried through to the eventual verification measure, something which is almost never done.

        I trust the application to “climate change” is obvious, considering the egregious case of keeping a few outliers and excluding most of the data. (cf. search ClimateAudit.org for “Yamal”).

        So for Polyclimate, how can statisticians be brought in on the ground floor to ensure that the outcome might have some meaning?

      • Paul Vaughan

        Briggs’ conceptual understanding of the effect of windowed integration across spatiotemporal harmonics appears nonexistent. I’ve run into this even with academic statisticians. Ignorance is not the answer.

      • David Bailey

        This is spot on!

      • Paul Vaughan

        “smoothing induces spurious correlations”

        This is a common misconception that is easily disproved.

      • Paul Vaughan

        David L. Hagen asked:
        “So for Polyclimate, how can statisticians be brought in on the ground floor to ensure that the outcome might have some meaning?”

        Statisticians, perceived by many as possessing magical powers, receive FLOODS of requests for assistance. Academic training in the field of Statistics is far more abstract than what the general public imagines (…& even far more abstract than what most with a B.Sc. or M.Sc. would imagine). From a mathematicians perspective, Stats is “applied” and since many statisticians have a background in math, they also (in general) view their field as “applied”. What is needed in the climate discussion is NOT application of ABSTRACT concepts based on UNTENABLE assumptions, but rather DATA EXPLORATION (which differs fundamentally from statistical inference). NO amount of abstractly-clever parametric “uncertainty” computations can make up for OVERLOOKING key lurking variables (a responsibility of field specialists, not statistical helpers).

        I welcome participation by statisticians, physicists, etc., but I caution everyone to realize that such participation doesn’t guarantee silver bullets – or even anything meaningful – if the mainstream culture of PRETENDING untenable assumptions aren’t a problem is allowed to remain dominant. Absolute Guarantee: Statisticians will bring FLOODS of untenable assumptions to the discussion. FLOODS. To avoid being blown into an abstract realm, EVERY untenable assumption will have to be patiently & thoroughly disarmed.

        At THIS stage, the problem is not “uncertainty”, but IGNORANCE. ONLY once the ignorance problem has been overcome can we move on to meaningfully addressing uncertainty. (At that stage statisticians could be a tremendous help …but we’re categorically not there yet.)

        What we REALLY need at THIS stage is PROFOUNDLY TALENTED data explorers (ones who are wise enough to outright DISMISS all untenable assumptions). Once ignorance is overcome, the data explorers will be able to pass the torch to the statisticians, who will at THAT stage actually be empowered to make meaningful assessments of uncertainty (something which is IMPOSSIBLE given current ignorance levels).

        Best Regards.

      • David L. Hagen

        Paul Vaughan
        Thanks. I agree on needing the “data exploration” to identify variables, correlations, causation etc.
        That is why I found Ferenc Miskolczi’s approach so refreshing. He went exploring and found many interesting associations and ratios. Similarly, Svensmark and other physicists are in the throes of identifying and quantifying interaction of galactic cosmic rays on cloud formation.

        Steve McIntyre has had his hands full addressing hockey sticks and similar issues that failed to properly handle the statistics.

        Briggs has some interesting comments on moving the goal posts regarding testing climate models and failing to account for errors:
        Climate Model Uncertainty: Part I etc. Climate Model Uncertainty: Part II

        if we check the MOS against observations measured with error, and we do not account for that measurement error in the final statistics (and nobody does), then we will be too certain of the model’s accuracy in the end.

      • David L. Hagen

        William Briggs succinctly summarizes the results of grounding arguments from statistics: A Citizen’s Guide to Global Warming Evidence in his headings:
        The Earth’s climate has never been static
        AGW is not the only theory of climate change
        The accuracy of historical temperatures is questionable
        Historical temperature changes are not direct evidence of AGW
        Statements of what happens when it is hot outside are not evidence that AGW is true
        Every statement about what might happen if AGW is true is worthless
        The best indirect evidence for AGW is the fit of climate models to historical data
        There does not exist direct evidence for the truth of AGW

        Now, what can be done to properly ground Polyclimate so that it is “productive” and “effective”?

  5. This all strikes me as wonderful to the point of unrealistically utopian. When you get right down to it, what would be the incentive of establishment alarmsters to cooperate in such an endeavor? None that I can think of. Though I can think of a few major disincentives…

    So you’re talking essentially about a project run by skeptics? I mean I know that’s not the intent, but isn’t that what would happen?

    • I agree that established alarmists would not want to participate (and would need a new “communications strategy” to figure out how to dismiss this). Since the project would be hard core in terms of open data, transparency, statistical analysis, logical arguments, etc. it would hopefully attract a broad range of people interested in open science.

      • I used to think a moderated wiki addressing each individual subject on a separate page that spawned weblogs by topic for discussion would be the appropriate platform for an endeavour such as this. It would work by coloring text that had been agreed on by both skeptic and consensus holder to show agreement.

        I no longer think that there is a solution that would command respect, let alone agreement. I think that everybody has been really busy setting their feet in concrete and putting wax in their ears lest they be tempted by arguments not part of their particular orthodoxy.

        Sorry to be such a pessimist, but I think that a project such as polyclimate analysis would found on definitions.

  6. HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY: Openly admit the scare mongering and move forward. Unfortunately, that is extremely hard to do as some make their living by scare mongering.

    Failed (Mirth) Earth Day predictions

    The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age

    Feynamn’s wish:

    So I have just one wish for you–the good luck to be somewhere
    where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.

  7. I think that open source climate science will have the same deficiencies as open source software – every wants to do the fun stuff, and nobody wants to dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s, and the latter is the biggest deficiency with the IPCC approach. There needs to be a way of asserting some sort of organizational discipline and a culture of quality control. And no, I haven’t got clue one how to do that.

    Maybe studying open source software might shine some light on the subject; certain large commercially supported projects (Openoffice, Ubuntu) are relatively polished, other more obscure projects (Kicad) not so much.

    But quality issues aside, the huge problem climate science has is the activists and policy wonks wanting to wag the dog. There’s no counterpart to that in open source. Until that problem can be solved, it’s all for naught. And Wikipedia is an example of an open-sourceish project that has to fight that battle constantly (and more often than not loses).

  8. Judy – From several months of experience with this blog and your contributions to it, I sense that a Polyclimate project would be something dear to your heart, and welcomed by many intelligent web visitors interested in resolving difficult climate issues. I hope it comes to fruition and I wish you good luck with it.

    At the same time, I’m not sure that the question “What went wrong?” is completely germane, because it’s premise – that something “fixable” went wrong – is probably false. Here, I tend to agree with Pielke Jr, who I believe stated that in the minds of the public, the argument about human-induced environmental problems has long been settled and the environmentalists won – for the public at large, the issue isn’t science but policy. Similarly, I agree with Nisbet that what “went wrong” was the economy, and that in a recession, most people are loathe to see future potential threats as significant when they worry about feeding their families. For many of the partisans in web arguments, other factors such as Climategate loom large, but for the general public, these factors are rather a minor component of current public reluctance to embrace any type of climate activism. The state of the economy overwhelms other considerations.

    My own limited personal experience tends to confirm this impression. I have given talks on climate change to a number of groups, including college audiences, and I’ve found most receptive to the science, including those aware of Climategate and other human dimensions of climate controversies but not inclined to consider mainstream scientific conclusions imperiled by these other developments. I’m aware that participants here include some whose views have been radically reversed by Climategate, but I tend to believe Nisbet is correct in seeing that episode as more capable of reinforcing existing opinions than of reversing them.

    These impressions may be wrong, but if they are largely accurate, a PolyClimate project aimed at helping divergent perspectives converge on a more accurate understanding of the certainties and uncertainties of climate science will still be very much worthwhile because most of us here believe an accurate understanding to be desirable in its own right. I suspect, however, it will make less difference to the general public, including intelligent members of the public, who will find their future positions on policy guided by the same instincts driving their current positions. Economics will dominate, and for that reason, those who care about future policies may need to focus most of their communication efforts on the economic implications of climate science. That will leave more than ample room for debate and “what went wrong” accusations.

    • >Steve McIntyre’s call for “engineering quality exposition”<

      Until this issue is effectively, honestly and openly debated, the economic questions are not worth considering … there's no point

      So you're impressions are simply wrong, Freddie. IMO, you are yet again indulging in wishful thinking

    • Thanks Fred. I don’t see this as having any direct impact on the general public, but rather the technically educated public that are paying attention, who influence political and industrial thought leaders on this issue.

    • Fred:

      Something went wrong. This is that the IPCC represented that it had conducted a scientific study of the hypothesis of AGM. Unlike a scientific study, this one failed to make falsifiable claims.

  9. Thank you, Professor Curry.

    We each came to the climate debate with our own baggage.

    I am grateful, but absolutely stunned, by the information acquired here.

    I knew before the climate debate that NASA manipulated data to promote the Standard Solar Model of a hydrogen-filled Sun and misinformation about:

    a.) The Sun’s origin,
    b.) The Sun’s composition, and
    c.) The Sun’s source of nuclear energy.

    In the climate debate I learned that the problem extends far beyond NASA and involves world leaders, leaders of the science community, many other federal research angencies (DOE, EPA, etc), the UN’s IPCC, an alliance of National Academies of Science worldwide, editors of journals once held in high regard, the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee, the news media, etc., etc.

    How to move forward ?

    Two documents helped me grasp the implications of this new information:

    1. Item (b) in Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation on 17 Jan 1961, when he warned about the dangers to our free society from:

    a.) An Industrial Military Complex
    b.) A Federal Scientific Technological Elite

    2. George Orwell’s book, “1984”, on a tyrannical government that controls the information available to its citizens.

    Again, the unpleasant information that I learned from the climate debate is far worse than would arise from the worse case scenario of AGW.

    Real statesmanship will be required to restore faith in government science.

    That will not happen if government leaders worldwide are intent on using science as tool of government propaganada to control people.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

  10. Paul Vaughan

    No engineering required. Structural entrenchment is the problem. Large organizations are unwieldy & unresponsive. Light, lean, & free’s the way.

  11. The “incontrovertibility” of the Tyndall gas effect is a long, long way from a proper thermodynamic theory of atmosphere that can properly explain the various roles of conduction, convection, radiation and phase change in a manner which is both theoretically sound and scientifically testable.

    Possibly a “polyscience” approach to atmospheric theory could develop a thermodynamic theory of atmosphere, but mainstream “climate science” seems to entrenched to be keen to participate in something which may invalidate the certainty of current greenhouse belief.

    • I agree. It was my, admittedly intuitive, unease with the thermodynamics which made me hesitant to accept the alarmist claims in the first place, and that unease has only grown as I have followed the arguments. Surely Steve McIntyre’s request for an “engineering quality exposition” of the thermodynamic effects of altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere from, say, 300 ppm CO2 to 600 ppm CO2 could be the first project and product of the polyscience enterprise you suggest. The question bears directly on what everyone seems to agree is the most important question: that being the “climate sensitivity”.

  12. I think I know the way to start such a project. If we were to take, for example, all of the raw data from, say, 1000 AD to 2000 AD proxies. Then put them in the same format. All of the dendro, isotope ratio, seashell, stomata, and so forth. Then put them in a spreadsheet for polymath graphs to be created from each, with standard deviations around the mean.

    Then we would could put against a key variable, like sunspot cycles, cosmic ray concentration, etc.

    Now we would have a meta-analysis in which the contrast would be able to be discerned to see which variables or parameters agreed, and which disagreed. All of the different parameters would be validated against and among the other curves.

    This metaanalysis would eventually be able to derive which relationships were correlative, and which may be causal. It may turn out that two or three parameters would be necessary to ascertain agreement, and show which variables had lag times associated temporally with the event we wish to find, such as temperature trends, or rainfall trends.

    The idea would be not to presort the data, into good or bad data sets, but to live with the numbers. Those that showed no correlation would be considered after the analysis shows their strength or weakness.

    The data, then, would serve as internal self-validation without subjectivity. If a data set gave a curve which was two sigmas away from the mean of means, it would be rejected as not fitting.

    The key is to have the rule in place at the start to limit subjective evaluations.

    Make sense?

    • I agree that getting all the relevant paleo data sets in some sort of sensible file would be a huge boon to analysis. This would enable many different analyses to proceed, with each needing to state its assumptions and clarify its methodology in order to be credible. Then others can discuss the various assumptions and methodologies, and start to assess them and quantify uncertainties.

      • Paul Vaughan

        You can’t accurately assess “uncertainty” if you ignore key lurking variables. The mainstream needs to acknowledge this rather than continuing to pretend this core issue does not exist. The culture of “going with” untenable assumptions undermines everything, including nonsensical estimates of “uncertainty”.

    • This sounds like a good idea. However, I would like to add what I believe to be an important addition – the concept of “double blind”. That is, that such data sets not be labelled as to source, merely as things like “global temp”, “local temp (lat/lon)” etc. This would enable us to “validate” various metrics in an unbiased way. Of course, there would need to be some delay before submitted data sets could be “released” such that it would be extremely difficult to for anyone to know which metric was which (including those who submitted them), but it should be do-able.

  13. Judith,

    It was ‘uncertainty’ that got me to your website last September, and that word seems to me to be at the centre of the issue. Whatever your project undertakes, its mission (or so it seems to me) must be to reduce the uncertainty that is everywhere in discussions of global climate, so that we know what we are talking about.

    I won’t go on and on about it, and I agree with Steve McIntyre’s goal of ‘engineering quality exposition’, so here are my three priorities — for the science, not the public policy or the ‘communication’.

    (1) Temperature data need to be measured in an agreed way everywhere, and whatever adjustments are made must be made openly and explained straightforwardly. Proxy data must be made generally available, and their limitations made clear. As I have said in other posts, despite the fact that the global temperature anomaly is given to three decimal places, I very much doubt that the current 20th century figures have much meaning. I know that the satellite figures only go back to 1970, and that they have problems too, but if we have to use temperature figures at all, they seem the best to me. That does cut out a lot.

    And part of this task has to be marrying SST figures (which are ghastly enough in methodological terms) to air-temperature data over the land surface. Some attention might be given to the differences over time between the two hemispheres.

    Yes, I know that this is a lot of work, but it has to be priority one, because most of the debate rests on claims that warming is real and unprecedented. If it is neither, or slight only (and indeed 0.7 degrees over a century is hardly more than slight), why are we bothering to argue about it?

    (2) Let us attack the climate sensitivity question. OK, a doubling of CO2 will, other things being equal, produce an increase of about a degree. I think we could all live with that, were it to happen, but it would take quite a while unless there is an accelerating factor there. Almost every post on this site produces someone who claims that the science is settled on this, and that GHG amplify the warming due to carbon dioxide. ‘Lots of studies’ are said to show this. But as far as I can see, they don’t, and there is as much reason for supposing the contrary. If that really is the case, why are we bothering to argue about it all?.

    That’s priority number two.

    (3) Ice-loss and sea-level rise data are important because they purport to provide evidence of temperature change, so they are related to, though in my opinion less important than, the matters in my paragraph (1) above. But we need really good data here, because rising sea levels could have awkward consequences for this living close to the sea.

    That’s priority three — and that’s probably enough for any project! And I’ve said nothing about models…

    I would argue that we have time to engage on these questions seriously, and that while we do that, governments could put carbon tax and cap ‘n trade legislation into a filing cabinet. They have other problems at the moment, and one of them is energy sufficiency, not just energy efficiency. How many of the developed countries represented here have electricity capacity in reserve for what could be a cold couple of decades? I don’t believe mine does, and plainly the UK doesn’t.

    You did ask what we think!

  14. This kind of thing won’t help. Tipping point?


    • Lucia’s Blackboard ran with this first..

      Michael Tobis went off on an f-word rant at Steven Mosher (climategate-The crutape letters, author) My point below is, Steven Mosher, George Monbiot and Mark Lynas are NOT even sceptics, look at the abuse they get from the CAGW environmentalist side,(especially Guardian comments) for not agreeing… what chance is a’deniar’ going to get heard in this environment?

      (my*’s MT’s words)
      Steven Mosher responded in Lucia’s comments

      Tobis: “Let me explain why. It is not because I am a pusillanimous chicken***t, Mosher. It is because the f*****g survival of the f*****g planet is at f*****g stake. And if we narrowly f*****g miss pulling this out, it may well end up being your, your own f******g personal individual f*****g self-satisfied mischief and disrespect for authority that tips the balance. You have a lot of f*****g nerve saying you are on my “side”.

      Unless and until you find it within yourself to understand that you have major fucked up, big time, by throwing big juicy meat to the deniers to chew on and spin paranoid fantasies about for years, even decades, I’ll take wild-eyed Frank who is inclined to start to hate me for exchanging a word with you, and gasbag Randy Olsen and the stunningly demoralizing Bill McKibben, and everybody, I’ll take all of them, on my “team” before I will pass the ball to you, because I have no way of knowing which way you will decide to kick it.”

      I believe you that you are not on Koch’s team. I think you are on Assange’s team, Team Loose Cannon. Perhaps I need to put an eleventh encampment on my battle mapwho put all the backup generators at Fukushima below tsunami M

      There are too may Tobis’ around to make a rational debate possible.

      George Monbiot and Mark Lynas (6 degrees – author – NOT sceptisc ;) )

      are now apparently ‘Chernobyl Death deniars’ for believing 50 deaths and 4000 thyroid cancers due to not restricting contaminated milk, vs Greepeaces and Dr helen Caldicutts 1 1million deatths and counting.


      See Mark Lynas’s blog about being called a ‘deniar’ by what might be described as his own side. Mark is The Maldive Carbon advisor, writes in the Guardian and is on the advisory board of the Campaign against Climate Change, which has it’s own hall of shame for ‘climate deniars’, yet even Mark in his blog cannot see the irony, that the same over emotional environmenatlists he knows well, are calling people deniars..

      Yet Mark Lynas still writes about ‘climate change deniars’

      Mark Lynas:
      “Yesterday I was an environmentalist. Today, according to tweets from prominent greens, and an op-ed response piece in the Guardian, I’m a “Chernobyl death denier”. My crime has been to stick to the peer-reviewed consensus scientific reports on the health impacts of the Chernobyl disaster, rather than – as is apparently necessary to remain politically correct as a ‘green’ – cleaving instead to self-published reports from pseudo scientists who have spent a lifetime hyping the purported dangers of radiation.

      I have discovered over the past few weeks that the anti-nuclear end of the environmental movement has no regard for proper scientific process when it comes to the issue which defines it. Perhaps this is no surprise, because as George Monbiot and others have shown, the methods used by campaigners on nuclear bear all the hallmarks of the methods used by anti-science climate change ‘deniers’.”

      The environmenatlists seem to be tearing into each other as hard economic/political/business/engineering descisions need to be made, ie carbon taxes, nuclear, windfarms, energy policies.

      • randomengineer

        What’s fascinating here is that these aren’t the tactics of the climate deniers at all. That’s completely imagined, fabricated wholesale. A big fat LIE.

        Rather, what he speaks of are tactics of those the skeptics take on — i.e. the climate alarmists. The IPCC intersperses greenie feel-bad op-ed pieces in their reports (the woes of glacier retreat by mountianeering students) as if all of this were 100% peer reviewed proven science. They muddle things so that science and opinion are given equal weight. They do this for a purpose.

        The lying and ignorant anti-nuke screeching zealots and those who see the hockey stick as reality are one and the same. The “truths” that form the basis of their viewpoint are their beliefs. There are zero supporting facts. You can rarely scratch a climate alarmist and not see the sheen of the anti-nuke beneath the surface. Tobis is typical. Here in this forum he was asked specifically to endorse nuclear power — or at least admit that it was not bad stuff — and he refused. Alarmist greens are anti-technology luddites. Period.


        The “deniers” have no tactics. Never did. Never will. Deniers are reacting, not initiating.

      • Michael Tobis

        Judith, I have been thinking about this topic for some time and I would like to express appreciation for this posting. I will have more to say soon but I want to start by registering agreement with this article.

        In particular, I’d like to point to the following which you said and express enthusiastic assent:

        Regardless of what the smug simplifiers say, I maintain that the climate science “matters,” both as science qua science, in the public debate, and also to inform policy. Hence, scientists chasing their tails to find a magic bullet communication gimmick isn’t going to have much of an effect on anything. The key issue is this: how can academic climate scientists, scientists and professionals from other technical fields, and the technical climate blogosphere do a better job of sorting through the scientific issues and data and models surrounding climate change, make arguments with better justification, and manage the attendant uncertainties?

      • well it will be interesting to see if this idea gets any traction. if it does, it will probably be from the open science community and not the climate community (neither academic nor blogospheric).

      • I’m not sure you’ve seen this, Judith, but in less than six minutes:


        Open Hardware. This might become handy.

      • thanks much willard, this is exactly the kind of thing i want to learn more about, this is a good one.

      • steven mosher

        if you like open hardware you can always support the open hardware company i founded.


      • I’ll see that and raise you. There’s an open project to make an open-design 3D printer that can print a copy of itself.


        I’m undecided on how far this will go, but the concept is novel.

      • Nice!

      • Tribe alert: Greenfyre REALLY doesn’t like paragraph for which mt expresses enthusiastic assent:


        Hopefully mt can make some headway arguing with greenfyre and martha, their antennae seem incapable of picking up my frequencies in terms of actual meaning

      • Actually the only time I mention that paragraph is in reference to: ” So despite what the convinced and believers say, climate science does “matter” in this debate,”

        To which I said “Indeed it does,

        So how is it that Tobis and I disagree?

  15. You might value the work of Scott Page and Lu Hong. See Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers in which the value of heuristic diversity among the experts in group problem solving tasks is shown to be useful so long as they have enough shared background to communicate.

  16. What went wrong?

    Well, just the basic message: There is not a valid scientific debate. When your basic message turns out to be a lie, you don’t have much chance.

    Yes, it’s true; general public is not very much aware about the details. Climategate and so on. But I think they are getting a pretty good idea on the basic message. And the question is, why did they choose such a message?

  17. Hector Pascal

    This is utterly pointless. There is no hope of any dialogue or negotiation between two the groups: one convinced that the science is settled and we need policy and state intervention, and the other (including me) claiming we don’t even know where the starting line is. One group concerned about communicating the message, and the asking what is the basis? This is a hopeless dialogue of the deaf.

  18. Judith,

    If what you are seeking is good science and good knowledge, then hopefully this premise will work. If your seeking a planetary pattern to climate, you will not find one. Every second of this planet is different due to changing factors currently NOT included to understand this planet.

    Putting the parameters that this planet was a water world with oceanic pressure does answer many unanswerable questions of the past. We are in the same predicament as Mars in that we are loosing water. Too many variable in our measuring has not been included when measuring the ocean heights. Yet we do have a time line left behind by our receding water in the way of being able to date the dead oceanic life in salt deposits around the world.
    This is physical evidence and not theory of adjusting this and adding that.

  19. What went wrong seems obvious in a different context. From Wikipedia: “Confidence tricks exploit typical human qualities such as greed, dishonesty, vanity, honesty, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility and naïveté. The common factor is that the victim (mark) relies on the good faith of the con artist.”

    Lack of good faith efforts on the part of the IPCC and others.

    Given that there is a BEST project, it seems to me that an exploratory data analysis project to come up with analysis techniques people can agree upon could be done in an open fashion.

    Modeling is a crucial question. I’m not sure model development would be workable in an open framework, but it’s worth a shot. The controversy would arise from what forms the basis and how it’s tuned. There are a lot of people with lots of experience developing models for other fields. Probably something like SETI@home could be done to support model runs – that’s a lot of free resources.

    Uncertainty would be very difficult. Different people will have different views, so there’s much to disagree about. Same thing with economics and risk.

  20. Judith Curry

    “Polyclimate” gives everyone a lot to think about.

    You have made some very pertinent comments yourself, and have asked others here for comments. Here are mine.

    Many of the recent analyses of “what went wrong” have concentrated on the “blame game”, which (in my opinion) is totally foolish.

    These analyses often point to a “communication problem”, as if this were the cause for the meltdown of the public “angst” related to the purported AGW crisis.

    As you wrote, the importance of Climategate is downplayed.

    The public revelation of IPCC exaggerations and outright fabrications in its reports is totally ignored.

    The fact that we have had a series of unusually harsh winters across the northern hemisphere is brushed aside as irrelevant, or (worse yet) tied to AGW in excruciatingly convoluted rationalizations, which bear little resemblance to reality and only make the whole “story” sound less credible to an already skeptical general public.

    The observation that there has been no global warming over the past decade despite record increase in CO2 levels is ignored, denied or brushed off as irrelevant.

    Nisbet mentions a “communication problem”, but acknowledges that it was not caused by a lack of money spent on getting the message across, nor was it caused by a basically non-cooperative mainstream media.

    Nisbet alludes to the rather elitist premise that the message was too complex for the general public to understand.

    The New Republic article also refers to a communication problem.

    It states that “mighty foes” (such as the Koch brothers, the coal or oil industries) were underestimated.

    It points out that the public consensus gelled around Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, which basically told the world, “the science is settled – now is the time to act”.

    However, it fails to mention that this film was later challenged and found to be full of scientific errors, which turned many people off of the idea that the “science was settled” or the whole “dangerous AGW” concept as presented by Gore.

    Although it should have had no real influence, there is no question that the extravagant lifestyle of Al Gore turned many people off of his message.

    NR makes the observation that handling AGW like a normal environmental problem was a mistake.

    NR also states:

    “environmentalists have no one to blame but themselves for failing to sell their climate policies”

    So, in the eyes of NR, it is apparently a case of poor “salesmanship” (rather than a poor “product”).

    Greenfyre’s perspective is a bit more intellectually nuanced, but, in my opinion, even further from the mark.

    The internet is blamed as a source of “simplistic propaganda” used by “Deniers”:

    “the internet has facilitated the spread of simplistic propaganda such as the climate change Deniers use far more than it has aided the climate science community.”

    It then states without any substantiation that “Deniers” are not logical, but acting out of a “herd instinct” instead.

    It quotes Andrew Revkin:

    “My learning curve on cultural cognition has led me to mostly abandon my expectation that better information and communication could change the public debate.“

    (IOW, even a better message or improved communication techniques would not have changed the mind of the public.)

    As you point out, the Sociological Quarterly puts the blame on “deniers”, the mainstream media, conservatives and libertarians, and tactics used by the environmental movement, rather than addressing the science, itself.

    It fails to differentiate between the “Tyndall gas effect” and the IPCC notion of alarming AGW, as if the two were one and the same.

    The “nerd loop” argument of Andrew Revkin and Randy Olson is based on the premise that the general public is not intelligent enough to understand the complex scientific arguments and the scientists, themselves, are too “nerdy” to be able to explain these complex concepts in simple terms so the general public can understand them.

    In short, climate communication has been “too cerebral” for the general public, which needs a more “emotional” message.

    Steven McIntyre’s reaction to this (IMO arrogant and elitist) suggestion is spot on:

    climate communication has not been “cerebral” enough for professionals and scientists from other fields

    McIntyre points out that these individuals constitute a small but very important sector of the “general public” yet they are totally ignored by “climate communicators”.

    This segment of the “general public” does not want emotional visions of future climate-related disaster or hysterical cries for action, but simply (as McIntyre puts it):

    an “engineering quality” exposition of how doubled CO2 leads to (say) 3 degree C and thence to problems. More cerebral, rather than less cerebral.

    This is a pretty basic request and a key to the “problem”.

    You make two very astute observations about the various analyses of “what went wrong”:

    Neither the scientists nor the state of the science gets any blame in these analyses. And Climategate is typically dismissed as an insignificant factor.

    Why has there been no critical introspection on the part of the climate science community regarding either the “state of the science” or the actions of the key group of “scientists” implicated in Climategate?

    The “science” has been assumed to be unassailable by definition. The conclusion reached is that a group of “scientists” may have acted foolishly, as was exposed by the Climategate revelations, but they did not distort the “science” itself, which remains solid.

    So-called “audits” by insiders or like-minded auditors have turned out to resemble “white-wash” attempts (which has left a bad taste in the mouth of the general public, rather than achieving the desired result).

    As far as the science, itself, is concerned you have stated:

    In numerous essays and including my testimony, I have decried the oversimplification of climate science, the neglect of formal arguments and uncertainty management, and overconfidence in conclusions.

    These are the issues that concern skeptics and scientists and professionals from other technical fields. And these are the people that influence politicians and other thought leaders on this subject.

    IOW “it’s the science that matters” (not the communication gimmicks used or not used).

    Steve McIntyre’s challenge holds.

    It is the challenge of many of us, who are rationally skeptical of the premise that AGW, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, has been the primary cause of past warming or that it represents a serious potential threat to humanity or our environment, as postulated by IPCC.

    And this challenge is precisely what the whole scientific community has failed to even realize, let alone respond to (assuming this has not been a conscious evasion).

    Don’t tell us all about the GH theory or about how paleo-climate records from millions of years ago can be interpreted to support a highly sensitive climate driven by small forcings from changes in atmospheric CO2 and hypothetical strong feedbacks.

    Don’t tell us there was no Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age and that our climate today is unprecedented.

    Don’t tell us that the historical rate of sea level rise has suddenly accelerated in the late 20th century and that it will accelerate even further due to AGW.

    Don’t tell us that global warming is “unequivocal” and that there is “very high confidence” that human actions have caused major changes in our climate.

    Don’t tell us that severe weather events (droughts, floods, tropical storms, severe heat waves, etc.) will “very likely” increase due to AGW, based on “model scenarios” and “expert judgment”.

    Don’t tell us the troposphere is warming more rapidly than the surface (thereby proving that AGW is at play) when the temperature records tell us just the opposite.

    Don’t tell us that natural climate forcing has been essentially irrelevant, simply because you do not understand all the factors or their impacts.

    Don’t warn us of additional anthropogenic “warming hidden in the pipeline” or disaster scenarios relating to the imminent collapse of the major ice sheets.

    But as Steve McIntyre has suggested, simply provide us.

    an “engineering quality” exposition of how doubled CO2 leads to (say) 3 degree C and thence to problems. More cerebral, rather than less cerebral.

    “Engineering quality” means something very specific to me, as an engineer, which I could summarize:

    – estimates should be based on sound, proven principles
    – actual physical observations or tests always trump theoretical deliberations
    – always double-check for possible errors
    – when in doubt, be skeptical and re-check the calculations
    – choose the simple, conservative answer, rather than the more complicated extreme one

    I suspect that it means the same to most applied scientists or theoretical research scientists, as well. I am sure that scientists involved in climate science can also grasp what it implies.

    Since climate science (unlike more abstract or theoretical sciences, such as particle physics, for example) has a direct impact on policy decisions, it must be based on a solid foundation and sound “engineering quality” principles.

    The challenge by Steve McIntyre is the basic challenge to climate science, and so far a specific response has been lacking.

    And, until a response to this challenge is provided (in a cerebral fashion), all the lamenting about poor communication skills, “powerful” and influential adversaries, political reactionaries, “nerds” unable to simplify the scientific message for the less intelligent general public, “deniers” misusing the blogosphere to spread disinformation, etc. are simply arm-waving to avoid the key issue.

    As they say: “It’s the science, stupid!”


    • David L. Hagen

      Strongly second the need to return to sound engineering quality and unbiased objective science.

    • It then states without any substantiation that “Deniers” are not logical, but acting out of a “herd instinct” instead.,/i>”

      No, that’s not what it says; try reading it. As for the claim, please point me to a rational, logical Denier argument somewhere, anywhere. Look at what a pathetic, lying farce Muller is. That is supposed to be an example of rational discussion? He gets his science from the cover of brochures rather than the literature?

      as an engineer, which I could summarize: …

      All of those conditions have been met, over and over for eg. McIntyre being ignorant of the science is not the same as it not existing.

      How about sparing us the dissembling Straw Man arguments and show how the existing science is in error?

      “It’s the science, stupid!” Indeed it is, so talk about it instead of throwing out charlatans like Muller, Nicol & McIntyre.

  21. In my own limited experience, much of the “general public” are convinced by the AGW “enthusiast” arguments. The problematic folks are like me: with a workable understanding of Maths and Science.

    I suggest the following as a way forward.

    Assemble a list of important questions. These might include such as:

    How do we compute global temperature? Is it a meaningful quantity?
    How much (if any) has the earth (or regions thereof) warmed? What are the uncertainties of this?
    How much of the earth’s CO2 is produced by mankind? How do we know that?

    Survey current knowledge to determine what (if any) answers we can supply.
    Identify holes in our knowledge. Seek strategies to fill those holes — e.g. design experiments.

    It seems to me that the AGW enthusiasts are not really interested in addressing our doubts at that level. If skeptics want those answers, we probably need to seek them ourselves.

  22. The only collaborative project that works in the present case is to get clear about the differences. I would propose building an online issue tree of the scientific debate, in which each side owns its own arguments. The issue tree is a logical form that I discovered many years ago, but no one has paid much attention to it. I used to teach my students at Carnegie Mellon how to do issue trees. (http://www.stemed.info/engineer_tackles_confusion.html)

    The issue tree form is explained in my little textbook: http://www.stemed.info/reports/Wojick_Issue_Analysis_txt.pdf

    However, I don’t think the software exists to build and display an 0n-line issue tree of the climate debate. There are several thousand distinct scientific arguments. Still it would give everyone a fair chance to state their case. Diplomacy suggests that clarity of disagreement is the first step toward resolution and compromise.

    • David, thanks for this constructive suggestion. Hierarchical trees (breaking off big branches) might be more tractable.

      • Sorry, but I don’t understand what you mean. If you mean looking just at one or two sub-issues that is fine. Even a small issue like estimating CO2 levels from ice cores is pretty big, easily on the order of several hundred nodes or more. The point is that since issues have a tree structure they are hard to describe in text, which is a liner string of words. One must constantly jump around between different lines of reasoning, which is very confusing. This is explained in the textbook.

      • I browsed through your text, looks useful. On the internet, with hypertext links etc, these trees should be easier to configure?

      • Look at it this way. We are approaching 65,000 comments here to date, based on N original posts, all part of a single debate. This is something like 500,000 sentences. If you ask the question “how do these sentences fit together?”, then the issue tree is the fundamental answer, or one of them anyway. The issue tree diagram is just the map of this set of sentence-sentence relations, which already exists in the sentences.

        Every issue has the same fundamental structure. It is the tree-like nature of this structure that causes most of the confusion, because lines of thought are constantly diverging, while both speaking and writing are linear ( thus non-diverging) strings of thoughts. What we are saying is more complex than how we are saying it. When you add in the fact that we are talking about a complex physical system it gets even worse, but that is a different issue. The tree-like non-linearity of the basic reasoning is the basic problem, and it is universal. Precise visualization of the reasoning is a solution, but it is not easy. Mapping is never easy.

        If you look at the text you will see that I first use what looks like a pretty silly argument, between two ordinary people, over why one bought a Ford. This is to make the point that even the most ordinary reasoning is very complex, far more complex that most people imagine. What we do when we speak and write is actually very impressive. But the complexity is itself a basic challenge when it comes to understanding.

    • David Wojick-

      I’ve read portions of your text. My understanding of some key points in support of issue trees is resolving issues (achieving agreement) is difficult due to the time it takes for people to go through the individual points involved. It’s further complicated by various implicit factors. The decision tree (once created) greatly reduces the time it takes people to comprehend the problem structure and points. Is this roughly correct?

      • Harold, that is certainly a use of issue tree diagrams. Once constructed, they greatly reduce the time it takes for people to grasp an issue. Maps in general have this advantage over narrative text. My discovery was that the ideas expresses in narrative text have this underlying tree-like structure. Interestingly the tree-like nesting structure of blog threads make this a little clearer. So do outlines.

        In fact issue tree diagrams are an alternative to writing, one that makes the connections between the sentences visible. But they are not decision trees, that is a different and older technology.

        But in the polyclimate context I am talking about building issue tree diagrams collaboratively. Here is value of the diagram is that it makes it easier to see where work is needed. Of course the communication benefit arises as well.

      • David Wojick-

        From what I can see, establishing and inputting the points into the tree is the time consuming part, and isn’t really suitable for automation (yet). Doing this collaboratively makes sense. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this does not take subject matter experts, but does take people who are careful to recognize nuances and ambiguities. Anything else?

      • Making the points logically correct is the hard part, especially the questions, as these define the structure. It is sort of like doing word problems in algebra, so you can’t just let people throw points up themselves. (Or one could try that.)

        On the content side some subject matter knowledge is useful, because one has to know what the words mean. SME’s are useful, but not required. There is very little nuance involved, just technical clarity. The Denizen’s here would be quite competent, those that had the patience to be clear.

        Semi-automated issue tree extraction is probably feasible, given the recent advances in question answering systems, especially IBM Watson. Every sentence (except the top one) is answering a question asked of some other sentence. Typically these questions are unstated but there are often semantic clues. In fact many of the words used are there to signal structure, not to add content. It is an AL challenge, but no one is trying to do this at the present time. The last collaborative issue tree I did was in 1988, a strategic plan for the Naval Research Laboratory.

        I do have some more stuff here: http://www.bydesign.com/powervision/mathematics_philosophy_science/ especially items 6-11. Unfortunately the sample issue tree does not include objections.

        A detailed issue tree of a piece of text (auto repossession, alas) is here: http://www.stemed.info/Repo_Tree.pdf It comes from a project translating consumer credit contracts into plain language. That was fun.

  23. Judith Curry: I’m confused. What question do you propose that Polyclimate answer? Or … what specific problem to you propose that Polyclimate solve?

    • How about detection of AGW, attribution of AGW, climate sensitivity, for starters. None of these are problems that have a solution in the sense of a mathematical theorem. But a broader range of evidence and analysis techniques is needed to make sense of these issues and to assess uncertainty.

      • In what timeframe?

        So far, the ultimate product to date of all of this redo/audit stuff appears to me to be exceedingly small and of little consequence.

        The slayings of the greenhouse dragon have all gone poof.

      • Really? That would be news to me.

        Please don’t worry about us, we’re fine.

      • William Newman

        Fancy new organizational forms like the polymath project are interesting and can be quite valuable. But it seems to me that their value is almost entirely in reducing friction and lag time in a group that already values fundamental Enlightenment scientific revolution norms. I don’t see how they will fix the fundamental brokenness of a group that values argument from authority, argument from undisclosed primary data [*], argument from an unrepresentative subset of data selected by undisclosed selection criteria, or argument by stubborn refusal to address or even acknowledge well-known counterarguments to one’s arguments.

        If a group values such problem behavior, the search for truth will be gummed up regardless of whether the group uses a fancy new organizational form or an old one. That is, such behavior can gum up newfangled polymath projects, middlefangled science blogs, and oldfangled scientific publishing and expert commissions alike. Conversely, if a group applies the centuries-old solution of scorning such problem behavior, methodical search for truth will be able to proceed in the group whether it’s organized in a whizzy new Internet-enabled form or an older paper-based or meeting-based form.

        Also FWIW, there is a predictable response of an authoritarian secretive cherry-picking epistemically closed group to a group which insists on the norms of the Enlightenment scientific revolution: deny the legitimacy of the inconvenient group. Nothing about differences in organizational form of the inconvenient group seems likely to change the essentials of this response, though superficial details may differ. (E.g., if the inconvenient group is not a peer-reviewed journal or grant-funded tax-exempt organization with many career employees, deny its legitimacy on the grounds of not being a peer-reviewed journal or grant-funded tax-exempt organization with many career employees; otherwise, deny its legitimacy on the grounds it is a shoddy, empty, improperly partisan imitation of worthy peer-reviewed journals and grant-funded tax-exempt organizations with many career employees.)

        [*] (Judith Curry refers to examples in mathematical disciplines, where what little primary data there is is naturally almost perfectly open. However, in such mathematical disciplines, one could analogously refuse to disclose a proof while demanding that people accept the conclusion of the proof: “why should I show you my proof when you will just try to find something wrong with it?” If a fancy polymath project tolerates and rallies around that kind of behavior, then it will be gummed up; conversely if a primitive recreation of the Lunar Society based on mimeographed preprints scorns that kind of behavior, it has a reasonable chance of making progress.)

      • William, changing the behavior of the established group won’t work in this context, but can provide a framework for new players to enter the game. The Berkeley Earth group is a good example of an outside group that is doing something important, and getting plenty of publicity (and an opportunity for congressional testimony). The establishment is busy dissing Muller et al., but comprehensive and open data plus good analysis methods should carry the day.

      • This does not compute. This is what I heard. The temperature record is a hoax. It’s a sham. The scientists are frauds.

        The preliminary new player: the frauds produced a hoax that looks about right.

      • This is what I heard. The temperature record is a hoax. It’s a sham. The scientists are frauds.

        Apparently Judith has never heard or read anything like that, JCH. How else to explain her “asymmetry” argument?

      • Is it me or the two of you didnt even bother to read the initial findings? Here is an excerpt:
        “A preliminary analysis of 2% of the Berkeley Earth dataset shows a global temperature trend that goes up and down with global cycles, and does so broadly in sync with the temperature records from other groups such as NOAA, NASA, and Hadley CRU. However, the preliminary analysis includes only a very small subset (2%) of randomly chosen data, and does not include any method for correcting for biases such as the urban heat island effect, the time of observation bias, etc”.

        The complaint from skeptics are a few things including: a) UHI impact on measured temp b) location of stations c) process used to collate station data with different observation periods

        Among these only the station location has been addressed by the intial findings here, although they are yet to publish how they addressed that issue and what their detailed findings are.

        Ultimately hopefully they can come to a comprehensive conclusion that addresses all the potential issues/anomalies in the temp record, irrespective of whether it confirms or rejects the existing “consensus” on temp record. A thorough comprehensive study will be good no matter what the outcome is.

        But somehow you both conclude that they have confirmed the existing global temp conclusions are “about right”. It would be nice if you can cite some of this group’s reports or publications to reach such a conclusion.

        I think most skeptics have trouble with what seems like “arbitrary” adjustments to raw temperature data, which also seems to be evolving over time and as a result even “old temp data” gets revised.. I hope the Berkely group or another group can analyze the raw data without any adjustments and compare to adjusted data. If in the long run adjustments have always resulted in warmer temps, we have most likely a confirmation bias problem.

      • The establishment is busy dissing Muller et al., but comprehensive and open data plus good analysis methods should carry the day.

        Man. This selective outrage seems to be a habit with you, Judith.

        Did you not read the extensive “dissing” of Muller from the “anti-climate establishment” at WUWT and this very blog?

        Time to take those assymmetry-colored glasses off, Judith.

      • Judith Curry, 4/23/11, 10:44 am, Polyclimate

        The best model for solar radiation, Wang et al. (2005) per IPCC, predicts the entire 160-year instrumented surface temperature estimation from HADCRUT3, also best available per IPCC. The accuracy is 0.11ºC with a five parameter model for Earth’s response, a noise reduction factor of 79.0%. That accuracy is comparable to IPCC’s smoothed estimator itself, which has a noise reduction factor of 89.3%. See SGW in my linked journal.

        The flip side to this result is that the quality of the HADCRUT3 temperature estimation is commendable, notwithstanding criticism and suspicion. The Muller et al check, the BEST project, has little room for improvement.

        The obverse side of the coin, of course, is that any human effects on surface temperature must lie within the residue of the record after removing the solar effects.

      • William Newman has summarized the situation about as precisely and succinctly as I have seen.

        The problem with today’s “consensus” climate science is so basic and fundamental that it is not likely to be resolved by improved forms of communication alone.

        The “mainstream” group has rejected the basic principles of the Enlightenment scientific revolution and has sold out to the political agenda of a corrupted process, led by IPCC.

        This sentence says it all:

        I don’t see how they [new organizational forms like the polymath project] will fix the fundamental brokenness of a group that values argument from authority, argument from undisclosed primary data, argument from an unrepresentative subset of data selected by undisclosed selection criteria, or argument by stubborn refusal to address or even acknowledge well-known counterarguments to one’s arguments.

        What is needed, is a return to the basics and to honesty.

        As Steve McIntyre has written, it will require (for starters):

        an “engineering quality” exposition of how doubled CO2 leads to (say) 3 degree C and thence to problems. More cerebral, rather than less cerebral.

        There has been a lot of discussion here on what Steve McIntyre is really requesting, with a lot of debate on the meaning of “engineering quality”. A lot of this discussion sounds to me like evasive “fog”.

        William Newman has given a very good summary of what it does NOT mean in science.

        I would go back to one key element required in order to satisfy a rational skeptic, in the scientific sense:

        Argument from transparent empirical data based on physical observations or reproducible experimentation.

        This does NOT mean model simulations based principally on theoretical deliberations with a touch of interpretations derived from “cherry picked” paleo-climate data.

        A return to the basics as William has suggested will most likely require a change of personnel, as Judith has implied.

        IMO it will require above all the elimination of the corrupt political process established and encouraged by the IPCC, to which a group of “mainstream” scientists have intentionally or unintentionally fallen victim, and thus, most likely, the elimination of the IPCC itself.


      • Judith, I would agree, but I would put Steve McIntyre’s challenge on top:

        a serious “engineering quality” justification for the premise that 2xCO2 = +3C

        Without this, Judith, the whole talk of alarming AGW is simply “talk”.


      • Steve need to put some flesh on the bones of what an “engineering quality” report is. I propose a simple definition: a report that addresses the questions as well as can practically addressed. IOW, as with a report for a serious commercial project, it needs to leave no stone unturned.

        Of course the only way to assure that it meets that criterion is trial by fire. IOW, the process is part of the definition. The lame way that the IPCC deals with inconvenient questions isn’t acceptable.

        Once we’ve done the best job possible in determine how to arrive at climate sensitivity, the job has only begun.

      • Estimates of climate sensitivity vary by an order of magnitude. The quoted number is derived from the Hansen computer model based on observed warming trends. The scientific basis of “climate sensitivity” is not well founded.

        If we are talking about atmosphere being a complex system of multiple processes with negative feedbacks, then it is important to understand how the system works so we might understand how it might respond to perturbation.

        The present atmosphere theory is like this: If I reside in an air conditioned house (atmosphere with negative feedbacks, eg clouds) and I put an extra person in it (forcing), it will continue to get warmer forever.

      • ChE

        Agree with you that the job has only begun once we can get a better founded definition of 2xCO2 climate sensitivity.

        But we are not even there yet (even though IPCC would have us believe that we are).

        IPCC AR4 concedes it does not have a clue about net cloud feedbacks, yet ALL the models cited by IPCC assume strongly positive net feedback from clouds. Based on this assumption, IPCC concludes that 2xCO2 sensitivity is between 2.0 and 4.5C (with clouds contributing on average 1.3C to this).

        But AR4 is already out of date.

        Subsequently, Spencer & Braswell 2007 find that net overall cloud feedback over the tropics is strongly negative with tropospheric warming, based on physical observations from CERES satellites.

        In a later study based on the same satellite observations, Spencer concludes that 2xCO2 climate sensitivity is 0.6C.

        Lindzen & Choi 2009 conclude a 2xCO2 CS of around 0.5C based on ERBE satellite observations, later correcting this to 0.7C.

        So we have a range of 0.6 to 4.5C, with IPCC only recognizing the upper end of the range.

        Then there are the observations on clouds and Earth’s overall albedo (Pallé et al. 2006), which show that cloud extent diminished 1985-2000, with the net result of less incoming radiation being reflected and thus net warming, followed by increased clouds, more reflected radiation and hence cooling 2000-2004.

        To make matters even more complicated, there are the model studies using super-parameterization for clouds (Wyant et al. 2006). These show an overall negative feedback from clouds, similar to the Spencer observations.

        It appears to me that it is highly likely based on these latest findings a) that net cloud feedback with warming is negative and b) that clouds, themselves, act as a climate forcing for as yet unknown reasons, as Spencer has suggested.

        IPCC also concedes it has a low level of scientific understanding of natural climate forcing factors; this has been underscored recently by the past decade’s lack of warming, despite CO2 increase to record levels and IPCC projections of strong warming. Has the observed overall increase in clouds since 2000 played a role here?

        So, despite all the bravado, false confidence and claims of “progress in understanding of the human and natural drivers of climate change” and “large amounts of new and more comprehensive data”, IPCC is still in the dark when it comes to the absolutely most basic of all indicators: the 2xCO2 sensitivity of our climate.

        Until Steve McIntyre’s request below is fulfilled, IPCC is simply “selling snake oil”:

        an “engineering quality” exposition of how doubled CO2 leads to (say) 3 degree C and thence to problems. More cerebral, rather than less cerebral.

        Let’s for the sake of simplicity define “engineering quality” here as

        “based upon transparent empirical data derived from physical observations or reproducible experimentation rather than simply model simulations based on theoretical deliberations or interpretations of selected paleo-climate data”.

        All the improved communication techniques in the world will make no difference at all until Steve’s basic request is fulfilled.

        That is the issue here IMO.


      • What’s a cloud? Numerically, not poetically.

      • Judith Curry, thanks for the quick response. Unfortunately none of those are questions. Let me suggest one.

        Background The question, “Is the earth undergoing anthropogenic global warming?” is a complex one and rests on the foundational question, “Is the earth’s climate warming?” which leads to the question, “How do we measure global warming?” or “How do we measure the earth’s energy balance?”

        By definition, global warming occurs when there is an imbalance between energy absorbed by the earth and energy radiated away from the earth; warming occurs when incoming exceeds outgoing. In a perfect universe we would measure this directly with a constellation of satellites and the question, “Is the earth’s climate warming?” would be answered and quantified.

        Lacking a suitable constellation of satellites we have been using changes in global air temperature as a proxy for energy balance. Some say that changes in ocean temperature are better proxy. Maybe there are others.

        Question How should we measure the earth’s energy balance?

      • Yes these broad issues can spawn a number of scientific questions, hypotheses, the ones you list are good ones.

      • I could see the project getting bogged down just trying to get everyone to agree on what the questions are. I think this issue isn’t as trivial as it appears. Most of the “communication” revolves around framing the questions, and the people wanting to frame the narrative will want to chose the questions.

        If you can get a good set of questions, you’re most of the way to the answers (assuming that “I don’t know” is a valid answer).

      • assuming that “I don’t know” is a valid answer

        I would be leery of any undertaking in which it wasn’t a valid answer. What both sides need to understand is that lack of certainty is neither a reason to ignore a potential issue nor is it something to be denied lest it impede action (and yes, failing to include the uncertainty in publications for wider audiences is tantamount to hiding it). To use an overworked phrase: it is what it is. Decisions are made in the face of uncertainty all the time.

      • I think that if more people shared your perspective, about 1/2 of the “noise” in this debate could be eliminated.

      • And yet I tend to hang with the right wing in many of my political opinions…go figure.

      • And yet I tend to hang with the right wing in many of my political opinions…go figure.

        Which is evidence that political orientation is not necessarily the primary driver behind how people evaluate the science.

        Unfortunately, however, people on both sides of the debate rationalize away the extent to which political ideology moderates (in the statistical sense) how many people draw their “scientific” conclusions.

      • There is something called the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment and it is a group of satellites that have flown since the the 80’s (not the same ones, and with increasing accuracy with time). The problem is that this is not long enough to measure trends. Nevertheless, there must be more that we can learn from this data set. I plan on working on this, once I get my computer/internet infrastructure in order.

        We have got to get out of this “everyone is lying” mode. The truth is that there IS an enormous amount of data that can be investigated but it is just sitting in the databases. Just visit a NASA or NOAA website.

      • My understanding is that the “good” data only goes back about 30 years max. So making 100 year projections based on that is fraught with imprecision. Hence using the old data which has been the cause of the problems.

        But there is still a lot more that could be done on smaller bits of the atmosphere puzzle starting with lab experiments.

      • David L. Hagen

        “How about detection of AGW, attribution of AGW, climate sensitivity, for starters.”

        To do that, would we not need to equally focus on:
        “quantifying all natural causes”, including

        “causes and consequences of cloud variations “?

        Don’t we need to quantify both AGW and natural causes to distinguish them?

      • absolutely, detection and attribution require extensive analysis and understanding of forced and unforced natural variability

      • Dr. Curry
        I would question existence of unforced natural variability. I have not found any trace of it. Response to forced natural variability is always different to a degree, even if the force is exactly repeated, since initial conditions, responding to the input force, continuously change.

      • Does your theory account for ENSO variations?

      • As you are aware, the measurements (and earlier reconstructions) since 1930 for PDO and ENSO exhibit high degree of correlation, as shown here:
        Since I have not positively identified a natural long term forcing for ENSO, but have for PDO, than my current understanding (‘hypothesis’) is that ENSO is responding to PDO.
        The 2-5 year oscillations are most likely rooted in one of the North (or qquatorial) Pacific gyres; the prime candidate I think is the Alaska Current’s gyre.

      • After look at an old (& forgotten) file relating to ENSO, I am inclined to conclude that some of my (above) post may be inaccurate. Data file
        shows reasonable correlation with ENSO (and PDO) interannual oscillations, but only since 1970, since delay appear to vary considerably over previous decades.
        If the above is correct (evidence is very tenuous) than there may be a degree of predictability to the future Enso trends.

    • What questions?

      How about starting of with the challenge posed by Steve McIntyre:

      an “engineering quality” exposition of how doubled CO2 leads to (say) 3 degree C and thence to problems. More cerebral, rather than less cerebral.


  24. Except you have not understand what you have just quoted.

    “Instead of a public debate about different policies to deal with global warming, a significant percentage of the American public is still debating the science. As a result, we’re failing to significantly address one of the most serious problems of our time.”

    It doesn’t mean what you then summarize you imagine it to mean. Aaron is explaining why, DESPITE the scientific consensus, a few self-described ‘skeptics’ (who are nothing of the sort) have had a major influence, with the help of individuals and groups funded to deny the reality of climate change on the basis of their beliefs about industrial market economies. Denialists are almost all without exception conservative white males. This is not a positive influence and is not based in the science — or any aspect of democracy or the public good.

    You choose to overlook the major finding by Aaron in the study you suggest you have read and to which you provide a link. Aaron finds that educational attainment does not change the beliefs of committed neoconservatives who are found to IGNORE the evolving science and the nature of the consensus thus explaining climate change denial and delaying as based in IDEOLOGY and POLITICAL BELIEF – not science.

    As Aaron discusses and everyone else can also observe, denialists are overwhelmingly conservative white males, as are the ‘contrarian’ scientists. I considered some of the gender and class dynamics that make up the political psychology of the climate change denial ‘community’, in my pop education post at Greenfyre’s. Apparently you don’t get it, no matter how it is presented. Aaron’s work explains why, but you don’t get that, either.

    You need to go into comedy, judith.

    • Martha, you don’t get it. It is those conservative white males, skeptical, that seem to be calling the shots. They seem to want to see a real scientific argument, an engineering quality exposition, of the case for and against AGW. Not a bidecadal selective literature review, followed by conclusions determined from expert judgment, with little evidence of argument or reasoning in between. The IPCC and the “consensus” has lost control of the narrative, and what they have been providing is a narrative more than a scientific argument. You and your tribe are in denial of this, and think that progress can be made by calling these conservative white males nasty names and using the f-word, and that maybe some sort communication stunt could be the magic bullet that turns this around. To be against the idea of polyclimate for reasons that you cite is science denial.

      • Judy – Since McIntyre and “engineering quality exposition” have been mentioned several times in this thread, I’d like to bring up a discussion I had with him on a previous thread a few months ago. His request was not for engineering quality arguments for and against AGW but rather an exposition explaining the principles and evidence underlying the scientific consensus.

        I pointed out to him that the material he sought was widely available from several different sources – i.e., it already exists. His response was twofold, as I interpret it:

        (a) It was inconvenient for him or others to engage in collating the material, and it should be presented as a single detailed document, a task that might take months and cost millions, and which hasn’t been done.

        (b) The evidence he has seen isn’t “engineering quality” of the kind that computes numerical values to accuracies characterized by errors of a small fraction of 1 percent – i.e., the very narrow tolerances needed to construct a bridge or a space vehicle.

        Regarding (a), I see it as a problem for him, but not for science. Perhaps someone should spend the dollars and do it, but I don’t know that climate science has that responsibility.

        Regarding (b), he is right in claiming that climate science state of the art can’t match those engineering tolerances. The relevant question is whether what is known is accurate enough to justify certain types of decisions, including a perceived need to curtail emissions of CO2. This is a combined science/policy question. From the scientific perspective, the evidence I’m aware of can be seen as justifying an affirmative answer – yes, it’s reasonably to curtail CO2- but ultimately, the policy side of the issue must be decided on non-scientific grounds.

      • What i am proposing would eventually satisfy McIntyre I think, but it is different. Explaining the scientific principles and evidence for and against is key for making a scientific argument. And yes, the evidence and the arguments should be easily accessible so that others can assess and evaluate them. A laundry list of published papers does not fit the bill (which is essentially what the IPCC has provided). I view the “engineering quality” piece of this to be complete documentation and assessment of the quality of the information and uncertainties.

      • Judy – A laundry list of papers was not what I had in mind, but I’m not sure it can ever be possible to satisfy a demand of the sort McIntyre poses. The material he seeks is already available in text form. You have referenced texts specifically on radiative transfer, and as you know, one of my favorite geophysics references is Raypierre’s 2011 opus, with its more than 500 pages of quantitative and theoretical detail. Until McIntyre has read and assimilated these, I don’t think he’s in a position to determine what is or isn’t available, and I expect the same applies to others who endorse his statements. However, even each of the hundreds or thousands of conclusions in these texts would require additional hundreds or thousands of pages of literature documentation for a complete assessment. Furthermore, it that were compiled into a single huge work, it would become outdated within a year – the basic principles would remain, but their refinement would still require a continuing scrutiny of published materials as they emerge.

        This is not a circumstance unique to climate science – it applies universally to active scientific arenas. For example, comprehensive textbooks of medicine are published and updated at intervals, but despite their huge size, they represent only a miniscule fraction of the evidence needed to judge all the statements they make.

        None of this invalidates the goals of your proposed PolyClimate project, but I believe it reflects an unrealistic expectation by McIntyre of what the world of climate science can be expected to offer him. If he truly wants to understand, he will need to spend many hundreds of hours enhancing his knowledge of the basics, and then follow the literature regularly to remain current with the science as it evolves. I don’t think there’s a shortcut to that kind of homework.

      • Fred, rayp’s text presents the basic physics (mostly thermodynamics) underlying climate science. This is very different from an argument for AGW that examines all the the observational evidence, assesses its quality, and interprets all this in the context of a complex system dominated by spatio temporal chaos. So as a textbook, rayp’s book is very useful, but it is not close to fitting the bill for definitive “engineering quality” arguments on detection, attribution, and sensitivity, IMO.

      • Not by itself, Judy – I agree. But it addresses, in detail, radiative transfer, radiative/convective equilibrium, feedbacks, climate sensitivity, model construction, scattering, and paleoclimatologic evidence and interpretation among other topics. That goes a considerable way to understanding why the uncertainties surrounding current estimates are not infinitely large. Other works address these and other phenomena individually in even more detail. I don’t believe one can circumvent the need to comprehend the basics as a starting point, nor the need to remain current with the literature to understand the current level of knowledge in the science. Specific items for discussion (you mention chaos) can be incorporated into that knowledge base, but they are not a substitute. Until Steve McIntyre or others do the homework necessary, batting around these other individual items is unlikely to resolve much. The material for him to start on that task exists. Not to belabor the point, but until he has assimilated those basics, he can’t know whether or not it’s an adequate start.

        Finally, since I hope you continue to explore the PolyClimate concept, I’ll predict that you will find the enormity of the task of documenting every critical element of the current climate consensus within the framework of your project to be more formidable than you may now believe – perhaps to the tune of what would be hundreds of thousands of text pages. I do hope, though, that you proceed with it.

      • Fred, I don’t think you truely understand McIntyre’s request.

        It is not a request for all the information to be in one document.

        It is a request for the full logic of how one gets from 2 x CO2 to +3C (or whatever number is appropriate) with references to supporting material, error estimates, assumptions clearly stated, likely ranges of results given the uncertainties fully explored and so forth. Steve suggests it might run to several thousand pages.

        It’s not science he is asking for, it’s engineering – not “why?”, but “how?”; not “in theory”, but “in practice”; not just “if this assumption is true, then…” but also “if this assumption is false, then…”. Yes, it is a monster of a task, but in engineering this is what matters – not exactly how something works to each and every detail, but rather that one has defined the limits of the study and explored the entire space therein defined so that one can say “we have considered this, and the results currently seem to say X within range y…z given a, b and c, the likelyhood of which is quantified by empirical data in references d, e and f”. It’s not a synthesis, it’s a compilation; it’s not a document that pupports to show everything in one place, but a document that summarises and documents the full reasoning chain so that one can read it and say “Ah ha! You missed this” or “Ah, you did consider that”.

        No-one appears both able and willing to do it – and I believe that will continue until it is forced upon climate science by politicians and/or beaurocrats – mostly because such efforts are seen by those capable of them as “boring” and everyone wants their work to be “exciting”, “valuable” etc. And even in engineering, these things are only done because they are forced upon the engineers, not because (the vast majority) want to do them. There are, of course, good reasons for this forcing (no pun intended) and I believe they apply to climate science – the massive changes requested require nothing less because you are messing with peoples lives and livelyhoods here.

        Such a document would be compelling reading – regardless of what conclusions it reached, it would give the critics and supporters of both sides a way to get back to facts and figures and away from the ad homs that currently poison this debate.

      • I think Steve McI has to explain which parts he doesn’t think are explained well enough for him, rather than have a report insult his intelligence by explaining why CO2 absorbs at 15 microns for example. It is very difficult to pre-empt all skeptics’ doubts without their input in the first place. In other words, such a report has to be a collaboration from the beginning.

      • Michael Tobis

        There are a number of issues with this “engineering report” thing. I suspect nobody quite knows exactly what McIntyre means besides McIntyre. Those of you who THINK you know could easily produce something that was very different from what he wants. And even if you gave him exactly what he wanted, the number of people who might be satisfied is small.

        An engineering report is not issued to everyone on earth. It is issued to a specific audience with specific interests and specific sophistication on specific topics. The closest thing possible, in short, may well be something the IPCC WG I report and the literature to which it refers.

        The alternative is to address the document to people with a particular level of sophistication, for instance, people who are ready to take their prelims in a serious meteorology/oceanography program. Such a document might well be very different in character from WG I, but it would follow on at least three or four semesters of slogging through textbooks.

        Is an engineering report of the sort McIntyre envisions accessible to a general population, say understandable at the level of a high school education and yet compelling at a PhD level? Harder still, to such a population which includes many people inclined to disbelieve every word? It is hard for me to believe that such a document exists in any field. If it does, I would be eager to see it.

        That all said, I appreciate the frustration that many are expressing, having come into the field from an undergrad engineering degree. The pedagogy in engineering is much clearer, and the problems are much cleaner, than in the climate sciences. It’s not surprising: a smaller student population gets a weaker pedagogical tradition.

        But what people on the outside see as secrecy or caginess turns out up close to be just lack of resources to develop a clear pedagogy for anyone except the fields own graduate students. We definitely should try to fix this. But it isn’t easy. People with an amateur interest could roll up their sleeves, learn what they want to know, and contribute to the literature, rather than expecting it to already exist. Alternatively, they could push for new funding to pay professionals to work on it. Whining that it doesn’t exist won’t fix it.

      • Michael, the objective is for the target audience to be academics and professionals with a technical background, figure at least a B.S. in physical science or engineering field. So the pedagogy piece isn’t that difficult, it is more in the exposition of the whole thing as a logical argument, and then an assessment of the the quality of the information (data/models) and an assessment of the uncertainties and areas of ignorance.

      • JimD:
        I honestly don’t know how more clear I can be on this: from what I understand, Steve McI would, in this instance, be happy for you to suggest that CO2 absorbs at 15uM and simply supply an appropriate reference. If such is controversial (I know it isn’t, but please read on anyway) then a reference to an opposing viewpoint needs to be inserted, together with the logic and further references that lead the author to believe that the second (dissenting) reference is incorrect and the the first is the correct one. Then move to how this causes SAT to increase (again, with references, including any dissenting views and why the author choses the way they do) and so on, until the author has produced the consensus position of 1.5-4.5C SAT warming for 2 x CO2.

        Honestly, this is not a difficult concept for someone with an engineering background. Justify your reasoning, document your logic, show what you’ve done to try and break it, show all your assumptions and why you make them. It’s tedious, but it’s required for any significant engineering project – not to prove you’re right, but to show you’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, that there is nothing that a reasonable person has overlooked, to make sure that if something goes wrong you can show the document and say: “I created this document. Many other people examined it, many of which were opposed to the project. None found an error. None thought of anything I had missed. We did miss something and we are working to discover what it was so we don’t make this sort of mistake again.”

        And really, if this sort of work is required for a $10 million bridge, surely it is not too much to ask for a $trillion project like re-jigging the worlds energy sources.

      • Such a document would be compelling reading – regardless of what conclusions it reached, it would give the critics and supporters of both sides a way to get back to facts and figures and away from the ad homs that currently poison this debate.

        With the present state of knowledge that is an unrealistic dream. The report of WG1 is written with largely those goals, but this is not accepted by all. The process that lead to the present authorship and many other details can be improved. The IAC report proposed some steps and IPCC is implementing some of them. That is certainly not enough for all, but who is the one to tell impartially, how it should be done.

        The basic problem is that science has learned very much about climate, but the knowledge is in many ways fragmented and its uncertainties cannot be objectively quantified. That kind of knowledge cannot be presented using engineering type approach. Engineering approaches recognize uncertainties, but uncertainties of the complex nature of an evolving science and the fragmentary nature of the knowledge are too difficult for that approach. It would unavoidably create a filter that would leave out a large part of the knowledge.

        The basics of climate science should not be controversial. On every climate site open to all, we continue to see comments by people, who don’t accept even the well known basics, but we need not worry about them as their influence is minimal. When we move beyond the basics the situation gets more complex. The main line climate science community considers many such issues rather well settled, for which the evidence remains too fragmentary to satisfy all. Every scientist must have at least slightly different views on the limits of well justified and too uncertain knowledge. Some scientists and in particular the active skeptics like Steve McIntyre require more formal evidence. That leads to significant disagreement with those who are willing to accept the lack of formal coherence as long as the less formal and more fragmentary evidence appears sufficient in subjective judgment.

        The subjective judgments of most experienced scientists is significant, but determining, how significant is an intractable problem. A rather small science community is certain to foster bias, but estimating the importance of this bias is again an essentially intractable problem. I cannot see, how these problems could be solved by any single approach, most certainly it cannot be solved applying a requirement stated as “engineering quality” or any other model copied from outside. When the problems and the controversies are different, also the requirements of quality must be accepted to be different. Searching in good will for a solution a group of people may find an agreement, but how far that will satisfy others remains open.

        Ultimately the most important problems are not internal to the science but related to the way the scientific knowledge is used in decision making. At this stage the nature of scientific knowledge should be understood. There are several ways of transmitting the knowledge. Their differences will not matter, if the nature of the information is understood by the recipient/user.

      • What Pekka said here is I think one of the best articulations of the problem.

      • One question that is relevant here is whether the Steve McIntyre’s of this world understand the 33 K already contributed by GHGs to the earth’s surface temperature. This is something that scientists believe is already explained at a fundamental level, but if the skeptics don’t get that part, there is no hope for the further step related to perturbing this basic state. Can we assume they understand that part? This would help define the problem considerably.

      • Michael Tobis

        I agree with Paul that Pekka’s contribution here is excellent and insightful. I am not entirely sure I agree with its thrust.

        At one level, the problem is that people do not like IPCC in some sense. Some do not like that it is convened under the auspices of the UN, ignoring the historical roots of the WMO. Others find its conclusions anathema. Judith finds its attention to uncertainties inadequate. And so on. But by its nature, IPCC reports are compromise documents. That WG I reports in particular are as useful as they are is a triumph.

        However, this is different than a coherent report written by a more tightly knit group. The Copenhagen Diagnosis is not more rigorous than IPCC, but not less so, and better tells a coherent story because it was not written by a committee of the whole scientific community. One could well imagine such a group taking on a larger project. But here we get to the usual rock and hard place problem.

        There has been so much talk of the enormous sums of money being transferred to climate science that the opposition seems to believe that we can do whatever we want. This is absurdly different than the actual circumstances. I believe that an effort such as is described here cannot be achieved to everyone’s satisfaction, partly for reasons Pekka mentions and partly for reasons I mention. But that does not mean that a better approximation is in principle undoable.

        However, it is unfundable, or at least not obviously fundable. You will need perhaps twenty PhD years to achieve it. Finding the twenty PhDs will not be difficult, and you wouldn’t need to settle for marginal cases like myself. But top talent, though cheap compared to commercial fields, is not free, and twenty top PhD years with overhead amounts to at least two million dollars; let’s think three million to be not too tight-fisted about it. With trillions of dollars at stake you’d think somebody could scare this up. But who? I don’t know.

        I would also contest the claim that “On every climate site open to all, we continue to see comments by people, who don’t accept even the well known basics, but we need not worry about them as their influence is minimal. ” This is the scientific attitude, but not the democratic one. In a free self-governing state, the opinions of the masses ultimately matter more than the opinions of the experts. It is therefore crucial that the general population be more or less in alignment with whatever valid expertise is there. When expertise is challenged as vehemently and indeed virulently as it is in our case, public opinion can be expected drift off into a fantasy land. This phenomenon is not unique to climate of course, but we are among those very much in the thick of it today, more in some countries than others.

        That the worst of it is in English-speaking countries may not be a testament to a special weakness in reason among our populace but to a special talent in manipulating public sentiment in our propaganda specialists. Again, scale may be the crucial determinant, here in the large scale of the target population in developing the strength of the forces of obfuscation. But without the cooperation of the English-speaking countries and especially the US, progress on the consequential policy matters is essentially impossible. So the opinions of the uninformed matter a great deal.

        This is not to say that the opinions of those with various intermediate levels of interest and skill and training is unimportant. Indeed, I agree with Judith that neglecting this group is at the root of the problem. The totally uninformed make their judgments based on social allegiance. They will ask their dentist or their cousin the mechanical engineer. And the materials available to the dentist and the engineer are poorly organized and inadequate.

      • MT –
        They will ask their dentist or their cousin the mechanical engineer. And the materials available to the dentist and the engineer are poorly organized and inadequate.

        A few comments just on that one thought –
        1. Yes, “they” will ask those who have partial information, in part because partial information is all that’s available.

        2. Yes, the information is poorly organized and inadequate. Why? Do you understand that this is why McIntyre suggests an engineering report type of document?

        3. While climate science dithers, obstructs and objects, that dentist and mechanical engineer (and many others) are getting educated to a degree that is and will continue to make the job even harder because with more education they’ll find more and more questions, holes, inconsistencies and errors. It would have been far better to have done this long ago – before the education process started.

        4. There is NOTHING that you or any other scientist knows that is beyond the understanding of any reasonably competent engineer, physicist, chemist, mathematician, software engineer – or dentist. The only difference lies in the time and energy invested in learning. And that learning process is proceeding apace.

        5. In point of fact, there is no/zero/nada/zilch effort on the part of the climate science community to correct the inadequacy and lack of organization of the information. In fact, even after Climategate, there is a concerted effort to hide the data. Has the climate community learned nothing in the past several years? If so, it’s not obvious.

      • Michael Tobis

        Jim Owen:

        Agree to your point 2 and on the whole to your point 4 with some reservations e.g., Luyten, Pedlosky & Stommel 1983. Point 1 is interesting and I could argue it either way; there is indeed a problem though.

        Points 3 and 5 are simply presumptively hostile, and 5 is flatly wrong. There is no way to resolve points 1, 2 and 4 to the satisfaction of someone who is presumptively hostile.

      • MT –
        Agree to your point 2 and on the whole to your point 4 with some reservations e.g., Luyten, Pedlosky & Stommel 1983. Point 1 is interesting and I could argue it either way; there is indeed a problem though.

        Points 3 and 5 are simply presumptively hostile, and 5 is flatly wrong. There is no way to resolve points 1, 2 and 4 to the satisfaction of someone who is presumptively hostile.

        I spent 40+ years as an aerospace systems engineer working with scientists for most of the time. Some of them valued me, some hated me because I wouldn’t EVER sugarcoat bad news or load them sown with BS. It it what it is and needs no hostility – with the sole exception that the present debate should never have happened. And wouldn’t have if climate science had been conducted as normal science. Witness –


        Point 1 is just a restatement of your own words. Don’t read too much into it. Dr Curry covered that in a post several months ago.

        Point 2 questions why the information is still disorganized and inadequate – and why that hasn’t been corrected yet. There’s also the question as to why the information that the average bear Joe Sixpack gets is so abysmally poor and so desperately catastrophic. Whatever you think of that last, it’s a major reason why you’ve lost much of your audience and will lose more in the future.

        Point 3 is nothing but a statement of fact about what’s happened in the past and what’s still happening even after Climategate.

        Point 4 is also fact. The level of conversation (in most cases) is far more educated on this blog than on those of, say, 5 years ago. The questions are sharper and more knowledgeable – and getting more so. Granted, not everyone has gotten smarter – but enough have and will to make your (Note – the generic you) life more difficult wrt to convincing them. However, I should have added one more thing to the requirements for say, engineers, to understand everything that the scientists do and that is motivation. And that’s being fed to many of those on this blog and others like a slow intravenous drip.

        Point 5, I’ll give you maybe 30% – CRU, for example, is still withholding data in the face of an FOI request. Dumb. For the rest, I’ve seen a lot of words about better communication but not much wrt open data, code or methods – only wrt convincing the proles that they should believe the “consensus.” and ignore that man behind the curtain. I should, however, have specified the consensus community vice the climate science community. My bad on that.

        5 points – all statements of reality that need no hostility – the last of which should have been modified (softened) somewhat.

      • Fred-

        “I’m not sure it can ever be possible to satisfy a demand of the sort McIntyre poses”. Then you go on to say the material already exists.

        Exactly this sort of “demand” (in the real world, it’s called a requirement) is satisfied all the time. If you think it’s too much work to put together this type of a document, then I guess you think getting agreement isn’t all that important.

        AR4 is a horrendously low quality document – intentionally kept brief, and therefore lacking key elements a lot of experienced people find critical to have. Put together a document that is meant to inform and convince and have it be very incomplete is a poor approach.

        I always love to see people who essentially argue poor quality is just fine – it tells me the quality of what they do is suspect.

      • Fred Moolten

        You are getting off on a sidetrack, Fred.

        The challenge issued by Steve McIntyre is quite simple and direct. It does not require paragraphs of carefully parsed prose, but just a simple “engineering quality” response.

        This response has not yet been made, and until it has been, Steve’s challenge has not been answered.


      • Max, despite being an engineer (among other things) I have no idea what an “engineering quality” response means. I can’t even parse it grammatically. Is this a kind of quality, or a kind of engineering, or what? What does it mean?

      • David, see my post to Fred above, but essentially it comes down to this: a report that defines it’s own limits but fully documents the exploration of the entire space within those limits. Read that again, and very carefully – remebering that documentation of the exploration is significantly less verbose than the actual exploration itself. An anotated synopsis, if you will, of how we get from 2 x CO2 to 1.5C to 4C warming – one that also considers “what if X is wrong?”, the likelyhood of X being wrong and so on. Something that you would sign off on as being your best understanding of the situation and citing the data and reasoning behind your choices. This should not be a foreign concept to an engineer.

      • Neil – Much of what you describe as an example is in IPCC AR4, WG1, Chapters 8 and 9 with their references. That includes descriptions of the logic, error estimates, etc. However, that is only one small element of climate science, albeit an important one, and it is already partially outdated, as would be anything compiled in 2011 by the end of 2012. Furthermore, because of space considerations, readers must visit the references themselves for many of the details. The basic principles needed to understand those chapters require a grounding in textual material, which also exists, and so the chapters by themselves fulfill only part of the need. The same considerations apply to other elements of the science – e.g., model construction.

        Although it might be useful to Steve McIntyre to have this all in one enormous document, I doubt that individuals already expert in the area, already aware of the evidence, and busy with their climate studies will take the time to put it there, so it probably won’t be done. If that is overly pessimistic, then McIntyre and many others would find their job of understanding made easier. That is not something to be disdained, but it is not the same thing as asserting that the material does not yet exist. It does.

        The question of engineering tolerances is one I addressed above. Pekka Pirila also addressed it.

      • The problem of the volume of information has led me to favor the idea of replacing the WG1 report by an Internet data system, which could be multi-layered and maintained on continuous basis rather than through reports every five years or so.

        The multi-layered structure would allow both for a maximally readable textual overview and for databases of both publications and numeric data. The databases could have a base layer where the criteria of admission are minimal, excluding only material of insufficient technical quality and with obvious errors. The successive upper layers would be based on more strict quality controls and peer review systems.

        The structure would be supported by parallel discussion forums, for critiques of various nature. Some moderation would be necessary to keep the volumes manageable.

        The continuity of the process would save a lot of effort in comparison with starting (almost) from scratch every five years. Maintaining the whole would still require a lot of work by scientists, and it would also be important to change the scientific maintainers often enough to reduce bias based on one-sided views views of individuals. There are certainly many problems in the approach, but to me it appears to fit better the requirements than the present model of IPCC.

      • Fred, none of the AR’s are to the standard that is required if one were to engineer a building, bridge or airplane. Amongst other things, the omisions include:
        1) dissenting views and how and why they are believed to be incorrect;
        2) fully calculated and propagated error estimates;
        3) all assumptions and justifications for those assumptions;
        4) fully documented reasoning that takes you from “CO2 is a greenhouse gas” to “2 x CO2 = 1.5-4.5C SAT warming” (remembering that references are acceptable)

        For instance, WRT 2 above where one paper builds on the results of a previous paper, the error estimates need to propagate from the prior paper into the results of the later paper. If the error estimates are not properly quantified, then this needs to be noted and taken into consideration in estimates for all work relying on that work.

        This sort of work is done for all sorts of engineering projects – the more complex the project, the more vital this work is. “The job isn’t finished until the paperwork is complete” and in terms of AGW, the paperwork is in a horrible mess. This needs to be fixed before we can decide how best to tackle the problem – we cannot fix a problem until we know exactly what the problem is, how we measure it and how we measure success or failure.

        It’s very easy to say “We should do something about AGW”, but answering the questions of what and how much and how much it will cost is impossible without a full specification of the problem. This does not mean that we need to know all parameters to within some specified tollerance, but we do need to know what tollerances are possible and measurable and which are currently outside of our knowledge or ability to quantify.

        I really don’t understand the reluctance of those who believe AGW is a serious problem for humanity to get behind an effort to do this engineering quality report – it would make a powerful case for action and it would indicate where our knowledge and skills are lacking (ie, where we need to spend money on more research). If you believe that it would be so out of date as to be useless before the ink was dry, then I would suggest to you that there is not currently sufficient confidence in the science to warrant any action other than “no regrets” actions.

      • Pekka’s suggestion in this thread is very similar to what I’ve been thinking about and talking about with Michael T.

      • Steve’s terminology admittedly leaves a lot to be desired, but what he’s after is crystal clear when he relates the document to the kind of engineering report that is expected as routine due diligence in typical mining operations. Maybe you’ve never seen such a document, but suffice to say that when investors are being asked to put up hundreds of millions of dollars into a mining project, they want to be as sure as possible that the mine’s going to produce for years.

        It’s really that simple. He just wants to be as sure as possible, no more, no less.

      • In investing the interest is commonly to know at least as much as anybody else. If others know more they are likely to benefit, and the investor lose. If it’s guaranteed that nobody has much knowledge, the investor may be willing to invest based on similarly limited knowledge. (The symmetry of the knowledge is the most important issue, and obtained sometimes by purposeful hiding of the knowledge from everybody.)

        In decision making on climate policy, it’s also of interest to know as much as possible, but absolutely, not in comparison with “the others”. Also the definition of “as much as possible” is different. Some of the information is well formalized and prone to well developed quality controls, but very much is not. This does not make this additional information nonexistent. The problem is that a very large part of the present scientific knowledge cannot be fully formalized or subjected to well understood quality controls. Such controls can verify some details, but not the full knowledge.

      • Fred, What you claim is available is not available in the sense of actually existing, honest and workable.
        But you already knew that.
        There is dogma, failed predictions and prophecies, conjecture and assertions of authority, but there is nothing like what Steve is looking for.
        But, like I said, you already knew that.

      • I think you’re missing the point of the “collating” issue. It’s not just a question of convenience, it’s also a question of what is specifically accepted by the IPCC and what isn’t. It doesn’t do any good to send someone on a rabbit hunt for the core principles on which an important document is based without formally endorsing specific documents, and if you do chase them all down, it still leaves ambiguity when the papers either overlap or leave gaps.

        I’ll second what Steve says: no private project would be funded with such a sloppy document supporting the technical feasibility. In fact, the IPCC ARs are so bad, they probably wouldn’t pass muster for environmental impact statements.

      • ChE – Please see my expanded response above to Dr. Curry , which clarifies my first response to her. The IPCC was not what I had in mind as a primary source of information, but excellent sources do exist.

      • It still doesn’t address the core issue, to wit:

        1) As Dr. C pointed out, the texts don’t address the complete issue, including the feedbacks, and

        2) If a text is a starting point for a report, it can be included as a reference, but it still needs to be blessed in its entirety by the report, or certain sections included by reference so that there is no question regarding what specific points are being accepted by the report writers. Just referencing a textbook doesn’t make it clear that the reference substitutes for expose. Furthermore, it’s lazy.

        The IPCC, in particular, has no excuse for being so fast and loose about the supporting documentation, because it always was, from the beginning, a policy oriented organization. The reports were, from the beginning, intended to recommend policy. If ever there was a organization who mission required them to be a rigorous as possible, it’s them.

        I shudder to think what would happen if Boeing or Lockheed simply referenced Bernoulli’s papers in feasibility studies for aircraft, and then concluded “it will fly”. Real engineering is a lot more detailed and painstaking than that.

      • David L. Hagen

        Fred Moolten
        Re McIntyre and “engineering quality exposition”
        (a) “. . . collating the material, and it should be presented as a single detailed document, . . . ”
        IPCC emphasizes AGW, not an unbiased full climate science.
        Thus the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) prepared its 880 page Climate Change Reconsidered to provide some balance by presenting what the IPCC left out and what had been published since then.

        b) “The evidence [McIntyre] has seen isn’t “engineering quality” . . to accuracies characterized by errors of a small fraction of 1 percent – ”
        McIntyre finds that
        1) even basic due diligence is frequently “lacking” – e.g., providing the original data;
        2) Far worse is the HarryReadme file for abuse of the scientific method and software standards.
        3) The statistical analyses are wrong;

        Furthermore, we don’t need fractions of 1 percent when:
        4) the foundational cause vs effect of both AGW and/or Solar/Planetary/Cosmic rays have not been quantified, and particularly when
        5) neither the magnitudes nor sign of cloud impacts have been quantified and included; See Spencer and Svensmark.
        6) when major oceanic/atmospheric oscillations have not been included. Especially the 60 year PDO. e.g. when long term global temperatures are trending below IPCC projections, and when the last decade has been cooling, contrary to IPCC warming projections.

        These are major issues lacking “engineering quality”.
        Even an “o-ring” can cause mission failure. How much more fallacies major assumptions, data, calculations, negligence, distortion, and bias.

      • They seem to want to see a real scientific argument, an engineering quality exposition, of the case for and against AGW.

        Yet another indication of a lack of balance. So – all of the “anti-climate establishment,” want a “real scientific argument,” as differentiated from the “climate establishment” (which, of course, can be broadly characterized as being driven by an ideological orientation/tribalism).

        No wonder you see such asymmetry, Judith. You are looking through asymmetry-colored glasses.

      • You don’t understand the asymmetry and you are attempting to put words in my mouth. The climate establishment wants to convince the rest of the world to do what they think needs doing. There is resistance to this. The other strategies that the climate establishment have tried haven’t convinced the opposition. Calling them deniers and stupid old white men hasn’t worked so hot. Why not try giving them what they say they want, which incidentally would be good for the science?

      • Case in point elsewhere on this blog: Sam NC asking Jim D a series of questions – spitting siouxdohsci multiple times. It’s pointless.

        Enjoy the rest of the La Nina holiday.

      • The climate establishment wants to convince the rest of the world to do what they think needs doing. There is resistance to this.

        I am using your words, Judith. First, you are taking a broad spectrum of perspectives and lumping them under one category – the climate establishment. Second, you are ignoring the reality that to the extent that the ideologically- (and not scientifically- ) drivers exist on the “climate establishment” side of the debate, similar drives exist on the “anti-climate establishment” side of the debate as well.

        There are strong purely ideological forces on the other side of the debate (although we might argue about their relative strength as some have done recently by quantifying the money being spent).

        There is a strong correlation for people on both sides of the debate between their starting ideological orientation and the outcome of their scientific analysis. Your entire premise of “asymmetry” is rooted in a view that such ideological influence is more characteristic of one side compared to the other. IMO – that runs in contrast to what we know about human nature, and certainly runs in contrast to the obvious high prevalence of conservative/libertarian perspective among “deniers/skeptics.”

        Is it possible that the correlation on the “believer/convinced” side reflects causation but that the correlation on the “skeptic/denier” side is just a correlation? I suppose it’s possible. One might argue that the correlation on the anti-climate establishment is merely an artifact of a superiority in reasoning skills of conservatives.

        Yeah, one could argue that.

      • asymmetries between the motivations of both sides is described in the previous talking past each other thread.

      • Please see my comments below to stan (and the one he was responding to).

        We can argue about different ways to measure the ideological drivers. I am not impressed that Nisbett’s conclusions give a comprehensive understanding, but even if we say that there is some degree imbalance in, say, funding for research or spending on lobbying, you cannot extend that imbalance at the macr-level in the way that you’re doing.

        First, unless the imbalance in spending or lobbying is truly a matter of scale, it doesn’t indicate a fundamental difference in what is driving the debate, but in how those drivers are manifest. Let’s say that environmental groups are organized and focused, so their spending is concentrated. If conservative groups spend less in a less focused way, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t driven by the same motivations. You are not merely ascribing an asymmetry in the manifestations of the influences (in a way that I take issue with, but let’s look past that), but in the very nature of how humans on the different sides of the debate are motivated. You are disproportionately applying the attribute of “tribalism” to people on one side of the debate. You are saying that the “climate establishment” (whatever that means), an a categorical sense, is asymmetrically less science-driven.

        Please note, I am not in any way defending calling anyone “stupid old white men.” I completely agree that it is counterproductive in any sense, and reflective of tribalism.

        What I am pointing out, however, is that you are ignoring the similar level of tribalism that is easily seen from the other side. How you can read this blog, or WUWT, and then selectively speak about the ideological influence in the “climate establishment,” continues to be perplexing.

      • Marlowe Johnson


        “It is those conservative white males, skeptical, that seem to be calling the shots. They seem to want to see a real scientific argument, an engineering quality exposition, of the case for and against AGW. ”

        Evidence please.

        “The IPCC and the “consensus” has lost control of the narrative, and what they have been providing is a narrative more than a scientific argument.”

        Again, any evidence?

    • As Aaron discusses and everyone else can also observe, denialists are overwhelmingly conservative white males, as are the ‘contrarian’ scientists.

      I’d imagine that people like Donna Laframboise, Jo Nova, Walter Williams, Willie Soon, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, Lucia Liljegren, not to mention Doctor Curry herself must really cause you stress. It’s so very annoying when people refuse to fit into your overarching theory of everything.

      • Frankly, I don’t see a whole lot of brown or estrogen on the alarmist side, either. The “white male” red herring is just red meat for progs.

      • Perhaps it’s a case of the saucer calling the teacup white?

        It is no secret that mainstream climate science is dominated by white men. And, Kerry Emmanuel notwithstanding, relatively liberal. But that’s true of most natural scientists.

        The IPCC works hard to balance its working groups, but there are plainly more white men to choose from.

    • “Denialists are almost all without exception conservative white males.”
      Could you kindly provide the data for this statement? Or a link to these data?
      If not, then it is simply showing your own, personal prejudice, to which I, for one, take exception.

      “This is not a positive influence and is not based in the science — or any aspect of democracy or the public good.”
      I am trying hard to understand this.
      Are you implying that science would be more positive, democratic and better for the public good if it got rid of all those white males, especially any you call ‘deniers’?
      And then, what?
      Sensitive female statistics as opposed to white male statistics?
      Give us an example!

    • Martha, as Dr. Curry points out it is the skeptics who pay the most attention to the science. They have to because the uncertainties are in the complexities. Your rejection of scientific argument is unfortunate.

      As for being mostly white males, sorry to say but that is the makeup of the US Congress. Are most AGW proponents otherwise? Are you thinking of a women’s crusade against skepticism? Good luck with that.

      • It seems that as a general rule on both sides, having more information does not alter people’s perspective – the point being that they are driven first by their ideological orientation. My theory would be very similar to what you described: in order to satisfy their intention to confirm their ideological orientation, conservatives need to do more research as, since there is simply less scientific information that confirms their starting orientation. (Obviously, some argue that is because of the biases inherent in the system for collecting and dispensing information, but let’s just say that is arguable).

    • conservative white males?

      tell that to Jo Nova and Donna Laframboise, both more effective sceptics than any fictional oild funded/tobacco denial machine…

      • Thanks for setting straight our “expert” on gender issues :)

      • You know, even though she may not have been presenting her piece in a nice, calm manner, your attempt at a comeback is…

        severely lacking.

        Seriously, you are not funny, but you are closer to being funny than to having a point. Oh, well..

    • Martha,
      For an example of derivative, annoying unethical and fact-free discussion is to read any of your posts.
      Your pathetic attempts at dialectic deconstruction and sexist trash passing for thought is a shining example to us all of how weak minded leftist extremists seize onto the fear mongering du jour, like AGW, to offer their sad lives some structure, no matter how wrong it turns out to be.

    • Martha

      You lament that climate deniers are all white males.

      How about Jones, Hansen, Trenberth, Mann, Briffa, Schmidt, Santer, Bradley, Wigley, et al.?

      How many non-white females do you see there?

      How about “deniers” Akasufo, Raina or Kunihika? Or Baliunas Mashnich or Boehmer?

      Or Judith, herself (not a skeptic, but also not a pure “party-liner”).

      Your analogy is not only totally irrelevant, it doesn’t even wash.



    • Oh wow! The blinding arrogance and prejudice. Leaving aside the ageist and sexist nature of your comments, you amply demonstrate why so many AGW proponents let themselves down and get no respect.
      The labeling, attributing motives and other not so subtle sophistries are what turned me of in the first place. If your arguments are so convincing all this ‘other stuff’ is distracting and loses the audience. For heavens sake just stick to the issues – then you will be taken seriously.

    • Martha-

      “You choose to overlook the major finding by Aaron in the study you suggest you have read and to which you provide a link. Aaron finds that educational attainment does not change the beliefs of committed neoconservatives who are found to IGNORE the evolving science and the nature of the consensus thus explaining climate change denial and delaying as based in IDEOLOGY and POLITICAL BELIEF – not science.”

      You assume that the findings are facts, since they support your beliefs. I’ll also point out that the author is wrong – we aren’t debating the science instead of debating what to do about AGW, we’re debating what to do about AGW, and some people say do nothing, since the “problem” isn’t adequately supported by the science. This type of debate happens every day in all venues; it doesn’t suddenly become invalid because AGW is involved. If I were to follow your apparent position, if my Kid said they had this problem, and it could be solved by getting them a cell phone, I should just give them the cell phone, instead of examining the “problem” to see whether it’s a real problem, how serious it is, and whether the proposed solution is the best solution.

      I guess your issue with “neoconservative white males” (whatever those are) is they look at problems the same way everyone else does every day.

  25. “the global warming problem”

    Psssst… Dr. Curry…um… there might not like… be one… and stuff. ;)


    • Bad Andrew

      You’re right.

      There may not be a “global warming problem” in the scientific sense of a potential alarming development of our planet’s climate as a result of human CO2 emissions.

      But there is (among some people) the perception that such a problem exists.

      Some members of the “scientific community” are doing their best to sell this perception to the general public and (more importantly) to “policymakers”.

      As a result, very influential people in the “political elite” class are pushing for “policy actions” to mitigate against this perceived problem; primary among these “mitigating” actions is the imposition of a (direct or indirect) carbon tax on humanity.

      So there is a “global warming problem” (even if it is not a “scientific” problem, but more of a “political” one).


      • Max,

        I agree. And the only way to progress toward a resolution to this problem is to have people like Dr. Curry recalibrate their politics to match what the science actually is, instead of the other way around.

        Put the horse back in front of the cart, please.


    • Or, as Pielke Sr. keeps saying, there may be a plethora of anthropogenic problems, but CO2 isn’t the primary culprit. One potential downside to jumping to conclusions prematurely is the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

  26. I think the issue of “shared praxis” would be extremely important to such a project, but a shared code of conduct would be more so. Participants would need to have the ability to disagree without being disagreeable to prevent the collaboration from disintegrating. Political and moral issues (from both ends of the spectrum) would have to be rigourously excluded from the scientific discussions.

    • Agreed, certain behaviours would need to be agreed upon up front. Other blogs could be used to let off moral and political steam.

  27. A very interesting proposal – but what exactly would this animal be doing? Actual research/number crunching? That is a possibility, and some of the crowd sourcing sites have been extremely successful, e.g. http://zoo1.galaxyzoo.org/Default.aspx

    It might involve data collection, e.g. of local weather events. Modern scientists tend to be less than complimentary about involving amateurs – but this is exactly the way how modern natural sciences took off during the Victorian Age.
    (Oh – Martha: a large number of females were involved in this, one of the most successful fossil hunters on the Dorset coast was a woman … just sayin’)

    However, and sadly, all this doesn’t address this:
    “The science itself is a non-issue in this matter”
    To get science to matter again would mean to curtail the PR releases by the universities who scream about ‘new’ discoveries when the actual paper isn’t even yet available. If this could be stopped, and if science papers became less of a PR matter to feed the MSM, then a lot of activists would have nothing to feed on.
    Also – stop playing to the crowd of politicians and activists! They have enough helpers to get the relevant stuff for themselves – scientists shouldn’t waste their time on engaging with them.
    This would give you the time to set whatever problem before the collected blog denizens who then could spend their time on either debating a proposed conclusion based on provided data, or on checking these data/the stats.

    It would be great if your proposal could get off the ground …

  28. However polymath Leonardo Da Vinci, Voltaire, Robinson Crusoe or Isaac Newton may have been upon reflection, those Renaissance actors distilled those rarified coalescences, simplified the higher contemplations of their science, and got down to doing things.

    While science informs policy, policy must move apace. If science can’t get its act together to provide the information science needs, then policy will take the information policy will be satisfied with, and laggard sciences — as one cannot schedule breakthroughs, their nature is to lag before they leap — will have to wait their turn for the next policy cycle.

    Without specifics, policy is used to using Risk to determine action, though decisions based or Risk are more costly, they are far less costly than indecision or decision committed to based on error.

    As it happens, the Risk decisions by and large agree with the alarmist science at this time, and only those bad actors of policy, who mainly by habit of inertia or rarely of corruption of ethics, more by party politicked interest and bias of perception than by incompetence or degenerate will seem to side with policies that happen to subsidize the very measures least likely to answer Risk and alarm, or the unalarmed skeptical individuals either who reject alarming conclusions.

    Throw those bums out who sneak around while we’re preoccupied with one anothers’ science and line their pockets with each others’ taxes.

  29. The question I want to be answered is the following:

    Is the permanant global warming rate about 0.15 deg C per decade?

    Or is it only 0.06 deg C per decade?

    There is a factor of 2.5 difference between the two!

    • In 1880 it was about 0 and now it is about 0.15, so it averages out to 0.06, but is accelerating in the future to 0.3 in a few decades from now. A lot of people are confused by that early-century solar increase, because they can’t understand that warming may have more than one cause.

      • Jim D

        If you look at the GMTA record, you will see that the warming trend is NOT “accelerating”.

        There was a 30-year warming cycle around 1911-1940 that is statistically indistinguishable from a more recent 30-year warming cycle around 1971-2000. In between there was a 30-year cycle of slight cooling, as there was prior to the early 20th century warming cycle. Prior to that there was another 30-year warming cycle from 1851-1880, which was slightly less pronounced than the two cycles occurring in the 20th century.

        So there was no acceleration in temperature, despite much higher increase in atmospheric CO2.

        And then there is the past decade, with record increase of CO2 levels but no warming at all.

        So you can forget “acceleration”. It’s a myth.


      • Jim D

        Sorry about the all bold. Must have hit a wrong button.


      • The CO2 part of the warming is accelerating and will shortly become the dominant means of explaining the future warming. Other components are random, mostly solar, volcanoes, El Ninos, and they dominated the early part of the last century.

      • Jim D

        The CO2 part of the warming is accelerating and will shortly become the dominant means of explaining the future warming.

        Empirical evidence? Or “leap of faith”?


      • Vaughan Pratt

        Max, your logic leaves something to be desired. Consider the function sin(x) + x. The portion for x from 0 to π/2 is “statistically indistinguishable” (in your sense) to the portion from 4π/2 to 5π/2. Therefore by your reasoning sin(x) + x is not climbing.

        The truth of the matter is that those two portions are not indistinguishable. The second is higher than the first, both in the case of this artificial example and the actual temperature.

        Since you admit that CO2 is rising, yet deny that raising CO2 can raise the temperature, you are denying the greenhouse effect. This effect has been recognized for 150 years starting with Tyndall.

        Evolution has likewise been recognized for over a century and a half. That hasn’t stopped people from denying it. You are to the greenhouse effect as evolution deniers are to evolution.

        Girma has been making exactly the same argument as you, claiming that the rise in the early part of the century is essentially the same as in the latter part. Like you she turns a blind eye to the fact that the temperature was higher during the latter rise than during the former. Her logic has the same problem as yours.

      • Can you give us your engineering quality justification for the 0.3 figure?

      • Do you think engineers don’t use models for complex systems too?

      • Models that have been verified and validated. Climate scientists ought to try it.

      • Obviously they will only be verified when the future comes to pass. There is no other way.

      • When Boeing designs an airplane these days, most of the optimization is done on computers. But before they build the first one, there’s still a cursory wind tunnel test. Do you want to fly on a plane that’s never been in a wind tunnel?

      • If you are looking for a pen-and-paper or calculator explanation of the earth’s climate system, I think it may not be forthcoming. However, you can get a long way with the energy balance model and the single parameter of climate sensitivity to forcing, which can be done on a calculator. Of course the problem is to come up with sensitivity based on paleo or radiative arguments. Luckily these two independent methods seem to converge to a similar number.

      • Yes, and they stamp and sign their drawings, spec’s and calc’s and pay their liability insurance on-time. And if they get it wrong, they go out of business. If an academic scientist gets it wrong, it’s time for more funding!

      • I’d almost support licensing of climate scientists, but I’m afraid that would just drag the whole professional licensing apparatus down into the mud whirlpool of politics.

      • We’ve seen many examples when scientists got it wrong they have lost their credibility. This is why they are very careful before signing on to any ideas.

      • And we’ve also seen notorious examples of scientists completely blowing their predictions over and over, and they still end up on talking head shows as experts. Or advising Stalin on agricultural policy.

  30. Hank Zentgraf

    After a year of reading your blog, I make the following recommendations:
    1.0 The 1988 Mission statement by the IPCC must be condemmed. This statement has injected a level of bias regarding human emissions that distorts the science and the funding.
    2.0 The IPCC must be disbanded.
    3.0 The climate science community must admit that it moved forward with conclusions and projections prematurily before the physics of the climate was properly understood.
    4.0 Funding must be taken out of the hands of agencies that have taken a stand on the controversial issues.
    5.0 Adopt Steve McIntyre’s notion of “engineering quality exposition”.
    6.0 Require all papers to be subject to review by experts skilled in advanced statistics, phase space analysis, and other techniques used in the paper.
    7.0 Treat all scientists with respect.

  31. I searched this thread for sunshine. Nothing.
    I searched the IPCC site for sunshine. Nothing.

    Bright sunshine hours have changed. If you don’t measure one of the prime components into climate, or ignore those measurements of sunshine that do exists, you aren’t interested in climate at all. You are just on an anti-CO2 rant.

  32. This initiative seems an extremely good idea and the first item could be (cf BLouis above) examination of water vapor feedback. Few people dispute the “greenhouse effect” in providing some initial forcing so that can be left out of the debate. The real issue is to do with the hypothesis that the water vapor content of the tropospheric column increases with temperature. The observed reduction in relative humidity in the upper troposphere as surface temperature and surface humidity increase is disputed. I would argue that there is sufficient information both observational and theory to nail this problem and should it be established that the relative humidity does indeed fall with height in the troposphere then cAGW goes away. Simple?

  33. Dr. Curry,
    You are still basically ignoring the skeptical critique, unfortunately.
    Your working assumption seems to be that the Tyndall effect is all that is needed to determine if a climate crisis is at hand, despite the long list of failed predictions based on the Tyndall gas effect and CO2.
    Despite the fact that the world has undergone serious glaciations with little change in CO2. Despite the fact that CO2 lags, according to the best evidence, warming, and does not trigger serious warming when it has increased in the past.
    And there is still no serious call from within the AGW community to reflect on the implications of being wrong so much on the theory of human caused dangerous climate change:Where is the crisis, outside of fevered, factually challenged pal revi
    Until that perspective changes nothing is going to happen that is good for any of us impacted by AGW inspired policies, excepting of course those who directly profit from them or are partisan vicarious supporters.
    Mixing the CO2 obsession of the AGW community with any other policy area- environmental, energy security, economic growth, for instance- will continue to fail because the AGW community response is stuck on one answer:
    To somehow speak more LOUDLY and c-l-e-a-r-l-y until the proles finally get it.
    This is a derivative, repetitious and failed strategy and is getting positively annoying.
    So until the introspection occurs as to why I, for instance, am able to post a substantial, multi-decade list of failed enviro/climate predictions that the community can only respond to by ignoring, you are not using your time effectively: You are not actually, despite all of the bytes and bandwidth discussing communication, communicating.
    So if we are going to have a polyclimate dialogue, then it will be nice if the believer community actually dialogue. A great place to start is to admit that a lot of the predictions about the impact of CO2 were just wrong.

  34. Dr. C. wrote “I agree that established alarmists would not want to participate (and would need a new “communications strategy” to figure out how to dismiss this). Since the project would be hard core in terms of open data, transparency, statistical analysis, logical arguments, etc. it would hopefully attract a broad range of people interested in open science.”

    It would certainly help if you together with a few other at least partly- respected-on-both-sides scientists were seen as organizing the thing. You, Muller, there must be a few others. I’m back to my big, splashy press conference idea., something the MSM cannot ignore.

    Here’s something else at least tangentially related. If a few skeptics…or actually lets call them the “uncommitted” as I understand your reluctance to be branded as wholly one thing or another, could get one big name MS journalist to publicly reexamine his/her position…Dreaming the impossible dream here, but let’s say a few of you “uncommitteds” paid a personal visit to Paul Krugman, just somehow get him in a room and and laid out the case for doubt.. Man, that could potentially be huge. I bear most of those guys no real animus. I’m as certain as I can be that Krugman’s a sincere, well-meaning guy. But like most in his position, he just doesn’t know that he doesn’t know. He’s blind to his own blindness.

    Again, I realize you have no desire to be an activist Dr. C.. In some ways I’ve grown to respect that in the last few weeks with some of these back and forths. I’m just basically dreaming out loud :>)

    But there has to be a way to break down this wall of blindness to the other side. In some ways it seems harder than the science itself. But there have to be ways.

    • pokerguy writes “But there has to be a way to break down this wall of blindness to the other side. In some ways it seems harder than the science itself. But there have to be ways.”

      There are such ways. They are hard, measured data. In the end this data will prove conclusively that CAGW is a hoax.

      The problem is that this will take a long time. My guess is that it will not occur before 2015. But I can always hope.

  35. Laurie Bowen

    “Climate, Communication, and the Nerd Loop.” I guess that is me so I will put in my standard statement . . . just for the record!

    A Global Climate “Change N Debate”
    The Truth the Best We Know How!

    Climate change, Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Floods, Droughts, Tsunamis, Tornado’s, Hurricanes, Blizzards, Mudslides, and even Asteroids . . . have been a matter of living or dying since time began . . . . . the search for the cause other than . . . “We (you) all made God Angry” or “We are in control!”. . . gave rise to the discipline we call Meteorology today . . . just as Astronomy had it’s roots in “Astrology” and Chemistry had it’s roots in “Alchemy”. None of the science’s were considered a discipline until Copernicus, Galileo, Newton . . . . Einstein etc . . . were finally accepted.

    Basically, and very over simplified, I surmise: most of Climate change is caused by the fact that Earth hurls around the sun as a part of our solar system. We, in error, think ‘we’ are very big and very powerful . . . . . . .when in fact, compared to the big “scheme” of physics, we are really quite small . . . . especially when you consider just the size of the milky way . . . . . and smaller and smaller when looking at the ‘scheme’ of the entire universe. When you look at it that way . . . (from another dimensional perspective). . . .we may just be hardly and barely noticeable to anyone except maybe . . .’God’. . . .

    To flip the perspective again . . . ever notice what a family of beavers can do to a river in just the right place . . . . . then notice what happens in spring . . . . if there is an extra heavy blizzard . . . even they know they have to rebuild all over again.

    Humans can and have an effect because we ‘seem’ to leave to much ‘garbage’ behind. For example, the red sludge in Hungary recently was a byproduct of refining bauxite . . . with research and chemical engineering that sludge can and should be reconstituted into a stable composite itself.

    Just about, everything we have on earth came from ‘earth’ . . . and CAN be turned back to ‘earth’.
    Manure can be turned into fertilizer . . . you get the picture.

    When the disciplines like Meteorology, Astronomy, Geology & others “co-oberate”. . . ‘we’ will not accurately be able to project future “Climate Changes”. As well, other disciplines like chemistry & bio-chemistry etc. . must “co-operate” or ‘we’ will not accurately be able to adapt to future “Climate Changes” well because we spent more resources trying to change something that is beyond our control.

    Essentially, the climate debate for; “It being all our fault”, . . will continue for a long time simply because of superstition, religious fundamentalism, the ignorance of the many, and lack of parochial earth & science education. . . . . (You must remember the earth didn’t “become a “round” planet” until after Magellan and Columbus. Heck! . . . they didn’t even know the America’s existed. . . . . Socrates story of “Atlantis” was a “myth” of epic proportions . . . . even though someone was trading with “Peru” some 1,000 of years before the earth became round and not the center of the universe. . . . . Blah Blah Blah. . . .I could go on and on and on.)

    Finally, I assert the Global Warming debate due to man made causes was a cover for a massive regressive taxation scheme via Cap-N-Trade proposals. These kinds of CON’s have gone on since the beginning of societies and will last for as long as there are people willing to jump on that “bandwagon” or are forced to join that “party”. For now this CON has played itself out . . . and all that money . . . is gone. Ah . . but gone where?

    ‘Anyway’. . . Maybe we would consider expanding our horizons . . . . Just remember . . . the famous last words of Socrates were. . . . . . . “I drank what?”

    The answer to life . . . the world . . . and everything is really 4 too!

    • You are right.

      1. “Climate change is caused by the fact that Earth hurls around the sun as a part of our solar system.”

      2. “Global Warming debate due to man made causes was a cover for a massive regressive taxation scheme via Cap-N-Trade proposals.”


      3. Control over people.

      • Oh, Oliver, how could you even THINK such a thing. Control over PEOPLE? That would mean that the environmental movement had been co-opted by socialists or even Marxists! Uh, ok, I guess you’re right. Nothing else would explain their behavior. Sigh.

    • Finally, I assert the Global Warming debate due to man made causes was a cover for a massive regressive taxation scheme via Cap-N-Trade proposals. These kinds of CON’s have gone on since the beginning of societies and will last for as long as there are people willing to jump on that “bandwagon” or are forced to join that “party”. For now this CON has played itself out . . . and all that money . . . is gone. Ah . . but gone where?

      Judith, are you reading this?

      • Joshua,
        Is the effect of AGW demands lower or higher taxes?
        Is the effect of AGW demands more intrusive or less intrusive government?
        Straight forward answers would be appropriate on your part.

      • hunter – apparently you missed the juicy part of Laurie’s post. Here, let me highlight it for you:

        Finally, I assert the Global Warming debate due to man made causes was a cover for a massive regressive taxation scheme via Cap-N-Trade proposals.

        Here, Laurie is claiming that concern about AGW is not really concern about AGW, but the manifestation of a desire, by some unnamed group of conspiracists, to raise taxes.

        You might think that there is nothing a tad problematic about Laurie’s proof of the “con” based on beaver dams. Ok, you’re entitled. From my perspective, it was a very creative example of tribalism from the “denier/skeptic” camp, and I just wanted to make sure that Judith didn’t miss it.

  36. Nature published 11 Feb 2010 five comments on the future of IPCC. My immediate comments on them are written in Finnish making it too difficult to refer to them. Thus I skip the interesting comments of Mike Hulme, Eduardo Zorita, Thomas F. Stocker, and Jeff Price, and copy here only a few sentences of John Christy:

    However, voluminous printed reports, issued every six years by government-nominated authors, cannot accommodate the rapid and chaotic development of scientific information today. An idea we pitched a few years ago that is now worth reviving was to establish a living, ‘Wikipedia-IPCC’. Groups of four to eight lead authors, chosen by learned societies, would serve in rotating, overlapping three-year terms to manage sections organized by science and policy questions (similar to the Fourth Assessment Report). The authors would strike a balance between the free-for-all of true science and the need for summary statements.

    Controversies would be refereed by the lead authors, but with input from all sides in the text, with links to original documents and data. The result would be more useful than occasional big books and would be a more honest
    representation of what our fledgling science can offer. Defining and following rules for this idea would be agonizing, but would provide greater openness.

    I think this has great similarities with the ideas presented in the post. Reading Christy’s test again, I realized that it’s even closer than I remembered to what I have supported in my post of last February as an alternative model for the WG1 of IPCC. There are some differences, but the basic ideas are closely related.

    • I agree christy’s suggestion is a good one, but i find the general approach of the IPCC to be flawed: compile references and then let the experts make their judgements. the whole enterprise is devoid of actual analysis and argument, with the experts using their own fuzzy mental models to draw conclusions on overarching issues from piecemeal publications. So while the form is similar to what I am talking about, the actual content structure would need to be pretty different IMO.

      • Judith,
        As long as the process you attribute to IPCC doesn’t produce essentially the same outcome as other related but differently managed procedures, significant disagreement persists. There may be a partial consensus among scientific community, and this may be considered by many as sufficient basis for choosing the position, but that leaves still important questions open to disagreement.

        As long as the above applies, I do not believe that it’s possible to present “engineering level” evidence. Science produces the best knowledge available, and that may be extremely valuable without satisfying the same quality criteria that apply to engineering in applications like reliability of airplanes or structural strength of a bridge. The nature of the information must be understood by its users.

        The responsibility of scientists is to present a unbiased description of the state of knowledge, decisions based on that description are a responsibility of decision makers. In this task they may use intermediaries, i.e. experts who can interpret better, what the scientists tell, but who understand also the requirements of decision making. In particular they should help in evaluating the significance of uncertainties and risks involved in making decisions – and in leaving decisions unmade.

      • An “engineering quality” report doesn’t imply that all uncertainty is eliminated. It just implies that it’s well marked. No non-trivial business decision is without considerable uncertainty. It’s important to clearly differentiate the well-known, the probable, and the uncertain. The IPCC ARs do a poor job of that.

      • There is certainly potential for improvement, but I don’t believe that the multitude of very complex issues allows for a solution that would be transparent for engineers. Too much of the uncertainty is of a nature that does not allow for formal quantification or even good description of all the major issues. That doesn’t mean that the knowledge is of little value, but it means that judging the value requires a lot of effort and understanding of climate science.

        We have seen a lot of discussion on such points in various threads here. As an example, how can the significance of paleoclimatic data in determining the climate sensitivity be given an “engineering quality” assessment, when the conclusions depend heavily on, how the proxy records are related to the temperature. I have now in mind rather the discussion presented by Hansen in his recent draft paper covering very long periods than the statistical analysis of multiproxy data of the last 1000-2000 years.

        Similar issues apply to the value of climate models. Assessing the climate models is a vaguely defined process that uses a mixed set of data. That kind of assessment cannot really be formalized. Disregarding everything that cannot be formalized would not make justice to the level of knowledge, but the lack of formalized procedures makes reaching “engineering quality” more or less impossible.

        The issues are different and handling them requires different approaches.

      • I can shorten your argument to:

        “The science is partly intangible, so you have to trust the intuition of the experts”.

        Good luck selling a prospectus with that as your basis.

      • That has always been true for much of science. It’s in the inherent nature of science as the process of learning more rather than verifying old knowledge.

        It is important that scientists are careful and that they assess their methods, but not as important than applying novel approaches that will be assessed fully much later.

        Science is not engineering.

      • Science is not engineering.

        Indeed. So the question becomes, which is the appropriate basis for policy? Or maybe there’s some hybrid that has yet to be constructed.

        It’s not as if this is a new question, either. This has been a simmering issue for decades when trying to determine what level of proof is appropriate for approval of new drugs, for example.

      • That is the weakness in most of the present discussion. A lot of fighting is on secondary issues, while the most important problems are barely touched at all. There are exceptions, like Roger A. Pielke, Jr., who has written both books and blog on that, and there are others.

        Both deciding to act and deciding to postpone all policy actions involves risks and uncertainties. Knowing well the status of climate science answers some question, but leaves very much for other considerations. The interface between the climate knowledge and the other considerations is made complex by the uncertainties of climate science.

        An “engineering quality” description would help essentially, if that could provide a comprehensive description of the state of climate science, but unfortunately that is not the case. Therefore the decision makers need help from people, who can understand climate science and its uncertainties at a deeper level closer to the world of science.

      • I still think you’re misunderstanding what Steve M. means by “engineering quality”. It doesn’t mean airtight proof suitable for a criminal conviction. It means a better description of the problem and synthesis of the knowledge. It does NOT mean that there will be no uncertainty. It DOES mean that it will be clear where the weaknesses lie.

        One reason why there’s so much crackpottery out there on basic points that all should understand and agree upon is that the IPCC is of no help in this regard. As far as they’re concerned, we’re as sure of the feedback mechanisms and magnitude as we are of the Tyndall effect as we are of the policy ramifications. Everything’s 90+% certain. This is plainly risible. A more frank and candid assessment of certainty will mute a lot of unproductive criticism.

        No one said that an “engineering quality” report will be 90+% certain of all things, in fact the virtue of a better quality report is that it won’t be making such obviously ludicrous claims.

      • Pekka, point taken. the problem with the IPCC is that the scientists have become the intermediaries. No one is assessing the quality of the information other than the blogospheric skeptics (which is what an engineering quality assessment would do).

  37. Once again, Judith, I am struck by the lack of balance in your focus:

    In short, the blame is being placed on “deniers,” the mainstream media, conservatives and libertarians, and tactics used by the environmental movement itself.

    Do you not even read the comments on your own blog? Do you not read WUWT, or the statements of Lindzen, Christy, Spencer, Inhofe, etc. about who is to “blame?”

    There is finger pointing on both sides. On one side, the blame is being located as you state. On the other side, the “blame” is being placed on liberals/Democrats; environmentalists (who, after all, are only proto-Eugenicists anyway); elitist, agenda-driven, fraudulent climate scientists, statists, one-world government conspirators, etc., etc.

    I will point you to an excerpt from one of the interesting articles you linked:

    Our results, along with those of prior studies, show that education and self-reported understanding of global warming have little effect on the views of climate change held by Republicans and conservatives. Reducing climate skepticism among this large segment of the American populace will require far more than simply providing additional information.

    Now we could respond to that data in a few different ways. One way is to say that the data are flawed, and that the authors are part of the aforementioned conspiracy. Another way is to say that “Mommy, mommy, liberals and Democrats and environmentalists and fraudulent climate scientists, etc., to it toooooooooo.” Another way is to say that “Well, yes, unlike Democrats, the more information that Republicans get the more likely they are to see what the truth is in the climate debate.

    Yet another way could be to say that the agenda-driven, politicized, tribalism exists on both sides of this issue, and so all serious analyses must be careful to identify the contributing behaviors from both tribes.

    IMO – it would be nice to see you respond with an even-handed focus on the tribalism.

    • Joshua, the issue that i raise is totally asymmetrical. The climate establishment wants global society to do something (mitigate CO2). It isn’t happening, so who do they blame? Of course agenda driven tribalism exists on both sides, it pretty much cancels each other out. Your point?

      • My point is that I don’t see the asymmetry you describe. There are large ideological forces at play which are the counterpoint to what you describe as the “want” of the “climate establishment.” To the extent that people’s views on climate science, on both sides, are driven by their starting ideological orientation – there are similar “wants” of the “anti-climate establishment.”

        But I would also ask you to look at the language of your response. First, are you referring to anyone who thinks that GW is likely A when you speak of the “climate establishment?” Are all climate scientists who think that GW is likely A lumped into the same category as Earth-Firsters” Are there no distinctions of significance?

        Second, I would say that at least a certain percentage of the “climate establishment” want to mitigate the potentially harmful impact of AGW. If there were some way to do that without a response by “global society,” then they would be more than happy. The aspect of “global society” is a secondary “want,” and in fact, many “deniers/skeptics” would argue that the conspiracy isn’t to affect change in “global society,” but to exact some form of revenge and control over American conservatives towards the end of creating liberal/Democratic hegemony – as indicated by the supposed double-standard applied to CO2 emitters like China and India. You can read such perspectives daily at your very blog.

        When you use such broad generalities, you are contributing to the tribal head-butting.

      • One aspect I find very interesting about this debate, Judith, is how people on both sides try to rationalize away the data that show that no matter the level of focus on science, or the level of “expertise,” there is a strong correlation to where people wind up in this debate and their starting political orientation.

        Is is merely coincidence that more liberal scientists saw more political interference with the processes of science from the Bush administration than did conservative scientists? Seems highly unlikely (although it might be that the opposition was disproportionately focused).

        On the other hand, is it coincidence that predominantly, the scientifically credentialed “skeptics/deniers” have a conservative political orientation? Is it coincidence that you see clear signs of political orientation on non climate science-related issues at WUWT? Is it coincidence that so many of the “denier/skeptic” posts at this site are from libertarians or “working man-type” engineers scornful of the elitist egg-headed academics?

        None of this is coincidence, IMO – which is why your view of “asymmetry” seems to me to 1) ignore the full dimensions of the debate and, 2) ignore the human-nature aspect of how ideology moderates (in the statistical sense) logical reasoning.

        Is it possible to control for the moderating effect of ideology on the debate the science? Obviously a tall task. But saying that there is some vast asymmetry will, certainly, not be a very hopeful starting point.

      • Steve McIntyre is politically left. His exposure of the corruption and incompetence of the hockey team isn’t a feature of his politics. A whole lot of scientists who aren’t politically conservative are horrified by what was exposed by Climategate.

      • stan – I’m not making categorical statements here. Kerry Emanuel is politically right (he describes himself as a “small-government conservative). Kerry Emanuel was not “horrified” by climategate.

        Again, I am not making categorical statements; without in-depth knowledge of the individuals involved, it is impossible to state with any level of certainty just how much anyone is ideologically-driven in their scientific analysis.

        But we see categorical statements all the time on this blog about how all scientists who think that GW is likely A are ideologically driven. Judith, herself, very much implies that when she talks about the global aspirations of the “climate establishment.”

        OK – I think there is a general truth that the “climate establishment” (whatever that means) is ideologically driven in their scientific analysis, because that reflects what we know about human nature. What I find lacking are analyses that selectively apply human attributes to only those on one side of the debate and then conclude that there is some vast asymmetry.

      • Does what you are arguing make any difference what so ever? When an engineer designs a bridge, it doesn’t matter if he voted for Obama or not. Does the bridge perform as designed, or not? The success of his “model” is measurable.

      • Jim –

        The oft-heard assertion that Judith seems to sign onto is that ideological orientation influences the scientific conclusions (as well as the acceptance or rejection of conclusions) on one side of the debate disproportionately. She seems to think that there is some vast asymmetry in that there is no reciprocal chain of influence on the other side the debate.

        She says above that the “skeptics/deniers” want to see a “real scientific argument,” as distinguished from the “climate establishment.”

        Apparently, Judith thinks that ideological orientation makes a difference on one side of the debate – so maybe your question should be addressed to her?

      • Kerry Emanuel has become the poster child of progressives trying to show their CAGW movement is “bi-partisan.” Emanuel reminds me of Barack Obama. Obama claimed to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, just as Emanuel does. Obama claimed to be non-partisan, promising to “change the tone”in Washington, and railing against the reckless spending by George Bush. In fact he continues to rail against it even as he spends more, and borrows more, than any president in history.

        Is Kerry Emanuel a conservative? He says so, but what has he done to show it? He has been a CAGW proponent since at least the mid 80s. He has been a professor, conducting government funded research, his entire career. He claims to have voted conservative, but has lived in Massachusetts his entire adult life. There are no real conservatives there to vote for. Has he ever identified a single conservative (as opposed to progressive Republican) that he has ever voted for? He claims to “admire” Ronald Reagan, but most of the left claims to admire him now, when he’s dead and can’t affect policy any more. I notice that Emanuel says he “admires Reagan” and “votes for conservatives.” Yet I can find no article where he says that he voted for Reagan. He is supposedly a former skeptic who became “convinced” by the science, but was writing papers about global warming increasing the severity of hurricanes at least as early as 1985.

        What has he ever written, anywhere, that extols conservative principles? What has he ever DONE that shows he was ever a conservative?

        Most progressives are currently trying to dress up their ideas as some version of conservative economic theory. Some, like Emanuel, try to do the same to themselves. But the camouflage in both instances just isn’t convincing.

        Want to know why there is not even one genuinely conservative scientist who supports the CAGW agenda (AGW is a different issue)? Because conservatism, by its nature, values the accumulated wisdom of mankind over the supposed wisdom of a self appointed elite. Conservatism is grounded in humility of the person, but confidence in the principles and traditions that have guided western culture to where we are today. Progressivism to the contrary esteems the individual elitist over principle and tradition.

        To be a CAGW advocate, you have to first accept the appeal to authority in the science. Then, you have to accept the progressive notion that elite central planners are better capable of dealing with such a problem assuming it exists. No true conservative can do both.

      • He claims to have voted conservative, but has lived in Massachusetts his entire adult life….

        Conservatism is grounded in humility of the person, but confidence in the principles and traditions that have guided western culture to where we are today. Progressivism to the contrary esteems the individual elitist over principle and tradition.

        Judith – do you have a filter on your computer that screens out this type of comment?

      • Ahh, the desperate need of the progressive to silence those he disagrees with. Keep typing Josh, keep typing.

      • Gary – I have no desire to silence you in any fashion. With each and every one of your posts, you help to make my point.

        Your statement implying that Kerry can’t possibly be a small-government conservative because he lives in Massachusetts was, honestly, a classic.

        I could not possibly have made the point better myself.

      • “I have no desire to silence you in any fashion. ”

        “Judith – do you have a filter on your computer that screens out this type of comment?”

        You are becoming a parody of yourself.

        Second: “Your statement implying that Kerry can’t possibly be a small-government conservative because he lives in Massachusetts was, honestly, a classic.” is another intentional misrepresentation of what I wrote. I wrote “There are no real conservatives there to vote for.” (You weren’t going to respond to my comments anymore, If you do, please try to stop misstating what I have written.) I am sure there are small government conservatives who live in Massachusetts. I just see no evidence that Emanuel is one of them.

        I doubt Emanuel is a “small government conservative,” and I pointed out why. A mature individual wanting to show how wrong I was would cite to…I don’t know….evidence? Like a paper or article written by Emanuel, or a speech, in which he supports free market economics, tax cuts, reduced government spending (other than on the military).

        If my “speech” is wrong, rather than asking that it be “filtered out,” try defeating it with superior speech. But that would take effort, and thought, and actual evidence, so perhaps that is too much to expect.

      • Gary – I asked Judith if her computer has such a filter, because she has said that she sees a vast asymmetry in the political influence in the climate debate and I’m trying to deconstruct how she could miss comments such as yours. I wasn’t asking if her blog has such a filter. It was a sarcastic joke. I wasn’t asking her to filter anything out, but offering a sarcastic explanation for how she could draw her conclusions despite abundant evidence in contradiction.

        I would suggest that you consider all the possible explanations for you to wrongfully jump to a conclusion that I am seeking to silence you.

        And I’m glad that you offered further explanation for what I missed about how you draw your conclusions about whether Emanuel is lying when he describes himself as a “small-government conservative.” It isn’t simply because he lives in Massachusetts that you question his statement. It is because he lives in Massachusetts and there are no “real conservatives” to vote for there. It is amazing that I could have missed such a clear logical analysis.

        Honestly, I think that your posts are a work of art. I would never want to have them filtered out.

      • Joshua,
        When you don’t like answers, your habit of making asides to our hostess is very entertaining.
        Dr. E has, by his actions and disparaging remarks, raised reasonable questions about his sincerity.
        When Martha, for instance, insults our hostess and makes claims about her science, ethics and character, do you make the asides then?

      • hunter –

        When Martha, for instance, insults our hostess and makes claims about her science, ethics and character, do you make the asides then?

        Actually, I think that many of Martha’s posts are a good example of tribalism from the “believer/convinced” side of the debate: as one example, her assertions that essentially all “deniers/skeptics” are white, male neocons. And I did post in response to her pointing that out. I also posted to Fred that I thought that when he compared “contrarian” hyping “controversy” about climate science to the hyping of “controversy” from creationists, I thought it was counterproductive.

        But examples of tribalism from the “believer/convinced” side of the debate are easy to find. And Judith clearly recognizes how easy it is to find from the “believer/convinced” side – so there is no need to point out tribalism when it emanates from that camp. Judith regularly responds to Martha in a way that makes it clear that she recognizes Martha’s tribalism.

        But despite the numerous tribalistic posts from the “denier/skeptic” camp day after day at this very site, apparently Judith thinks there is some vast “asymmetry” in the tribalism. She even went so far as to selectively point out that Muller was being attacked from the “climate establishment” camp – despite the numerous comments here attacking Muller from the “denier/skeptic” side (including Willis’ bizarre rants) and the posts and comments at WUWT attacking Muller. And Judith does not call out tribalism from the “denier/skeptical” side with the force that she does with Martha, as one example – and in fact rarely does so at all (I remember one time when she had something strongly negative to say about Morano).

        The attacks on Muller were coming from both sides, but Judith only saw fit to characterize them as coming from the “climate establishment” side.

        An example of confirmation bias? I think so – which is why I continue to point out to Judith the virulent tribalistic behavior so easily evident from the “denier/skeptic” side.

        I hope that explains, hunter.

        But anyway, my bias or lack thereof are of little importance. Judith is an important figure in the climate science debate. If I display bias in my perspective it is of little consequence. When Judith displays bias in her perspective, it undermines the validity of her attempts to build bridges between legitimate science on the difference sides of the debate. I think her work on quantifying uncertanties is important work, and I think her stance on denouncing tribalism on the “believer/convinced” side is important. I think that the value of her work and the likelihood that she will be successful in her bridge-building are undermined when she downplays the obvious and abundant examples of tribalism on one side while denouncing the tribalism from the other side.

      • Here is some more asymmetry. People with Ph.D.s in the climate establishment (e.g. Trenberth, etc.) criticizing Muller is not the same Watts and Eschenbach criticizing Muller. Plus, Watts has said both negative and positive things about Muller. The interesting thing IMO is not that WUWT criticizes a scientist (they pretty much do that non stop), but rather that Muller (who seems to agree with most of the main IPCC conclusions) is attached by the climate establishment. The reason seems to be because Muller is not a fan of what went on with the hockeystick and was outraged by Climategate and finds it important to address issues raised by skeptics. That is what I find interesting about the reaction to Muller. I don’t find it very interesting that Willis is criticizing Muller.

      • So on the one hand, Judith, I read that I shouldn’t only pay attention to what credentialed scientists have to say about climate change. I’m told that the very process of academic scientific credentialing and peer review are so tainted by socialistic cabals with the real intent of tax schemes and income redistribution that they can’t be trusted to produce any valid science.

        I’m told that we need to take what non academically-credentialed scientists have to say seriously. Just because someone doesn’t have scientific academic credentials, that doesn’t mean that he/she can’t make valuable contributions to the climate change debate. There are smart people out there who have the theoretical background knowledge but in addition have real world knowledge that those scientists sitting in they ivy-covered towers lack. So we need to have open forums on blogs so people like Willis and Watts can add their valuable input.

        Ok, except for the conspiratorial aspect of that thinking, I am in agreement. But you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Tribalism emanating from those non academically-credentialed sources has just as deleterious impact on bridge-building as does tribalism emanating from academically-credentialed scientists. It’s all part of the same dynamic that politicizes and tribalizes the debate.

    • Joshua,
      Skeptics, while correct in showing the many problems in the AGW movement, have nearly zero political clout at this moment.
      Dr. Curry is spot on in pointing out that the AGW machine of money, media and power is not taking the skeptic critique seriously.

      • Skeptics, while correct in showing the many problems in the AGW movement, have nearly zero political clout at this moment.

        I don’t see how anyone could make that kind of a claim. There was just Congressional hearings which prominently featured “skeptics/deniers.” A large percentage (probably a strong majority) of Republican legislators are “deniers/skeptics.” Cato, Heartland, other well-funded entities are leveraging their funds to promote “skeptic/denier” perspectives. Arguing about the relative size/political power of the different camps is valid. Claiming that the “skeptics/deniers” have “nearly zero political power” at this moment is a non-starter, IMO.

      • And hunter, there are many “deniers/skeptics” in rightwing mainstream media (you know who I mean) who wield considerably political power.


      • Joshua,
        You call it a non-starter because -ahem- you are in denial.
        How many testify before Congress? Few to none.
        How many investigations by Congress or GAO are inspired by skeptics are underway? One? Zero?
        How many skeptic promo docs are converted into IPCC reports?
        Few are reading you and thinking you are credible on this, Joshua.

      • And hunter, there are many “deniers/skeptics” in rightwing mainstream media (you know who I mean) who wield considerably political power.

        Name 6.

        You’re hand waving again. No facts, no numbers, no names, just assertion. Saying it don’t make it so.

  38. Re: Steve McI’s engineering quality report. What level of knowledge do we assume Steve has? Can we assume a Ph. D. in physics, or does the report have to cover physics up to Ph. D. level radiative transfer for example? This highlights the need for a starting level. The public have to accept some science as given. What level is that, and how can we know they accept it? Some don’t accept basic physics such as spectroscopy and radiative transfer. Is there any hope of convincing them, except by starting at high-school science level?

    • Given the gross incompetence demonstrated by Mann, Rahmstrof, Jones et al, it is obvious that any important study needs to be replicated. When scientists tell us that they are confident of some scientific fact because someone did a study, and we learn later that the data was fraudulent or the statistics were badly mangled, we shouldn’t have any confidence that the science community knows what they are talking about (given the absence of any quality control).

      Instead of worrying what level of knowledge Steve has, scientists would be better off asking themselves Mark Twain’s question — what is it they “know” which ain’t so? And how can they tell? If they can stop making incompetent mistakes, they will be a lot closer to an engineering quality report.

      • That is a start. We can agree with what is in the graduate level text books, and just question the hypotheses in the papers. A lot of the basics behind AGW can be understood just by textbook science without the need for proxy historical studies, global climate models, and such, so that would be a good starting level.

      • David L. Hagen

        Jim D
        Even ‘textbook science’ must be held lightly. See the challenge in developing plate tectonics, and showing that stomach ulcers are caused by bacteria rather than stomach acid.

        Steve McIntyre shows that a person with a college degree and perserverence can delve into and confirm/expose validity/error in scientific papers by “PhD” “experts”.

        Back to the basics of the scientific method.

        “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21

    • The target audience is technically educated researchers and professionals. Engineers from most fields are perfectly capable of understanding radiative transfer.

      • I agree (see my post above). However, this won’t end skepticism because many don’t accept even the basic science. I try to get traction in my arguments by starting with the generally accepted 3.7 W/m2 forcing, but even that gets questioned here despite many skeptical scientists accepting it as a given.

      • I think you’ve just put your finger on a crucial dividing line.

        Personally, I would think that things like the “greenhouse effect”–i.e., the frequency-dependent absorbtion and re-radiation of photons–are examples of “basic science.” As a loose operational definition, these are theories that are of broader insterst than just climate science.

        In contrast, your “generally accepted 3.7 W/m2 forcing is not “basic science.” It is, rather, a parameter in a highly stylized model. It’s actually a bit comical that you would expect you could begin the discussion at that point, since doing so bypasses perhaps a dozen major issues that would need to be addressed in this “engineering qualitiz report.”

        Which is exactly why the process of developing such a report would be likely to be so helpful. It would force people to deal explicitly with assumptions they’re making, and confront the best reasons for refusing to make those assumptions.

      • There are at least two such dividing lines.
        1. That the atmosphere is 33 K warmer than it would be without GHGs
        2. That the forcing due to doubling CO2 is 3.7 W/m2 at the tropopause.
        If there is a report, the first two chapters could deal with these generally accepted ideas before venturing into the uncertainties about aerosols, oceans and feedbacks, since they are clearly separated from those issues, and are easily explained with verifiable science.

      • c’mon.. it is degree level physical chemistry…

        A few decades ago, it might even be A-level ;)

      • From my experience radiative transfer is third year undergraduate physics. Clausius-Clapeyron might have been first or second year, not high school, at least not the principles behind it.

    • What kind of Ph D in physics?

      Astrophysics, biological physics, low-energy atomic-collision physics, relativistic heavy ion physics, particle physics, laser physics, condensed matter physics, surface physics or x-ray fluorescence or something else?

      Which of those Ph D’s are experts in climate?

      • Bruce,

        ‘Which of those Ph D’s are experts in climate?/

        Possibly all of them, depending on which aspects of climate you’re talking about.

        The point I think Judy is making is that the fundamental physics on which the greenhouse effect is based are very simple. They are part of the standard graduate coursework for any student in any physics PhD program. In fact, the basics should be transparent to even a PhD student in physical chemistry or electrical engineering working on photonics and opto-electronics as well. Anyone who understands the quantum mechanics of absorption and emission of radiation should understand the greenhouse effect from a fundamental level.

      • I expect most physics graduates have done enough radiative transfer to understand the concepts behind radiative forcing and enough thermodynamics to understand the Clausius-Clapeyron effects behind the water vapor feedback.

      • David L. Hagen

        Jim D
        Yes, but common descriptions of “the greenhouse” effect that exclude convection, latent heat, clouds, and temperature lapse rates, are likely to be wrong, and to miss major factors.

        How do you quantitatively distinguish between cloud changes causing temperature and CO2 changes, and CO2 changes causing temperature and cloud changes? Especially with both may be happening, depending on the magnitude of the related causing factors?

        What do you say on Forbush events affecting clouds when competing papers disagree?
        The science is not “settled” nor even quantified on the issue.

      • This is why climate science is not engineering. You put error bars on your estimates to represent uncertainty, and that is what is always done. The concept of most likely outcome is what has to be conveyed. The skeptics focus on one end of the uncertainty and are blind to the other, it seems.

      • Ask yourself WHY climate science is not engineering.

      • The climate is more complicated than a bridge.

      • And more expensive.

      • most likely outcome is not a very useful concept for scenario uncertainty or for decision making under uncertainty. Thinking that it is possible, and that we need to, identify a most likely outcome (given the level of ignorance and uncertainty) is what has brought us to the current untenable situation.

      • There is actually nothing untenable with the present situation. In the US it is a political draw, which is quite common. Many are long standing, with strong feelings on both sides. A draw is a loss for those advocating radical action. Of course AGW may make a political comeback, as healthcare did. Time will tell.

      • The untenable piece IMO is climate science being held hostage to a misguided policy and misguided understanding of the policy process

      • Judith Curry, 4/23/11, 8:54 pm,

        Perhaps what you’re witnessing is AGW, the model, being held hostage by a political system well-guided by a thin thread of science just detectable in the noise of misguidance.

      • Dr. Curry,
        The AGW movement has in effect held climate science hostage in order to support its calamity and social demands based on that alleged calamity.
        Many climate science workers appear to be very happy with that arrangement.

      • It is about risk management which requires a reliable probability curve so that cost-benefits can be evaluated. Yes, the peak (most likely outcome) of the curve is not itself a critical factor so much as its width and shape. The science has to justify the whole curve.

      • Read my posts on scenario uncertainty. The uncertainties are too large for useful probabilities. Probabilities don’t deal well with “don’t know”

      • I would add, it is far harder to convey a curve to the public than a single number, though the IPCC has tried with its 2-4.5 range.

      • The problem of decadal prediction runs into these uncertainties more than what happens 50 years hence when the CO2 signal would be stronger, and the curve shifts enough to start making zero warming a very unlikely outcome.

      • David L. Hagen

        Jim D
        And were do you find the strong evidence that 50 years from now will show strong warming?
        Current global warming models do not explain the long term Hurst-Kolgomorov dynamics or persistence. See numerous publications by D. Koutsoyiannis.
        GWM models do not predict the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
        Can you provide a quantitative explanation for the Little Ice Age?
        Can you confidently predict the next one?
        In 1996, NASA had predicted a major increase for solar cycle 24: “This analysis indicated (by mid-1996) a maximum sunspot number of about 154 ± 21.”

        Hathaway of NASA now predicts solar cycle 24 will be the smallest in almost 200 years.
        That is only a 57% error – off by 4.3 standard deviations!

        NASA notes on the Maunder Minimum:

        Although the observations were not as extensive as in later years, the Sun was in fact well observed during this time and this lack of sunspots is well documented. This period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the “Little Ice Age” when rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes.

        On top of this, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation has entered a 30 year cool phase.
        IF ultra low low solar activity caused or correlated with temperatures during the Maunder Minimum, and
        IF we are now entering solar cycles with very low solar activity,
        Could we see global cooling comparable to the Little Ice Age over the next generation?

        Until you can quantify what caused or did not cause the Little Ice Age and the PDO, we cannot confidently predict either global warming or cooling in 50 years!
        If unknowns are so large, how can you provide any “probability curve”?

        Re: “The climate is more complicated than a bridge.”
        So is a moon shot!
        Engineers at least try to scope out the major unknowns that would scuttle a project!

        Re:” so that cost-benefits can be evaluated.”
        Where is the climate evaluation that predicted food prices rising in step with fuel prices?
        The massive move to ethanol from corn is starving the poor – for whom the ethanol was pushed.

        Where is the quantitative prediction of China’s 9-10% growth / year – (though it is similar to the US’s 9% growth in fuel for 80 years in a row.) Any CO2 reductions by OECD are spitting into a hurricane compared to that due to growth by China, India, Russia & Brazil.

        Lets have some reality on uncertainties and unknowns, and the potential harm to the poor in the name of saving them.

      • DLH, the Little Ice Age can be accounted for by solar variations. Maybe 0.5 W/m2 forcing was the largest solar change that can be justified, but it was enough with a reasonable feedback to do it. The LIA is one of my topics I keep bringing up, because double-CO2 forcing of 3.7 W/m2 is at least seven times that solar change (or typical solar changes we get each century).

      • David L. Hagen

        Jim D
        Do any of the global warming models predict the Little Ice Age? The Medieval Warm Period? The Roman Warm Period?
        How about the last glaciation?
        The next glaciation? (We are nominally about midway.)

        If not, how do we know whether the last decade’s decline in global temperatures is due to the economic crisis, the PDO changing phase, solar cycle 24, the Little Ice Age/Medieval Warm Period oscillation, or a the beginning of the descent into the next glaciation?

      • DLH, we can measure total solar irradiance nowadays to know its changes very well. Obviously Milankovitch cycles can cause climate change, but we are not due for a cool phase for a few tens of thousands of years. The other periods you list are also relatively small enough to be accounted for by solar variations, which is capable of 0.5 C in each direction, but not 3 C.

      • David L. Hagen

        Jim D
        “we can measure total solar irradiance nowadays to know its changes very well.”
        I find that curious. See Scafetta on the challenges and trauma of actually calibrating between satellites when they do not overlap between AGW advocates, and the scientists who actually built and ran the experiment.

        N. Scafetta and R. Willson, “ACRIM-gap and Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) trend issue resolved using a surface magnetic flux TSI proxy model”, Geophysical Research Letter 36, L05701, doi:10.1029/2008GL036307 (2009). PDF Supporting material PDF

        Have you evaluated Scafetta & Willson’s arguments?

      • Scafetta’s arguments apply to, at most, tenths of a degree changes, not whole degrees, which is why I discount these effects relative to CO2 (likewise ENSO, PDO, volcanoes, and solar cycles). Yes, smaller effects are nice to know and read publications about, but I prefer to concentrate on the big picture regarding what is changing this century.

      • David L. Hagen

        Jim D
        Please go back and read Scafetta’s papers.

        A phenomenological model based on these astronomical cycles can be used to well reconstruct the temperature oscillations since 1850 and to make partial forecasts for the 21st century. It is found that at least 60% of the global warming observed since 1970 has been induced by the combined effect of the above natural climate oscillations. The partial forecast indicates that climate may stabilize or cool until 2030–2040.


        With at least 60% explainable by natural causes, AGW advocates have to show strong evidence for IPCC’s 90% confidence that the warming is anthropogenic.

      • The reason it’s not engineering is because we can’t even define what the problem is in the first place. Or even if there is a problem. Some projected fear about what might take place in some indefinite future is hardly the basis for action.

      • We certainly can define an energy balance, and are now starting to do a pretty good job of measuring it and the problem is down to predicting how it will change with changing CO2. We understand how GHGs make the planet 33 C warmer than it would be without them, so this is a small perturbation to what we understand already.

      • Jim D

        You write:

        The skeptics focus on one end of the uncertainty and are blind to the other, it seems.

        Your “it seems” is basically wrong, Jim. It is the “mainstream consensus group”, which does exactly that.

        The rational skeptics simply demand empirical evidence to support the claims of the “mainstream group” (as Steve McIntyre has pointed out).

        And this has been sorely lacking.


      • The real point of controversy can be seen in these two messages by Jim D and manacker.

        Skeptics insist on such evidence that the science cannot provide. The main stream scientists answer is that the request is not justified. They have enough evidence, but that is not of the kind requested.

      • Pekka

        You are correct when you say that there are different “types” of “evidence”

        There is “empirical scientific evidence” based on physical observations or reproducible experimentation, which should be transparent and open for all to see.

        Then there is “evidence” based on the “argument from ignorance” or the “argument from authority” – this is no real “evidence”.

        There is the “evidence” derived from model simulations based on theoretical deliberations – this is also no real “evidence”.

        There is the “evidence” gained from interpretations of carefully selected paleo-climate data – this is no real “evidence”, either.

        So far, the IPCC presumption of a mean value for 2xCO2 climate sensitivity of 3.2C (range 2.0 to 4.5C) is not based on “empirical evidence”, as outlined above.

        So Steve McIntyre’s challenge is spot on.

        Until this is provided, the IPCC climate sensitivity estimate is uncorroborated and should not be taken too seriously.


      • Max,
        You are too restrictive. There is good valid evidence that is fragmented, complex and difficult to judge, but still good valid evidence. That kind of evidence is common in science, not only in climate science but most of science. That kind of evidence is common also in everyday life and people makes all the time judgment based on such evidence.

        Nobody has given you or any group of skeptics the right to tell what evidence is valid and what is not.

        The decision maker must weight the value of evidence when using it for decision making. This is a very demanding task as there are no fixed guidelines for weighting evidence of different types. It would, however, be a serious error to overlook valid scientific evidence on the basis that it’s not of “engineering quality”.

      • You can correct me if I’m off base, but as I understand the situation, there is an atmospheric effect of CO2 (which controls water vapor and cloud effects) that increases the earth’s surface temperature by 10% (33K), but can’t be demonstrated in my lab.
        Can I humbly suggest this is part of the reason the human-caused global warming theory resonates so poorly in the technical community?

      • Pekka

        I do not wish to be too restrictive any more that you wish to be too expansive in defining what “evidence” should be considered. as “evidence”.

        Start with my restrictive list, Pekka.

        Expand it to include less restrictive sources of evidence if the more restrictive evidence cannot be found.

        Empirical data from actual physical observations or reproducible experimentation trump all others. Start by looking for these.

        We have a surface temperature record (with all its warts and blemishes), which goes back 160+ years and shows us a trend of 30-year cycles of warming and slight cooling all on a steady trend-line of slight cooling of around 0.6C per century, with no statistical correlation with atmospheric CO2, where we have a record since 1958 at Mauna Loa showing a steady increase at a fairly constant compounded annual growth rate.

        After a roughly 30-year late 20th century warming cycle (statistically indistinguishable from another warming cycle occurring in the early 20th century) the temperature record shows no warming since the end of 2000 despite CO2 concentrations increasing to record levels.

        We have a satellite record of tropospheric temperature since 1979, which shows a slightly slower rate of warming than the surface record. This record, along with radiosonde temperature readings, have shown us that there is no physically observed troposheric “hot spot”.

        We have fairly reliable and comprehensive ARGO measurements since 2003, which replaced the more spotty and less accurate expendable XBT measurements; these tell us that the upper ocean has not warmed since 2003.

        Then there are the observations on energy flux from CERES and ERBE satellites.

        Physical observations made over the tropics have shown that clouds exert a net negative feedback with warming (Spencer & Braswell 2006).

        Other physical observations (Minschwaner & Dessler 2004) have shown that water vapor increases with higher surface temperatures over the tropics, but at less than half the rate required to maintain constant relative humidity.

        So we have some pretty good empirical data based on physical observations.

        But here is what we should NOT do:

        DO NOT confuse model simulations with “evidence” (they are NOT, as they are only as good as the assumptions fed in).

        DO NOT confuse “arguments from authority” with “evidence” (they are NOT; the fact that the “NAS” or “RS said so” means nothing).

        DO NOT confuse “arguments from ignorance” with “evidence” (they are NOT; “our models can only explain the late 20th century warming if we include anthropogenic forcing” is an invalid argument from ignorance, which means nothing).

        So, Pekka, I believe you see where my argument is going.

        Start with the obvious physical evidence and continue to look more of this.

        Go to the more complicated and convoluted explanations only when the basic data are unavailable.

        And, above all, do not fall into the trap of simply ignoring or disregarding data which do not support your preconceived message, as IPCC have done.


      • Pekka

        There is a typo in my last message

        We have a surface temperature record (with all its warts and blemishes), which goes back 160+ years and shows us a trend of 30-year cycles of warming and slight cooling all on a steady trend-line of slight cooling should read “slight warming” of around 0.6C per century,



      • ” expect most physics graduates have done enough radiative transfer to understand the concepts behind radiative forcing …”

        How many variables do you think there are in climate?

        How many are measured? How accurately?

        Can “most physics graduates” predict climate from year to year?

        Where have they been hiding this expertise?

        Have they been secretely measuring sunshine (to name one) and all the other variables accurately … everywhere?

  39. Judy,

    I think it more likely that you could use such a process to identify the key aspects of the argument. I doubt that you would get a resolution on areas of argument, but you might sharpen the precise nature of the most important areas of dispute.

    If I were to give a short talk to a lunch meeting of a civic group as to the reasons I am a skeptic, I would focus on the shortcomings in quality that permeate the field. Everything lacks quality control — the instruments, the data, the databases, the peer review process, the statistics and the software. Without transparency, audit, replication, and the general openness that allows for quality assurance, the science cannot achieve the level of quality sufficient for policies that demand enormous change from society.

    You might want to try such a process as to one issue at a time (e.g. what is an appropriate level or burden of proof).

    • Interesting, Stan, as I do not think quality is an issue. This just shows that there are very different forms of skepticism. My view is that (1) we do not understand natural climate change and (2) AGW does not fit what we see, so it is probably natural. I have little sympathy with skeptics who are calling for new standards of scientific practice. The science is not the problem, it is how the science is being used in the political arena. Policing the scientists will not change that.

  40. David Bailey

    Whenever someone calls for better communication, I think they are either a politician, or someone infected with the same way of thinking.

    Maybe the alarmists think they can brush aside problems like Climategate because most of the world has never heard of them. What they forget, is that lots of technical people have taken a look at the climate story, and if they had found sound, well argued science, with careful statistics, some of them would have joined the climate change cause. As it is, they have recoiled in disgust, and the message gets passed on by word of mouth.

    Contrary to what alarmists claim, it is the quality of climate science that is steadily eroding support for limiting CO2 emissions.

    The problem with “Polyclimate”, is that most alarmists must know they are hiding a lot of problems under the carpet. I don’t know how they rationalise this, but they know that more discussion of the science will not help their cause!

  41. “It has been very fashionable in recent months to analyze the failure of policies to address the global warming problem…”

    There has only been a “failure of policies to address the global warming problem” if you start from the position that there is a global warming problem that requires new policies.

    As one of those most risible of creatures, a conservative white male, let me suggest that the question is not who to blame, but who to credit with the failure of cap and trade (in the US), decarbonization, and centralization of control of the global energy economy.

    “[I]s there a better way to tackle the scientific and policy issues surrounding the climate debate than an internet-based “poly” approach?”

    The internet has already made it possible to tackle those issues in a collaborative way, as far as defeating the delusions of grandeur of the CAGW activists. A “polyclimate” approach to future climate research sounds fine, as a matter of research. But as a paradigm of how to enact public policy, I suggest we stick with the one we’ve already got. Elections. They seem to be working quite well so far.

    So far, the focus here seems to be to construct a mechanism by which a new consensus can be reached, that will allow the enactment of the policies the AGW supporters (if not the CAGW activists) already prefer. Notice that the stated goal is to use this new open, collaborative process to appeal to those who have the ear of the policy makers, not the simple minded voters themselves.

    I am surprised that no one, as far as I have read anyway, has suggested that Anthony Watts’ surfacestations.org project is an example of just such an undertaking. Notice some of the differences between surfacestations and BEST, as to who is doing the work, and who the target audience is. One has been open to participation by anyone with the desire and ability to do so. The other is a more typical climate science, top down, invitation only type process. I suspect that the success, and policy impact, of some sort of polyclimate initiative might well depend on which of those two models is followed.

    Wikipedia has been an abysmal failure at this type of collaborative approach on issues like climate, politics, economics, because it is run in such a way as to keep ultimate control among progressives who decide the final content. For a polyscience product to have any real impact on the people who matter most, the voters, it will have to be considerably more open than has historically been the case in such recent attempts.

  42. “an idea on how to move forward on the climate debate” for starters . . .
    How about admitting that man does not cause the seasons . . . that is the tilt of the earth as it moves around the sun each year . . .

    incontrovertability of the Tyndall gas effect . . . . may be so . . . but is it a relevantly dominate factor?. . . we don’t live in a round box . . . really we don’t . . . earth is not a closed system . . .

    I’ll put it oversimplified again . . . I live on earth . . . . I don’t feel it spin . . . and WE certainly don’t control the spin . . . nor no matter how hard we tried, could we affect the spin . . . all by ourselves.

    Bottom, line I experience Climate change every summer . . . that’s why Air Conditioning was needed just to survive down here . . . and that is how we (down) here control our “climate” . . . . It is that or find a nice shaded pond for the hot hours of the day . . . . that’s how the “natives” survived down here for generations.

    “an idea on how to move forward on the climate debate” for starters . . . How about admitting that man does not cause the seasons . . . that is the tilt of the earth as it moves around the sun each year . . .

    incontrovertability of the Tyndall gas effect . . . . may be so . . . but is it a relevantly dominate factor?. . . we don’t live in a round box . . . really we don’t . . . earth is not a closed system . . .

    I’ll put it oversimplified again . . . I live on earth . . . . I don’t feel it spin . . . and WE certainly don’t control the spin . . . nor no matter how hard we tried, could we affect the spin . . . all by ourselves.

    Bottom, line I experience Climate change every summer . . . that’s why Air Conditioning was needed just to survive down here . . . and that is how we (down) here control our “climate” . . . . It is that or find a nice shaded pond for the hot hours of the day . . . . that’s how the “natives” survived down here for generations.

    There are many factors that dictate climate for each and everyone of us . . . Which depends on longitude, latitude, altitude, “magnitude” and more . . . to me in order for “you people” go forward keep a firm grip on rational reasoning . . . first . .

  43. I have an electronics lab and an inexpensive CO2/water vapor/temperature logging instrument. I’m sure many other people do too. I would love to define an experiment that could be replicated around the world to demonstrate the principles of Co2/Water Vapor warming. In the lab, can a simple and cheap experiment be defined that measures and quantifies the temperature effect of changing CO2 from 390PPM to 780PPM?
    Want to know what would change my mind about the plausibility of human-caused global warming? Here’s a hint…it won’t be computerized climate models or a consensus of climate scientists.

    • Ken Coffman writes ” In the lab, can a simple and cheap experiment be defined that measures and quantifies the temperature effect of changing CO2 from 390PPM to 780PPM?”

      No, this cannot be done in the lab. It takes the whole atmosphere to quantify how GHGs work. In very overly simplistic terms, the earth loses most of it’s heat by raditiation from the top of the atmosphere (TOA). Most of this heat (joules) gets to the TOA by way of conduction, convection and the latent heat of water (lapse rate); not much by radiation. The most likely way that GHGs affect global temperatures is by modifying the lapse rate; thereby changing the rate that heat gets to the TOA. This simply cannot be done in a lab experiment.

      As to what will convince you of human caused global warming. My guess is some form of experiment that proves that as you add CO2 to the atmosphere, global temperatures rise.

      • What happens if other variables are changing too? There are numerous papers showing bright sunshine hours went up in the 20th century. That can impart huge amounts of energy.

        How will you isolate the claimed effects of CO2?

      • Does it bother anyone, besides me, that the TOA does not exist. Indeed, it is a strange fiction. The higher levels of the atmosphere have too few molecules to transfer very much heat, but most upward radiation escapes. The lower levels have most of the heat, but radiation has trouble getting out. So the entire atmosphere is a transition zone and there is no TOA, nor anything even close to it physically. Yet this strange, fictitious concept of a physical TOA is central to greenhouse theory. It makes me wonder.

      • Speaking for myself, actually, no. Perhaps that’s because I’m a physicist, more than an enginner, so “first, assume spherical horses” seems natural enough to me. I suppose my point is that this seems like an enginnering level detail, and I’ve become convinced that the overall model is still not even a decent functioning astrophysicist-level first approximation. (In astrophysics courses, we generally regarded anything within one order of magnitude was the “right answer.”)

        For Pete’s sake, the “accepted model” crushes every single variable down into to three: “natural,” “forcing,” and “feedback.”

    • Michael Tobis

      A qualitative demonstration should not be difficult.

      The apparatus will be much longer and wider than high, say about a half meter on a side and a couple of cm high. The bottom surface is thermally isolated and black. The top surface is also black, and cooled to the temperature, say, of liquid nitrogen. Between these surfaces, filling or nearly filling the horizontal dimensions, is a thin, airtight glass reservoir which must be transparent to the infrared as well as to visible light. Mounted in the top surface is a near-point source of radiative energy.

      If you fill the reservoir with CO2 to an optical depth comparable to the optical depth of CO2 in the preindustrial atmosphere, and either measure the infrared flux at the lower surface, or wait for the lower surface temperature to equilibrate, and then repeat with a doubled optical depth of CO2, you will get a detectable difference.

      There are at least three reasons that I can see that the effect will be smaller than that in the real world: the CO2 is isothermal and isobaric, leading to narrower absorption bands, the top surface is not as cold as the background temperature of space, and we’ve made no allowance for water vapor or cloud feedbacks which will indeed be very difficult to achieve with precision in the lab.

      But the theory behind this proposed experiment is precise. Precise controls of materials and relevant paramters should allow precise prediction of the equilibrium temperature of the bottom surface.

      • I think a demonstration would be extremely difficult. I have not heard that anyone has been able to demonstrate the effect in a physics lab with any amount of CO2. Between that and that physicists are unable to demonstrate a theoretical proof for the existence of a CO2 warming effect, one would need equipment capable of measuring accurately to perhaps thousandths of a degree.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Michael Tobis | April 23, 2011 at 8:05 pm

        A qualitative demonstration should not be difficult.

        The apparatus will be much longer and wider than high, say about a half meter on a side and …

        Michael, thanks for the description.

        Most people (myself included) agree that CO2 is a “greenhouse gas”. Your proposed experiment would confirm that, I assume.

        However, that’s not the question at hand. The question is whether a 1% change in the total forcing will make a permanent change in the earth’s baseline temperature, or whether it will be immediately counteracted and effectively neutralized by tropical thunderstorms forming early, by changing cloud cover, and by other natural homeostatic mechanisms.

        I hold the latter, and have presented both theory and evidence and published a peer-reviewed paper (yes, in E&E, and yes, it was peer-reviewed) regarding how one homeostatic mechanism, the tropical thunderstorm governor, works in nature.

        However, the bad news is that it will be very difficult to design a laboratory experiment to verify these effect of types of emergent phenomena.

        All the best,


      • Michael Tobis

        Willis, while I do not choose to bet the farm on your calculation, I certainly agree that there is no possible analog model that is complete.

        We can only approach the question by running computational models, themselves imperfect but at least having unconstrained potential for improvement, or by doing the actual experiment of disrupting the radiative properties of the atmosphere until something breaks. I oppose doing the actual experiment.

      • How would you propose stopping the ‘experiment’, which is going to continue unabated whether you or I like it or not?
        Short of declaring war on China, India and most of the developing world – a war which we would have absolutely no chance of winning – greenhouse gases are going to continue to build up.
        Whether it takes another 50 or 100 years to burn up the remaining fossil fuels, it’s simply going to happen, so we’d better start getting used to the idea. What I’m against is bankrupting ourselves trying to keep our little finger in the dyke.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Thanks, Michael. Unfortunately, in this case our models are not “approaching the question”, as can be seen by the lack of progress in estimating the “climate sensitivity”.


      • You’ve demonstrated perfectly the disconnect in the discussion. Nobody (aside from the exofringe) is disputing that CO2 absorbs far IR. The radiative part is simply an ensemble that needs to be put together as a matter of housekeeping (it’s actually a bit more involved than that little box, but it can be modeled fairly accurately). It’s the feedback part that’s more controversial.

        There’s no point in proving the obvious, and that little experiment is far from a complete model of the actual atmosphere. It proves nothing and settles nothing.

      • Actually, the skydragon group (including Ken Coffman) is still debating this issue, see the slaying the sky dragon threads.

    • Just to show how fair I am, I’m willing to ignore all the factors that create negative feedback…I just want to see in a replicable experiment, best case, how much CO2 “back radiation” can add heat energy to an emitter and whether its enough to overcome additional conductivity created by added CO2. Until that day, I will be a Sky Dragon Slayer.

  44. “The “deniers” have no tactics. Never did. Never will. Deniers are reacting, not initiating.”

    I pretty much agree with this, and it’s high time it changed.

    • Skeptics don’t have to have a strategy, or tactics per se, they simply point out why a theory, experiment or set of facts are wrong.

    • David L. Hagen

      Under normal science, IPCC/AGW advocates bear the burden of proof that anthropogenic causes have a major impact relative to the null hypothesis that climate will continue driven predominently by natural causes across the observed natural fluctuations. Unknown phenomena need to be explored and quantified, not just assumed that they are negligible with anthropogenic used as the default. e.g. see solar/planetary/galactic cosmic rays.

    • pokerguy,
      The AGW community is the only group of people denying things, like the scientific method, as you demonstrate so well.
      Did you have a point you misplaced in your snark?

  45. Ken Coffman says: “Want to know what would change my mind about the plausibility of human-caused global warming?”

    Yes, I would . . . . because that is probably the next “bull hockey stick” “they” will use .

    pokerguy: Deniers are reacting, not initiating.”

    Re-acting to what? not initiating what?

  46. “Re-acting to what? ”

    Poor science, hysterical fear-mongering, misguided policy.

    not initiating what?

    Some sort of well-organized and ultimately effective strategy to lay bare the poor science, hysterical fear-mongering, and misguided policy.

    • pokerguy,
      Skeptics have been proven spot on in our criticisms of the CO2 obsessed on more than a few occasions.
      Do you dislike people finding the truth?

  47. hows this for a compromise?

    We cut CO2 emissions given we have no assurances that pushing CO2 up to 600ppm will be safe.

    In the meantime we talk a lot about climate science and how to do it better, etc. We wait for models to get really accurate, etc.

    Then if it is found that 600ppm CO2 is safe afterall, we resume emissions.

    • lolowot,

      An interesting proposal. But, you know, lolo, I kinda belong to the “me last” tribe when it comes to sacrifices on behalf of Gaia. On the other hand, I don’t want to be a dogmatic, dissatisfied, old white-guy pensioner, anti-science denier on the subject.

      So I’m prepared to meet you half-way, lolo. Why don’t you hit-up “Big Al” and his carbon-piggy pals and get them to reduce their standard of living to the level you are urging on the rest of us. Then let’s give our betters a year or two to adjust to their new life-style. At that point, give me a ring and I promise I’ll check out their little greenshirt utopia with a an open mind. I mean, living in a unpowered tee-pee and subsisting on back-yard tubers and earth-worms and getting around on bamboo-bike timeshares may not be such a bad deal, after all. Heck, I might even join the party.

      Otherwise, no deal.

    • David L. Hagen

      And China and India increase their emissions in a few years equivalent to the total usage of OECD. So what have you gained?

      What is “safe”? What is “harm”?
      Using fossil fuels is just putting back into the atmosphere what was originally there. It helps 3rd world farmers grow the food needed to feed their families.

    • lolwot,
      Yeah, right.
      Show how to cut emissions and then ahve any infrastructure left to start things back up.

  48. At the risk of expanding the scope of what is already an extraordinarily ambitious undertaking, I would mention that the “poly” part of Polyclimate implies that we address an entity that is probably equal to global warming and its consequences in terms of implications for civilization during the rest of this century. The phenomenon is Ocean Acidification, which is a consequence of rising CO2 rather than rising temperatures. At current rates, it is conceivable that we might double the hydrogen ion concentration of the oceans within the next hundred years, and even lesser increases can profoundly affect the marine food chain that millions of humans depend on for their livelihood. Neglecting this element of climate would be to ignore a phenomenon that may impact as many or more people than warming would, and will be much harder to adapt to.

    • David L. Hagen

      Fred Moolten
      Have you looked at the enormous buffer capacity in ocean sediments?
      See Tom Segalstad and his discussion of ocean buffers.

      Furthermore, this carbonate buffer is not the only buffer active in the atmosphere / hydrosphere / lithosphere system. The Earth has a set of other buffering mineral reactions. The geochemical equilibrium system anorthite CaAl2Si2O8 – kaolinite Al2Si2O5(OH)4 has by the pH of ocean water a buffer capacity which is thousand times larger than a 0.001 M carbonate solution (Stumm & Morgan, 1970). In addition we have clay mineral buffers, and a calcium silicate + CO2 calcium carbonate + SiO2 buffer (MacIntyre, 1970; Krauskopf, 1979). These buffers all act as a “security net” under the most important buffer: CO2 (g) HCO3- (aq) CaCO3 (s). All together these buffers give in principle an infinite buffer capacity (Stumm & Morgan, 1970).


      See also:
      Acid Seas Back to Basic

      Demico et al35 show that atmospheric CO2 rose as high as 2500 ppm between 60 and 40 Ma and Caldeira and Wicket say that there is no evidence for a greater than 0.6 decrease in pH in the last 300 Ma, so even with CO2 levels six and a half times greater than today, the oceans were still not acid.

      Have these factors been addressed in the papers you cite?

      • David -The article addresses past acidification, including evidence of pH reductions of 0.7-0.8 units, representing more than a quadrupling of hydrogen ion concentration (0.6 would represent more than a tripling). The Segelstad claims about silicate buffers appear to misconstrue the nature of ocean acidification by CO2 and the ultimate compensation through silicate weathering, primarily involving land-based silicate minerals. The weathering occurs over intervals of hundreds of thousands of years, and therefore has no relevance to the decadal, centennial, and pauci-millennial intervals during which the biological effects of acidification are exerted, and during which ocean carbonates are the primary source of pH buffering. Ultimately, the system rights itself, but not on human timescales.

    • And it’s conceivable that Chicken Little’s complaint may prove true. What about Killer meteors? And we need to prepare for nuclear winter, and cancer causing ….everything. The best course of action? If we just confessed out sins and outlawed capitalism, maybe Gaia would forgive us.

    • Fred,
      The one thing you steadfastly dodge in every way is the one thing that needs to be examined:
      Is the risk credible at all?
      Please do not waste more of our time talking about marine food chains being disrupted by CO2.
      It is simply cheesy SF plots.
      Start showing us why any of your representations about CO2 apocalypse are anything other than SF plot ideas.
      Start with explaining why you should have any credibility at all since not one AGW related detrimental predicted effect has in fact some true.
      And if you go to your creationist strategy diversion, I will take that as an admission that you have nothing.

  49. Svend ferdinandsen

    I somehow feel that all the scientific arguing is a battle against windmills.
    The debate resembles a debate of religion and believe.
    The climate community with IPCC at the top, reminds me of Luthers reformation and fight against the catholic church (as the status quo).
    He succeded of two reasons. Peoble felt tired of the existing church, that had not been able to prevent the plague, and most important, the rulers got an opportunity to take over all the posessions of the church, and they would become head of the church themselves.
    It is not the best analogy, but it is astonishing how well the “climate change” has been accepted by governments. I believe it is because it gives them an opportunity to gain more power. They can blow to the fear and collect taxes to help that fear. A very oldtime scheme, but it works even today.
    Like a religion the climate change also works with a “the end is near”.
    You can’t argue against that, especially because there are no immidiate signs that it seems to come true.
    You can never fight believe with science and arguments, on the contrary.
    And the govenment will never pass a chance to gain more tax and power.

    This was some thaughts from an older dane, that has become a bit cynical following the debate. It is not so well formulated and i excuse my danish-english, but i hope it could give a refreshing twist to the debate.

  50. Bear in mind that math is done without data, observations, satellites, computer models, etc. Math is all thought. If you are proposing to actually do collaborative science then people have to actually do science, which may involve all of the above. The collaboration is the least of it, unlike in the math case. It might be easier to do collaborative assessment or meta-analysis, which basically means looking at a lot of existing research. That is why I proposed doing an issue analysis. An issue analysis is a meta-analysis that focuses on the state of the reasoning regarding a given scientific problem. You are already doing that here but not systematically.

    • Don’t you think some people (clearly not all, since mainstream climate science seems to have lost the “science”) could work on the math/physics problem of a better theory of atmosphere that starts without assumptions of cause or warming. The good old null hypothesis – nothing is happening and CO2 makes no difference because of earth’s negative feedback mechanisms (aerosols and clouds spring to mind). The fundamental problem is that mainstream science has to fight hard for research funding with a high attrition rate, which climate science follows the political gravy train.

      • @BLouis79: Certainly some theoretical work could be done on-line. But you pretty quickly have to build a computer model to play with it, probably a big one. This is a major offline effort.

        But I don’t understand your “fundamental problem” point about funding. In the USA, climate research is just $2 billion, out of a $60 billion basic research budget, half of which goes to health. And there is just as much competition in climate research as anywhere else.

    • An excellent point! Still, even if it turns out the collaborative effort can’t reach an ultimate conclusion because someone has to go out and generate some new data, that would still be a very useful result.

      I, for one, do not deny climate orthodoxy because I’m a white anglo-saxon protestant male. I do so because I’d like to see us learn enough about climate science to terraform (Mars, other planets, Earth itself…). Identifying what we need to know but don’t yet is a very important step in that process.

  51. Willis Eschenbach

    Bart R | April 23, 2011 at 9:59 am

    I agree that the homeostatic mechanisms are a keystone to understanding the science of the polyshell.. but.

    Homeostatic mechanisms can be categorized into safety valves (the heat reaches the melting point of wax, the wax falls away and the sprinklers flood the room with water), buffers (the sacrificial anode of zinc oxidizes, preventing the steel hull from rusting), negative feedback mechanisms (as price goes up, demand falls), etc.

    However, polymaths know from countless examples across multiple fields that such homeostatic mechanisms:
    a) work only over a specific range and outside that range either have minimal effect or invert into liabilities;
    b) tend to be costly;
    c) never are perfectly efficient;
    d) are generally ablative, and not usually immediately self-resetting.

    I love it when people say “from countless examples” … in any case, perhaps you could tell me how those apply to the thermostatic regulation of climate by tropical thunderstorms.

    When it is cold, no clouds form, and warming is increased.

    When it is warmer, we get cumulus, and warming slows.

    When it is warmer still, we get cumulonimbus (thunderstorms), and warming stops.

    Between these, they regulate the tropical temperature. I fail to see how any of your “a, b, c, d” above apply to that mechanism in any significant manner …

    When you are done with that, you can explain how the homeostatic regulation of my own core body temperature is “costly” and “not immediately self-resetting”, and if so … so what? It still works, and very well, for billions of people.

    Finally, the laws of thermodynamics state that nothing in this universe is “perfectly efficient”, so your claim that homeostatic mechanisms are not perfectly efficient either is … well … superfluous in a scientific blog.


    • Willis Eschenbach

      You have me at a disadvantage of a medical sort. You ask me to follow a link to WUWT, but due to my early experiences looking at that site I must still stifle a gag reflex at the thought of returning to it, though I’m assured it has vastly improved of late.

      I imagine your link itself provides cites to articles available elsewhere than this single source, publications of some sort, references established in some institution or organization of such size or scope as to be able to support investigations into theories of tropical thunderstorms.

      Post those non-WUWT supporting citations, please, and I’ll be glad to learn more of this exciting-sounding Gaiaen hypothesis.

      How cold is ‘when it is cold’ for no clouds to form? Cold enough for ice to form, and the albedo of snow fields to reduce absorbtion? I ask because I’d hope this has been measured, plotted, graphed, charted, analyzed, explored, made explicit and identified region-by-region, since the subject is so complex it would be dyskeptical to accept at face value such an overgeneralized precept unquestioned. Does it make a difference whether the area is over land or sea? Has sea ice already (which is dwindling, isn’t it http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0870.2010.00441.x/abstract;jsessionid=3AC21BB4CEC145EDE8D863E17DE2632F.d01t01, http://nsidc.org/images/arcticseaicenews/20110405_Figure2.png)? Is over regions dominated by permafrost (which is dwindling as rapidly asarctic sea ice, isn’t it, http://yukon.cccsn.ca/?page=permafrost-proj)? Surely your source has examined that much data before throwing out so sweeping a hypothesis?

      This cumulus of which you speak, are enough dynamically significant measurements taken for sufficient ranges of observations to provide evidence of the effect and good metrics of how much and how fast it works? Is this the Lindzen cloud iris effect I’ve heard about? Because there’s some contrary information when I look for cites on that (eg http://www-eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen/comirishyp.pdf, http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2009GL039628.shtml). Wait, no, that’s cirrus clouds, different beast one supposes, which actually has published studies discussing it.

      Tropical thunderstorms would be safety valves. For a certain value of safety. Certainly, those caught in, battened down during or washed away by increasing tropical thunderstorms — a necessary outcome under your hypothesis — would consider themselves less safe. Indeed, the tropical thunderstorm question is part of why I just don’t put much stock in AGW, and instead refer to overall Risk of CO2E emissions. I don’t care whether the temperature goes up one degree costing projected (and unproven) $trillions or the frequency of tropical thunderstorms goes up 100% (which one supposes there is little evidence for, so perhaps your feedback mechanism is step-wise and hasn’t met its thermal threshold to fire off yet) costing projected (and unproven) $trillions in some yet-to-be-determined Risk scenarios. It all increases the cost of Risk.

      I see you mention the example of the homeostatic mechanism of your own body (and countless billions of human beings, which is just one species among countless examples, as I observe you love when people speak from countless example, thought I’d point out Tu Quoquely).

      For any set of mechanisms, limits to growth and scale imposed (as surface area is key to biothermal heat exchange, and area increases as a square while volume increases as a cube), also heat homeostatis breaks down in hypothermia and heat stroke (a).

      Homeostasis in warm-blooded organisms is costly. It takes energy to heat a body. For that energy, resources are diverted from other biological activities; mechanisms to regulate temperature are required, and displace for example mechanisms to fight infection (or sometimes have competing dual roles). (b)

      You feel a chilly draft and are uncomfortable? You slow down in the heat of the day? Not very efficient homeostasis there. (c)

      You pass out when your homeostasis fails, you’re dehydrated or starved or depleted of vital substances? Well, better hope there’s someone to care for you until your homeostasis resets, or the shock could kill you. (d)

      Are you really throwing the word homeostasis around so glibly without knowing these things about it?

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Bart R | April 24, 2011 at 12:15 pm

        Willis Eschenbach

        You have me at a disadvantage of a medical sort. You ask me to follow a link to WUWT, but due to my early experiences looking at that site I must still stifle a gag reflex at the thought of returning to it, though I’m assured it has vastly improved of late.

        I imagine your link itself provides cites to articles available elsewhere than this single source, publications of some sort, references established in some institution or organization of such size or scope as to be able to support investigations into theories of tropical thunderstorms.

        Let me get this straight. You tell me that my writing (cited above) will likely make you puke (despite the fact you haven’t read it) … and then you ask me to rewrite it or pull it apart and feed it to you in small pieces … because you are prone to nausea?

        Bart R, you desperately need a course in common politeness. For starters, if you tell a man his writing makes you nauseous, he’s likely to say, as I do …

        What do I care what you want, you nasty man? You insult me and then ask me for favors? What planet are you living on?

        I am really, really tired of AGW adherents who are unaware of the simplest requirements for communication. You are at a “medical disadvantage” as you say, BartR, the emergency is that you need a rectal craniectomy …


      • Oh Willis Eschenbach

        You must realize, the world is not made up of AGW adherents and AGW opponents.

        Standing outside that particular debate as much as possible (as I deem the requirements for that discussion surpass those needed to satisfy the relevant questions of what to do about CO2E, and are therefore immaterial to my interest), I opine that the balance of the argument favors AGW adherents in terms of general completeness and overall competence, but that neither have they produced a final finished outcome nor have they addressed all usual or important routine criticisms, nevermind those points raised by ardent opponents.

        I regret you find this insulting; my words were in no means intended to aim at your unread writings (as, not going to WUWT to look at them, I didn’t realize you were linking to yourself there and thus would feel so disparaged), but simply to the explain an aversion I have to returning to a website full of unpleasant associations for me.

        To me, I recall it as a place of illogic and irrationality, insult, invective, deception, ignorance that sought to drag down both desire to learn and power to communicate. I hear it’s changed. Doesn’t mean my discomfiture will.

        I’m sure you must have websites you find unpleasant to visit; it’s hardly like the phenomenon is unique or rare.

        If you like WUWT, more power to you. Enjoy the heck out of it.

        If you have an idea to present, and only present it there, then regretfully, I’ll never know what you wish me to comment on.

        I’m okay with that.

      • Bart R,
        And you call skeptics deneris?
        How ironic.

  52. The present regime of climate science is like that of Qaddafi – the people on the gravy train support the existence of the gravy train until they begin to see a train wreck looming and some start to defect. When some “mainstream” climate scientists get the courage to defect to mainstream science, change might happen.

    The other problem is that mainstream science goes about its work quietly.

  53. The graph showing the palaeo record of CO2 versus global temperature reconstructions


    looks like a kind of IQ test, two wrong answers are shown but the correct answer is not. Who can fill in the correct answer?

    Clue: 0.0 C per doubling, CO2 controls 0 % of (a nonexistent) greenhouse effect.

  54. Willis Eschenbach

    Bart R | April 23, 2011 at 9:59 am

    I generally see no need to ask the narrow question, as it requires a great deal more skill to answer and is a good deal more specific than needed to decide the type and scope of answers about what we can control, however the bulk of the science seems to strongly support that yes, temperature matters and will burn through the homeostatis of the polyshell over the millennial scale due to those controllable but unmanaged factors of emission and resource use of the commons.

    The “bulk of the science” says that over the “millennial scale” and so forth …

    Bart, how’s about a citation that science can say anything about the climate a thousand years from now? Bear in mind that it is clear that the “bulk of the science” has just been wrong on the decadal scale (no warming over the last decade) … and you claim million year accuracy for the same bulky science?

    I’ll pass …


    • Willis Eschenbach

      Of course, that should be “you claim thousand year accuracy ” …


    • Willis Eschenbach

      Did you want me to cite Gene Roddenberry or Isaac Asimov to address your narrow question? Nostradamus perhaps?

      Do you expect Earth will pass through a narrow astrophysics-altering region of spacetime soon, altering the way the climate question behaves?

      That Planck’s Constant is a variable instead?

      You can narrowly pass all you like, it makes no difference to mathematics or chemistry, or physics questions.

      You can hop up and down all you like on insufficient narrow datasets claiming to disconfirm millennial rates by known and familiar decadal variability questions, as if I care about them any more than you do.

      But I don’t. See, that’s narrow temperature questions. It’s detail stuff, and I’m not a narrow detail question guy.

      The principle remains the same: your narrow high-rate homeostasis is just another way of saying chaos will increase because we emit far more CO2E than the normal homeostasis of the polyshell can process.

      You don’t appear to be any more of a detail guy than I am; why do you insist on trying to cope with narrow detail issues you’re no better equipped to explore than I am?

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Bart R, you said:

        … temperature matters and will burn through the homeostatis of the polyshell over the millennial scale …

        I replied saying:

        Bart, how’s about a citation that science can say anything about the climate a thousand years from now?

        In reply, you have waved your hands so hard I was wishing for a windmill, could have powered a small town … but no citation.



      • Willis Eschenbach

        That’s your response to a request for a citation, Bart?

        You are the one that claimed that science could predict a thousand years out what would happen to the climate … and that’s your evidence?



      • Willis Eschenbach

        Who taught you to read?

        I said, “..the bulk of the science seems to strongly support that yes, temperature matters and will burn through the homeostatis of the polyshell over the millennial scale..”

        Which where I’m from speaks to rate, not of necessity prediction. As in, your homeostasis isn’t a permanent fix. It’s a band-aid. It won’t last forever. It’s a substandard offering. It’s inadequate. It’s not grade-A stuff. It’s lame.

        I’d also said, “I generally see no need to ask the narrow question, as it requires a great deal more skill to answer and is a good deal more specific than needed to decide the type and scope of answers about what we can control..”

        Tending to suggest the type of citation you seek is exactly the type of source I’ve already deprecated.

        So, no, as I never claimed science could make the sort of prediction you’re reading into my words, I will not be providing you with citations of that sort.

        Perhaps your time would be more productively spent asking what I think is less lame than invoking a problematic and impermanent homeostatic mechanism to resolve issues that we don’t really need to incite in the first place?

        Just a suggestion.

  55. Fred Moolten | April 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Reply
    At the risk of expanding the scope of what is already an extraordinarily ambitious undertaking, I would mention that the “poly” part of Polyclimate implies that we address an entity that is probably equal to global warming and its consequences in terms of implications for civilization during the rest of this century. The phenomenon is Ocean Acidification, which is a consequence of rising CO2 rather than rising temperatures. At current rates, it is conceivable that we might double the hydrogen ion concentration of the oceans within the next hundred years, and even lesser increases can profoundly affect the marine food chain that millions of humans depend on for their livelihood. Neglecting this element of climate would be to ignore a phenomenon that may impact as many or more people than warming would, and will be much harder to adapt to.

    Fred, the problem some of us have with the ocean acidification idea is the following. Human activity has increased atmospheric CO2 from below 300 to 380 ppm. It might increase it by a further couple of hundred ppm. However, corals, sponges and other sessile calcified marine organisms evolved and flourished during the Cambrian to Ordovician eras, 400-550 milli0n years ago, at which time atmospheric CO2 levels were around 3000-5000 ppm. This falsifies the hypothesis that atmospheric CO2 can acidify the ocean to an extent to affect marine calcified organisms.

    The oceans contain enough water – vastly more mass than the atmosphere – and salts, to buffer atmospheric CO2 with little or no change to its pH.

    • phglogiston and Fred Moolten

      It would be very easy to make a calculation of how much “ocean acidification” we could theoretically generate with the burning of fossil fuels.

      As I have shown Pekka Pirilä on another thread, there is just barely enough carbon contained in all the optimistically estimated fossil fuel reserves of our planet to generate 8,200 GtCO2. That’s all there is down there.

      This would get us to 915 ppmv from today’s 390 ppmv, if we assume that 50% of the total emitted CO2 “remains” in the atmosphere (as is currently the case) with the rest absorbed by the terrestrial biosphere, weathering, absorption by soil, the oceans where it is converted by phytoplankton and enters the food chain, partially ending up as carbonates sinking to the ocean floor or simply converted chemically, or dissipated out to space.

      The estimated short-term residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere (Segalstad) is around 5 to 15 years, but the long-term half life of CO2 in our climate system has been estimated (Hausfather, Yale Forum) to be 100-120 years (which means that annually an amount equal to 0.58% of the atmospheric concentration is disappearing forever).

      So let’s just assume that 80% the “missing” 50% will go into the ocean and forget about the half life decay.

      This equals 3,280 GtCO2.

      Latest estimates put the ocean’s volume at 1,332 billion cubic kilometers, so this really represents a “teeny weeny” bit of CO2, doesn’t it?


      • As I have shown Pekka Pirilä on another thread, there is just barely enough carbon contained in all the optimistically estimated fossil fuel reserves of our planet to generate 8,200 GtCO2. That’s all there is down there.

        You have claimed, not shown. The total amount of the coal resource is known to be much larger (by a factor of order 10), but there are no reliable estimates on the ultimate share that can be used of that large resource. There hasn’t yet been sufficient reason to analyze the resource base in detail. Neither is it possible to determine how the mining technologies will develop, if and when there is willingness to pay significantly more for the coal.

        Most sources that give estimates for the ultimately recoverable oil do not present corresponding estimates for the ultimately recoverable coal. They do so, because well justified estimates do not exist.

        The residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere is a complex issue. The fastest response corresponds to the balance with the well mixing top layers of the oceans, but the related process is getting weaker due to the changes in relative concentrations of HCO3- and CO3– ions. Therefore the fraction that has a longer residence time is growing. There are also other mechanisms, which add to the lengthening of the residence time.

        In spite of all above, I do agree on the observation that the limited availability of fossil fuels starts to influence strongly the emissions, and that maximal plausible production rates appear to limit the growth potential below many of the IPCC scenarios. I have just protested on the simplistic limit on the total ultimate production of fossil fuels. It may well be that more will never be produced (or only over a very long period of several hundreds of years), but that is not guaranteed to be true.

        Noticing that the amount of fossil fuels is limited doesn’t remove all problems. Rather it should give additional justification for developing alternative solutions both for the energy source of cars and for generating electricity as well as finding ways for reducing the energy consumption in general.

      • Pekka

        You state

        The total amount of the coal resource is known to be much larger (by a factor of order 10), but there are no reliable estimates on the ultimate share that can be used of that large resource.

        Sorry, Pekka it is not “known to be much larger (by a factor of 10)”.

        You just made that up.

        I have shown you links to the various reserve estimates from several sources. You have shown no such reserve estimates, but simply a theoretical study from 1997 of “how much coal should hypothetically be exploitable at a p;rice of $100/boe.

        Come with an actual reserves estimate as I have done.


      • Max,
        I decided to look at the most recent World Energy Outlook of IEA. The had chosen this German study from 2009 as their principal source


      • Pekka,
        Are you now going to talk about us turning into Venus?

  56. I wonder if serious scientists could debate and resolve the question of whether one needs to be able to understand and predict weather to be able to understand and predict climate (climate being really an integration of weather).

    Interestingly, Heritage health as a $3M prize for predicting which patients ended up in hospital. http://www.heritagehealthprize.com
    (The ultimate global warming challenge was not awarded. http://ultimateglobalwarmingchallenge.com/)

    Maybe someone will ante up a prize for the most accurate climate prediction?
    …or else a mathematician will prove it is impossible.

    • BLouis79

      Is “climate” truly an “integration” of “weather” or a “sum”?

      An interesting (unanswered) question, which only has significance for a statistician.


  57. Re Polyclimate, 4/22/11

    McIntyre’s criticism is excellent, though the engineering quality exposition, per se, sounds impractical by its sheer size and doomed to become bureaucratic. He is astute to cite the cloud albedo effect as his prime example of a technical challenge. It is one of a short list of fatal errors in the AGW model in my journal. These are mixed errors of omission and commission.

    In fact, the Rocket Scientist’s Journal is an on-going example of Open Science. Commentary is fully moderated, permanent, and naturally Google searchable. There is no such thing as a dumb question. Participation from the IPCC/AGW community, however, is, as expected, rare to non-existent.

    Open science is not new; it has been practiced in a closed manner in industry since the ’40s. A large number of scientists cooperate on an industry-private development in both basic science and technology. Industry proceeds at speeds and with success unparalleled in universities and routine government laboratories, usually expanding the state-of-the-art. Success arose out of industry scientists being well-paid, but their accomplishments remained the intellectual property of their employers, and not their own. Publications and patents were tightly controlled, and rewards accrued only in some professional afterlife. It is all a matter of aligning individual incentives with the goals of the company. Industry has little tolerance for nonsense, but ample opportunities for professional recognition and reward.

    Pekka 4/23/11, 3:15 pm, is correct science is not engineering. However, engineering is science. Both basic science and technology practice the same scientific method.

    Conceptually, you might want to create an open, online, moderated list of ranked concerns about the prevailing climate model, providing a forum for strictly technical, individual responses from the proponents. But as Nielsen observes, don’t expect many takers.

  58. Willis Eschenbach

    pokerguy | April 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    “Re-acting to what? ”

    Poor science, hysterical fear-mongering, misguided policy.

    “not initiating what?”

    Some sort of well-organized and ultimately effective strategy to lay bare the poor science, hysterical fear-mongering, and misguided policy.

    Hey, I thought we already were a “well-organized, well-funded professional disinformation campaign” or something like that …

    Actually, the amazing thing about the modern information environment is that Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts and Jeff Id and I and others have been able to achieve so much without either a) funding, or b) organization.

    After spending so much time in the bush over the last decade, without organization, without funding, fighting a guerilla war against a huge, organized, powerful and very well-funded group of folks, many of whose scientific leading lights were willing to lie, cheat and steal to win, I find it hilarious that now the AGW folks are claiming that they’re losing the PR war because they were outspent and out-organized … yeah, that’s the ticket …

    The AGW folks are losing the war precisely because many of whose scientific leading lights were willing to lie, cheat and steal to win.

    And while that was bad enough, it got worse, not one of them had the balls to apologize. Phil Jones lied to my face and cheated (and likely broke the law) to avoid answering my FOI request for his data, and now he’s prancing around like he never did anything wrong in his scientific life … turns my stomach.

    And while that was worse, it got worse yet, they were exonerated and their scientific souls were whitewashed clean as snow by a series of pathetic, laughable “inquiries” that didn’t even ask the most obvious of questions, and didn’t interview a single sceptic … a high school dropout could have done better than those learned scientific big men of the climate science world.

    And while that all added up to really bad, to put the icing on the cake, hardly any climate scientists (our gentle host excepted) expressed any outrage or even mild upset about any of that.

    So. Do I want to sit down and discuss in a “polyclimate” format the questions at hand, with a bunch of folks far too many of whom who have proven beyond question that they have no scientific ethics and will lie to me without compunction or regret, or will stand by silently and let others lie to me?

    I think not …

    See, that’s the problem. It’s not that the folks who did that, who participated in that travesty through their actions or their screamingly loud inactions, are good or bad human beings. That doesn’t matter in science. They could have no normal ethics and still be good scientists.

    The problem that they have shown that they have no scientific ethics, that they are not willing to do or to stand up for honest science … and because of that, I don’t trust, not them, but their science. For example, I don’t care if Michael Mann is good to his kids or not, or if he cheats on his taxes or declares every penny, that’s immaterial to his science.

    I do care that he has proven that he will hide adverse results and destroy inconvenient evidence. Because of his actions, I don’t trust his scientific results, or for that matter, those of most AGW scientists. I’ve been lied to far too often to trust them, starting with James Hansen secretly turning off the air conditioners and opening the windows before giving his 1988 Senate testimony. Climate science has been shot through with fraud from day one.

    Once more, Judith, I have to conclude that the issue is not the form of the discussion (e.g. “Polyclimate”, journals, blogs).

    The issue is, the US public doesn’t trust AGW science or AGW scientists, and very reasonably so given their actions over the last decade. And barring a true investigation of Climategate, and apologies from those who subverted the IPCC and destroyed evidence and illegally evaded my FOI request, I don’t see that trust being restored anytime soon. Fool me twice, as the saying goes …

    However, having said that, I do think that the discussions need to continue, and the “polyclimate” concept is an interesting one.


    • Willis, trust me on this one, the people that you are complaining about are not the ones that would show up and participate in a polyclimate project.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        curryja | April 23, 2011 at 9:29 pm

        Willis, trust me on this one, the people that you are complaining about are not the ones that would show up and participate in a polyclimate project.

        My point exactly, Judith … I do “trust you on this”. I do trust that you don’t think that they would lie, cheat, subvert the IPCC, or ignore their co-workers who were doing that. And I also trust you, because you didn’t ignore the obvious rot.

        I just don’t trust them. Where were they when science needed support? Where were their voices when malfeasance was revealed? I heard your voice … but where was theirs?

        Again, Judith, you don’t seem to get the underlying issue. I (and many others) don’t trust AGW scientists because I’ve been lied to and cheated, and the AGW scientists either did the lying and cheating, or they stood there and said “Oh, Climategate is nothing, it’s only boys will be boys”.

        And as a result, I have very little interest in listening to more lies. I have very little interest in discussing science with someone who is either incapable of recognizing obvious scientific malfeasance, or is unwilling to object to scientific malfeasance, or is participating in scientific malfeasance (I don’t care which).

        You know why? Because it’s hard to tell the difference between a man who will lie, cheat and steal, a man who doesn’t recognize lying and cheating when he see it, and a man who watches his co-workers lying, cheating and stealing and says “It’s all OK, it’s just boys being boys”.

        And since I can’t tell the difference, I don’t trust any one of them not to lie to me, not to hide adverse results, not to try to subvert the IPCC process.

        And that will poison the dialog until the AGW folks can convince me (and the US public) that they have changed their spots … and given that those who lied and cheated, and including those who stayed silent, are not even mildly regretful, much less repentant, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

        Again, however, I say that the “polyclimate” idea sounds good.


      • JC, how can you assure anyone the likes of William M. Connelley will not come to dominate any such polyclimate project?

        BTW, the ban on Climate articles was for only six months as per link. He is still an active WP editor with 500 edits from Mar-24 to April 23, 2011, (only a couple on Climate in the Talk of his user page).

      • well the way i envision this, you need to do real work, make everything transparent, and justify your arguments. Not Connolley’s cuppa tea at all. He will just sit there over at stoat and take potshots at the whole thing.

      • I used WMC as an example, as in “the likes of”.

        The problem exists in the project dynamic: Who watches the Watchers?

        Willis has posted rational reasons he does not wish to associated with some people based upon their past work and actions. What happens when some members do not act in the best interest of the project?

        What will be the bylaws of this project?

      • Judith

        Who would “show up and participate at a polyclimate project”?

        How could one make sure the list of participants is relevant as far as either public opinion or climate policy are concerned?


    • Mr. Willis Eschenbach
      “The AGW folks are losing the war precisely because many of whose scientific leading lights were willing to lie, cheat and steal to win”.
      Also, without the internet, we would have NEVER seen or heard any of you. I can’t imagine seeing you on NBC, CBS or ABC :)…. There may be a God after all.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        I can’t imagine wanting to be on NBC, CBS or ABC, Kent … but what does that have to do with climate science? While I’d be interested in your opinion of why leading scientists were willing to lie, cheat and steal to win, your opinions about God and ABC are … well … peripheral, trivial, and not all that original or interesting.


      • Willis

        Don’t be so tough on Kent Draper.

        I think I understand his point, namely that it is the blogosphere that has enabled an open exchange to challenge the “insider” activists who have hijacked climate science in a corrupt process led by IPCC.

        Your start in “climate science” was also in the blogosphere (where you continue to be active), and it is a fair argument that without the blogosphere there would have been no effective challenge to the “insiders”.

        This may be an obvious observation, but that does not make it irrelevant.


      • Willis Eschenbach

        I don’t mind that at all, Manaker … but where does God come in to that?


      • randomengineer


        Pop culture reference, e.g. in a movie where murphy’s law runs amok everything is going sideways, and things happen to work for the protagonist due to chance at a critical and unlikely moment and he opines — “wow, maybe there IS a god after all” (i.e. explanation of miracle.)

        In this case Draper seems to be saying that what can turn the alarmist tide is the unlikely hearing of the skeptical voice via the blogosphere.

        He’s saying you and those like you are godsends.

        Lighten up.

    • I do care that he has proven that he will hide adverse results and destroy inconvenient evidence.


      1) I would not give them *anything*. I would not respond or even acknowledge receipt of their emails. There is no reason to give them any data, in my opinion, and I think we do so at our own peril!

      2) p.s. I know I probably don’t need to mention this, but just to insure absolutely clarify on this, I’m providing these for your own personal use, since you’re a trusted colleague. So please don’t pass this along to others without checking w/ me first. This is the sort of “dirty laundry” one doesn’t want to fall into the hands of those who might potentially try to distort things…

  59. Which finding from the climate debate is of greatest concern:

    a.) Carbon-dioxide (CO2)-induced global warming?

    b.) Use of government science to promote propaganda?

    c.) An international alliance of politicians and scientists?

    For me, c. >> b. > a.

  60. I think this is a very promising line of enquiry. It actually begins to take seriously the questions raised by the analysis of Jerry Ravetz and Sylvio Funtowicz and their “post normal science”, and I have been working on related issues since I wrote my dissertation.

    I have actually been discussing this general topic with Michael Tobis for some time, since we collaborated on a research project when I was a post-doc working with Steve Schneider. That project dealt with expert elicitation of subjective probabilities, and brought in “supporting arguments” only as a gesture at future directions. But that was just a practical starting place that served a particular research need, and I always saw it as part of a larger project of developing transparent processes for collective scientific judgments.

    In fact, Steve Schneider and Richard Moss laid out this idea of “Traceable accounts” in the uncertainty guidance for AR3; it turns out of course to be harder than it looks.

    This is precisely the “post-normal” problem – in situations where information is uncertain, stakes are high, values are in conflict and decisions are urgent, the processes of subjective evaluation among expert communities which are foundational to real scientific progress are incapable of leading to closure. I will explain better what I mean by this in a subsequent discussion.

    The irony here is that in more ways than people recognize, climate science (as a whole-systems science) is more like other branches of interdisciplinary science and engineering than it is different. Any practicing scientist who wandered into a climate science research group would recognize exactly what is going on. I think that is one reason why the credibility of mainstream climate science is so great with the scientific bodies like the National Academy of Sciences of the US and other international scientific unions.

    As a last comment and a prediction: I suspect that there will be more support for this idea among ‘alarmists’ than most here seem to expect. Because, as far as I can tell, contrary to opinion expressed here – and notwithstanding the specific issues raised by the leaked CRU emails – the establishment has nothing to hide.

    Or, I could be proven wrong, in which case I’d be glad to know too.

    • Paul,

      1. You are exactly right: “climate science (as a whole-systems science) is more like other branches of interdisciplinary science and engineering than it is different . . . that is one reason why the credibility of mainstream climate science is so great with the scientific bodies like the National Academy of Sciences of the US and other international scientific unions.”

      2. Scientific bodies like the US National Academy of Sciences, the UK’s Royal Society, and other international scientific unions foolishly tied their own credibility to the credibility of the UN’s IPCC.

      3. You are wrong to assert: “the establishment has nothing to hide. The establishment hid and manipulated experimental data from the 1969 Apollo Mission to the Moon and the 1995 Galileo Mission to Jupiter that showed:

      a.) The Sun – Earth’s heat source – is the unstable remnant of a supernova that gave birth to the solar system five billion years (5 Gyr) ago.

      b.) Dynamic competition between the attractive forces of gravity and the repulsive forces of neutrons sustains the very lives of you, me, the Sun, the galaxies and the cosmos.

      4. The 1969 Apollo Mission to the Moon and the 1995 Galileo Mission to Jupiter cost the US taxpayers about $1,000,000,000 each.

      The climate debate will benefit the scientific community and society when leaders of “scientific bodies like the US National Academy of Sciences and other international scientific unions” are called to testify under oath to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO).

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

  61. Comment to Michael Tobis (24 April at 2.23am, way above!)

    I agree that Steve McIntyre is the best authority on what he wants and thinks. But I agree with what I think he wants, and WG1 is not it. It does not do the first thing that anyone might reasonably want for it, and that is to discuss the competing views about climate and what changes it, assessing the evidence openly and coming to a conclusion.

    What we get is the conclusion from what might have been that process, only a bit of the evidence — and virtually all of that one way. It is not persuasive to any reasonably well-informed enquirer, because it does not answer most of one’s questions.

    It is an advocacy document, and one’s enquiring mind is put off by its construction.

    • Don Aitkin

      You write (about AR4 WG1):

      It is an advocacy document, and one’s enquiring mind is put off by its construction.

      This is a polite way of saying (to paraphrase Judith on an earlier thread):

      It comes across as “selling snake oil”.


    • Michael Tobis

      If you believe there are plausible alternative hypotheses, then you would perceive it as an advocacy document.

      But this is a key point. As a preamble, let me acknowledge that it is true that there are plenty of uncertainties in the existing scientific understanding, and IPCC tries to represent not just the midpoint and the range of uncertainty, and might do better at this.

      But there are no coherent alternative theories, so IPCC cannot present them. On the other hand, just about everybody has some sort of crude mental model of climate, so the number of incoherent alternatives is vast. It is impractical to list and rebut them all.

      • Well, WG1 could have dealt with the notion of natural variability, instead of passing over historically well-known examples of it. It could then have done its best to show that carbon dioxide growth, independently of natural variability, was having a major effect on the world’s atmospheric temperature. But of course none of that was done. What we got was the proposition — no, claim! — that the temperature growth in the second half of the 20th century could not be explained without recourse to the growth of carbon dioxide.

        I still find it hard to believe that real scientists could put up such a shallow, self-serving claim and think that it would be accepted. As others have pointed out, it is frighteningly close to the belief that witches were responsible for the icy weather of the 17th century, and must be burned at the stake.

        And it followed a table that demonstrated that ‘climate science’ had low to very low understanding of some key elements in climate change.

        I feel that we are talking past each other. You say that there ‘are no coherent alternative theories’. I think that at this stage of knowledge, the best we can say is that we don’t know a great deal about climate and what changes it, and that while the AGW claim is plausible, it is also full of holes and cannot be supported well through predictions and observations.

      • Don – I believe you misconstrue what the IPCC perceived to be its mission, as well as the evidence it presented. That’s not uncommon, but your clear desire to reach an accurate understanding, in combination with your intellectual stature, impels me to go beyond my usual inclination not to bother arguing. I’d like to invite you to email me if you are interested in discussing any of this in more detail. You can get my email address through the denizens page, or indirectly through my website. If you’re not interested, that’s fine also.

      • Fred,

        Thank you for the civil invitation, which I will follow up in a day or two. You are of course right, in that what I suggested is not what the IPCC thought its mission was. Once the IPCC moved from its earlier position to the one that assumed human-induced climate change, of course its scientific chapters took on a new direction, a new purpose. I might have said that.

        But it would be perfectly appropriate for the IPCC in AR5 to go back to its origins, bring natural variability back on to the agenda, and go down the path I propose. If we are to get anywhere in this issue (and I think that only our experience of the climate of the next twenty years will have much effect, either way) separating out human effects from natural variability has to be the task. I’ve suggested elsewhere that getting first-class data has to be the top priority.

      • We can start from the name of IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (not on Climate Science). In line with the name the stated task of IPCC is to collect scientific information related to Climate Change understood as the anthropogenic warming influence on climate. The starting point was the observation that such influence exists and the growing worry that the change could be seriously harmful.

        The correct scientific approach to that issue does not take granted that the risk is serious, but tries to find out, how far that is the case. The natural variability enters this approach as an factor that makes interpreting empirical observations of climate history more difficult. There is also an implied assumption that the natural variations are not so strong that the anthropogenic influence would always remain irrelevant, but having natural variability of the same order of magnitude and adding to (or subtracting from) the AGW does not invalidate the setup of the task.

        Accepting the above role of the natural variability on the task of IPCC means that it certainly cannot be omitted, but that it’s role is a supporting role for the main issue, not an independent issue on the same footing. I think the AR4 WG1 report follows reasonably well these conclusions, but one may certainly argue on the issues of the strength of empirical evidence, and of the accuracy of the climate models in light of the lacking knowledge on natural variability.

        The more recent expressions of confidence on the conclusions have been stronger than foreseen to be achievable, when IPCC started its work. The justification for this change can be questioned. At the same time it must be remembered that policy conclusions do not require a high level of certainty, while they do require significant evidence showing that there is a real risk with a non-negligible probability. I do not try here to present this minimal requirement more precisely, as it’s really the focus of the most difficult problems of rational decision making on climate policies.

      • Pekka,

        I read all your contributions with great interest, and you are plainly well informed. I appreciate your commentary on my contribution.

        Correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that the IPCC did not start with the assumption that the main influence on climate change was human activity — that came later. It seems to me that the later decision to assume that human activity was the real and powerful influence was premature, and in the past twenty years the evidence seems to support that it was indeed premature. While the period from the 1970s to the 1990s did seem to fit the assumption, what has happened since does not (unless one argues in a rather tortured way).

        We now know a lot more about climate than we did in the late 1980s. I suggest that if we were now to set up, de novo, something like the IPCC today (it not existing), we would ask it to explain the variability on climate — and perhaps the role of human activity within that variability — so that we could anticipate events and prepare for them, through adaptation.

        We would not, I think, start off by simply assuming that carbon dioxide emissions were the cause. And one reason we would not do so is that pushes us to ask particular kinds of questions, and neglect others. It has pushed us to think in policy term mostly of mitigation, and much less of adaptation. I think that has been a mistake, a serious mistake — because we are still not thinking seriously about setting up the kind of system that the New Zealanders have in place, and powerful climate events still occur, unrelated to emissions.

        At least, so it seems to me.

      • MT,
        Why are you so anti-science?
        This seems to be a serious problem for you and many believers.
        Skeptics need not one alternative theory at all.
        All we do- and have done successfully- is show that the idea of CO2 causing a world wide climate crisis is not accurate.
        Instead of dealing with that, you keep hoping to bs your way out of it by demanding we offer something.
        We offer nothing of the sort.
        We point out you are wrong.
        That is our only job.
        Deal with it.

      • Michael Tobis

        If you actually had done this, there would not be any theory at all and the IPCC report would be empty. However, there is no fundamental reason that the atmosphere is inaccessible to the methods of science. Deal with that.

        You assert that IPCC is wrong in such a way as to claim that there is no science at all. You can do this as many times as you want without it actually making any sense.

      • That you don’t recognize something doesn’t make it not true or real. :-)

      • What?

        Do you know anything about history and philosophy of science?

        IPCC is a sneaky and insidious atack on science through dogma and supression.

      • MT,
        When looked at reasonably, The IPCC is nothing really different from a grand marketing and promotion group.
        Your non-answer to my point, added to your F-bomb self-exposure as a wack job who actually believes the planet is at risk due to CO2 leaves you in a rather pitiable position.
        The predictions made by the people you like regarding CO2 impact on climate have been shown by reality to be wrong.
        Deal with that, back away from your fevered self delusion about planetary crisis, and rejoin the world of reason.

      • > It is impractical to list and rebut them all.

        Perhaps, but engineering a definitive report showing how these alternative theories are incoherent would make an interesting reading.

        It would also gain lots of man hour, as we would then simply point out in comment threads to Go Read the (fekking) engineeR-level Report (GRRR).

        In the meantime, I rest content to simply point out that we have Science of Doom:


      • willard,
        SoD is a great place to study the trees, but not so useful in understanding how the forest works.

      • I prefer Wood for Trees then:


        For tutorials how to cherry-pick, I suggest to follow Girma’s drive-bys.

  62. Much of the above discussion discloses bewilderment about Steve McIntyre’s request for an engineering style exposition about key aspects of climate science. It may perhaps be helpful to throw light on the issue from a slightly different perspective.

    Any proponent advancing a major mining project (say Capex of A$1 billion) knows that in order to secure financing, he must prepare a detailed Feasibility Study. Typically such studies are 20-40 ring bound folders that summarize each of the material issues relating to the project proposal, and provide references to many more supporting documents such as geological reports, mining reports, metallurgical reports etc.

    The financiers require that the Feasibility Study be examined in detail by suitably qualified independent engineers (Behr Dolbear is one such firm) who go through the feasibility study with a fine toothcomb, and assure themselves that each of the statements made is soundly based, and honestly expressed. Usually they will identify important questions/issues that must be addressed before the project can be approved. The proponent is then obliged to deal with those issues.

    Further, specialist model auditors are engaged to undertake line-by-line validation and verification of the financial models to ensure that they are soundly designed, accurate and free of mistakes.

    The legal basis for the proposal (licenses, leases, material agreements etc) are checked by law firms experienced in such matters. Also, the proponent must convince the financiers that they have appropriately qualified management in place to deliver and operate the project. Each major issue affecting the project must be addressed in this way.

    These investigations can easily cost in excess of $1 million (sometimes far more), but are essential if the project is to obtain finance. If the proponent is not able to satisfy the independent assessors on the key issues, the finance is simply not made available.

    Many people in the commercial world are familiar with these due diligence processes, as are many, but not all, engineers. But what is clear from discussions in the area of climate science is that many involved have no idea about such matters.

    Sometimes the application of knowledge/experience from one field to another is valuable. Surely, when the scale of funding demands in the climate science area are considered, normal processes of due diligence and fact checking should be demanded as a matter of course.

    • mondo

      As an engineer, I would agree with your analogy of Steve’s “engineering quality” to the due diligence work done before investing in a mining venture.

      But this may be too foreign a concept for many scientists to grasp, or even more importantly, to identify closely with.

      I would suggest just the simple scientific definition.

      The 2xCO2 climate sensitivity estimate should be based on transparent empirical evidence backed by physical observations or reproducible experimentation, rather than model simulations based on theoretical deliberations or interpretations of selected paleo-climate information

      This would seem to narrow the range down to something practical and achievable.


      • That sounds good, but that’s simply not practical. You can’t build an experimental apparatus that exhibits all of the relevant phenomena, including clouds, weather patterns, oceans, ice, etc. We can’t do this completely experimentally. An “engineering” expose will take the theory and modelling as far as it can be taken, and then deal with atmospheric phenomena separately, and the gaps in knowledge are what they are.

        Therein lies the resistance. Nobody wants to talk about the gaps. An “engineering” exposition will be forced to talk about the gaps.

      • ChE

        Reproducible experimentation may be limited in climate science, as you say, but real-life physical observations are not.

        The interpretation of CERES and ERBE observations have led to the Spencer & Braswell conclusions on cloud feedbacks and climate sensitivity as well as those of Lindzen & Choi.

        The Earthshine observations of Palle have shown us that changes in cloud cover have resulted in a reduction of albedo and hence warming from 1985 to 2000 with a reversal after 2000.

        The ARGO measurements since 2003 have shown us that the upper ocean is no longer warming, as we had previously thought it should.

        The HadCRUT temperature record (with all its warts and blemishes) has told us that the atmosphere has nor warmed over the past decade, despite IPCC model projections of 0.2C per decade warming.

        The Mauna Loa record has shown us that atmospheric CO2 (at least there) has increased at a constant compounded annual growth rate of around 0.4% per year since 1958.

        The HadCRUT record has shown us that our climate has warmed and cooled slightly in 30-year half-cycles, with a slight overall warming trend of 0.04C per decade and no statistical correlation with atmospheric CO2.

        These real-life observations carry much more weight than subjective interpretations of selected paleo-climate data or (even less) model simulations based on theoretical deliberations.


      • But they all fall short of proof. That was my only point. If you painstakingly lay it all out, the holes will be exposed.

        The question before the group is narrow: is the earth warming, and how do you tie the observed warming to greenhouse theory. All these alternative explanations help, but lack of alternatives doesn’t prove it’s being caused by greenhouse heating; it just proves how ignorant we are. And “engineering” report would have to do several things; 1) lay out the case for greenhouse heating, 2) lay out the case for high feedback, and 3) discuss alternatives. These are all separate issues.

        I wouldn’t expect anything to be conclusive, other than the basic greenhouse physics. When AR4 started talking about 90% certainties, they showed their hand.

      • If you painstakingly lay it all out, the holes will be exposed.

        Indeed – that is the entire point. Not to prevent action, but to create full and true disclosure, so that everyone is aware (or can be aware, if they choose to be) not just of the risks of not acting, but also how solid (or indeed, tenuous) each and every aspect of the evidence is. Given the significant effects of advocated action, and the sheer scale (in terms of number of people as well as number of $) involved, why would or should anyone expect to asked for anything less? If you suspected that you would be one of the “losers” in the process, would you not demand the same? Isn’t that what some alarmists do, but turned around to suit their own interests? It seems to me that is the case – and I do not object to either side doing so. I object to extremists on either side suggesting that they are somehow victims of some nefarious regime of evil and demanding the heads of their enemies; that they have been the subject of scurrilous and selfishly motivated attacks on their integrity, while simultaneously ignoring (or even supporting!) the very same behaviour from their own side, all the while claiming that they are arguing “science”.

      • ChE

        Yes. You are right. All the physically observed data “fall short of proof”.

        Bur “proof” is not really what is needed here.

        IMO, what is needed are empirical data based on physical observations, which either tend to support or tend to refute the suggested hypothesis.

        So far, as far as I can see, the IPCC hypothesis of “dangerous AGW” has not yet been supported by such data. In fact, the physically observed recent lack of global warming (both the atmosphere and the upper ocean) despite measured CO2 increase to record levels, tend to falsify this hypothesis.

        Some supporters of the DAGW hypothesis tell us that 10 years is “too short”. No one has gone on record to date AFAIK with a statement of how many years of no warming would be required to falsify the DAGW hypothesis. Is it 20 years? Is it 30 years? Is it 100 years?

        I have a feeling we may see a “moving target” here if lack of warming continues.


      • max –
        None of those models have yet been submitted to IV&V. And none of the data sets have been submitted to a true overall audit. In the financial world, they’d all be trashed. In the “space world” they’d never have been funded – and/or never gotten off the ground.

      • Shoulda mentioned that the data sets “may” get an audit from BEST. Maybe.

  63. FWIW the challanges in life are many and various and the biggest frequently involves recognizing our limitations. There just isn’t enough time to do it all. There isn’t enough money to do it all. There aren’t enough people to do it all. Etc.

    I would imagine that you will come to a point when these limitations will bring up the issue of “Climate,Etc.”, continue or not? Public Comment or not? Open access or not? Etc. Etc. AND, perhaps, “getting your hands dirty” or “just pushing paper and ‘managing’ people and things so others can get dirty hands”.

    Best to you whatever you decide to do.

  64. Willis Eschenbach writes “Again, however, I say that the “polyclimate” idea sounds good.”

    Having read Willis’s critique thoroughly, I am not sure I agree. The point is that if there are to be meaningful discussions, the people who support CAGW need to be precisely the ones that Willis and people like myself distrust. These are the people who are the leaders of the pro-CAGW crowd.

    If that is true, then before the discussions can start, there will be a need to establish the bona fides of the participants on both sides of the debate. In the present climate of distrust, I seriously doubt whether this will be possible.

    So, nice try, Judith, but it simply just wont work.

  65. batheswithwhales

    Mass peer review would be an obvious candidate for a collaborative effort in climate science. It has worked before, but as far as I know has never been tried out systematically. Throw a research paper to the wolves before it is published so they can tear it apart, and provide suggestions for putting it all back together in a better way than before.

    I imagine if the contested paper by Steig was subjected to such a process, he might have gotten it right the first time around…

    So maybe this type of open collaboration works better for picking apart and tearing down then for actually building something from scratch?

    Afterall, the lack of “shared praxis” is actually a benefit when it comes to criticising a paper from all angles, providing insights from outside of the original authors praxis.

    • I think that in practice this idea wouldn’t work very well. You would end up with bitter debates that would stretch on for eternity. And in the end, who would decide when such debates were usefully concluded?

  66. The influence of skeptical scientists on political and opinion leaders is arguably substantial.

    I’ll respectfully disagree.

    Climate Science as a tool to dictate energy policy quickly devolves into the cure is worse then the disease. A substantial portion of the energy we consume is to adapt to the climate we have. If we drive the price of energy up substantially we will have a negative impact on the ability of major populations to adapt to the current climate never mind future climates.

  67. When billions live in miserable poverty for lack of energy in the developing countries, and millions are out of work in industrialized countries, I find it extremely sickening for some to suggest that the artificial raising of the cost of fossil fuel is a good policy. They care more for the unborn than the living poor.

  68. The basics of climate science should not be controversial, claims Pekka Pirilä, 4/24/11, 5:03 am. Perhaps his operative word is basics, meaning that the part that is not controversial is what we call the basics. Climate science, not its basics, is controversial because IPCC and its followers are seeking political action and money on the scale of several major GDPs, all for a model that has no predictive power, and a model that doesn’t even fit the data in its domain. This action is reminiscent of the banning of DDT, a political over-reaction that killed tens of millions of people.

    Without those demands, the world could relax and let the climate scientists get back to their earth science.

    Pirilä says, The subjective judgments of most experienced scientists is significant, but determining, how significant is an intractable problem. A rather small science community is certain to foster bias, but estimating the importance of this bias is again an essentially intractable problem. Is this an argument that a subjective judgment is permissible in a scientific model? I don’t think Pekka could provide one example of a scientific theory from any field that contains a subjective element. The core of the AGW problem is its subjectivity.

    He says, The main line climate science community considers many such issues rather well settled, for which the evidence remains too fragmentary to satisfy all. Fragmentary evidence is far afield from the problem with AGW.

    IPCC’s climatologists assumed AGW existed, the key subjective element, then structured their models to demonstrate the extent of the effect. Compare the original 1988 IPCC charter (AR4, ¶1.6, p. 118) with IPCC, Principles Governing IPCC Work, 10/1/1998, p. 2. As a result, these investigators removed or ignored natural causes of climate change, and replaced them with manmade causes.

    Gone was the forcing of solar variation with its strong correlation with surface temperature. Gone was the dominating feedback of dynamic cloud extent (McIntyre’s example), negative with respect to surface temperature, and positive with respect to solar radiation. Gone were the temperature and CO2 concentration imbalances at model initiation known from the paleo record. Gone was Henry’s Law governing CO2 to ocean flux, and when measured, the effects concealed. Gone was Beer’s Law governing saturation of radiation absorption. Gone was the pattern of flux of CO2 through the ocean and the atmosphere. Gone were the patterns of atmospheric circulation. Gone were the wind data at MLO, if they were ever recorded. Gone from Assessment Reports were station calibration data. Gone was a mass balance calculation for atmospheric CO2. Gone was the correlation of solar wind with surface temperature. Gone was heat as the primary model flow variable. Gone was feedback as the transport of signals from within a system to alter its inputs. Gone was loop gain.

    Added was a tendency for the climate system to seek a radiation balance. Added was the radiative forcing paradigm. Added was cloud albedo redefined to mean reflectivity per unit area instead of total reflectivity. Added was a gas partial pressure of CO2 in solution. Added was an ocean surface layer in thermodynamic equilibrium. Resurrected was the CO2 dissolution bottleneck known as the Rayleigh Buffer. Added was an accumulation of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere. Added was a physically impossible model for absorption of atmospheric CO2. Added was ocean acidification. Added was a major difference in solubility between anthropogenic and natural CO2. Added was well-mixing of atmosphere CO2 to some unspecified extent. Added was human fingerprints on atmospheric CO2 manufactured by graphical manipulations. Added was the conversion of MLO data form local to global. Added were calibrations for stations in the CO2 measuring network to make their data agree with MLO data. Added was feedback as novel links between correlated variables. Added was defense of AGW based on unscientific principles of irrefutability and unanimity.

    Because engineers are trained to repair structural problems in modeling does not mean that those problems are somehow peculiar to a narrow view of the art of engineering as Pekka Pirilä dismissively suggests. System science is a specialty in engineering, developed by engineers, and certainly encompassing climate modeling. It is the source for estimation, prediction, stability analysis, and feedback. We use procedures and terminology of feedback studies in electronics (Bode, 1945) to help analyze the contributions of different feedback processes. Hansen, et al., (1984).

    These additions and omissions are some objective, structural problems with the AGW model introduced as a consequence of the underlying subjective AGW assumption. McIntyre’s only example for his engineering quality exposition was cloud albedo, a first magnitude structural problem with AGW. If his Exposition were to focus on structural uncertainties to the exclusion of parameter uncertainties (IPCC Workshop on Describing Scientific Uncertainties in Climate Change to Support Analysis of Risk and of Options, 11-13 May, 2004, ¶2.5, p. 12), the effort would be much less extensive than he requires, and as posters here fear, and it should prove sufficient to satisfy the objectives of the polyclimate approach.

    • Frankly, I appreciate Pekka’s candor on this. I’ve long suspected that the “consensus” is driven by a large element of subjective gut feeling, and this just confirms that.

      Of course, it’s no longer science.

      • I’m not a climate scientist. Thus my comment is based mostly on the knowledge that my description is typical for science in general.

        That is science.

      • Pekka Pirilä, 4/24/11, 5:27 pm

        Instead, science is building models of the real world with predictive power.

      • Science is learning about reality. That can be done in many different ways.

        That leads gradually also to better models and more predictive power, but science is not only that.

      • ChE 4/24/11, 5:24 pm,

        I think I’ll make a list of top-down thinkers who post here. So far I’ve got you and manacker. Have I missed anyone?

  69. Whoops. Should have been Revelle Buffer.

  70. Judith
    This is a revolutionary idea but I do foresee some problems:
    1. Defining the problem to be solved
    2. Lack of denizens’ scientific expertise on climate issues
    3. Political bias
    4. Resolving disagreements – who holds the hammer?
    5. Risk of failure – effect on your professional reputation
    Apart from these, I await the project with great interest
    Happy Easter to you

    • Rob, I am not proposing this as a Climate Etc. activity. This will only work if knowledgeable people from the open science community are interested in organizing this.

      • Ah, sorry Judith, I completely misunderstood. You may still have a problem with disagreements, though! That said, it would be an excellent way of getting the scientific silent majority involved.

      • I agree. That’s probably the biggest weak spot, what to do with people with pet theories who want to turn every forum on the internet into a pulpit for their pet theories. A certain amount of self-restraint is necessary, and some people don’t know how to do that.

    • Rob,

      If we are trying to define the reasoning, disagreements and uncertainties surrounding a known problem, then the problems you list do not exist (except #1 of course). If the goal is to try to solve a major scientific problem then I do not see it working, because too much equipment is required. The collaboration would first have to write proposals and get a big grant, which takes at least a year.

  71. Who would count as neutral observers whose judgments in such a situation would count? The mainstream climate scientists would typically want to go to experts from national and international scientific unions. Which, not coincidentally, is what the IAC report on the IPCC was supposed to accomplish.

    Ideally it would include persons who are actually known and trustworthy to participants who do not trust each other at present.

    The “open science” aspect of it suggests not a closed committee but a rather wide discussion, including hundreds if not thousands of participants. But – given the concerns that no doubt persons on both “sides” have that the “others” can’t be trusted to change their minds on adequate information, some small group – a “jury” of some sort – needs to be identified, I think.

    Who would the readers of this blog suggest?

    • Paul Baer, 4/24/11, 6:28 pm

      To avoid Diogenes’ problem, and to avoid the American problem where no juror may have formed a possibly relevant opinion, nor be brighter than any lawyer on the case, encourage people who have some experience, knowledge, or skill. Your idea of a multitude of participants is fine, but real names only, and post their bios or CVs and make their publications, if any, reasonably accessible for cross-examination.

      How about a debate format with no team captains? You might want to open the resolutions to several forms to avoid the Believer vs. Denier, or Scientist vs. Skeptic divisions popular in the AGW movement, but offhand, I can only think of one: Resolved: AGW exists. Let the participants be advocates or not, contributing to one side or the other, or both, as they choose.

      For moderator, you couldn’t have enough Brian Lambs of C-SPAN fame.

      • I was actually hoping for exactly what Jeff suggested: the names of real people.

        I’ll take a random plausible name: (former) Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, who happens to be institutionally affiliated with Georgia Tech, where Judy and I work.

        Not so many publications :^)

      • Note of course that I’m suggesting him as a “juror”, not a debater!

        Note also that a “science jury” of this kind is not the same as “open science”, in which there is collaborative problem solving. That could well have a place too; but the debate space here (e.g., is something like the infamous “engineering-quality document” feasible today) is not primarily about new research.

    • I can’t see that it would be possible to create a collaborative “poly” result in an environment of conflict. There needs to be a strong sense of goodwill for any collaboration to work.

      The mainstream could perhaps work on a physical description of the “greenhouse” heat transfer mechanism and laboratory experimental verification of same.

      The skeptical science community could work on an alternative theory of atmospheric warming that can explain why the earth is warmer than a blackbody.

      • Opponents can collaborate on clearly articulating their differences. There is presently nowhere to find such a thing. There is a lot of back and forth in the blogs but it is all just fragments of arguments.

    • BTW I should at least have credited Jim Cripwell in his post from 9: 05 am on 4/24 with articulating this problem, but I think he his too pessimistic, and that finding parties to “mediate” the lack of trust is possible. But I do think it is the case that some of the participants will need to be those who are most highly distrusted by at least some of the other potential participants.

  72. Can anyone point me to a precise description of the physical effect and supporting laws underlying the “atmospheric greenhouse” and laboratory heat transfer experiments that demonstrate it? Or is this too complex for one person to understand? Or do we not have a consensus on the physical mechanism from mainstream climate science?

    • BLouis,

      The atmospheric greenhouse effect stems from physical attributes of molecules dictated by their symmetry properties. From quantum mechanics, there are specific conditions necessary for the absorption and emission of radiation associated with transitions between states among a molecule’s degrees of freedom. For example, some frequencies of light can change the electronic states populated in a molecule, assuming that such a transition is allowed in the point group of the molecule.

      Because specific motions of its nuclei can induce changes in its permanent dipole moment, CO2 can absorb and emit radiation in specific ranges of the infrared (IR) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Most of the molecules in that atmosphere (diatomic nitrogen and oxygen), however, CANNOT absorb and emit radiation directly because there are strict quantum mechanical selection rules forbidding such transitions.

      Now, incident sunlight is mostly in the visible region of the EM spectrum and some of it is absorbed by the earth’s surface. After absorption, this energy is shifted to lower frequency via intermolecular interactions and other dissipative processes and is emitted at the atmosphere in the IR portion of the EM spectrum (earth-light). If the atmosphere were simply composed of diatomic molecules like N2 and O2, none of that emitted radiation would be absorbed because of quantum mechanical restrictions on the allowed transitions. This means that all of the earth-light emitted would simply make it to outer space with no stops in between.

      As CO2, or other molecules that can absorb those frequencies of radiation (greenhouse gases), is added to atmosphere, some of the earth’s emitted radiation is now absorbed by the atmosphere. During some characteristic time, the excited-state lifetime, the molecule exists in an excited quantum state, from which it can emit radiation to return to its ground state. This allows for energy to be emitted back to outer space.

      While O2 and N2 molecules cannot absorb radiation, these molecules are constantly colliding with each other and other molecules that can absorb radiation, both from the sun and earth. During some of these collisions, energy gets transferred from photo-excited GHG molecules to diatomics. Because O2 and N2 cannot emit radiation, however, the pathway for that energy to reach outer space has now gotten longer. Also, as the only available degree of freedom to excite in a diatomic via such a collision quantum mechanically is translational, the kinetic energy of these molecules increases, thus INCREASING THE OVERALL TEMPERATURE OF THE GAS.

      That is how greenhouse effect works.

      Now, that neglects convection, which plays a significant role in mass transfer vertically in the atmosphere, but convection can be neglected when simply observing the total flux of radiation emitted by the earth. Interestingly, however, the greenhouse effect also leads to stratification of energy in the vertical atmosphere, which leads to weather. So weather is a great way to show the greenhouse effect is real and works the way we think it should.

      Most importantly, all of this is based on single molecule quantum mechanics and has been verified again and again and again and again for the last 80 years. In fact, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasedena has a molecular spectroscopy lab that continues to test the import of specific parameters like gas pressure on the absorption and emission of radiation by these systems in the context of not just atmospheric science, but astrophysics as well. From there I’m sure you can find as many sources and citations as you’d like.

      There are also a great wealth of greenhouse related posts at this blog. The pull down menu on the right-hand side of your browser window can help you find them.

      Is that what you were looking for?

      • No. That is the standard verbose superficially plausible mainstream explanation, which some physicists claim to have falsified in theory. Can CO2’s energy absorption specifically override other heat transfer mechanisms. The description is not allowed to neglect anything. If one thinks it is reasonable to neglect something, then one must demonstrate by experiment that this is valid. The fact that other molecules in the atmosphere can absorb incoming heat energy and transfer it to CO2 molecules must be accounted for in the behaviour of CO2 molecules to absorb.

      • The important thing about CO2 is that it blocks some of the escape of energy from earth to to space. This is what has to be understood first. Once that is understood, the warming effect follows. This is not an explanation, just my suggestion of a guide to understanding.

      • There is a substantial difference between blocking “slowing the arrival at an equilibrium state” like insulation (I understand the radiative balance theory is an equilibrium theory anyway) and blocking “modifying the resultant equilibrium” as is required for perpetual motion (which the physicists think is unphysical and contravenes the second law of thermodynamics).

      • Yes, it is like insulation. It warms by preventing the escape of heat.

      • I understood the radiation balance diagrams to represent an equilibrium state, since the cycles of heating/cooling with day/night are ignored. In equilibrium, insulation has no effect.

      • As with a house, insulation keeps something warmer than it otherwise might be for a given heating rate.

      • Jim D,
        But insulation is not well known for causing run away over heating.

      • Yes, it is a good analogy, because exceptional amounts of CO2 would be needed to lead to a runaway in the same way as exceptional amounts of insulation are needed to prevent a house from losing any heat at all. You probably are aware, or should be, that the idea of a runaway greenhouse is not the mainstream view.

      • Jim D and Hunter

        The CO2 molecules are “blocking” outgoing LW radiation (sort of like an added layer of insulation in a house, as was said), thereby warming the planet.

        This, in itself, is not difficult to visualize or understand.

        But, as this happens, other things are also going on.

        As Maxwell has pointed out, there is also convection.

        In addition, let’s assume that additional cloud cover is formed as the planet warms (as Spencer & Braswell found over the tropics), thereby increasing the planet’s overall albedo, reflecting more incoming SW radiation, and thereby cooling the planet (let’s compare that to a suddenly opened window, although the analogy – just as with the insulation – is not 100% accurate) and let’s call it an observed “natural thermostat”.

        This is the basic problem, as I see it.

        We think we know a piece of what might theoretically be going on (which we can also explain very well), but we do not know about the “whole picture” of what is going on, so we “guess” that our “part of the picture” is the dominant thing and that anything else is of secondary importance.

        This is the logic known as “argument from ignorance”.

        Important is not only the known theoretical GHE from added CO2, but what actually happens if a bit more CO2 causes a bit more warming. Is the planet’s climate inherently highly sensitive to small forcings (and hence basically unstable), as Hansen, for example, hypothesizes? Or is it basically insensitive with natural “thermostats” keeping it inherently stable as some others speculate?

        So we are back to McIntyre’s challenge: determination of an “engineering quality” estimate of the 2xCO2 climate sensitivity of our planet: is it 3C as hypothesized by IPCC or 0.6C as hypothesized by Spencer or Lindzen?

        Before we really have an answer to this basic question, we are groping in the dark, like the blind man trying to identify what an elephant looks like.


      • max –
        In addition, let’s assume that additional cloud cover is formed as the planet warms (as Spencer & Braswell found over the tropics), thereby increasing the planet’s overall albedo, reflecting more incoming SW radiation, and thereby cooling the planet (let’s compare that to a suddenly opened window, although the analogy – just as with the insulation – is not 100% accurate) and let’s call it an observed “natural thermostat”.

        Observed – hiking in the SoCal desert on a 90+deg day – and having the cloud you’ve been watching finally cover the Sun.

        Effect – immediate temp drop of 10 to 15 deg. Plus an induced wind due to temp difference.

        Repeatability – 100%

      • I always find the idea that a rarefied gas can block (or trap) outgoing radiation an interesting one. CO2 can delay outgoing radiation for a long time, perhaps a period measured in milliseconds, but blocking? I thinketh not. Once we agree that there is a merely a delay of outgoing radiation, we realize that this effect cannot increase our peak surface temperature and this effect cannot increase our average surface temperature. And, since the climate is a state machine (with future states determined by current and historic states), every cold-temperature reset starts us all over again.
        You have to be a creative climate scientist to figure out how to turn this into an impending human-caused disaster.

      • Ken,

        the description I provide above in very clear in the physical mechanism that leads to the delay in the dissipation of the energy absorbed by the earth. Most important, CO2 DOES NOT TRAP ENERGY. Nor does it slow it down.

        Via collisional processes, the energy absorbed by a single CO2 molecule gets transferred to the homonuclear diatomic molecules N2 and O2 which make up the VAST majority of the atmosphere. Once that energy is transferred, those molecules cannot dissipate the energy away via radiation emission because of strict quantum mechanical selection rules which forbidden radiation mediated transitions for the degrees of freedom involved (vibrations and rotations). Some energy gets transferred back to CO2 molecules, but because so many collisions happen with a single photo-excited CO2 molecule, very few collisions between translationally excited diatomic and CO2 molecules can provide enough energy to get to the emitting states of CO2. Therefore, it’s these homonuclear diatomic molecules that cause the delay in the emission of earth-light, not CO2.

        In fact, if you’re understanding of the physical processes involved in the greenhouse effect necessitates CO2 ‘holding on’ to that energy for long periods of time, I’d say that the Skydragon campaign is in more dire straits than we initially thought.

      • You must be mixing me up with someone else, Maxwell. I’m the guy who believes nearly 1,000,000PPM of N2, O2 and Argon has much more influence on the temperature of rarefied CO2 than the converse. I invented the concept of Little Carbon Dioxide Suns and then laughed about the silly idea. I don’t believe rarefied gases trap or block anything…but if you look upthread, you’ll see people who do.
        Do I need to recount the list of nonsense documented in Slaying the Sky Dragon? Here’s one example…believe this if you wish.

        The energy that is absorbed is converted in part to heat
        energy that is re-radiated back into the atmosphere. Heat
        energy waves are not visible, and are generally in the infrared
        (long-wavelength) portion of the spectrum compared to
        visible light. Physical laws show that atmospheric
        constituents—notably water vapor and carbon dioxide gas—
        that are transparent to visible light are not transparent to heat
        waves. Hence, re-radiated energy in the infrared portion of
        the spectrum is trapped within the atmosphere, keeping the
        surface temperature warm. This phenomenon is called the
        “greenhouse effect” because it is exactly the same principle
        that heats a greenhouse.

      • Ken,

        ‘Do I need to recount the list of nonsense documented in Slaying the Sky Dragon?’

        Yes, that ‘nonsense’ you quoted is actually the same science that explains cell phone transmission, GPS, radar and a plethora of other real world technologies that we rely on a day to day basis. I guess all that stuff is nonsense too, huh?

      • Maybe I was unclear…the quote above–from an EPA training session–is an example of nonsense. The Dragon Slayers make fun of and mock this nonsense. I think you already agreed, Maxwell, that CO2 has no meaningful capability to trap (or store, or block) IR radiation.

      • Ken,

        you were unclear, but that doesn’t change my point. As meandering as the quote you provided is, it still describes well understood science that is applied in the technologies I already mentioned.

        More to the larger point, however,

        ‘I think you already agreed, Maxwell, that CO2 has no meaningful capability to trap (or store, or block) IR radiation.’

        I don’t ever remember agreeing to that statement nor do any of the above comments describe that to be the physical situation. Energy is ‘trapped’ in the lower portions of the atmosphere because as CO2 absorbs earth-light, collisions very quickly transfer that energy to molecules (N2 and O2) which cannot get rid of it via radiation. I do think ‘trapped’ is poor choice of wording because the energy does eventually get back to outer space, though through different channels. The most prominent of those channels is weather.

        In either case, no single molecule in the atmosphere does anything on its own. So your point as to what a single CO2 molecule can do on its own (trap or slow heat), is moot in physical reality. It is the complex physical and chemical interactions between all of the atmosphere’s gas phase molecules that leads to the greenhouse effect, weather and beautiful place we call home.

        Dragon slayed.

      • BLouis,

        ‘Can CO2′s energy absorption specifically override other heat transfer mechanisms.’

        Why does it have to?

        ‘The description is not allowed to neglect anything. If one thinks it is reasonable to neglect something, then one must demonstrate by experiment that this is valid.’

        Every description is allowed something to neglect, if that effect is in fact negligible. In the context of understanding how energy flow changes and energy becomes stratified differently due to changes in the concentrations GHG molecules, convection is negligible. If you disagree, fine. But you can’t just simply claim that a specific process isn’t negligible because that’s what your personal impression of the problem necessitates to be a large factor. For someone looking for outright proofs of specific scientific claims, that seems like an unwieldy response.

        ‘The fact that other molecules in the atmosphere can absorb incoming heat energy and transfer it to CO2 molecules must be accounted for in the behaviour of CO2 molecules to absorb.’

        Since that process in principle no different from anything I have already described, I don’t understand why you think it hasn’t been accounted for. However, when the absorbing molecules comprise less than 5% of the total atmosphere you can neglect the effect of photo-excited energy transferred to CO2 molecules. That process doesn’t play a significant role in how energy gets moved around in the atmosphere.

      • Maxwell

        “It has to” because to not do means there is no CO2 greenhouse and to do so contravenes the second law.

      • So can a warmer CO2 molecule absorb as much heat energy as a cooler one?

      • All these basics of greenhouse effects are explained in hundreds of places. it has been done several times in various threads of Climate Etc. It does not make sense to do that again and again when a new entrant tells that he does not understand it.

        Physics is a well established science. Physicists know pretty well, where results derived from it are reliable and where more uncertainty remains. The basics of greenhouse effect belong to the very reliably part of this knowledge. All the logic and all the conclusions have been verified by thousands of physicists and climate scientists, and all that can be found both in books and also in the net.

        There are always some individuals with some scientific credentials, who make claims that the generally accepted knowledge is in error. Some of them are brought repeatedly to these discussions in spite of the fact that their claims are full of holes.

        It’s natural that people who have not studied physics cannot judge themselves, which claims are valid and which totally unjustified. They have really only two alternatives: either choose whom to trust or take the bullet and start to learn physics. Nobody can prove a particular fact to people, who are unwilling to learn enough to understand the simplest valid proof available and also enough to separate real proofs from nicely written untruths. (These nicely written untruths are the references favored by those who do not accept even the best understood basics.)

      • The skeptical physicists and scientists appear to have more credibility than the overconfident and intellectually corrupt politically motivated climate scientists backed up by scientifically illiterate politicians. I know enough physics from university to be able to judge for myself.

        The tone of “talking past” is no way to conduct a collaborative polyscience debate.

      • BLouis,

        please provide the name of one competent physicist who is skeptical of basic physics behind the greenhouse effect. Given that it is based on the same physics that predicts the utility of your cell phone, I’m surprised you still use a cell phone. I mean, what if you’re just talking to yourself?

      • Pekka

        The basic GH theory has been well described.

        The IPCC premise that AGW, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, has been the primary cause for 20th century warming and, therefore, represents a serious potential threat to humanity and our environment, has not been validated by empirical data, so remains an uncorroborated hypothesis.

        As the French say: vive la difference!


      • Max,
        My basic way of describing the state of knowledge is different. I do not like the approach of interpreting AGW of CAGW or whatever as one hypothesis that is either shown to be true or not.

        My way of looking at the issue tells that there is all kind of evidence that provides support of various strength to a large variety of conclusions. We may be rather certain that at least a very weak AGW is true, but consider a specific form of extreme CAGW to be without significant scientific support. For some intermediate levels of risk the strength of the evidence is also intermediate.

        I have emphasized many times that it’s the responsibility of the decision makers to judge what to do based on the totality of evidence. I do not believe that the science can produce so unequivocal simple conclusions that they would make the task of the decision makers simple. The risks are hardly so small that disregarding them would be wise policy, but deciding how much and what to do is not something that the climate scientists can tell.

        It’s possible that Roger A. Pielke, Jr. is right and that the real alternatives are so limited that it’s easier to decide on the actions than knowing where they’ll lead us, but I think that this is also too simplistic in its own way.

      • Max,

        at this juncture, there is no hypothesis that has been proven. We cannot say what has caused the warming, either humans or natural variability. That said, I think pointing out our ability to draw such a conclusion is moot.

        Many scientists feel that the basic physics behind the greenhouse effect and man’s burning of stuff should be a strong indication at least some of the observed warming should be from an increased greenhouse effect. I agree with such a sentiment.

        I also understand that there are many processes for which we have yet to get a good hold on. Many of them could be very important in understanding changes in climate on the scale of decades to centuries and involve ocean-atmosphere coupling. This is especially true on the regional and local scales, where real people feel the impacts of a changing climate.

        But again, none of that will invalidate the idea that increasing the greenhouse effect is going to affect the earth’s climate. Likely in ways that we cannot fully appreciate right now.

        Personally, I think we are currently stuck in a very difficult signal processing problem. The signal we seek is very small given the amount of data we have and the noise very large. As time goes on, however, the signal from CO2 could remain the same magnitude and we be able to find it. That is because as we gather more and more data year after year, we will beat the noise back more and more. And the signal will come out of the noise.

        Maybe some of those signals will good, as in less droughts due to increased global precipitation. I don’t know. Having been in your shoes and trying to understand more and more of this issue, I’m having a harder and harder time clinging to the idea that we have not proven a specific hypothesis as important.

        For the reasons Pekka outlined, the rigor with which we can make a specific scientific conclusion is only but one input into the process of deciding what we should do to protect our future from risk.

      • Maxwell and Pekka


        CO2 is a GHG.

        These can lead to warming.

        Humans emit CO2 and, to a much smaller extent, other GHGs.

        So this could theoretically lead to warming.

        Prior to any significant human CO2 emissions, our planet has been warmer than today with no adverse effect on humanity or other species.

        It has also been colder, with a net negative effect on humanity in many parts of the world.

        We have witnessing a recent period of hysteria on the part of many people regarding AGW, which has been caused by exaggerated media reports fueled by IPCC and a handful of scientists.

        Some politicians have helped foster this hysteria with “calls for action” and government-sponsored TV scare campaigns,

        Yet there is no compelling reason to believe that human activity has caused a major change in our planet’s climate or that it will do so in the future.

        The hysteria is beginning to die down as the general public has become aware of some phony deals going on in the climate science community; these have tainted climate science in the eyes of the public.

        This has also been helped by a few cold winters throughout the northern hemisphere, plus the fact that global temperature has not increased over the past decade despite CO2 increase to record level.

        So that’s where we are today.

        I think Judith Curry’s suggestion of a “polyclimate” meeting is a good one. I think it can lead to laying to rest some of the myths that are currently floating around out there, especially those warning of disastrous changes resulting from human CO2 emissions.

        More “light” on the subject can only be a good thing. It has been hidden under wraps, with non-transparent data and an overdose of hype.

        So let’s see what this all brings.

        Let’s hope it brings more clarity on the basic unknown: 2xCO2 climate sensitivity.


      • Max,

        thanks for the comment.

        I do think there are a few things worth noting.

        First, the greenhouse effect as a major driver in both weather and climate is a compelling reason to believe that there is a possibility that humans could significantly affect climate, although I agree we have yet to see this happen.


        ‘Prior to any significant human CO2 emissions, our planet has been warmer than today with no adverse effect on humanity or other species.’

        seems like a hard conclusion to make given the plethora of different data available, none of which give the modern researcher a very good view of the quality of life for the average person during any climatic changes to which you may be referring. If you are saying that despite possibly major climate changes in the past humans have survived, then I must agree. Here we are.

        However, it seems that adding the qualifier ‘adverse’ is a hard argument to make. We have no idea how past climate changes affected the quality of life for humans who witnessed and lived through them. I would imagine them quite tragic, in fact, with people forced to the brink of life. But that’s also just my imagination.

        Third, I think we have to be very careful about attribution in the case of a lack of meaningful legislation passed in the US and elsewhere around the world. There has been no study showing that these pieces of legislation were not passed because ‘the general public has become aware of some phony deals going on in the climate science community’. In fact, most pollsters and researchers believe that as economic times became tougher for the average person, his/her willingness to take ‘action’ against climate change waned. To quote James Carville, ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ I hope no offense is taking personally. I just find that a funny quote.

        Lastly, I am still finding it very to read the battering of the broad climate science community for the sins of a small group of them. Most groups who study are willing to correctly format, check and produce as much data as anyone would want to use. The fact that GISS doesn’t do such a good job is in stark contrast to just about every other group of researchers who produce data files for general use in research. Again, if the skeptic community is to be taken seriously with respect to concerns over its credibility, utility and transparency, people in the skeptic community need to be aware of the entire reality of this situation. Not just the headline grabbing portions of it.

        That goes for me as much as anyone here, I’m afraid, but I’m willing to get it a really good push to evenly apply standards of practices (which are of the utmost necessity if ‘polyclimate’ will work) if others do so as well.

        When we don’t, we lose.

      • Maxwell

        We are probably going around in a circle by now.

        I am not so interested in US “climate policy” or the “status of C+T legislation” as these are secondary issues.

        I am interested in what a doubling of atmospheric CO2 would do to our planet’s climate if it occurred.

        IPCC has told us that its model simulations estimate a 2xCO2 climate sensitivity of 3C on average (including all assumed theoretical feedbacks).

        Spencer and Lindzen have estimated this to be around 0.6C, based on ERBE and CERES satellite observations.

        If IPCC were right, we should be concerned about AGW, since we will possibly reach 2x the present CO2 level of 390 ppmv in 170 years from now (at the current compounded annual growth rate), or by year 2180.

        If Spencer/Lindzen are right, this would be no problem, as the resulting warming would be quite small.

        We do not KNOW whether IPCC or Spencer/Lindzen are right.

        The past decade has shown no warming, despite increased CO2 to record levels and an IPCC forecast of 0.2C warming (based on IPCC’s 2xCO2 CS of 3C).

        So the observed empirical data seem to be telling us that Spencer/Lindzen have a better chance of being right than IPCC.

        This is not sufficient evidence to toss out the IPCC estimates entirely just yet.

        I am suggesting, however, if we have another decade of no warming despite continued increase of atmospheric CO2 levels at about the came CAGR as we have seen in the past, that the IPCC premise that AGW is a serious threat to humanity can probably be discarded as falsified by the observed data.


  73. Although IPCC is not tasked with conducting experiments, it seems to me that its review of the relevant literature should have been along the lines of ‘systematic review’ (as in the field of medicine) for each of the topics considered. This implies that ALL of the relevant literature be considered – that there is accountability, no cherry picking (including citations which support the favored hypothesis while excluding/ignoring contrary evidence).
    Formal appraisal by appropriately qualified evaluators would be a necessary component of the process. Complicating this, however, is the quality of the original papers in climate science. ‘Pal review’ has apparently resulted in publication of the hockeystick and hide the decline – a terrible indictment of the standards of ‘climate science’ journals where editorial bias ensures that contrary evidence is not published.
    These are critical issues which do not seem to have been adequately addressed in the wake of the IAC review of IPCC.

  74. Maxwell
    You omitted mention of water molecules.
    Water vapour is one of the greenhouse gases so often neglected.
    What is the ratio of water molecules to CO2 molecules in the atmosphere?
    Is the atmosphere ever free of water vapour?
    What are the microphysics of clouds?
    What factors determine the extent of cloud cover and albedo?
    How does decreasing albedo from melting ice and snow compare with increasing albedo from clouds? What is the net effect?

    • Woh, you got from water concentrations to clouds pretty quick, huh?

      There is an important distinction to make with respect to water in the atmosphere because it can condense. At the pressure and temperatures present on the earth, a great deal of water exists as a liquid. The vapor is then in an equilibrium with its liquid state. CO2 cannot do this, although it does dissolve into water quite easily.

      But nothing I’ve said neglects water at all. Or clouds for that matter. Water is also a GHG and will play a role very similar to CO2, although condensation complicates those processes. Clouds also have optical properties that can be easily account for.

      As for cloud formation, I have no idea how they form or cloud microphysics.

      I also don’t know what they have to do with the greenhouse effect. Maybe you could explain to me the connection between these things.

      • Discussion of greenhouse theory specifics is more appropriate on the thread of that title.

  75. I am trying to germinate an idea on how to move forward on the climate debate.

    1) They acknowledge the global meant temperature (GMT) blip of the 1880s:
    The verification period, the biggest “miss” was an apparently very warm year in the late 19th century that we did not get right at all. This makes criticisms of the “antis” difficult to respond to (they have not yet risen to this level of sophistication, but they are “on the scent”).

    2) They acknowledge the GMT blip of the 1940s (60 years latter from the previous blip):
    Here are some speculations on correcting SSTs to partly explain the 1940s warming blip.

    If you look at the attached plot you will see that the land also shows the 1940s blip (as I’m sure you know).

    So, if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 degC, then this would be significant for the global mean – but we’d still have to explain the land blip.


    3) To move forward, why not they acknowledge the GMT for the 2000s (60 years latter from the previous blip) as just another blip?

    • Girma

      The “late 20th century warming period is the “poster period”, proving dangerous AGW beyond a doubt.

      It started around 1970 and, since 2001, is showing a temporary “pause” or “speed bump” – the “pause” will undoubtedly end – believe me – and the “underlying warming” will come back “with a vengeance”, because our models tell us so.

      This warming period is relevant because it “can only be explained by” and hence “proves” serious AGW caused by human CO2.

      The statistically indistinguishable warming cycle from 1910 to around 1940 is an insignificant “blip”, because the climate models cannot explain it (ergo it probably did not really exist).

      The late 19th century warming cycle (slightly less prominent that the later ones) is clearly also a “blip”, since there was no human CO2 to speak of back then and the thermometers were probably not as accurate as today.

      So we have two insignificant “blips”, some cooling cycles caused by human aerosols (maybe) and one “poster period” that proves our theory.

      All very simple, really.


      • Max

        As far as I am concerned, it is a joke.

        How on earth can science can come to this?

      • Girma,
        If you read history, you will find science comes to this frequently.
        The amazing thing is we make progress at all.

      • The lovely thing as far as I’m concerned is the one who most advertised these three time periods with the same rate of temperature rise was Phil Jones, himself.

      • Tip o’ de Topper to Roger Harrabin, too.

  76. Judith Curry

    You have asked for comments on the “polyclimate” concept following the polymath example. So far most of these have been comments surrounding the main issue, but let’s get back to the specific “who, what and how” questions.

    In all likelihood the “insider” group of climate scientists (which I will call the IPCC dogma hard-liners) will not attend even if invited. They have nothing to gain and a lot to lose from an open dialogue. Some think (without openly saying it anymore) that “the science is settled”.

    Willis Eschenbach may be right and some of these guys would attend a polyclimate conference just to “lie, cheat and subvert” the process, but this would be counterproductive to their cause in the long run, so I believe they would simply not attend, and attempt to declare the conference as therefore irrelevant.

    Those who are skeptical of the greenhouse theory itself will probably also avoid a conference, as they will consider this a waste of time.

    So it will most likely be limited to “lukewarmers” of various degrees, hopefully including several scientists in some climate-related fields.

    What should such a conference attempt to achieve? Its overall objective should be to reinforce the premise that “climate science matters” (as you have written).

    It should not slip into the debating policy issues, but should be an open audit of the “science”: how much is known, based on sound scientific principles and how much is just “hype”?

    This will not be an easy objective, in view of the skullduggery exposed by Climategate and the subsequent revelations of IPCC duplicity.

    Its goal should be to return climate science back to the scientific basis as described in the post of William Newman (April 23, 2011 at 10:35 am):

    Fancy new organizational forms like the polymath project are interesting and can be quite valuable. But it seems to me that their value is almost entirely in reducing friction and lag time in a group that already values fundamental Enlightenment scientific revolution norms. I don’t see how they will fix the fundamental brokenness of a group that values argument from authority, argument from undisclosed primary data, argument from an unrepresentative subset of data selected by undisclosed selection criteria, or argument by stubborn refusal to address or even acknowledge well-known counterarguments to one’s arguments.

    Newman’s criticism is pretty harsh. But it is honest. And a polyclimate conference will need to start off by accepting this criticism and conceding its relevance before moving on.

    Just like the “polymath” project, the polyclimate project should have one primary “problem” to solve.

    Some here have suggested a more nuanced subject, such as “sustainability” as the key topic of a polyclimate conference. I believe this is more of a sociological issue, rather than a topic purely related to climate science, so I would think this would not be a good “problem” for polyclimate to try to solve.

    I think Steve McIntyre has identified the key “problem” in climate science today, namely an “engineering quality” establishment of the 2xCO2 climate sensitivity (to answer the question: “is it 3°C or not?”).

    This should be the “problem” assigned to the polyscience project.

    One can argue about what is meant by “engineering quality”, but I think it comes back to William Newman’s basic points on the scientific method (no “post-normal science” needed here).

    I would say that one should start with the principle that scientific hypotheses (such as the IPCC premise that AGW has been a principal cause of past warming and that it, therefore, constitutes a serious potential threat to humanity) should be corroborated or falsified by empirical data rather than simply model simulations based largely on hypothetical deliberations. These empirical data should be supported by actual physical observations or reproducible experimentation, where at all possible. Real-time physical observations should be given preference to more subjective interpretations of selected paleo-climate reconstructions from millions of years ago. All observed data points should be considered and evaluated. This includes those reported after IPCC AR4 WG1 was published or those simply ignored in AR4 WG1.

    The worst result that could come out of this group would be a simple “rubber-stamping” of the IPCC arguments and conclusions, resembling another “white wash”, without considering the data that do not support these conclusions. This would deal a fatal blow to the credibility of climate science, in my opinion.

    So it is no easy task – but also not an insurmountable one.

    Who should organize this?

    Judith, you have mentioned BEST, but I would not think this is a good idea. Richard Muller has gone on record that he believes that AGW is a serious potential threat, so he already has made up his mind that the CO2 climate sensitivity is high enough to be a problem.

    It needs to be set up by a group or someone who is truly “neutral” on this basic question. In climate science, such an individual might be difficult to find.

    So one could consider an organizing panel, including some scientists who support the IPCC position, such as Muller or possibly Dessler, along with some others who do not support this position, such as Spencer, Lindzen or Christy, some more neutral scientists, such as yourself, and some climate science outsiders who have been involved on the fringes of the debate, such as McIntyre or Mosher.

    I think it’s worth a try. It will take an organizer. You would be a logical choice, but you are very busy, as are most of the people who could act as the organizer. Finding a retired scientist might be a solution.

    These are my thoughts on this, Judy, after having done some thinking on the subject.


    • Thanks max, some good suggestions

    • Max

      These empirical data should be supported by actual physical observations or reproducible experimentation, where at all possible.

      I have a suggestion for the verification as follows:

      In its Fourth Assessment Report of 2007, IPCC’s projection of global warming was the following:

      For the next two decades, a warming of about 0.2 deg C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emission scenarios. Even if the concentrations of all greenhouse gases and aerosols had been kept constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming of about 0.1 deg C per decade would be expected.

      This is a verifiable statement and can be done for the two decades 2000 to 2010 and 2010 to 2020. If the projections fail for these two decades then it would put doubt on the AGW theory. If the projections for the global mean temperature change is similar to the periods from 1880 to 1910 or from 1940 to 1970, then this will indicate the natural climate change pattern has not broken, which further undermines AGW.

      (Newman’s quote is a very beautiful one!)

      • Girma

        You propose to use the temperature record of the first two decades of the new century, i.e. 2001-2010 and 2011-2020 as the test period for the IPCC hypothesis, i.e. that AGW, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, has been the primary driver of our climate and, as such, represents a serious potential threat to humanity and our environment.

        Human CO2 emissions are continuing at essentially the same exponential rate as was seen over the last decade of the 20th century (1991-2000) and the atmospheric concentration increased at the same compounded annual growth rate of a bit more than 0.4% per year.

        Let’s assume that we will continue to see “business as usual” and that this rate will continue from 2001 to 2020, so that the level of atmospheric CO2 concentration will have increased to somewhere between 402 and 410 ppmv by 2020.

        IPCC has estimated that the GMTA would increase by 0.2°C per decade for the first two decades of the new century, i.e. a total warming of 0.4°C over the 20-year period 2001-2020.

        This represents the equilibrium warming IPCC would expect with a 2xCO2 climate sensitivity of 3°C:

        C1 = CO2 concentration in 2001 = 370 ppmv
        C2 = CO2 concentration in 2020 = 406 ppmv (average)
        C2/C1 = 1.0973
        ln(C2/C1) = 0.0929
        ln 2 = 0.6931
        dT theo (2xCO2) = 3°C (IPCC assumption)
        dT theo (2001-2020) = 0.0929 * 3 / 0.6931 = 0.4°C

        (Note: GH theory according to IPCC states that some of the theoretical “equilibrium” warming will be “hidden in the pipeline” and not apparent, however we have an equivalent amount of past warming already “hidden in the pipeline”, which should come out of “hiding”, so it is appropriate to use the “equilibrium” warming rate, as IPCC has done for its estimate of 0.2°C per decade).

        The long-term GMTA temperature trend has been 0.04°C per decade since 1850. Prior to WWII, the human CO2 emissions were quite limited, so the warming was caused primarily by natural forcing. The warming trend for the period 1850 to 1939 was around 0.02°C per decade. So, for purposes of this test, we can assume that the underlying natural warming trend as we have emerged from a colder period, called the Little Ice Age, has been between 0.02°C and 0.04°C per decade, let’s say an average of 0.03°C per decade. Let’s call this the “natural warming” baseline rate.

        So the test is:

        Assuming the atmospheric CO2 level continues to rise, and reaches a level of 402 to 410 ppmv by 2020 (“business as usual”):

        – If the GMTA increases by around 0.4°C (or more) from 2001 to 2020, the IPCC estimates and model-based “climate sensitivity” of 3°C on average have been validated.

        – If the GMTA increases by only 0.03°C per decade, or 0.06°C over the 20-year period, 2001-2020 (or even less), the IPCC “climate sensitivity” of 3°C has been falsified.

        Is this what you had in mind?

        This validity test (or “falsification test”) sounds very logical, but I would think that getting the IPCC or any member of the “insider consensus” group of climate scientists to agree to such a test would be like trying to nail Jello to the wall.


      • Max

        Did not our hero, Feynman stated:

        The test of all knowledge is experiment.
        Experiment is the sole judge of scientific truth.

      • Girma:

        In science, claims are falsifiable. The claim that the warming in each of the next 2 decades will be about 0.2 C is not falsifiable for there is not an observation that proves this claim false. That the increase in the HADCRUT3 global temperature time series will lie in the interval between 0.18 and 0.22 C in each of the next 2 decades is falsifiable, for if the HADCRUT3 lies out thia interval in at least one decade, the claim is proved false.

        That the HADCRUT3 will lie in the interval between 0.18 and 0.22 C is an example of a prediction. Predictions are falsifiable. Projections are not falsifiable. By confusing predictions with projections, climatologists make it seem as though their field is a science when it isn’t one.

    • Max:

      The phrase “climate sensitivity” usually references “the equilibrium climate sensitivity.” By definition, this quantity is the amount by which the equilibrium temperature at Earth’s surface rises in response to a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration. That the equilibrium temperature rises by this amount is not a falsifiable claim, for the equilibrium temperature is not an observable. As the falsifiability of claims is the mark of a study that is scientific in nature, whether or not the climate sensitivity is 3 C or is not 3 C cannot be determined scientifically. Thus, if an “engineering quality” inquiry is a scientific inquiry then to determine whether or not the climate sensitivity is or is not 3 C cannot be a topic for it.

      • Well, the question “what is the largest earthquake that could happen at location x” is not an observable either, but engineers deal with questions like that all the time.

        The “scientific claims must be falsiable” is so transparently, um, false, that it’s surprising anyone as smart as Popper ever claimed it.

      • Paul:

        You’re right in stating that the question “what is the largest earthquake that could happen at location x?” is not an observable. In fact, no question is an observable for by definition an “observable” is not a question but rather is a variable whose value may be observed.

        Regarding falsifiability, you argue that the falsifiability of a claim is not a requirement for this claim to be described “scientific.” While “scientific” could be defined as you suggest, the courts of the United States have reviewed the semantics of “scientific” and decided that the word references falsifiable claimes (see the Daubert standard).

      • All right, I’ll take the bait.

        Of course you are 100% correct. A question is not an observable. The principle of charity might have led you to interpret what I meant as “the answer to the question ‘what is the largest earthquake that could happen at location x?’ is not an observable.” Sort of like “the climate sensitivity” is the answer to the question, “What would be the equilibrium response of GMST if you could double CO2 and hold everything else constant?”

        And of course I didn’t actually define “scientific”, I simply said “scientific claims don’t have to be falsifiable.” That is not in itself a definition; if it were, then “all claims that are not falsifiable are scientific.” Which is plainly not what I mean.

        Notwithstanding the irrelevance of this discussion for science in general and the science of climate in particular, I am intrigued by what the Daubert standard might be and I will take an opportunity to go look it up.

      • Paul:
        The falsifiability of claims is irrelevant? It seems to me that it is highly relevant!

        .”The largest earthquake that could happen at location x” is not an example of an event, hence it is not a proposition that we can deal with scientifically.

      • Well, if I want to plan how big an earthquake my nuclear reactor should be able to withstand, what do I use if not science?

        And, to make the obvious point, if I want to estimate how much GMST will increase in response to an increase of radiative forcing equivalent to about a doubling of CO2, what do I use if not science? If I call the answer to that question “climate sensitivity” it doesn’t really change the question.

        Keep in mind that the reason people invented this approach is because a doubling of CO2 seemed like a possible consequence of steadily increasing emissions. As indeed it still does.

      • The fastest speed that any material object can travel is less than 186,383 miles per second. Not an event.

        Not a scientific proposition?

        Einstein was what, a chopped liver salesman?

      • I meant less than 186,283 if memory serves, but less than 186,383 is still true…

      • >In fact, no question is an observable for by definition an “observable” […]

        Isn’t the cat on the mat?

      • Terry,
        But hopefully irt climate science we will start answering questions with observables really soon.

  77. A polyclimate activity sounds like a great idea – but fraught with difficulty in nailing down a baseline that all parties can work with. So to make it work, you need to first focus on what cannot be disputed – facts. Facts are not necessarily axioms but they are the observations, the physics, and experimental results that underlay the science.

    An important point is that the “facts” are not conclusions. The tree rings are “facts” but what they are telling us about climate is uncertain.
    As important as the facts are, the other important item to agree on is what is unknown and uncertain. These are areas for more research. More important, they help to put a limit on the conclusions that can be drawn from the facts.

    Of course, you will still have to have some way of keeping erroneous data from becoming “facts”…

    • Unfortunately there are very few key facts that are generally agreed to, certainly not enough to generate useful work. It may not be generally agreed that it has warmed in the last 100 years, or if its has what form (when and how much at each time) that warming has taken. In this sense there is nothing solid for climate science to explain. All we are sure of is the disagreement.

      Logic note: tree rings are physical things, while facts are propositions, or sentences if one is being informal. That a certain tree’s rings measured a certain way might be a fact. But even here, every measurement is an estimate.

  78. To address what to do, I am now moving into exploring my hunch as much as I’m able to, that basically MSM carry an interesting part of the blame, having overrated science’s workings. Admittedly, also MSM’s standards had barely evolved enough and they continue to evolve in parallel. What I’d want to do is pinpoint how and where MSM probably went wrong, holding it up against social epistemology’s current position, for all to hopefully learn from, if possible.

  79. “If you painstakingly lay it all out, the holes will be exposed.”

    Since you all understand models and gases, much better than myself and you like to think outside of the box…
    I thought that this would be a good place to ask a question of the ‘Useful Thinkers’ on both sides of AGW.
    The largest hydrogen gas explosion I could think of was the Hindenburg exploding at Lakehurst NJ, in 1937.
    In that explosion there was between 6 & 7 MCF, of Hydrogen gas(total) stored in sixteen large cotton bags. In viewing that explosion(youtube) I can see no overpressure wave, just the huge fireball. The metal structure of the ship seen in the film of the crash at that time, the Duralumin skeleton, is fully exposed by the flames while the ship collapses onto the field. You are able to see the air rushing into the hull of the Hindenburg to allow the combustion of the hydrogen gas still trapped inside the ship.
    Duralumin is not at all like the structural steel which was used in the reactor buildings at the Fukushima Nuclear Complex.
    For the life on me, I cannot explain the explosion or the damage caused to the number 3 reactor on March 12, 2011.
    From what I saw then and am able to see today, the first explosion at reactor building 3, was preceded by a visible overpressure wave to be closely followed by the explosion itself, which was a very dark cloud of
    debris as well as a brief fireball. Why was there an overpressure wave(a visible High Explosive trait) in the Fukushima blast, how & why is the structural steel of this building blown apart on reactor 3, while the other destroyed buildings remain in their basic box shape with just the cladding blown off the roof and walls? What is the explanation? How many atmospheres of Hydrogen gas does it take, to reach the point where this gas would behave like High Explosive? Were the buildings built to build up the internal air pressure or were the walls built light to allow building gas pressure to vent trough the structure? In the ‘eyeball’ photos it looks as if the explosion that took place in Unit 3, pushed the wall and roof to the south in Unit 4, before the hydrogen explosion in Unit 4. It looks like some sort of steel clad upper structure was used for the reactor buildings. I know there are many issues that are plaguing scientists at this point in time but these questions need to be answered.
    Who better to ask than you all; the gas scientists of the world? I hope that my questions have merit. Thank you all for your thoughts & comments on this topic.




    • What produces the Hydrogen gas?

      The short answer: We do not know, although most scientists and engineers working in the field think they know.

      As you know, Tom, heavy neutron-rich nuclei (e.g., U-235, Pu-239, Th-233) can be induced to fission by the addition of a single neutron:

      a.) U-235 + n => Two fission fragments + 2-3 neutrons

      b.) E.g., U-235 + n => Xe-140 + Sr-93 + 3 neutrons

      c.) Atomic numbers: Z = 92 + 0 => Z = 54 + 38

      The 2-3 neutrons produced may induce the fission of another 2-3 atoms of U-235 in a “self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.”

      It is commonly assumed, perhaps correctly (mainstream, consensus view), that the Hydrogen is generated by the reaction of very hot metal (M) with water (H2O):

      d.) M + H2O => H2 + MO

      However, there is a minority opinion that cores of the Sun and other stars are also neutron-rich and generate solar luminosity, solar neutrinos, and solar Hydrogen by neutron-decay following neutron-emission:

      e.) Neutron-rich Core =(neutron emission)=> Free Neutron

      f.) Free Neutron =(neutron decay)=> Hydrogen

      Although not accepted by mainstream scientists, neutron-repulsion is the common source of energy in heavy nuclei used in nuclear reactors and in the cores of stars:

      “Neutron Repulsion”, The APEIRON Journal, in press, 19 pages (2011): http://arxiv.org/pdf/1102.1499v1

      “Neutron Repulsion” video

    • It has been shown that the Hindenburg caught fire from the aluminized paint used to waterproof the skin and make it reflective to sunlight.

    • The hydrogen explosion at SFP 4 is interesting. One possibility, the pool quickly leaked exposing spent fuel which heated to the point that the Zircaloy caught fire releasing hydrogen which exploded. Second, with no cooling, no makeup water and the full load of fresh fuel rods, the water evaporated which increased the boron concentration allowingincreased hydrogen production. Since hydrogen can explode in any concentration from 4% to 75%, either is possible. The temperature of the pool, 84C seems to favor the second possibility, while the radiation concentration favors the first.

  80. The issue under discussion seems to resolve down to how to move toward a sounder basis for policy making than the one we now have. It seems to me that the UN’s inquiry into anthropogenic global warming should be reorganized, using logic as the organizing principle. From my experience in organizing and managing scientific inquiries, I know that modern information theory is capable of supplying the principles of logical reasoning. However, if these principles are at issue, this issue takes precedence over all other issues.

    • I can’t see that politics has been about logic. If a politician does something that turns out badly, the usual response seems to be to bury it and hide the evidence in the shredder.

      So if the IPCC turns out in the politicians view to be irrelevant or wrong or embarrassing, they are more likely to stop funding it and wait for another day…..

      • BLouis79:
        I don’t mean to suggest that policy making on CO2 emissions has been based in logic but rather to suggest the opposite. What we need is logical. What we’ve got is illogical.

      • What we’ve got is nothing. What we need is certainly dramatically different from nothing. So in this regard you are correct.

        But what you mean by “information theory” escapes me. Do you mean it in Claude Shannon’s sense? If so, how does it apply? If not, then can you reference somewhere that it is used in the sense you mean?

      • Michael:
        Regarding the relationship of logic to information theory and climatology, please read the 3 part article entitled “the principles of reasoning” at Climate, Etc. and respond if anything is unclear.

  81. It’s no doubt a symptom of my advanced age that I immediately connect the phrase “polyclimate” with the peer-reviewed scientific publications and theoretical discussions during the late 1960s regarding the substance “polywater”.


    Polywater theory, like AGW, enjoyed the endorsement of the US Government.

    “… U.S. Bureau of Standards examined a sample in 1969 and determined that it was indeed a new form of water.”

    Of course the science, and the dangers thereof, was discussed in the popular news. Time magazine found a reputable scientist willing to invoke the planet Venus as an allegorical image of the fate our own planet faced:


    Physicist Frank Donahoe of Pennsylvania’s Wilkes College, for one, thinks that polywater could pose a threat to all life. Once it is let loose, the stuff might propagate itself, feeding on natural water. The proliferation of such a dense, inert liquid, warns Donahoe, could stop all life processes, turning the earth into a “reasonable facsimile of Venus.”

    All in all, I think the terminology of “polyclimate” is a useful coinage. but perhaps not for the reasons originally offered.


      Your “polywater” sounds a lot like “ice-9”, a solid version of H2O in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”.

      According to Wiki:

      Ice-nine is an alternative structure of water that is solid at room temperature. When a crystal of ice-nine contacts liquid water, it becomes a seed crystal that makes the molecules of liquid water arrange themselves into the solid form, ice-nine.

      Although this book was written in 1963, it already contained the “seed” of “post-modern” science (i.e. unfettered imagination).


  82. Pouncer,
    Thank you for reminding me! It was in the back of my mind that something was out there.
    Kurt Vonnegut wrote a book about its dangers in a macabre funny way, “Cat’s Cradle”.
    I remember an SF book about how dangerous it was as well.
    Something about a Soviet scientist noticing how the wheat was not freezing….
    But it was based on the idea that there really was a dangerous crustal version of water.
    Is it not amazing how little scientific faux pas like this get tossed own the memory hole?

  83. Hunter, thank you for your thoughts. I was more interested in an explanation that would explain the visible difference of the explosions themselves. I also think the damp rope dropped from the Hindenburg on that night may have provided a grounding soure for the ship,… poof. The coating was also a factor but when you consider that the hydrogen gas is 15 times lighter than air you know it wants to move to the highest point in a room. Looking at he ‘eyeball’ photos Unit 3 has extream damage deep inside the building. The steel is sheared and moved as far as I can tell. If you look at the three puffs of steam and put an imaginary spot at the lower right of the bottom puff— see the collapsed high wall and curve? Now look at the debris on the roof it looks like a thousand pound bomb went off, moving from the south to the north. I don’t understand what I am seeing. In my mind I see some spark, it sets of an explosion and then as it pulls in outside air their would be a large fireball at some point soon after. That is not what the BBC shot shows. I really would like to understand what we are seeing. I am not qualified to analyze the explosion. If hydrogen is so volitile why doesn’t the Hidenburg with 7.2 MCF blast right throught the canvas bladders? According to survivors there was no big bang. Quiet, then the sound and glow the airship bursting into flame. No sonic boom of an overpressure wave… Is this really a hydrogen gas explosion or something else? I don’t know.

    • Tom,
      A local engineer and historian of technology, Dr. John Lienhard, has a wonderful program called “The Engines of Our Ingenuity”. He discussed the Hindenburg at length in one of his many episodes. Fortunately, the good Dr. is also very tech savvy and maintains a wonderfully organized archive.
      Here is a link to a transcription of the show:
      He not only discusses the terrible coating solution the Germans chose, but also discusses some assumptions about how H2 burns.
      You might find this very informative.
      I know I did.

    • Hunter, the Hindenburg looks more like a burn. For an explosion, the hydrogen would have had to be contained with a spark while the concentration was between 4% and 75% hydrogen. Hydrogen is kinda wicked when contained. The paint burning is new to me but makes sense. That would flare the leaking hydrogen and that would grow while more paint burned.

      The way hydrogen burns and diffuses are the only reason it can even be considered for automotive fuel. It diffuses rapidly which reduces the chances of enough being contained in a vehicle to explode. Since it flares and diffuses easily, there is little chance of the fire dropping back into the storage tank containment. When well ventilated, it is safer than you might think. I can’t wait to see the crash tests for hydrogen vehicles. The moral is don’t use hydrogen in blimps.

  84. If we have a sealed 10x10x10 cement room. Fill this to local air pressure levels with 75% or better hydrogen and then ignite the gas inside the room. What would the PSI be to the walls and roof? Is hydrogen gas really this powerful? The destruction of Unit 3 is total. Today I noticed the truck and trailers next to the reactor building and got a much better understanding of just how massive the reactor buildings are. When you look at the BBC clip you can see a large chunk of the building being thrown north… I wonder how much that piece weighs? How many atmospheres of hydrogen does it take so that it would behave like high explosive? Units 1 & 4 look similar, Unit 3 has different damage done to it… Could there have been an explosion of hydrogen and a chain of ignition to a heated cooling pool and then it became a crude nuke? Just looking at the units that have had the greatest damage done it sure looks like there is no hope of turning any equipment inside and trust in your readouts… What a mess.

    • Tom,

      The reactor 3 explosion was most likely due to hydrogen from venting the reactor after fuel damage. The size of the building was very large and tall. Plenty of space to generate a big explosion. So yes, hydrogen can do a lot of damage when things go wrong. When the hydrogen comes out of the reactor like that, it is more like Brown’s Gas, HHO. The prefect fuel and oxidizer combination for a bigger bang. The reactor 3 wouldn’t even need a spark, spontaneously combustion is always possible with Brown’s gas.

      At reactor 4, the explosion blew out the metal wall panels without much damage to the structural steel. Not as big a bang, but still a sizable bang. More of a mystery there about where the hydrogen came from. I suspect disassociation of water in the pool, but Zircaloy fire is possible.

      • I don’t know where you’re getting that HHO info, but it’s bunkum. There is a material called Brown’s gas, but it’s nothing but a stoichiometric mixture of H2 and O2. That HHO stuff is somewhere between Area 51 and Elvis on my toast. And while it’s easy to spark a stoichiometric mixture of H2 and O2, it won’t spontaneously combust. That’s nonsense.

        Stay away from those websites, and the UFOs won’t follow you home.

      • It is bunkum as far as getting better fuel mileage, but it is pretty volatile.


  85. Paul Baer (April 29, 2011 at 1:47 AM):
    To plan how big an earthquake your nuclear reactor should be able to withstand, you should conduct a scientific inquiry. The methodology of such an inquiry would feature the collection of observed events that is called a “statistical sample.”

    Similarly, to plan for CO2 emissions, the UN should conduct a scientific inquiry. While the UN claims to have conducted one, this cannot be so for the statistical sample that would be a feature of such an inquiry is not in evidence.

    Were the UN to conduct a scientific inquiry, the first order of business would be to plan for the acquisition of the statistical sample. Each element of this sample would be describable by a pair of states of the climate. Neither of these states could be the equilibrium temperature, for the equilibrium temperature is not an observable.

    As no scientific inquiry has been conducted, you could not use the results from such an inquiry in estimating how much GMST would increase in response to a doubling of CO2. If you wished, you could estimate the increase using one of the UN’s climate models. However, none of these models are statistically validated nor can they be validated in view of the absence of a statistical sample. Under the Daubert rule, estimates of the increase in the GMST that come from these models is not “scientific” testimony.

    The equilibrium climate sensitivity (TECS) is one of several subterfuges by which IPCC climatologists have dressed up their field to make it sound like a scientific field when it isn’t one. Under its IPCC-supplied description, TECS sounds as though it is feature of the climate system. In reality, it is a feature of a climate model.