Cognitive bias – how petroleum scientists deal with it

by Peter Rose

Everyone complains about the Weather but nobody does anything about it!

Judging from many recent observations among the more objective blog-sites, such as Climate, Etc., this old American adage would seem to apply just as well to perceived cognitive bias in contemporary climatological research: Everyone talks about Cognitive Bias in Climate Research, but nobody does anything about it!

However, a branch of western science with which I am intimately familiar has been effectively and routinely countering cognitive bias for at least two decades now – Petroleum Geoscience. In the hope of sharing our experience with other scientists, I contacted Professor Curry a month ago, offering to share various effective methods we have developed for dealing with cognitive bias in geoscience data for our exploration plays and prospects. She graciously invited me to contribute the following note.

Daunting uncertainty routinely attends petroleum exploration ventures. Most key geotechnical parameters must be estimated. Cognitive bias flourishes in such circumstances. Where petroleum geoscience differs from academic or institutional science is that we are forced to see the results of our geotechnical predictions in the cold, hard light of day (or night), and they are prompt, frequent, often humbling, and even career-threatening. Perhaps petroleum geoscientists can be forgiven for wishing sometimes that their academic colleagues had to function under similar circumstances!

Cognitive bias – usually overoptimism – characterizes initial estimates of geotechnical parameters underpinning exploration projects. If left undetected, this leads to disappointing project outcomes; when such cognitive bias is endemic in a company’s annual portfolio of Exploration and Production (E & P) ventures, the portfolio underperforms, and the company’s annual performance suffers. Stockholders are unhappy; corporate heads roll.

So, beginning mostly in the 1990s, most now-surviving E & P companies started training their geotechnical staffs in:

  • Using pragmatic operational techniques that detected and corrected cognitive bias;
  • Adopting uniform software that standardized evaluation of all new ventures;
  • Establishing trained “risk-teams” that reviewed all prospects before drilling; and
  • Following all executed projects with post-audit reviews and measured E & P team performance in accurately forecasting geotechnical parameters.

The result (together with remarkable contemporaneous advances in seismic resolution) was a marked improvement in E & P performance in the late 1990s and 2000’s, continuing to the present day.

The five most prevalent cognitive biases in E & P work are:

Confirmation bias – Ignoring data that don’t fit our theories (or the desired outcome).

Overconfidence – Predictive ranges are too narrow, leading to many sad surprises.

Representativeness – False analogs or misleading spectacular examples.

Anchoring – Initial estimating and adjustment process is incomplete.

Motivational bias –Perceived personal self-interest influences technical estimates.

In their work on exploration ventures, today’s geoscientists routinely search for and develop three classes of technical estimates:

  1. Geological Chance of Success – the probability that recoverable reservoired petroleum will be found by the exploratory well, considering the evidence for the five independent geological conditions required for a subsurface accumulation to exist (Petroleum source rocks; Migration to the prospect; Reservoir rock presence; Trapping configuration; Subsequent preservation).
  2. Geotechnical Parameter Dimensions (assuming subsurface petroleum presence) – Estimates (as probabilistic ranges) of key factors such as reservoir volume, reservoir yield, flow rates, production decline rates, etc.
  3. Economic Parameters –Estimates (as probabilistic ranges) of project time, costs, product prices, interest rates, taxes, etc.

Estimates of all such parameters should be as unbiased and well-founded as professionally possible. The geoscientific goal is for the E & P portfolio to deliver its promised performance; the required professional ethic is one of objectivity and pride in predictive performance.

Geological chance of success predictions inherently involve informed subjective probability. Disciplined estimating requires marshaling of all facts bearing on the presence (or absence) of each of the five geological chance factors separately. Structured exercises in the application of multiple working hypotheses expand conceptual horizons. “Group wisdom” is brought into action, considering all pertinent subsurface geological evidence (including seismic amplitude data), consideration of data quality and quantity, and structured quasi-Delphi rounds, to generate an appropriate probability for each of the five geological chance factors. The lowest-probability factors (“critical chance-factors”) are identified, and then reinvestigated to further refine and qualify before the final prospect Geologic Chance of Success is determined. For costly ventures, the corporate “risk-team” reviews all geotechnical estimates before final approval for drilling. After drilling, geotechnical reasons for success or failure and consequential learnings are noted. The corporate “risk manager” compiles and communicates staff performance annually with respect to predictions of Geological Chance of Success and consequent learnings. Through the late 1990s and early 2000s, our Chance of Success predictions improved steadily.

Geotechnical parameter ranges governing the volume of recoverable oil and gas contained within the subject prospect are probabilistic, following the lognormal distribution. They are routinely plotted as a cumulative log-probability distribution, ordinarily a straight, upward sloping line (Fig 1). Accordingly, geoscientists have learned that if they design their predictive ranges for parameters such as Gross Rock Volume, Reservoir Net-to Gross, and Reservoir Yield so as to fit the lognormal expectation, they make much better predictions. This approach especially reduces the strong tendency to overestimate prospect recoverable volumes. Interestingly, the usual reason for such overestimation is not that the “high-side” estimate is too high – rather it is that the “low-side” estimate is too high, rendering the derived mean estimate of recoverable volumes larger than it should be. Reality-checks are provided by the lognormal distribution itself. For example, if the high end (= P1) of the initial porosity distribution is, say, 75% (= practically impossible), the slope of the distribution should be steepened so the P1 value becomes a rational upper limit, i.e., ~ 30%. Use of basin field-size distributions brings perspective to individual prospects in those basins or trends. Flow rates and production decline curves also fit characteristic harmonic or exponential patterns, and predictions made using such curves will result in greater predictive accuracy. In all cases, however, the corporate “risk-team” will vet the developed estimates of recoverable volumes, and report back after drilling results are known. Gradually, a team’s predictive performance is established and (hopefully) improves in the future.


Economic parameters are usually beyond the purview of geoscientists, and may be forecast using distributions based on past experience. The critical parameter for the corporate drilling portfolio is the expected net present value (ENPV) of the venture, which incorporates all estimates of chance, recoverable volumes, investments and production revenues over the life of the project, taking into account the time-value of money. Estimating is serious business.

As a lifetime geoscientist, I sincerely hope that some of these methods (Fig. 2) may prove useful to colleagues in other fields of science. It seems to me that all of the aforementioned techniques can, and should be, applied routinely throughout any disciplined scientific investigation. Post-audits may be the exception – the results of institutional scientists don’t seem to be tested for accuracy. But petroleum geoscientists deal with that cleansing task routinely; it has the effect of gradually eliminating incompetents and feather-merchants from the professional gene pool.


All Western Science seems to offer as counterparts to structured post-audits of research projects are 1) peer-review, and 2) the purifying effects of following published scientific validation or invalidation. The first seems badly compromised now; the second necessarily takes a long time (and an awful lot of publicly funded research).

Most experienced petroleum geoscientists understand Cognitive Bias – after all, they have experienced the business pressures that stimulate it, as well as the inevitable consequences of succumbing to it. They have seen, over their careers, more than a few geologic salesmen in action, trying to sell over-hyped and carelessly researched drilling prospects. That may be one reason why so many petroleum geoscientists agree with Professor Curry that Climatology needs to clean up its act – it’s damaging the rest of Western Science.

Biosketch. Dr. Peter R. Rose (Ph. D., Geology, University of Texas, Austin) has been a professional geologist for 55 years, specializing in Petroleum Geology, E&P Risk Analysis, and Mineral Economics. He is the author of more than 75 published papers. In 1998 he founded Rose & Associates, LLP. Pete retired in 2005; the firm continues as the global standard among consulting companies in that field, providing instruction, software and consulting services on an international scale. His 2001 book, Risk Analysis and Management of Petroleum Exploration Ventures, now in its 7th printing, is considered by many as the “Bible” on that topic, and has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. In 2005 Pete was the 89th President of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. In 2013, the Geological Society of London awarded him its prestigious Petroleum Group Medal for lifetime contributions to Petroleum Geology, the first American to be so recognized, and in 2014 the AAPG honored him with its Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award.

JC note:  As a result of some email exchanges, I invited Pete to do a guest post.  As with all guest posts, keep your comments civil and relevant.


385 responses to “Cognitive bias – how petroleum scientists deal with it

  1. As with most things, private enterprise, which cannot exist on inflated egos and manufactured resumes, is leading the way to how to evaluate work on an objective scale. Many demonize the “almighty dollar”, but it is the most unbiased and objective judge known. And it is also unknown in government, and therein lies the problem of climate science.

    • I agree. We are much less careful in drawing conclusions that only place the resources of others at risk.

    • spot on and here’s an example for all 2014 US voters.

      The Judicial races are barely covered by the media yet The Rule of Law is the basis of our Republic. So voters go to the polls and vote based on no objective criteria.

      Here’s an example of a resource which attempts to quantify Judicial vote decisions in California. Note, CA is an up or down vote in these voter decisions rather than a choice based on Judicial bias.

      [CA] Judge Voter Guide

      I liked the criteria they use but you may Not.

      Beware what You Vote For!

      • muse, so Mies van der Rohe said 30+ years ago and Youngblood defined the notion. We are limited by what bias?

    • obvious Spin 1:
      “Everyone complains about the Weather but nobody does anything about it!”

      Logically the silliest opening statement Ever unless the intent is Science in the face of public “opinion”.

      Political “climate” vs “weather” public perception, where does this leave Science?

    • obvious spin 2:
      “Everyone talks about Cognitive Bias in Climate Research, but nobody does anything about it!”


      • obvious spin 3:
        “all such parameters should be as unbiased and well-founded as professionally possible.”

        you Work in an Industry defined by Fools. Of course, the Major players could swim in the “Geo” logic yet choose to opt for Stupid Cash. It’s up to You in engineering to “See a proper” insight and Sell Greed unresolved!

      • obvious final spin:
        “That may be one reason why so many petroleum geoscientists agree with Professor Curry that Climatology needs to clean up its act – it’s damaging the rest of Western Science.”

        You sir are a pitiful whining excuse for your flawed education!

        Dr. Curry gave you the opportunity to State Facts and all you pitiful fools have to say is self-serving Nonsense related to Your complete Inability to be Insightful!

      • “As with all guest posts, keep your comments civil and relevant.”

        Was i civil and relevant; kim?

      • “It’s up to You in engineering to “See a proper” insight and Sell Greed unresolved!”
        I’ll try. The role of the engineer is to provide information which is useful to management. Engineers help get oil products to consumers. Whether or not we extract and use oil products might properly be decided by others, such as in the case with the ANWR.

      • Ragnaar,
        This is pain on a scale So Painful.

        “The role of the engineer is to provide information which is useful to management”. I can’t ever imagine the “Pain” you choose to subject yourself to in this silly reflection of your “role” in Science!

        Engineering Does Not Exist to cave to Fools who sell their Souls to…ignorance!!!

      • Can somebody remove this sequence of ranty nasty mean disgusting violations of the blog rules please?
        John you stink up the place man.

      • Wijnand,
        The stink is your Ignorance.

        I disagree. The role of the engineer is to utilize “accepted” science as limited by fools and sell their greed.

        Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said it best for his students. From the point someone dropped a steel rod into concrete, it took the “Industry” 30 years to discover “reinforced concrete”. Guess the factor which limited Engineering ; )

        Its never been about amazing Engineers Ragnaar, its always been about the ignorance which limits insight.

      • What is your point? Do you have one?

  2. daveandrews723

    Great perspective. Science should never be a mutual admiration society. Continual critical analysis (scientific method) should always prevail if the truth is the objective.

    • The problem is that 80-90% of research isn’t reproducible.

      Essentially this means that the vast majority of research are wasted.

      A partial solution is an independent (completely independent) team of engineers and statisticians who are not associated with activist groups and are not competing for grants in the same field. It would be preferable if they were from private industry (like petroleum engineers) and had no history or intent to compete for government grants.

      They would review the study top to bottom, they would be given all the data, statistics, a list of data that was not used and why, and a rational for the data that was collected.

      They would assess the study on a 1-10 scale. Cherry picking, improper use of statistics, invalid conclusions, etc. would result in a lower grade.

      The grade would be a factor in awarding future grant applications.

      That should clean things up a little bit.

  3. Thank you Peter and Judith for posting.

  4. David Springer

    Climate science isn’t really science. It’s yellow journalism.

  5. “Post-audits may be the exception – the results of institutional scientists don’t seem to be tested for accuracy. But petroleum geoscientists deal with that cleansing task routinely; it has the effect of gradually eliminating incompetents and feather-merchants from the professional gene pool.”

    A powerful statement.

    • Institutional bias rains in climate science. Flawed projections …
      that IPCC temperature graph, dire predictions of no more snow
      and metres high sea rise are presented with no criticism within
      the coterie.

      As Dr Rose says the climate scientist industry needs to clean up
      its act but what does it offer as critical feedback? Pal / peer review
      and publication in receptive journals.That old Hammurabi code of
      ‘sleep under yer own bridge’ is sadly lacking in tenured guvuhmint professions like academic climate sci research and other ‘dismal’
      professions where wrong calls, by Ehrlich, Stiglits et Al, are made
      at no cost to themselves, but at great cost to the public.

      • I keep waiting for some establishment climate big shot to get an attack of conscience. I keep thinking it’s inevitable. Maybe somebody gets a terminal diagnosis and wants to go out clean, or less melodramatically someone just wakes up and realizes he/she can no longer look in the mirror without wincing. Or maybe more pragmatically, someone sees the handwriting on the wall and decides to abandon ship while there’s still time (how’s that for mixing my metaphors?).

        What we desperately need is another heavy weight apostate. It’s why they hate Judith so much. She was one of their own. Nothing more damaging than a respected apostate.

      • It’s funny, al. About a decade ago when I first got into this debate I figured it would take six months or so to straighten out the disinformation generated by Michael Mann’s Crook’t Stick.

        I thought it was a flash in the pan. Instead, the ore body grows with each new drilling.

      • Beththeserf – “That old Hammurabi code of
        ‘sleep under yer own bridge’ is sadly lacking in tenured guvuhmint professions like academic climate sci research and other ‘dismal’
        professions where wrong calls, by Ehrlich, Stiglits et Al, are made
        at no cost to themselves, but at great cost to the public.”

        They need to eat their own dog food. :)

      • We’re on a mission fer we
        are science advocates
        who therefore must
        equivocate … inundate,
        even hyper-ventilate,
        whatever-it-takes, even
        jet ter far-away places.

  6. You mean it ain’t some wildcatter in a beat up pickup towing a drill rig saying, “This feels right. Drill here?”

  7. Climate science would benefit from application of these principles, especially the use of uniform and consistent methods, but finding petroleum is a much more contained problem than proving theory. It would be helpful if Dr. Rose or somebody could be more specific on how to reform climate research to be more in line with the way practical geology combats cognitive bias.

  8. I am curious as to how you judge the success of estimates that involve multiple probabilities, given that almost any result falls within the probabilistic range.

    • Set the bar low enough and success is virtually guartanteed.

      It’s a great, if not original, idea.

      • Not sure what bar you are referring to. My point relates to one of the fundamental problems with probabilistic decision theory, namely that if there are multiple probabilities they tend to combine to spread the distribution to encompass all possibilities and recommending none. In this case success means finding enough oil to pay for the venture and then some. The probabilities do not converge on that outcome.

      • Michael:

        The ultimate bar set in the OP is low oil and gas prices so that poor people can afford to drive their vehicles, heat their homes and cook their food. At least the bar is falsifiable

        Isn’t the low bar set for GCMs used to make the claim that the “pause” falls within the range of prediction? Since it’s all vaporware, it’s impossible to prove wrong. Talk about a low bar!

      • > poor people can afford to drive their vehicles

        SANTA MONICA, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Two hundred dollars for a hamburger. A gallon of gasoline, $15. The price of clothes: double. Milk, $6 a gallon.

        These are what things would really cost without subsidies, according to some estimates. It’s difficult to factor in all the prices of goods and services that go into making all the things we Americans get on the cheap. One thing is for sure: we pay for these subsidies with our tax dollars. We pay farmers, oil companies, and now doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

        As we get lower costs for goods in services in the U.S., we are impoverishing millions of people around the world and sentencing many to death. It’s sounds harsh but it’s true.

      • Wow, that marketwatch article was a great example of economic analysis by fools.
        If the subsidies paid to the oil industry are considered bad, what about the subsidies paid to renewable energy? Subsidies like the highway system, bridges, public education, Medicare, and so forth?
        Equally it is idiotic to say that farm subsidies drive prices down when in reality, farm subsidies also drive prices up -> see corn ethanol.
        The primary reason the 1st world can produce food cheaper is capital and infrastructure. The removal of said subsidies would not in any way fix the problem poor 3rd world farmer face.
        This is not to say all subsidies are good – simply to note that all subsidies are not inherently bad.
        Most importantly – to take information from a rabid activist like Kostigen is very dangerous. Such people aren’t interested in fact.

    • David, I suppose it depends on the number of trials available to the judges. My experience indicates that upper management is judged on the overall portfolio success. Individual teams are judged on whether their prognosed parameters are close enough and whether enough hydrocarbons are found to go ahead and develop the prospect.

      The way one handles risk and judges teams also depends on the risk level. If we are discussing high risk exploration (say probability of success is less than 20 %), my experience shows the probability distributions have been goosed on the optimistic side (in other words if their estimate is 1 success out of 6 chances the outcome would be about 1 success out of 8 or even lower). I worked most of my career overseas (outside the USA), and in such cases many team leaders and/or exploration managers get fried before they have sufficient trials.

      My impression is that risk policing has indeed made a lot of progress over the last 30 years, but there are loose nuts and bolts within individual companies. In other words, the risking process isn´t applied the same way nor do they pay attention to the details with the same intensity.

      (Note: I´m an engineer but I spent time sitting in a regional exploration committe, my role was to make sure the cost/schedule issues were risked properly).

      • Fernando, it sounds like you are not actually combining multiple probabilities mathematically, perhaps just using the various individual distributions to make a judgement. If you multiply probabilities they get very small, very fast. This is why probabilistic decision models have to be simplistic.

      • David, the individual parameters ARE combined. In actual practice most companies will not continue working on very low probability exploration prospects.

        You asked how a team or manager is judged…my observation is that in quite a few cases the individuals are JUDGED based on the results of key parameters. But I’m used to very expensive very lengthy projects. The teams working on these ventures get only a few trials (I’ve worked on projects with single well costs over $100 million USD, those usually take years to be executed).

        I’ve also noticed different methods, strategies, the type of risks a company prefers can vary, and some companies go overseas without an experienced core staff and take a blood bath. One example: the companies exploring the Falklands acreage look like they are in diapers.

    • In Climate estimates, so far, all the results fall outside of what actually happened.

  9. In climate science, it is Judith who is at the overoptimistic end of the uncertainty range, so surely the cognitive bias applies to her if anyone. Was this an own goal? It is Judith and her followers that stand to be disappointed when reality kicks in.

    • Cognitive bias is one of those biases you do not recognise when it is right in front of your face,JIm.
      In fact the definition of cognitive bias is that you do not recognise it in yourself, only in others. When you do think you have discerned it, you have already fallen victim to it.
      Remember hot weather creates more ice, JIm, hot weather creates more ice. There is no pause.
      It is only a bad dream.

      • It is very easy to apply the symptoms to Judith’s way of selecting evidence, and somewhat more likely to have happened that way than for the whole scientific community to have done this. The article is about individuals with too narrow uncertainty ranges rather like Judith, not a consensus with a more justifiable broader range.

      • angech | November 3, 2014 at 8:44 am | Reply
        “In fact the definition of cognitive bias is that you do not recognise it in yourself, only in others”


      • Jim D, the insistence on the use of the “we have a consensus” and the peer reviewed papers with the fake 97 % statistics are indicative of a serious flaw in the system. The current denial on your side is a good diagnostic that indeed the science is perverted by political pressures. This is the reason why your side has low traction with the public, and why it will fail to accomplish its political objectives.

    • Do you have any examples?

      • Yes, compare the widths of the uncertainty ranges to see where the cognitive bias applies. It always applies to the narrower one.

      • More commonly, the bias shows up as prominent concentrations of predictions at one end or the other of the uncertainty range. Pete

    • JimD, “It is Judith and her followers that stand to be disappointed when reality kicks in”
      Isn’t this statement an indication that there is cognitive bias on your part as welI?

      • John Smith (it's my real name)

        reality, like gravity, will be strictly enforced at all times
        warming hiatus is reality
        but have faith
        missing heat, like Prester John, is surely coming to save us

    • Cognitive bias much JD?

      The pause needs some “splainin”.

      The 577 PPM that seems to be the highest maximum CO2 possible if we “burn baby burn” will cause about the same amount of warming that was experienced in the 20th century.

      The 20th century didn’t turn out that badly.

    • It’s looking pretty good right now though, isn’t it Jim D?

      After the first IPCC report was published, the obvious questions were: 1. How do we know it wasn’t warmer in MWP, etc (the Lamb graph in 1st IPCC report showed it was), 2. How do we know the 60 year cycles aren’t responsible for things like polar sea ice changes, hurricanes, surface temperatures? (after all, it was well known that hurricanes, for example, do show cycles).
      3. Isn’t there a role for the sun? and 4. Isn’t the ocean’s heat capacity going to take up most of the heat?

      The response was to remove the 1990 figures from IPCC report (for 2nd report) that showed MWP, and that showed ice lower in early 1970’s. Later we learned that e-mails were sent expressing a desire to “get rid of the MWP” and to get rid of the 1940’s blip in sea/surface temperatures without knowing “why the blip”. Now, in an effort to explain the pause, all kinds of theories have sprung up. Interestingly, the same theories that got one labeled as a “denier”, such as the ocean’s heat capacity, and 60 year climate cycles, are now “top notch” science and appear in Nature, etc.

      The next 10 to 15 years should tell us a lot as we will have doubled or tripled our modern measures of ocean temperature and sea level, we will see what, if any, effects there are from a very low solar cycle, etc. Hopefully volcanic activity will remain low so as to limit confounding factors. And luckily, we have the 15 year pause that allows us to study these things more carefully. After all, only a fool would say that a 15 year pause did not give you 15 more years of study. If it had warmed at 0.3 C per decade the last 15 years, one could rightly say we may have “lost” those 15 years, correct?

      • Bill some history

        “How do we know it wasn’t warmer in MWP, etc (the Lamb graph in 1st IPCC report showed it was)”

        The Lamb graphic was inserted by mistake. In fact the climategate mails show this.

        It was wrong. However the paper criticizing the Lamb version was put into an obscure journal so as to protect Lamb.

        In other words, you are assuming without question or evidence that Lamb was correct. Simple question, where are the error bars on Lamb?

      • Who needs Lamb? There is historical as well as proxy evidence of millennial scale natural changes, with great magnitude and range.



        Jaroslav StreStlk
        Geophysical Institute AS CR, Bocni 11 1401, 141 31 Prague, Czech Republic, Email:


        Volcanic activity on the Earth is described by special
        annual indices available since 1500. These indices have
        been compared with annual sunspot numbers. Volcanic
        activity displays no ll-yr periodicity. Using 2l-yr
        running averages a striking similarity between these
        two time series is clearly seen. Volcanic activity is
        generally lower in periods of prolonged maxima of
        solar activity and higher in periods of prolonged solar
        minima. There is also a similarity between the spectra
        of these two series in the long-period range. Main
        peaks are located in the same periods in both series
        (200-215 yr, 100-105 yr, 80-90 yr). The influence of
        volcanic activity on the climate is indubitable. Annual
        means of surface air temperature display similar longterm
        periodicity as the volcanic activity.


        The narrow similarity between solar and volcanic
        activity in the long-term scale suggests two quite
        different possible consequences:
        a. Solar activity governs the volcanic activity on the
        Earth in long-term scale. Volcanic activity is
        usually higher in periods of prolonged minima of
        solar activity and vice versa. However, the
        mechanism of this forcing is not known. Perhaps
        geomagnetic activity mediates solar influences
        (unfortunately, series of these data are too short). If
        it will be confirnled in the future, then solar
        influences on the climate could be considered as
        being mediated by the volcanic activity, creating
        a chain: solar activity – (geomagnetic activity) –
        volcanic activity – climate changes. Direct solar
        influence on climatic changes is, of course, not
        excluded. But it is difficult to distinguish what part
        of these changes is mediated by volcanic activity
        and what part is direct solar influence. It would be
        also necessary to explain why this chain does not
        work in short-term scale.
        b. The similarity of the long-term course of solar and
        volcanic activity is accidental and is pronounced
        only in the last few centuries. Then long-term
        natural climatic changes would be caused only by
        long-term changes of volcanic activity. The role of
        solar activity would be in this case only apparent
        due to the accidentally sin1ilar course of both
        activities during the last five centuries.
        Nevertheless, some small direct solar influence is
        not excluded. In this case no similarity in shortterm
        scale can be expected and it is not necessary to
        look for an explanation why it is not observed. These two different conclusions mean that the
        investigation of solar, volcanic and climatic changes
        together in a considerably longer period (at least one
        millenium) is very desirable.

      • Bill | November 3, 2014 at 9:02 am |
        Bill, you have a concatenation of various misimpressions of what is going on. A lot of dubious and contradictory information is thrown out at us and it is up to us to sort out the facts from fancy. It is small wonder if we get cognitively biased just reading that stuff. If you cannot solve a particular problem with science you are likely to look for info elsewhere. In the end, scientific observation is needed to make sure it is science and not pseudo-science they are peddling. That is one reason why I am dubious about long-period cycles where sometimes not even one complete cycle has passed and they have already named it. And when it comes to observations, there is where having a cognitive bias can really prevent you from seeing facts you are staring at. Lets take volcanic cooling as an example. It is taken for granted that a major volcanic burst must be followed by cooling. Why? Because there are well-dated volcanic bursts that are followed by a temperature drop a year or two later which are easy to see in global temperature curves. Pinatubo is one such volcano. It has been studied extensively in Newhall and Punongbayan’s book “Fire and Mud.” Self et al in that book show both tropospheric and stratospheric temperatures from 1990 to 1993 for the eruption that took place in 1991. So what do you see? In the troposphere there is a temperature high in 1991 that includes the eruption date. It is followed by a temperature low in 1992 eo 1993. Best assign that low to Pinaubo cooling. But this is not followed in the stratosphere. At the point where the tropospheric temperature starts down stratospheric temperature starts to go up. Stratospheric warming persists for two years and then turns to cooling when the tropospheric cooling is beginning to warm up again. Something there is that does not smell right and more observation is needed. But Best only shows the parts of the troposphere where the eruption took place and the cooling bottomed out. Fortunately for us satellites were already recording global temperature and if you look at satellite data you notice the following. First, there is a row of five El Nino peaks that belong to ENSO in the eighties and nineties. Pinaubo eruption corresponds to the location of one of these El Nino peaks. Between these El Nino peaks are temperature drops that belong to La Nina cooling periods and the cooling that follows Pinatubo eruption id just one of these La Nina valleys. The full picture is thus an eruption that corresponds to the location of an El Nino peak followed by a La Nina valley in exactly the position where Pinatubo cooling should be. Well, that is suggestive but it could just be a coincidence. Is it possible that if the eruption had coincided with that La Nina valley there would have been a warm peak instead of a volcanic cooling just after that eruption? Amazingly, that is exactky what happened to El Chichon, a volcano in Mexico. That same satellite view happens to include the eruption of El Chichon as well, and guess what? El Chichon erupted at a time that corresponds exactly to the bottom of a La Nina valley and was followed by an El Nino peak, not by any volcanic cooling! The full picture is now that whether or not a “volcanic cooling” can be observed depends on the relative position of the eruption date in relation to the location of El Nino peaks. Put it on top of an El Nino and you get “cooling.” Put it into a La Nina valley and you get nothing but an El Nino. And if course there must be intermediate locations corresponding to weak “cooling” situations. As with many things in science, there is also a prerequisite required before you can make sense of what you see. The prerequisite in this case is knowledge that the ENSO oscillation of El Nino peaks alternating with La Nina valleys is present in all global temperature curves at all times. (Since they started, that is, when the Panamanian Seaway closed.) Unfortunately that is not part of the doctrine IPCC is promulgating, despite the fact that I published it in 2010. You should be able to see it as a sawtooth pattern unless someone got rid of it. There are situations where local oceanic conditions have caused irregularities but after the disturbance is over the oscillation returns.Its cause is a harmonic oscillation of ocean water from side to side in the equatorial Pacific, powered by trade winds which in turn are powered by the Hadley circulation in the tropics and near-tropics.

      • Take this with a huge block of salt (I may well have imagined this), I once took an ad hock look at volcanic events and indices. I didn’t do any sort of technical analysis and just eyeballed things. I didn’t see any kind of pattern except for one anomalous period which I think coincided with the maunder minimum. IIRC, there were almost no major volcanic eruptions, but an increase in the frequency of low level eruptions.

      • Edward Wegman, under oath, commenting upon an IPCC graph he said earlier not to have:

        > [E]ssentially a cartoon.

    • Good point Jim D. Not sure you represent Dr. Curry’s position accurately, but certainly it relates to the denizens. Climate science is still at the multiple working hypothesis stage, so both the “What Me Worry?” and “The Sky is Falling” positions are the result of cognitive bias.

      • “. . . so both the “What Me Worry?” and “The Sky is Falling” positions are the result of cognitive bias.”

        No, there is a world of difference between the assertions that “there is nothing to worry about” and “I’m not worried.” The former is an assertion that available evidence does not rise to the level that rational people should worry, the latter is a personal opinion which is equivalent to “What Me Worry?” Either of these two positions may have been taken rationally and are not biased so long as you are willing to change views with new evidence.

        But, “The Sky is Falling” position is opposed to the “there is nothing to worry about” position and seems to be a favorite assertion re food supply, extinctions, storms, sea levels, etc. Since these dire warnings seem to all fail, it is reasonable to believe that they represent a pattern of bias in “The Sky is Falling” asserters. By contrast the “there is nothing to worry about” position has yet to have failed, so to assert bias there is questionable.

      • Howard, “What me worry” is not necessarily cognitive bias.

        Roughly 60-63% of the CO2 emitted is going into plants or the polar oceans – mostly in the polar oceans. The CO2 going into the polar oceans is pretty much gone for good.

        This makes getting the CO2 level over 550-577 PPM virtually impossible. We would have to nuclear carpet bomb the planet to get over 577 PPM. Not to give anyone ideas.

        Reaching 577 PPM from 400 PPM would have the same effect (temperature wise) as going from 280 to 400 PPM and that hasn’t been traumatic at all. Going from 280 to 400 PPM gave us a 50% increase in plant growth.

        So… the temperature might go up 1°C…

        There is no evidence that a 1°C increase is on net bad and much better evidence that the net effect will be beneficial. Only a fool worries about things getting better.

      • Philip:

        Thanks for making my point. The right answer is don’t get cocky because we don’t know. NB My bias is “What, Me Worry?”

      • My estimate for peak CO2, ignoring cement manufacturing and other greenhouse gases was 620 to 630 ppm. That´s worrisome but I don´t think it´s reason to panic. I worry more about the simple fact that we are running out of oil, and the other fossil fuels aren´t that far behind.

      • But many predictions are being made within at least one of those working hypotheses, and also shown to be well above two standard deviations of the range of predicted temperatures. The problem is that “greater” Climatology doesn’t seem to be able to handle more than one hypothesis at a time. Another working hypothesis just now beginning to be addressed has to do with solar incidence, cosmic rays, sunspots and cloud formation. Are there other serious contenders?

    • “The article is about individuals with too narrow uncertainty ranges rather like Judith, not a consensus with a more justifiable broader range.”

      Wow. Just wow.

    • I am not reading Judith’s work as overoptimistic but as in anything she interprets the problem a different way, with solutions and message being different. All do not lean pessimistic.

    • “…surely the cognitive bias applies to her if anyone.”

      I rarely engage with people like Jim D. It’s like trying to reason with someone suffering from delusions. Can’t be done, and leads only to frustration. But once in a while I can’t resist.

      Consider Jim D. that Judith’s POV has actually changed over the years. She started out as a garden variety establishment warmist. Can you not see that she had to overcome all the cognitive bias inherent in a position that A., was derived mostly from second order information, and B. served her well professionally. It was I think she’d concede….as it almost always must be….a painful and costly process requiring much courage. Bucking the establishment is never easy.

      When’s the last time you changed your mind on some fundamental issue at some personal cost? When’s the last time you even serially questioned your beliefs?

      I know, I know, it hurts doesn’t it; But that’s just the point.

    • “…surely the cognitive bias applies to her if anyone.”

      I rarely engage with people like Jim D. It’s like trying to reason with someone suffering from delusions. Can’t be done, and leads only to frustration. But once in a while I can’t resist.

      Consider Jim D. that Judith’s POV has actually changed over the years. She started out as a garden variety establishment warmist. Can you not see that she had to overcome all the cognitive bias inherent in a position that A., was derived mostly from second order information, and B. served her well professionally. It was I think she’d concede….as it almost always must be….a painful and costly process requiring much courage. Bucking the establishment is never easy.

      When’s the last time you changed your mind on some fundamental issue at some personal cost? When’s the last time you even serially questioned your beliefs?

      I know, I know, it hurts doesn’t it; But that’s just the point.

      • Judith’s is a story of someone who stuck their toe into the denial world, and has been truly sucked into their vortex. I don’t think there is any return from there because those people hurl vitriol with the best of them, and are especially hard on ex-skeptics or those among their number who show any sympathy or give any credence to the actual science. Her error bars have collapsed from 1-10 C per doubling to now being almost certain that it is not even 2 C as a TCR despite this being near the IPCC mid-point. She’s the first person the Republicans call to support their do-nothing-to-fossil-fuels viewpoint. Imagine the reception she would get from here if she said, oh, it likely is 2 C per doubling after all, and the pause was just natural variability on top of a warming trend after all. It would not be pretty.

      • Natural variability on top of a warming trend is exactly what I have been saying! CO2 is contributing to the warming trend. But there is no explanation for substantial warming 1910-1940, and the longer 300 yr warming trend.

      • Sorry Jim D, normally you are a rational person who presents rational arguments. But of late, you have gone off the deep end, and seem to be flailing around in desperation. Your accusations are pure hog wash. And actually destructive to both your position and the alarmist creed.

        “Sucked” in? Give me a break! You are insinuating our host is nothing more than a mindless automaton that had a short circuit. Instead of a world renowned climate scientists that has followed the data (which admittedly can go either way). Your statement reeks of a religion where a wayward acolyte has someone posted their “95 Theses” and therefore most be burned at the stake! You are arguing for a religion, not the science. Is that what you believe? You are a faithful member of a religion and not a critical thinking member of a debate?

        if so, you have completely lost it. Sad to say, I did enjoy reading your posts in the past as it made me ask questions I may not have thought of. But your recent posts clearly indicate you are no more than a charlatan, trying to prevent people from seeing the man behind the curtain.

      • OK, now it depends what you mean by “warming trend”. The warming trend of the last 40 years is over 0.15 C per decade, consistent with 2 C per doubling when matched with the CO2 rise in this period. This is what I mean when I say warming trend, and that is separate from natural variability, such as the pause, that averages out over the period with sharper rises such as the one in the 90’s that is often neglected relative to the pause.

      • Jimd

        you said;

        ‘Judith’s is a story of someone who stuck their toe into the denial world, and has been truly sucked into their vortex. I don’t think there is any return from there because those people hurl vitriol with the best of them, and are especially hard on ex-skeptics or those among their number who show any sympathy or give any credence to the actual science. ‘

        Yes, Judith is such a weak minded individual that it was easy to wave cheap baubles in front of her in order to bring her to the dark side with those truly evil people hurling vitriol, such as myself, Beth Cooper, Mosomoso, Faustino et al

        Jeesh JimD. I thought it was sceptics had the monopoly on conspiracy theories?


      • Here’s another good time to remember that the higher the climate sensitivity to AnthroCO2, the cooler we would now be without AnthroCO2.

      • tony –

        ==> “Yes, Judith is such a weak minded individual that it was easy to wave cheap baubles in front of her in order to bring her to the dark side with those truly evil people hurling vitriol…”

        You’ve got that all wrong. You see, the old Judith was the weak-minded individual who never read any literature on history, philosophy and sociology of science, and lacked humility and believed her own hype. Never read Richard Feynman, etc.

        But then she learned about aberrant psychologies, such as the God complex and paranoia, and looked in the mirror. And that is what lead to her enlightenment, to her goal of aspriring to the exalted status of yourself, Beth, Moso, and Faustino.

      • hey, what baubles, how did I miss them?

      • Naw, J, you’ve neglected the supercalifragilistic convincingness of the expialidocious hockey stick, dementing in its presentation, unenslaving in its deconstruction.

      • Natural variability over a warming trend. Seems pretty obvious to anyone who can look at the data. I don’t know why the Consensus can’t see it. I don’t know why the skeptics can’t see it.

        I certainly don’t know why Judith is getting crucified by the Consensus for pointing out the obvious. I certainly don’t know what she has done to become the object of Joshua’s obsession (what did you obsess on before, Joshua? Wait–I’m not sure I want to know…) As for JimD, your arguments seem a little careworn by now. But you’re so much nicer than BBD, or Sod or Dano (remember them?), that I’m glad you’re hear to carry the flag.

      • JimD, Judith is looking at the larger picture and you are looking at the IPCC pamphlet.

        Crude BEST estimates of CO2 and volcanic forcing versus the majority of heat energy, the oceans indicate that ~1850 would be the preferred “normal”, but there was a little ice age period that was considered below “normal”. If the ~1910 depression in temperatures was due to volcanic depression of temperatures, the rebound in ~1940 would be just that a rebound or recovery from a period of lower than normal ocean energy.

        Now who is the grandest of pooh bahs that is in charge of “normal” that can decree when the LIA recovery ended? That should depend on the speed at which the ocean can uptake energy which is on the order of 300-400 years per degree C.

      • All the methods over the last decade and a half to support, extend, replicate or rehabilitate the Piltdown Mann’s Crook’t Stick represent a primer in climate science cognitive bias. Why that dirty bathwater hasn’t been pitched over the balcony at age six months is an amazing story of science until you realize that the baby has become indistinguishable from the solvent.

        They can’t have the stick, because it is a fraud upon the public, but they can’t have without it because the rest of the scheme is thus rendered translucent.

        When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

      • Jim D | November 4, 2014 at 7:15 am |
        “Her error bars have collapsed from 1-10 C per doubling to now being almost certain that it is not even 2 C as a TCR despite this being near the IPCC mid-point. ”

        Wrong Jim D.

        It was 0-10 C..


      • Yes I previously (say 4 years ago) stated a likely range of 0-10C. The very high values were from observational analyses with flawed methods (demonstrated by Nic Lewis), hence that fat tail has been lopped off. The climate models still give pretty high values; I keep them in the very likely range, but not in the narrower likely range.

      • nottawa rafter

        Jim D
        “…truly sucked into their vortex.”

        My God! Don’t you have a censorship mechanism in your brain? These kinds of statements have been responsible for the warmists losing the intellectual high ground. And then you top it with accusations of vitriol by the denial world. Are you blind to the muck that oozes out of your side? That vitriol and muck from every warmist source I read is exactly what converted me from an agnostic. It is self evident that when you lose the science you aim for the emotions.

      • So on the one hand we have this:

        ==> “Are you blind to the muck that oozes out of your side?”

        And on the other hand we have this:

        ==> “If these strategies don’t work, try learning about aberrant psychologies, such as the God complex and paranoia and look in the mirror ”

        Ya’ just gotta love the climate wars.

      • And we have Joshua pretending to be an objective observer.

      • Jim D, I hope you’re right that it’s 2C per doubling. Unfortunately, I doubt it is above 1C.

      • nottawa rafter | November 4, 2014 at 9:25 am |
        Jim D
        “…truly sucked into their vortex.”

        My God! Don’t you have a censorship mechanism in your brain? These kinds of statements have been responsible for the warmists losing the intellectual high ground.

        Huh? The warmists had the intellectual high ground? When?

        They had the tide on their side after the 90’s warming. Historic coincidence made the theory look good for a while. Historic coincidence in the 21st century is making the theory look pretty awful.

        They have made no serious attempt to bound CO2 sensitivity to +/- 20%. If it was such a huge effect causing all climate change – it should be easy to measure accurately.

        Warmists refuse to debate because they can’t win a straight on debate. That usually isn’t indicative of having the intellectual high ground.

      • Judith said

        ‘hey, what baubles, how did I miss them?’

        Its OK, they are in the same safe place as all the pay cheques that sceptics get from Big Oil and Big Frack.

        By the way, as well as the warming over the last 300 years, how do we explain the warming from around 780AD to around 1180AD?

        Around 890AD the Norse visited King Alfred of England to tell him about the discovery of Iceland and the richness of the Fishing, especially whales and invited him to help to explore and settle the land.

        Perhaps that was also natural variation overlaid with co2?

      • Joshua said;

        ‘And that is what lead to her enlightenment, to her goal of aspiring to the exalted status of yourself, Beth, Moso, and Faustino.’

        If you don’t mind, its highly exalted and almost mythical status.


      • “By the way, as well as the warming over the last 300 years, how do we explain the warming from around 780AD to around 1180AD?”
        At least part of it can be explained by a very low period of volcanic activity in the MWP, and with a relatively clear stratosphere more net solar insolation reaching the ground.

        This chart is very informative:

      • ==> “And we have Joshua pretending to be an objective observer.”


      • tony –

        ==> “If you don’t mind, its highly exalted and almost mythical status.”

        Sorry for the omission (btw, when did you get downgraded to “almost?”)

      • RGates

        So we had a very low level of volcanic activity in the warm MWP and a very low level of volcanic activity in the modern warm period.

        If I conceded the effects of volcanic activity, can we agree that nothing at all unusual is happening on the climate front and all go home ?

      • currja said: ” The climate models still give pretty high values; I keep them in the very likely range, but not in the narrower likely range.”

        I think you got likely and very likely reversed. Isn’t very likely narrower than likely?

      • No, think of a pdf, the likely is the middle 66%, whereas very likely covers 95% of the pdf

      • nottawa rafter

        Good point. I was trying to say instead of sticking to solid science creating the public perception of occupying the intellectual high ground they lower themselves to professional mudwrestling, taking away any deference by reasonable people who hold normal scientists in high esteem.

      • JC said:

        “Natural variability on top of a warming trend is exactly what I have been saying! CO2 is contributing to the warming trend. But there is no explanation for substantial warming 1910-1940, and the longer 300 yr warming trend”
        This is consistent with what Judith has been saying all along, but we should not suggest there is “no explanation” for either the 1910-1940 warming, the 1940-1970 cooling, or the 300 year warming trend that brought the system out of the depths of the LIA. Equally, there are some very good explanations for the MWP and LIA which seem to fit what we are learning about lingering effects of volcanoes with ocean and sea ice feedbacks. Thus, there are many explanations for all of these, some better at fitting the climate record, and some not so good. Finding the right combinations of forcings with related feedbacks + natural variability, will reveal the story of the climate. It just take a whole lot of work to unravel the forcings.

      • Except these variations may be unforced! We don’t know what the attribution is for these earlier variations, which makes the high confidence for attribution of the 1976-1998 warming seem rather dubious.

      • They didn’t understand the oceanic oscillations and they ignored the millennial scale natural changes. This misperception, deliberate or not, has led them into a dark and dangerous path. We should feel sorry for them in their misunderstanding. They are simply delusional.

      • “Except these variations may be unforced! We don’t know what the attribution is for these earlier variations, which makes the high confidence for attribution of the 1976-1998 warming seem rather dubious.”
        Unforced variations would be another term for natural variability. Certainly there is this kind of noise in any complex system, but like the analogy of a person walking a dog on a leash, the dog may wander a bit here and there, but it will follow where the owner is headed eventually, the owner being an external forcing to the dogs ultimate path. Very unlikely that both the MWP and the LIA were simply unforced variations, as both were global events, that exhibited large-scale effects that indicated large shifts in net energy being accumulated by the climate system or being lost by the climate system, respectively. Regarding the 1976-1998 warming, no one “now” doubts that the climate shift of 1976 with a shift to a positive phase of the PDO gave an extra kick to that warming period, but to get to the underlying energy balance change of the climate system over that period would require that we look to the oceans. Net ocean heat content very likely increased during that period, and continues through today without a hiatus. The PDO positive phase of 1976-1998 had a larger effect on the net global flux of latent and sensible heat from ocean to atmosphere, giving tropospheric temps and extra kick upward (not unlike what occurs during the shorter-term El Nino. But ocean heat content also was rising during the period, indicating more strongly that some external forcing very likely continued to keep the system in the accumulation phase.

      • The ocean has probably been warming for hundreds of years.

        The amount due to GHGs is probably small. We don’t see much of a change in IR out, and much of that is likely due to clouds during the haitus.

        The lack of the trop tropo hotspot and the lack of stratospheric cooling indicate negative feedback, likely evaporative cooling and increased convective efficiency.

      • tonyb derailed this with the “baubles” thing that I didn’t mention at all, unless by “baubles” you mean attention. Press, congressional hearings, blogs, twitter, etc. It is difficult to go back even one small step once that starts mounting, so the path is one-way. As I mentioned, the IPCC sensitivity explains the warming trend of about 0.7 C since 1970 with the CO2 change of about 75 ppm. You actually get a TCR of 2.4 C per doubling with those numbers, and remember that this includes the whole pause. It is difficult to squirm out of the consistency in plain numbers between temperature and CO2 with the IPCC view. You have to invent extra as-yet-unknown multi-decadal trends to get out of it, and propose that these are not just feedbacks, even if they are occurring coincidentally.

      • The baubles were hugely bigger and easier in the heyday of hurricanes and global warming. My path is to follow the science with a critical eye, which has been leading in the same direction (away from the consensus) for the past 5 yrs.

      • Jimd

        You made a really daft comment about Judith at 7 .15 , I responded in a jocular fashion, Judith saw the joke and reminded. Since then there have been some 15 serious comments so its hardly detailed Jimd.


      • Tony

        Thought the baubles are safe in the Tower of London.


      • tonyb, yes, you missed the original point that there is no upside to being a skeptic, and a rather significant downside to defecting. No baubles for anyone. You don’t need an incentive to stay when there is a large disincentive to leave. Judith is in that well.

      • philj, it is fine to just post something to be provocative here when the mood takes you. You should try it. That was posted in response to something, but now everyone has forgotten what I was responding to.

  10. nottawa rafter

    Terrific informative post. In essence this is a method of introspection and getting in touch with reality. If introspection exists in climate science, it must be in milliseconds.

    • What’s been of particular interest to me is that the milliseconds of introspection lead merely to band-aid fixes to the continuing alarming consensus rather than a reappraisal. They are coopering up barrels with green staves. Not reliable in a long voyage.

  11. The obvious starting point is open debate. It must involve as many differing views as possible. They must sit at the same table and stick to the science that supports their views. Corruption of peer review has obviated that venue, so let’s have it out in public. This blog is among the best for doing this.

  12. David L. Hagen

    Kudos to Rose for teaching pragmatic objective risk management. His book:
    Peter Rose: Risk Analysis and Management of Petroleum Exploration Ventures

    • David L. Hagen

      See also: Peter L. Bernstein Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk Paperback – August 31, 1998

      Risk management, which assumes that future risks can be understood, measured and to some extent predicted, is the focus of this solid, thoroughgoing history. Probability theory, pioneered by 17th-century French mathematicians Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat, has made possible the design of great bridges, electric power utilities and insurance policies. The statistical sampling methods invented by dour Swiss scientist Jacob Bernoulli undergird diverse activities such as the testing of new drugs, stock-picking and wine tasting. Bernstein (Capital Ideas) animates his narrative with a colorful cast of risk-analyzers, including gambling addict Girolamo Cardano, 16th-century Italian physician to the Pope; and John Maynard Keynes, whose concerns over economic uncertainty compelled him to recommend an active, interventionist role for government. Bernstein also traces the development of business forecasting, game theory, insurance and derivatives, and surveys recent advances in risk forecasting made possible through chaos theory and by the development of neural networks.
      Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

      Will Climate Science ever graduate to applying such scientifically based risk management as exemplified by Rose?

  13. Thanks, Peter.

    The same cognitive biases seem to occur in different fields of study – including nuclear, particle and solar physics.

    Overconfidence has been expressed recently as the need for psychological studies on the public’s reluctance to accept government-sponsored science as unbiased truth:

  14. The “almighty dollar” mentioned earlier does have the effect of focusing one’s attention. At the most personal level it’s “How do I conduct my career in a way that endures the prosperity of my family?”

    It’s how rewards and punishments are passed around that matters. In the petroleum world it’s provably correct adherence to reality – an accurate description of nature – that endures personal prosperity. In the climate science world it’s adherence to political correctness that counts. Evidence of this is the fact that climate scientists prosper despite the failed predictions they make that can be tested during their careers.

    • Curiously, narrative has been chosen instead of ‘adherence to reality – an accurate description of nature’. The choice is in error.

      • Humans are not, by nature, good statisticians. We are, however, very good storytellers, though stories get distorted. Mine the data, but tell a story. Successful politicians know this.

  15. Peter Rose is certainly correct in noting that for climate science particularly, and academic studies in general, there is no quality control process. From the standpoint of public policy, one simply tool that Ross McKitrick has been advocating is replication before reliance.

    Given that, even with ridiculous data cherry picking, and questionable assumptions and methodology, the reason most studies aren’t capable of replication is botched stats, it should be reasonably straightforward to simply check the dodgy stats.

  16. What, if anything, shall we do about implicit cognitive bias in science? Oh, oh, I know: how about we return to the discipline of the scientific method?

  17. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    It’s peculiar  that Climate Etc’s narratives increasingly focus exclusively on short-term objectives and amoral economic valuation.

    The world wonders  why Climate Etc has become a haven for oddball scientific theories, simplistic economic theories, selective evidence-seeking, and moral obtuseness.

    The contrast is striking  between Climate Etc and the scientific literature.

    Assessing ‘‘Dangerous Climate Change’’

    Scientific knowledge  Cumulative emissions of ,1000 GtC, sometimes associated with 2C global warming, would spur ‘slow’ feedbacks and eventual warming of 3–4C with disastrous consequences.

    Economic outcomes  Rapid emissions reduction is required to restore Earth’s energy balance and avoid ocean heat uptake that would practically guarantee irreversible effects.

    Moral implications  Continuation of high fossil fuel emissions, given current knowledge of the consequences, would be an act of extraordinary witting intergenerational injustice.

    Reasonable questions  Isn’t it time for Climate Etc discourse to abandon short-sighted market-foundationalism and selective evidence-seeking?

    The world wonders! Climate-science students wonder especially!

    \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • John Smith (it's my real name)

      I’ve always thought the cartoon consensus climate scientist was totally appropriate as like…a metaphor
      but I’m an amoral denier
      good to know all the world is reading Climate Etc.
      I’ll try to act smarter

      • John

        Here is the full context of the piece from Dr Hansen of which his cartoon version in Fans post provided a snippet

        Dr Hansen sees sea level rises of tens of feet and claims that the heat waves in Europe and Russia were definite signals of AGW.

        Unfortunately this is not correct, Europe has had heat waves every bit as severe as in 2003 and Russia also has some well documented heat events. I wrote about them here, which was the references section of my article ‘noticeable climate change’ carried here a couple of years ago.

        I think it highly likely that the Russian Northern Sea route opened during the first half of the 16th Century-as it did in the 1930’s. This is indicated from documents I saw at the Scott Polar institute in Cambridge.

        Dr Hansen might be brilliant at whatever it is he does but as a historian his knowledge is either limited or he is not aware of the full context of events. In that respect he has a ;lot in common with Dr Mann


      • A fan of @MORE@ discourse

        TonyB, why not cite directly Hansen’s analysis as presented Perception of climate change (2012)?

        “Climate dice,” describing the chance of unusually warm or cool seasons, have become more and more “loaded” in the past 30 y, coincident with rapid global warming.

        The distribution of seasonal mean temperature anomalies has shifted toward higher temperatures and the range of anomalies has increased.

        It follows that we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small.

        We discuss practical implications of this substantial, growing, climate change.

        Quoting original sources is *FAR* better than cherry-picking second-hand references, don’t you agree?

        It’s time for Climate Etc readers to to grow-up and focus on the big picture, TonyB!

        \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • Fan

        I made a direct link to joe romm who quote it within a longer analysis. If you think he was cherry picking I suggest you take it up with him.


      • John Smith (it's my real name)

        thanks Tonyb
        ah, full context
        something often missing from the warmist side IMHO
        thanks for turning my snark into substance
        but fan seemed to hint folk like me were amoral
        immoral would of been ok, and more accurate

      • A fan of @MORE@ discourse

        TonyB, your post’s careless strip-mining of Joe Romm’s well-reasoned essay for cherry-picked quotes from James H’s well-reasoned and much-cited science was just plain … unreasonable!

        Climate Etc readers expect higher quality of your posts, TonyB!

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      • Fan

        I am genuinely bemused by your post. I linked to joe romm without any further comment or editing. It’s not as if I llinked to WUWT or anything and gave a skewed view

        In contrast you posted a cartoon of people uttering brief comments without any context at all. If you want to link to these cartoons I suggest you provide the context.

        If you do not provide the context you should not be surprised that others, such as myself, will do so.

        Unlike myself, others may cherry pick.

        John smith is a relative newcomer, keen to learn and surely you will Agree that to do this he needs to understand the complete picture and not be shown merely a few confusing pixels?


      • John Smith (it's my real name)

        tried to read through the Hansen interview
        I try to keep an open mind, but I find the “planet in peril” stuff to be absolutely absurd
        I become interested in climate science through my love of history
        I think history tells us that NASA is not just a friendly scientific organization
        of course, I would never imply that any of their fine representatives might have anything other than noble purpose

    • John Smith (it's my real name)

      i don’t trust any scientist that only has 3 fingers

    • Trolling is fun when you support amoral soviet and North Korean style economic valuations?

  18. A most interesting and pleasing post to read. Many useful insights. Thank you.

    • ? Many useful insights.

      Which ones do you choose, please ?

      Given your record here, I’m genuinely interested

  19. Gary B: Thanks for your comment. There are two aspects involved here: 1) finding a new producing trend; and 2) accurately predicting its dimensions. Certainly aspect #2 is a much more contained problem than “proving a theory”. But I believe that the act of correctly predicting the presence of a previously unknown producing trend is tantamount to setting up a new hypothesis and proving it. What is required is not only sound science, but also methods for assessing the new concept before spending hundreds of $$millions on a test well. Some proven useful E & P approaches are: a) structured applications of the principle of Multiple Working Hypotheses (MWHs); b) Open multidisciplinary examination and discussion of geotechnical facts and interpretations; c) Quasi-Delphi rounds to assign appropriate probabilities to the five independent geologic chance factors; 4) Scrutiny of the critical geologic dimensions to assess the range of possible volumes contained therein.

    I’m not a Climatologist, but I am a Scientist. As an interested bystander, I would make three observations:
    1) Maybe Climatology research could use some genuinely objective, informed, applied “Group Wisdom” on emerging research conclusions before they get submitted for publication;
    2) Closer adherence to Richard Feinman’s principle of dedicated search for “proof of falsity” before publication;
    3) The striking departure of actual average atmospheric and earth temperatures from model predictions for the past 18 years would seem to constitute empirical evidence that the modeller’s assumptions and procedures are manifestly false. In my science, such departures between models and performance would have long ago disqualified the whole enterprise.

    • The pause outlines the climate alarmist consensus science starkly against the sun and the clouds; it’s an antiquated bandwagon, wheel bearings squawking, trundling unsteadily down the road, all loudspeakers blaring narrative propaganda.

      Film at Eleven. Set your clocks, change your batteries.

  20. The simplified version of how to get independent multiple estimates as applied to software development:

    “The reason to use Planning poker is to avoid the influence of the other participants. If a number is spoken, it can sound like a suggestion and influence the other participants’ sizing. Planning poker should force people to think independently and propose their numbers simultaneously. This is accomplished by requiring that all participants show their card at the same time.”

    This is just intended as an illustration of the principle and the fact that it has been recognized in other contexts.

  21. There is zero justification for failing to maintain the integrity of the decision-making process it a situation like global warming. Especially so given what we know about the obvious existence of cognitive bias in this small area of natural science –e.g., we see the many examples of knowingly fraudulent conduct and the use of propaganda to manipulate society by those who know that causing a stampede will prevent even the most naïve in the population from considering changes in circumstances.

    There’s no justification because there’s no urgency. There is a supposed urgency. But, the supposed urgency has been manufactured and is one of the most salient aspect of climatology that argues for discounting everything coming from there when making important decisions.

    There is no real pressure to respond to for fear of suffering horrible consequences due to inaction. And, all of the fast decisions that the urgency-mongers say we must take if we are to avoid a future fraught with peril actually imperil society’s ability to survive in the present.

  22. David Wojick: Thanks for yours about multiple probabilities. Let me use an example, Suppose we believe that the chance profile for a given exploratory well is: Chance of Mature Source Rocks = 80%; Chance of Timely Migration to the Trend = 70%; Chance of Adequate Reservoir Rock = 90%; Chance of Trapping Configuration = 60% ; Chance of Preservation = 90%. Since all five factors must obtain for there to be a subsurface petroleum accumulation, and all five factors are essentially independent, the chance of finding a flowable accumulation is about 27%. In the case of a successful outcome, all five factors were obviously satisfied. We learn more about estimating geologic chance from our failures than from our successes. We know we are going to drill dry holes; we hope they fail usually because of the critical risk-factor — that way we know we have correctly identified the weakest link in the geologic chain. Also, at the end of each year, each team compares the reasons for failures with its overall predictions, and substantial departures from expectations are reviewed with especial scrutiny. Finally, we compare our actual success record with our predicted performance — if we forecast five out of ten successes (on a portfolio basis) and we got four, or six, that’s pretty good predictive perfomance. If we got one out of ten, something’s wrong with our estimating process and has to be corrected; if we hit on nine out ten we’re risking our prospects too conservatively. Remember that subjective probability is subjective — but results allow us to assess our predictive ability, and correct it. “It ain’t perfect, but we’ve gotten pretty good at it”

  23. Michael; Sorry, I don’t follow — please elaborate.

  24. Discussion by Jim D., Angech, Michael and Speed — Petroleum Geoscientists start with the expectation that Cognitive Bias is embedded in emerging exploration prospects. What we do is apply the mentioned procedures to detect and counter it. The results of the exploratory well provides some indication of our success — or failure — but the performance of the annual drilling portfolio furnishes the best evidence of objectivity. The third line of evidence is provided by the maintained record of team predictive performance: “our predicted chance of success for ten wells indicated that six should have been discoveries; in fact five were (not bad!)”. Or, our chance-weighted new discovered volumes for 2013 were 120 million barrels; in fact e found 150 million barrels (again, not bad).

    R2Dtoo: Thanks, I agree with one important caveat: the goal in Petroleum Geoscience is to grasp the approximate truth, even though intense scrutiny and debate may occur throughout the process of project assessment is usually, the overriding goal is usually the welfare of the Firm’s portfolio. I’m not sure that Climate Science has such a unifying goal.

  25. Feather merchants. Covering themselves with tar.

  26. Could any of this stuff be applied to Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome?

    • Sure. But they won’t do it to themselves for obvious reasons. They drilled dry holes. For a contemporary take with all the internal details exposed for independent auditing like Dr. Rose advocates, see ebook Gaia’s Limits. Bit of a data slog, just like the E&P guys have to do.

      • “They drilled dry holes.” Depends on your perspective. They were hugely successful in the marketplace.

      • @ Rud Istvan

        “They drilled dry holes. ”

        They drilled SCIENTIFICALLY dry holes. From the point of view of their ‘customer’, they drilled gushers. And were and have continued to be rewarded handsomely for their efforts.

  27. Omanuel: The #1 Cognitive Bias we see in professional estimates of subsurface geotechnical parameters, over and over again, is Overconfidence. No other bias comes close.
    Pragmatic question we ask geoscientists about their predictions: “Do you get a lot of surprises?”
    Usual response: lowered heads, averted eyes, sheepish smiles, shuffling of feet!

    Vimbrain/Dagfinn: Here is our recommended protocol for Quasi Delphi Rounds:
    1) Strong instructions to both team leader and working group to curb overbearing behavior by any member, especially the team leader;
    2) Review all pertinent geotechnical data on the specific geotechnical parameter and address any questions;
    3) Each individual team member writes down his/her estimate and hands it to the team leader, who writes estimate and name on a white board;
    4) If all the values generally agree within a narrow range, the estimates are averaged;
    5) If there are outliers, the team leader addresses the author(s) of the outlying estimate: “Mary Ann, either you know something we don’t know, or we know something that you don’t know; where are you coming from?
    This usually leads to a)swift resolution and consensus, or 2) new insights , which may lead to a new round of estimates and resolution. If it does not, focused further research is indicated.
    Once geotechnical professionals get used to the process open and candid, sometimes challenging discussion becomes routine.Professional are never allowed to forget the goal: objectivity in the interests of the portfolio’s performance.

    • Over and over again, lately, we see the climate alarmist scientists putting up band-aid fixes of valid skeptical critique, blundering with innovative statistics to show some further darkness in the cognitive dissonances in which they dwell, and delving to other diverse darknesses of the scientific method; the goal has become ‘subjectivity in the interest of the portfolio’s performance’, the cause, for alarm and control.

      Madness, nigh unto evil, deliberate as it seems.

    • Pete: You process seems eminently reasonable. I used planning poker as a simple example. It’s used for very quick estimation of relatively small chunks of work. The context is very different. But I’m thinking there might be something in your context that could be carried over to mine.

    • Pete: Engineers´ bias estimating what happens after hydrocarbons are discovered can be almost as pervasive as geoscientist bias. My experience also shows management has a tendency to overestimate its abilities to manage the whole process. This leads to failures down the feeding chain one can´t blame on the geoscientists. An excellent post drill example would be the Kashagan project. A predrill failure example is Shell´s project in the Chuckchi Sea.

  28. The article about Kahan in the Jump-link (“inconvenient truths that expose the roots of scientific conflict”) would have been more interesting if it had not been so thoroughly infected by the cognitive bias of the author.

  29. Wagathon, thanks for your comments. Per your para #2 — IMHO a huge problem that has appeared overv the last generation in Science is that there are no negative consequences for colleagues who generate and publish shabby work. Used to be that one or two of those kinds of pubs was professional death. But scientific communities were smaller then, and maybe more principled?

    • Possibly, but climate science is a fairly small community. Small in numbers, large in perversion.

      On second thought, substitue ‘perverseness’ for ‘perversion’ above.

      On third thought, they’re both apt.

  30. A fan of @MORE@ discourse

    Judge rules petroleum industry practices “reckless”

    BP’s reckless conduct caused Gulf oil spill,
    federal judge rules

    In his 153-page ruling, Judge Barbier said BP made “profit-driven decisions” during the drilling of the well that led to the deadly blowout.

    “These instances of negligence, taken together, evince an extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard of known risks,” the judge wrote.

    Conclusion  Bad long-term outcomes are a guaranteed consequence of the petroleum industry’s short-term profit-focused decision procedures.

    So why, exactly, should humanity embrace petroleum-industry methods in assessing climate-change risk?

    This makes *ZERO* moral, legal, economic, scientific, or ecological sense, eh Climate Etc readers?

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    • Curious George

      I like to reach my own conclusions. I don’t like people who tell me that I need to look at carbon dioxide emissions their way.

    • The reality seems to escape Fan.

      Has BP experienced high long term costs as a result of their prior failure to properly protect against a blowout?

      Answer- Yes

      Does this demonstrate to BP and other oil companies that the cost effective solution is to no let something like thins reoccur somewhere else? Yes

      Does the system work- Answer-reasonably well

    • A fan of @MORE@ discourse

      Reality seems to escape Climate Etc denialists.

      The short-term costs of a carbon-energy economy are paid in hero’s blood and national treasure:

      The long-term costs of a carbon-energy economy are paid in desecrated land and acid oceans:

      It’s overdue for these risks-and-costs to be rationally appreciated and responsibly accounted, eh Climate Etc readers?

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      • How about also including the benefits in your analysis—oh, I doubt that you’d do that

      • ISIS proves its not always about oil. Just like with academia: it’s not really about oil at all. It’s political not natural science. The opinions and personal agendas of academia, the Left and the Eurocommies wouldn’t bother me except that I’m forced to pay for their propaganda through my taxes.

      • FOMBS…I think your true calling is emerging…comic book author. And your artwork just about sums up your cognitive work…bland, cliched, trite, superficial with a heaping of self-righteousness.
        Will you be coming out with Captain Climate as a new superhero to fight the evil oil industry? Will Captain Climate do shows with children and oiled birds to show the evils of unbridled capitalism? Will you do a three minute catechism on why government control and regulation makes all things possible and better? Will Captain Climate fly like superman or like Wonder Woman? Will his plane be solar powered? Will there be a fiendish Fossil Fuel Foe to fight? Are you excited about getting to the five to ten year old crowd before anyone else does?

      • Fan,
        Thanks for the Hansen paper link.

        You do realize that all these posts of yours is your cognitive bias on display don’t you? But please do continue though, don’t know what we’d do without you :-)

      • A fan of @MORE@ discourse | November 3, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Reply
        Reality seems to escape Climate Etc denialists.

        A large contributor to the US NOT being energy self sufficient is the activists who blindly block all attempts to extract US energy resources.

        The oceans aren’t acid. The oceans are alkaline. The oceans hold the equivalent of 38000 gigatons of carbon. They can’t be made acid with the 818 gigatonnes of known carbon from fossils fuels. Claiming they can is simply lying.

        Your picture of “desecration” is the Alberta tar sands (not in the US).

        The “renewable” energy sources are reeking havoc on the Chinese environment where they are produced – making the US captive to pollution creating Chinese energy technology is a lousy solution.

        It doesn’t make any sense to deploy PV or Wind technology that doesn’t make economic sense now. Future PV technology will be more efficient and organic based (cleaner and cheaper). Wind uses so much metal concrete and rare earths it is hard to even call it a clean technology. Renewable technologies are in an early adopter stage and should be niche or demos only.

        Further – there simply isn’t enough fossil fuel carbon to push the CO2 level over a level in the mid 500’s (less asteroid strike or nuclear war). 6.2 gigatons of carbon is going from the atmosphere into the environment – mostly the polar oceans and disappearing effectively forever. The environment absorption increases with increasing CO2 in the atmosphere proportional to the difference from the equilibrium level.

        Activists constantly make idiotic claims like the Puget Sound resident Orca population is declining because of global warming. Any problem activists blame both Fukushima and global warming (like the Puget Sound Orcas) is a lie.

        The climate activists make many claims that don’t bear even a cursory examination.

      • Excellent reasons for pursuing alternatives to fossil fuels. Hooray. But anthropogenic climate change somewhat peripheral…

  31. John (11-3, 12:15 pm): Sorry I missed your comment first time around. FYI, the opening sentence represents humor, and a lead-in to the real subject: Climatology acknowledges widespread Cognitive Bias, but no specific measures have been proposed to counter it. It’s Climatology’s Elephant in the Living Room, and most of the prominent leaders in the field have poked their heads in the sand, making no suggestions about dealing with it. As a scientist, I think that is irresponsible. Many petroleum geoscientists think that Cognitive Bias is degrading contemporary science. Our branch of science has developed effective ways to counter it. If such methods are useful to your practice of science, I’m gratified — that’s why I wrote the post. If they aren’t useful to you, you are certainly free to disregard them.

    • Bows with Respect to Pete,
      I love humor but it doesn’t work unless designed insightfully

      Bias is a Muse Human, it has little to “DO” with Logic! in Science!!

    • With Respect Pete,
      “The Message Is Not The Medium”,

      The “Art” in Science “Is Now” a “Muse”.

      Beware how you “Vote” for…

  32. Sorry, my last post should have been directed at John (11-3 12:40 pm) Regrets to John (11-3 12:15 pm). Pete

  33. “Where petroleum geoscience differs from academic or institutional science is that we are forced to see the results of our geotechnical predictions in the cold, hard light of day (or night), and they are prompt, frequent, often humbling, and even career-threatening. ”
    Yep. Verifyable hypothesis and all that jazz…

  34. Very interesting post. In my former consulting and intrepreneur ‘lives’ I have seen some of these tools used in analogous setting like entering a new business or product category or market, where cognitive bias can also really bite hard. Rather than dry holes, the feedback comes in empty stores or unsold products.
    Most interesting comment was that the most is learned from dissecting the process flaws behind the failures, then ‘designing them out’. But stuff always still happens.
    Hardest thing is to envision application of these practices to climate science. Getting it mostly wrong or half baked means requesting still more research dollars. Getting it right means most climatologists would be out of work. Inverted underlying incentive structure. Same reason the IPCC self perpetuates; all those lovely paid junkets to multiday meetings in exotic places.

    • Bad results and bad projects tend to get buried. No one involved wants bad news to go public, bad for the ego and paycheck.

    • Itsvan, one side application which results from risk policing is the “value of information” exercises. These allow us to estimate how raptors reduce the risk by obtaining more data. Some companies carry out the exercise subs consciously when they acquire data (there’s no specific rule which requires we obtain 3D seismic before we drill, but in most settings this has become common practice).

      I suspect a proper risk analysis of the climate change issue would demand some house cleaning. This includes additional data, improved computer software and hardware, better methods to prepare the emissions scenarios, improved estimates of the costs to remedy versus avoid global warming, and a much more professional consideration of carbon sequestration as well as how to integrate renewables into the grid. Etc etc etc.

      • Fernando, I could not agree more. But it won’t happen until incentive structures are fundamentally altered. And that will, in farming vernacular, lead to a lot of pig squealing.
        Regards to one who has apparently lived these things professionally.

      • @ Fernando Leanme

        “This includes additional data, improved computer software and hardware, better methods to prepare the emissions scenarios, improved estimates of the costs to remedy versus avoid global warming, and a much more professional consideration of carbon sequestration as well as how to integrate renewables into the grid. Etc etc etc.”

        How about somewhere along the line figuring out why climate DOES vary and HAS varied over all time scales examined and whether or not CO2, never mind ACO2, has much or anything to do with its variability before estimating the ‘costs to remedy’ that which is not provably in need of remedy and making plans to sequester a chemical whose presence in the atmosphere is absolutely crucial to the biosphere at large?

        Is there any evidence that the optimum level of atmospheric CO2, when all of its impacts on the environment are taken into account is not GREATER than the (using figures from posts above) 550-600 ppm that we are likely to be able to achieve by burning ALL accessible fossil fuels?

        Maybe instead of sequestering CO2 we would be well served to undertake to release a few of gigatons of it that has previously been sequestered in limestone? Are we absolutely sure whether sequestering or de-sequestering is the optimum strategy for planetary health?

    • David Springer


      Yup. Climate science yellow journalism.

  35. Here is s typical disclaimer that comes with most existing building energy reports. These reports can run from $20,000 to over $100,000 each. There are hundreds of examples online similar to this.

    In essence – We really want you to hire us to do the design but can’t guarantee any savings.

    I think maybe this shows all five top problems?

    “The results of the energy analysis presented in this report cannot
    be construed to have absolute, predictive accuracy, representing
    the actual energy use of the building or its individual systems. All
    reasonable efforts have been taken to ensure the accuracy of the
    energy model inputs, including verifying that actual details
    correspond to the building as it is currently designed. The primary
    benefit of energy modeling is for comparison of alternative design
    options to determine their relative energy savings potential.
    There a number of factors that will cause the actual energy use of
    the building to diverge from the projected energy use of the model.
    Among these are: differences in building design relative to the
    building modeled; abnormal weather conditions; variations in
    schedules for equipment, systems, and occupancy; inconsistencies
    in the application of controls and operations strategies compared to
    those used in the model; the level of direct loads; and changes in
    connected loads and electricity and gas rates. In addition, the
    model results do not necessarily take into account all the energy
    uses of a facility or building site that would show up as loads on the
    utility meters.
    In no event will the author be liable
    for (i) the failure of the customer to achieve the estimated energy
    savings or any other estimated benefits included herein, or (ii) for
    any damages to customer’s site, including but not limited to any
    incidental or consequential damages of any kind, in connection
    with this report or the installation of any identified energy efficiency
    Nevertheless, refinements of the energy model to reconcile all
    these differences, when these adjustments are made by a capable
    energy engineer, can yield model results that are more consistent
    with actual energy use.”

    Anyone see any bias in this?????

  36. Thank you, Peter Rose. A well-written, understandable post.

  37. This is an excellent post and is a ray of hope that it is possible to deal effectively with the biases that are so tragically common in science, engineering, and in business too. I applaud Peter Rose.

  38. Bob Tisdale: Thanks for the kind words. And thanks for your years of good scientific response to flawed public science. Pete

  39. David Young — many thanks, there is room for hope. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the most-despised branch of science (Petroleum Geoscience) could end up offering techniques that helped Climatology grow up? Pete

    • Pete:

      Climate, glaciology and oceanography are small sub-sets of Geology much like igneous petrology or geomorphology. The techniques you outlined above are not in anyway unique to petroleum geology. In fact, they are derived from basic geologic field methods (e.g. Geology 104A using Compton) that are introduced sophomore year.

  40. Outstanding post! Understanding and correcting for bias is applicable only in situations that involve humans. For further study, I recommend the work of Kahneman and Tversky.

  41. Steven Mosher

    looking at this process I suspect that many purists would not call it science.
    But a decision is called for, so a decision is made using the best tools and process informed by science

    Question: if we estimated sensitivity in the same fashion, how many would be happy dropping their skepticism

    • You would to use the same analysis on your emissions pathways, the cost of carbon estimates, and similar issues. You see the problem I have is to see very very poor work in fields which most climatologists seem to know almost nothing about. When it comes to advocacy of solutions most of what I see is very weak. This means a proper analysis would take apart work done by mr stern, the IPCC, the UN, and the other incompetents we see peddling solutions.

      • Steven Mosher

        you didnt answer my question. Noted.

      • Pick an arbitrary number. There you are.

      • SM – compare the quantity and quality of data in the oilfield to that of climate. Oilfield geological data is primarily spatial for drilling purposes. Climatological data is needed over long time spans as well as over the entire spatial extent of the Earth – extending into outer space for some purposes.

        The oil field guys have an easier job, but their job depends on it.

      • “the post describes a process”

        Mosh, are you on Meds?

        If we simply take, “Geological chance of success predictions inherently involve informed subjective probability.” and add it to any other crap phrase you’re going to need medics!

    • Question: if we estimated sensitivity in the same fashion, how many would be happy dropping their skepticism.

      None, I suspect. Weather isn’t a female concept unless you drop some for a laugh in your fashion.

      : P

      • “decision is called for, so a decision is made using the best tools and process informed by science”‘

        Hello, this Is The Point –> “informed” by WHAT!

      • Steven Mosher

        did you approve of the process in this post?
        do you think this process makes good decisions?

        simple questions.

      • If you’re asking me:
        – did I have the opportunity to “condone” this process
        – did I have the opportunity to decide the intent by design

        No and No yet it is a Mosh Pit ; )

      • Steven Mosher

        No John

        Do you think this process is good
        Do you think it leads to good decisions

        Or point me at your criticisms

      • Steven,
        “Cognitive bias – how petroleum scientists deal with it”

        Forget the bias yet see the “good” process decisions.

        The DOD and DOE have managed to process pragmatically. Ships at sea which can now fuel jets and themselves from sea water. Water treatment plants which can now fuel themselves with bio-waste and brackish water delivering power and potable water.

        What bias in the face of innovation Mosh?

        Is this post insightful? No, yet we’ll never lose sight of the need for carbon fuels and carbon products.

        Does this post deliver “good decisions”? Few if any do without comment!

      • To be honest, the author speaks in tongues:
        the 5 biases are poorly defined : /

      • Steven Mosher


        “Do you think this process is good
        Do you think it leads to good decisions

        Simple yes or no questions.

      • Steven Mosher


        For example..

        “Does this post deliver “good decisions”? Few if any do without comment!”

        My question wasnt does the POST deliver good decisions.
        the post describes a process. That process has nothing to do with DOD or DOE or fuels or anything you mention

        The post describes a process.
        Read the post
        Answer the simple questions.

        you wont.

      • ok mosh,
        “My question wasnt does the POST deliver good decisions.”

        Clearly, you’re in the chips yet pissed off. Reading, between the lines, I assume you’re trying to Ask about this Post.

        I don’t find solid views in this article! All I see is a PR statement related to a very poorly defined reflection on what could occur.

        I find the article tragic yet see the muse.

    • Answer: none

    • If this process led to concluding no sensitvity, would you drop your hubris?

    • > Question: if we estimated sensitivity in the same fashion, how many would be happy dropping their skepticism ?

      How could any person answer that ? How could anyone know how “many” other people would be happy ?

      Sometimes you are a true dill, Mosher

    • SM – it puzzles me that bounding the TCR and ECS wasn’t the first priority.

      It is impossible to intelligently discuss increasing CO2 and its effects without a tight bound on the climate response to CO2.

    • David Springer

      I’m skeptical that increased CO2 is undesirable. The benefit of the energy consumption that generates aCO2 is monumental given that it fuels civilization including medicine, agriculture, refrigeration, sanitation, heating, cooling, and just about everything else that billions of people rely on to remain alive. Moreover increased CO2 causes plants to grow faster and be more drought tolerant. Any warming caused by it is largely distributed in the coldest, driest climes such as northern hemisphere winters which means longer growing seasons, fewer killer frosts, diminished cold & flu season, and possibly even postponing or outright ending of earth entering 100,000 year glacial epics where NYC is buried under a mile of ice.

      My position is that if we didn’t have increasing level of CO2 as a natural result of burning fossil fuels we’d have to invent some other way to make it increase because the benefits far outweigh the only credible downside which is sea level rising so slowly it’s difficult to measure.

      So there. Process that Mosher.

    • Why don’t you do it, and we’ll find out?

    • Isn’t this basically what Judith’s recent paper did, or at least start to do?

  42. Peter, coincidentally, I sent this letter to The Australian about five hours ago:

    After I came to Australia in 1979, I was bombarded with the view that mining was destroying the country. Then I learned that the total area covered by mining was less than that covered by hotels, and that Australian miners were world leaders in restoring mined areas. As an economist, I found that Australia’s miners were also world leaders in productivity and innovation, a shining example to the many moribund industries here, and that they have long been one of the main drivers of our high living standards. Mining exports helped us through the financial crisis at a time when government policy was creating huge debt problems for no benefit, at the same time as government carbon dioxide policy was inflicting great economic damage for no benefit.

    Miners! You’ve got to love ‘em! Why don’t we?

    • > I was bombarded with the view that mining was destroying the country

      Still happening – the bombardment, I mean

      You’ve been here 44 years now, and you seriously haven’t understood why this keeps on occurring ? Australia’s dirty little secret is spiteful envy, ie. envy of anyone who actually takes a risk and is successful

      That caveat aside, the reminder of your comment is fair. Obviously I agree with it, after 40 years of geoscientific efforts within mining

      Peter Rose’ post is accurate and quite graceful in places. Most of the predictable opposition in the comments (Jimmy Dee Doo, FoAM, Michael etc) appears to stem from fear of accountability rising out of inaccurate predictions. Certainly a lot of academics really dislike the concept of accountability (I have met honourable exceptions)

      • Ianl8888,


      • I’ve noticed that the only way to get some people to observe a forest is to show them a small area which has been subject to a logging operation. Thousands of untouched acres adjacent are still invisible and without interest – but suddenly these people are activists and “care” about the forest.

        I guess it’s like that with mines. Make an honest quid in strenuous fashion and they’ll hate you…though their boycotts and divestments will be highly selective. (It takes a lot of mining and fossil fuel to keep Tim Flannery in Toyota and Panasonic products.)

      • 35 years by my reckoning. Unless my clock is nine years slow.

    • Mining or cutting trees makes a mess. Mother Nature cleans up the mess and after some years, it looks as good or even better than it started. Especially with the trees. If trees are not harvested, sooner or later, Mother Nature will burn most forests because that is part of the natural cycle. Grow the trees, take them out, start over.

      • Roman hydraulic mining in Northern Spain created a unique landscape which is now some sort of World Heritage thingy. I find organisations like UNESCO a bit creepy, but the people of the Bierzo region (great people, great valley) are justly proud of this two thousand year old mining mess made by the ultimate multinational:

      • mosomoso

        Interesting link, I’d only ever caught up with Roman tin mining in Iberia, not gold

    • @ Faustino

      “Miners! You’ve got to love ‘em! Why don’t we?”

      Speak for yourself kemo sabe; I DO love them.

      In my private life, I pay both fossil fuel producers and the Climate Science Cartel.

      In the case of the fossil fuel producers, I do so willingly because without the product of their labors my life would be unlivable. Literally. If not for them it would undoubtedly have ended at least a couple of decades ago.

      In the case of the Climate Science Cartel, which I also support financially, I do so at the point of a gun–literally; I would not do so otherwise.

  43. “Perhaps petroleum geoscientists can be forgiven for wishing sometimes that their academic colleagues had to function under similar circumstances!”

    This is a big issue – academics can spout society-harming rubbish without fear of consequence. The idea of academic freedom clearly has merit, but it developed at a time when they were few academics. The vast proliferation of academics in recent decades ensures that there are many deadbeats in their ranks, people who would not succeed if exposed to the forces of competitive markets and seek fame or notoriety by extravagant statements. Lewandowsky comes to mind as somebody who should be unemployable but has had significant influence.

    In government, I often met industry-interventionist “public servants” who could see amazing commercial opportunities which business entities, which thrive or fail on their capacity to recognise worthwhile opportunities, had unaccountably missed. They urged government to back many useless schemes. My first question to them was: “Given that you are the first to recognise this amazing opportunity, have you mortgaged your house to help fund it?” You can guess the answer. Those who backed failed schemes suffered no consequences, just as academics who damage society suffer no consequences. Perhaps reduced government funding to the sector would help.

    • The idea of the need for academic freedom arose in a time when the dangers to free enquiry resulted from the church (for science, philosophy, theology, etc) and the government (for study of history, economics, politics, etc). The idea that it should shield incompetents or looneys or mean that someone who is always grossly wrong (think Paul Erhlich) should never be criticized was not exactly part of the original purpose.

  44. “Following all executed projects with post-audit reviews and measured E & P team performance in accurately forecasting geotechnical parameters.” One thing I tried to have established in the Queensland Public Service was consistent techniques for pre- and post hoc evaluations of projects backed by government. The depth of the evaluation would vary with the size of the project, modest proposals would require less work than those where hundreds of millions of dollars were involved. At one stage I had an expert in the field, ex-Bureau of Industry Economics, someone whose work I knew well, on hand to develop suitable techniques. But this was seen of no value, it would only get in the way of project-promoters. The mining industry could develop such techniques because of commercial imperatives; governments and academics, sadly, can ignore them.

  45. Twenty years flat or forty-year trend. You can judge your own cognitive bias here. In blue I added 3-month averages from 2014 so that you can see where things are going up to date.

    • In red you can see where things are going for at least the rest of the decade at least.

      • Note also the residual rate of warming – in the graph posted originally at realclimate – after removing the 1976/1977 and 1998/2001 ‘dragon-kings’.

        ‘We develop the concept of “dragon-kings” corresponding to meaningful outliers, which are found to coexist with power laws in the distributions of event sizes under a broad range of conditions in a large variety of systems. These dragon-kings reveal the existence of mechanisms of self-organization that are not apparent otherwise from the distribution of their smaller siblings. We present a generic phase diagram to explain the generation of dragon-kings and document their presence in six different examples (distribution of city sizes, distribution of acoustic emissions associated with material failure, distribution of velocity increments in hydrodynamic turbulence, distribution of financial drawdowns, distribution of the energies of epileptic seizures in humans and in model animals, distribution of the earthquake energies). We emphasize the importance of understanding dragon-kings as being often associated with a neighborhood of what can be called equivalently a phase transition, a bifurcation, a catastrophe (in the sense of Rene Thom), or a tipping point.’

        Cognitive dissonance much?

      • Most unlikely direction for “where things are going” in the next decade. More likely to continue warming. The ocean drives the climate, and there has been no much beloved “hiatus” in ocean heat content (despite highly cherry picked charts attempting to say there has). Every reputable ocean expert will confidently say it is more likely than not that the oceans have warmed over the past decade. It’s just a matter of how much and how much how deep.

      • Rgates

        When do you think we will get back to the level of the ocean temperatures you have posted here that cover the MWP?


    • .09C/decade

  46. Peter, an excellent post which contrasts the improvements made in your field from commercial and professional necessity (and commitment to the highest standards) to what occurs in the world of climate science. I’ve touched on the question of incentives above – the incentives in the climate science field over the last 30 years have not been conducive to the professional approach you have developed and promoted. Given the impact on public policy, and the huge costs incurred for, in my view, no benefit, this needs to be addressed urgently. Governments are, in effect, the clients here, the onus is on them to demand a higher quality product. The problem is that the incentives for government too do not always favour policies which I would consider rational.

    • A major incentive for politicians, of course, is how to get re-elected. Increasingly, politicians are a professional class of career-driven apparatchiks rather than being driven by a principled concern for the well-being of their people. (I’ve observed this change at close quarters in the last 50-odd years.) The growth of Green movements and green sentiment has been a factor in their response to alleged CAGW, and being seen to be “doing something” about a big scary issue is generally seen as a vote-winner. So we, the individuals on this blog and elsewhere, if we have a view contrary to the prevailing IPCC wisdom, need to influence popular opinion and hence politicians. One of my approaches is letters to the national press, which happily tend to find favour with editors. The thrust of my letters is often to promote more soundly-based decision-making, not only in the climate field. There does seem to have been a shift in popular opinion in Australia which has moved the current governing parties to a more rational approach, although the opposition and Greens remain recalcitrant.

  47. In addition to ‘Cognitive Bias,’ how about willful bias. What else can we think about those who profess to be concerned about the consequences of human-caused CO2 when they continue refuse to admit facts that undermine their belief –e.g.,

    There isn’t the slightest evidence that more carbon dioxide has caused more extreme weather. ~Harrison H. Schmitt and William Happer

  48. ‘One of the most important and mysterious events in recent climate history is the climate shift in the mid-1970s [Graham , 1994]. In the northern hemisphere 500-hPa atmospheric flow the shift manifested itself as a collapse
    of a persistent wave-3 anomaly pattern and the emergence of a strong wave-2 pattern. The shift was accompanied by sea-surface temperature (SST) cooling in the central Pacific and warming off the coast of western North America [Miller et al., 1994]. The shift brought sweeping long-range changes in the climate of northern hemisphere. Incidentally,
    after ‘‘the dust settled,’’ a new long era of frequent El Niños superimposed on a sharp global temperature increase begun. While several possible triggers for the shift have been suggested and investigated [Graham
    , 1994; Miller et al. 1994; Graham et al., 1994], the actual physical mechanism that led to this shift is not known. Understanding the dynamics of such phenomena is essential for our ability to make useful prediction of climate change. A major obstacle to this understanding is the extreme complexity of the climate system, which makes it difficult
    to disentangle causal connections leading to the observed climate behavior. ‘ Tsonis et al., (2007) A new dynamical mechanism for major climate shifts

    The physical mechanism is likely to involve spinning up of sub-polar oceanic gyres by changes in the polar annular modes. Complex science but they seem immune to even simple ideas. Changing the start point for modern warming from 1950 to 1944 – for instance – reduces the overall warming from 0.65K to 0.4K. Shifting the start is justifiable from both physical ocean regimes that are quite obvious in the climate system and in the temperature record – and have been for decades – and consideration of the dynamical mechanisms revealed by climate regime theory. Regime theory suggests also that there is quite a good chance of the current cool regime persisting for decades.

    The latter in particular presents significant obstacles to the central ploy of the discognescenti – therefore cannot be correct. Their disaster scenarios are linked to overweening ambitions to transform societies and economies that provide the underlying social and psychological impetus. Do they actually believe – spaceship cult style – or like Schneider see wild exaggeration as an acceptable mode of operation? Or both? Who cares?

    What matters is that they – these fringe extremists – seem more of an impediment to actual progress – not to mention actual science – than otherwise.

    • > Their disaster scenarios are linked to overweening ambitions to transform societies and economies that provide the underlying social and psychological impetus.

      A blast from the past:

      We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs—expansion of social security—broadened coverage in unemployment insurance —improved housing—and better health protection for all our people. We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people.

      Progressives – invading the Republican mind at least since 1955.


    Right now, at our current low levels of carbon dioxide, plants are paying a heavy price in water usage. Whether plants are C3 or C4, the way they get carbon dioxide from the air is the same: The plant leaves have little holes, or stomata, through which carbon dioxide molecules can diffuse into the moist interior for use in the plant’s photosynthetic cycles.

    The density of water molecules within the leaf is typically 60 times greater than the density of carbon dioxide in the air, and the diffusion rate of the water molecule is greater than that of the carbon-dioxide molecule.

    So depending on the relative humidity and temperature, 100 or more water molecules diffuse out of the leaf for every molecule of carbon dioxide that diffuses in. And not every carbon-dioxide molecule that diffuses into a leaf gets incorporated into a carbohydrate. As a result, plants require many hundreds of grams of water to produce one gram of plant biomass, largely carbohydrate.

    Driven by the need to conserve water, plants produce fewer stomata openings in their leaves when there is more carbon dioxide in the air. This decreases the amount of water that the plant is forced to transpire and allows the plant to withstand dry conditions better. ~Harrison H. Schmitt and William Happer:
    In Defense of Carbon Dioxide

  50. Justin Wonder: Thanks for your comment. We began using the work of Tversky and Kahneman in 1984 to help detect cognitive bias in decisions made under uncertainty, and also to remain objective when dealing with characteristic biases that pop up when dealing with Risk Aversion. John Cozzolino’s work also helped here. Pete

  51. In addition to the 5 cognitive biases mentioned I think with global warming we have the attractiveness of simplicity which has more to do with how sellable the message will be to the public — sort of a “Belief” bias but of a mendacious character — i.e., its believability with an eye as to, ‘how will this play with the rubes’ –e.g., its utility as a political tool like the ‘war on women’ meme of the Democrat party.

    However, my personal hope is that we will return to normative science, and try to understand how the climate actually behaves. Our present approach of dealing with climate as completely specified by a single number, globally averaged surface temperature anomaly, that is forced by another single number, atmospheric CO2 levels, for example, clearly limits real understanding. ~R. S. Lindzen

  52. Speaking of oil:
    OIL 78.38
    BRENT 84.38
    NAT GAS 4.05
    RBOB GAS 2.1138

  53. @ Dr. Rose:

    “Perhaps petroleum geoscientists can be forgiven for wishing sometimes that their academic colleagues had to function under similar circumstances!”

    Actually Dr. Rose, the circumstances of petroleum geoscientists and Climate Scientists are much more similar than would appear at first glance.

    Geologists like Dr. Rose work for energy companies. They are paid to identify locations where the energy companies should drill to obtain maximum product at minimum cost. The folks who fail to ‘deliver the product’ are culled ruthlessly.

    Climate scientists work for Governments. They are paid to produce ‘scientific research’ that justifies continual, massive expansion of government power and authority, with the concomitant increase in government budget required to support the expanded authority. Those climate scientists who fail to ‘deliver the product’ (i. e. who produce data driven science that calls the ‘product’ into question, or, worse, flatly contradict ‘the product’) are culled just as ruthlessly as geologists who establish a reputation for producing multi-million dollar ‘dry holes’.

    The history of this site is littered with accounts of climate careerists who made the mistake of producing the equivalent of a succession of ‘regulatory dry holes’–and were culled for their ‘incompetence’.

  54. Howard (11-3 6:00 pm): Thanks for your comment. with which I substantially agree, but with a few gentle push-backs. Certainly I agree with the global utility of T. C. Chamberlin’s old (1897,1931) Principle of Multiple Working Hypotheses (MWH), which of course originated as a geological research concept. Of course it is one thing to learn about MWH as a geology undergraduate; it is quite another to use it routinely in professional practice. One can also argue that Richard Feynman’s principle of the dedicated search for contrary evidence is a physicist’s version of MWH, made more embraceable by the author’s Nobel credentials. The use of quasi-Delphi rounds could also be useful in Oceanography and Glaciology research. But the use of estimation employing known distribution patterns and reality checks using the P1 and P99 extreme values, and consequent curve shifting to come to a “best fit” estimate reconciling all probability values is, I suspect, characteristic of Petroleum geoscience, even though the basic principle might be used in other sciences. Moreover, it would seem that post-audits could only be used in Glaciology and Oceanography research where the predicted phenomenon would have to be pretty short-term, in order for predictions to be evaluated and learnings incorporated on human time-scales.Your thoughts?


  55. Bob Ludwick: An insightful, interesting, if cynical (but perhaps accurate?) observation. With all due respect, however, it seems to me there’s an important difference. Petroleum geoscience, practiced as I have described in this blog series, honors scientific and professional principles in generating a product.
    The kind of government scientific work you describe in the second half of your comment, it seems to me, is intellectually and scientifically compromised. In 55 years of geological work, for Shell, USGS, Energy Reserves Group, Inc, Telegraph Exploration (my consulting firm) and finally Rose and Associates, LLP, I never felt obliged to modify my conclusions to suit an employer’s or client’s needs. Of course I have also quit a few jobs and clients over the years!


    • @ Pete

      I really liked your post. Thank you

      “Petroleum geoscience, practiced as I have described in this blog series, honors scientific and professional principles in generating a product.”

      Exactly the point that I was making. You are paid to deliver a product. If you do NOT honor scientific and professional principles, your product will be junk and you will be professional toast.

      “……I never felt obliged to modify my conclusions to suit an employer’s or client’s needs.”

      Of course not. Your client’s needs could ONLY be satisfied by meticulous application of the principles you described in your post.

      In Climate Science, writ large, it is often necessary to DISHONOR scientific and professional principles to ‘deliver the product’, satisfy the client’s needs, and thus ensure job security (see ‘hide the decline’). The needs of the political sponsors of Climate Science require that climate change be catastrophic and that the proximate cause of the changes be anthropogenic and therefore subject to taxation and/or regulation by the sponsoring politicians. ACO2 fills the bill nicely, since in our energy driven civilization it is ubiquitous. And you will note that any data, individual, or organization that questions, no matter how mildly, the axiom–not theory–that the Temperature of the Earth (TOE) is a function of atmospheric CO2 OR that the introduction of anthropogenic CO2 is causing the TOE to rise rapidly toward catastrophe is instantly attacked by the Climate Science Hierarchy, personally and professionally. Naturally, the political sponsors, who authorize the ‘research grants’, would NEVER want to be accused of frittering away precious taxpayer money on such obviously discredited, incompetent scientists. So they don’t. Thus ensuring that they continue to get the ‘product’ for which they paid our money.

      The bad news: Our hostess has noticed that the actual, empirical science does not support either subsection of the above axiom.

      The good news: While the Climate Science nomenklatura can–and do–trash her personally and professionally, she is protected by tenure.

      • Bob Ludwick,

        Your discussion of the state of Climate Science and its’ control by political progressives who want to tax and spend us to death is spot on.

        As a retired Oil and Gas development guy, I appreciate the post by Pete.

  56. For one, I think the application of this process to climate science would be beneficial. Truth in the form of code and data would be good. True analysis of research for confirmation bias would be good. But, underlying it all, we still need more and better and longer data.

    • What Process? What Code? What Data?

      What Benefit?

      • Don’t over think it, John.

      • John,

        As long as climate is still the average of weather, one might well ask whether climate science is an oxymoron.

        Where’s the science in deriving an average? Do you really need more than 30 minutes training in your country to perform such a menial task? Maybe you are a Warmist, where fantasy apparently outranks fact at every turn.

        The real world continues to cool. Possibly you believe it was all created a moment ago, in a warming state, and if you do, I cannot prove you wrong. In that case, there is no point in discussing the matter – so I don’t understand why you bother.

        You might care to enlighten me, if you wish.

        Live well and prosper,

        Mike Flynn.

  57. Peter Rose,

    This is an excellent post than you very much for sharing your experience, and making it relevant to climate science (academic, public funded, and no incentives to make accurate predictions). I am sorry I didn’t read it when first posted and missed participating in the discussion so far..

    Judith, you have been getting some fantastic posts recently and this is none of them.

    • +1 Peter and we all understand that “none” really means “one”! :)

      • Thanks Peter for pointing that out. Yes, I meant “one” of course. I also meant “thank” non “than” in the first line. I must learn to read my own comments before posting.

  58. Isn’t the adverse selection problem in competitive bidding a sort of multiplier in this situation of petroleum exploration? …The lab evidence favoring the “winner’s curse” phenomenon is pretty strong.

    • NW: “The Winner’s Curse” (so named by my old colleague Ed Capen in the early 70s, and commonly (mis)quoted as “If you won the tract, you paid too much”), refers to the common observation that if a company wins an offshore lease block in a sealed-bid lease sale, especially if there were as many as five or more unsuccessful bidders, there is a high probability that you overestimated the tract’s value (either as overestimated recoverable volumes of oil or gas, or overestimated the geological chance of success, or both). The consequence is, as you suggest, to penalize the acquiring company by (statistically) acquiring a money-losing, or less profitable tract than expected. The problem, however is not necessarily a reflection of cognitive bias — after all, on a portfolio basis, even though the portfolio is unbiased, individual projects within the portfolio may be unknowingly over- or under-estimated. Uncertainty is quite substantial in offshore exploration. ARCO concluded that the solution to the problem was to change the goal, from “winning offshore tracts” to a different philosophy: “if we can’t get this tract for our price, we don’t want it”. To counter the Winner’s Curse, they began to bid more widely, reducing their bids to about 30% of their expected value (=chance-weighted value). The result was that although ARCO won fewer offshore bids in the future, the bids they did win represented a much higher probability of achieving their desired return. This strategy worked very well, and we have subsequently verified its validity in documented expert game exercises. Hope this answers your question. Pete

      • Pete,

        Interesting. These experiences with historical evaluations of success and failure are excellent. Thank you.

      • Pete, thanks for sharing the experience.

        You say “The problem, however is not necessarily a reflection of cognitive bias…” Not cognitive bias in the estimation process, perhaps; but a behavioral game theorist would call the winner’s curse ‘portion’ of the firm’s problem a cognitive bias in strategic reasoning (because it is a failure to appropriately condition likely value on the event ‘I have won the auction’). I don’t know the extent to which the petroleum engineer is involved in the preparation of bids; if it is ‘not at all’ then they are not responsible at all for the winner’s curse portion of any loss to the firm.

        I would think that, in practice, it would be hard for a firm to parcel out responsibility for a bad result (was it the estimates from the engineers, or poor ‘curse-prone’ bidding on the part of the managers, or some mix of both) which, in turn, would make it that much more difficult to ‘de-bias’ your own estimation behavior on the basis of experience.

        This has got to be one of the trickiest economic decision environments on the planet, that’s for dang sure.

      • I remember seeing an empirical paper on offshore bids back in the 1980s that concluded that the bidders were properly accounting for the winner’s curse, at least within the empirical bounds given the data.

  59. NW, thanks for your comment. Competitive sealed bonus bidding and the concomitant (and ubiquitous) “Winner’s Curse” is a tangential topic that I would, with your permission, defer until tomorrow morning — it’s late now, and time for bed. Pete

    • NW, Thanks for your thoughtful response.
      1) The “Winner’s Curse” portion of the Firm’s problem, as you say, might indeed be called a cognitive bias in strategic reasoning. However, the phenomenon is an inevitable consequence of secret bidding under circumstances of great uncertainty — inevitably, when five or more firms bid on a tract’s perceived value, one or more WILL overestimate. Whichever firm overestimates the most will accordingly submit the highest bid, win the tract — and lose $$. ARCO recognized the problem and crafted an intelligent way to deal with it. Over about 20 years in the Gulf Coast, they did not find and produce the most oil and gas, but they did enjoy the highest return on investment of all large companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico.
      2) Engineers are ALWAYS part of any modern exploration team’s assessment of an exploratory project’s value, and any errors they make contribute to the overall project evaluation — too high, about right, or too low.
      3) In practice, for ventures that find oil or gas, but in inadequate quantities, it is usually possible to identify the technical reason(s) for failure. For dry holes, the geologic chance-factor(s) that failed are usually self-evident; additionally, SOME information is found bearing on geotechnical/engineering estimates of dimension.
      4) During my time of examining GOM bidding patterns (1975-1990), by far the most common cause of tract-value overestimation was management hubris. Ego lies at the root of much cognitive bias.

      I look forward to your response.

  60. Wow… talk about cognitive bias. Who knew that a security advisor to President Obama is the President of CBS News?

    All I have to say is thank you CBS, or should I say SeeBS. Thank you for being so horrible at reporting that you have opened an enormous gap for myself and countless others in alternative media to fill. I genuinely couldn’t have done it without your incompetence. ~ Robert Ferguson

  61. Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” is one of my favourite reads and the principles that have been set out in the above head post by Peter Rose can be found there plus a lot more!

    The amount of bias that is prevalent in human discourse is a matter for concern, not only for scientists and policy makers, but also for the average person who relies on what the MSM chooses to provide in the way of facts and more commonly, non-facts and straight-out misinformation.

    Thanks Judith and Peter for a most timely post.

    • Peter Davies — Thanks. What I find most troubling — almost terrifying — is the common instinctual, out-of-mind rejection of facts and ideas that run counter to the “received wisdom” that seems to encompass the CAGW camp of climate scientists (or allied scientists as well). That represents an extreme form of cognitive bias, slanted scientific opinion reinforced by motivational bias and virtual social brain-washing. What is frightening about it is that one has to wonder if such bias also grips oneself, unrecognized. Makes one question every statement one encounters, every opinion one expresses — “am I falling into the same cognitive bias trap?”

      • Adding to the previous comment: the recent work by Jonathan Haight (“The Righteous Mind”), which suggests that usually our reactions to most subjective or “value” questions come from deep within our instinctual minds, and that we use our “rational” (or objective) minds only to defend or justify our original positions. That certainly emphasizes the importance of “Thinking Slow” (Kahneman), and the focused use of the Scientific Method in dealing with our own unsuspected biases. It also implies that the function of the Scientific Method in a primary mode (rather than the justification mode) may be an acquired (not a natural) capability.

      • Thanks for responding Pete. The climate debate shows bias on both sides of the AGW hypothesis but I agree that this is more problematic with the warmists.

        Your mention of Jonathan Haight’s work is most interesting I have not as yet read any of books or articles. Your description reminds me of Richard Dawkins and his suggestion that this type of behaviour is part of human’s genetic makeup and the way our environment has been permeated by this.

        Humans certainly seem to be quick to make decisions (too quick IMO) and very slow to admit any errors of judgment in the wake of such decisions.

    • Peter Davies – “…Khaneman’s book…”

      One of my all time faves…

      • There’s a lot in it and needs to be read carefully. I was particularly struck by his chapters on intuitions vs formulas and on the trustworthiness of expert opinion because many so-called experts in the investment field perform no better than the market index.

  62. Geoff Sherrington

    For many years I was one of the tiny management team for arguably the most successful mineral exploration (non-oil) group in Australia and among the top 5 globally. Therefore I can understand the article by Peter Rose because we used essentially the same procedures, but less formally. If you have not been so close to the action, you need to study it Peter’s article to extract the benefits, because you are probably becoming accustomed to a sloppy type of modern science conduct that does not address Peter’s lessons.
    Some salient points are that mineral work does not benefit from overconfident assumptions or data fabrication. It becomes poorer. The evaluation procedures promote those with the best track records and weed out the lesser suited. We used complex modelling, as for example to define the shape and orientation of deposits containing magnetite, from surface magnetic field measurements. The determination of the boundaries of ore, its grade and tonnes, its economic viability, was essentially modelled for each new discovery, from ground up, using statistical procedures similar to, but often better than, those used in (say) understanding a historic set of temperature records. As shown by post-mining reconciliations, we were very accurate for tonnes and grade. The main difference between our work and the oil work is that we often had no comparison deposits with which to narrow our parameters. Sure it is fun to find a world beater with a new type of deposit, but it is data-lonely when you are first on a new field globally.
    Another salient point is the profit motive. Big money is seldom seen as a reward when the team is salaried like we were; quiet pride in achievement ranks high, as does paying for next year’s research from funds you have generated by your success. Good science has its mental contentment rewards stronger than dollars. If a research team does not have a profit motive, it badly needs an incentive of similar power to substitute.
    That substitution in climate research seems to be mostly a poorly quantified vision of saving the world from capitalism, or from some other threat, ill-defined. That is not a good substitute unless you treat it like a new ore or oil discovery and show that it exists in a form that is credible, complete with error/uncertainty bounds. This vital point has been missed to date. Climate research based on greenhouse gas warming has not been demonstrated to be credible. Where is the seminal paper linking GHG to T, by an author who is now the Beethoven of the climate world? After all these years, we have a ragged idea of sensitivity and no such paper. Whereas a society can be shown the value of a new mineral discovery, and can approximately understand it (or its absence), there is no way at present that climate work has demonstrated to society that it needs serious treatment. You do not see shares in global warming predictions on the stock exchange, you do not see Ma and Pa investors.
    About half way through my career I switched from science to politics to become a manager forcing the passage of new project proposals through the many government permit processes. I did this because of increasing frustration from bureaucrats who thought that they understood the processes better than I did, without producing evidence that they did. Their response was typically that I might know about minerals, but they knew about how society would react to mining. They might have been right, though I suspect that the outcome of their involvement was hugely costly to the nation and based on a bad case of collective cognitive bias.
    From that involvement, I deduce that the important part of any major proposal that will impact on society is to overcome the bureaucracy and hence to gain non-partisan political support, even enthusiasm. This is seldom achievable because of the cognition problem, but one must try. In the case of climate work, the politicians of interest were captured early by the bureaucracies of much of the western world through superior planning from lavish funding from wealthy people and foundations. Over a term of decades, key people were emplaced in sensitive positions. As many had extreme ideological bents, they were able to exaggerate with fire in the eyes and capture the imaginations of those besotted with naïve ides of environment and sustainability. That latter pair is a powerful combination, especially for teachers, and it has been used powerfully. Not a bad outcome for such an ill-defined concept.
    Finally, the message I have derived from this is the same as that of Peter Rose. As he puts is, “That may be one reason why so many petroleum geoscientists agree with Professor Curry that Climatology needs to clean up its act – it’s damaging the rest of Western Science.”

    • > Over a term of decades, key people were emplaced in sensitive positions

      Yes … and that applies across the board, from Depts of Minerals to the Police to the Judiciary …on and on. The result has been an attrition of the accountability concept which has “trickled down” to the general populace – a lot of people now believe that they are not accountable for their own mistakes. This attitude is defended on the basis that it works for the hierarchies, and is seen to work

      I also agree with you on the motivations of geoscientists in the private sector. Most of the adverse comments here assume that it is just plain old greed. Wrong. We do not volunteer for the gutter of course, but equally, peer recognition for insightful, professional work is a very strong motivation. When I was running teams of geologists, it was a continual battle with the HR personnel to get them to grasp this – pay them reasonably well, but equally allow attendance to occasional national/international seminars, encourage them to deliver papers and so on …

      In short, adherence to scientific method, knowing accountability lies in wait every day and encouragement of real efforts to follow this. Noble cause corruption, self-started vanity – these are lethal as the very basis of cognitive dissonance

    • Geoff, excellent, the politico-bureaucratic side concurs with what I know. Ditto for Ian. I took pride in doing the best job I could, I never pursued money per se.

  63. Of course, if you applied these excellent standards to a broader, less mature field and were forced to conclude that no honest assessment of, say, future climate was currently possible…you’d just say so, right?

    You wouldn’t make mention of the standards but leave out the bit about not knowing enough to make any calls about future climate, would you? Because I totally hate all these white elephants we’re getting.

  64. Thx Peter, u r 2 generous with yr plus one’s sometimes.

  65. Ingmar Bergman Angst Award, moso?

  66. Not me Peter. I am a lean and mean red headed Scot of the
    traditional Scottish Enlightenment persuasion.

  67. The approach to risk reduction seems to me to be similar to that used by the ancient Roman Army.

    You can find a few defeats by non-Romans over the centuries but not many and a good portion of the defeats occurred because the top commander overruled his advisers. .

  68. curryja | November 4, 2014 at 7:20 am |
    Natural variability on top of a warming trend is exactly what I have been saying! CO2 is contributing to the warming trend.

    or perhaps a bit of a temporary CO2 warming on the top of the good old natural variability, when sun allows it.
    On the balmy English summer day

    in this green and pleasant land, cognitive bias is just a mere deviation in judgment of the wavering minds.

    • If man made global warming is indeed real, and it helps to prevent another ice age, this would be the most fortunate thing that has happened to our species since we barely escaped extinction from an especially cold period during the last ice age some 75,000 years ago. ~Walter Starck

  69. curryja | November 4, 2014 at 7:20 am |
    Natural variability on top of a warming trend is exactly what I have been saying! CO2 is contributing to the warming trend.

    That’s the ‘hypothesis’, however the hypothesized CO2 contribution became significant only around (after) the middle of the 20th century. One should not forget that there was a warming trend ‘and’ natural variability before any significant anthropogenic contribution.

    The null hypothesis is that CO2 is NOT contributing to whatever warming trend and it should be assumed TRUE. There is NO good evidence that indicates otherwise.

  70. Speaking of cognitive bias, Dr. Curry just called for the end of the IPCC because they are stuck in a massive bias mode. I agree.

    We need a CE post on this.

  71. When stuck in bias mode the best thing to do is put it in reverse and hit the gas!

  72. In looking at the graph of temperatures:

    We see the decline from Krakatoa that lasted more than just a few years, with evidence that large volcanoes like that can affect climate for far more than just a “year or two”. This is examined here:

    One would have to believe that ocean heat content is a large driver of climate, and thus anything that affects ocean heat content is large driver of climate.

    • The decline from previous eruptions likely lasted long and if the estimates are right were likely deeper which makes the initial condition that should be used a big problem.

      That is why I think the tropical ocean temperature reconstructions are likely to filter out more of the noise.

      • The latest research seems to indicate a combination of positive feedbacks from both ocean heat content and sea ice can perpetuate the cooling effects from large volcanoes. Among some there is still a persistent belief that volcanoes only affect the climate for a “year or two”, and especially in the case of really large volcanoes, this is most certainly not the case. The dramatic decline of the IPWP temperatures that began exactly at the point of the largest volcanic eruption of the past 2000 years (1257 AD) is not a coincidence. Yes, because of the very low thermal inertia of the atmosphere, we might see immediate effects play themselves out in a year to three, but the oceans have very low thermal inertia, and a jolt the heat content of the oceans (such as the 1257 volcano) represented, would take many decades to recover from, especially with added on positive feedback from sea ice interactions. All told, the most active volcanic period in the last 2000 years from about 1225 to 1275 AD, which included the mega-eruption of 1257, were the “doorway to the LIA” for a very good physical reason.

      • Stated differently- It is a complex system that is only beginning to be understood. Many conclusions are doomed to be incorrect.

      • Rgates

        Present your evidence of the long term effects in the real world.

        These events do not show up as profoundly damaging extended events as I showed in my post a few minutes ago

        The gateway to the lia does not show up in the climate records . I am at the met office archives again tomorrow to carry out research as the transition to the lia from the mwp is exactly the thesis of my next paper

      • Figuring out all the volcanic impacts/feedbacks should keep people employed for a long time. A relatively small volcano with significant ash in the higher northern latitudes in spring would have a very different impact than one in fall because they would have different impacts on snow brightness for that years accumulation.

      • “I am at the met office archives again tomorrow to carry out research as the transition to the lia from the mwp is exactly the thesis of my next paper…”
        If such a paper does not include the ocean heat content effects of most active volcanic period in the past 2000 years (1225-1275 AD), then it will be seriously flawed. Any such paper must include ocean heat content proxy studies since the oceans drive the climate and weather on the planet. You can’t go from the last active volcanic period in the past 2000 years of 700 AD to 1200 AD to the most active period of 1225 to 1275 AD without a major impact on the climate.

        I suggest you dive deeply (pun intended) into ocean heat content proxy studies for the transition period between the MWP and LIA.

      • Rgates

        You will be pleased to hear that several days ago I printed out your email regarding ocean heat temperature and the paper should be waiting for me when I arrive.

        However, I am trying to follow cet which is an excellent representation of what affected people’s lives, temperatures and the weather.

        You are quoting computer models which are at variance with the observations and crop records. They both illustrate the limited impact of volcanoes.

        I posted a reference to giss and to cet. Regarding Krakatoa. They both show the temperatures where people lived, on land had been dropping way before the Krakatoa event and recovered quickly after.

        Why does a computer model trump observations and instrumental records?


    • Rgates

      Once again in promoting your volcano theory we can see from Giss and from CET that the temperatures had been dropping for years prior to the 1883 eruption

      It is difficult to see its effect as being a few years of a decline. In fact it seems to have triggered a temperature rise.

      Where is your evidence in terms of actual impact on climate?


      • Rather than the rather poor metric of CET to see what net energy in the climate system is doing, the IPWP represents a good proxy for global ocean heat content, and we see here that Krakatoa represented a sudden reversal of global ocean heat content:

        That lasted many decades…hence the title of the research article: Krakatoa Lives. The effects of a large volcano have multi-decadal effects on ocean heat content, and remember that the volcano of 1257 was at least 10 times bigger than Krakatoa. Combined with the generally more active volcanic period of 1225-1275, the period was the “doorway to the LIA” not because a year or two hit on tropospheric temperatures, but a longer term effect on ocean heat content.

      • Ignoring the most obvious reason for SST – and IPWP – variability is obvious cognitive dissonance.

        More salt at the Law Dome is La Nina. It shows long term variation as well as the ubiquitous 20 to 40 year regimes evident in the 20th century.

        Most obviously associated with changes in ocean and atmosphere circulation.

      • Have people done analysis of chemistry of sea ice? I’m curious how much co2 etc. is dissolved in sea ice of varying ages.

      • I’ll reiterate what I said in an earlier comment. I don’t remember what I did or whether I actually saw this (maybe I’m confusing a memory and a dream). But, I seem to recall looking at volcanic activity once and seeing one period where there were almost no major volcanic eruptions (VEI 4+) and an increase in VEI 3 eruptions for a significant period which I think coincided with the maunder minimum/LIA.

      • tonyb, CET is a great example of why volcanic forcing is such a PITA. You would only “see” a radiant forcing impact in the summer months and there is no consistent “sensitivity” because so much of the climate is ocean/amo drive. At least with just the summer months there are fewer temperature leads volcano situations. Then in the later summer/early winter you can actually get warming instead of cooling depending on how the ash impacts snow and sea ice albedo. Even then some ash can actually insulate glaciers.

      • “But, I seem to recall looking at volcanic activity once and seeing one period where there were almost no major volcanic eruptions (VEI 4+) and an increase in VEI 3 eruptions for a significant period which I think coincided with the maunder minimum/LIA.”
        Best data we currently have (and it’s pretty good) shows the volcanic forcing over the past 2000 years:

        The “doorway to the LIA occurred during the period of 1225-1275 AD, where both the most active period in the past 2000 years occurred as well as the single largest volcano of 1257 AD. This period was the most intense negative forcing on ocean heat content seen during the 2000 year period. The ocean heat content had not even fully recovered by the time the 2nd largest volcano in the past 2000 years erupted in 1453 AD. Keep in mind, each of these volcanoes were at least 10 times larger than Tambora or Krakatoa, and a hundred times larger than Pinatubo. So when the 1453 volcano went of, it was all downhill for ocean heat content to the depth of the LIA in about 1750. The lower TSI during the Maunder and Dalton minimums of course played a role, but the larger of the two factors was volcanic aerosols and their long term effects on ocean heat content. Short term tropospheric cooling (or warming in winter) from volcanoes are only a minor part of their effects. It is the effect on ocean heat content that really makes a longer-term difference to climate.

      • Rgates

        Just got back from the Met Office archives. I’ve pretty much got all I need to make a start on examining the data I have collected over the last 2 years

        I can see Laki showing up clearly in the Exeter Cathedral records where they paid out money to the poor owing to the great severity of the season but that was short lived

        With the 1257 event it seems clear that temperatures had declined well before then and that the door to the LIA opened and shut many times as there are numerous warm spells as well as cold ones both before and after.

        A good portion of the 14th century, episodically also looks pretty warm. I can not comment on the 15th century as I have not collected the material yet.

        I need to put all the data I have gathered into chronological order and combine it with any papers/articles etc .I want to keep the sources separate as well as needing a combined one.

        Hoping to get a cheque from Big Oil any day now to pay for a research assistant or two as this is a very big task.

        Lets see what comes out-I am chronicling the data not trying to find reasons why temperatures rose or fell.


      • Awesome Tony! Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

      • As we see from this chart, it probably took the ocean heat content about 10 years to fully recover from Pinatubo, and shorter recovery periods for smaller volcanoes like El Chichon:

        Each of these volcanoes was at least a hundred times small than the 1257 or 1453 AD volcano.

  73. Another attempt to correct model theory in climate by analogy with the search for a mineral. Trouble is they have little in common. One is a dynamic problem with well known methods of solution, while the search for oil is essentially a static problem.

    • Alexander, thanks for yours. I’m not sure I agree. Here’s why: Even though Climate Research does deal with a dynamic problem, we surely must be able to identify and range past behaviors, even begin to build possible characteristic distributions that may allow us to predict such functions in future. We also by now should have records indicating the frequency of certain types of weather /climate patterns. Moreover, patterns of subsurface flow-rate and flow-declines ARE dynamic processes, and they fit characteristic statistical forms. I find that it’s not uncommon to dismiss potentially useful ideas out of hand, without trying to adapt them. “If it’s not uncomfortable, it’s not a new idea.” Your thoughts?

      • PETE; Thank you.Dynamic problems involve movement and inertia. Differential equations were invented to solve such problems, so why not use them? Computers are now fast enough to solve them, although climate simulation is pushing the limits of computer power. Of course every separate process needs to be simulated and that usually takes a multidisciplinary team. I have built such a team and it is not easy, but if I were asked to build a team for climate simulation It would be unlikely to include petroleum explorers

      • Alegander Biggs,

        Why did you make that isulting comment?

      • Alexander Biggs, Thanks for your 11/5 6:37 am response, uninviting me to be part of your multidisciplinary team modeling climatological phenomena. I understand — I’ve spent a lifetime studying things below-ground that are mostly static (at least in human time-scales), and you are looking at above-ground, dynamic pheonomena.
        Fair enough! However, to dismiss the demonstrably useful learnings and remedies developed by another scientific field — out-of-hand, and especially where the climatological field has apparently developed no comparable remedies — strikes me as a possible example of Cognitive Bias #2: Overconfidence: “we think we know more than we do”.
        Old adage — “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”.

      • Peter Lang and Pete: I’m sorry if I inadvertedly slandered a profession, but to my mind, building a team means matching people to jobs. Yes, I might find a petroleum engineer who had a secret desire to solve masses of differential equations, but more likely he or she would sit around complaining that their training and experience was being wasted and so get up and leave. An oil man would surely want to search for oil.

      • Alexander Biggs,

        My impression of your comment is it demostrates ignorance. The sort of ignorance that says only an airforce pilot can fly a kite.

  74. Peter Rose,

    Could you offer any suggestions about how to estimate the probability that a global carbon pricing system will succeed (i.e. be agreed, implemented and achieve the projected benefits for the projected abatement costs)?


    I would like to estimate the Expected Value of a global carbon pricing agreement. There are numerous estimates of the net benefits (reduced climate damages and abatement costs) of such a scheme. However they are based on many assumptions with high uncertainty, one of which is that all countries will participate and all GHG emissions will be included in the pricing scheme (phased in according to the Copenhagen commitments). The assumed participation rate is grossly optimistic – other assumptions are optimistic too but let’s keep it simple for a start. My initial approach is to accept and use the costs and benefits projections from one of the most widely accepted, well documented and easily accessed cost and benefit projections. Therefore, what I need is the pdfs of the probability of achieving levels of participation between 0% and 100% at 5 year intervals from 2015 to 2100.

    (The reason for accepting the cost-benefit projections is to avoid getting distracted into arguing about the models, inputs and assumptions; these have been debated endlessly in the literature for years and I can add anything to that).

    For some background see my recent two part post here:
    Part 1: ‘Why carbon pricing will not succeed
    Part 2: ‘Why the world will not agree to pricing carbon’

    I am not a statistician, just a long retired engineering geologist and engineer.

    • Good grief, Peter Lang! I’d have to do a ton of thinking about that. As a first (reactive/intuitive — look out for cognitive bias!) response, I’d guess that such a process is doomed to failure because it is counter to reality. Has anyone come forward with what seems to be a reasonable model of such a system? That would be where I would start, and by putting some rational ranges on all essential parameters, hypothesizing probability distributions, then building a simple model dealing with their interactions using Monte Carlo simulations and some decision trees, lay out some probabilistic outcomes. That’s a simplistic, maybe even superficial answer, but don’t ask me to defend it.

      • Pete,

        Thank you. I agree with the “Good Grief” bit. I was involved in policy analysis and policy advice on energy and CO2 emissions in the early 1990’s when it was a hot issuer leading up to and following the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, and have been following it since. In all that time I’ve never seen an analysis of the probability of success of the policies that have been proposed to reduce global GHG emissions. The closest I’ve seen is Richard Tol’s analysis of the probability of success at the 18th UN climate Conference of the Parties (Figure 2 in my Part 1 post linked in previous comment). William Nordhaus has estimated the cost penalty to the participants for participation rate less than 100%. (See Figure 1 in Part 1). The chart in Part 2 shows that abatement costs would exceed the projected benefits (i.e. reduced climate damages) for all this century. And the project benefits are projected using higher than the IPCC’s central estimates for all the important inputs). So, given my biases, I just cant see how there is any chance of carbon pricing or any other policy that will damage the economies of countries over the short and medium term having much chance of getting implemented, let alone sustained and maintained uniformly across the world for 100 years or so.

        But I recognise many other people, including economists, believe it is the best way forward and believe it can succeed. When am I missing?

        I’d like to see serious analysis of the probability of success and the Expected Value of proposed mitigation policies before they are legislated. Australia legislated an ETS in 2011 and repealed it three years later.

  75. I take very seriously that cognitive bias applies to everyone, including myself. When I am well along on a paper and fully in love with my result, I begin to imagine the readers and reviewers–will they think I left out competing arguments? Did I do all relevant tests? Is there any weird thing or outlier in my data? The fear of embarrassment is a good tool for uncovering one’s own biases. Sometimes, the cure for bias is simply that different people have different biases (Bayesian vs frequentist etc) and thus provide different perspectives.
    A key to allowing the process to work properly is to be very clear and public on your methods, statistics, computations, and data. Hiding any of these is really bad.

  76. PA and Fernando Leanme,

    Need your help please. PA, you stated you’ve researched CO2 to the point of finding 577ppm would be the ceiling. Can you share how the conclusion was reached?

    Fernando, your numbers were 620-630 so may I ask the same of you?

    Keep in mind that I’m an old sales guy that the science can get past very easily. I’m late to this thread as I’m not keeping up with all the info being provided so apologies for the backtrack.

    My goal is to understand better what will turn of the increasing contribution of man’s industrial contribution of CO2 in to the atmosphere.

    As always, thanks for your assistance to my quest for learning. Any others that chose to chime in would be welcomed.

  77. Regarding the very warm waters of the N. Pacific this year, I love this quote:

    “”The North Pacific hasn’t been this warm ever, as far as anyone knows. It’s really strange,” said Bill Peterson, oceanographer with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Ore. “It looks like an El Nino, but it really isn’t. We don’t really know what it is.”
    Don’t know what it is? This is what global warming looks like.

    Read more at:

  78. I was interested to see that there was no mention made of blinding data to prevent cognitive bias. The particle physics people are so worried about fooling themselves with seemingly innocuous data tweaks and cutoffs and outlier removals that they routinely hide from themselves what each putative event means until the very end of the process.

  79. There is a pretty simple fix to governmentally funded science and that is to pay for results. In the private sector there are sites such as kaggle that host competitions for problem solving. Someone defines a problem, a measurable threshold of solution, and an amount of money they will pay for a correct answer. The competition is open to all.
    In this case, governments could set up competitions around any number of climate questions whose answers would lie in the validity of predictions over time. Or, more simply, best models win.
    We could in short order separate those who can from those who preach.

  80. To correct cognitive bias when the new Congress convenes under GOP leadership, it should send a message to heads of ALL UNITED STATES FEDERAL AGENCIES:

    “Please attach to your next budget request a list of names and salaries of all federal employees in your agency that contributed in any way to the UN’s IPCC (International Promoter’s of Climate Confusion).

    Any other budget request will not be considered for renewed funding.”

    Here’s a list of those who contributed to the latest UN IPCC report:

    • Omanual,

      This is a reasonable table, but I’d like to go one further.

      Since so much politics (on all sides) is biased and condensed down to sound bites for use in advertising and/or single issue topics, I’d like to see that our politicians all take up blogging so that we can see how they actually think.

      Papers have to published, and voting records are available, so we get snippets. But it seems that a blog morphs and provides a track record over time.


      • One step at a time. The first step is to find out how many federal employees are lined up on one side of the debate and how much public tax funds are involved.

        The next step is to decide if any scientific evidence or national security issues favor that side.

        By the time the analysis is completed, I expect the two sides will be better balanced.

      • Out of fairness, and well rounded examination, it seems we should find out “how many federal employees are lined up” on each side of the debate…….

        Then moving on to the balance of the equation. I’d be plenty comfortable with that.

        Especially the last part! Thank you for your sharing.

  81. If I were a newly elected member of Congress I would privately and urgently ask the National Academy of Sciences to tell me immediately if there is any chance Tony Heller aka Steven Goddard is right in his climate prediction:

  82. Peter

    I think your post is interesting. But I have seen too much of this back patting in the oil industry. The performance of well modelled petroleum reservoirs is not as great as you suggest – history matching often illustrates how quickly models and production deviate, creating a recursive cycle of model updates and new estimates of uncertainty. Uncertainty analysis is often conflated with sensitivity analysis and the uncertainty is somehow assumed to be modelled correctly – leading to poor recognition of the internal sensitivity within the models as related to various parameters. IMHO statistical naivety does just as much damage as over-confidence in simple deterministic methods. Furthermore, even though geological interpretations can, in a kinematic-sense, be nonsense, too much time and effort has already been spent on them and given deadlines they are often pushed-on with. So the oil industry is no panacea.

    • I should add that I suspect that this is a common problem in other industries but the emergence of “Nintendo Geology” is a concern not something that we should be celebrating.

    • cd, Thanks for yours of this evening. I’m glad you found the post interesting. I’ll try to respond to your comments as briefly as possible:
      1) Back-patting — old axiom: “it ain’t bragging if you can do it”. These methods have significantly improved exploration performance starting in the mid 1990s. Disciplined companies are delivering on their exploration performance, using the methods I’ve outlined. Like the old Alka-Seltzer ad — “try it, you’ll like it!”
      2) Reservoir modelling: Exploration risk-analysis does not include modeling reservoirs — that usually comes after the reservoir has been discovered, although reservoir modeling has come a very long way in the last 20 years.
      3) I am not conflating sensitivity analysis with uncertainty analysis, although we do consider, in the more detailed procedures of modern E & P Risk Analysis, what aspects of the various parameters are the most and least sensitive — and accordingly influential. We know the difference.
      4) Statistical naivete — You may suggest that we are statistically naïve if you like; I would simply point out that the E&P Industry has embraced these statistical methods BECAUSE THEY WORK. Overconfidence can be detected, and wastes money.
      5) Deterministic methods — We do not use deterministic methods. We use probabilistic methods, as my post clearly states.
      6) Geological interpretations, nonsense, too much time spent on them, etc — The occurrence of oil and gas fields in the subsurface is inherently geological, and their genesis can only be understood in geological context. Further, their discovery and development must proceed from their geological and petrophysical characteristics, involving petroleum engineers.
      7) Oil industry no panacea — Climatology is clearly burdened with cognitive bias. That’s a problem Petroleum geoscientists struggle with also. We have developed methods which have demonstrably helped. I’ve outlined most of them, thinking that other scientists might find them useful. They — and you, cd, are welcome to use them as you wish — or not (it’s a free country). I don’t know what branch of Science you belong to, but it does not appear to be Petroleum Geoscience.
      8) (from the following post) — “Nintendo geology” — I find the ignorance your comment expresses to be exceeded only by its arrogance.

      • Pete,


        +10 for point 9

      • Pete

        Firstly, you seem to have taken this personally. I am talking about my GENERAL experience in the oil industry not you. I have been working the oil industry on and off for 13 years now. In that time I have created a number of geostatistical and modelling tools – for the oil industry – that are used both as advanced and standard approaches. Your descriptions sounds wonderful and as a best practice paradigm seems reasonable but it is far from the truth.

        My general experience is that most geoscientists don’t really appreciate the statistical methodologies they use – just go onto technical discussion boards to see the dearth of understanding among professionals.

        Some of your points seem like splitting hairs. For your point 2 reservoir modelling has many facets. From geophysical interpretation -> framework modelling -> geocellular modelling -> petrophysical property modelling -> finite fluid element modelling -> economic modelling. Some company’s group all as reservoir modelling as a bucket term others may break them under different modelling titles.

        I am not conflating sensitivity analysis with uncertainty analysis

        I didn’t say you were. I was saying that there are plenty that do.

        You may suggest that we are statistically naïve if you like

        No, but many are. That is a serious problem. Button pressing is risky business, and your post in general deals with how BEST this should be treated – but how many actually do it in small exploration teams with tight deadlines?

        Deterministic methods — We do not use deterministic methods. We use probabilistic methods, as my post clearly states.

        They are routinely used throughout the oil industry: B-Spline, Kriging models (which admittedly can be used for uncertainty analysis with some crude MC algorithm), natural neighbours etc.

        Geological interpretations, nonsense, too much time spent on them,

        I never said it was nonsense quite the contrary. I think it is far more important that the time spent endlessly running say a SGS simulation on multi-million cell geocelullar models, should be spent getting the geophysical interpretations. Furthermore when I explain that there is a quicker way to getting to the same point using a simple red noise generator along with the model of kriging variance using an indicator approach with a continuous variable all I get is blank expressions. But these same hot-shots don’t sit down to think – Is this structural model valid or even possible before building their CPGs.

        We have developed methods which have demonstrably helped

        There may well be – I have still to see them in any pervasive sense.

        I find the ignorance your comment expresses to be exceeded only by its arrogance.

        That’s very defensive. I thought you’d appreciate as a geoscientist the need to get the geology right first, particularly the structural modelling since most large fields have structural traps. And yes there is uncertainty but a sit down-together discussion will do a far better job in getting it right then clicking a button to model the structural uncertainty about something that is physically impossible – which is flavour of the month at moment.

        BTW, climate science is awash with probabilistic approaches. And personally I think they use far more varied methodlogies than the oil industry.

  83. There is though a fundamanetal difference between (privately) funded mining efforts, and (government) funded climate research:

    – the wellbeing of the mining company is crucially dependant on the accuracy and honesty of the research.

    – the wellbeing of government has no comparable limitation, since it has no connection to objective science and all the facts, but rather with what the public can be induced to believe. Not science proper, but motivated science that justifies more state power over society. An endeavour in which dishonesty and lack accuracy can be positively beneficial (witness how the pr0fession embraced the blatant dishohnesty revealed in Climategate).

    So the problem isn’t how to +educate+ government climate scientists as to what robust science is; I’m sure they already know. The problem is getting them to +do+ it, since objectivity and the advancement of the state are inherently at loggerheads here. Unlike objectivity and the advancement of private companies.

  84. cd, good morning! My responses to yours of this morning:
    1) “Nintendo Geology” should not be taken personally? With that sort of tact, I can see why you are having trouble getting your technology accepted where you are. Maybe you need to work on diplomacy — or find an employer who will appreciate better what you have to offer!
    2) “Best-practice paradigm far from the truth” — Get real, cd — We NEVER know “The Truth” when we drill an exploratory well. “The Truth” only becomes apparent years later, late in the productive history of the discovered and developed field. In the meantime every intervening summary is just a representation of an evolving truth. Every experienced petroleum geoscientist knows that.
    3) “Most geoscientists don’t appreciate, etc” — So you want them to appreciate your elegant math and statistics (in addition to whatever application they may provide)? That may be an important difference between us — I just want to give them effective tools they can use to explore more efficiently. They don’t need to love my statistics — or me.
    4) “Plenty that do” — I refuse to be responsible for other peoples’ mistakes. I will try to provide them better evaluation methods, which they are free to use as they (and their Firm) see fit.
    5) “Many are statistically naïve, etc” — ditto #4 above.
    6) ” Routinely used throughout the the oil industry, etc” — Ditto #4 above.
    7) “Nonsense (geological), etc.” — This paragraph sounds like it is coming from a frustrated statistician/mathematician who feels unappreciated because he hasn’t been able to get his technology used (see # 3 above)..
    8) “I have still to see them (helpful methods)” — Ditto #4 above.
    9) “Defensive” — Sit-down discussions do not of themselves lead to objective conclusions. Structured tested procedures do.
    10) “Climate Science awash with probabilistic approaches, etc” — But Climatology doesn’t focus on detecting and eliminating Cognitive Bias; Petroleum geoscientists use probabilistic expression to test for plausibility and constrain estimates so they best-fit all the evidence. Plus we use post-audits to see how well we estimated, and to improve our future performance. I see very little evidence of such discipline in contemporary climatological science.

    • Pete

      Nintendo Geologist is a common term in the oil industry. It refers to geologists that use statistical and mechanical toolkits in software packages without any understanding of what they are doing and with any respect to the geology. As someone who is supposedly experienced in the petroleum industry I thought you’d have heard of it; that’s why I used it and I was not referring to you. Do a search online – here’s an article on the issue:

      And again I wasn’t calling you one.

      Get real, cd

      There is no need to be patronising.

      late in the productive history of the discovered and developed field. In the meantime every intervening summary is just a representation of an evolving truth.

      I’ll restate:

      “…history matching often illustrates how quickly models and production deviate, creating a recursive cycle of model updates and new estimates of uncertainty”

      That is not the same as getting to the truth. All you end up with an adjusted retrospectively fitted model – this is a common strategy in climate modelling.

      So you want them to appreciate your elegant math and statistics (in addition to whatever application they may provide)

      In most instances these are not my methods. I implement existing methods, make them more efficient and occasionally embellish them with new more sophisticated algorithms. These are standard techniques. I’ve mentioned a few above – as an experienced geoscientist I thought you’d recognise them.

      I refuse to be responsible for other peoples’ mistakes.

      Yet you’re happy to condescend scientists in other areas of research as if speaking from the most noble of disciplines. All I’m saying is that what you’ve represented above, while sound in your experience, is far from standard in the oil industry and might be just as damaging if the geophysical interpretation is wrong.

      …paragraph sounds like it is coming from a frustrated statistician/mathematician who feels unappreciated because he hasn’t been able to get his technology…

      No. As I said the methods I implement are either standard tools or have been requested by geoscientists in the oil industry. For example, my reference to SGS, this is the typical method used for assessing uncertainty in petrophysical models in order to assess worst, middle and best case scenarios (P10, P50 and P90 cases). There are many other ways of arriving at a similar suite of results via more efficient methods but few recognise this because they seem unaware of what they’re using and why they are doing it. Again, I’d have assumed you’d recognise the techniques mentioned.

      Sit-down discussions do not of themselves lead to objective conclusions. Structured tested procedures do

      Experience is everything in exploration. I could have an all singing and dancing procedure (workflow) but unless I have someone who can recognise (software aint good at it) artifacts in seismic surveys then over- or under-interpretation of artifacts will be missed. Sitting down with an experienced geologist will iron these out and transfer knowledge better than a procedure.

      But Climatology doesn’t focus on detecting and eliminating Cognitive Bias; Petroleum geoscientists use probabilistic expression to test for plausibility and constrain estimates so they best-fit all the evidence.

      Neither has anything you’ve presented above prove that you have. It’s an interesting exercise but nebulous notions of cognitive bias are very hard to quantify and any attempt to iron them out seems like an impossible job. For example who is to say that the tools and strategies you’re using have not emerged from a cognitive bias.

      • cd. You clearly a complete twit. Pete hit the nail on the head. You’r frustrated because no one takes any notice of you and you feel unappreciated.

      • Peter Lang thanks for that polite and vacuous comment.

  85. cd if you going to dish you bile to a guest author of a really valuable and informative post – I expect most people reading it andf the comments learnt a great deal – you should expect to be shown up for what you are.

    • Peter where is the bile? Right now the only bile is coming from you. If you can point out what part of comments are bile I’d be happy to return comment but at the moment all you’ve made is opaque insult.

      As for criticisms of Pete’s article. I acknowledged it was interesting but some of the points he is making are addressed by climate scientists also and his take on petroleum science is too idealistic in my opinion. So if you are willing to make comments like Pete has in relation to other people’s disciplines – both explicit and implicit – expect to take criticism if/when you overstate your case. Without such discussion these things become nothing more than polemical.

  86. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #155 | Watts Up With That?

  87. The temperature projections of the IPCC – Met office models and all the impact studies which derive from them have no solid foundation in empirical science being derived from inherently useless and specifically structurally flawed models. They provide no basis for the discussion of future climate trends and represent an enormous waste of time and money. As a foundation for Governmental climate and energy policy their forecasts are already seen to be grossly in error and are therefore worse than useless. A new forecasting paradigm needs to be adopted. See
    In discussing a better forecasting method this post says.
    “2. The Past is the Key to the Present and Future . Finding then Forecasting the Natural Quasi-Periodicities Governing Earths Climate – the Geological Approach.
    2.1 General Principles.
    The core competency in the Geological Sciences is the ability to recognize and correlate the changing patterns of events in time and space. This requires a mindset and set of skills very different from the reductionist approach to nature, but one which is appropriate and necessary for investigating past climates and forecasting future climate trends. Scientists and modelers with backgrounds in physics and maths usually have little experience in correlating multiple, often fragmentary, data sets of multiple variables to build an understanding and narrative of general trends and patterns from the actual individual local and regional time series of particular variables. The value of the geologists’ approach to understanding the past is proven by the trillions of dollars spent by the oil companies to find and produce the millions of barrels of oil and billions of cubic feet of gas needed daily to fuel the world economy. It works!

    Earth’s climate is the result of resonances and beats between various quasi-cyclic processes of varying wavelengths combined with endogenous secular earth processes such as, for example, plate tectonics. It is not possible to forecast the future unless we have a good understanding of the relation of the climate of the present time to the current phases of these different interacting natural quasi-periodicities which fall into two main categories.

    a) The orbital long wave Milankovitch eccentricity,obliquity and precessional cycles which are modulated by
    b) Solar “activity” cycles with possibly multi-millennial, millennial, centennial and decadal time scales.
    The convolution of the a and b drivers is mediated through the great oceanic current and atmospheric pressure systems to produce the earth’s climate and weather.
    After establishing where we are relative to the long wave periodicities to help forecast decadal and annual changes, we can then look at where earth is in time relative to the periodicities of the PDO, AMO and NAO and ENSO indices and based on past patterns make reasonable forecasts for future decadal periods.
    In addition to these quasi-periodic processes we must also be aware of endogenous earth changes in geomagnetic field strength, volcanic activity and at really long time scales the plate tectonic movements and disposition of the land masses.”
    This post also provides forecasts of the probable coming cooling based on the 60 and 1000 year periodicities ( Figs 5 and 15 in the link) clearly seen in the temperature data and using the 10 Be and neutron record as the most useful proxy for solar “activity” on recent millennial time scales . We are just past the peak of the latest 1000 year cycle and the simplest working hypothesis is that we are about to repeat the general temperature trends from 1000 AD on. It is of interest to note when considering the immediate future the substantial variability about the 50 year mean trend shown in Fig 9 in the linked post. Fairly abrupt NH cooling spells are quite possible if not likely.

  88. Norman

    The core competency in the Geological Sciences is the ability to recognize and correlate the changing patterns of events in time and space. This requires a mindset and set of skills very different from the reductionist approach to nature, but one which is appropriate and necessary for investigating past climates and forecasting future climate trends

    Geologists are very much reductionist. For example, simple mechanical models are often used (sand box and virtual geomechanical models: boundary elements and finite elements models) to understand observed strain. Then there is geochemistry. In order to understand the mineralogy and evolution of rocks one has to model small scale, isolated reactions from which the larger picture emerges. The list goes on and on…

    Earth’s climate is the result of resonances and beats between various quasi-cyclic processes of varying wavelengths combined with endogenous secular earth processes such as, for example, plate tectonics.

    Agree 100%. But these have been largely derived at by reductionist methodologies – e.g. signal decomposition.

  89. The core geological methodology is seen in the construction of the Geological Time Scale – in which events are arranged in time and space using all different types of data together to build an historical narrative.
    Certainly, in various areas of geology basic physical and chemical approaches and mathematical analysis of subsets of time series play a part.
    Generally however correlation of e g say 2 well logs or geologic sections by regression analysis doesn’t make any physical sense .Averaging of time series e g ice core data would simply obscures and indeed destroy the data. Geologists instead designate “type sections” – which best give the most complete story available – but everyone understands that in fact the information in each section is equally valid in constructing the whole picture in time and space.
    The enormous increase in US oil production rests on the tremendous improvement in signal to noise analysis in seismic data processing.
    But this is only a very valuable tool used to extract useful information from the seismic data. The real science and understanding comes from the interpretation of that information in building the geological history of a particular chunk of the earth.

  90. The natural cycles are not seen by reductionist methodologies but by simple inspection of the temperature datasets. See e,g the 1000 year and 60 year quasi-periodicities in Figs 5,9,and 15 at
    The peaks are where they are- you don’t gain any predictive certainty by fitting them to some mathematical curve. Fundamentally in nature everything only happens once even though the Milankovitch cycles go back at least 400 million years. It doesn’t require genius to see that the most likely case is that we are just past a thousand year peak and that the general trends for the next 1000 year are likely to mimic those of the last thousand. Ockham had a point . Why avoid the obvious as a first working hypothesis.?
    Avoiding the obvious is my definition of stupidity.

  91. Peter,

    As someone who has attended “Rose” risk training and who still works in the field, I thought your post was excellent. Very few of the readers (did any of them read the post?) / commenters seem to have grasped your contribution. The idea is that you check for confirmation bias. Are the prospect’s components realistic, and based on all the data and information? (Or, are they being pushed by an activist for that particular prospect?) Have the probabilities of these components existing been correctly or reasonably evaluated? Have likely outcomes in the case of success been estimated realistically? This is useful for an individual prospect but even more powerful for a portfolio of prospects.

    Translation to Climate Science. Have you considered all the alternatives? Mostly not. Only now as the standstill in global temperatures extends (the presumed Pause) do Climate Scientists consider natural variation. Have you guaged the size of the change or the probability that components are correctly evaluated? Again no. Activists have pushed amplification or positive feedback without considering its realism, negative feedbacks or the historical data (at geological, archaeological, and historical scales). Have you listened to peer review, portfolio analysis view, or experience of compeititors? Clearly no. On the contrary, views with an alternative approach have been actively suppressed (think climategate, gate-keeping in journals, suppression of debate by use of phrases like “denier”, or the “science is settled”.

    Climate Science clearly has a lot to learn from an approach like your proposal. It is ironic indeed that the much-maligned oil and gas industry may provide a life-line to Climate Science methodology.

  92. Alexander Biggs. Classic confirmation bias. I want to solve this by solving differential equations. No insight from other disciplines please.

  93. Norman

    Thanks for your response.

    Generally however correlation of e g say 2 well logs or geologic sections by regression analysis doesn’t make any physical sense.

    Spatial linear regression (aka kriging) is routinely used to do things such as well data correlation and interpolation. There are also automated methods (AI techniques) but I take your point. Human interpretation and data interrogation is the best method in most instances were the data is very sparse and data quality suspect.

    The enormous increase in US oil production rests on the tremendous improvement in signal to noise analysis in seismic data processing.
    But this is only a very valuable tool used to extract useful information from the seismic data.

    I couldn’t agree more. I write software and computer code for geological and petrophysical modelling and all the uncertainty analysis in the world using the methods espoused by Pete (methods I have implemented), is of little value if it is based on the wrong interpretation. That’s not to say if they get the interpretation right then the uncertainty analysis doesn’t add a great deal to making economic forecasts and forecasts in recovery.

  94. Keith, cd and others — We have three linked PowerPoints we show in the first 10 minutes of the first day of our 5-day course:
    1) “E&P Risk Analysis doesn’t find oil!!!”
    2) Q: “What Finds Oil? A:a) Imagination, b) Aggressiveness, c) Good Geotechnology”, and d) Drilling Wells”
    3) “E & P Risk Analysis is not a substute for good prospectors and engineers — IT PRESUPPOSES THEM!!!”

    We also repeat the same three slides on the last day, where we sum up the course learnings.

    I wish I had included those three statements in my original post, as it might have saved much of the head-butting discussion of the last couple of days. Regards, Pete

  95. cd Kriging is not used to tie the well data to the seismic data in the first instance. This is done by a geologist working with the correlations he makes between the well data and the seismic data using the velocity analysis. I agree kriging is a useful method of interpolation between wells but even here the final computer generated maps will be better if adjusted by hand by an experienced geologist familiar with the sedimentary patterns of deposition seen in various depositional environments, However I think we are pretty much on the same page. Would you care to comment on my 3:24 pm post?

  96. Alexander Biggs

    I’d like to make it clear as many of the oil men here are misrepresenting the whole oil industry based on their own area of interest in that field. ODE and PDE are used everywhere in oil exploration and production. Petrophysical modelling typically use geostatistical approaches to model reservoir properties (and uncertainty therein: P10, P50, P90 cases) but their outputs are used as inputs into finite fluid element fluid models. These are the end product of reservoir modelling and produce the output for economic modelling. This type of modelling uses finite methods to solve for PDEs “simulating” turbulent and laminar flow. They are the basis of drilling strategies.

    In short, Peter Lang and others are talking about static models and while one can use ODE and PDE methods for static property models there are better methods as stated by others. But Peter and others are wrong if they’re assuming that ODE and PDE are less than useful in the oil industry. As you state dynamic models, such as the finite element fluid models, can only be modellled with any precision in this manner – as far as I know.

  97. I’d like to make it clear as many of the oil men here are misrepresenting

    Should be:

    I’d like to make it clear as many of the oil men here are unintentionally misrepresenting

  98. At this moment there are 381 comments on this thread and I don’t have time to read them all, so please forgive me if I’m repeating someone else’s insights.
    When the Catholic Church is deliberating whether or not to canonize a person, i.e. declare that person to have been a saint, they appoint one of their very best as Devil’s Advocate. This person’s job is to argue why the person is NOT eligible for sainthood.
    Everyone in the decision group understands that it is the Devil’s Advocate’s job to be negative. When he (in the Catholic Church it’s always a he) picks holes in their arguments, they know that they have to lift their game.
    I believe that the various Nobel Prize committees (except the Peace Prize committee naturally) use the same system.
    I have used this technique very successfully in business and usually in my own decision-making too.
    The Warming people don’t appear to apply any introspection or self-questioning at all. Because they are using inductive reasoning in the place of deductive reasoning, their thought processes are governed entirely by cognitive bias.
    When you do get the occasional Warmist trying to reform the movement from within, like Dr Bjorn Lomborg for instance, their supposed allies give them the polecat treatment.
    Although Lomborg supports the IPCC predictions, he questions their policy proposals, and very vigorously too. That’s why I respect him. If there were more like him, I might even start thinking Warming myself.

    • Mike Mellor,

      Excellent point, and I don’t recall anyone else making that point earlier in the thread.

      I’d point out that the military also uses that approach. They use ‘red team reviews’ at all stages through the military equipment acquisition decision making process.

  99. Mike Mellor,
    As the author of the post that precipitated all this (mostly) constructive and interesting discussion, let me be the first to inform you that you are the first responder to invoke the policies of the Catholic Church! It seems that the Church understands the purpose and values the process represented by ‘The Devil’s Advocate” (same principle — “a writer’s best friends are his critics”). I agree with all your observations.
    It is always dangerous to ascribe motivations to the behavior of others. However, I do believe a legitimate conjecture here is that the “warming people” understand that raising doubts inevitably begins to threaten funding of their research projects, which I understand now exceeds several hundred billion dollars (someone else will hopefully supply a documented current figure). Such unprecedented funding for a relatively new branch of Science represents a research windfall for climate scientists as well as the sponsoring institutions that can rake off a hefty share for overhead. At the risk of mixing metaphors, “A lot of scientists and administrators have some skin in the game, and none of the riders wants to derail the gravy train”.
    Thanks for your comment. Pete