by Judith Curry
The battle over the American Physical Society draft Statement on Climate Change is heating up.
In 2007, the APS issued a very controversial Statement on Climate Change. These statements expire after 5 or so years, and they need to be reratified, revised, or dropped. The process got off to a good start with a fascinating Workshop summarized in my post APS reviews its climate change statement.
The text of the new draft statement is (cited on my previous blog post, after it was reproduced on Reddit):
On Climate Change:
Earth’s changing climate is a critical issue that poses the risk of significant disruption around the globe. While natural sources of climate variability are significant, multiple lines of evidence indicate that human influences have had an increasingly dominant effect on the climate warming observed since the mid-twentieth century. Although the magnitudes of future effects are uncertain, human influences on the climate are growing. The potential consequences of climate change are great and the policies of the next few decades will determine human influences on the climate for centuries.
On Climate Science:
As summarized in the 2013 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there continues to be significant progress in climate science. In particular, the connection between rising concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases and the increased warming of the global climate system is more certain than ever. Nevertheless, as recognized by Working Group 1 of the IPCC, scientific challenges remain to our abilities to observe, interpret, and project climate changes. To better inform societal choices, the APS urges sustained research in climate science.
On Climate Action:
The APS reiterates its 2007 call to support actions that will reduce the emissions, and ultimately the concentration, of greenhouse gases, as well as increase the resilience of society to a changing climate. Because physics and its techniques are fundamental elements of climate science, the APS further urges physicists to collaborate with colleagues across disciplines in climate research and to contribute to the public dialogue.
In my post on the Draft APS Statement on Climate Change. I wrote:
Well, their paragraph on Climate Science is a rather astonishing take on the APS Workshop. Their paragraph on Climate Change seems to come from the Guardian. Their statement on Climate Action reiterates their rather crazy statement in 2007.
Here is my real problem with this statement. This is an egregious misuse of the expertise of the APS. Their alleged understanding of issues like spectroscopy and fluid dynamics are not of any direct relevance to the issues they write about in this statement.
There is some additional backstory in this Scientific American Article: Physicists battle over the meaning of ‘incontrovertible’ in the global warming fight.
Request from APS members
In response to my post on the draft APS statement, on April 8 I received an email from a group of APS members requesting that I create a thread on Climate Etc. where APS members could post their comments publicly, so that they could be discussed and so that it would be more difficult for the APS to ignore these comments. This thread is the result of this email discussion.
The comments that I have received so far are appended below:
What a craven and scientifically misguided statement this is. It wreaks of slogans, exaggeration, and distortions. For example: “In particular, the connection between rising concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases and the increased warming of the global climate system is more certain than ever.” You do not mention that the accumulating evidence is that this ‘connection’ is far smaller than we have been told by IPCC, that it has been revised DOWNWARD, and that any future warming will be correspondingly much smaller.
Let’s take another: “…there continues to be significant progress in climate science.” Really? Then why is it that, as revealed in the Koonin group framing document, there has been no progress whatsoever in narrowing the uncertainty in the critical Climate Sensitivity parameter during the 25 years of IPCC existence? This is despite the billions wasted on climate models that are known to be materially deficient and downright wrong in their projections.
Then there are significant developments that you choose to ignore because they do not fit your Agenda. You do not mention that increased CO2 in the atmosphere is beneficial and that greening of the earth has already been observed by satellites. You do not mention that there has been no global warming for nearly two decades, in opposition everything we have been told would happen. You do not mention that even IPCC finds no significant evidence of increased extreme weather.
Any knowledgeable reader who looks through the Koonin group’s framing document or the workshop transcript will find that this material is at odds with the conclusions presented in the draft Statement.
Physics is a quantitative science that makes progress through debate and weighing of the evidence. But you have abandoned this tradition in favor of politically correct slogans and talking points. You do not present a whit of evidence to support your conclusions. In fact the inputs collected by APS are at odds with its conclusions. As the now clearly obvious climate truths become more widely known and acknowledged, future generations of APS leaders will come to regard this Statement and the fabricators that produced it as embarrassing reminders of how readily the Science Project could be corrupted.
Roger W. Cohen, Fellow, American Physical Society
The APS should let the prior 2007 statement expire — i.e. let it die.
Physics to me has always meant the search for scientific truth. Guidance in this pursuit is given in the motto of the Royal Society: ‘Nullius in verba’ (take nobody’s word for it). This is embodied in the scientific method in which belief in any model/theory/ hypothesis must be supported by experiments/observations. This goes back at least to Galleo.
That there there is some global warming due to the increase in CO2 is generally agreed to as has been described by Richard Lindzen. However, The claim of enhancement of “global warming” by positive feedback comes entirely from computer models. This is only a hypothesis with no creditable observational evidence.
In fact, the observational evidence goes against this hypothesis. For the past 15 years the concentration of CO2 has been increasing while the Earth “refuses” to warm.
The problems and errors in the APS POPA statement are documented in detail by APS members Judith Curry and Roger Cohen. I will not repeat these here. I strongly agree with what they say.
Do not issue a new climate statement! Let the issue die!
David Douglass, Fellow APS
History will not look kindly on APS for its 2007 Climate Change Statement, with its supposedly “incontrovertible” science. A little more than a year ago, I was encouraged by the excellent APS workshop on the status of climate science, organized by Steve Koonin. I had hoped that a POPA review, guided by the results of the workshop, would lead to a sensible climate statement. But the draft POPA statement does not even mention the Koonin workshop. It includes silly pontifications like “the connection between rising concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases and the increased warming of the global climate system is more certain than ever.” Who ever doubted that greenhouse gases cause warming? The issue has always the magnitude of the warming caused by a doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. As the Koonin workshop makes clear, the magnitude is less certain than ever, and it may well be so small that increasing CO2 will benefit the planet. And the new draft goes beyond the old statement with a call for “Climate Action.” Is the APS a society for the advancement of physics or is it a propaganda organ for a cause?
I urge the APS Council to let the previous statement expire naturally and to issue no new statement. This was the solution chosen by the Geological Society of Australia in 2014. It worked for them, and it would work for us.
One of the APS climate statement FAQs argues that physics is important to climate science. It is, and certainly physicists are contributing to it, but as climate science is now practiced (concerning global temperatures and other global properties) its epistemology is wholly distinct from that of physics. An astounding level of uncritical credence is afforded to the output of large models. For example, results most divergent from observations are typically not discarded. They are averaged in with all others. Try this philosophy with your favorite unexplained physical measurement.
Do large percentages of scientists actually agree with global warming predictions? They may say they do in surveys, but it is very likely that a majority are not qualified to judge. Only a few at the top of the modeling profession are truly competent to know whether model feedback parameterizations, the treatment of clouds, etc., are adequate. Having read many papers that predict bad consequences for flora or fauna, or for humanity, I feel that those who conclude “climate change is bad” have done perfectly good deductions within their field of expertise but have taken some model warming prediction as a primary premise. This unwarranted premise is critical to their results and is usually unmentioned as such.
Rather than calling out the questionable epistemology — or better yet remaining silent on the entire issue — POPA and APS have joined those who promulgate the model predictions of dangerously rising temperatures as if they were settled science. It is a shameful situation that is amplified by the calamity-hungry popular press. The majority of APS members are not equipped to meaningfully assess the science behind the predictions; a blatantly political statement, developed by “consensus building that has resulted in a solid, science-based statement,” as the POPA chair has said, will ultimately tarnish the reputation of the Society.
I urge APS Council, of which I am a former member as DBP representative, to withdraw the 2007 statement and cease this climate change statement effort.
Robert S. Knox, Fellow APS, Professor of Physics Emeritus, University of Rochester
This statement is pathetically unworthy of a high school physics project much less of an organisation of physicists whose hallmark ought to be quantitative analysis, not an ignorant ideological polemic like this that tramples the scientific method. The original theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) has morphed into the generic “climate change” so that any weather event can be blamed on human intervention. None of the hysterical claims of CAGW has materialised. That APS would be a party to such deliberate mendacity is shameful and not worthy of a scientific society.
This statement relies on a sole resource, the IPCC, whose mandate is restricted to human contributions to risks from climate change. So it ignores a vast body of independent research into natural causes of climate change, and the findings of the benefits of increased CO2 concentrations that are greening the planet, and the reduction of the adverse human health effects of cold weather.
It fails to acknowledge, to borrow from the discredited 2007 statement, that the “evidence is incontrovertible”; global warming stopped more than 18 years ago. So it is wrong to say the connection between rising CO2 and warming is more certain. Climate sensitivity, including feedbacks originally assumed large and positive by IPCC, has continuously had to be scaled back as the divergence between all model projections and real data increases. Research ignored here shows feedbacks to be small and likely negative, undermining the whole premise of CAGW. Moreover, none of the theories that attempt to explain this 18+ year “hiatus”, as the IPCC calls it, has any supporting data.
It ignores its own Workshop and the summary of it by Chair Dr Koonin. Not only is it not settled, but climate science is beset by uncertainties as revealed by any fair reading of the Workshop transcript. It ignores that even the IPCC acknowledges no connection between rising CO2 and extremes of weather.
This statement is an embarrassment to the APS and unrepresentative of its talented body of physicists.
I’m sorry to say that the above statement would challenge the authority that the APS has so far gained on science issues. I would NOT approve the statement as it is.
- The sentence «multiple lines of evidence indicate that human influences have had an increasingly dominant effect on the climate warming observed since the mid-twentieth century» does not reflect the emergence of any risk: assuming (and it is NOT so) that any climate change that the planet has experienced since the mid-twentieth century is due to human responsibility, has not been more severe than climate changes experienced in the past centuries and millennia. Human responsibilities (admitting they exist) appear to be a background noise over a ever changing climate due to natural causes.
- The sentence «Although the magnitudes of future effects are uncertain, human influences on the climate are growing» is self-contradicting (if the effects are uncertain, how can they be growing?) and contrary to the evidence: the global mean temperature has not increased during the last 10 years or so, although the GHG emission have restlessly increased.
- It is not clear why the IPCC – a politically-constructed organization – is considered an authority on the matter. If it is, why would the APS need to make its own statement parroting the statement of another organization? In any case, the sentence «the connection between rising concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases and the increased warming of the global climate system is more certain than ever» does not appear to be true: a) the global temperature has been rising since the exit from the last glacial period; has fallen several times (the last time during what the geologists call the Little Ice Age (1500-1700 AD); and started to rise again since the middle of the Seventieth century, when GHG emissions could not be responsible); finally, during the years of steadily increasing GHG emissions, the temperature of the planet has NOT steadily increased (see the last 10 years or so).
In conclusion: I think that the above statement is more political than scientific: it would jeopardize the credibility of a community – the APS – whose authoritativeness has been founded on scrupulous scientific grounds. Of course I agree on the statement that encourages continuous research on climate science.
Franco Battaglia, Professor of Chemical Physics, University of Modena, Italy
BELOW ARE QUOTATIONS FROM MY TWO EMAILS TO PHILIP L. TAYLOR [CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY] WHO REPLIED THAT HE WOULD PASS THE ORIGINALS ON TO THE POPA.
I am a member of the Forum of Physics and Society and also a member of the topical Group on Climate Physics. I have been studying the subject of “climate change/global warming” for the past decade.
In your Report you mentioned that “It [the subcommittee of POPA] will be informed by such parts of the Fifth Assessment Report [AR5] of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as are available at the time. The most relevant part for POPA purposes is the report of Working Group I, which is concerned with the physical science basis of the assessment…” This seems to indicate that the AR5 is will be the main source of information. However there have been a number of scientific criticisms of the AR5 that have been detailed in the NIPCC Report — “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science”
That NIPCC Report (there have been others in past years) is, to my knowledge, the only one that looks critically and comprehensively — from a scientific standpoint that includes many peer-reviewed references — at the arguments put forth in the AR5. I call this Report to your attention because — although it may seem harsh to criticize the IPCC’s AR5 — the NIPCC Report appears to have valid scientific justifications for its claims.
Although it is understandable why there have been past issues about the APS Statement on “climate change/anthropogenic global warming” I hope that the full scientific method — plus whatever is germane from the attachments — can be brought to bear in formulating the new statement by the APS.
… In view of the difficult scientific issues pertaining to climate, as well as issues of scientific integrity, I am also glad that the Climate Change Statement is being revisited (hopefully with the result that the Statement will be rescinded).
IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE, I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED WITH (AND ANGRY ABOUT) THE CURRENT DRAFT OF THE APS CLIMATE STATEMENT.
Laurence I. Gould, Past Chair (2004), New England Section of the APS
JC message to APS members: You can submit your comments by pasting them into the comments box at the bottom of the thread. Alternatively, you can email them to me at curryja at eas.gatech.edu and I will post them for you. APS members can also discuss other comments or aspects of the process in general by submitting comments.
JC message to Denizens: This thread is open only to APS members. I’ve created a parallel thread APS discussion thread, for general comments and discussion. Note, comments aren’t due until May 6, so comments may be a bit slow to accumulate.