Can we make good decisions under ignorance?

by Judith Curry

Does decision making require high levels of confidence? Can there be such a thing as making good decisions under deep uncertainty and even ignorance?   What decision making criteria or guidelines make sense under these circumstances? How does overconfidence hamper the decision making process?

Smithson’s blog Ignorance and Uncertainty has an excellent post entitled “Can we make good decisions under ignorance?”  Some excerpts:

Here is a simplified list of criteria for “good” (i.e., rational) decisions under risk:

  1. Your decision should be based on your current assets.
  2. Your decision should be based on the possible consequences of all possible outcomes.
  3. You must be able to rank all of the consequences in order of preference and assign a probability to each possible outcome.
  4. Your choice should maximize your expected utility, or roughly speaking, the likelihood of those outcomes that yield highly preferred consequences.

In non-trivial decisions, this prescription requires a vast amount of knowledge, computation, and time. In many situations at least one of these requirements isn’t met, and often none of them are.

With regards to the climate change issue, I have argued that we do not have sufficient information for #2 and #3.  Steve Schneider argued that we should provide the decision makers with pdfs anyways, since they will create their own as part of the decision making process.

I have argued that the pdfs are highly uncertainty and misleading for decision makers.  Does the lack of probabilities for particular outcomes mean that the situation is too uncertain to make any decision at all?   Not at all.  The climate change problem is well categorized by “decision making under deep uncertainty.”

Roger Kasperson contributed a chapter on “coping with deep uncertainty” to Gabriele Bammer’s and my 2008 book. By “deep uncertainty” he means “situations in which, typically, the phenomena… are characterized by high levels of ignorance and are still only poorly understood scientifically, and where modelling and subjective judgments must substitute extensively for estimates based upon experience with actual events and outcomes, or ethical rules must be formulated to substitute for risk-based decisions.” His list of options open to decision makers confronted with deep uncertainty includes the following:

  1. Delay to gather more information and conduct more studies in the hope of reducing uncertainty across a spectrum of risk;
  2. Interrelate risk and uncertainty to target critical uncertainties for priority further analysis, and compare technology and development options to determine whether clearly preferable options exist for proceeding;
  3. Enlarge the knowledge base for decisions through lateral thinking and broader perspective;
  4. Invoke the precautionary principle;
  5. Use an adaptive management approach; and
  6. Build a resilient society.

He doesn’t recommend these unconditionally, but instead writes thoughtfully about their respective strengths and weaknesses. Kasperson also observes that “The greater the uncertainty, the greater the need for social trust… The combination of deep uncertainty and high social distrust is often a recipe for conflict and stalemate.” 

Again, we see the fruits of Climategate (conflict and stalemate), which generated high social distrust for climate science and the IPCC.

[P]olitical economist Charles Lindblom emerged as an early proponent of various kinds of “incrementalism,” which he engagingly called “muddling through.”  [He] ventured beyond the bounded rationality camp in four important respects. First, he brought into focus the prospect that we may not have knowable preferences. Second, he realized that means and ends may not be separable and may be reshaped in the very process of making a decision. Third, he mooted the criteria of choosing incremental and corrigible changes over large and irreversible ones. Fourth, he observed that many decisions are embedded in institutional or social contexts that may be harnessed to enhance decision making. All four of these advances suggest implications for decision making under ignorance.

“Muddling through” aptly characterizes what is going on in U.S. climate and energy policy, anyways.

Smithson concludes with the following:

At the risk of leaping too far and too fast, I’ll conclude by presenting my list of criteria and recommendations for decisions under ignorance. I’ve incorporated material from the bounded rationality perspective, some of Lindblom’s suggestions, bits from Kasperson, my own earlier writings and from other sources not mentioned in this post. You’ll see that the first two major headings echo the first two in the expected utility framework, but beneath each of them I’ve slipped in some caveats and qualifications.

  1. Your decision should be based on your current assets.
    a. If possible, know which assets can be traded and which are non-negotiable.
    b. If some options are decisively better (worse) than others considering the range of risk that may exist, then choose them (get rid of them).
    c. Consider options themselves as assets. Try to retain them or create new ones.
    d. Regard your capacity to make decisions as an asset. Make sure you don’t become paralyzed by uncertainty.
  2. Your decision should be based on the possible consequences.
    a. Be aware of the possibility that means and ends may be inseparable and that your choice may reshape both means and ends.
    b. Beware unacceptable ends-justify-means arguments.
    c. Avoid irreversible or incorrigible alternatives if possible.
    d. Seek alternatives that are “robust” regardless of outcome.
    e. Where appropriate, invoke the precautionary principle.
    f. Seek alternatives whose consequences are observable.
    g. Plan to allocate resources for monitoring consequences and (if appropriate) gathering more information.
  3. Don’t assume that getting rid of ignorance and uncertainty is always a good idea.
    a. See 1.c. and 2.c. above. Options and corrigibility require uncertainty; freedom of choice is positively badged uncertainty.
    b. Interventions that don’t alter people’s uncertainty orientations will be frustrated with attempts by people to re-establish the level of uncertainty they are comfortable with.
    c. Ignorance and uncertainty underpin particular kinds of social capital. Eliminate ignorance and uncertainty and you also eliminate that social capital, so make sure you aren’t throwing any babies out with the bathwater.
    d. Other people are not always interested in reducing ignorance and uncertainty. They need uncertainty to have freedom to make their own decisions. They may want ignorance to avoid culpability.
  4. Where possible, build and utilize relationships based on trust instead of contracts.
    a. Contracts presume and require predictive knowledge, e.g., about who can pay whom how much and when. Trust relationships are more flexible and robust under uncertainty.
    b. Contracts lock the contractors in, incurring opportunity costs that trust relationships may avoid.
JC comment:  I have long been planning a series on decision making under uncertainty, and have been collecting lots of material.  Smithson is making my job easy, and this post is a really good intro to the topic.

384 responses to “Can we make good decisions under ignorance?

  1. This is the question that I have found the most interesting of all in the whole climate issue. This is also an issue that I have discussed in a few postings on my own site. The issues that I have discussed are perhaps on other details related to the question, but this is main theme of my site. Unfortunately I haven’t been as productive on my site as I hoped, but there’s something in any case. You reach the site, from my name above.

    • Concerning the content of Smithson’s posting my main reaction is that I largely agree, but it’s not really possible do get far on the generic level of his posting. Every reader will unavoidably add some context to the generic statements. With one context they are reasonable and valid, with another context they may be grossly in error.

      One can get to the real issues, when the generic concepts are discussed with more context. Then one will have some feeling on, how ignorant we are, when we are ignorant, or how small are the small steps in muddling trough. The same lack of scale applies to almost everything in the posting.

      • NO: The shortest, most honest, and most unpalatable answer.

        World leaders failed to grasp that truth.

        Political power has been closely linked with ability to predict climate change over recorded history.

        1. Genesis reports that Joseph had no political power and was in prison, but spiritually strong, when he correctly forecast seven years of plenty followed by seven years of drouth and famine in Egypt [1].

        He thus became politically powerful.

        2. Al Gore and the UN’s IPCC were politically powerful but when they incorrectly forecast AGW (anthropogenic global warming).

        World leaders foolishly gambled away people’s faith in their leadership when they decided to “whitewash” clear evidence of data manipulation in Climategate e-mails [2].

        They thus lost the trust of their followers and revealed

        • The validity of Eisenhower’s 1961 warning of the danger of a federal “scientific-technological elite” [3], and

        • Decades of “offstage” international intrigue to save us from the threat of nuclear annihilation [4] since 1972, when I was a Principal Investigator in NASA’s Apollo program.

        3. I inadvertently became an opponent of those agreements and the “anthropogenic global climate change” dogma by reporting experimental evidence on the origin, composition and violently unstable source of energy in the Earth-Sun system [5-9].

        CONCLUSION: Government decisions based on ignorance of Earth’s heat source – the Sun – caused economic, social and political unrest in society today [e.g., 10].

        01. Genesis 41: verses 29-30.

        02. “Revised Climategate Timeline”

        03. “Eisenhower’s Farewell Warning” (17 Jan 1961)

        04. “The Deep Roots of Climategate”

        05. “Strange xenon, extinct super-heavy elements, and the solar neutrino puzzle”, Science 195, 208-209 (1977)

        06. “Solar abundances of the elements”, Meteoritics 18, 209-222 (1983):

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

        08. “Super-fluidity in the solar interior: Implications for solar eruptions and climate”, Journal of Fusion Energy 21, 193-198 (2002)

        09. “Neutron Repulsion”, The APEIRON Journal, in press, 19 pages (2011):

        10. “Gillard convoy of no confidence”, The International News Magazine (19 Aug 2011):

      • Did social engineers – following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis – use Eisenhower’s warning (17 Jan 1961) on the danger of a “scientific-technological elite” to design the “scientific-technological elite” that attempted to:

        a.) Control the population of China (1965-1968)

        b.) Define H-fusion as Earth’s heat source (1967-1968)
        O. Gingerich, C. De Jager, “The Bilderberg solar model”….3….5G

        c.) Identify CO2 as a dangerous air pollutant?
        US DoE contract with Phil Jones DE-AC02-79EV10098

        Climategate produced the questions; I do not know the answers.

        I know the rest mass of every nucleus with two or more neutrons is increased by neutron repulsion – the greatest known source of nuclear energy [1].

        Why has the US Department of Energy (DoE) not confirmed or denied that observational fact [1], but instead sent public funds to Phil Jones to misidentify CO2 as a dangerous air pollutant?

        1. “Neutron repulsion confirmed as energy source”, Journal of Fusion Energy 20, 197-201 (2001):

      • Pekka, if what you are saying is that different cases get decided in different ways then I agree completely. Individual decision making is far to complex to be reduced to a few simple rules. In the policy context it is deeply social as well. Behavior and ecology are both complex processes.

      • That’s certainly in line with what I mean.

        As I write lower down in this thread, we have read the text somewhat differently. Therefore your comment does not cover everything that I had in mind, but as said, it’s fully consistent, with my intended message.

  2. “6. Build a resilient society.”… Endeavour to persevere. Hope not. Rest-in-Peace…”Hide the vomitus.” H/t K

    I’ll say it again, (GI+GO)=0

  3. Judith, I think

    “…I have argued that the pdfs are highly uncertainty and misleading for decision makers.” needs fixing?

  4. I suppose one can’t trust a democracy to make a decision which will affect the nation, nor can Congress be trusted. As they simply too interested in appearing to do what the masses want.
    So that leaves the important decisions to experts.
    I am not expert, so you can only imagine how excited I am for there to be a smart panel of experts which convenes and reaches some grand decision.
    I think the panel should composed of distinguish persons, but again
    I am not expert on who are the most distinguished persons.
    Dan Rather could have been such a person if he hadn’t destroyed his
    reputation, and seems that is an all too common problem with many of them.
    Now I can understand why some might think such person as Al Gore or Jim Hansen would be good candidates, but I believe you might missing some important aspects of this. Though as fanboys for various panelists, that I could see this as good role for them.
    Perhaps someone like Tony Blair might work as one of the panelists.

    What would good is if one get some Chinese guy [or woman!!] who was well respected. And perhaps some persons from Indian and Japan. But as I said, I am not expert on such matters. So I am interested suggestions for who could fill this important role.

    • “So that leaves the important decisions to experts.” Aha, “Progressivism”: highly recommended and already at work.
      Sorry, but we are fresh out of “philosopher-kings”. There may be a few left over at Erewhon.

  5. There are some underlying assumptions here that are questionable. First, policy decisions are not made by decision makers. They are made collectively by from thousands to millions of people, each with different information and interests. Second, all decisions are made under uncertainty. How either happens is not well understood, to say the least.

    • David,

      Your points are important.

      One specific decision maker may, however, consider the role of the decisions of everybody else as additional sources of uncertainty and also a part of the chain of consequences that her decision initiates. Thus this is not contradictory to the approach, but modifies the mechanisms.

      • Such people are not decision makers, they are decision contributors. But this leads to my second point which is that individual decision making is not based on some simple set of rules or procedures, such as are being proposed here. The artificial intelligence community would laugh at this. (I doubt that decision making is rule based at all, but that is a different issue.)

      • You read from the text much that I don’t see in it. Actually almost everything in your second comment refers to content that doesn’t exist in the text as I read it.

        Listing issues to be considered in decision making does not imply “rule based”. This is one essential point that we read differently.

        I have also a much more open definition on “decision maker”. To me the decision contributors are all also decision makers. They make decisions within their power to decide. Wider decisions are formed from these individual decisions. Some people influence more than some others, but all can decide something.

      • What I wrote above is related to the excessive generality of the original posting.

      • Sorry for jumping ahead, Pekka, but decision making is my field so I see well known theories in the text, even though they are not mentioned. That is why I referred to (unstated) assumptions.

      • David,

        That’s exactly, what I see as a problem. If you assume that others are using the words in the same meaning as you, or write the sentences with the same context in mind, you end up misinterpreting them.

        It’s not interesting to know, what the sentence would mean, if you would have written it, it’s more interesting to think, what the author had in mind, or what are all the meanings that other people may give to the text.

        If, if the author is closer to your field of expertize than mine, he may express himself differently from you.

      • It is necessary to interpret things in a context you understand so that you can laugh at them. AI

    • I think that how such decisions ought to be made is the subject here.

      There are some underlying assumptions here that are questionable. First, policy decisions are not made by decision makers. They are made collectively by from thousands to millions of people, each with different information and interests.

      Something scientists frequently do is start with an “idealized system” then add complications until they have a suitably realistic model, but one that is still not so overburdened with complexity that it requires as much time to compute as to simply watch the system evolve. HTH

  6. Norm Kalmanovitch

    If we decide to invade Iraq based on incorrect information about weapons of mass destruction or if we decide to remove 6.5% of the world’s grain to produce ethanol based on incorrect information that humans are causing catastropic global warming; it is obvious that we can’t make good decisions based on ignorance.

    • No, it merely shows that we can’t make good decisions all the time. All decisions are “based on ignorance” in the sense that there is a lot we don’t know every time. They is no alternative to significant ignorance so the issue is moot.

      • Actually no it isn’t. It shows a track record of assuming we have enough information to make a decision, with it later turning out to be wrong.

      • Two decisions are not a track record- though that is not to say we don’t have one, just that it needs to be looked at more closely.

      • John Vetterling


        I think this is an important point. I will have to look for it, but there was a study done regarding “experts” in various fields. What they found was that, in general, the experts were not significantly better at predicting future events than a rnadom selection of individuals. However, the experts were vastly over-confident in there predictions.

        We must make decisions under uncertainty, but we must also recognize th true nature of our uncertainty.

      • Those who Dunning & Kruger found to be overestimating their worth were not the experts. Just the opposite.

      • Labmunkey, you seem to be claiming that there is such a thing as enough information to make a decision such that if we have it we will never make a bad decision. There is no way to know what that is, if it even exists. All decisions are made with limited information so a certain fraction of these are bound to turn out wrong.

        The question is what is a reasonable fraction to shoot for? (As opposed to saying something must be wrong if any bad decisions get made.) It is like efficiency. An auto engine is something like 39% efficient and that is good enough for now. What fraction of bad policy decisions is good enough? Zero is completely unrealistic.

      • Which makes the recommendation not to do anything irreversible pretty much universally applicable. Unfortunately, this is absolutely contrary to the impulses and intentions of most policy makers and law-givers, who use all sorts of tactics and structural strategies to try and prevent future incumbents from undoing what they did.

        Sunset laws are a REALLY good idea, but few are willing to do more than agree with them in theory.

      • Regardless of the number of examples cited, a very important point. Claiming more certainty than exists in order to force through a decision, or even to justify an egregiously costly application of the Precautionary Principle, is a strategy, tactic, or failure of imagination.

        The important contribution that acknowledgment of ignorance/uncertainty makes is that it preserves the “options” asset referred to above. There appear to be many who do not want that asset in others’ hands.

      • Norm Kalmanovitch

        There is blind ignorance where we blindly accept what we are beingn told without making any attempt at verification, and there is justifiable ignorance where the knowledge just isn’t there and we make the best assumptions possible.
        If there was no justifiable ignorance there would be no decisions because if everything was known completely about something there would be nothing to decide.
        On the other hand blind ignorance represents the malaise of our time with so much information available and much of it not valid we tend to make decisions on whatever information first crosses our path and not digging deeper to verify that this information is actually correct.
        The legal term for justifiable ignorance is “due diligence” and the one thing missing in the entire climate change issue is any attempt at due diligence which explains the many stupid decisions about AGW

    • Mr. Norm Kalmanovitch, In the same spirit, what do we think/say about the admitted lie in the case of: Roe v. Wade (egg v. pool of shallow water).
      ‘We are lied to because we trusted them, & it is so convenient.’

    • Ummmm, actually Saddam’s nuke program was in Libya. Because we bagged Saddam the Libyan dicatator told us about the program and let us shut it down. Sorta nice right not that ole what’shisname with whom America is currently in a state of war doesn’t have that nuke program any more. That might have proved to be rather inconvenient.

      Like facts and reality. Instead of political spin and media bias.

      • Indeed. But since the funding, staff, and equipment were all SH’s. Ghaddafi had little option but to shut it down when the source was cut off.

    • Norm Kalmanovitch

      As I understand it, the decision to invade Iraq was made first, then the incorrect information was painstakingly manufactured and groomed to create the state of ignorance. Likewise, corn interests wanted subisdies, so lobbied hard to create the very mistaken impression that ethanol biofuel benefits anyone, so they could reap billions of tax dollars out of the confusion.

      There is of course room for uncertainty in my beliefs, but it would be just plain fostering ignorance to not mention them, or the mountains of documentation supporting these beliefs.

      Perhaps the title of this topic ought be “Can we make good decisions under ignorance and lies?”

      • Bart,

        You don’t understand it. The WMD question was only a part of the decision process. But the mountains of evidence show that every major Democrat including Bill and Hillary said that Saddam had nukes. They said so before W was president. They said so because every Western intelligence service agreed with the assessment. They said so because Saddam had over 550 metric tons of yellow cake in Iraq. (It took 37 flights for the US to ship it all out.)

        These are facts. They no longer seem to matter in science (never did in economics or politics). But clearly, if we cannot as a society recognize undisputed facts, and instead embrace political propaganda known by all to be false, is it any wonder why science is also sufferering? Science will reflect the times and its people. People prefer their facts to be convenient right now.

      • stan

        Saddam Hussein was a cruel, savage tyrant and head of a bloody regime that came as close to the embodiment of evil as one could name in any context.

        They used chemical weapons, launched wars of aggression external and internal, performed thousands of atrocities, tried and failed to develop nukes, dealt in nuclear materials in amoral and dangerous ways with Pakistan (which also comes close to the embodiment of evil on any given day), and if not for the complete screw-up of the execution of war against Saddam, a textbook case of bad planning in every sense, the world’s far better off without Hussein.

        That said..

        You say Saddam Hussein entrusted Muammar al-Qadhafi with nukes, and claim I don’t understand?

        You know Qadhafi backed Iran in the war against Saddam, right?

        That the two famously hated each other?

        That they had virtually opposite political and religious stances?

        That Libya had been offering to dismantle its own WMD nuke program since early 2001, in order to gain normalized relations with the West, an offer it took four years for the USA to act on?

        That every Western intelligence service agreed.. except those of Canada, who stayed out, Germany, who stayed out, France, who did what France does.. Do you really always believe what you’re told without fact checking anything ever? Or does it only happen when beforehand you want to believe the thin fictions presented to you?

        It would be as ignorant as claiming that Ronald Reagan had concealed the US nuclear missile program by giving control of it secretly to Fidel Castro.

        Since I’m not a Democrat, and I know politicians of all stripes often lie to gain an advantage, how am I to take your evidence of what the Clintons said they believed (glossing over the circumstances of those statements) as anything but a sign of greater ignorance?

        And all of it is off the topic.

        The documentation on how George W. Bush in the hours and days following 9/11 obsessed on Iraq (who his father went to war against and then betrayed America’s allies within Iraq by pulling out leaving Saddam to retaliate against Iraqi’s who supported the USA in the first Gulf War), how W’s handlers and flunkies steered the intelligence efforts to manufacture evidence and suppress opposing views of experts in the months that followed, how this political act of confirmation bias spread to a few of America’s more predisposed allies while other nations, some of America’s best allies it turns out, with their own intelligence conclusions to the contrary, urged America and the world to re-evaluate the baseless and wrong WMD claims..

        That documentation is much more substantial, and points to a classic case of decision making under the influence of deception and intentional self-delusion at the top levels of the machinery of government.

        Of course the WMD question was only part of the decision process.

        It’s the part that was confidence game.

        It’s the part that shows the danger of having experts who will sell their opinion to conform to the agenda of interests with power and influence.

    • I read Richard Butler’s book about his ordeal as a UN weapons inspector. In it he describes in considerable detail being shown by the Iraqis disassembled and/or wrecked weapons, and lamenting, not their absence, but the fact that the Iraqis had so messed them up as to make COUNTING them impossible. His hosts weren’t trying to say they had no WMD material, they were trying to persuade him that he had seen ALL the material there was to see, and he was afraid he was only seeing PART of it. That he was indeed looking at the remains of a WMD development program he seemed in no doubt. A few months later, after the invasion, the WMDs had vanished, not only from Iraq, but from Richard Baker’s account of the matter. How do we reconcile these contradictions? Is it simply a question of a case of lecture-feeitis on Baker’s part? But if so, the fact remains – he found elements of WMDs. Can anyone shed any light?

      In truth, the real problem with Saddam was that whether or not he really had WMD was ultimately beside the point. In no small part through his tergiversations over weapons inspections, he had acquired the reputation of a possessor/developer of WMD. In diplomatic terms, that’s really as good as having them in the flesh, so to speak (better, actually – you don’t have to go through the undignified and expensive process of importing a squad of Frenchmen to show you how to do it.) Churchill saw this essentially diplomatic character of nuclear weapons when he replied, upon being asked if he thought Stalin wanted war (I think re Korea, but not sure) “I don’t believe he wants war, but I believe he wants the fruits of war”. I doubt if even Saddam was silly enough to see a future in WMDs as battlefield weapons – the response would be catastrophic and would probably kill him – but the diplomatic fruits of being an unpredictable man with a history of unprovoked aggression, believed to have developed, or be developing WMDs (as he was no doubt learning from North Korea’s example) were immense, and in my view, worth depriving him of by force.

  7. Peter Davies

    A good coverage of rational decision-making under various degrees of uncertainty. Unfortunately many decisions taken by humans are based on the emotional stressors of fear and greed and hence far from rational.

    Moreover, once a decision is taken, humans seem to have a capacity to defend such decisions by putting up all sorts of post hoc justifications in order to save face in the event of a poor decision.

    The climate scene seems to be populated with people who have made a decision on AGW, one way or the other (probably not based on high quality data) and are subsequently prepared to defend their positions to the death, so to speak.

    Does anyone on this blog really have an open mind on AGW?

    • I do!

    • Thank you for your even-handed observations.

    • Peter, there is nothing necessarily irrational about fear or greed, although each can be carried to irrational degrees. As for an “open mind,” the concept makes no sense, unless it means willing to defend one’s beliefs. I that case everyone here has an open mind. If it means not believing anything then that is impossible.

      • As for an “open mind,” the concept makes no sense, unless it means willing to defend one’s beliefs.

        That,is a fascinating comment.

        First – in that it is incredibly ironic. You take someone’s opinion, and determine that it doesn’t “make sense,” because your opinion is different. The definition of close-mindedness.

        Second – in that, (IMO) – you have stated that the only viable definition of an “open-mind” is if someone is willing to defend his/her beliefs.

        What about the possibility that someone might be willing to defend their beliefs and, at the same time, be willing to consider and evaluate alternative opinions?.- as compared to the alternative, which is that one is willing to defend their beliefs but is not willing to consider and evaluate alternative opinions.

        What I find interesting, also, is just how many people at this website are interested in science yet continuously confuse fact and opinion.

      • Joshua, I did not say his opinion did not make sense, it is the concept that does not make a lot of sense. It is part of a view of human rationality that is wildly false. Nor do we disagree, as one cannot defend one’s beliefs without considering and evaluating alternative opinions. The people on this list spend countless hours considering and evaluating alternative beliefs. That is what we do here.
        Moreover, people here change their beliefs from time to time. I used be believe that humans were the cause of the CO2 increase but I am now inclined to believe not. I used to be a skeptic in the sense that I thought the AGW issue was merely undecided, but now I believe that AGW has actually been disconfirmed.

        Back to the original point, and to do a little concept analysis, the term “open mind” is usually used in one of two ways. First it applies to someone who has just encountered an issue and has not yet made a decision. Second it is used in contrast to the accusation of a closed mind, which is someone who will not consider a contrary position. (In an advocacy context such an accusation is normally wring.)

        As for confusing fact with opinion, that idea also makes no sense. It is what is called in philosophy a category mistake, as facts and opinions are in different ontological categories. A fact is how the world is, while an opinion (or belief) is something a person has, a mental state that refers to how the world is, either correctly or incorrectly. All knowledge is opinion, as is all false belief.

      • Joshua, I did not say his opinion did not make sense, it is the concept that does not make a lot of sense.

        Correction acknowledged. (Although I will note that you moderated your statement from it makes “no sense” to it doesn’t make “a lot of sense.” I think that modification is important.)

        The people on this list spend countless hours considering and evaluating alternative beliefs.

        I think that you’re being too generous here. From what I see, a lot of people on this list spend countless hours trying to affirm their already formulated beliefs – without a serious consideration of alternative beliefs. Not to say that what you describe doesn’t happen, but I think that it is far from an accurate description of most of what takes place.

        one cannot defend one’s beliefs without considering and evaluating alternative opinions.

        In an abstract sense, I agree. A defense without serious consideration of alternative beliefs is not a truly valid defense – but people defend their beliefs w/o true consideration of alternatives all the time. I will refer again to “motivation reasoning” and “confirmation bias.”

        As for confusing fact with opinion, that idea also makes no sense. It is what is called in philosophy a category mistake, as facts and opinions are in different ontological categories

        Again – a point that I think confuses theory with reality. As I see it, people confuse fact with opinion, constantly – whether you see it as being theoretically impossible or not. A huge % of the comments at this site start with a statement similar to “That makes no sense,” when referring to what is essentially an opinion – an interpretation of how facts should be determined. As simple a modification as “In my opinion, that makes no sense,” would be an acknowledgement of a distinction between fact and opinion – and such acknowledgments are pretty infrequent in these discussions. Sometimes, I suppose, it is simply reflective of a carelessness in discourse – but I think that frequently it represents a larger misconception that one’s own opinion comprises a fact in contrast to someone else’s opinion which is not factual (by virtue of being different).

        What I find fascinating is watching well-informed, intelligent people, trading comments on technical issues where each says to the other “your post, analysis, conclusion, makes no sense.” The explanation I come up with is that either one or both parties are confusing their own interpretation of inherently ambiguous, or at least highly complex data – an opinion – with a factual interpretation of data.

        It’s at least more understandable when it happens in arguments about the interpretation of highly technical phenomena, but when someone like Willis states, as a fact, that Fred has been “suckered,” it is a clear confusion between fact and opinion. What evidence does Willis have that Fred, a highly intelligent person who obviously weighs divergent data carefully, has been “suckered?” None, other than his own subjective evaluations, and a (IMO triballl-driven) inability to distinguish his own opinion from fact.

      • Joshua, I may agree with you on the fact versus opinion issue. Some, perhaps many, people here assert controversial positions as though they were established facts. Is that what you are getting at? They should qualify their statements to recognize that they are taking a position, not stating a known fact.

      • Me, too, and so with many here. I see so many Believer arguments and positions taken here that match very closely ones I held and supported before accumulating discrepancies made me widen my sources. The AGW case quickly revealed itself to be primarily based on bafflegab and special pleading, reinforced by grossly overbalanced access to poitically motivated funding.

      • David, Greed is fear. Fear that they won’t get more than someone else. In this world it is nothing but fear… You can’t see this as a fact? Try AGW.
        My Dad made me do it…

    • Norm Kalmanovitch

      I don’t because 30 years of satellite measurement of OLR proves that there has been absolutely no detectable enhanced greenhouse effect in spite of the 57.1% increase in CO2 emissions and without any enhanced greenhouse effect there is no possibility of AGW regardless of whether the Earth is warming or cooling.
      An open mind on AGW demands an open mind in looking at the data objectively and every single piece of physical evidence refutes the AGW hypothesis, but more importantly there is zero eviodence in support of AGW so any support for AGW requires a closed mind unwilling to even look at the physical data while blindly accepting the output from computer models driven by fabricated input parameters.

      • If the above is true, it is certainly a powerful arguement against the AGW position.

      • I have been trying to look for this “satellite measurement of OLR ” but did not find something definite. Please give a link?

      • Obviously net OLR should not change because the energy balance is maintained. What does is change the spectrum, but this gives the same net OLR. That is, the CO2 absorption lines become darker while the background emission gets brighter due to atmospheric warming. I am fairly sure that these would be measurable if we had a consistent satellite through a few decades, which we don’t.

      • What’s a ‘net’ OLR, is there an opposing OLR? I have been wondering why the debate of the effect of CO2 is mostly on the surface temperature when it is supposed to affect first the OLR (by decreasing it).

      • lurker67,

        I think he means “net” in the sense of the total OLR integrated over wavelengths. Yes, there will tend to be a decrease in OLR initially…but the earth will respond to this by warming in order to try to restore energy balance. Since CO2 levels are increasing continuously, the earth is believed to be out-of-balance, but this number is on the order of a fraction of 1% and hence quite difficult to detect directly given the current uncertainties with satellite measurements. As JimD notes, there is more hope in being able to detect the changes in the OLR spectra (which will exist even once the earth has “equilibrated” to the levels of greenhouse gases).

      • Thanks for the clarification, Joel. I think I misused the word ‘net’. Yes, it was supposed to be ‘total’.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        ‘The bottom panel shows the difference of 1997 minus 1970. In most places the difference is small, but in some wavenumber intervals the 1997 brightness temperature are significantly less in 1997. This reflects the increase in the concentrations of gases such as CO2, CFC and CH4 between 1970 and 1997. The optical depth depends on the density of the absorber. If the amount (density, mixing ratio) of absorber increases, the
        optical depth at the wavelengths of absorption increases, the emission that escapes comes from higher in the atmosphere, where the density is lower and the temperature is lower, and so the brightness temperature is less. Thus we see the greenhouse gases increases reflected in the emission spectrum of longwave radiation.’

        ‘Brightness temperature is the temperature a black body in thermal equilibrium with its surroundings would have to be to duplicate the observed intensity of a grey body object at a frequency ν. This concept is extensively used in radio astronomy and planetary science.’ Wikipedia

        The bottom panel is ‘simulated’ rather than measured? I have been accepting Harries 2001 as a demonstration of a greenhouse effect – I may have to reconsider.

        Pekka – do you have any help with this?

      • Rob,

        The GHE cannot occur without changes at all altitudes. Trying to make changes at one only would lead to contradictions in the physics of atmosphere. Trying to pick one explanation disregarding others as wrong or irrelevant is a mistake.

        The link and quotes that you present are one view of this issue. The present the view from TOA. That one very useful view. It’s one projection of a complex multidimensional problem.

        Another view is obtained looking at the surface. At the surface DLR (or back radiation or whatever is the favored word of each reader) increases. That’s the primary effect. That is compensated by changes in all upwards fluxes. The other fluxes change as all initiated by the increase in surface temperature, as the DLR doesn’t have any other direct effect than warming of the surface.

        Between the top view and the bottom view, we may have different views of the internals of the troposphere. The most useful single view is that of temperature profile. That is in rough terms determined by the fluxes at bottom and top and by the near adiabatic lapse rate in between. The bottom fluxes are those of the previous chapter, the top fluxes are not exactly those of your reference, because your reference includes radiation from many different altitudes. The significant fluxes at the top of atmosphere are essentially SW, DLR, OLR and convection. SW, DLR and OLR are determined by factors which operate over wide volumes and are not influenced significantly by local phenomena. They change in the way that SW+DLR is larger than OLR in troposphere and the difference is filled automatically by convection (latent heat enters also as long as there’s moisture to condense. That add’s to OLR and reduces the need for convection). The difference SW+DLR-OLR gets smaller with increasing altitude as there is less and less atmosphere above the altitude to produce DLR.

        When the difference goes to zero, convection stops and we have the tropopause. Above that altitude the difference is kept at zero by an appropriate temperature profile that is getting closer to isothermal and inverted due to the effect of absorption of UV to this balance. The temperature profile of stratosphere is determined by the condition SW+DLR = OLR.

        Throughout the above SW is net SW. I.e. reflected SW is removed from the total.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Thank you Pekka,

        I was more interested in the ‘brightness temperature’ of Harries and the mechanics of that in the spectral analysis method.

        This is said to be one of the critical physical proofs of an atmospheric greenhouse effect – and it is something that I have accepted unthinkingly.

        Increased downwelling radiation reduces net upwelling IR – it is a matter to my mind simply of finding a more correct visualisation of the radiative flux problem.

      • Rob,

        My other recent comment is relevant for your second point.

        I have emphasized that it’s often very useful to look at the net IR rather than DLR and OLR separately, but there are also cases, where looking at the two components separately makes understanding the physics easier. Both ways are right, but it varies from case to case, which is the more useful for understanding. (Using both, one must be careful to do that without creating errors from inconsistencies.)

      • Pekka, I fully agree that all three of DLR, ULR (the term I prefer for surface OLR, I prefer the latter for TOA), and net surface flux are all useful despite not being independent concepts.

        However I would like to understand better the basis for your claim,

        At the surface DLR increases. That’s the primary effect.

        On a warming planet, it is certainly the case that the ambient surface flux, averaged over all directions, increases.

        What I’m less clear about is why increasing DLR should be the primary effect. Are there models that take all of conduction, convection, and radiation into account that show that increasing DLR leads increasing ULR by a sufficient amount as to to justify the former being called “primary”?

        Elsewhere you’ve made the point that it is unreasonable to view the atmosphere as emitting to space from a particular altitude. Is it any more reasonable to view increasing DLR as leading increasing ULR? After all DLR comes from many altitudes, just as does TOA OLR.

      • There are some measurements of this as discussed and referenced in this SkepticalScience piece: . As JimD noted, it is not easy to do because of the need for consistency over decades, but with that caveat, the evidence does seem to be in good agreement with what is expected.

      • Thank you Joel Shore, especially for the link.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        The atmosphere emits in the IR range – the emission frequency is determined by the heat of the radiating object. So no noticable change in the spectrum of emissions. I am sure that Jim is referring to a warmer world emitts more IR to balance the extra heat retained on planet – but to get warmer there needs to be an energy imbalance in the first place.

        The satellite record has had major problems – requiring multiple adjustments and interpolations for shuttle disasters, instrument failure, orbital drift etc – e.g. WONG et al 2006 – Reexamination of the Observed Decadal Variability of the Earth Radiation Budget -Using Altitude-Corrected ERBE/ERBS Nonscanner WFOV Data. But there are multiple platforms as well as other methods – surface cloud observation and ‘Earthshine’ measurements – that all agree.

        ‘In the first row, the slow increase of global upwelling LW flux at TOA from the 1980’s to the 1990’s, which is found mostly in lower latitudes, is confirmed by the ERBE-CERES records…

        Relative cooling in the IR as a result of less low level cloud – and not warming at all. And we know that cloud changes especially in the tropical and sub-tropical Pacific from many other studies.

        ‘The overall slight rise (relative heating) of global total net flux at TOA between the 1980’s and 1990’s is confirmed in the tropics by the ERBS measurements and exceeds the estimated climate forcing changes (greenhouse gases and aerosols) for this period. The most obvious explanation is the associated changes in cloudiness during this period.’

        Relative heating (all in the SW) – as a result of less cloud to 1998 and then increasing reflectance by about 2W/m^2 after.

        These are anomalies – because it is much more accurate to measure change than absolute values. One may quibble with the data – but it is what it is.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        ‘CH, you have to admit upwelling and downwelling IR have completely different and distinct spectra, and are therefore the result of different emission sources. Specifically at the surface upwelling is dominated by ground emission, downwelling is dominated by sky emission (with no ground signal). Net is a useful concept, but certainly not the basic one.’

        ‘Thermal radiation is the emission of electromagnetic waves from all matter that has a temperature greater than absolute zero.[3] It represents a conversion of thermal energy into electromagnetic energy. Thermal energy is the collective mean kinetic energy of the random movements of atoms and molecules in matter. Atoms and molecules are composed of charged particles, i.e. protons and electrons and their oscillations result in the electrodynamic generation of coupled electric and magnetic fields, resulting in the emission of photons, radiating energy and carrying entropy away from the body through its surface boundary. Electromagnetic radiation, or light, does not require the presence of matter to propagate and travels in the vacuum of space infinitely far if unobstructed.’

        I don’t know Jim – I had an idea that the frequency of thermal emissions was related to temperature. ‘Wien’s displacement law implies that the hotter an object is, the shorter the wavelength at which it will emit most of its radiation, and also that the wavelength for maximal or peak radiation power is found by dividing Wien’s constant by the temperature in kelvins.’

        I get a max power at a little more than a 1000nm at 273 degrees C and a little under 1000nm at 300 degrees. So no great differences in frequency distribution for real world temperature differentials?

        Photons are emitted from the surface and interact with greenhouse gas molecules at the bottom of the atmosphere – about 50m on average. The absorbed energy is reemitted in all directions – but mostly up because we can’t violate the 2nd law.

      • Rob,
        Planck’s law tells the spectrum for a black body or uniformly gray body. The surface is almost black for LW IR. The atmosphere is neither, because it emits very weakly at some wavelengths and weakly enough at many others to allow most of the radiation reaching the surface to come from altitudes of significantly lower temperatures.

        LW radiation is from the point of view of atmospheric energy transfer similar to conduction only for the part that occurs at wavelengths of strong absorptivity/emissivity and short mean free path. These wavelengths dominate for the internal radiative energy transfer of the troposphere, because the emissivity/absorptivity enters at both ends in the internal energy transfer, but the other wavelengths are important in the energy balance with the surface and at TOA, as the emissivity occurs only once in these phenomena. This makes a big difference, and must be considered to get right results.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        ‘Wien’s displacement law states that the wavelength distribution of thermal radiation from a black body at any temperature has essentially the same shape as the distribution at any other temperature, except that each wavelength is displaced on the graph.’ The power distribution is given by Planck’s law – which of course is based on the amazing quantization assumption.

        I simply calculated the frequency of the peak power output at 0 degrees and 27 degrees C – to see the displacement of the distribution of power. That is between the surface and about 3km high in the troposhere – both emit IR and the spectral shift is 100nm.

        The simple point was that there is no great change in frequency – or alternatively it is about a 10% shift. Either way it makes little difference to emission or absorption of photons with a frequency in the LW band. Is it measusrable? Frankly my dear…

        And of course other frequencies are important – but we were discussing the spectra of downwelling and upwelling IR.

        No thouights on spectral analysis using ‘brightness temperature’?

      • Brightness temperature is not a useful concept for these issues as far as I can see. In understanding physics, it’s essential to choose those laws that are helpful for the issue considered. Trying to understand with other laws will not succeed. That may even lead to the incorrect conclusion that physics would not give clear answers.

        This is indeed one of the very common problems in the discussion on atmospheric physics on these pages. People with little understanding of physics find some laws from textbooks, or more likely from other blogs. When these laws do not give answers, they claim that physics doesn’t give answers. When attempts are made to use the inapplicable laws, errors are common. In extreme cases that leads to the nonsense we have been discussing in several threads, but in less extreme cases that leads to the lesser errors that are perpetuated in net discussions and elsewhere.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Brightness temperature is used in spectral analysis studies purporting to show a measurable greenhouse gas effect from satelite observations.

      • GHE has some influence on the brightness temperature, but it’s not a particularly useful concept in understanding GHE, because GHE affects the spectrum more at it’s details than as an overall shift in brightness temperature. The diagrams that you linked in your earlier message are an excellent demonstration of this fact.

        Considering atmospheric radiation with concepts that are most applicable to gray bodies (uniform emissivity over the spectrum) is not particularly useful and may lead to grossly erroneous conclusions.

      • I didn’t check your second link before I wrote my above comment. This second paper presents also spectrally resolved results. Here again the most significant results are visible at some specific wavelengths and depend strongly on the wavelength, not in any average or summary value.

        In this spectrally resolved presentation the brightness spectrum is just one way of expressing absolute intensity. The connection between the intensity and the spectrally resolved brightness temperature is given by Planck’s law. Used in this way the observations tell directly about the temperature of the layers, where the radiation of that wavelength typically originates (or more precisely, it tells some kind of weighted average of the temperatures of the layers, where the radiation originates).

        One limitation of both of these papers is in their spectral coverage. They miss all wavelengths longer than 14.3 um and the wavelengths close to this upper limit are not described in as much detail than some other parts of the spectrum.

      • In one sentence of the above message I write “brightness spectrum”. It should read “brightness temperature”.

      • One more point about, what the spectrally resolved brightness temperature tells. It tells, what is the weighted average of the temperatures of the layers of origin of radiation exiting the atmosphere. From changes in that alone, it’s not possible to tell, what exactly has changed in the origins of the radiation.

        The overall nature of the change is often that less radiation comes from low altitudes and more from higher ones, but the detailed profile of this overall effect may vary greatly.

        At other wavelengths the overall warming of the atmosphere is visible and the change is in the opposite direction.

        It’s really necessary to look at the details. Interpreting them may require additional knowledge about the changes of the properties of the atmosphere. One set of data tells one projection of what has happened. Interpreting that is an inverse problem that doesn’t have any unique solution without other constraints from other observations and theoretical understanding of the atmosphere.

      • Thanks Pekka, those comments have informative content for me. The question which is of most interest for me is the question of how much any increased LW radiation bouncing up and down in the atmosphere might have warmed the bulk of the ocean by causing it to cool more slowly relative to fairly constant incoming solar radiation.

        I think this would mostly rest on the question of whether extra LW radiation flux in the atmosphere has made the atmosphere get any warmer. To resolve that question we would have to sum the warming effects against the cooling effects and see how the surface is affected by the net result.

      • Tallbloke,

        In one of my previous messages I emphasized that, what happens in one single subsystem cannot be considered separately of other subsystems. They all interact all the time and their cross influences are important. Thus the oceans are both affected by changes in the atmosphere and influence the atmosphere. The chicken and the egg cannot be separated, neither comes before the other.

        Increasing the CO2 concentration by burning fossil fuels is an external influence, a real cause that’s not an effect at the same time. That external factor has significant influence only through IR, and one of the direct influences is more DLR at the surface. Another direct influence is a reduction in OLR at TOA (this is called radiative forcing). These direct influences cause other effects that are not classified as feedbacks. Most specifically the change in DLR at the surface initiates warming of the surface (it’s semantics to argue, whether that due to a increase in DLR or a decrease in net IR energy flux up). Similarly the reduction of OLR at TOA initiates warming of the Earth system as a whole.

        The further changes in various fluxes and temperature profiles are then initiated by the the warming of the surface and also by changes of net IR balance at different levels of the troposphere. When all the balancing required by stability has occurred, we would have the no-feedback response, if that would really materialize, but it doesn’t, because the feedbacks kick in before that leading to a response with feedbacks.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Thanks Pekka – this has given me clues to understand the spectral analysis approach.

      • Hi Pekka,

        You said:
        “Increasing the CO2 concentration by burning fossil fuels is an external influence, a real cause that’s not an effect at the same time.”

        This is a philosophical argument not a scientific one. Humans and their actions are not external to the earth’s climate system in my view. If humans choose to burn coal because they need to keep warmer or travel around faster, that can be viewed as natural consequence of the Earth being cold and big, and human beings inventive.

        Regarding your scientific point about the eventual inevitabiliy of a ‘forcing’ causing a shift in the equilibrium temperature in the absence of feedbacks; I accept this, but note that Earth has many negative feedback loops in its climate systems. I further note that since it now seems to be believed (contrary to logic) That surface DLR is heating the abyssal ocean, it will be a very very long time before anything measurable occurs at the surface.

        One last point. It appears the overall energy balance at TOA may have gone negative since around 2005. This indicates to me that ‘natural’ influences on the climate system are stronger than net co2 ‘forcing’.

      • One last point. It appears the overall energy balance at TOA may have gone negative since around 2005. This indicates to me that ‘natural’ influences on the climate system are stronger than net co2 ‘forcing’.

        Projecting what’s going to happen 36 years from now on the basis of something that happened over the last 6 years is like projecting that December is going to be hot because July was hot.

        If you want to project Y years into the future, you need to look at least Y years into the past. 2Y and 3Y years are even better.

      • Am I correct that the above technical discussion shows that Norm’s original strong claim that “…30 years of satellite measurement of OLR proves that there has been absolutely no detectable enhanced greenhouse effect…” is overstated? It sounds like this claim, like most in the climate debate, is debatable.

  8. Excellent post. I’m somewhat surprised that the comment count has stayed low this long.

    For 2.c in the last list (” Avoid irreversible or incorrigible alternatives if possible”), I’d suggest adding “Where irreversible or incorrigible alternatives can not be avoided, their use should be predicated on greater harm from not employing them”.

    • I think the problem is what Pekka said, it’s too general.

      Someone, somewhere is working on a long comment which will paint these general principles in terms of the AGW debate. I have no doubt…

      • No doubt someone is (more than likely several someones are). I’d disagree, however, that the generic nature is a detriment. Having multiple contexts (beyond just climate change) to apply to these principles may help to defuse some of the heat that the topic generates.

        I’ve seen people argue that lack of knowledge should preclude action, this is wrong, but arguing that in the context of climate change is pretty futile given the charged nature of the topic. Being able to illustrate those principles in different contexts may help get the point across.

      • I’d like to think so but remain “skeptical”. I’ve spent time on and off the last year or so trying understand climate, and what I keep running up against, is the need to personally investigate damn near every single piece of data or instrumental measurement, etc., because even the apparent textbook-level info or hard measurements turn out to have this whole story behind them which can be very hard to ferret out. Even then one has to try to understand individual 19th century experimental apparatus to truly get to the heart of our history of understanding. Thus trust becomes important…

        I think maybe the problem is in the scientific nature of this debate? I can have an opinion on lots of political topics, while recognizing that my opinion is driven by ideology or bias, under overwhelming uncertainty; it doesn’t stop me from having an opinion. The problem is when “Facts” intercede and I feel the need to fact check.

        In my freshman year of college I dropped rocks off bridges to prove gravity to myself. Stopwatch and all…it wasn’t to prove the concept, I have fallen down many times, it was more to self-satisfy regarding the quantities involved (acceleration constant).

        Oh well maybe I will make a good scientist someday.

      • “I’ve seen people argue that lack of knowledge should preclude action, this is wrong,”

        how is that wrong? it is sometimes EXACTLY the right thing to do.

      • LM,

        I’ll trot out one of those alternative contexts which I mentioned above. Prior to my current career, I was in law enforcement (badge, gun, whole nine yards). Over time I became a member of the academy faculty and one of the subjects which I taught was firearms, both marksmanship and use of force. The principles listed above are very familiar to me because I trained a great many people along very similar lines (maintaining and creating options, avoiding irreversible decisions while avoiding harm, etc.).

        I notice you qualified your statement with “sometimes”. That pretty much makes my point. Ideally, you get as much information as you can with as much accuracy as you can. In the end, however, you have to realize that the world does not stand still. You have to act and react in real time, and sometimes your hand is forced. It comes down to being able to justify the decision under the circumstances at the time you made it.

  9. Again, we see the fruits of Climategate (conflict and stalemate), which generated high social distrust for climate science and the IPCC.

    Judith –

    You assert this over and over – but although I’ve asked you to provide concrete proof of a cause-and-effect relationship between Climategate and “high social distrust for climate scientists and the IPCC,” I have yet to see such evidence.

    Maybe you’re just ignoring me because my question is so preposterous? Or maybe you don’t provide an answer because you don’t have one?

    (And btw, if you do choose to answer, please don’t just tell me that the question has been answered on a previous thread – as is your wont. Please provide me with a link to evidence that supports your conclusion.

    It might be argued that there is evidence of a correlation – although even that is somewhat questionable (polls show that a large % of the public thinks that scientists sometimes fabricate evidence, polls also show that a large % of the public trusts climate scientists as a source of information about climate).

    I find it continuously ironic that you talk about the problem of reaching conclusions in the face of certainty, yet you seem more than willing to formulate conclusions in the face of uncertainty.

    It’s all about motivated reasoning, baby.

    • John Vetterling

      Did you read the Rasmussen polls?
      Did you see the results of the attempt at cap and trade legislation?
      What are you pretending not to know?

      • Rasmussen’s polling is an outlier here, as it is in all their polling — they tilt far to the right. Nate Silver has taken them apart on many occasions. Try a more reputable pollster — you’ll find scientists are by far the most trusted source of information about climate change (see GMU’s “Six Americas” polling.)

        As for cap and trade, you need to bear in mind that believing that a problem exists (most people believe global warming is real, caused by human activities, and a major threat) doesn’t equate to supporting policies to address it. Look at the deficit — people oppose taxes, oppose significant spending cuts, and oppose the deficit. It’s inconsistency, not a mark of people not believe that we have a debt.

  10. Joshua,

    I’ve been having discussions with my enlightened philosopher friend on this one. He thinks Climategate is overblown.

    Here, I think if we define “Climategate” as the series of events started in motion by the Steve M’s and culminating in the release of emails, with reverberating aftershocks, it gets close to the importance JC puts on it.

    However I also think the economy is a big player here too, and one doesn’t have to be stupid to relegate an uncertain AGW future to the back burner in the face of clear and present problems. Also I don’t think poll questions do a good job of elucidating people’s internal discourse. You get randomness, apathy and shortcuts.

  11. Here, I think if we define “Climategate” as the series of events started in motion by the Steve M’s and culminating in the release of emails, with reverberating aftershocks, it gets close to the importance JC puts on it.

    Thanks BIllC-

    Sure – that does increase the likely cause-and-effect phenomenon. And it seems like a reasonable extension of the term “Climategate.”

    But my impression is that while the cause-and-effect relationship might certainly be true for a circumscribed % of the American public:

    (1) Most people have no real in-depth knowledge about Climategate – even defined as you did.

    (2) While somewhat larger at some point in the past, only a small % of the American public considers Climategate (given your larger definition) as a significant variable in their position on climate science or their view of climate scientists.

    (3) Among those for whom Climategate has had a significant impact, for a large %, Climategate only really provides some degree of evidence for conclusions they already held.

    (4) People who are highly focused on the issue of climate change, overestimate their numbers, and therefore overestimate the impact of Climategate.

    I agree with your observations about polling. And I agree with your observations about the complex web of variables that influence perspective on climate change. Both of those agreements are part of why I cannot see evidence sufficient to support Judith’s conclusions, which she repeats very frequently, about the certainty of a cause-and-effect relationship between Climategate and “high social distrust for climate science and the IPCC.”

    High social trust in a certain group? OK – I don’t really need evidence for that (although I would question whether or not Climategate “generated” that mistrust as opposed to increased mistrust that was already generated by political or other factors). But IMO, her statement refers to the larger general public. If it doesn’t then she should offer a qualification in her statement.

  12. OK Joshua – my last thoughts on this matter:

    Even bloviators sound more informed when there is substance behind their bloviation. And I think a lot of the general public picks up on that even though they can’t articulate it. Thus while few have heard of the Steve M’s, the influence spreads.

    I just recently watched Jon Stewart’s take on Climategate for the first time. I was expecting something funnier and more articulate. But even seasoned lefties would find something worthy of pause if this was all the information they had ever digested on the matter.

    I have no numbers though…off to hillbilly carpenter school.

  13. …off to hillbilly carpenter school.

    ??? (I used to make my living as a carpenter.)

    • Hillbilly carpenter school is where I go try to fix up my old house with questionable skill, learning as I go. The adjective “hillbilly” might be distasteful to some, but I have some background in this area.

      • Used to live in the Clyde, NC. I know a hillbilly when I see one.

        Stay away from large crown moulding, it’s a beeatch to install.

        And speaking of doing house repair – I just spent a wonderful 2 hours unfreezing rusted bolts on a 50 year-old toilet. Reminded me a great deal of trying to get The Chief to understand simple politics.

      • Chief Hydrologist

  14. “1.c. Consider options themselves as assets. Try to retain them or create new ones.”
    This concept should be placed in bold. Taking path that allows additional options to occur in the future provides a method for correcting for errors from earlier decisions or for unexpected problems. This is a fundamental principle in project planning.

  15. I look forward to this series, which will no doubt be one of the more fruitful sets of exchanges to date on this already remarkably fertile blog.

  16. Policy implementation is the most important activity relative to the issue of potential climate change, but the question of “Can We Make Good Decisions” should start with a definition of who is the “WE” that is being evaluated???

    Individual countries are the ones deciding the policies that make sense for that country to implement. Is it incorrect for a country to implement what seems best for it but appears to not make sense from a worldwide perspective based upon the results of a philosophy based climate model?

    Does it make sense for the United States to do anything to damage its economy in any way to lower CO2 emissions? Is there ANY reliable evidence that harm will come to the United States as a result of climate change? NO.

    Please someone—Martha? Defend the policies you wish the US to implement on the issue of climate change to lower CO2. Show your evidence of the harm that climate change will bring to the USA and the cost effective actions that you propose to address this situation. What do you want to do, what will your proposed actions cost and what will happen as a result of your policies???

    My estimate is that few will post much sensible–of specific potential US policies suggested for implementation.

    • You seem to be confused about the burden of proof, Rob.

      You are advocating releasing billions of tons of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, heating the world to temperatures not seen since humans evolved as a species. You are arguing, implicitly, that this is safe. The burden is on you to prove your (very extraordinary) claim that this radical action is safe. If you can’t, we should stop this dangerous activity. Convince us your path of radical human-engineered change is safe.

      • Robert
        You have failed to read my post very well.

        You have not suggested anything specific and justified what you believe.

        In regards to what you have written- I am arguing that emitting CO2 has not been even reasonably demonstrated to be harmful to the USA and failing that, there is no reason for the USA to do anything harmful to it’s economy.

        I am not confused at all. YOU reportedly wish the US (and other nations) to take specific actions, but you have failed to state what those specific actions are that you believe makes sense or to why theymake sense. Since YOU are the one wanting a change in behavior, you have to build the case for action.

        Really a simple concept

      • Robert:
        “You seem to be confused about the burden of proof, Rob”

        No, Robert, actually the burden of proof is yours to provide.

      • too many Roberts!

      • John Carpenter

        The burden of proof is really imaterial wrt to this problem, don’t you think? Regardless of who is right, CO2 concetrations are going to continue to rise in the next several decades. We most likely will reach CO2 doubling. We live on a planet of over 6 billion + people, expected to be 7.5 billion within a couple decades. We need to eat and keep warm and work. If we stop making CO2, what will all the people do? How will we live? How do you slow down that freight train while maintaining a western democratic political system? And going back to the futility thread, to what amount of change can we really make if we were able to reduce CO2 emmision rates by half by 2050? Analysis suggsts minimal effects.

      • “The burden of proof is really imaterial wrt to this problem, don’t you think? ”

        No, I think it’s quite important to recognize the difference between advocating human-forced warming of the climate, and advocating caution in how we change the climate. The former position is radical and works only if several highly uncertain areas of climate science come out in one particular way; the latter position is conservative and largely risk-free.

        “And going back to the futility thread, to what amount of change can we really make if we were able to reduce CO2 emmision rates by half by 2050? Analysis suggsts minimal effects.”

        What analysis would that be? Citation very much needed.

        Cutting emissions in half would have very significant effects on the total temperature rise and hence the impacts.

        “If we stop making CO2, what will all the people do?”

        Point of order: because sinks are absorbing more than half our emissions, we do not have to reduce CO2 emissions to zero to bring concentration changes to zero.

        Beyond that, I really have no interest in your effort to impose central planning on a complex adaptive process. Once the cost of carbon pollution (the negative externality) is mirrored by a carbon tax, emissions will fall. They will fall in the same way economies grow, via a complicated and unplannable array of innovations, substitutions, compromises and consumer choices.

        I know it’s hard for statists to really appreciate the adaptive power of the free market, a power outside your schemes and five-year-plans. But that’s the power that will end our radical forced heating of the earth while continuing economic growth and broadening prosperity.

      • John Carpenter

        “I really have no interest in your effort to impose central planning on a complex adaptive process.”

        Hey… we agree, I have no interest in my apparent effort to impose central planning either.

        “Once the cost of carbon pollution (the negative externality) is mirrored by a carbon tax, emissions will fall. They will fall in the same way economies grow”….. …. “the adaptive power of the free market”….

        I disagree that a carbon tax is a free market solution to making the economy grow.

        “What analysis would that be? Citation very much needed.”

        You can look back at the futility thread and read Ed Hoskins analysis… of which you have already read before. Remember? I asked you to perform our own cost benefit analysis… the two of us…. but you never followed through. Neither did Fred Moolten.

      • We live on a planet of over 6 billion + people, expected to be 7.5 billion within a couple decades.

        Welcome to the third millennium, John. We hit 6 billion in 1999 and 7 billion is scheduled for this coming April:

        At that rate 7.5 billion will be reached about 6 years later.

        If we stop making CO2, what will all the people do? How will we live?

        Are you saying that unless we soil our nest it won’t be livable? That’s an argument I’d love to see a citation for.

        From what you say it sounds like the planet would be better off if we all breathed into paper bags from now on.

        You might have something there.

  17. Alexander Harvey

    You might be tempted to write “The Fog of Climate” for certainly military conflict operates under deep uncertainty at many levels, significantly knowing how to quantify such simple things as the measure of success in real time. There are significant differences, there is no true enemy and what there is cannot be considered rational.

    Perhaps “Supping with the Climate” where the enemy such as it is, may be just specific aspects of ourselves and in some sense capable of being if not rational at least resonable by way of inheritance from ourselves in the from of the consequences of ones own actions.

    If viewed as a conflict without an enemy, surrender is not an option and victory must be assumed and it could lapse into ensuring that no known avenue for advancement or organised retreat is allowed to close.

    I have a narrow view and in its prejudice it sees that no matter much what happens between now and 2050 the biggest issues and final field of action really starts from then on. From now till then we may be capable of little more than joining the multitude of dots that gets us that far, and many of those issues are not climatic ones.

    I am not for doing nothing, not just a simple wait and see, but I do wonder whether the main climate tasks fit well in the multilateral sphere perhaps as easily as come others such as any general depletion of resourses in say the oceans, international development, world human health and education.

    I do see the need for the sort of analysis that is dicussed above but there is an implication that the necessary levers of power to impliment decisions based on such analysis exist and are in the hands of those who would conclude on which are the most advantageous actions.

    There could be market solutions but one must question particularly in the field of energy first the existence of a continuing or even existing free market but secondly the almost non-existence of an open market except in certain rare exceptions. As it stands how many could “vote” with their money and opt for “greener” fuel, products, and services, at solely their own expense and not that of the general citizenry and particularly the poor both within and without each nation state.

    In a humorous aside I do approve of green taxes, as they could be taxed and might be happy to pay for the privilege even some for whom it would be a huge sacrifice. That is much the same as the marketisation of policy.


    • FLASH!: Alex tells Green’s to tithe 10% or risk x-communication from Giai.

      • Alexander Harvey


        Why not?

        There is a sense whereby the current position is unfair to both those who would be happy for the nation state to actively decarbonise and those who would be not at all happy.

        Why not allow those that wish to commence paying the costs to have an opportunity to do so.

        This goes back to the difference between free and open, both in the market and in government. Free is good but if certain options are closed then it is but the freedom to choose between be differing undesirables.

        I do not know what options are available in say the US with respect to energy choices. I expect one can choose on the basis of price and one may have brand preferences. In the case of electricity an open choice to purchase “green” power if one is prepared to pay extra should be marketable, if there are buyers. There seems to be a precedent for this in the UK and perhaps elsewhere. The prescription is simple, let the market operate openly without tie-ins and let demand drive supply.

        If government is a provider of services perhaps one should be free to purchase additional ones. This already seems to happen at least indirectly and is evident if house prices, (remember them?) can be correlated to service levels in fields such as education, health, policing, etc..

        I expect I may be advocating what some might consider rather an extreme “public choice” agenda but sometimes what is good for the goose …

        There are occasions where some, who might not support such agenda in general, may feel stiffled by a lack of choice in an area that they feel passionately about. If they wish to fund projects in areas that are solely within the public remit why shouldn’t they be able to choose to do so.

        It seems to me that the collective approach to the climate “problem” at international, national, and parochial levels bedevils progress. Leaving us with either we all jump together or we all stay put. This seems incredibly narrow to me.

        I think that there is a truth in saying that not everybody can afford decarbonisation right now, but perhaps some can and would stump up for it. There is a constituency that almost certainly cannot afford it, the inner poor, the third world inside developed nations, people who are already green by default, green through lack of funds, the winter greens that go cold through lack of affordable carbon, how does all this play out for them?

        Somehow it has come fashionable to propose that poor nations should be privileged in terms of the pathways towards decarbonisation but not that the poor should be privileged at the parochial level. To me this seems bizarre and profoundly inequitable in its own terms. I think that we need to go back to the drawing board on the whole collective action issue. I think that we need some radical ideas with respect to opening avenues. This may give rise to some apparently paradoxical stances like when seeminlgy old commies wish to envoke the power of open markets to facilitate revolution.


  18. How very odd that this crucial bit of thinking is just now working its way into the climate debate.

    • How very odd that this crucial bit of military science is just now working its way into the climate debate. But what’s the end game? Will the climate surrender?

  19. We don’t understand climate well enough to predict which way temperature and precipitation changes will go for any particular locality.

    Building resilience to climate change is the only pragmatic and logical approach. This means an end to lip service and the building up of better food stocks for the world so it can cope with a serious famine.

    This is serious stuff, and the politicians are playing with fire by allowing the money grubbers to constrict world food supply for short term gain.

    • Sorry, but your post does not makes sense in a world governed by individual nation states.

      • Rob,

        I guess that “forces” us to commit to a do-gooder world government (trust us), not subject to the will of the people. And, of course, I will sit at the top of that world government as its supreme, absolute, do-gooder autocrat for life (trust me).

        Otherwise, I’ll stick with a nation state with constitutional guarantees of individual rights and representative government and a rule of laws, not men.

        And, oh by the way, why can’t nation states collect food stocks, individually, as a precaution against famine–don’t get why they can’t?

      • Mike

        Individual nation states can certainly do whatever makes sense for their own interests.

        In terms of the US, I do not believe there is a likelyhood of food shortages, so I do not see a need to build up food reserves.

        It would makes sense for the US, in these economic times to invest in long term infrastructure improvements that would makes the US less likely to be negatively impacted by long term climate change. Building more dams for both fresh water retention and power generation makes environmental and economic sense. So does building many modern “standard design” new nuclear plants.

      • We already have the ‘world bank’ and the IMF. The agricultural policy they foist onto ‘indebted nations’ is part of the politics of scarcity designed to keep the money game working in the favour of those who control the money supply.

        The US is one of the most ‘indebted nations’ in the world, but no-one is telling them what to do…. yet.

      • And your point is what?

        I am simply stating that countries need to look after their own interests and not expect help or handouts from other countries. Individual countries are responsible for their own situation.

        The actions of Australia in regards to CO2 for example are stupid from an Australian perspective

      • My point is that if you reject a ‘do gooder’ global govt, but embrace a ‘do badder’ global monetary system, you run into instability problems which cost large numbers of lives. This is acceptable to some of those who live in countries on the favourable side of the equation as you and Mike demonstrate. I think humans could have got a bit further towards a mutually beneficial international situation by cooperating better do deal with natural exigencies like famine and flood. Seems to me that would be to the benefit of all.

      • “Seems to me that would be to the benefit of all.”

        Well, apart from those profiteering from death and destruction. But since they are of such low moral worth, I don’t really care much about their fate.

      • You have a philosphy that may, or may not be more effective.

        More importantly, your thoughts on global governance or global economics really are not going to have any impact on how the nations of the world govern their populations.

        It the real world, real decisions are being made, and some of those decisions have to do with CO2 emissions. Australia as an example has made dumb decisions.

      • “your thoughts on global governance or global economics really are not going to have any impact on how the nations of the world govern their populations.”

        True, I’ll just have to suffer the consequences of the dumbness of the politicians and the greed of the tycoons along with everyone else.

  20. Though a predictive model is a necessity for decision making, the world climatological research program has thus far failed to provide one for us! Among the missing elements is a description of the complete set of mutually exclusive collectively exhaustive outcomes of events for such a model.

    Through a confusion of “predictions” with “projections,” climatologists seem to have convinced themselves that they have provided a basis for decision making. One piece of evidence of this thinking is present in AR4 in the report of Working Group I. In the report, projected global surface temperatures are compared to the associated observed temperatures. Predicted outcomes of events are not compared to observed outcomes nor is the complete set of these events (the statistical population) described.

    • I partly agree, but there are some interesting projections based on an assessment of many of the uncertainty issues raised in the article:

      This paper by Meinshausen et al. stands out:
      although it is a bit old now and relies heavily on outputs from MAGICC. Any thoughts?

      • Paul:
        I took a look at the Meinshausen et al article. It looks to me as though the claims that are made by the authors’ model have the shortcoming of lacking falsifiability. Satisfaction of falsifiability leads the designer of a scientific study to build it upon the foundation of a statistical population and sample that is drawn from this population but the study of Meinshausen et al seems to lack such a foundation.

    • Through a confusion of “predictions” with “projections,” climatologists seem to have convinced themselves that they have provided a basis for decision making.

      Through a confusion of knowledge and ignorance, you seem to have convince yourself that your inability to make a rational decision is indicative of a systemic problem.

      This thread is full of people saying “We can’t make an informed decision!” and to that I reply with an enthusiastic Yes! You cannot.

      Of course uninformed people cannot make informed decisions. The fallacy is confusing your ignorance with the ignorance of all mankind.

  21. Decision made on basis true ignorance (insufficient knowledge) has a 50% chance to be correct, but decision made on the knowingly bad information is most likely to be wrong; in which case if it is done for reasons of individual, corporate or a particular group’s interest to a disadvantage or even harm to the others, then morality of it is questionable.

  22. Lame post, Dr. Curry.


    • I mean, there’s a lot of other interesting stuff going on related to climate. Surely there’s something more fun and meaningful to talk about than dumb philosophical questions that only eggheads waste their time on.


  23. On the Precautionary Principle from Wiki: expression of a need by decision-makers to anticipate harm before it occurs. Within this element lies an implicit reversal of the onus of proof: under the precautionary principle it is the responsibility of an activity proponent to establish that the proposed activity will not (or is very unlikely to) result in significant harm.
    2.the establishment of an obligation, if the level of harm may be high, for action to prevent or minimise such harm even when the absence of scientific certainty makes it difficult to predict the likelihood of harm occurring, or the level of harm should it occur. The need for control measures increases with both the level of possible harm and the degree of uncertainty.

    From the Rio Declaration activities are to be cost effective.

    In addressing concerns and the PP, consider that emitting CO2 is a net good. The reason I bring this up is that the costs or avoidance benefits (benefits from avoiding an action) should be aprt of the mix. Further, not that the PP is contradictory in that you have to know what is going to happen in order to be cost effective, yet the PP is invoked when one does not have the information that is needed to actually determine “cost effective.” Thus the PP is a rhetorical device used for managing by government as embodied by the EU. You should put PP under your 1. as an option if one can afford the activity and that should include trust and political capital as well.

    • The foundations of the precautionary principle PP comes from medicine: “First do no harm”.

      Under uncertainty, we need to evaluate the impacts of BOTH doing NOTHING as well as doing something.

      Today’s major abuse of the PP is to keep nature “pristine” by eliminating anthropogenic impacts. e.g., “cap and trade” attempts to eliminate “global warming” with the projected “catastrophic” consequences, while ignoring the devastating harm of destroying incredibly large financial resources by literally burying them in the ground by CO2 sequestration. This is particularly harmful to the poor especially to three billion people in the developing world living on less than $2/day.

      The Precautionary Principle must include the worst impacts on GDP with the economic devastation of preventing the poor from economic development with consequent harm to health and longevity compared to encouraging economic development. Under the principle of“love your neighbor as yourself”, those in the “rich” or “north” countries have a duty to make effective use of their resources to benefit, not harm those in the “developing” or “south” countries.

      Developing solar fuel and energy that in cheaper than fossil fuels is a “no risk” precautionary approach that would make sense without the devastation of “cap and trade”. See research at Fixing the Climate by the Copenhagen Consensus.

  24. 2.Your decision should be based on the possible consequences of all possible outcomes.

    The Law of Unindended Consequences makes this one useless. You cannot know ALL the possible outcomes.

    Further, if the Precautionary Principle was a great idea we should all be devout (fill in the blank) just in case.

  25. John Vetterling

    I think, in some ways, this topic cuts to the heart of the climate debate (really more like a shouting match, but whatever). I am staring at Kahneman and Taversky’s, “Prospect Theory: Decision Making Under Risk.” One of the key points they make is that humans do not make decisions based on utility theory. By and large we are loss avoiders, not risk avoiders, loss avoiders.

    Much of the climate debate seems to be a “scientific consensus” trying to convince a public that they should accept certain short term sacrifices (losses) to avoid an uncertain loss at an unknown time in the future.

    Furthermore, many in the consensus are viewed by some as being reluctant to be held accountable for their predictions (see the recent discourse between Annan and Pielke).

    Faced with a certain short term loss versus an uncertain long term loss, it is human nature to postpone the decision, especially when the cost is so high.

    If the advocates of AGW turly want to see progress, as opposed to merely winning a shouting match, then they need to reframe the discussion of losses. But when reframes have been attempted, like “Climate Pragmatism,” those too get shouted down by the true believers.

    • One of the key points they make is that humans do not make decisions based on utility theory.


      By and large we are loss avoiders, not risk avoiders, loss avoiders.

      No. The authors have committed one the common mistakes in decision theory — recognizing that people don’t use utility theory, and then analysis people’s decisions as if they did use utility theory, but were very bad at it (understating x risk, overstating y risk).

  26. son of mulder

    How do you prioritise what you don’t know?

    Will we be hit by an asteroid that wipes out life?
    Will a super volcano erupt and destroy all life?
    Will a volcano off the shore of Iceland disrupt the gulf stream and cause an ice age?
    Will a mutation of the common cold spread and kill all who catch it?
    Will anthropogenic CO2 cause any problems?
    Will a parasite carried by fleas mutate and kill all who are bitten?
    Will the fluoridation of water cause a genetic mutation that will cause the early death of all 4th generation descendents of people with healthy teeth today?
    Has modern medical practice and transborder migration stopped human evolution and homogenised as opposed to diversifed the human race thus leading to an inability of the human species to adapt a changed environment caused by primitive bacteria arriving on meteorites?

    And when you’ve prioritised and assigned funds to address each conceived issue what will prevent NVCJD lethally expressing itself in 2 generations time?

  27. The sad truth is just this, and nothing less:

    World leaders – especially Al Gore and the UN’s IPCC – lost public trust.

    Sadder yet, for those of us in the science community, faith in government science also vanished when leaders of the scientific community joined the effort to ignore deceit in Climategate e-mails [1].

    They inadvertently confirmed:

    a) Validity of Eisenhower’s 1961 warning of the danger of a federal “scientific-technological elite”, and

    b) “Offstage” agreements to save us from nuclear annihilation [2] in 1971 when I was a PI in NASA’s Apollo program.

    What a sad, sad state of affairs for everyone!

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA PI
    Apollo Program

    1. “Revised Climategate Timeline”

    2. “The Deep Roots of Climategate”

  28. Hank Zentgraf

    Reset the calendar to 1988 and ask the question “How careful were the decision makers when they launched a process that formed the IPCC (a political body), re-prioritized funding from observational science to model driven science, and systematically biased the research in order to put the “finger” on man’s emissions”?
    From my studies of the climate system, assisted to great extent by Judy’s web, I am amazed at how such a “movement” could have been started with so little known about the natural forces and feedbacks in the climate system. Even the mathematics used in the most advanced models IMHO are insufficient to describe this chaotic system. What an expensive mess!

    • Reset the calendar to 1988 and ask the question “How careful were the decision makers when they launched a process that formed the IPCC (a political body), re-prioritized funding from observational science to model driven science, and systematically biased the research in order to put the “finger” on man’s emissions”?

      Why would you go to all the trouble of traveling back in time only to repeat those right-wing fairy tales? You wouldn’t have any more lucky peddling your fantasy back then.

  29. I would like to point out that the use of the precautionary principle here is redundant. The option of doing nothing or postponing the decision is already evaluated as one of the possible decisions. The precautionary principle is more of an observation that since doing nothing rarely leads to catastrophe and thus is often the best choice when there is high uncertainty.

    However, this is also the reason why it takes politicians seemingly forever to act and to barely do anything when they do.

  30. Congratulations to everyone!

    Today the AGW scam “ran out of gas” !

    United efforts of Al Gore, world leaders, the UN, the US NAS, the UK RS, the news media, the NOrwegian Nobel Prize Committee, and editors of once respected research journals managed to unite the public instead and destroy confidence politicians and in government science.

    What a sad, sad day for science and society.

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

    • Chief Hydrologist

      I saw some convoy footage and thought for a moment that it had actually amounted to something – but then realised it was on the outskirts of Tripoli.

    • If the victory was only ever complete and the defeated who abused science to enable power could be punished more formally. The parties mentioned will die in their bunkers unrepentant for sure.

  31. An interesting case to look at here is when the decision is not a policy one, but rather a scientist deciding to accept a new theory, one that is proposed by someone else. A new idea cannot spread unless a lot of scientists accept it. Are the rules and procedures anything like those listed above?

    I happen to think that science is not a special way of reasoning, it is just reasoning about a special class of problems, a class that was discovered in the late 1500’s. As Kuhn points out, a scientific paradigm is very much like a policy, so adopting a paradigm and adopting a policy should employ similar reasoning.

    • It’s really different.

      Only one policy can be operational at any moment. That may be a mixture of many ideas and interest, but even so only one may be operational.

      There aren’t any limits on the number of scientific paradigms that can coexist. There are no real decisions on, what is the state of science. There may be group thinking and all kind of cross influences, but they are not well defined. No one decides, what is science, not even all scientists together or any other community.

      • There are seldom multiple paradigms operating at once. When there are the community is fragmented, as string theory and dark energy/matter theory are today. As Kuhn pointed out, the normal state of a scientific community is to pursue research under a single paradigm. That is when the productive work gets done, articulating and using the paradigm to explain things in detail. Scientific revolutions, when the paradigm breaks down, are disruptive, just as political revolutions are, when policy breaks down. At a milder scale, we often see new policies adopted one state or jurisdiction at a time, which is a similar case of fragmentation.

        My first major paper, entitled “The Structure of Technological Revolutions,” was an adaptation of Kuhn’s model to engineering and technology. Since the term “paradigm” had not yet entered into general use, I called the engineering equivalent of a paradigm an “evaluation policy” because paradigms are the policy that says how work is to be evaluated. How problems are to be solved and what counts as a solution are determined by the paradigm; that was Kuhn’s basic point. This is why today most climate research is based on AGW, as it is the controlling paradigm.

      • But nobody and no body makes decisions on the paradigm. It gets formed, it has it’s own life. During this life it may gets modified, and it dies ultimately, if it turns out to be unsatisfactory.

        Even when one paradigm dominates, others are living in hiding to pop out later, if the the dominant one gets weakened by it’s limitations or errors.

        Explicit decisions have some influence on science, but only some influence. It’s really different from policy decisions.

      • On the contrary, Pekka, and this was my initial point, the scientific paradigm becomes dominant via a complex host of distributed decisions. It does not just arise mysteriously. Some people wield great power in this decision system, such as journal editors, funding program managers, institute leaders and Nobelists.

        By the same token, government policies are really the collective decisions of highly distributed networks. Congress alone has over 500 members, five thousand staffers, and hundreds of thousands of interested parties pushing and shoving at the policies (including me). Then once a law is passed it is interpreted and implemented by hundreds of thousands more people in and around the Executive agencies. The idea that a policy is made by one or a few decision makers is just wrong. Policy making is a case of swarming.

        But your point about candidate paradigms “hiding out” and ready to take over is very true and important. Most scientific (and policy) communities have outlying skeptics who hold radical views. Sometimes when a paradigm runs its course these wind up rising up. The historical alternation between particle and wave theories of light is a good example, like two royal houses taking turns in power.

      • I agree on part on the process, but not on the outcome. The policy decisions converge finally to one history path that gets realized, the science keeps it’s many paths. For the history more paths are an impossibility, for science they are the norm in spite of your claims on the dominance of one paradigm.

        The science has many paths both at the level of paradigms and as subpaths within the paradigm.

        The attempts to make centralized decisions on science are detrimental. That’s the largest problem I see with IPCC. However well they succeed in their tasks, the IPCC reports have become too much the description of orthodoxy. That’s not good for science, but slows down it’s development. I have that view in spite of the fact that I can hardly be classified as skeptic.

        I relation to my above argument, IPCC makes an attempt to move the control of science towards policy decisions, whether people involved in it’s work wish to do that or not. It cannot succeed, but it may damage the process for a while.

      • Pekka

        You wrote of IPCC:

        It cannot succeed, but it may damage the process for a while.

        I agree that .”it cannot succeed”, but I believe the “process” has been exposed as corrupted by IPCC and the ensuing “damage” has been permanent.

        Let IPCC and the corrupted process “rest in peace” as irrelevant and replace it with clean process and a new, totally independent, small group of non-corrupted climate scientists, like Judith Curry or John Christy, for example, and NO politicians.

        This approach might have a chance of salvaging the damaged reputation of climate science today.


      • Hmmm…I was going to say its very different, but along a very different axis–at least I think it’s a different axis. The act of saying so makes me wonder, though, how much of this dispute is the result of the difference between the theory and the practice of the scientific method.

        The scientific method, as I was taught, requires the formulation of a testable hypothesis using operationalized definitions, followed by experimentation that has the capacity to falsify the hypothesis. This is truly a radically different process from most human decisionmaking–at the risk of oversimplifying, it’s the difference between deductive and inductive reasoning. In practice, though, I’m not sure how well this model reflects reality. Firstly, in true deductive reasoning, the options are all provided as a party of the problem. In science, though, the formulation of the hypotheses is not, and cannot be, a deductive process, at least in many cases.

        Even so, it doesn’t seem to me to have much in common with everyday decisionmaking. The best way I can think to characterize that is “experiencial.” Human beings are creatures of habit. We begin by accepting that what seems normal to us is essentially universal. We consider the contrary only when forced, and then we are strongly biased toward whatever explanation requires the least modification. Most of us accept the political, social, and religious beliefs of our parents and neighbors–and when we don’t, we most often adopt those of peers we think are attractive or cool in the process of trying to create our own identity separate from our family. In fact, the inertial bias is so powerful we’ll literally ignore falsifying data if it’s not continuously poking us in the nose.

        All of this is perfectly reasonable, when you consider that our minds are programmed to help us survive in a world that is too complex for us to understand analytically. The evolutionary imperative is to help us survive another generation, not to discover the most complete and elegant models of the world.

      • I think you make some good points, but there is a difference between the world being to complex for decision analysis and being too complex for any sort of analysis at all. People do plenty of analysis, and it’s a fallacy to treat decision analysis as the sole rational model and everything else as non-rational.

        Again, I’m going to plug Klein’s book, which examines the decision-making of design engineers, chess players, ICU nurses, firefighter, day traders and military commanders and finds that they are able to make smart, effective decisions not without analysis, but with tools of analysis that our theory has not caught up with and does not immediately recognize as such.

      • Disclosures: Nothing to disclose. I have no stock in Amazon, my real name is not Gary Klein, he did not give me a free book or any other sort of inducement to hawk his work. It’s just a really good book — there’s a lot more there than what you find by Googling “RPD.”

    • Let me elaborate my statement that science is not a special way of reasoning, it is just reasoning about a special class of problems, a class that was discovered in the late 1500′s. The discovery was that if one isolates a very simple phenomenon one can discovery universal laws. I call it the discovery of natural simplicity. It was a great leap, and quite unexpected, even counter intuitive. It involves some very special methods, but it is not a new way of reasoning.

      • Intuitively agree with this. References on the history?

      • Francis Bacon

      • “Let me elaborate my statement that science is not a special way of reasoning, it is just reasoning about a special class of problems, a class that was discovered in the late 1500′s. The discovery was that if one isolates a very simple phenomenon one can discovery universal laws. I call it the discovery of natural simplicity. It was a great leap, and quite unexpected, even counter intuitive. It involves some very special methods, but it is not a new way of reasoning.”

        Science depends the concept that parts of this universe behave in a consistent way- not random and not because gods or fairies are altering/tinkering with it. Science is looking for the unchanging rules, which govern and success in this achievement , is measured by the degree it allows one to more accurately predict the future.
        Science largely started with the idea that on could measure time- it was popularize or sold by the clock.

      • While science and the scientific method emerged as a coherent ideology only in the last few centuries, the attitudes and methods that characterize science have always been present in human societies to different degrees. Like most revolutions, the roots of science stretch far beyond what we label it’s beginning. Take Thucydides (c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC), for example:

        So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand. On the whole, however, the conclusions I have drawn from the proofs quoted may, I believe, safely be relied on. Assuredly they will not be disturbed either by the lays of a poet displaying the exaggeration of his craft, or by the compositions of the chroni- clers that are attractive at truth’s expense . . . it rests partly on what I saw myself, partly on what others saw for me, the accuracy of the report being always tried by the most severe and detailed tests possible. My conclusions have cost me some labour from the want of coincidence between accounts of the same occurrences by different eye-witnesses, arising sometimes from imperfect memory, sometimes from undue partiality for one side or the other.

        Thucydides is obviously in the process of developing elements of the scientific method, two thousand years before it “began.” Similarly Hippocrates (ca. 460 BC – ca. 370 BC):

        Men think epilepsy divine, merely because they do not understand it. But if they called everything divine which they do not understand, why, there would be no end to divine things. . . We will one day understand what causes it, and then cease to call it divine. And so it is with everything in the universe.

  32. Is there anything in here that addresses the debilitating effect on the decision-making ability of allowing one’s mind to become overwhelmed by avalanches of minutiae?

    • Yguy: One form of this problem is called paralysis by analysis and it is well known. It is the opposite of having too little information. My issue tree model is all about this. Most of the effort involved in decision making is in developing an understanding of the issue, which means working through an issue tree. But the tree structure means that the number of considerations grows exponentially with level of detail, so it is easy to get swamped. Getting good balance on all the sub-issues without going into too much detail on any is a fundamental problem, one the policy community constantly faces.

      • it is easy to get swamped.

        Exactly; and whenever conclusions are based on the interpretation of such minutiae, there will be some who know they are too “swamped” to make a decision on that basis, and others who profess not to be. Under what circumstances, then, should the former defer to the latter?

      • I have no idea. This is a research question at best. Except you probably need to change “know” to “profess” for parity. What you are talking about is something I would love to do, namely social decision network analysis that includes the reasoning of the participants. I don’t know of anyone doing this, though there may be. There is a lot of research going on here, including by the intelligence community trying to anticipate social movements. (Looks like they missed the London riots and I am sure they are taking heat for that.)

        But if by “circumstances” you are asking for some kind of simple law forget it.

      • you probably need to change “know” to “profess” for parity.

        No I don’t, because I said precisely what I meant.

        But if by “circumstances” you are asking for some kind of simple law forget it.

        I don’t think it’s anywhere near as complicated as you seem to think. The >90% of us who lack expertise in climatology can still tell when the proposed solutions require massive empowerment of government bureaucracies, when we’re being manipulated by appeals to various emotions, and so on.

      • Sorry, I thought you were asking a scientific question, not making a hidden political statement. You did not mention climate. On the climate issue, your complaint bears no relation to your question, that I can see.

        It is interesting how a thread on rationality turns into a list of diatribes.

      • Sorry, I thought you were asking a scientific question,

        I can’t imagine why, unless you have some definition of “scientific” in mind that is beyond my ken.

        not making a hidden political statement.

        Then you thought correctly.

        You did not mention climate. On the climate issue, your complaint bears no relation to your question, that I can see.

        That would suggest you somehow managed not to understand a word I said…

        It is interesting how a thread on rationality turns into a list of diatribes.

        …as does this.

      • People who are ignorant of what they are professing about are readily exhausted by the masses of information presented to them, because they have not developed the cognitive frame to understand it. They can’t chunk the information, they can’t recognize patterns, and consequently they consume far more energy. When you know the subject well, it takes far less energy to mentally manipulate the concepts and come to decisions. After a good calculus class, the students are exhausted, but the professor typically is not.

        Your belief that your ignorance of science frees you to see the big picture is charming, like a five-year-old who thinks he’s ready to drive Daddy’s big truck. Sadly, ignorance is just ignorance, not hidden genius.

  33. Your choice should maximize your expected utility, or roughly speaking, the likelihood of those outcomes that yield highly preferred consequences.

    That quoted sentence actually mixes two things: optimizing and satisficing.

    Another goal is to try to limit the damage if the worst imaginable event occurs. That is what people do when they buy insurance. Buying life insurance reduces everyone’s total net worth by the amount transferred (net after payouts for losses) to the insurance company. That is an example of “satisficing”, where the choice of how much coverage to buy is judged “good enough” by the purchaser.

    Another goal is to reduce the probability of the worst outcomes as much as possible with known methods. That is what people do when they buy home smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, almost all of which will never serve their intended purposes. That is what people do when they get polio vaccines for their children or themselves: most people who ever got a polio vaccine and did not get polio would never have gotten polio anyway. But the benefits of the vaccination programs are judged to have outweighed their costs.

    Another difficulty that arises is when the people who pay for a policy are not the people who benefit from it. In the case of the Three Gorges Dam, the millions of people who benefitted from the flood control and electricity did not pay the costs of construction, and thousands of others living upstream from the dam were forcibly relocated from their homes. In a democracy that has strong protections for the rights of minorities, it may be impossible to tax the people who are charged with paying for a project that mostly or exclusively benefits others, and who are dubious of the worth of the project and the honesty of the supposed beneficiaries. This partly characterizes the AGW debate: turbine manufacturers and third world kleptocrats may benefit, but fairly reasonable people can make fairly reasonable cases that there is no overall benefit worth the cost; Willis Eschenbach made such a case on another thread, and many others have besides. Even if there is an overall benefit, the people charged with paying may have legitimate reasons to hide their assets and otherwise decline to pay the cost. Since people are neither purely selfish nor purely generous, the policy debate can in such a case become very wide-ranging and ill defined: how much of the Constitutional protections of life, liberty and property should Americans sacrifice, for example, if this might turn out to be another fad like eugenics? You hardly have to discuss this issue for 10 minutes before someone brings in Hitler, Stalin and Mao (the force behind the Three Gorges Dam example that I used), and the “takings” clause of the Constitution.

  34. “’Muddling through’ aptly characterizes what is going on in U.S. climate and energy policy, anyways.”

    Said like a true progressive/moderate/independent. Muddling through is what free market economies do. It is why they work so much better than centrally planned economies overseen by “experts.”

    You know why there are so many brilliant people with degrees from Harvard, Yale and other ivy league schools? Or why so many economists make their living by selling their advice?

    Because with they cannot “beat the market” on a long term basis. The Wall Street Journal used to have a regular feature where they compared stocks picked by throwing darts at a board, against those picked by the latest hot analysts. The analysts’ results did not instill confidence in the ability of “experts.”

    If there are risks to climate change, man made or not, then the best hope humanity has of dealing with them is the collective genius and efficiency of the free market. No climate scientists, no economists, no politicians, and no bloggers, know enough (individually or in groups) to deal with the vast array of complex issues, and enormous uncertainties, involved in dealing with climate.

    Climate effects will have to be dealt with in the future, whether there is warming or cooling, rising seas or falling, desertification or, as was recently reported, the greening of the Sahara ( Man will have to adapt to changing climate, just as he has done throughout history. The good news is we now have the free market system (some of us anyway) to enhance our ability to do so effectively.

    You have the answer to climate change? Sell everything you’ve got, borrow all you can, and invest in the answer. And while you’re at it, allow the rest of us to keep “muddling through” the same way we have so far in creating the richest, most generous, most dynamic economy in the history of man.

    • First sentence, third paragraph should read:

      You know why there are so many brilliant people with degrees from Harvard, Yale and other ivy league schools working as stock brokers and investment bankers selling their advice to others?”

    • If there are risks to climate change, man made or not, then the best hope humanity has of dealing with them is the collective genius and efficiency of the free market.

      Exactly. With a modest carbon tax, the free market will provide the solutions we need. Of course, we already have taxes, and have had them over the entire time we were becoming the richest economy in the history of man, so taxes obviously need not disrupt that process.

      I presume your economics education extends to negative externalities and the need to account for them in order to put the genius of the free market to work? That’s really basic, Econ 101 stuff. Adam Smith knew as much, so I presume you know it too.

      So the major questions we are left with are:

      1. How much carbon tax, phased in over what time?
      2. How do we “score” various kinds of removal (ocean fertilization, reforestation, etc)?
      3. How do we “score” sequestration, as in pumping CO2 into the oceans or underground, or trapping it in concrete, etc.?

  35. Son of Mulder, Willis Eschenbach and many others have raised the issue that at any given time we may have to think about 10 or more low probability events that may destroy civilization as we know it. We can’t use all of our resources on each of them — that creates another way to destroy civilization. The investment in preventing each of them must be limited by all of the others.

  36. John from CA

    Kepner-Tregoe Decision Analysis

    KT has been around for decades. Decision analysis is typically followed by Potential Problem and Opportunity Analysis to establish triggers and contingencies to protect the decision.

    Its not for lack of tools — but, they require an open and unbiased approach.

    • The following targets root cause analysis.
      Kepner, Charles Higgins, and Benjamin B Tregoe. The Rational Manager; a Systematic Approach to Problem Solving and Decision Making. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965.
      In brief:
      “Problem”: An Output which does not conform to one or more Requirements.
      “Problem Definition”: The Requirement which was not met by the Output.
      “Problem Analysis” Which Process Factor(s) explain both what the Problem is, and what it is not? Of these, was any Process Factor changed just before failure? Note that a Problem may be caused by a combination of coincident Process Factors, and that an overall Problem may have one or more sub-problems.
      Components of Problem Analysis
      · Requirements (performance standards)
      · Outputs (delivered to Customer)
      · Process Factors
      — Inputs (from sources outside the process)
      — Equipment and Facilities
      — Training and Knowledge
      — Process Definition and Procedures
      Problem Analysis can be divided into two cases:
      Case 1: the Inputs are managed according to requirements
      Case 2: the Inputs are not managed according to requirements, or if the questions of Case 1 do not isolate the root cause.

  37. I wouldn’t call what the United States is dong about global warming ‘muddling through.’ Muddling through implies actually doing something. Apart from subsidies and requiring squirrelly light bulbs, the United States isn’t don’t anything. Muddling through implies getting the job done, one way or another. The only policies in effect here are utterly without effect – so how do you call that muddling through?

    Personally, I think it’s a good thing. I don’t want damaging policies for an unsure outcome. But the reason we have no cap and trade legislation on the books is not because we are ‘muddling through.’ Cap and trade was actively rejected, and now we are doing nothing, not muddling through to any goal.

    • On the contrary, the EPA is moving to regulate CO2 emissions (unless stopped). Cap and trade is likely to be their rule, or just cap and cut. No new laws are needed.

    • Obama is not one to muddle when he can meddle.
      And he is from a school of thought that is quite sure they are the smartest people in the room, and that the rest of us need to STFU and let them do what they want.
      In fact, in the dictionary members of this school seem to utilize, the definition of ‘evil’ is ‘to disagree with something they have decided they want”.
      They want, among other things, very much for CO2 to be regulated. They cannot name why in objective terms, but it is really important to them.

  38. Here’s someone who claims to want both, centrally planned CO2 mitigation, and free market “muddling through” adaptation.

    This guy is a typical progressive in his belief in central planning. But like many, he has decided that he might have more impact if he presents himself as a supporter of free markets. His idea of a free market is the government increasing the cost of bad goods so that the “market” can then create alternatives.

    We need to centrally plan the economy so the free market can work better.

    You have to wonder if people like this are dishonest, or just very, very confused.

    • “Here’s someone who claims to want both, centrally planned CO2 mitigation, and free market “muddling through” adaptation.”

      Free market “muddling through” adaptation, can also be described as everyone has choices and decisions to make.

    • We need to centrally plan the economy so the free market can work better.

      Every rich and dynamic economic in the world includes government activities of the type which you have characterized as “central planning.” It’s called a mixed economy, and it’s the rule rather than the exception. Pure libertarian societies with no effective central government, like Somalia, are the only examples we have of a society without what you label as “central planning.”

      You have to wonder if people like this are dishonest, or just very, very confused.

      Took the words right out of my mouth. ;)

  39. One thing that will make the answer more difficult is when so many opinion leaders misrepressent the risks and the certainties as much as some climate scientists do.
    An example of this would be ther interview Dessler gave on a local PBS station that was broadcast yesterday.
    He made the direct claim that the drought/heatwave hitting Texas is due to CO2. then he stated that while he, living in College Station, Texas would not have to worry about sea level rise, people in galveston may have to move.
    this was in answer to questions about what AGW will do in the life times of those listening.
    Then he stated that any climate change is bad, and that controlling CO2 would fix this and that it would not cost us much money.
    The reliance on mis-statements of fact and fallacies that someone of the stature of Dr. Dessler chose to rely on makes the entire community of cliamte scientists look disreputable and unreliable.
    How can we even discuss making decisions under ignoarnce, when the real issue is making decisions under deceit by those selling climate fear?

  40. I think the premise of this post is wrong. You don’t get a choice. Doing nothing is a decision too. You have to make decisions with the knowledge you have. The objective is to make the best possible decision. And to know as much as you can.

    • patience is a virtue

    • In may areas of life doing nothing is the best choice.
      Climate / weather strikes me as particularly appropriate applications of this strategy.

      • Maybe, but it’s a decision. And made with the same degree of knowledge.

      • But often more honesty and less hubris.

      • John Whitman

        The ‘a priori’ assumption by IPCC climate scientists that there is an important decision to be made is simply not established. Saying to someone independent of the IPCC so-called consensus that a no decision by him/her is a decision is absurd. Epistemology 101.


  41. You don’t get a choice. Doing nothing is a decision too.

    Was it claimed otherwise?

  42. I am not sure what this thread has to do with global warming. People who run countries worked out the way they make decisions many decades or centuries ago. These may evolve over time, but what a few intellectuals think about this decision making process is not going to make any difference as to how politicians make decisions.

  43. One way to take action in the face of uncertainty is to decide how we will respond to future climate change. McKitrick once proposed a carbon tax (preferably fully rebated equally to all individuals) that would increase with future warming. Those who believe in high climate sensitivity (and large amounts of “committed warming in the pipeline”) will invest heavy in low carbon technology. Those who believe in lower climate sensitivity will invest more slowly. We don’t have to make decisions in the face of uncertainty or allow true-believers with the hubris to project our needs a century in the future to make decisions for us. Instead we could design a system that will respond sensibly, albeit imperfectly, to climate change as/when the crisis becomes more critical.

    • Frank

      If there is a tax then all people have to pay whether they believe or not.

      It seems to me Judith’s post is really asking about whether a country does what it sees as in its own interest or does it implement policies it may believe is good for the world overall.

      Look at the example of Australia. Here is a country that has implemented a policy that is harmful to its economy and will do nothing measureable to help improve the environment.

      The policy is really dumb from and Australian perspective, but their population supported based upon bad science and models.

      • Rob: It seemed to me that Judith’s post was about how to make decisions in the face of uncertainty and controversy. A fully-rebated carbon tax – scheduled to rise dramatically only as the globe warms and catastrophe approaches – provides: a) immediate incentives for action for those who expect warming of 0.25 degC/decade in the near future, b) minimal pain for those who think =<0.1 degC/decade is more likely, and c) a level of taxation that depends on what actually happens in the future and not on how uncertainty is characterized by extremists from both sides.

        I don't understand the details of the proposed Australian carbon tax, but I assume that this tax is being used to raise government revenue. All such tax increases slow the economy. In contrast, a fully-rebated carbon tax redistributes money from high emitters to low emitters, but doesn't take money out of the economy until people actually substitute low-emission energy sources (including conservation) for previously-cheaper, high-emission energy sources. The rate at which this substitution occurs would not be under the control of the central government; individual businesses, consumers, power generators and market forces would make these decisions. If your local power company wanted to build a new coal power plant, they could go right ahead: In 25-50 years, the carbon tax on the coal needed to fuel their plant could be punitive (if global temp is up 1.0-2.5 degC), very substantial, or easily paid for by the rebate each customer receives from the government. If the size of future carbon taxes is determined by observed climate change, neither the "eco-fascist alarmists" nor the "anti-science deniers" will dictate the solutions to the problem.

        Countries would want to protect their domestic industries from importers who don't face carbon taxes or purchase emissions permits and they should rebate carbon taxes paid to manufacture exported goods.

        Taking action to reduce emissions when you know that the Chinese, Indians and others are likely to negate the benefits of your actions for the next decade or more is extremely painful. IMO, the only thing to do is to picture the possible worlds that your children and grandchildren might inhabit a half-century from now before deciding what your country should do. You could hope that a similar carbon tax proportional to each country's GDP becomes acceptable to a large fraction of the world. To encourage this process, Australia could impose an import tax on Chinese goods entering the country equal to what local manufacturers would likely pay if the Chinese government doesn't have a domestic carbon tax appropriate for the Chinese per capita GDP.

      • Other advantages of a carbon tax include providing societies with more information about how sensitive carbon emissions are to these disincentives, and hence giving us a better idea of what it would actually take to cut net emissions by X amount.

        A carbon tax provides innovators with a stronger profit motive to develop new technologies and implement existing improvements. It doesn’t require society to decide between conservation (doing without), efficiency (doing the same with less energy) or green power (less CO2 per unit of useful energy), nor does it require us to decide between incremental improvements (natural gas vs coal) and more radical improvements (replacing coal with wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal or hydro). All of these things are incentivized and rewarded to the degree they are successful. In other words, a carbon tax turns mitigation over to profit-seeking individuals and market-driven solutions, which would indeed be more efficient and effective than any particular strategy dictated from above.

      • Robert’s invisible hand propels a perpetual motion machine.

      • Heh, government modeled on Irene; break enough windows to drive wide fallacies through.

  44. John Whitman

    “”””Can we make good decisions under ignorance?””””


    We have an unstated premise that needs to be discussed prior to addressing that question.

    The ‘we’ in the question, it seems to me, makes the question rationally invalid.

    Adult humans that are fully integrated members of society, using their natural rational capabilities, do not spring forth fully formed in the scientific and intellectual communities, as Athena did from the forehead of Zeus. The issues of our time do not occur in the context of ‘ignorant’ scientific and intellectual individuals.

    The question is rendered uninformative.

    Rather, the question of interest wrt IPCC climate science assessments is this. Where in reality is the actual aCO2 caused catastrophe or even just plain concern? The answer must be manifold for there to be a decision that needs to be made by the ‘we’.


    • John,
      Your question is one that deserves an answer.
      Just as my post regarding the Dessler interview above, the AGW movement is making large demands that do not make sense when placed under reasonable scrutiny.
      My bet, unfortunately, is that your question and point will be ignored.

  45. Arfur Bryant

    [“How does overconfidence hamper the decision making process?”]
    I agree with Neil Armstrong:
    “Well, I think we tried very hard not to be overconfident, because when you get overconfident, that’s when something snaps up and bites you.”
    Confidence is generally a good thing. Overconfidence is generally not.

  46. Concern about the integrity of the data and the degree of confidence in the intelligence of the decision-making is indirectly related to who is paying the bills and bearing the risks. This is why a free society that operates under socio/economic system that values principles of individual liberty and free enterprise capitalism will always provide the most efficient allocation of scarce resources and result in the highest net present wealth.

  47. Really appreciate the “simplified criteria”, which seem to be a very rational approach to optimizing decisions uncertainty. Over at RealClimate some time back I had a long exchange about uncertainty as it relates to CO2 mitigation and kept hearing about “unbounded risks”. The jist of the prevailing view there in the comment gallery was that the potential risks from warming are so great and catastrophic that we need not bother assigning probabilities to various possible outcomes, we should just focus on mitigation. I instead think it’s more rational to accept the view held by many (most?) economists who suggest that given the current levels of uncertainty only moderate mitigation is called for due to high likelihood of negative economic effects which bring a host of other problems to the global table. Though notably UK’s Stern does not share the mainstream economics view – he thinks massive CO2 mitigation will be ROI positive and therefore very desirable.

    • Joe,
      When I ask believers to discuss how mitigation works in its specifics I never get answers beyond appeals to authority or dissembling that ultimately lead to the believer being unable to answer further.

  48. Can we make good decisions under ignorance?

    It has nothing to do with ignorance.

    In a 60-year cooling and warming cycle of global mean temperature (GMT), to call the 30-year global warming phase is man made is deception.

    Can we hold any judgment to see whether the GMT pattern changes from that shown below?

    Is it hard to predict it will be winter in December in the northern hemisphere without knowing the cause?

    • If the GMT moves above the upper boundary line, we are in trouble. If it moves towards the lower boundary line, change in GMT is natural and we have nothing to worry about. The decision should be made based on the observation in the coming decade.

  49. Judith Curry

    The cited list of criteria for rational decisions under risk is fine, but it lacks one essential point, which should be the first criterion but is unfortunately lacking in the case of “climate decisions”:

    Your decision should be based on rational analysis of alternates rather that emotional considerations.

    One of the strongest of all emotions is fear, and it is precisely this emotion, which is being used as the key criterion for the premise that we need to rush to a decision, in the first place (see Mencken).

    In a rebuttal to a call by Fred Moolten:

    In the case of climate change, however, we face a forced choice, because engaging in major actions or refraining from those actions both have potentially enormous consequences


    Willis Eschenbach presented [August 20, 2011 at 1:45 pm] a very well-reasoned summary on your “severe test of climate models” thread of why there is no need to rush to a fear-based decision of any kind, arguing why:

    The existence of a possible, unproven future catastrophe doesn’t force a choice on us.

    I would encourage all readers here to read this exchange plus the ensuing comments.

    Willis’ logic is impeccable IMO.

    That the decision should be based on current assets is self-evident, but the proposals for carbon taxes or other forced cuts in CO2 emissions, which will impact the standard of living of future generations, obviously do not meet this criterion. It is precisely the assets of future generations, rather than ”current assets”, which will be put at risk by the proposed ”decision”.

    Then I would agree with you, Judith, that we do not have sufficient information for #2 and #3:

    2. Your decision should be based on the possible consequences of all possible outcomes.

    3. You must be able to rank all of the consequences in order of preference and assign a probability to each possible outcome.

    In the case of proposed actions on climate, there are no meaningful cost/benefit analyses to support these proposals. The very few cost/benefit analyses that have been made show that there would theoretically be a net reduction of global warming of less than 0.1C by year 2100 for an investment of over $1 trillion made today – obviously these are silly proposals, which no one should take seriously.

    The late Stephen Schneider’s counterargument, which you cited, does not make sense if he is acting as an activist rather than a scientist (see earlier thread on this distinction). He was not providing decision-makers pdf’s, but (as he admitted) scare stories to invoke the fear factor as a basis for decision-making, in order to further his cause.

    Finally, I agree with your statement below as it applies to U.S. energy policy:

    “Muddling through” aptly characterizes what is going on in U.S. climate and energy policy, anyways.

    The Obama administration’s stance on energy policy appears to have been restricted to oratory about ”creating green jobs”, without even considering opening up the vast reserves of oil and gas in ANWR or the shale deposits, which would create far more jobs, as well as guarantee the US energy security for the foreseeable future. This is well-described as ”muddling through”.

    However, on ”climate policy” it appears to me that the Obama administration was hell-bent on pushing through cap and trade (an indirect carbon tax), until it was shot down by the public backlash, which was manifested by the mid-term election defeat. The stalemate is now between an executive branch that is trying to slip a carbon tax through by executive dictate with EPA and a legislative branch that will have no part of such a by-pass attempt. I would guess that the Obama administration has put this unpopular idea on backlog for now, in the hope that it can slip it through after it (hopefully) gets re-elected to a second term.

    Above are simply my thoughts on this. All in all an interesting thread; thanks for posting this topic for debate.


  50. What we saw last year was an example of adaption to both bad weather and to bad government. Due to the high cost of fuel the elderly in the UK were forced to burn books to keep warm. In the future it is possible Western civilization can can look forward to the possibility of perhaps decades of global cooling and the real possibility of experiencing the misery, poverty and death of living and dying in a liberal fascist society.

  51. We need to take one one or two steps back to decide just what the goals of our social decision making might be. For a free people – the rule of law and a functioning civil society enables free markets to operate. Essential to resource efficiency as they are – free markets could no more function in anarchy than under communism. The rule of law restrains actors to create fairness in markets in the same way that laws against murder or assault preserve fairness in society. Governments are essential establishing and enforcing the rule of law – and as well act to provide services that are not provided for in the market. This typically includes roads, ports, prisons, defence and much else.

    So the argument is not that there should be no government – but that it be somewhat less than 30% of GDP and generally not intervene except to protect the populace – subject to constitutional or common law constraints – or to provide services essential for the functioning of free markets and the civil society that are not provided otherwise. The mandate of government is best determined by free people in a democracy.

    A first critical step in social decision making is to determine social goals. This should – I suggest – incorporate an optimistic narrative for the future of the human experiment. Decisions on how the goals are to be achieved emerge spontaneously from the scope of the goals. Fundamental to a bright future for the human race seems to be the need to grow food and energy resources by 3%/year for the rest of the century. This is an increase of about 15 times global GDP this century. To fail in this seems likely to me to create conditions for an even greater human tragedy this century than last.

    In this context the energy problem is one aspect of a problem involving development, free trade, conserving and restoring agricultural soils, providing health services, education, safe water supplies and sanitation, and environmental conservation. It suggests that new energy technologies are needed to meet goals of economic growth – even without a projected increase in fossil resource use and emissions of many times current quantities. We should decide what we want to do.

    • GDP as a measure probably will not last until the end of this century. There will be better measures, I hope.

    • Chief

      That’s a very good summary of what the role of government should be.

      Yes. It does include the “need to grow food and energy resources by 3%/year for the rest of the century” in order to ensure the “bright future for the human race” – some pessimists will object that this is simply a justification for unbridled consumerism in the rich nations, but they miss the point that you are talking about the whole world.

      Above all, in my estimation, is that government should not use fear-mongering to maintain or increase its power (see Mencken), as the past UK government did with its TV campaign on AGW..

      You write:

      In this context the energy problem is one aspect of a problem involving development, free trade, conserving and restoring agricultural soils, providing health services, education, safe water supplies and sanitation, and environmental conservation.

      The larger problem you describe above should also include allowing environmentally sound development and use of economically viable local energy resources.

      In the USA, for example, this would include developing the vast oil/gas resources of ANWR and the shale deposits, as well as continuing the use of “clean coal” (i.e. including all available pollution abatement technologies) as an energy source.

      The role of the government here should not be to subsidize these efforts IMO, but rather not to stand in the way of them by blocking permits for political reasons, even when environmental conditions are met.


    • Chief, some years ago I read many studies on the relation of economic growth to the share of government, and almost all found that 22 per cent was optimal; none were far from 22 per cent. While I can’t at this stage defend that specific figure, I think it’s clear that in almost all, perhaps all, countries, the government share is well above an optimal level, the share in which non-government individuals exercise choice is too low.

      As for “an optimistic narrative,” I think that “rational optimism” is essential, the CAGW proponents seem to share a negative narrative about humankind; and this is linked to an excessive faith in centralism and a directed, rather than free, society.

      I’ll add, seeing manacker is in this sub-thread, that of the many posters, his posts most resonate with me; Max, I concur with your world view and CAGW view as expressed in CE; your posts are much appreciated (as are Robert’s).

  52. It would, seriously, help if you defined deep uncertainty and ignorance.
    Some thought processes and behaviors are readily transferable; you can drop a highly trained special forces operative in pretty much any where in the world and they will get home. A weekend Cessna pilot could land a 747, even without training on multi-engines jets.
    I suspect the miss the game theory reward/punishment for politicians and climate scientists, unlike say, P.J. O’Rourke.

    “There are four ways in which you can spend money.
    1) You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money.
    2) Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.
    3) Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch!
    4) Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income.”

    Now think on this relation to a typical taxpayer, a Climate scientist and a Politician.
    The taxpayer is spending type 2) money.
    The scientist is spending type 3) money
    The Politician is spending type 4) money

    In terms of how a Climate scientist obtaining funding, said scientist must generate interest and persuade taxpayer and politician, that it is in their vested interest to fund Climate science.
    Now given that their is a finite amount of funding.
    Moreover,climate scientists are never going to discover some thing that taxpayers want; as in a cure for cancer, cheaper electricity, cool physics which means that game cubes become 100x more powerful or a better type of breathing fabric
    The only way that climate scientists can get funding, and climb the slippery academic pole, to to frighten the crap out of taxpayers and the politicians.
    Climate scientists have a vested interest in bigging-up the threat of a climate catastrophe.
    Time and again climate scientists have screamed that a climate catastrophe is occurring, despite there being deep uncertainty and even ignorance in their own minds. This forces them to on one hand insist that they are less uncertainty and less confident than they really are and at the same time they state that the people who worry that the proxies, models and physics that climate scientists use are subject to error, are ‘deniers’ in the pay of big oil.
    Like a Priest having a crisis of faith, they are quick to scream heretic!

    Now, as a taxpayer I understand that climate scientists may over-egg the pudding, but this is just a bit to much:-
    when you go so far over the line the bullshit detectors are triggered.
    People are aware that ‘Ignorance and Uncertainty’ lays in the center of an ‘X’, the further back or forward in time you go from the present the more you are ignorant and uncertainty.
    Big claims require big evidence. So far the climate scientists reject standard statistical techniques in both sampling and analysis, standard experimental based model validation and profound ignorance of validated modeling techniques used by economists, pharmacologists, enzymologists and systems engineers.
    There would be far more faith in climate science ‘models’ and ‘predictions’ and reconstructions if they were subject to the same types of testing that new drugs undergo, blinding and analysis of all data-sets or aerospace engineers must perform where each individual component is subjected to destructive testing.

  53. After all this how do you reconcile the obvious. We live in a world that is less fecund and more sophisticated.

    Sophisticate, sophisticate, sophisticate, until obfuscation is complete. This is the goal and the means of philosophy. Not enlightenment based upon experimentation, testing, testing testing. Now pontification and modeling by way of informatica is the operational mode of science, politics, and learned people all over the world. It is the western way of thought today.

    And we lose jobs….and we lose jobs… and we pay corn farmers…..and we have sophisticated ourselves right off the planet.
    And the gangs of Chicago fart in your general direction.

  54. Stephen Pruett

    When I saw the topic, I knew the precautionary principle would be invoked; it seemed inevitable. Dr. Bruce Ames who invented the Ames test to identify carcinogens, now regrets that the test is used, because it falsely identifies many useful compounds that are clearly not carcinogens (at least not in humans). He also stated his opinion that by regulating such compounds to the theoretical point at which less than one “additional” case of cancer per million people is expected the EPA is killing many more people than this. His reasoning is that the government has only a finite number of dollars (a fact which might have been disputed until the U.S. was spanked by Standard and Poor’s) and dollars used to achieve this standard of regulation and clean up cannot be used for programs that have been proved to save lives (like anti-smoking campaigns). The same is true for federal and private dollars that are used to decrease carbon emissions.

    This would possibly be justified if the evidence for CAGW was solid, but it isn’t. It is based on less than 30 years of warming in the entire instrumental record and ignores that the same rate of warming has occurred before carbon dioxide emissions were anywhere near today’s values. In addition, it seems that almost every day new papers are published calling into question catastrophic outcomes even if warming does occur. Lack of increase in tropical cyclones world wide during a period of warming should put to bed that commonly stated worry. Pacific islands that have mostly held their own with regard to land area or increased as ocean levels have slowly increased suggest catastrophic consequences may be just a bit overstated. Climate refugees? In spite of predictions made with great confidence, they have not appeared at the appointed time. I am not aware of any claims of catastrophism that are backed by real data. Instead they are based on unproved models or extreme extrapolation of the type scientists are generally taught to avoid. In addition, there is an almost absolute bias toward reporting only potential adverse effects and not estimating potential beneficial effects, of which there are many. So, it seems to me that we would be foolish to act now when there is so much uncertainty with regard to the cause of recent warming and even more with regard to possible consequences.

    • “This would possibly be justified if the evidence for CAGW was solid, but it isn’t. It is based on less than 30 years of warming in the entire instrumental record and ignores that the same rate of warming has occurred before carbon dioxide emissions were anywhere near today’s values.”

      CO2 levels are shooting through the roof. There is no known past precedent for the amount of increase in such a short space of time. So this is an untested change. Given the nature of the carbon cycle – a system so important for life on Earth – untested modification of it is dangerous and the precautionary principle easily applies.

      It’s not necessary to go into precise effects of this, such as warming and ocean acidification. But we can.

      In both cases the danger is further substantiated. You don’t rule out a threat by, as you argue, claiming the evidence for harm is not solid. Drug companies don’t get away with selling untested chemicals to the public by arguing that since it is untested there is no solid evidence the drug causes harm. For good reason.

      You cite 3 possible effects of CO2 rise, but there aren’t 3 possible effects there are “thousands”. Almost every system on Earth is going to be affected by temperature changes or ocean acidification, and/or the knock on effects from those. There’s a lot of potential for stuff to go wrong. The precautionary principle easily applies

      I note that even AGW skeptics apply the precautionary principle when it comes to geo-engineering – citing concerns that man’s meddling with the climate might cause unintended side effects.

      • John Carpenter

        Regardless of whether the effects of higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are catastrophic or the equivalent of a gnat on the windshield of a 747… we are all in it together. Our (Western) economies, societies and cultures are based largely on the use of fossil fuels for the energy needed to run them (and here comes China). It took a century of industry and consumerism to get here and there is no immediate turning back… it is a freight train…. I think the precautionary principle will likely fail under such a massive amount of human progress inertia… it will take decades to change our energy needs and sources.

        We did not start our industrial evolution with the notion of changing the climate or polluting, those are by-products. Not so for the premise of geo-engineering. We are not geo-engineering on a global scale to purposely change our environment now, so why start? We have yet to out wit mother nature.

        IMO, an argument that uses the idea that if skeptics would use the pp against the use of geo-engineering, then why not use it for mitigating CO2, I find disingenuous. Geo-engineering has been resoundingly dismissed as an option among the global community as a whole and is an example of where the pp has been aptly employed. The choices before us to mitigate CO2, OTOH, are few and unreliable at his time. We are diligently experimenting with alternate energy sources, trying them out, testing their abilities already, aren’t we? So two questions: How would applying the pp for CO2 mitigation change anything that isn’t already in motion? and wouldn’t it harm our ability to fund such activities in the future?

      • Chief Hydrologist


        I would in principle agree – although perhaps a little less stridently. Science is somewhat less certain than you imagine. Climate scientists are well aware of the depth of uncertainty – but this is poorly communicated. Certainty is exaggerated in public and this leads to climate warriors such as yourself – falsely convinced of the immutable truth of climate science, fearful and defending unsupportable assertions teeth and nail.

        We are in a phase of decadal cooling – which is not helping your side any. All ‘recent warming’ happened between 1976 and 1998. Most of it was caused by Pacific Ocean ‘dragon-kings’ in 1976/77 and 1997/1998. Most of the rest was the result of decadal changes in cloud cover. Ocean acidification is not a problem – although I hesitate to say that it wouldn’t be a problem if CO2 emissions were 10 times greater. After all – emitting 300,000 metric tonnes per year of CO2 might have different impacts than emitting 30,000 tonnes. We would at that stage be overwhelming the natural flux without much doubt.

        However, CO2 is but one small factor amongst many driving climate change – abrupt change at that – on all scales. It is one of the things we should be concerned with – but from my perspective there seem other and more pressing issues for the global community. Hunger, poverty, disease, lack of health services, education, safe water and sanitation and biodiversity declines amongst them. At any rate – the front on approach of Kyoto of setting limits – apppealing to many neo-Malthusians – has failed to achieve anything of note. We presume that it is unlikely to in future – and in fact reject the underlying economic and social principal in favour of accelerated global development.

        If you are looking at alternative policy – I can only suggest again that the Breakthrough Institutes climate pragmatism document is a good start – Multiple solutions to multiple problems are indeed possible – we need to move at long last beyond CO2 as the exclusive or even major focus.

        I sense great fear in you – Numbnut – which you continue to retail to us. Remember – fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.


      • BlueIce2HotSea

        Chief Hydrologist-

        On a scale of zero to Fred Moolten, your reply to lolwot almost passed. (Failed on Numbnut, otherwise pretty good.)

        If you could create two posts, an intelligent explanation addressed to a presumably sensible lolwot and a condescending comment addressed to Numbnut, that would be best. (Post the first one, only).

        Thank for you considering my suggestion.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Listen IndigoGateauxandHotTea,

        You misunderstand the situation and I will try to explain it slowly to someone who is obviously not up to speed – as I am in my if I may speak modestly of my many and varied accomplishments and superior intellect. There is obviously a deficit information model working here and I am just the guy to fill the void with my vast and infallible knowledge.

        There are certain people that pop in with insulting irrelevancies – this time not so much. But I chose to continue as I have started in responding in kind – we have a history and this is not something that is easily overlooked.

        But we have taken this as far as we can. I will leave it up to the reader to go back over my many, varied, pompously lengthly and repetitive posts to decide who is right or worng.


      • BlueIce2HotSea

        Chief Hydrologist-

        Hey! You sent the bad one by mistake!

        Or was that the good one? :(

      • Chief Hydrologist

        And here I was trying my hardest to be more like Fred

      • BlueIce2HotSea

        Chief Hydrologist-

        No problem, at least you tried. Anyway, in the climate blogoshere it is near impossible to get a perfect score on the Fred Moolten scale. Either we cannot remain coherent when confronted by incivility, or we cannot remain civil when confronted by unintelligibility. Usually, we are confronted by both, simultaneously.

        The good news is your original comment scored well on the David Wojick scale, which basically only considers the intelligibility of technical and logical content – excepting cases of egregious insults, where deductions are mandatory.

        Your score on the Judith Curry scale remains a mystery,

        Your friend, BlueIce

      • Chief Hydrologist


        I don’t find Fred in the least interested in a dialectic, in anything other than talkiing past to correct error – which in his world is anything that he doesn’t agree with based on a healthy dose of confirmations bias. And if I had ever suspected you of inteligibility I would be questioning my own confirmation bias.

        More recently the Numbnut gang began trolling by to count coup in the climate wars – if only in what they think passes for an intellect. They have been openly noxious, openly bragging of finding it fun to be noxious, ganging up where ever they think they detect a sign of weakiness and generally dropping in with obscure, insulting and irrelevant comment. Appalling behaviour, I got a bit tired of this proliferating through what was a more civil blog and I have been responding in kind. It is a deliberate and quite calculated act and the offer has been explicit – don’t behave appallingly and you won’t have to whine about my condescension or my insults.

        So – bluecakeandtea – take your studied and primitively motivated, tribalistic point scoring and – because the Curry scale involves insult with some style and verve – well I am just a trifle bored and can’t be bothered anymore with posters with the sense of a potato who adopt sententious non de plumes and are capable only of indulging in the idiot politics of the climate war. I suggest you go find a more vulnerable target than me – someone who is simply here wanting to understand something more of climate science. Go join the Numbnut gang in other words – I am sure you are noxious and partisan enough for them.

        Robert I Ellison
        Chief Hydrologist

      • Shorter Chief = “Mommy, mommy, they did it firrrrsssstttt!!!”

      • Oh, and I forgot to sign it (because you couldn’t tell from the post heading who I am?).


      • Chief Hydrologist

        I can’t really sway you either way Joshua – either I am a coward and don’t sign or do sign and am therefore unintelligibly incorrigible in some other way. And to be honest – can’t be bothered even reading your comment anymore. I just reply as if they’re all the same.

        I am too long or too short in my posts – I am ironic or turgid, pompous and whatever. I discuss science well but should stay out of politics which I don’t understand at all. Just an ordinary sampling of your undergraduate level sophistry. Or perhaps that is a little mature for your efforts – perhaps inadequate attempts at playground bullying.

        This mommy – mommy bit is sillier than even you usually are. I am quite obviously a man and take responsibility for my actions. One thing, however, I will surely will not be likely to do is to think for a moment that you have anything positive to offer – you’re the one bragging about taking delight in abusive and noxious interactions. Something that put me in mind of chimpanzee social interactions – 2 or 3 chimps temporarily aliging to harass a 4th. All we need now is for Numbnut and Robby the Robot to show up and the gang is complete.

        I did suggest in relation to you quite some time ago that comment whose sole purpose who noxious point scoring could reasonably be removed. As you are a total ponce – that would be most of your comments then? Or all?

      • BlueIce and Chief

        As an innocent (Swiss) lurker, let me add my 2 Rappen worth to your discussion.

        Chief has shown that he can demonstrate eloquence of language waxing on the almost poetic while getting a point across rather directly.

        Fred, on the other hand, is even more eloquent with more of a professorial tone while getting no point across.

        Haven’t pegged BlueIce yet (but am missing the sense of poetry…)


    • I actually met Ames when I was a snotty nosed undergrad, and I had the nerve to ask him a question.
      What is the most mutanogenic thing you have found?
      Chinese herb tea. The great man replied.

      With regard to the ‘precautionary principle’, why do the people who argue for a massive alteration in our economic system never make the same point about any other system?
      Did you notice anyone evoking the ‘precautionary principle’, with regard to Obamacare, or Gay Marriage or Quantitative easing or the Stimulus package? I note that the same people who tend to support the ‘precautionary principle’ with respect to CO2 have rather different principles when it come to social engineering.
      Compare the support for climate science, embryonic stem cell on the one hand and GM foods and nuclear science on the other.

  55. Manacker

    Could you please have a look at my article at WUWT and give me your usual considered criticism?


    • Girma

      Thanks for link to your very interesting WUWT article.

      Here are my comments, as requested.

      In your introduction you point to the infamous IPCC “short term versus long term” chart (Figure 1). This was a classical case of “smoke and mirrors”, which should never have been included in AR4. In a cyclical record such as GMT, cherry-picked short term trends can always show steeper trends than longer term periods. [BTW the same comparison could have been made in reverse, showing that the warming in the early 20th century was much more rapid than that over the entire century.]

      Your alternate interpretation of the GMT data takes the entire record, as is (excluding more doubtful data preceding 1880) and addresses some key questions regarding peaks, valleys and averages, plotting these in Figure 2.

      The trend lines of peaks, valleys and averages are the same, with 30-year warming and cooling cycles clearly visible and an underlying warming trend of 0.06°C per decade and a pretty good correlation coefficient of 0.85.

      The “peak to valley” difference remained 0.5°C (an amplitude of ±0.25°C) over the record. Your comparison with a pendulum makes sense, i.e. your analysis of the observed peaks and valleys over the record show a periodic swing from warming to cooling (like a pendulum).

      Based on this analysis of the GMT record, you foresee a continuation of the same long term trends, with net cooling to continue to 2030, when a new “valley” is reached and the trend reverses again.

      To the accusation of “cherry-picking” the data, you compare the two observed 30-yer warming periods 1910-1940 and 1970-2000, showing that these are statistically indistinguishable [a point confirmed by Phil Jones in his famous BBC interview]. You then make the same analysis for the entire 60-year cooling/warming cycles 1880-1940 and 1940-2000. IOW the entire GMT record confirms that there have been statistically indistinguishable 60-year cooling/warming cycles.

      In Figure 3 you compare the IPCC projection of 0.2°C per decade warming for the next two decades with the actual record so far, which shows slight cooling since the end of 2000. The IPCC projection clearly lies outside the GMT peak boundary line, but the actual record (so far) does not.

      You conclude that if the cyclical trend continues to swing within the boundary lines, which have been observed so far (like a pendulum), this will invalidate the IPCC premise that AGW is driving our climate.

      If OTOH the IPCC projection of 0.2°C per decade over the next two decades turns out to be correct, this would refute the pendulum and validate the AGW premise.

      This all makes good sense to me, Girma, but I would like to read what AGW-believers, such as Pekka Pirilä or Fred Moolten, would comment.

      If such comments truly present specific scientific rebuttals to successfully refute your analysis, this would be one thing. If they simply opine that your analysis is wrong or does not agree with the known laws of physics, etc., then this would show me that your analysis has withstood attempts to refute it, and is therefore valid (until someone does successfully refute it scientifically, following the scientific method).


  56. Why do we have to go down this inane Orwellian exercise of word gaming? “Uncertainty” taken to the nth degree of nuance and subtext? All this while ignoring political bias of the core consensus.

    The populist debate and that which the “consensus” has exercised is about the least scientific in history. AGW believers demand that their hypothesis of a dynamic and abstract field of science be “falsified” while the basics of their presentation are at best very unclear. Mayan Priests might well have used the same debating form.

    A political inventory of the core 400 or so IPCC associates ends the debate which is why there is uniform “consensus” endlessly whine that their science is above politics which about 2/3rds of this board knows is false. Including the ever silent Dr. Curry on the point. She can squirm in her chair on Canadian TV, look embarressed, offer hints but refuses to connect the obvious dots that make much of parlor games of minutia climate papers that are always relatively dismissed among ad hom speculations of each sides motives and the particular players publishing involved useless. In that sense the current “science is settled” as neither side is going to change. If the fascist inclination of the modern AGW Priests have their way enough of a mob can be rallied to their purpose. They are as bored with the science process at Real Climate as they are on most skeptic sites. It’s simply an arms raise where each side has to pretend to care about science for the big public showing. Knowing full well the dynamic topic isn’t predictable. In this regard Warmists are the much larger evil to science itself. Why does all this happen? Do the political inventory of the consensus, it gets much easier to see. Look at the agenda seeking on this clip, watch Dr. Curry squirm while she tries to please her peers while they seethe at her all too modest (inadequate) equivocations;

    Sure it’s tedious, like watching PBS News Hour while reading the NY TImes at the SAME TIME!! for solid dose of leftist, smug self-righteousness and we are “settled science” wrapped into one overbearing attitude fest. Only that annoying unwashed public being brainwashed by “big oil” is the problem. You can’t make this stuff up, while Dr. Curry was the something close to almost reasonable she sucked up to her fellow tribe members who still wanted to throw her under a bus. How much credit for how long does someone deserve? She can’t see the blood lust of regulatory ambition on the panel she shared? The moderators eco-left presumptions? She just could say; “look most of here are liberals with an eco-agenda to grind as does the IPCC, it matters”? You could smell it through PC as you watch it. You can see she is embarressed but she passed and played ball with them.
    Until this changes the science talking points aren’t going to settle anything, it’s tainted by dishonesty.

    • John Carpenter


      Thanks, I enjoyed that link. It did not seem to me that Judy was sucking up to her fellow tribesmen. I got the distinct feeling she was uncomfortable with the way the climategate issue was being dismissed by the other panelists and politely offered why trust and credibility are important to scientists and how both took a hit with the exposed UEA emails. It was unfortunate she was somewhat cut off at the end…. as it appeared to be in response to her clarifying what further effects climategate had. Clearly she was adding information about climategate the balance of the panelists did not agree with (or probably wanted to hear). I think most people watching that program would have noticed that for what is was and I for one found it as another example of the media ‘changing the subject’ when a chink in the consensus was confirmed.

      • Judith didn’t seem out of character to me either. I really didn’t hear her say anything I haven’t read her write. Where I do disagree with you was that watching the show was enjoyable. I found it similar to watching paint dry with the added bonus of having the drone of oil shill cliches echoing in the background.

      • Steven, who said “she was out of character”? That’s exactly the problem I identified. As early as the year before she admits to the question supporting (arrogantly presuming as the in the tank media often does) the ancient grassy knoll thinking of the left that skeptics are being driven by big oil and coal funding “I use to think that as late as six months ago”.

        That’s delusional on Dr. Curry’s part Steven as is your “oil shill” comment. The oil industry actually produces something regardless of cartel advantage pricing which you can only thank central planning and government failure running wild for. Then again it’s always this way, blame the private sector first and trust the dreamy good intentions of bloated government results. All supported by pin-heads in academia who in fact get most of their funding via the government itself or debt/tax driven education dollars.

        While John Carpenter got something more out of it and you very little I’m stuck agreeing with you that it was tedious but for reasons you could never agree with. It just the ultra Canadian lefts, MSM swill for the effect and disinformation of clowns who were in shock at the consequences of Climategate. If they spinned any harder they would have passed out on camera. I always like a stacked panel of everyone with all the same braindead politcal culture being included and the only foil being the least bought-in, in this case Dr. Curry. If you ever had any doubts what the “fairness doctrine” would look like in the U.S. the show was a perfect example. Drivel.

      • Poor Judy. Bravely done.

        In the first 30 seconds of the 53 minute clip, the words ‘accountant’, ‘Ontario’ and ‘Canada’ must have been repeated a dozen times, so tedium is to be expected.

        The pacing of what tvo producers I’m sure think are exciting shows is glacial, and let’s face it, not much in the world is more boring than the sort of panel of academicians and suits that was assembled; if we discount Dr. Curry, it appears all the guests were men of a certain age and largely the same ethnocultural background.

        Besides being a slow show, the topic was presented in ways that demanded the audience think for itself, so you’d never see it on American television.

        There are still parts of Canada that can be described as so leftist that the right wing is to the left of anything in the USA. However, some of the people on the panel would, if you checked out their biographies and writings, be more like dyed-in-the wool conservatives than most American voters.

        Canada. It’s not the USA; if you’re not willing to sit through a few dozen more hours of tvo, you’ll never pick up on the fine distinctions.. and really, it’s not worth the effort, because after Ontario, there’s ten more provinces that are completely different and almost as dull.

        My thoughts on Climategate.

        Whistleblowers bring issues to authorities outside an organization that does not fix the issues itself. Climategate is not whistleblowing; contents of the emails weren’t common knowledge to the heads of UEA, and the emails weren’t sent to outside authorities but to a public server in Russia.

        Climategate is a hack.

        Hackers regard everyone they hack as victims, and for victims they have neither respect nor regard.

        The Climategate hacker, whoever he is, has in that sense been successful at hacking the attitudes, opinions and actions of everyone who’s strings he’s pulled by his hack.

        If you give much time or effort to Climategate, you’re just another hacking victim.

      • The bizarre mental gymnastics some people go to explain why they ignore climategate, if mental gymnastics became a sport, would certianly win the gold medal.

  57. Dr. Curry – we have thousands of years of decision making behind us. To answer the question you need only examine what we know about past ignorance and how it affected the decision making process at critical events and discover what the outcome was.

    A few astonishing tidbits come to mind: Introducing the mongoose to Hawaii to eliminate rats, fiddling with African bee strains in the forests of South America, building seawalls along coast lines, creating a series of dikes around New Orleans to keep water in/out depending on where it is at the time, the Aswan dams, and my personal favorite, Thalidomide. I’ll bet you all can think of something, too.

    To the author’s list of things to consider I would add “If in your ignorance you find yourself creating a mandate that unborn people, through their direct labor and suboptimal living condition options, is required to assure the success of your solutions, which because you are operating in ignorance are just theories, mind you, then you are a nutter.”

    To be honest, on re-reading that first use of the word “ignorance” could be replaced with arrogance with no loss of meaning.

    • This is a point worth repeating. Actions that limit the financial and physical resources of future generations will impair their ability to protect against and recover from all natural disasters. Withholding energy and technological advancement in developing nations is certainly a way limiting their options ‘going forward.’ We should be improving their range of choices, not limiting them.

      • “Actions that limit the financial and physical resources of future generations . . .”

        Like burning fossil fuels? Like damaging the natural world, reducing its productivity and diversity for future generations?

        Congratulations: you’ve just made the case for ending CO2 emissions entirely. Well done.

  58. 4. Your choice should maximize your expected utility.

    This is way overly simplistic. See, e.g., the St Petersburg Paradox:

    There is a whole literature on dealing with “fat tails” in the climate world. Marty Weitzman’s work at Harvard is a good place to start:

    PS. I agree with Nick Stokes, who writes above: “Doing nothing is a decision too. You have to make decisions with the knowledge you have. The objective is to make the best possible decision.”

  59. I note that even AGW skeptics apply the precautionary principle when it comes to geo-engineering – citing concerns that man’s meddling with the climate might cause unintended side effects.

    This is not “the precautionary principle”, it’s just plain common sense.


    • So would be reducing CO2 emissions when there is a clear, if unquantifiable risk, that uncontrolled GH gas concentrations in the atmosphere are likely to cause serious problems.

      Think of risk as the product of consequences and likelihood: what can happen and the odds of it happening.

      • tempterrain

        So would be reducing CO2 emissions when there is a clear, if unquantifiable risk, that uncontrolled GH gas concentrations in the atmosphere are likely to cause serious problems.

        You should replace “when” with the little-big word “IF”.

        Others here have made comparisons with asteroid strikes, return of the dinosaurs, etc., all preceded by the little-big word “IF”.

        My advice: .Follow the common sense principle: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.


      • If it unquantifiable it is not clear.

      • Exactly. We might as well let the Psychology Department make energy policy.

        Where and how the drop off from theoretical concept science and absense of engineering standards is critical to the sham of AGW alarmism. I’m sure many physics professors at MIT would kill themselves if forced to rewire the electricity in their kitchens. Even if you bought the pig of theory would you trust any of the IPCC on mitigation policy? It loses both ways.

      • We are already letting faux psychologists have a huge say in political discourse. Why not energy?
        Of course for many, energy something that comes with meditation and yoga…..

  60. Like many another work, Weitzman’s fails to come to grips with the fact that the equilibrium climate sensitivity (TECS) is not an observable. It follows that speculations regarding the shape of the tails of the probability density function over TECS are not falsifiable, thus lying outside science.

    • There is nothing illogical in Weitsman’s thinking. It’s, however, important to realize that logic alone cannot support any conclusions. Conclusions are always dependent on quantitative arguments. They require some estimates of potential damages, their probabilities as well as of the effectivenesses, costs and risks of possible policy decisions. When conclusions are presented without specifying all necessary details, they imply some specific limits for the combination of values.

      It’s not a counterargument to that logic to say that TECS is not observable. It can still be used as a proxy variable in the quantitative analysis described above.

      There are widely differing views on all the values and distributions needed for the quantitative analysis. Weitzman’s views are one example, others disagree. Some to one direction (Stern and his coworkers) many others to the opposite direction (too many to start listing).

      • Pekka:

        Regarding your assertion that decision analysis that is based upon the notion of TECS is logical, I’ve argued to the contrary in detail in the article at . In brief, the function that maps the CO2 concentration to the equilibrium temperature provides no information to the policy maker about the outcomes from his/her policy decisions. This is true because the outcome of a statistical event is observable, by the definition of an “outcome,” but the equilibrium temperature is not observable. A predictive model would provide the required information but climatologists have not yet released one.

      • I certainly disagree with you totally. That’s rather sophistry than valid logic.

      • Pekka:
        Where’s the breach of logic?

      • I do think that you know, where your argumentation differs from that of most others. You cannot dictate, what information others consider significant for decision making.

        There is much ignorance, but the ignorance is not complete, and that allows for obtaining some basis for the decisions.

        I don’t claim that the information is satisfactory, but choices are done on, what’s available. Weitzman’s paper follows that logic, but his views on the available information may of course be contested.

      • Pekka:

        Perhaps the difference between us stems from use of a loose definition of the word “information” by you and the definition in information theory by me. My definition of “information” is identical to the definition of the word in theoretical physics.

        In its definition in information theory, the “information” is Shannon’s measure of the intersection of two state-spaces, both of them observable. One receives “information” about the the state in an unobserved but observable state-space from observing the state in the remaining, observed state-space. If one or more of the two state-spaces is unobserveable, the state-spaces fail to intersect and the “information” (aka “mutual information”) is nil.

        As the equilibrium temperature is unobservable, one receives no information about the equilibrium temperature from observing the CO2 concentration. As the functional embodiment of the idea of “information” is symmetrical in its arguments, one receives no information about the CO2 concentration from one’s non-observation of the unobservable equilibrium temperature.

        These conclusions conflict with foundational assumptions of IPCC climatology. However, I have proved them true. IPCC climatology is in a state of collapse from the falsity of these assumptions.

      • Making decisions is a practical thing not restricted by information theory.

        (I still don’t believe that your proof is valid either. You need hidden assumptions in the proof as far as I can see. Your representation that is freely available on net leaves very much open. Thus it’s not even close to a proof. All those of your references that I was able to get hands on are beside this issue and don’t add anything to a proof. I have no reason to expect that those obscure papers that I cannot reach would help the least.)

      • I can add that in my view your “proof” is based on a circular argument. You build your probabilities that requires assuming that your theory is true and then use it to prove the theory. Thus it’s probably self-consistent, but it’s not unique, and your claim is specifically this uniqueness. That’s not proven by your arguments (and that’s most certainly also false).

      • Pekka:

        If I understand you correctly, you contend that it is wise for a decision to be made in the absence of information about the outcome from the decision. If this is your contention, I’d be pleased to take the other side of the argument.

      • The point that I have tried to make is that, when choices – or decisions – are made, it’s wise to use all available information, and that large uncertainties require special attention. The uncertainties have in part the nature of ignorance, but the ignorance is not complete. Something is known on all issues important for decisions.

        Weitzman’s paper is based on this approach. There’s nothing illogical in it’s approach, but ti’s conclusions depend on certain views on the factors subject to uncertainties, which include partial ignorance. My own views are not the same as those of Weitzman, and I don’t support his conclusions, although I accept his logic.

      • Pekka Pirila (August 24, 2011 at 2:03 pm):

        We agree on the position that it’s wise to use all of the available information in making a decision. I’ll add that it’s wise to use no more than all of the available information. When more than all of the available information is used, the model fails from making false assertions about the numerical values of probabilities.

        However, I don’t believe that you’ve faced up to the consequences from facts that: 1) the”information” is a measure of a relationship between a pair of state-spaces, both of them observable and 2) the equilibrium temperature is not an observable. The existence of “the equilibrium climate sensitivity” (TECS) implies that when all uncertainty in the numerical value of TECS is eliminated, the CO2 concentration contains perfect information about the equilibrium temperature. This conclusion conflicts with the conclusion from the definition of “information” that the CO2 concentration contains no information about the equilibrium temperature.

        Unlike the equilibrium temperature, the temperature is an observable. Thus, it is conceivable for the CO2 concentration to contain information about the temperature. Unfortunately, in designing their studies and in providing guidance for policy makers, climatologists have tacitly assumed the CO2 concentration contains information about the equilibrium temperature and this assumption is a false proposition.

      • So what.

        it’s possible that the equilibrium climate sensitivity doesn’t exist even for the hypothetical change in CO2 two concentration, where all other forcings are kept the same and constant before and after the change, but it’s also possible that it does exist for that hypothetical case, and this may be also likely.

        Best available information does exist, whichever of those two alternatives is true (but unknown now and perhaps even forever).

        Formal definitions of information are irrelevant for the real world cases. The definition applies only to those, who wish to use it. Others can use the word “information” more loosely and let worrying about such definitions to those, who wish to worry.

        I don’t disagree on that practical version of your statements that people often claim to make logical conclusions, when they are not. They claim to have done a quantitative assessment, when their assessment is totally wrong etc. That happens all the time, and often it happens also in the way that their conclusions are more likely to be valid than their justifications.

        Risks, uncertainties due to randomness and uncertainties due to ignorance are all difficult concepts, when they go beyond situations that we meet frequently enough to learn from experience. Determining what’s a wise decision is difficult and getting it accepted may be even more difficult. This doesn’t, however, mean that it wouldn’t be right to search for the wise policies and to bring proposals to public knowledge, which subjects them to informed discussion. Work like the paper of Weitzman are needed for that.

      • Pekka Pirila (August 24, 2011 at 3:48 pm):

        My answer to your question of “so what” is as follows.

        As I’ve demonstrated, the equilibrium climate sensitivity (TECS) provides no information to a policy maker about the outcomes from his/her policy decisions when “information” is defined as it is in information theory. That it provides no information would appear to the notion of TECS useless for policy making.

        As you point out, “information” might be defined in other ways. It might be defined in ways in which TECS is less obviously useless for policy making. However, there is a reason for restriction of the definition of “information” to the one in information theory.

        The deductive logic can be generalized to stretch through the inductive logic by replacement of the rule that every proposition has a truth-value by the rule that every proposition has a probability. In the generalized logic, an inference can be shown to possess the unique measure that is called its “entropy.” The entropy of an inference is the missing information in the inference for a deductive conclusion, with “information” defined as it is in information theory.

        The existence and uniqueness of the entropy as the measure of an inference makes it possible to answer the question of which of many inferences that are candidates for being made by a model is correct by optimization. In particular, that inference is correct which minimizes the conditional entropy or maximizes the entropy under constraints expressing the available information.

        The second law of thermodynamics is an expression of the second of these principles, the priniple of entropy maximization. The uniqueness of thermodynamics as a theory of heat is a consequence from the uniqueness of the entropy as measure of an inference in the probabilistic logic.

        If for climatology “information” were to be defined outside information theory then it would become possible for climatologists to fabricate information theoretic information through violations of the principle of entropy maximization. In effect, this is how policy makers have been led to believe they have information when they have none.

      • Terry,

        Most importantly, the knowledge that is summarized by an operative definition of TECS is of value for the decision making. By an operative definition I mean a definition based on the way the value is obtained. Whether such a TECS is really an equilibrium value, is not essential, what’s essential, is that it is a summary value that tells about one factor that affects future temperature development. That’s the logical basis, nothing more is needed. That’s specific enough and understandable enough for decision making.

        I’m not discussing information theory, I’m discussing real world decsion making.

        Concerning the use of entropy, it’s not in general uniquely definable in case of continuous variables. That’s where your theory fails. That’s where your argument is based on circular reasoning. In some fields of application, there are “natural” definitions for the variables to use and the related phase space measure, but that’s not generally true, and the definition of entropy is dependent on the phase space measure. Your paper skips this point totally, and is therefore not a proof at all.

      • Pekka (August 25, 2011 at 2:30 am):

        I’m having trouble connecting to your thinking hence am on the lookout for a possible misunderstanding. Your reference to a “phase space” suggests the possibility of a kind of misunderstanding, for the “states” that I have referenced are not necessarily the states in a phase space. For example, the states “male” and “female” are not the states in a phase-space.

        Though the founders of statistical physics did not think of it in this way, the “entropy” can be interpreted as the unique measure in the probabilistic logic of an inference from the state of a system in an observed state-space to the state of the same system in an unobserved but observable state-space. That the entropy is the unique measure of an inference in the probabilistic logic ties the notion of “entropy” to logic, for logic is the science of the principles of correct inferences.

        In thermodynamics, the states in the unobserved state-space are the “accessible microstates”; they belong to a phase-space. The states in the observed state-space are the associated “macrostate.”

        The states “male” and “female” do not belong to a phase space. Nonetheless, an inference can be made from the observed state-space { male OR female } to the unobserved state-space { male, female }. In the probabilistic logic, this inference has as its unique measure the entropy. The “entropy” of an inference is the missing information about the state in the unobserved state-space given the state in the observed state-space, as “information” is defined in information theory.

      • Terry,

        You are repeating your claim that it’s unique. I’m repeating my claim that it’s not and that the proof of uniqueness is not valid. I may accept that my claim is not absolutely certain, because I cannot absolutely know that something new would prove me wrong. I’m, however, fully certain that your representation does not provide such a proof.

        In some of your text you are using a division of the phase space to a finite number of volumes. The outcome depends then on the way the division is done. More generally the outcome depends on the measure of phase space volumes.

        I’m a physicist and my use of the term phase space comes from the way it’s used in theoretical physics (quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics). That usage can be generalized to other fields of science, but I’m not planning to discuss that in more detail here.

        If you wish to discuss my points an your proof further, you may contact me by email. You should be able to find my email address from my web page. You may also write to the page “Random topics” on my pages. (I’m rather busy/off next week. Thus it may take time before I react.)

      • Pekka (August 26, 2011 at 1:20):

        Before ending my participation in this thread, I’ll share my impressions of your degree of apprehension of modern information theory. This is that you are ignorant of the portion of the content that relates to the problem of theorizing. Thus, though you agree that it would be wise to build models in such a way as to express all of the available information but no more, you would be incapable of doing so yourself or of recognizing a model that had been built in this manner by others.

  61. Just went through the Canadian you-tube posted by cwon14.

    Ouch! This was a front-loaded panel of bureaucrats and academics with Judith the only member representing climate science who also seemed relatively neutral and objective.

    The recurring theme by everyone there was that the scientists have done their job, now it’s time for the policy-makers to act (i.e. “the science is settled”). Judith disagreed with this, pointing out that the science is still uncertain and that a scientific discussion is still relevant.

    The role of emotions versus reason was discussed with most panel members agreeing that emotions played a role in policy-making but not in science.

    Most panel members thought it was OK for scientists to also be activists or to express their findings forcefully (i.e. James Hansen, et al.). JC stated that most scientists ignore politics; some are activists – but then one questions their science.

    One panel member went as far as saying that scientists did their job in 1988 (referring to JH testimony before US Congress), but that there is now a counter-attack from economic forces to undermine the science.

    The short-term view of politicians versus longer-term thinking of scientists was discussed briefly, as was the linking of extreme weather events (most snow in Washington since 1889) with global warming. One panel member felt climate scientists face the dilemma that they cannot say that a single extreme weather event is linked to climate change, even though they know the trend of more extreme weather events is linked. Another attempted to rationalize the idea that the Washington snow could have been caused by human-induced climate change.

    JC pointed out that extreme weather (such as Katrina) cannot be attributed scientifically to global warming, but that “pitching the extremes” has been used to get attention.

    To the question of whether Climategate has damaged the credibility of climate science, all (except JC) agreed that Climategate was a “blip” and felt it was another case of “pushback” by interest groups (similar to the acid rain and Great Lakes pollution stories of the past), with climate scientists being attacked viciously but defending themselves well. One panel member rationalized that Himalayagate was a case where WG1 got it right, but WG2 got it wrong and that hacking the e-mails was done with an agenda to undermine the science.

    JC pointed out that scientists should not be activists but that better engagement between scientists and policy-makers is needed, otherwise one gets alarmism and exaggeration (as happened).

    To the opinions expressed on Climategate, JC disagreed and pointed out that credibility is a combination of expertise and trust. Both have been put into question by Climategate and once trust is lost, it is very difficult to regain it. She felt that the libertarian groups who are opposing the IPCC view are not out to destroy the scientists, in her opinion, but simply feel that the case [for catastrophic AGW] has not been laid out. She started to say that she has found that the oil companies are not funding libertarian think tanks, but was then interrupted by the moderator to move to closing remarks.

    These were that scientists are more afraid today, as the data and facts are there (i.e “the science is settled”), that Climategate is a short-term “blip” (like the Tylenol scare), that the only unsettled part of the science regards the impacts of AGW and that those debating against the mainstream science are similar to those debating evolution.

    A pretty one-sided discussion, except for the lone voice from JC (the only climate scientist on board).

    I personally feel that JC expressed her own position well but could have stated her case more strongly (as she did last fall before US Congress), i.e. that the science is NOT settled (there is still great uncertainty), that AGW (even in its worst case) does NOT represent an existential threat to humanity or our environment and that we would do better to clear up the many uncertainties before we start to implement actions whose effects on climate are not clear and whose unintended consequences we cannot fully evaluate today.

    That’s my take.


    • That’s a fair critique Max. A little too moderate in how “ouch!” and socially offensive the participants were but fair.

      Again, I’m back to the thoughts of Albert Speer in terms of Dr. Curry. Your statement;

      “that the science is NOT settled (there is still great uncertainty), that AGW (even in its worst case) does NOT represent an existential threat to humanity or our environment and that we would do better to clear up the many uncertainties before we start to implement actions whose effects on climate are not clear and whose unintended consequences we cannot fully evaluate today.”

      This overstates the wimpy, nuanced and minimized views of Dr. Curry by
      a good amount. The clip to the trained eye shows exactly how radical and arrogant the AGW insiders really are. It’s only by that comparison can Dr. Curry come out looking somewhat “good”. It’s all a sad state of comparison
      that we are dealing with. Just as history often tries to treat Albert Speer, Mikhail Gorbachev or for that matter Bill Clinton. Somehow being a moderate moonbat in a world of insane moonbats gets reverence beyond what is just. “she could have stated more strongly”, she didn’t state at all! If you diidn’t know her work in more detail you wouldn’t have any evidence other than squirming on TV to certain extremes of the shows other panel what you stated above which is a gross enhancement of her position. Regardless I’m glad you commented on the clip and think it more worth discussing than another over blown discussion of what words like “certainty”, “settled” and heaven help us “likely” might mean. To be dragged into the academic minutia and comedy of word nuances that surround the AGW cult yet again. It’s like a do-it-yourself root canal field guide and totally obfuscates the real forces of the debate. At some point you have to realize Dr. Curry is part of the obfuscation process regardless of comparative moderation.

      • cwon14

        The statement by JC, which I paraphrased, came directly from her testimony before a US congressional committee last fall.

        There she stated:

        Anthropogenic climate change is a theory whose basic mechanism is well understood, but whose magnitude is highly uncertain.

        She stated that there is ignorance about what is known and what is not known about natural climate variability and the feedback processes.

        To the threat from global climate change she said:

        The threat from global climate change does not seem to be an existential one on the time scale of the 21st century even in its most alarming incarnation.

        And to implementing mitigation schemes she said:

        It seems more important that robust policy responses be formulated rather than to respond urgently with policies that may fail to address the problem and whose unintended consequences have not been adequately explored.

        This all seems pretty straightforward to me, even though a rational skeptic of the IPCC AGW premise could parse the words and conclude that it was too “wishy-washy”.

        In the Canadian panel discussion she was less forceful on these points, but her comments went into that direction, as well, IMO.


      • If more scientists would have the doggedness for facts the Dr. Curry demonstrates, climate science would not be suffering from the huge loss of credibility that is occurring.

      • The days of “gee wiz reducing carbon is noble” when there isn’t a rational replacement technology are over. The huge damages in not correctly managing real world energy due to the contraints of the eco-fringe as mainstream are rather obvious. The same is even more true for central planning and UN assumption of authority especially driven by an elite science excuse. All the trappings should be wiped away and decentralized.

        Dr. Curry panders in your citation;

        “It seems more important that robust policy responses be formulated rather than to respond urgently with policies that may fail to address the problem and whose unintended consequences have not been adequately explored.”

        Why enable the same structures at all? They should be dismissed and eliminated from power. The slippery slope of rational regulations of known problems in industry (SO2 for example) created the very systems rule through fake issues of speculative AGW fear mongering. Pandering to this authority is destructive in itself.

        By not coming out directly and discussing the eco-cabal of AGW Dr. Curry is an enabler as well as a detractor. It deserves credit and criticism that is often sadly lacking from sceptics who should demand more but don’t.

      • cwon14

        I agree fully that the Canadian broadcast was totally one-sided and that most of the panel members (excluding our host here) appeared arrogant and opinionated (repeating “the science is settled” over and over, without using those exact words).

        Could our host have come on more forcefully against these stuffed shirts?


        But she chose not to do so for her own reasons, which I will not question.

        I think she is trying very hard to get a dialog going between the reasonable people on both sides of this scientific debate.

        Just look at this site: that’s not an easy job.

        Maybe there is no way to have a reasonable debate as long as there are such opinionated broadcasts as the one from Canada.

        I personally think that IPCC (a political body, charged with the task of exploring the dangers from human-induced climate change) has fundamentally corrupted the process of climate science, a strong insider group of “consensus” scientists have been instrumental in this corruption (and caught by Climategate and ensuing revelations), politicians such as Al Gore have seen the opportunity to be the savior of the planet (at the same time cashing in on the craze), a bunch of “fellow-travelers” (such as the Canadian panel of bureaucrats and academics and the political heads of many scientific organizations) have jumped on the bandwagon to proclaim “the science is settled”, all based on what Willis Eschenbach has called “crappy” model simulations that are only as good as the input assumptions, which have been programmed in by computer jockeys (who are no more intelligent or knowledgeable than you or I). At the same time, the general public has lost trust in this circus and the media (who once pounced on disaster predictions like a bee on honey) are now dropping the story, much to the dismay of the various politicians, activists.and lobby groups that are trying to keep the hysteria alive (see Mencken) for their own personal reasons.

        Judith may today believe some or all of what I believe but, if so, she is more diplomatic in expressing it (as she probably should be in her position).


  62. Our Gav I says tell Eric he’s a bad boy saying our Judy has jumped into unscience. I knows you boys at Unreal climate have a strawman post about volcanoes but is it right for Eric The Red to let of steam at our Jude?

  63. 1.Delay to gather more information and conduct more studies in the hope of reducing uncertainty across a spectrum of risk;
    2. Interrelate risk and uncertainty to target critical uncertainties for priority further analysis, and compare technology and development options to determine whether clearly preferable options exist for proceeding;
    3.Enlarge the knowledge base for decisions through lateral thinking and broader perspective;

    I realize I’ve said my piece about this, but I just want to draw everyone’s attention to the silliness of a model that says that we need perfect information to make a rational decision, and we don’t usually have it, and troubleshooting strategies #1-#3 amount to “gather more information.” Thinking like this is how the term “paralysis by analysis” entered the popular lexicon.

    • Robert

      – Ready

      – Fire

      – Aim

      – (Ouch! – my foot hurts.)

    • Think of how many AGW demanded policies have worked as claimed.

      • Ooops,
        Let me make this as a question:
        Can you please list the AGW policies that have worked to mitigate CO2 or otherwise modify the Earth’s climate?

      • Let me make this as a question:
        Can you please list the AGW policies that have worked to mitigate CO2 or otherwise modify the Earth’s climate?

        Hunter, it’s really too bad you weren’t using this line of reasoning back in 1968 about the absurd amounts of money being spent to land humans on the moon. You could have said “Could you please list the policies that have worked to land a man on the moon?” You would have had them stumped. Just think of the money you would have saved the US by talking them out of it that way.

        Today you could save home-construction lenders a ton of money with the argument to each would-be first-time home builder, “Could you please list the homes you have built?”

        Likewise for first-time research grant applicants: “Could you please list your successful sponsored research projects?”

        Parents applying to enroll their child in kindergarten: “Could you please send transcripts of your child’s academic career to date?”

        This is a brilliant line of attack. However did you come up with it?

      • Vaughan

        Your analogy between the CAGW craze and the drive to put someone on the moon is poor.

        – The CAGW craze does not have an identifiable goal.

        – It does not define or suggest actionable plans of how to achieve that goal.


    • Robert, excellent link that you offer below.

      Integrative decisions about resources and priorities have been made and are being made in relation to climate change, both domestically and internationally, and the approach is basically RPD.

      RPD-based decision-making supports stronger immediate action in relation to both mitigation and adaptiation planning, and is favoured due to current uncertainties – not the other way around. Smithson’s toolbox, like RPD, leads to the same sort of conclusion.

      Both the RPD approach and Smithson’s are self-conscious frameworks that include elements of sequential decision-making, and analysis of issues such as assumption-based reasoning, incomplete information, conflict, and time constraints. Both are dynamic and informed by multi-disciplinary perspectives, social and economic and technological issues, and changing conditions – as well as scientific knowledge.


      • John Carpenter

        Nice to see you came back Martha, I knew you would.

        RPD appears to be suitable for a single person making a quick decision in typically emergency situations. Experience also a appears to be an important factor. I am not seeing how this decision making style fits in with the AGW problem of making decisions. We have no experience, a single person (or even a small group of people) will not be making the decisions and it’s debatable we are in an emergency situation. Any further thoughts?

      • RPD appears to be suitable for a single person making a quick decision in typically emergency situations.

        Let’s start with where we agree: Do you agree that conventional decision analysis does not describe how most decisions are arrived at, nor should we use it in all cases?

        If you agree RPD is useful to experts in emergencies, then logically, you must agree to this.

        If you agree to this, then I think you will agree that we cannot assume that a good decision making process has all of the elements asserted above. Therefore if you want to argue our “deep ignorance,” based on the absence of one or more of those factors, then you need to show that dealing with climate change is a situation in which decision analysis is the sole “good” or rational basis for decision-making.

      • John Carpenter

        Robert, your reply makes no sense to me…. dumb it down for my simple mind please.

      • Sorry if I wasn’t expressing myself well. As simply as possible, then, the argument quoted starts with this:

        Here is a simplified list of criteria for “good” (i.e., rational) decisions under risk:

        Good decisions under risk never meet the impossible decision-analysis fantasy that follows. Therefore it is not especially meaningful or useful to treat them as a gold standard of decision-making.

        In RPD, people make decisions in a very different way, and this is much more effective than the method prescribed by decision analysis in those situations. So whether or not RPD as a method is how we ought to address AGW, the fact that it exists and is used to make good decisions suggests that the assertion that the passage opens with (“good” decisions meet all these criteria) is false.

        OK, second point: while RPD is useful in emergencies, it is also useful in other circumstances. Chess players use it, so do stock traders.

        There are elements of the model that may inform how we think about climate change, but the most important thing about it, and the reason I introduced it as an example, is that it is a theory of decision making based on actually observing people make decisions, in contrast to decision analysis, which prescribes a method of making decisions which is not based in how people actually make decisions, but rather in how the theorist thinks they should. We should look to observations first.

  64. Whoops, published the second comment first. First comment:

    Here is a simplified list of criteria for “good” (i.e., rational) decisions under risk: . . .

    This prescription comes from decision analysis, and is based in logic, not evidence. There is no evidence that human beings can or should make decisions in this way. Indeed, the very premise is self-contradictory. “Good” decisions require an impossible amount of information:

    Your decision should be based on the possible consequences of all possible outcomes.
    You must be able to rank all of the consequences in order of preference and assign a probability to each possible outcome.

    Try that the next time a car is barreling down on you in the street or a doctor asks for permission to do surgery.

    In non-trivial decisions, this prescription requires a vast amount of knowledge, computation, and time.

    In other words, it is totally impractical and hence a useless standard. It is the sort of process for which you would have to build a universe-sized computer to reach any conclusions about this one.

    In many situations at least one of these requirements isn’t met, and often none of them are.

    All situations, pretty much (hence its not very rational to try and use this supposedly rational model!), so where to we go from there? Well, we might start with a model based in how actual people make actual decisions, such as RPD (

    Dr Curry, I’m glad to see you have an interest in this area and am excited to see what you post on the subject. If I could make one suggestion, to would be not to take the assertions of decision analysis (points 1#-4#) at face value. They describe how a smart computer program makes decisions, not how people do, or even can. But there are other rational ways to make decisions. I recommend “Sources of Power” (Klein):

    • RPD is for quick decisions. How is that relevant to climate? RPD is like triage at a hospital. Google harder Robert

      • Sorry, Kermy, but it’s obvious by your comment that you are ignorant of RPD, and embarrassing yourself as a result. Time to get over your Google hard-on, and do some actual reading on the subject, if you know how. ;)

    • Try that the next time the radical surgeons of climate change advise emergent surgery, the main side effect of which is the destruction of the developed economy.

  65. Cwon14, how do you change what you used to believe? She has always stated that before she engaged skeptics she believed the oil shill cliches. Note that in the context I am using oil shill cliches an example would be: if you disagree with the scientists you are just a shill for the oil companies.

  66. Judith,

    Uncertainty as an excuse generates deception.
    Who will give funding to research that will have an uncertain conclusion?
    So, all scientists will be certain their conclusions are fact.

    • Hear, hear. Only questions whose answers are already known should be funded. If the funding agencies don’t know how the answers are going to turn out, they have no idea what consequences may follow. Funding the unknown is the height of irresponsibility in research sponsorship.

      • Vaughan Pratt

        What you say in irony (or versions thereof) has been said sincerely within my hearing on more than one occassion, and by people in positions to decide such things on a largish scale.

  67. Anyone interested in what happens when governments take “precautions” (i.e. spend taxpayers money and interfere with people’s habits) against “Big Scary Predictions That Haven’t Yet Happened” (including such worthy predecessors to AGW as Eugenics and the appalling Al Gore’s earler messianic folly, DDT), see

    – it’s not encouraging.

    The result tends to be that worthless and costly legislation festers on the statute books, because although nobody believes the scare any more, so many did during its currency that it can’t be openly disavowed.

  68. Please could Pekka or anyone else up on the radiative physics of the atmosphere help me understand the interaction of radiatively active gases like co2 and h2o with 99% of the rest of the molecules in the Air.

    CA contibutor ‘Bugs’ said in 2008
    “Why do nitrogen and oxygen (together forming 99 per cent of the atmosphere), not figure in the greenhouse effect equations? IPCC AR4 says simply: “These gases have only limited interaction with the incoming solar radiation and they do not interact with the infrared radiation emitted by the Earth.” This is the only mention I can find on this issue in AR4 (with no reference given). This seems too simplistic, so I must be missing something. They absorb energy, can retain heat and have a temperature.”

    They must be involved in collisions with excited co2 and h2o molecules, thus raising their temperature and the pressure in the atmosphere, causing it to expand.

    Won’t this have the effect of assisting more rapid convection from the surface, and also raise the temperature of the atmosphere at altitude? If extra long wave bouncing around in the atmosphere increases the temperature of the air in general through molecular collision, won’t that mitigate the fact that radiation to space must occur from a higher altitude in response to increased GHE? How much does that and the speeded up convection offset the predicted energy imbalance due to radiation to space taking place at a higher altitude?


    • go read ray’s books. take a class. there is no shortcut, no magic comment in the cloud that will help you.

      • Hi Mosh,
        Having seen the disgsting sort of behaviour Ray P descends to in attacking people like Roy Spencer and M. Courtillot, and the egregious errors/mistruths he emplys in attempting it, I have no trust in the guy.

    • tallbloke

      “In order to absorb infrared radiation, a molecular vibration must cause a change in the dipole moment of the molecule. O2, N2 and H2 do not absorb IR light.”

      (Symmetrical vibration of identical atoms causes no change in dipole moment.)
      Infrared Spectroscopy

      For “floppy” assymetric molecules like CO2 and H2O see: Greenhouse Gases Absorb Infrared Radiation

      Heat to/from CO2 and H2O in turn is transferred to O2, N2 and Ar via kinetic energy – impact equilibration to the same temperature.

      • Thanks David, it’s that last part I’m interested in. Apparently, The IPCC thinks it’s unimportant.

        “These gases have only limited interaction with the incoming solar radiation and they do not interact with the infrared radiation emitted by the Earth.”

        Uh-huh. And what about their interaction with the molecules which do interact with the infrared radiation emitted by the Earth??

      • It’s not unimportant, but it’s so self-evident for people working in the field that they don’t see any reason to discuss that.

        IPCC reports are not basic textbooks, they are compilations and assessments of the state of science.

      • At any time between appealing for help in understanding basic concepts in physics and sneering at the scientists whose work form the basis for the IPCC’s report, does it ever occur to you that perhaps you do not yet have the knowledge needed to understand and critique their work?

        This is like someone who asks for help determining which pedal is “gas” and which one is “brake” and then launches into abuse of the tactics of Formula One drivers.

        Doubtless there are many ideas in climate science which are wrong, and many things that are left out, but you will not discover any of them in this way. Educate your intuition with the basic science, and then you will be ready for your attempt to shaky the edifice to its foundations.

      • Looks like you are indulging in a little sneering of your own there Robert.

        If you want to understand the basis of my question, take a look at the easy to understand comment left by Leonard Weinstein on this thread at comment #17
        Then read the last few paragraphs of comment #45

      • Robert

        Climate is a complex field involving many disciplines, many unknowns within those disciplines and many processes that occur across boundaries of disciplines. Integrating knowledge and building a conceptual model of Earth systems – is an immensely difficult task and one for which we are as yet ill equipped. Conceptual models are the basis of any effective numerical modelling – and the ones we have are a 1000 times too simple. In climate – we have physicists talking about biology, oceanographers talking solar physics, hydrologists talking about plant stomata, atmospheric physicists talking about geology, etc. A little humility is called for.

        See for instance this article on seamless modelling of weather and climate – – requiring 1000 times more computing power.

        I have an improved visualisation of energy dynamics in the atmosphere as a result of this discussion. Perhaps you already have a complete understanding – but it is best for the rest of us if silly questions can be asked without climate war point scoring. Okay?


      • Heat to/from CO2 and H2O in turn is transferred to O2, N2 and Ar via kinetic energy – impact equilibration to the same temperature.

        Because of structural considerations of the CO2 molecule (non-spherical) should it not be possible to impart more energy to adjacent molecules than what was absorbed by IR? Think of a tumbling football vs a spinning sphere (cue ball).

    • N2 and O2 don’t emit or absorb IR to a significant extent for two reasons. One reason is that they are symmetric two-atomic molecules, which don’t have electric dipole moment that’s needed for strong interaction with electromagnetic radiation. O2 does have a magnetic dipole moment, which allows it to absorb and emit weakly microwaves. The other (and stronger in case of O2) reason is that they don’t have suitable vibrational states. Their vibrational states have too high energies to be excited by thermal collisions and their rotational states have too low energies to allow significant energy transfer.

      They act as storage of thermal energy. When CO2 and H2O absorb energy that goes mainly to this storage through collisions. That storage also keeps a certain temperature dependent share of CO2 and H2O continuously in such excited states that can radiate. All molecules have equal distributions of kinetic energy (Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution). All vibrational and rotational states have continuously occupancies that are proportional to exp(-E/kT) where E is the excitation energy, k Boltzmann’s constant and T temperature. The molecules get excited and de-excited in collisions which are going on all the time. Some of the excited molecules emit radiation before they are de-excited by collision. That share varies with density of air. In lower atmosphere the share is something like 1/10000, but it gets much higher in stratosphere.

      Being a storage of thermal energy they can also transfer that energy through convection.

      • Pekka, thank you. That’s a nice clear exposition. I could see that the ratio of collision to emission must change at higher altitudes in the atmosphere simply by the fact that the energy of the atmosphere has to be radiated to space rather than conducted or convected.

      • The ratio collisional de-excitation and emission depends only on the frequency of collisions, because the rate of emission by a fixed number of molecules in excited state is always the same. When the average time to emission is the same as the average time to the next collision, the molecule emits at probability of 50%, but then the number of excitation by absorbing radiation is the the same, if the temperature is constant over wide enough area. Thus both the excitation and the de-excitation are then half by collision and half by radiation. Such situation may occur somewhere in the stratosphere.

        In lower atmosphere the collisions dominate both, but the rate of radiative processes is the same as in the stratosphere for the same number of molecules if the temperature is the same (which is mostly not the case, but is possible due to heating by UV).

  69. Dr. Curry,
    I’ve been wondering, does GHG theory describe the temperature difference between the tops and bottoms of mountains better than the gravity/pressure theory?

  70. The Vanderbilt conference addressed this issue: Get that uncertainty off the road, we have adapting to do!

    Despite the uncertainties surrounding climate change, it is time to start developing effective strategies that will keep the nation’s transportation systems and other critical infrastructure running in the face of the adverse impacts that seem increasingly likely to occur. . . .
    Reasons for current lack of action

    The summit discussions identified several reasons for the current lack of action: 1) uncertainty in the timing and magnitude of climate change; 2) insufficient knowledge of how these changes will impact the performance of critical infrastructure systems; 3) the succession of short-term crises that deflect attention and resources; and, 4) lack of political leadership.

    So far, the federal government has focused almost exclusively on mitigation: . . .
    “Regardless of the success of mitigation efforts, we will need to adapt.

    • “increasingly likely to occur”

      Other than what can be explained by natural cycles of weather, how is this statement valid?

      Maybe should invest in asteroid mitigation instead? It might fail given the size of the problem ahead but there is much better science on labeling that a risk than co2.

    • Every dollar spent on CO2 mitigation is a wasted dollar.
      Adaptation to the climate is the only starategy that will work.
      Mitigation has been a goose chase of historic proportions.

  71. Harold H Doiron

    I think my “first steps” to address the question, “What should we do now about Climate Change” posted under a previous related thread on Aug. 19, 2011,
    line up pretty well with Kasperson’s List; but instead, draw upon my favorite book on problem solving and decision making, “The New Rational Manager”, by Kepner and Tregoe. Actually, my training in their processes which took place in the early to mid- 1970’s came from their original book, “The Rational Manager” which is now out of print, but I ordered used copies through about 3 years ago. As a middle manager in energy and aerospace industries, I have always trained my employees in these efficient, successful rational-thinking and trouble-shooting methods.

  72. I’m sorry I don’t understand where you are coming from with this article. We have a well tested system for making systems in the absence of knowledge and it is called “politics”. A few pointers to what works well:

    Impartial evidence. In any political system it is essential to have a system of gathering the evidence which is totally and absolutely reliable. This is as true of “science” (as it was) or the police or public statistics. The idea is that we have to pay people to put aside their personal political viewpoints and set out to gather robust evidence (unlike some in climate “science”).

    Then we have what we call “political debate”, which is really a way of publicly airing the various possible interpretations and challenging those interpretations and arguing the robustness of those interpretation (although some try to bypass this by e.g. rigging the argument with a the “science is settled”).

    So, long as we have a clear demarcation between reliable evidence from impartial experts and partisan debate between politicised viewpoints, the system works well (as good as it can in the absence of certainty). But where the evidence is corrupted by partisan research, where the debate is skewed to prevent one side being heard, where the stakes are so stacked against one side being able to put its case then the result is almost invariably a form of groupthink … the development and maintenance of a false paridigm of reality based not on the evidence but instead gathering the evidence which supports a particular viewpoint and rejecting all the evidence against.

    In private life, the real test of any decision is where you have an intelligent hostile view that seeks to pick apart your arguments and that decision is judged by an impartial audience … which I suppose is precisely what a public debate is or a jury. Which is why climate “science” will not have a public debate and has turned tail at everyone opportunity to have its assertions tested before a jury.

    • Good points. Global warming is not a problem but fear of it is.

      Politicians that engage in fearmongering and pusing climate porn onto children for ideologically-motivated purposes are not interested in truth. Charlatans and flimflammers have zero to do with the scientific method and place no value in truth for it’s own sake.

      The Leftists of global warming alamism are not interested in the people. We have example after example of people who were willing to use any means to acheive the secular, socialist Utopia that they desired and it has always led to more misery, poverty and death.

      • Wagothon … as a cynic of all politicians, you put me in an invidious position because I have to defend the role of politicians. If everyone has fair access to the best possible evidence, then not only doesn’t it matter if politicians try to put whatever spin they can on those facts, but in a world where there is a real lack of evidence, such “fearmongering and pusing climate porn” are part of the constructive debate testing the believability of each side which is the only way I know to assess such complex uncertain questions.

        The problem with the climate debate is not the (scumbag) politicians … it is the people who claim to be “scientists” who have so distorted the collection and presentation of the evidence that no one can trust what they say. IT IS “SCIENTISTS” WHO ACT AS POLITICIANS — who distort the process of peer review, who distort the system of funding to prevent research contrary to their zealotry, it is the wholesale distortion of the debate to meet their eco-political ends and the total disregard for scientific ethics and impartiality which is to blame.

        If we had robust impartial evidence fairly available to all and researchers looking for the best evidence (and not evidence to fit their politics) then it wouldn’t matter if we people like Gore or even rogue elements like Mann or Hansen going on some eco-crusade based on hot air because everyone would know it was based on hot and not facts.

        But this isn’t a fair debate, the resources are wholly skewed toward one political group which if it were politics we would all recognise as a one-party state that brooks no opposition.

      • And, that puts me in the hopeless position of defending the impossible: the Education Industrial Complex, which is fascist to the core.

        Part of the explanation is academia. “Foremost among the institutions that promote the state of fear are American universities. The modern State of Fear could never exist without universities feeding it. There is a peculiar neo-Stalinist mode of thought that is required to support all this, and it can only thrive in a restrictive setting, behind closed doors, without due process. In our society, only universities have created that—so far. The notion that these institutions are liberal is a cruel joke. They are fascist to the core…” (Crichton, 2004, p. 459).

        Bertrand Russell gives the governmental-education complex an “F” for failing to teach that science by ‘consensus’ is no science at all and that fabricating a ‘consensus” about global warming in the name of science is liberal fascism.

        “The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.” (Bertrand Russell)

        Oh what a demoralizing thought for the Leftist-libs. Support for their half-baked science of global warming alarmism is drying up.

        Soon these ‘true believers’ of AGW will have to return to hyping concerns about the environment along with the enviro-whackpots — and, all of the rest of us who really care instead of just yipping and yapping about it.

        Of course, this will be a big fall to Earth for the Leftist-libs who in their delusions of grandeur enjoyed so much seeing themselves totally invested in saving the Earth from the evil business of capitalism; and, in particular, saving nature from Western civilization; and, in particular, saving humanity from capitalistic, Judeo/Christian, industrialized America: keeper of the torch of individual liberty and the only active participant on the globe supporting people yearning for freedom from tyranny, despotism, atheism and liberal fascism.

      • Yes, so why are we hanging on every spagetti chart to be debunked while the IPCC consensus makers political cultures remain undisclosed as a rule?

    • Scottish Sceptic,
      Well said.

  73. IPCC pdfs are essentially fake.

    imo Invoking the precautionary principle is never appropriate.

  74. Here is a comment/news item about a democracy reducing property rights and increasing central power in order to achieve reductions in CO2 output.

    An editorial is “news” if it contains information that you have not heard before. This has links to analysis of the laws.

    • “Here is a comment/news item about a democracy reducing property rights . . .”

      Ah, a property rights absolutist. Very good. I do not grant you, or anyone, permission to pollute my property with CO2. That is a violation of my property rights, and as such an act of violence. As a violent criminal, you have chosen to surrender certain rights you formerly held, including your property. During your probation, you will be supervised to insure you do not violate my property rights again. Thanks! :)

      • Ah, a property rights absolutist.

        Not an absolutist. Just alert. The government can increase its power over the environment without protecting what you want it to protect.

  75. So how many here think Dr. Curry should set a good example to the consensus and discuss her general world political view?

    How many think it should be disclosed for each IPCC member?

    I say yes to both.

    • Yes and yes.


    • I do not think it is relevant to the science and imo policy decisions should be decided upon the merits of the position

    • i’ve already done that. Independent. I took the online political litmus test that we played with a few months ago, I scored centrist with libertarian leanings.

      • I don’t think online tests tell us what we want to know. I’d like to know from where specifically Dr. Curry thinks the UN/IPCC derives their authority.


      • Would you describe the “consensus” as left, right or center using the U.S. as comparative model example?

    • Really? How about favorite colors, foods, and movies? Sheesh.

      • And let’s not forget, favorite Spice Girl.

      • I didn’t want to bring up religion.

      • It’s easy to make light of it but it misses the important point. AGW is an operational of the eco-left culture.If surveyed at the IPCC it would be revealed as much. Hence, it’s similar make-believe that “objective journalists” have been claiming for 50 years when in fact most of the circulation is dominated by the left. They all think alike, vote alike and generally are on the far end of the movement.

        Why not be honest and admit it? Because of the political consequences.

      • It’s generally easier to make light of the ridiculous than of the sublime.

        I mean, how would you survey the party membership of the IPCC members who aren’t American? Oh, wait, I forgot, all foreigners are automatically lefties.

        Special pleading that science is ‘operational’ of one party or another and so some science should be exposed to different standards than others is ludicrous on its face.

        It’s like curmudgeonly arguing that prices are unfair because of the math being on the side of vendors, and we all know mathematicians are always Democrats, or that the telescope ought be banned because it shows things that aren’t in religious tract, or worse, all the telescope makers are Republicans.

        Is Mitt Romney one of the eco-left culture? Seriously?

        I’ve met a lot of journalists, sat down with them in the 1970’s while they drank with both fists and chain smoked, or in the 80’s when they drank one-handed and got younger and less into tobacco over time, or the 90’s when they were Beemer babies, and since then when they got religion, when they expressed their personal views off the record.

        There’s no wavy gravy in that lot, or if there is, there’s far less than in the general population.

        The leftie press has been a myth for over a century.

        Why be dishonest and claim it? Because the truth is against you?

        Or because some people who can use logic are in a different political party?

      • ‘All the News That’s Left to Print’.

      • BlueIce2HotSea

        Bart R – “The leftie press has been a myth for over a century.”

        Well, I did read that poll where Washington news bureau chiefs and reporters revealed that they voted for Pres. Clinton in higher percentages than did registered Democrats. 5% self-identified as Republican.

        Someone is repeating a myth myth (and it is not me).

      • Wasn’t there a poll just like that one that had similar results for Reagan?

        The statistical significance of a single poll is small, and tends to tell varying stories depending on interpretation.

        Let’s face it, the narrative of Clinton — that you can drink hard so long as you drink quiet, that you can smoke so long as you don’t inhale, that you can chase pretty girls so long as your beautiful family doesn’t find out — would appeal to members of the press. Why wouldn’t they vote for him?

        Famous lefties in the media like Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdoch.. Oops, forgot, they’re not lefties. But how can that be? Aren’t all people in the media socialists?

        They’re just people of similar composition to larger society in white collar jobs. If you’re afraid of ideas polluting your purity because they’ve passed through pinko hands or mouths, you’ve got some paranoia issues. Just like if you have such worries about scientiests.

        I mean, if what cwon14 says is true, then we should put screenwriters and studios and actors under the microscope. Maybe we should have congressional hearings on the red menace in Washington and Hollywood and academia?

        Sure it’s been tried before and failed and got a bit of a black eye, but it can be done better with new technology.

        You could implant chips in actors and writers, scientists and bureacrats, and have Homeland Security record them 24×7, just so we can be sure they’re pure and balanced.

        It seems a reasonable infringement on the privacy of people who want to influence our opinions, doesn’t it?

        We wouldn’t want to be fooled by people with secret agendas, now, would we?

      • What evah Nona wants, Nona gets.

      • Best line of all, which earned him jail time for Contempt of Congress: ‘I could tell you, but I’d hate myself in the morning’.

      • Anyone care to help translate for the kim-impaired?

        The Lola/Nona thing is throwing me off. (

        All I’ve got on the second allusion is:

        “It depends on the circumstances,” I told him. “I could answer it, but if I did, I would hate myself in the morning.”

        With that sentiment, I had exhausted Thomas’s patience. “Leave the witness chair,” he commanded.

        When I again protested my desire to testify, he pounded his gavel in exasperation. “Leave the witness chair!”

        “I think I am leaving by force,” I said.

        “Sergeant, take the witness away!” he ordered. And the sergeant did so.

        It was my first and, I had every reason to assume, my last encounter with Congressman Thomas. Three years later, however, we confronted each other as fellow inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, where I had been sentenced to one year for the misdemeanor of not answering his questions satisfactorily.

        The blue prison fatigues hung loosely on the weary, perspiring man I met crossing the prison quadrangle. In the same costume, I felt that I looked comparatively dapper after eight hours of mild stenographic labor in the Office of Classification and Parole. Thomas’s job as custodian of the chicken yard, while not exactly strenuous, had kept him in the August sun all day. He had lost a good deal of weight, and his face, smooth and scarlet at our last encounter, was now deeply lined and sallow, making him look ten years older. I recognized him, however, and he recognized me. We did not speak. How could either of us pick up where we left off? Since my conviction for Contempt of Congress, along with nine other Hollywood writers and directors, I had lost an appeal, and the Supreme Court had declined to review the constitutional issues in our case.

        During the same period, Thomas had been brought to trial for putting nonexistent workers on the government payroll and appropriating their salaries for himself. Offering no defense and throwing himself on the mercy of the court, he had received a mild sentence, later reduced by parole to an actual term of about nine months—three months less than my own stint.

      • Though it’s entirely irrelevant so far as I can tell, I still doubt it’s what kim means, but fun:

        From preface to _The Cruise of the Nona_ by Arthur Stanly, 5th Baron Sheffield, of Hilaire Belloc, a man so far left he warped the social space:

        “Time and again I have seen him throw out a sufficiently outrageous theory in order to stimulate his company, and, be it said, for the pleasure of seeing how slowly he might be dislodged from a position he had purposely taken up knowing it to be untenable…Of course Belloc was prejudiced, but there were few who knew him who did not love his prejudices, who did not love to hear him fight for them, and who did not honor him for the sincerity and passion with which he held to them. Once the battle was joined all his armoury was marshalled and flung into the fray. Dialectic, Scorn, Quip, Epigram, Sarcasm, Historical Evidence, Massive Argument, and Moral Teaching –of all these weapons he was a past master and each was mobilised and made to play its proper part in the attack. Yet he was a courteous and a chivalrous man. A deeply sensitive man, his was the kindest and most understanding nature I have ever known. In spite of a rollicking and bombastic side he was as incapable of the least cruelty as he was capable of the most delicate sympathy with other people’s feelings.”

      • Very nice, Bart, & thanks. You got the 2nd; special for you the blue’s clue to the first is Lola.

      • It’s easy to make light of because it’s not deep enough to float a toothpick.

        Believe it or not, there are varied motivations across the entire spectrum of the debate. There really isn’t a Pol Pot in every Chicken Little. Pretending that it’s so is as useless and polarizing as the “every skeptic a shill for the oil industry meme”. Political litmus tests are the refuge of those incapable of thinking for themselves. As I stated in the Boomerangs thread, I can’t wait to see Chris Christy fire back on some unidimensional moron foolhardy enough to throw the RINO tag in his face.

    • cwon14,
      My take is that the political underpoinnings that may have influenced either side of the issue are not really relevant to the issue: are we going to suffer from a CO2 caused climate crisis?
      I have no interest in political litmus tests for either side of the climate crisis issue.
      I think it is much more illuminating to let each person sepak for themselves.
      What historiams will make of this, however, will be fascinating.

      • It isn’t a litmus test, it’s full disclosure of bias points. It’s fairly common understanding but the consensus reacts with complete disinformation when publically confronted.

        How is that honest.

  76. (I’m jumping in with some comments I posted on Smithson’s blog, before reading the hundreds here.)

    Some quick comments drawing on my experience as an economic policy adviser to the UK, Australian and Queensland governments.

    Lindblom’s suggestion that we know a decision or policy is good when there is consensus among policy-makers is nonsense. We might consider “good” policy to be that which best serves the broad public interest, whether defined as Pareto-optimal or by other criteria. Unfortunately, many policy-makers are not driven by public benefit considerations, and the consensus will tend to settle where it provides most benefit to the policy-makers themselves, e.g. in career-enhancement, avoidance of criticism and conflict, etc. I can quote many instances where agreed policy was clearly against the public interest, where demonstrations to that effect were ignored, and where the outcomes were clearly wealth-destroying. One example was the Australian Magnesium Smelter project, which collapsed with the loss of about $A480m of mainly public funding. I had demonstrated that the project, which had been mooted for ever 30 years without attracting commercial support, failed almost all criteria for viability, and directed CGE modelling which showed highly negative returns. The preferred client for the magnesium metal said, for similar reasons to mine, that it could never be viable in Australia. But promotions depended on getting the project up. No one was sanctioned when it collapsed.

    Re incrementalism, this is often an inferior choice. For example, the Australian economy was in dire straits in the early 1980s, largely from massively intrusive regulation and government direction and very high border protection. Incremental change was not a viable solution, the vested interests created by government intervention would fight each change all the way, and there would be little constituency for each specific change. Wholesale change was needed: the Hawke government engaged in this, floating the dollar, cutting quotas and tariffs, weakening IR regulation and pursuing a National Competition Policy. The benefits from these large-scale changes were significant and widespread. Where particular proposals met resistance, they could be seen as fair given the broad reform context and the gains arising from it: most of the “losers” in a specific case would share in broad gains and have wider opportunities than before. The reforms from the 1980s to early 2000s underpinned rapid growth in real incomes, opportunities and employment which would not have been possible with incrementalism.

    I don’t understand your points regarding getting rid of ignorance and uncertainty not always being a good idea. Of course, people are driven by many deep impulses, and may not be convinced by greater knowledge and reduced uncertainty. But surely they make it easier to gain support for “good” policy and to discredit options which are “bad” policy? Freedom of choice is not reduced by better information, but there is a better basis for choice.

    I endorse your remarks that there is virtue in relationships built on trust rather than contracts. In the CAGW issue (I came here from Climate Etc), the lack of trust is a major factor in people’s attitudes and choices. However, in my Queensland career, I was an outsider on the basis that I gave advice based on up-to-date professional knowledge, good data and good analysis, I was not trusted because this threatened the cosy, self-serving status quo. No one could fault my analysis or conclusions, but they preferred to ignore them and to conceal things from me. The in-group trusted each other, but this led to bad policy. Trust divorced from strong ethics and public-spiritedness may be of little value to society.

  77. “I took the online political litmus test that we played with a few months ago, I scored centrist with libertarian leanings.” JC

    You had to take an online test to be aware of your beliefs? That is scary.

    But correct: the views and beliefs about society, economics and politics revealed in all your commentary and posts place you in that loose ideological paradigm of American groupthink that includes Republicans, Libertarians and assorted Neo-liberals who call themselves ‘Centrists’, otherwise known as ‘Conservative’, in the rest of the world.

    The next step is to have some realism about how this affects your conceptualization of the problem of climate change, so that you can more intelligently debate the issues.

    • Martha,
      Try some of that introspection on yourself.
      Then get back to us and we can see if you ahve been more realistic in your self review than you have been regarding anything you have posted.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      It is more properly known as classic liberalism – to distinguish it from the American aberration. A classic liberal is far from a conservative – as can be seen from the Heyak essay – ‘Why I am not a conservative’. Classic liberalism has roots back to the Enlightenment – and in essence is concerned with free peoples and free markets. The core of the classical liberal model is in the concern for the rule of law, private property, free markets and – above all – democracy.
      There are reasonable actions by governments that impact on markets. This includes the very existince of Government – markets can no more operate in anarchy than under communism. A government sector something less than 30% of GDP is, however, optimum. Government determine, under constitutional constraints the rules under which markets operate – rules about labour, pollution, safety, fair markets, etc.

      But the world isn’t warming for a decade or three more – Kyoto has predictably failed – the world desperately needs food and energy growth at 3%/year for the rest of the century. Martha needs a new song and dance – one that will actually achieve someting of what she wants without boring the rest of us silly.

      Our Enlightenment heritage – precious above all else – is under ideological attack from fringe elements such as Martha. She calls us the enemy in her blog – so be it Martha.

      • The traditional meanings of conservative and liberal don’t really mean much any more. If you want to have an intelligent discussion of the current political climate, so you can understand what is happening in the US (and hopefully eventually elsewhere), it would help to have an actual understanding of what it means to be a conservative today. And while progressives, moderates, independents and libertarians all love to define conservatives in a way that demonstrates their intellectual superiority over the breed, here is one explanation of conservatism from someone who actually is one.

        “Conservative” does not mean to a modern conservative what it meant in Hayek’s time. Conservatism has been evolving with time, just as it has throughout western history. Conservatives in Hayek’s day were just coming to terms with the encroaching centralization of progressivism. Many of them did so poorly, hence Hayek’s distaste for the conservatives of his day. (Many in the modern Republican Party still want some melding of free markets with central planning, but these are not conservatives.) Modern conservatism still favors traditional principles and values, but has a better understanding of why those principles contribute to the public good, as well as the personal, thanks in large part to Hayek, Friedman and others.

        Conservative economic principles, the free market, were not designed by some supposedly brilliant scholar ala Marxism. Adam Smith did not create capitalism, he described it. Hayek did not create capitalism, he defended it against the arguments of the Marxists and progressives of his time. Capitalism/the free market evolved through trial and error over centuries. Through many fits and starts, the free market developed to the point where it created the freest, richest, most powerful, most generous society the world has ever known. And it did so without the guiding hand of some small group of elite central planners.

        It is no wonder that conservatives of Hayek’s era were unprepared for the wave of progressivism in the early 20th century, they took conservative principles as a given. You might as well ask a bird why it has wings, or a fish why it has gills. But the development of a more comprehensive defense of conservative economic principles was necessary to battle the inexorable encroachment of progressivism, and the development of that defense continues today.

        Similarly, on social/moral issues, whether one believes that Judeo-Christian morality originated from a divine source, or developed by trial and error over centuries, those principles of western society were also taken for granted by conservatives. They too were essential to the creation of the free, prosperous world we inherited from out ancestors.

        The valuing of principles and traditions that is the core of conservatism is based on humility. Just as man is not intelligent enough to centrally plan a large economy, he is also incapable of anticipating all of the unintended consequences of wholesale rejection of the morality that is the foundation of western culture.

        The welfare rules of the great Society are directly responsible for the decimation of the inner city black family. The so called “sexual revolution” has resulted in a sky rocketing level of single parent families with a corresponding rise in poverty among women and children and social pathologies throughout the culture. Eliminating western history and ethics from school curricula and instituting the moral relativism of multiculturalism has sapped the willingness of much of western society to defend itself.

        A rejection of traditional morality has the same risk as the rejection of traditional free market principles, and for the same reason. Man just isn’t intelligent enough to design a society, any more than he can design an economy. Libertarians get the concept of unintended consequences in the economic sphere, but are blind to them in the social/moral arena.

        (As an example, the sino-philes around here should wait about a decade or so to see the effects of China’s brutal one child policy, which has resulted in the abortion and infanticide of millions of girls, and has left millions of Chinese boys with no prospect of marriage when they grow to be men. Talk about unintended consequences, God help us when the Chinese government needs to put those angry young men to use somewhere….)

        Change will come, but the change must be through the slow, steady progress that has characterized the development of western society. That is the core of modern conservatism.

      • OK – a thoughtful reply. There are certain technical measures in free markets that should not be forgotten. These are to do with the size of the government sector, government debt, interest rates, laws as to the fairness of markets and prudential oversight. An active if limited role for government.

        Government has a role in enforcing a rule of law – the essential purpose of which is to constrain people from hurting other people either physically or materially. A classic liberal believes in free peoples able to chose their own intellectual and moral destiny, the rule of law, democracy, free markets and private property. Freedom has a resonance as clear as a bell.

        You seem willing as a point in principle to trust – within reason – the actors in markets but not the individual in society. To believe in free markets and not in a free people – is the falsest analogy of all. You in fact cannot resist great cultural shifts that will continue to occur – with increasing speed in the electronic age. You are wasting your time. What is your solution to cultural change – legislate against it? Let’s take gay marriage. We obviously have gays and they are not going away or being quiet. I think marriage is essentially a religious matter – sanctioned by religious institutions over 1000’s of years. To me that is an argument that government should vacate the field entirely – leaving marriage to churches and sanction civil unions for those who want it. I am sure that there are many churches where gay marriage would be acceptable – but what are you going to do? Legislate to stop the free practice of religion? I don’t think so.

        You may believe certain things – but there is no room in a western democracy to impose your moral or religious views on others by law. A personal relationship with God – or not – is the fruit of our reformation heritage. Freedom is our enlightenment heritage – not a conservative (or indeed progressive) imposition by fiat of a social agenda.

      • Your response demonstrates the inherent contradiction in claiming “you can’t legislate morality.”

        You write “You may believe certain things – but there is no room in a western democracy to impose your moral or religious views on others by law.” But you don’t really believe that. As a libertarian, you believe in legislating, using government coercion, to maximize liberty. Liberty is a moral precept, not an aspect of genetics or physics. I am always amused by libertarians, whose central organizing principle is a moral one, suggesting we cannot legislate morality.

        Use your own example of gay marriage. No one has sought to legislate a ban on gay marriage. Just the opposite. Those with a different agenda have been attempting to legislate the creation of a legal status that has never before existed, and to require others to accept that new status. It is progressives, and libertarians, who insist that society recognize this new legal status, and are willing to pass laws (on in the U.S. use judicial fiat) to force acceptance of that new status on everyone. How is that anything other than legislating morality?

        “We obviously have gays,” always have and always will. They make up approximately 2 -3% of the population. The percentage who would want to marry in monogamous relations is a smaller subset of that amount. And almost all states in the U.S. allow the creation of contracts that confer the same contractual benefits, access during illness, rights of inheritance, etc. of married heterosexual couples. This is the type of “great cultural shift” you are talking about?

        Take instead the broader issue of the entire “sexual revolution” that has done so much damage to women and children, which would be moer accurately described as a “great cultural shift.” The fact that this has coincided with the vast expansion of progressivism may be no coincidence. And the damage caused by both “shifts” is beyond question. But belief that such shifts are permanent is badly mistaken. The societal pendulum has swung between morality and license throughout human history. It is not likely to stop now because of the internet.

        The woman living in poverty with four children and no father/husband, is not experiencing liberty. I have represented hundreds of them in seeking support, stopping abuse, all the wonderful benefits of their new found “liberty.” The twelve thirteen year old girls my friend counsels in her pregnancy workshop have been taught that sexual freedom is their inherent right. It’s in all their tv shows, movies, music, magazines. Crack, heroine and methamphetamine addicts also experience anything but liberty. One such addict I knew was introduced to crack by his own mother, when she was 27 and he was 11. That young man will never know liberty in his lifetime.

        There is a difference between being a libertarian and a libertine. It is a distinction our society must learn again. The poor and uneducated are paying an enormous price for the great cultural shifts (both economic and moral) that our sophisticated elites have been inflicting on society for the last 50 years. Judging by the riots becoming more common place around the western world, the worst damage may not be limited to the poor and uneducated for much longer.

      • If one can talk about laws about nor stealing or murdering as a moral imposition – then you might be right. It isn’t – it is the organised threat of retribution.

        I have to admit to an emotional conflict about gay marriage – mostly it appears from outside to trivialise marriage. A dress up game with little underlying meaning. But as I say – I would leave the decision to organised religion – of whatever type.

        It is obviously not legal or moral to introduce children to drugs and people should take responsibility for their actions. I don’t really see that this changes anything – it is a emotional argument for what? What is the role of government in any of this? Apart from trying to pick up the pieces – usually too little too late.

        I am sure that people need a moral centre – but that is the realm of families and civil society and not government.

  78. Hayfoot or strawfoot
    Policiologee, haw?
    Can’t you keep in step?

  79. I would recommend to study John Boyd on decision making

    google OODA

    No you can’t make sound decisions based on nothing.

  80. BlueIce2HotSea

    Because it relates to the head-post (of decision-making while disadvantaged by ignorance), I want to expand upon my notion of the mysterious Judith Curry scale for rating blog comments.

    Whether evaluating blog comments or other thinly justified assertions, I think we all apply subjective weighting factors to those attributes of which we are most keenly sensitive. If the intuited composite score happens to cross a qualitative threshold, the claim is judged good or otherwise.

    As I have previously indicated, the Fred Moolten and David Wojick scales can be usefully described. However, the Judith Curry scale is mysterious. It is more complex because the weighting factors are not necessarily constants. For example, look at Dr. Curry’s replies to Martha-style comments on the believer side and replies to G&T supported “no-GHE” comments on the skeptic side. There is clearly a threshold where patience – as a response to perceived obstinate intransigence – receives diminished value. This contrasts with the Moolten scale where except in rare aberrant circumstances, a consistently high weighting is given to patience.

    So, at some undefined point on the Judith Curry scale, a negative, nonlinear weighting for patience is possible. This is only one source of mystery.


  81. A classical example of a “good decision” made “under ignorance”

    When Columbus sailed west, he was “ignorant” of the fact that there was a unknown continent in the way of his voyage to Asia.

    But it turned out to be a “good decision”.

    In fact, if there had not been an American continent in the way, he and his crews would all have starved to death in the vast Pacific Ocean before they could reach Asia.

    But I’d submit that this case is the exception to the rule, i.e. that you cannot “make good decisions under ignorance”.


  82. Excellent post Judith – perhaps your best.

  83. I was expecting a post with the word “ignorance” in it would attract a slew of conspiracy-theory fruitcakes, but all I see here is carefully reasoned debate between serious-minded students of world policy who have risen above the petty debates that swirl around the more technical threads. Very impressive, and much more reliable than anything I as a scientist could contribute to this thread.

  84. My humorometer just broke.

  85. Curry’s position is nothing more than the logical fallacy, argument from personal incredulity.

    “With regards to the climate change issue, I have argued that we do not have sufficient information for #2 and #3.”

    What would be your minimum standard for “sufficient information,” Dr. Curry?

    If you can’t define it yourself, then when certain aspects of the climate science consensus do not meet your undefined, and therefore non-existent “standard,” that is nobody’s failure but your own. So, let’s see you define it. What would “sufficient information” have to look like to you?

    • 2 “Your decision should be based on the possible consequences of all possible outcomes.”
      3 “You must be able to rank all of the consequences in order of preference and assign a probability to each possible outcome.”

      Related to this, is the aspect of whether AGW is science or religion.
      There zero history of any aspect of science being promoted as AGW has been promoted.
      AGW has been framed in regards to morality, and this is what religions do.
      The “opponents” of AGW is described as evil.
      One could make the argument that the science related to AGW has been taken hostage to “ill-advised” religious fanatics, such as Al Gore, and/or hordes of other dingbats, and one should ignore the raving lunatics and instead focus on the science of AGW. But such an argument is mostly wishful thinking of any religious believer. And this because what is “truly” important regarding AGW is the hysteria.
      The hysteria of AGW is similar to the hysteria regarding nuclear weapons, the difference being that fear of nuclear weapons were somewhat justified by there actually an immediate potential threat.
      We currently face a similar threat as we did with nuclear weapons and crazy leadership of the soviet union. Btw, nothing has changed in regard to the nuclear threat, other than the removal of the more crazier aspects of soviet leadership [and the end of the Soviet empire]. And with nuclear weapons being available Islamic extermists, it could argued the situation as morphed rather than been resolved. Btw, many idiots are of the belief, that the nuclear war hysteria caused a very good outcome- there is no evidence of this. But the similar threat to nuclear war, we currently faced [and have unknowingly faced for millions of years] is the threat of extinction from asteroid impacts. There are also other threats such as Yellowstone’s super volcano erupting. But the asteroid impact possibility is interesting because of the behavior of some “scientists” involved with it.

      You see there was some “debate” about whether or how the public would be “alerted” if a asteroid was headed toward earth with the possible result of destruction of millions or billions of lives. It was obvious to some that the public should not be alerted. Related to this debate, and the only truly valid debatable aspect was the concern about alarming the public unnecessarily, due to uncertainties of the trajectories- one needs to track the asteroid for weeks before it possible to get an accurate path of a space rock.
      Anyways my point is that a large impactor is a low possibility but with very dire consequences. There was a small minority that thought a real threat should be kept secret, and the consensus was that causing false alarms could erode public confidence to a possible real future threat. And this is how real scientists look at these kinds of problems.

      • Gore desperately plays the race card, demogogically and ignorantly not realizing that those for whom cheap energy is a moral issue are not of the whiter shade of pale.

      • You are referring to his interview this weekend as shown by WUWT that they say equates deniers with racists (that is the WUWT take). What he actually said is that just as racism is going away, as a growing number of people these days don’t accept racism in conversation, and even criticize it, a similar thing will happen with climate contrariness, which presumably Gore views as a similar type of craziness. Interesting, and sure to get skeptics even more angry with him. I don’t think he needs to stir them up so much with these remarks.

      • I don’t think he knows diddley about conversation, and my BRIC wall stands.

      • I don’t think he needs to stir them up so much with these remarks.

        I respectfully disagree. The point Gore is making is one I’ve made many times, and one I think is critical to any discussion about the politics and the the communication in and around the the issue of climate change.

        After however many thousands of “greenhouse dragon” posts, advocates of a open-ended discussion must at least be ready to entertain the possibility that for some people, conceding they have lost an argument is not in their makeup, regardless of the arguments they are confronted with. The question is, then, what happens to those voices in the debate, which are not persuasive but yet refuse despite all evidence to be persuaded?

        Gore’s answer, IMO absolutely correct, is that eventually these fringe beliefs become embarrassing to those who express them. Vaccine deniers and moon landing deniers and 9/11 truthers and birthers and racists and so on and on still exist, but the overwhelming majority of the people regard them with contempt. We will very likely reach that point with climate denial as well.

      • The point we reach will depend upon the effect of CO2 on climate and the temperature curve of the globe. Your rhetoric will have nothing to do with it.

      • Contrarians are very sensitized by past categorizations. You can see the whole debate about the use of the ‘denier’ name, so to equate them to ‘racists’ even as just a comparison, is for sure not going to be taken well. Anyway, yes, it could well go the way Gore says where we get to the stage that family conversations go like “there goes uncle Wilbur talking about his —– ideas again…”, where the —- becomes climate change denial.

      • Climate should be evaluated on the content of its character rather than on the color of its CO2.

      • Robert

        advocates of a open-ended discussion must at least be ready to entertain the possibility that for some people, conceding they have lost an argument is not in their makeup, regardless of the arguments they are confronted with. The question is, then, what happens to those voices in the debate, which are not persuasive but yet refuse despite all evidence to be persuaded?

        Are you referring to Al Gore here? Or is it James E. Hansen?

        Sounds like it would fit for either one.


  86. Here’s a relevant uncertainty I haven’t seen mentioned yet (apologies if I overlooked it).

    In thermal equilibrium the total energy leaving Earth should equal that arriving. (The latter’s variability is very small and is essentially entirely that of the Sun: solar cycles, plus some longer-term swings, plus the variation in our distance from the Sun, but for simplicity let’s treat it as constant for the moment.)

    During a warming or cooling episode this equilibrium will be temporarily disturbed until a new global temperature is reached, with the total outgoing radiation (over the whole spectrum) respectively less or greater than incoming. Once at the new temperature, equilibrium will return until the next episode. The nature of such episodes will vary according to the timescale (decades, millennia, 100,000 years) but the general principle will always be the same.

    The uncertainty is the duration of such episodes: how long does Earth take to converge to its new equilibrium temperature?

    The relevance of this to satellite measurements is that if you blink during such an episode, you may miss the temporary change in radiation. Conversely, if you see a reduction at some moment, what does it imply for global warming?

    It is hopefully obvious that the answers depend crucially on episode duration, or on the rate of convergence to equilibrium given the delta in temperature.

    It seems to me that simply registering a net change in radiation from the planet over all wavelengths is not very informative unless you have some way of resolving this uncertainty.

    What should be clear however is that the spectrum of the radiation will undergo a permanent change. The atmospheric window in the spectrum, through which OLR can still pass, shrinks in response to increasing greenhouse gases, and stays that way when the new higher temperature is established, even though total radiation out now equals what it used to be in equilibrium at the lower temperature.

    In much of the discussion equal importance seems to be attached to spectrum, in particular the location and size of gaps in the window, and radiation imbalance.

    I suggest that spectrum is more important, and that total radiation balance or imbalance not be taken as a serious indicator of anything without an accompany estimate of either episode duration, or rate of convergence to equilibrium, or at least something that makes statements about balance meaningful.

  87. Those advocating CO2 reduction seem to think there is a viable method available to reduce CO2 when there isn’t short of a world government.

    Taxation of some countries to cause reduction of CO2 is undoubtedly harmful to any country and likely will cause an increase in worldwide CO2 production because of job exportation to non taxing countries. [All harm and no benefit]

    CO2 taxes are actually more harmful if you believe CO2 causes significant warming.

    When looking at the big picture it isn’t a case of option “A” has these costs/benefits and option “B” has these costs/benefits. There are no benefits to Carbon taxes in some countries, they are very harmful period. If they are so low there is no harm then they won’t reduce CO2, no pain no loss ?

    Mitigation on the other hand is beneficial and much cheaper. It may never have to be implemented since warming has been halted for the 21 st century.

    • Keep your CS vocabulary straight! “Mitigation” IS CO2 reduction. I think you want “adaptation” (handling events as they arise).

  88. Fantastic put up, very informative. I’m wondering why the other experts of this sector don’t understand this. You must continue your writing. I’m sure, you have a huge readers’ base already!|What’s Taking place i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It positively useful and it has aided me out loads. I hope to contribute & aid other users like its helped me. Great job.

  89. We offer the best payouts per download, as well as a collection of great tools, tutorials, and support
    to get you earning immediately. We deliver as well as obtain all of them constantly.
    Hey all you may have seen when you go to download a file and also
    a giant window comes up and asks you to definitely do a survey as well as complete an
    offer as a way to download the file.

  90. Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is fantastic, let alone the content!