When Scientists Advise on Politically Charged Issues

By Keith Kloor | December 6, 2012 12:30 pm

Paul Nurse, a geneticist and the President of the UK’s Royal Society, gave an address last month titled, “Advising Society on Science.”  He discusses the most controversial issues that characterize public debate on climate change and genetically modified foods. Much of what he says strikes me as thoughtful and reasonable, though I see his comments on climate science has elicited mostly disapproval from the host of a twitchy climate skeptic blog and frothy denunciations from his choir. Shocking!

Anyway, below is an excerpt of Nurse’s comments on climate change and following that, his entire discussion on GMOs.

***

A feature of this [climate change] controversy is that those who deny that there is a problem often seem to have political or ideological views that lead them to be unhappy with the actions that would be necessary if global warming is due to human activity. These actions are likely to include measures such as greater concerted world action, curtailing the freedoms of individuals, companies and nations, and curbing some kinds of industrial activity, potentially risking economic growth. What appears to be happening is that the concerns of those worried about those types of action, have led them to attack the scientific analysis of the majority of climate scientists with scientific arguments that are rather weak and unconvincing, often involving the cherry picking of data.

What can be learnt from the climate science and global warming controversy about giving scientific advice to society? Firstly it reinforces the points already made about the importance of relying on the consensus view of expert scientists and the need to avoid the cherry picking of data and argument. But it also emphasises the need to keep the science as far as is possible from political, ideological and religious influence. I know that can be difficult, as after all, scientists are only human, but that is what good scientific analysis needs.

Several other features have complicated the situation. One has been a failure of some climate scientists to be as open as they should in making all their data available, for example in predicting the extent of future rises in temperature. This has led some who deny there is a problem to claim that the climate scientists data is wrong or has been manipulated. Another feature is the complexity of climate science which leads to uncertainties. In a world where people often want simple answers, uncertainty does not appeal. This allows space for poorly evidenced but confidently stated opinions, which are sometimes mixed with personal attacks and misrepresentations to attract public and political attention.

A second controversial area has been the discussions around genetically modified (GM) foods, that is the introduction of genes by genetic engineering into crop plants. The consensus view of the majority of expert plant and other scientists is that in principle this is a safe approach and can lead to considerable benefits, not only commercial ones such as reducing food spoilage during transport for example, but also to help tackle global problems such as world hunger by increasing crop yields and the use of marginal habitats for crop growing. These scientists would also usually argue that precautionary checks need to be in place but in general these should be similar to those used for conventionally produced crop plants that is using a case by case specific plant basis to determine safety and effectiveness. This consensus scientific view has been accepted by the public in some countries but in others it has not. Again why is this the case?

In my view the key features of this controversy that need to be considered are peoples’ sensitivities about what they eat, concerns about scientists playing at God, and worries about the influence of over bearing commercial interests. These have converged to generate deep suspicion amongst some of the public about GM foods. Human beings have a tendency to be conservative, even fearful, about what their food contains. One anxiety I noticed was frequently expressed during public consultation exercises over GM crops was a concern at “˜eating food containing genes’. This was an issue a scientist was unlikely to have considered but was a perfectly reasonable one for a member of the public to express. This concern was exacerbated by newspaper headlines calling GM crops Frankenstein Foods, conjuring up images of white coated scientists playing God and tampering with the purity of food. Another feature is often those who object to GM have political or ideological opinions which dislike the power yielded by powerful commercial corporations behind the manufacture of certain GM crops. These anti GM opinions have been adopted by some environmental NGOs who campaign against the use of  GM crops, even when their use is aimed at serving the public good such as reducing vitamin deficiency in children for example.

What can be learnt from the public debate concerning the use of GM crops? First, it is clear that there has been a failing to properly engage the public and pay attention to what they say. Scientists have to listen to the public to be completely aware of their concerns and of the questions they want answered by the scientific advice. Scientists and single interest pressure groups are not always the best individuals to frame these questions. Second, is the need for high quality debate in the mass media. Scientists need to be part of this debate from the very beginning to ensure that it is based on evidence and rational argument rather than ideology or politics. Third, scientific advice is best delivered by scientists who are impartial, rather than those who may have other motives. This can be the case for a company trying to promote use of GM, or NGOs attacking GM crops who rely on the support of individuals ideologically opposed to such technologies.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change, GMOs, science
  • http://www.mcfc.co.uk Jeremy Poynton

    It turns out that Nurse was a member of the SWP in the past, which figures, given his behaviour as boss of the RS.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_Workers_Party_(UK)Essentially, he is a Marxist. What a surprise. 

  • http://www.mcfc.co.uk Jeremy Poynton
  • Keith Kloor

    Yeah, that Margaret Thatcher was quite the socialist, too!

  • Mary

    I really like Paul Nurse. I think he’s serious about actual outreach, and scientists speaking to the public and the media. He used to be on Charlie Rose all the time when he was in NY. The best thing I ever heard from him, though, was a talk he gave for The Moth. 

    What I hope that means is that granting agencies and employers will be encouraged to value outreach as a type of output. That it will get some respect and some metrics that contribute to hiring, promotion, and awards and such. For many scientists there’s no value in doing outreach, only job danger and assaults from opponents.

  • Sashka

    A fair mix of platitudes and bullshit.

  • Tom Scharf

    Scientists need to be part of this debate from the very beginning to ensure that it is based on evidence and rational argument rather than ideology or politics.

    There is an implicit assumption here that I think is less true than it used to be.  At least my views on this have “evolved” over the last 30 years.  He addresses this somewhat in the following sentence.

    Third, scientific advice is best delivered by scientists who are impartial, rather than those who may have other motives.

    Unfortunately the people most likely to show up in the media are those who have an agenda, it goes with the territory. All public awareness campaigns assume they are correct in their views. I can be quite candid and say I don’t trust the field of climate science to properly communicate uncertainties in the media (see extreme events) and to equally referee the alarmists in the same way they do the “deniers”.  That’s the way I see it, my personal distorted view.     Some fields, such as the social sciences are even worse.

  • BBD

    @ KK # 3
    ;-)

  • BBD

    Note that # 1, # 2, # 5 and # 6 out of only seven comments so far strongly suggest that Nurse is spot-on about the politics of denial ;-)

  • MarkB

    Apparently, Keith can’t see the difference in the ways Nurse sees climate skeptics and GMO opponents. One ‘denies,’ the other has ‘sensitivities.’ And given Nurse’s history dealing with climate issues, it should be no surprise that those who disagree with him in the past should disagree with him again. The ‘shocker’ bit is petty – a device used to sweep away, rather than engage intellectually. And quite typical of the climate alarmist brigade.

  • Keith Kloor

    MarkB:

    Go and read the comments at Bishop Hill. Many of them are full of bile and reference his supposed Socialist/Marxist leanings. (I have no clue about his current political orientation or what it was when he was a young man.) But the tenor of the comments do unintentionally confirm what Nurse is getting at about the ideologically/politically motivated nature of much climate (not all–I will add) climate skepticism–at least the hardcore kind you see at BH and Watts. 

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Nurse’s comments are eminently sensible and the reaction of those at BH are way over the top. Nurse has been Master of the Conventional Wisdom in the past and that has led him to saying some unfortunate things a few years ago. 

    The really encouraging thing is that if he really is a voice for CW, then the CW is moving in the right direction.

  • TimG

    Keith:There are two sides to the ideology coin. For example, Nurse simply assumes that the most appropriate response to climate change is global regulation and a restriction of industry. That is not a scientific view – that is Nurse’s ideology showing. A lot of the vitriol you see on Bishop Hill is coming from people who are disgusted with so called authorities like Nurse lecturing them about ideology driven skepticism when his own support of action is clearly an ideology driven one.

  • BBD

    # 12

    The vitriol at BH is coming from elderly, embittered, right wing loons who hate pretty much everything and everybody except themselves.

  • http://yfnwg.blogspot.ca YFNWG

    Sorry KK, but instead of being critical of the comments, apply a little critique of what both PN said and BB’s critique.  Critique the message, not the medium.  For example PN said the .7-.8 C rise in GMST in the last century was attributable to AGW.  However, most climate scientists would agree that the early 20th warming (1910-1945) is not AGW connected, in terms of CO2 anyway.

  • TimG

    BBD:You have described the people who post on Real Climate perfectly (except replace right wing loons with left wing loons).

  • harrywr2

    #10 KK

    Go and read the comments at Bishop Hill.

    Reading the comments at Bishop Hill is about as intellectually informative as reading the comments at the ‘Democratic Underground’ or reading the comments over at Joe Room’s place.I got creamed yesterday over at the NBC blog simply doing the math on the transport costs of Powder River Basin coal to China(transport cost work out to be $58/ton) and the problem with comparing the price fetched for a metric tonne of 6000 kcal/kg of Australian coal and the price likely to be fetched for a US ton of  4600 kcal/kg Powder River Basin coal.I also would note how many news organizations(including yourself) have picked up the WRI report on ‘plans’ for 500GW of coal in India…even if it did exist it would be liable to fall far short. India’s planned 78GW of coal fired plant in it’s 11th 5 year plan ended up being 56GW realized. Coal India has already stated that they were ‘highly doubtful’ of being able to supply enough coal for the additional 73 GW of coal fired plants ‘planned’ in the 12th 5 year plan. Since there is not yet a 13th,14th or 15th 5 year plan then there is ‘no plan’ to do anything beyond the 12th 5th year plan.The point that some people will take ‘evidence’ that barely rises above the quality of ‘bar talk’ as undeniable proof when it reinforces their world view and then substitute a conspiracy theory when faced with evidence that is ‘irrefutable’ when it disagrees with their world view is correct.It applies to any debate…even debates where the facts are absolutely certain.The problem today is that there aren’t any ‘information’ sources that haven’t published as ‘fact’ provable falsehoods. Which leaves everybody to wonder…’what else are they lying about’.Of course they aren’t really ‘lying’…they are just being sloppy in their fact checking.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    keith i love posts like these. the predictable displays of butt hurt are always entertaining.

  • Jonathan Gilligan

    @YFNWG #14.

    Nurse says, “The consensus view of the great majority of expert climate scientists is that the globe has increased in temperature by around 0.7 ““ 0.8 C during the last century, that this is largely due to increased greenhouse gas emissions as a consequence of human activity.”

    He doesn’t say that all the warming is due to AGW, that the temperature has risen this much from all causes combined and that this rise is “largely” due to AGW. This is a totally accurate reflection of the current mainstream scientific views, which you accurately depict: Pre-1960 was mostly natural and post-1960 was mostly anthropogenic. Using GISTEMP, I see about 0.35 degrees of warming from 1880-1960 (average of 0.004 degrees per decade) and 0.55 degrees warming from 1960-2011 (0.011 degrees per decade). So most of the warming is post-1960 and the only positive forcings we know of during this time are anthropogenic.

    If you think Nurse is misrepresenting the science, you’re really going to have to try harder than that.

  • Jonathan Gilligan

    Keith: Your blog software’s ability to eat all my paragraph breaks, combined with its inability to provide a preview of the formatted comment, is truly annoying.

  • Keith Kloor

    Jonathan, I’ll clean it up. Also, there are some changes underway, so hang in there.

  • BBD

    @ 17

    Like a baboon that sat on a thorny branch…

  • Joshua

    Lol!

    A lot of the vitriol you see on Bishop Hill is coming from people who
    are disgusted with so called authorities like Nurse lecturing them about ideology driven skepticism when his own support of action is clearly an ideology driven one.

    Shorter = “Mommy, ,mommy, they did it fiiiirrrssst.”

    Never seen that before.

  • http://climate-change-theory.com Doug Cotton

    Well if you spend a few minutes reading <a href=”http://principia-scientific.org/PROM/COTTON%20PROM%20paper%20PSI_Planetary_Surface_Temperatures.pdf”>my paper</a> and at least the abstract of the paper published by the American Institute of Physics (cited in <a href=”http://proceedings.aip.org/resource/2/apcpcs/643/1/225_1?isAuthorized=no”>reference (8)</a> in my reference [13]) you might understand what happens in the atmospheric physics of both Earth and Venus.

    <b>I’m still waiting for a satisfactory alternative explanation from anyone in the world regarding the Venus surface temperature.</b>

    Pressure does not maintain high temperatures all by itself, anywhere, not even on Venus. So forget that “explanation.”

    My paper is up for <a href=”http://principia-scientific.org/policies.html”>PROM</a> (Peer Review in Open Media) for a month, so feel free to publish a rebuttal or debate it with some of <a href=”http://principia-scientific.org/about/why-psi-is-a-private-assoc.html”>these members</a> of PSI. Such a review system far outstrips the “peer-review” system used for typical pro-AGW publications.

  • Joshua

    harry -

    Reading the comments at Bishop Hill is about as intellectually informative as

    Well – they are part of Judith’s “extended peer review” community that many “skeptics” thinks is vital to the intellectual/scientific debate.

    But even beyond that – they are informative as to the dynamics of the debate, and the overlap of the scientific debate with social, cultural, political, and personal identifications. That overlap is very important to the implications of the scientific debate w/r/t the policy debate. 

  • kdk33

    The most important learning is what happens when a narrow and obscure field of scientific endeavour becomes an industry – global warming.

    Incentives, incentives, incentives.  Perverse and otherwise.

  • TimG

    Joshua,<br>Commenters at BishopHill are not the ‘President of the UK’s Royal Society’. If Paul Nurse wants to lecture people about ideology he should look in a mirror first and think about how his own ideology affects his own opinions on how to address climate change.<br>Keith does a good job calling lefties out for hypocrisy on GMOs and Nuclear power but he could do more when it comes to choice of solutions for climate change (i.e. just because one accepts AGW it does not follow that carbon reduction policies are the best way to address it). The failure to distinguish between what the science says and the question of what to do about it is a huge problem.

  • harrywr2

    #24 Joshua

    they are part of Judith’s “extended peer review” community that many
    “skeptics” thinks is vital to the intellectual/scientific debate.

    The be fair to Bishop Hill, the UK’s Climate Energy Policy is insane. Nukes and Wind do not compliment each other.Hydro and Wind compliment each other. The UK has next to nothing in the way of hydro resources. I can’t think of a more expensive ‘energy architecture’ then what the current plan is in the UK.

    Climate Etc is home to a bunch of people that are basically ‘blinded by ideology’ as well.

    At the end of all wars the only ones left fighting are the blind idealogues.

    IPCC Scenario A1T is closer to realization then most people think.

    A1T was a prosperous ‘technically integrated’ world. It seems to me to be the ‘most pleasant’ world to live in of all the scenarios. All the other scenario’s involved rather unpleasant tradeoffs IMHO.

    Just today the Indian Government approved building six french 1.6 GW reactors with two to be completed by 2017. Which means ‘shovel in the ground’ on two in 2013. (They also have a plans for indigenous and Russian reactors)

    The Chinese added the Russians to their list of ‘approved’ reactor suppliers today as well, approving immediate construction of two of Russia’s latest design and entering into negotiations for a ‘fleet’ of floating reactors.

    Putins is supposed to visit Turkey soon where high level discussions about doing a deal on Russian Nuclear Reactors is supposed to take place.

    The Hildebeast(Hillary) is over in the Czech trying to sell AP1000′s.

    The ‘technical integration’ is taking place.

    All the things that need to be done to achieve ‘technical integration’ are being done..the world is going to burn some coal in the meantime.

  • Tom Scharf

    #26 This is what I call “blank check syndrome”.  There is an implicit assumption that if the science is accepted, that the policy prescriptions of those pushing the science will come to pass without question, in whatever form they wish.  If CAGW was shown to be an undeniable fact tomorrow, I think a great majority of activists would be sorely disappointed that liberal utopia was still not the favored solution. 

  • Joshua

    Tim -

    As I see it, some “skeptics” want to have their cake and eat it too.

    Twice.

    And then they want to eat it again.

    Sometimes, they want to elevate posts and comments at “skeptic” blogs to be worthy of equal consideration alongside the viewpoints of “expert” climate scientists. The argument is that their own opinions (by virtue of their own experiences and intelligence from different domains) are equally valuable.

    Sometimes, they want to say that that alongside what they see as tribalism amongst “expert” climate scientists, their own politicized vitriol as often seen in “skeptic” posts and comments is relatively
    meaningless, and easily dismissed – because their own input isn’t as important as the input of “expert” climate scientists.

    Sometimes they view attempts by “realists” to distinguish the value of views of “experts” from those of  “skeptics” (by virtue of the expertise of the “experts”) to be empty attempts to “appeal to authority.”

    And then sometimes they want to say that the expertise of their own “experts” (Spencer, Christy, Lindzen, Dyson, etc.) merits high levels of valuation for their views, because, well, they’re “experts.”

    Sometimes tribalism is just tribalism. “Skeptics” defend their tribalism by saying “But they started it.” And “realists” defend their tribalism by saying “But they started it.”

    Same ol’ same ol.’

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    #29

    +1

    But Tom Scharf for the win!

  • kdk33

    Expert being someone who makes their living off climate alarm.  Sometimes a seemingly corrupt system is just, well, corrupt.  And peoples views are often influenced by their personal interest. 

    Or maybe they’ve had too many cheeseburgers.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Well, partisans always support their own side – that’s not news. Whether it’s Nurse being partisan for socialist solutions, or the BH crowd being partisan against socialist solutions, or KK being partisan against the BH crowd being against partisan socialist solutions. It’s a cheap source of material. But it doesn’t seem worth labouring the point, to me.

    However, Nurse’s comments do contain some points of interest. For example:

    “A feature of this [climate change] controversy is that those who deny that there is a problem often seem to have political or ideological views that lead them to be unhappy with the actions that would be necessary if global warming is due to human activity. These actions are likely to include measures such as greater oncerted world action, curtailing the freedoms of individuals, companies and nations, and curbing some kinds of industrial activity, potentially risking economic growth.”

    So does that mean we agree that the solutions they’re proposing would curtail the freedom of individuals? And would curb industrial activity and economic growth? It’s quite true that some people have pro-freedom, pro-growth politics, and are “unhappy” with that sort of thing. Of course, there are people with anti-freedom, anti-growth politics who are overjoyed. Whose side are you claiming to be on?

    (The problem, as ever, is that the spiel goes on to assume that people object to the science because of the politics. The truth is a little more nuanced – people object to the claims because of the science, they care enough to object so loudly and persistently because of the politics. But whatever. We’ve argued that point out before.)

    I find it fascinating that some people in Western society consider support for freedom and prosperity as a matter of political faction, and are willing to reveal their worldview in a public lecture. It’s no longer surprising to me, but it is fascinating nevertheless.

    But for the rest of the talk, I wonder if Nurse is perhaps trying to tread some middle ground and draw the sides together? By putting his argument for tolerance and understanding through the case of anti-GM, which the left naturally are sympathetic to, (or at least less antipathetic to,) they’re less likely to reject the logic without thinking, and thereby come to consider whether it might be applied to climate sceptics too.

    It is thus a speech not aimed at pleasing climate sceptics, but at softening the views of leftists who are normally implacably opposed to listening to climate sceptics. It’s a completely different audience, and there’s little wonder the sceptics at BH don’t like it. If they did, that would probably put off the intended audience.

    I don’t know. Nurse sometimes seems like his brush with the climate debate has left him, not persuaded that sceptics have a point, but at least more inclined to think they’re sincere and worth talking to. And if he has to talk by analogy with anti-GM types to get intractable lefties to listen, (and he seems to have caught Keith’s interest), then isn’t that progress?

    It’s an interesting speculation.

  • Tom Scharf

    There’s being an expert, and then there’s “expert prediction”, don’t confuse these.  They are not remotely the same thing.  Being the former doesn’t necessarily make you good at the latter.  You may even be the most qualified to predict by your CV, it doesn’t mean squat if your field of expertise isn’t inherently predictable by its nature.

    There are some on this forum who apparently will never understand this, or are willfully blind to it.

    Wall Street doesn’t form a consensus and declare which way the market is going and throw a hissy fit when they don’t get as much respect as they deem themselves worthy of.  A monkey throwing darts is as good at predicting a hurricane season as the foremost experts in this area.  

    Try reading the “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – but Some Don’t” by Nate Silver.  He even addresses climate models in one of the chapters.  He wasn’t so impressed, so I guess that make him a denier to some.

    A difference is that most fields have to live with the results of their predictions (and have the advantage of tuning their algorithms) because the testing times are hours, days, months, not decades.  They are judged accordingly.  Most people in technical fields are not impressed with an argument from authority for expert prediction of chaotic systems that haven’t been validated. Show.me.the.data.  The truth is that climate scientists rarely, if ever, actually assert they have a lot of confidence in these predictions.  There’s a reason for that.  Prediction of chaotic systems is a humbling experience for anyone who has to live with the results.

  • http://yfnwg.blogspot.ca YFNWG

    @Jonathon Gilligan:  What’s largely (a point made by BH)?  And why don’t you use equitable timeframes?  Let’s take 30 years1915-1945: ~ 0.5C increase or 0.14C/decade1970-2000: ~ 0.5C increase or 0.14C/decadeExplain me the difference.And yes, I’m cherry picking but you started.

  • Jonathan Gilligan

    YFNWG: To avoid cherry-picking, don’t pick arbitrary start and stop dates. Look at the whole record: 1880-2011. You specified dividing the part where natural forcings were most significant from the period in which anthropogenic forcings are most significant.

    I chose 1960 as the demarcation because although 1970 was in many ways a more natural demarcation, it made my argument stronger and I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt: 1960 instead of 1970 was an anti-cherry pick.

    If I take your choice of 1970 instead, then in round numbers pre-1970 warming was 0.3 degrees and post-1970 warming was 0.6 degrees.What criterion would you like to specify for determining the date at which anthropogenic forcings began to dominate over natural forcings?

  • BBD

    # 34

    That’s the spirit! And here’s a pretty picture for YFNWG, complete with ultra-snazzy cubic fits. Well, it’s Christmas time, innit?

  • tlitb1

    The emphasis on un-specfied BH comments on as “confirming” what Nurse says is a marvellous bit of empty hand waving. Mr Kloor I understand you have been finding blogging an unproductive chore lately but sometimes you make it too obvious you don’t need want to work too hard ;)
    Keith Kloor you talk of his “choir” but you merely act as if you expect your “choir” to just understand something here which looks vague to an outsider. So I gather you don’t object to having “choirs” per se? Unless it is just projection. I love projection ;)

    It is hard to tell what you see as bile. I won’t guess, I’ll work it out by watching what *your* choir responds to. ;)

    Maybe my comment there pointing out the fact that Nurse engages in asymmetric reasoning in his address could be called bile by you and your choir?

    I’ll paraphrase here for all to see my bile ;) Nurse says about climate:

    “…those who deny that there is a problem often seem to have political or ideological views…”

    Nurse makes no mention of the possibility that scientist could ever operate with politics prior to their science. I think Nurse really has no understanding that this is possible and this strikes me as a clear flaw in his intellectual stance, Nobel prize or no.

    I am quite amused that some supposed thinkers don’t see this, I see many scientism fans here who can only hear sweet music supporting their prejudices coming from the orgasmic heights of RS authority and so only applying superficial thinking in response .

    Personally I find shallow thinking more objectionable to bile. I can put up wit, or ignore, bile, but it is when superficiality is encouraged, as in this post, that I get nauseated

  • Jarmo

    What can be learnt from the climate science and global warming controversy about giving scientific advice to society?…But it also emphasises the need to keep the science as far as is possible from political, ideological and religious influence. I know that can be difficult, as after all, scientists are only human, but that is what good scientific analysis needs.

    An now back to reality, in this case American Geophysical Union:

    McEntee had spoken formally during her presentation about having AGU lead an effort involving major scientific societies in “educating” Congress on what unquestionably is an overwhelming consensus among climate scientists on a full range of issues. AGU earlier had led the groups in bringing leading society officials to Washington on climate change issues, but the new effort seems destined to go beyond that in intensity and duration, including strategic targeting of specific legislators.

    http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2012/12/the-new-agu-talking-up-its-policy-backbone/#more-14104

  • andrew adams

    TimG,

    If you are going to accuse Nurse of letting his views on this subject be skewed by his ideology then it would be nice if you could provide some actual evidence to support it. 

    Of course it’s true that the extent of the threat of AGW and what we should do about it are serparate questions. I guess that some people might argue that there could be some kind of solution which does not involve reducing emissions, and even if people agree that such reductions are necessary there might be disagreements over the best way of achieving them. Yes, people’s views on these questions may be coloured by their ideology on occasions but they are essentially practical questions rather than ideological ones, except at the margins.

  • BBD

    # 37 Jarmo

    It seems probable that the AGU is expressing its members’ collective concern about the widespread denialism amongst Republican Congressmen/women.

    Rather than attempting to influence policy, its aim here is to address this rejection of science by a disturbing number of policy makers, especially on the right.

    Sound policy cannot evolve if significant elements of the policy making process are in active denial of the scientific consensus.

    Surely you would agree that your political leaders should be fully informed and demonstrably objective about the science? Surely you reject denialism as untenable in policy makers? How could you not? It doesn’t make sense.

  • Jarmo

    #39,

    Rather than attempting to influence policy, its aim here is to address this rejection of science by a disturbing number of policy makers, especially on the right.

    I am pretty sure that US members of Congress that AGU targets will feel most grateful when their errors of judgment are pointed to them :)

    You suggest that the purpose of AGU is not to influence policy and next say that “sound policy cannot evolve” if policymakers are in active denial Seriously.

  • BBD

    Yes. Seriously. These statements are not incompatible. First deal with the denial and rejection of the scientific consensus, then rational policy response can occur. 

    This is not directing policy, it is simply allowing it to happen in the first place. You appear intent on preventing this, which is deeply troubling.

  • Jarmo

    #41,I suspect that missions to “educate” elected officials will be seen as further evidence that climate scientists are activists with an agenda. In other words counterproductive. Something that Nurse advised against, right?Secondly, why do you think US Senate rejected Kyoto unanimously? Because it was costly and a bad deal. The whole thing is about who pays and how much, as negotiations in Doha once again demonstrate.If you have followed Doha, you may have noticed that Lord Stern stated that even if developed countries cut their emissions to zero it will be not enough to stop “runaway climate change”. Is Kyoto Protocol rational? It pretty much guarantees that we will hit 40+ Gt emissions by 2020. A rational policy response might be to scrap Kyoto and these UNFCCC merry-go-round meetings beceuse they are a byword for BAU.

  • Joshua

    So first we have this from Nurse:

    But it also emphasises the need to keep the science as far as is
    possible from political, ideological and religious influence. I know
    that can be difficult, as after all, scientists are only human, but that
    is what good scientific analysis needs….scientific advice is best delivered by scientists who are
    impartial, rather than those who may have other motives. This can be the
    case for a company trying to promote use of GM, or NGOs attacking GM
    crops who rely on the support of individuals ideologically opposed to
    such technologies.

    And then we have this from tltb1:

    Nurse makes no mention of the possibility that scientist could ever
    operate with politics prior to their science. I think Nurse really has
    no understanding that this is possible and this strikes me as a clear
    flaw in his intellectual stance, Nobel prize or no.

    And this:

    Personally I find shallow thinking more objectionable to bile. I can put
    up wit, or ignore, bile, but it is when superficiality is encouraged,
    as in this post, that I get nauseated

    Interesting, no? The work of a “skeptic” is a thing of beauty.

  • Jarmo

    Let’s not get too serious here ;)

    Shock and dismay were rippling through the Qatar National Convention Centre today after it emerged that an unfortunate translation error is to blame for the Emir of Qatar’s hitherto unexplained enthusiasm to host the 2012 UN climate talks.

    Seemingly, a careless translator mistook “climate change” for “climate control” which was then translated into Arabic as “air conditioning”, thereby presenting the Emir with an invitation for bids to host the 2012 United Nations Air Conditioning Conference. On admitting the error, a senior minister said “we thought we would be welcoming the world’s best air conditioning manufacturers to our sandy shores. That’s something we can really relate to. I can’t believe you guys at the UN didn’t spot the error. What, you really thought we were interested in hosting a major environment conference? Seriously?”

    Proposed air-conditioned stadium

    The Minister went on to explain that whilst Qatar is already a major importer of finest-quality air-conditioning equipment ““ given its recent construction boom and scorching summer temperatures ““ the trade is set to soar as the Emirate prepares to host the 2022 football World Cup. Given mounting fears that not even the Qatari national team (if such a thing exists) will be able to cope with the fierce heat, entire air-conditioned stadia are being planned. With this in mind, he said, the choice to host the 2012 conference was perfectly logical. On the other hand, the minister explained that they are not really too interested in climate change: heat, used to that; desertification, been there done that some time ago; water supply, gas-fired desalination galore; sea level rise, only 120,000 citizens and plenty of land and so on ad nauseum.

    http://lowcarbonara.wordpress.com/

  • BBD

    # 42

    You ‘suspect’, do you?

    Well I’m suspicious too. Let’s look at your suspect suspicions again.

    You ‘suspect’ that explaining the scientific consensus to Republican deniers will be “seen as further [further??] evidence [evidence??] that climate scientists are activists with an agenda”.

    Given the monumental job of hammering out emissions policy, what the world *does not* need is suspect suspicions. But that’s the job of the politically motivated ‘sceptic’, right? To make sure nothing happens. Right? Ideology trumps science, right? Especially if you are of the right, right? A sort of right rite of passage, right?

    Is Kyoto Protocol rational? It pretty much guarantees that we will hit 40+ Gt emissions by 2020. A rational policy response might be to scrap Kyoto and these UNFCCC merry-go-round meetings beceuse they are a byword for BAU.

    I have no idea where you are getting this from. Here’s a pretty ugly picture that at least gets the numbers right..

  • http://www.mcfc.co.uk Jeremy Poynton

    KK – Nurse says that scientists should be politically active, then accuses those who oppose him of being … politically active. He can’t have it both ways. BBD. Good to see the “denier” slander again. Are you denying that temperatures have flatlined since 1998 and are now falling, whilst the concentration of co2 in the atmosphere to rise? That’s what the science says, and I agree. It would seem that you are the denier. Or should I say – Climate Jihadi? 

  • http://www.mcfc.co.uk Jeremy Poynton

    One more – here’s Judith Curry, Climate Scientist and believer in (small scale) AGW on Nursehttp://judithcurry.com/2012/03/14/sir-paul-nurse-on-the-science-society-relationship/She quotes Nurse”The practice of science is inherently political.”Let me rephrase that ”The practice of post-modern science is inherently political.”Science in politics corrupts it. 

  • http://www.mcfc.co.uk Jeremy Poynton

    Booker… quotes from link aboveWe saw Nurse cosying up to Singer in a coffee house, then a brief clip of the professor explaining how a particular stalagmite study had shown temperature fluctuations correlating much more neatly with solar activity than with levels of CO2. This snippet enabled Nurse to imply that Singer’s scepticism is based on one tiny local example, whereas real scientists look at the overall big picture. No mention of the 800-page report edited by Singer in which dozens of expert scientists challenge the CO2 orthodoxy from every angle.

  • http://www.mcfc.co.uk Jeremy Poynton

    Here Nurse lies about co2 emissionsThe most telling moment, however, came in an interview between Nurse and a computer-modelling scientist from Nasa, presented as a general climate expert although he is only a specialist in ice studies. Asked to quantify the relative contributions of CO2 to the atmosphere by human and natural causes, his seemingly devastating reply was that 7 gigatons (billion tons) are emitted each year by human activity while only 1 gigaton comes from natural sources such as the oceans. This was so much the message they wanted that Nurse invited him to confirm that human emissions are seven times greater than those from all natural sources.

  • http://www.mcfc.co.uk Jeremy Poynton

    There is only one place for scientists with agendas and that is behind bars. We need scientists for who truth is the be all and end all, not scientists who ply an agenda as a means to an end. The likes of Nurse are enemies of truth, and hence enemies of us all. 

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Did someone say cheeseburgers?

    Here you go:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UB_TVznOwK8&feature=player_embedded

  • Jarmo

    I#45 BBD,

    Scientists have failed to educate people about GMOs and nuclear as well. I doubt they have more luck in educating congressmen about climate.

    You seem to be awfully keen on assigning blame and are sure that if everybody agrees with scientific consensus, it will automatically result emission cuts. All that stands in the way are those goddamn deniers.

    Well, Obama agrees with the science, right? He is worried about warming. But he also recently stated that jobs and economic growth come first. All the developing countries in Doha paint apocalyptic visions of the future and demand emission cuts right now but when it comes to cutting their own emissions, no dice.

    My 40+ Gt emissions by 2020 refers to CO2 emissions, not total GHG emissions.

    Kyoto gives no emission cut targets to developing countries. This makes sure that total emissions will rise for the next 20-30 years.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Another scientist we should hold behind bars:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIzS0Vl1y6A

    You, sir, are condemned to serve Cosmos for the rest of your life.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    From the Breakthrough Cuisine Institute:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlJKpt74TvI

  • kdk33

    I never follow links from strangers, and I eat biscuits and gravy for breakfast.

  • andrew adams

    Nurse says that scientists should be politically active, then accuses those who oppose him of being “¦ politically active.

    ISTM that Nurse is saying that scientists should actively engage in public date on scientific matters, which includes engaging with politicians to try to ensure that policy making in these areas is properly informed. That doesn’t necessarily mean trying to advance a particular political agenda.

  • tlitb1

    @43 Joshua

    You are right Nurse does touch on the subject of scientist bias in a way that contradicts my interpretation. It is my fault but I do maintain that Nurse’s address is so superficial that I can only see him speaking to the “choir” in a way that encourages my lazy blind spot like this ;)

    I would have better said that Nurse doesn’t acknowledge the actual existence of scientists who operate from a position of political bias.

    Thanks for neatly collecting up the stuff hidden by my scotoma. You heighten the superficiality of Nurses analysis, his way of eliding the subject of scientist bias by warning against its hypothetical existence without hinting he has ever been aware of it in the real world contrasts sharply with his concrete attachment of “those who deny that there is a problem” to “political or ideological views”.

    I think this is an understandable stance for a trade union leader to adopt – but not really the honest approach of someone who wants to address the issues of trust about “When Scientists Advise on Politically Charged Issues”.

    However I guess it works with the “choir” because it superficially satisfies some people as dealing with something whilst actually ignoring the core problem.

    It does seem to work with some. The feeling of depth is simulated to their satisfaction I guess, so why expect more? ;)

  • BBD

    @ 52

    You seem to be awfully keen on assigning blame and are sure that if everybody agrees with scientific consensus, it will automatically result emission cuts.

    Don’t be cheeky, Jarmo. I’m not assigning blame. I’m just pointing out what you are doing here. There is a qualitative difference. If you feel blameworthy, well, that’s up to you.

    You, let us not forget, are calling scientists activists with an agenda, and placing scare quotes around “educate”…

    I suspect that missions to “educate” elected officials will be seen as further [further!] evidence [evidence!] that climate scientists are activists with an agenda.

    Further evidence?!

    Further!

    Evidence!

    See what you did there?

  • http://yfnwg.blogspot.ca YFNWG

    @Jonathon Gilligan:  Do all the handwaving you want, you haven’t answered the question.  We’ve agreed that the supposed AGW CO2 effects start in the second half of the 20th Century.  I’ve identified the period in that timeframe when the GMST rises, 1970-2000 (I’m sure you’ll agree that there hasn’t been any rise since 2000).  There is a similar period in the early 20th Century with similar slope, 1910 to 1940.  All other 30 year time periods have a negative (!) slope, 1880-1910, 1940-1970 and 2000-2012.   How anyone can claim natural for the earlier period and anthroprogenic for the latter has incredible gall, given that the only objective “evidence” is the output of computer models.Here is another snazzy graph for you.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    YFNWG, it seems remarkably stubborn to insist that all observed temperature rises result from the same cause. The alarmists are overly facile when they use the analogy of ‘just because lightning causes some forest fires does not mean that some are not caused by humans.’ 

    But it is true. And so is the fact that climate is influenced by many factors, one of which is human emissions of CO2. Pity we don’t really know how much.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @44

    +1

    i could never understand why a city with the highest per capita GHG emissions in the world would be interested in hosting a conference on reducing GHGs…

  • http://yfnwg.blogspot.ca YFNWG

    @Tom Fuller:  I’m not saying CO2 has no effect.  I am not a “skydragon”.   However, since there has been no reasonable explanation as to which natural processes (and how) caused the 0.6 C rise in the early 20th from 1910 to 1940, we cannot hope to put a large confidence in the “most/largely caused” attribution to CO2 of the 0.6 C rise in the second half of the 20th century.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    YFNWG, I would be more comfortable if it were expressed as a combination of human contributions, including land use changes etc.

  • http://yfnwg.blogspot.ca YFNWG

    Aye, with regards to the anthroprogenic components, but in that statement (and Paul Nurse’s talk) the natural components are still unstated, unrecognized and IMHO, more likely the larger contributor…

  • BBD

    YFNWG

    I’m glad you like graphs. Have you looked at the UAH regional TLT data? They are very interesting indeed, especially if you are convinced that all warming has stopped. Here we see TLT over NH extratropic land and polar land.

    As for short periods of no warming or slight cooling – so what? Nobody ever said warming would be monotonic. Natural variability hasn’t stopped. Your graph only emphasises this point.

    There are numerous possible factors that may be contributing to the current warming hiatus. These include the unusually ‘quiet’ sun of SC23/24, natural and anthropogenic aerosols, the possible influence of the negative or ‘cool-phase’ PDO, variations in the rate at which energy is mixed down into the deep ocean and changes in global cloud cover. Some or all may be in play.

    Scientists continue to investigate the physical mechanisms. ‘Sceptics’ continue to claim that the hiatus means that AGW is overblown, or even falsified. The more likely explanation is that warming is temporarily being offset by an unusual combination of factors (one of which – aerosols – may be at least partly anthropogenic).

    The really problematic logical fallacy here is false equivalence. So what if the warming 1910 – 1940 was primarily natural? This has no bearing whatsoever on the causation of more recent warming. And warming from the 1970s is inexplicable unless anthropogenic forcings are taken into account.

    Nobody can *find* these natural forcings that are supposedly responsible for the second half of the C20th being substantially warmer than the first half. The recent warming can readily be accounted for by GHG forcing. Why reject the simplest explanation? Why would anyone do that? If we were talking about anything else, I bet *you* wouldn’t do that.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Just as nobody can ‘find’ a reason why temperatures seem immune to such a massive outgassing of human emitted CO2 since 1998. That’s pushing the concept of natural variability.

  • BBD

    There are lots of possible reasons Tom. I list some of them above. And in no sense is this ‘pushing the concept of natural variability’. You are losing the fight with your inner denier again.

  • BBD

    Paul Voosen’s Greenwire article remains one of the best summaries. Which is fortunate, given that we wouldn’t want to disturb Keith’s Link Monster…

  • http://yfnwg.blogspot.ca YFNWG

    The causation of the more recent warming being attributed to primarily CO2 is due to the output of theortical GCMs, not observational data.   No mid tropospheric warming, no increasing specific humidity, etc, etc.  The lack of *finding* the natural causes is a false argument as the natural causes of the early 20th century haven’t been determined yet either.  Just because the modeling can’t determine them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.The simplest explanation is that similar processes are occurring, whatever they are, and they dominate CO2 effects.This’ll be my last comment on this thread.

  • Jarmo

    #58 BBD,

    Are you reading what you are writing?

    “You, let us not forget, are calling scientists activists with an agenda, and placing scare quotes around “educate””¦

    I suspect that missions to “educate” elected officials will be seen as further evidence that climate scientists are activists with an agenda.”

    What I am trying to convey here is that the targeted audience of this “education” (Quotes because I doubt they give classes ;) ) will very likely see it as evidence that scientists are activists with an agenda. 

    May I remind you that for example James Hansen has in many contexts called himself an activist with an agenda to save the planet. If you have a beef with climate scientists being called activists, perhaps you should take it up with him.

  • BBD

    The simplest explanation is that similar processes are occurring, whatever they are, and they dominate CO2 effects.

    No, the simplest explanation is that the exhaustively calculated forcing from the increasing fraction of atmospheric GHGs is starting to emerge from the noise of climate variability.

    Everything else requires altering basic physics to get rid of the GHG forcing *and* invisible ‘mystery forcings’ we cannot detect no matter how hard we try. 

  • BBD

    Yes Jarmo, I am reading what I am writing. But I am paying equal attention to your negative and misleading portrayal of climate scientists, hence my responses to you above.

  • kdk33

    Are climate scientists “activists with an agenda”.  Of course they are.  When climate scientists “advise” congress, they are lobbying government for taxpayer dollars.  Dollars they put directly into their pockets.  The bigger the climate “problem”, the more dollars.  Smaller problem means less dollars.

    It really is dirt simple.

    We have experienced 15 years of flat temperature, yet are inundated with claims that it is “worse than we though”?  Every climate model is wrong, and wrong on the hot side, and still we are asked to take dramatic action on these same model predictions?  We “know” that early century warming was natural, and we “know” that late century warming was anthropogenic, and we “know” that it is warming even if it isn’t?

    Bit it’s a good spectator sport.

  • Jarmo

    #72 BBD,

    I am paying equal attention to your negative and misleading portrayal of climate scientists

    How have I portrayed climate scientists negatively and misleadingly? I quoted a post on AGU about educating Republican Congressmen on climate science and commented that it will not have the desired effect, it will only enforce the idea that climate scientists are activists.

  • BBD

    # 74

    How have I portrayed climate scientists negatively and misleadingly?

    Okay, how do you feel about what kdk33 says:

    Are climate scientists “activists with an agenda”.  Of course they are.  When climate scientists “advise” congress, they are lobbying government for taxpayer dollars.  Dollars they put directly into their pockets.  The bigger the climate “problem”, the more dollars.  Smaller problem means less dollars.

    It really is dirt simple.

    Are you going to call him out over this? If not, why not?

  • andrew adams

    Tom #66,

    Allowing for solar minimum and ENSO accounts for most of it, eg see Foster & Rahmstorf. Also, aerosols could be a factor. And using 1998 as your start date is naughty, as I’m sure you know ;)  

  • andrew adams

    Jarmo,

    I quoted a post on AGU about educating Republican Congressmen on climate science and commented that it will not have the desired effect, it will only enforce the idea that climate scientists are activists.

    In whose eyes? 

  • harrywr2

    #61 Marlowe,

    i could never understand why a city with the highest per capita GHG
    emissions in the world would be interested in hosting a conference on
    reducing GHGs

    14,000 hotel rooms being filled at ‘premium rates’ is a powerful motivator to host anything.

  • harrywr2

    #41 BBD

    First deal with the denial and rejection of the scientific consensus, then rational policy response can occur. 

    Nonsense, the UK energy policy is completely nutters and the UK has a high rate of ‘climate believers’, the same goes for Germany.http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=us-may-come-close-to-2020-greenhouse-gas-emission-target

    The United States is likely to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by
    16.3 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, falling just shy of the 17
    percent target pledged by President Obama at the 2009 climate talks in
    Copenhagen, Denmark, according to a new study.

    We have the cheapest coal and cheapest natural gas of any major country in the world, a significant portion of our population believes climate change is a hoax and we have no ‘comprehensive national policy’ in regards to Climate Change.The fact that we have ‘deniers’ keeps up from engaging in ‘irrational’ policies.

  • kdk33

    Oh yes, please do “call me out”. 

    I await with baited breath the version of reality in which climate scientists (and renewable energy ventures, and corn farmers) do not benefit from climate alarm. And yes it really is dirt simple.

    Funnily, the “climate concerned” offer, as a means to cool the world: carbon pricing. The theory: higher cost carbon energy will drive people to (arficially) cheaper low carbon energy. For some reason the cause and effect – incentive and response – are perfectly visible to them here.

    Point out that similar incentives act on climate scientists and suddenly aren’t we ever so blind.

  • Tom C

    #76 Andrew Adam – I have interacted with Foster on his blog and when caught telling fibs he either refuses to publish the comment or selectively edits it in order to make you look bad.  He is a first rate liar and anything he publishes cannot be trusted.

  • Tom Scharf

    #76 – Curious how when the temperatures were increasing at a higher rate in the 80′s and 90′s that nobody was searching for explanations as to how this could be caused by natural variability.  Now we have an enthusiastic embrace of natural variability.  What to  make of this?  I assume we agree that natural variability increased temperature changes equally back then, right?

  • BBD

    # 82 Tom Scharf

    What to  make of this?

    Scientific curiosity?

  • kdk33

    During the runup to the ’08 financial crises, most mortgage backed securities were rated, and maintained, a AAA rating.  One supposes that rating agencies could be considered “experts”.  Yet a ridiculous percentage defaulted.  Funnily, rating agencies are paid by the issuers.  The more securities they rated, the more money the rating agencies made.  Issuers do not like bad ratings.Incentives, incentives, incentives.  And deniers.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Hi Andrew Adams at #76. 110 billion metric tonnes counterbalanced by changing solar minimums, aerosols and ENSO?

    Are you actually being serious? Mighty, those minimums…

    And in what way am I being naughty? The whole point of what I looked at was to see how large our emissions were since the plateau in temperatures.

  • Jarmo

    #75 BBD,

    My view on kdk33′s opinion is that he has a couple of valid points. 

    First, some climate scientists are clearly activists and have told so themselves (Hansen, Schneider etc.). Second, climate science has received a huge amount of money for research. That, coupled to sensationalist claims, has generated even more money for research. Today, if a scientist in some other discipline wants to assure funding for a project, he needs to include word “climate change” into his application. That’s the reality.

    However, I think he is wrong saying that all scientists are activists and try to exaggerate the problem for more money.

    I am curious about one thing: Why do you want to “call out” people? Do you honestly believe that one side is absolutely right and the other absolutely wrong?

  • kdk33

    Global warming is a business.  Bigger than just scientists, it includes commercial ventures – wind, solar, biofuels – and even farmers – corn ethanol.  It’s a special kind of business.  The business model is “special pleading”  To the government for taxpayer money.

    Anybody wanna put a number to corn ethanol subsidies over the years?  Anybody wanna defend corn ethanol as a fuel source?  Anybody wanna put a number to bio fuel subsidies?  Anybody here think we’re gonna grow fuel?  Anybody wanna put a number to wind subsidies?  Anybody think wind power will put a dent in CO2 emissions?

    Special pleading is not the way to pick winners and losers in any industry.  And certainly not something as fundamental as Energy.

    Lookit: the folks at Moodys and S&P are really smart folk.  They clearly qualify as “experts”.  They aren’t evil.  They work hard.  They have fancy degress from fancy colleges.  The housing bubble data stared them in the face and they got it wrong.  Over and over and over again.  They were paid to give good ratings, and they did.

    Climate scientists are paid to study the climate “problem”, and so they do.

    Ever was it thus.

  • andrew adams

    Hi Tom F,

    Using 1998 as a start date is misleading due to the super el Nino of that year. One would expect temps to fall immediately afterwards, as indeed they did. This is one of the most tediously common arguments in the climate blogosphere, I can’t believe you’re not aware of it.

    To answer your question

    110 billion metric tonnes counterbalanced by changing solar minimums, aerosols and ENSO?

    Yes that’s right. Sorry, but that’s just argument from incredulity, it’s kind of the opposite of “how can CO2 have a significant effect when it’s just .0039% of the atmosphere.

    TomC,

    Whatever. let me know if you have an actual argument against Foster’s paper.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Actually Andrew, my incredulity is inspired by the arguments made previously, when temperature rises in the 1976-1998 period were clearly (albeit not unanimously–many didn’t pronounce on the issue) labeled as rapid responses to the emissions of that time.

    Human emissions from 1976 to 1998 were 58 billion metric tonnes. Emissions from 1998 to 2011 amount to 110 billion metric tonnes and in less than a month we can tack on another dozen to that total. If natural variability can mask such a huge quantity, then doesn’t that also reinforce the argument that it is a much more important component of response than previously assumed?

    I haven’t read Foster’s paper–I’m turned off by his website and would probably approach it with too much of a negative bias. (Sorry–but at least I can admit my bias.) 

    Does Tamino or anyone else quantify the forcings of solar, aerosols and ENSO and apply them to different periods?

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Hi Andrew, I made a mistake in my calculations. Human emissions from 1976 to 1998 were 132,427 million metric tonnes, not the lower figure I used above. Sorry!

    Again, here are global human emissions segmented by areas of interest to the climate discussion.

    1751-1880: 5,128 million metric tonnes1881-1910: 14,046 million metric tonnes

    1911-1945: 36,002 million metric tonnes

    1946-1975: 82,979 million metric tonnes

    1976-1998: 132,427 million metric tonnes

    1998-2011: 110,000 million metric tonnes (approx.)

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    And Andrew, I’m not trying to be ‘naughty’ or game any figures to prove a point. I’m noting that recent comparisons of temperatures to emissions cannot be used as an argument for higher values of atmospheric sensitivity.

    As a Lukewarmer, this is the crux of the argument and I’m simply making a point that reinforces my position.

  • BBD

    # 91 Tom

    A sensitive climate would respond to negative forcing eg increased stratospheric aerosol loading. By your logic, the warming hiatus could be argued as evidence for a sensitive climate ;-)

    Please, read the Voosen article I linked for you upthread. It’s interesting and relevant to what you are thinking about here. There are lots of things to investigate and quantify before we throw out the standard estimate of CS.

  • BBD

    # 86 Jarmo

    I am curious about one thing: Why do you want to “call out” people? Do you honestly believe that one side is absolutely right and the other
    absolutely wrong?

    I wanted to see if you would challenge kdk33′s barely disguised view that climate science is a fraud. I’m glad that you at least went so far as to say this:

    However, I think he is wrong saying that all scientists are activists and try to exaggerate the problem for more money.

    As for absolutes of right and wrong – don’t like the framing. I think it is reasonable to say that the scientific consensus on sensitivity is sufficiently robust to be used as the basis for emissions reduction policy. I think it is unreasonable to argue the contrary since there is no scientific case for low CS. We can say that contrarians appear unreasonable since they lack a scientific basis for their position. 

    Sometimes this needs to be challenged to keep everybody on their toes ;-)

  • harrywr2

    Tom F,

    Fosters paper is here…http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/7/4/044035/pdf/1748-9326_7_4_044035.pdf

    If he pulls out ENSO etc he gets a warming trend of
    .15C/decade…which apparently is ‘good agreement’ with IPCC projections.  Of course since we just started the ‘cold phase’ of the PDO we don’t know what his graph will look like in another 10 years. I personally don’t trust any ‘climate’ graph that is less then 100 years long.

    If I simply draw a straight line from 1900 to 2000 I get a trend of about 0.07C per/decade.

    But admitting that some portion of the 1980 to 2000 warming was ‘natural variation’ is at least a start.

    Watching climate science ‘evolve’ over the last 30 years is pretty much like a game of limbo…how low can you go?

  • BBD

    # 94

    F&R11 quantifies and removes the effects of ENSO, solar and volcanic aerosols over three decades. Every step is documented in the paper. If you think there are errors, then point them out.

    Otherwise, we are left with this.

    If I simply draw a straight line from 1900 to 2000 I get a trend of about 0.07C per/decade.

    Taking the trend from a linear fit to C20th GAT is misleading. I think this is a more informative way of looking at the period.

    Watching climate science “˜evolve’ over the last 30 years is pretty much like a game of limbo”¦how low can you go?

    Why the assumption that climate science is engaged in low behaviour?

  • kdk33

    BBD, bless your heart.

  • BBD

    [I forgot about the Link Monster. Response again, in two parts:]

    # 94

    F&R11 quantifies and removes the effects of ENSO, solar and volcanic aerosols over three decades. Every step is documented in the
    paper. If you think there are errors, then point them out.

    Otherwise, we are left with this.

  • BBD

    # 94

    If I simply draw a straight line from 1900 to 2000 I get a trend of about 0.07C per/decade.

    Taking the trend from a linear fit to C20th GAT is misleading. I think this is a more informative way of looking at the period.

    Watching climate science “˜evolve’ over the last 30 years is pretty much like a game of limbo”¦how low can you go?

    Why the assumption that climate science is engaged in low behaviour?

  • kdk33

    Now that I have time….

    Fraud?  No.  Global warming is a business.  That business responds to financial incentives, just like any other.  And just like Moody’s and S&P. 

    The case for positive feedbacks and high climate sensitivity is virtually non-existant.  It is an assumption programed into (very poor performing) climate models.  To match history, other assumptions are overlaid.  Their predictive ability is zero.

    Natural variability is euphamism for “the things we don’t understand”.  As Tom rightly points out, “the things we don’t understand” are dominating those we do.  There has been no warming since 1997, and cherry picking data to ignore is cherry picking all the same.. 

    cheers.

  • BBD

    kdk33 says:

    The case for positive feedbacks and high climate sensitivity is virtually non-existant. It is an assumption programed into (very poor performing) climate models.

    James Hansen says:

    TH: A lot of these metrics that we develop come from computer models. How should people treat the kind of info that comes from computer climate models?

    Hansen: I think you would have to treat it with a great deal of skepticism. Because if computer models were in fact the principal basis for our concern, then you have to admit that there are still substantial uncertainties as to whether we have all the physics in there, and how accurate we have it. But, in fact, that’s not the principal basis for our concern. It’s the Earth’s history-how the Earth responded in the past to changes in boundary conditions, such as atmospheric composition. Climate models are helpful in interpreting that data, but they’re not the primary source of our understanding.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @98

    Harry-coal-bot’s denier roots are showing aren’t they?

  • harrywr2

    #98

    Why the assumption that climate science is engaged in low behaviour?

    It’s not a statement of ‘character’.The projections have ‘inched’ downwards over the years. Hansen 1984 was 4C sensitivy and he’s backed down a bit from that. That’s what happens in the ‘limbo game’…we keep lowering the bar.I live with the PDO…in al El Nino year I can ride my scooter all year round. In LaNina it gets put up for the winter in September and doesn’t come out until June, in neutral it’s get put up in October and comes out in May. We are in the ‘cold phase’ of the PDO..neutral and LaNina will dominate for at least 20 years. My ‘lifestyle’ depends on  ‘natural variability’.20 of the 30 years of satellite data we have  is from the ‘warm phase’ (1970 to 2000)of the PDO…more ElNino’s then LaNina’s.Hansen et al wants to believe that the 1940-1970 cooling was aerosols…I think it was just the cold phase of the PDO. Since the quality of atmospheric,ocean  and cloud data for the period between 1940 and 1970 is crappy it’s a matter of  belief rather then fact.The standard practice of showing ‘climate’ from the middle of the cold phase of the 1940′s to 1970′s cold phase of the PDO to the end of the 1970′s to 2000 warm phase of the PDO doesn’t take into account ‘natural internal variability’.At least Foster made an attempt…but INHO he is using too short of a time frame, he needs to go back to the end of the last ‘warm phase PDO, 1940.

  • BBD

    # 102

    Sorry, I misunderstood your ‘low’. Is F&R11 junk science? We should be told ;-)

    I think it was just the cold phase of the PDO.

    The PDO phase and GAT have diverged since the early 1980s.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Well. Andrew, if you make it back here, I’d like to see numbers from someone besides Tamino. I wouldn’t trust him to tell me the time of day.

    Oh, yeah. We were talking about how to offer scientific advice on controversial issues–hey, we’re back on topic!

    I guess my advice would be to look very closely at the strategy and tactics of those ranging from Tamino and Michael Mann to practices typified by Anderegg, Prall et al in PNAS 2010 to the preachments of people like Michael Tobis, Eli Rabett, John Mashey, Tim Lambert, Deep Climate and others and resolve to do things differently.

    We’ve reached the point where there’s nothing that could come from these folks that I would be willing to believe.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    I suppose I should offer counter examples. Jim Hansen is one. He is a passionate advocate and is unafraid to take off one hat and put on another. But in my opinion, he does it transparently and unaffectedly. He is a Jeremiah–but he does not want to become Saul or David.

    Bart Verheggen. His beliefs are the same as someone like Michael Tobis. But he listens and converses. He doesn’t over-reach, doesn’t preach and rarely steps beyond the bounds of the data. Moreover, he is doing something about what he perceives as the problem with communicating science on controversial issues–first with his blog and more recently with the survey he is helping administer.

    Pretty short list, I admit. Other nominations? We’d probably make some progress on the topic by looking at examples of best practice / not best practice.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    tom we are very happy that you’ve gotten over you latest round of but-hurt. but i would day say that coddling baboons with sore bums should  be very, very far down the to-do list of the hansens/solomon/lean etc. in fact if i here were to venture a guess, most of those characters would give you a good pop in the kisser on principle alone.   

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    That’s what you get when you post while drunk, Marlowe. The center does not hold (football term for you) and mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. And you are the prototypical Son of Anarchy. Slouch on towards your new Jerusalem (Carly Simon reference for you as well).

  • Keith Kloor

    Tom, Marlowe, 

    I can assure you that I’ll have even less tolerance for the playground insults once the blog moves. 

    Perhaps this is a good time to remind folks that personalizing this debate with characterizations of people is only going to lead to the tit for tat mud-slinging between combatants. Happens every time. 

  • http://hro001.wordpress.com Hilary Ostrov

    @108 Keith Kloor

    Perhaps this is a good time to remind folks that personalizing this debate with characterizations of people is only going to lead to the tit for tat mud-slinging between combatants. Happens every time. 

    And no one would know this better than you, whose facile characterization of more thoughtful blogs than yours, these days, invites and encourages the pollution exhibited by the ever-tiresome BBD.Perhaps when you move to Discover, you will endeavour to (discover and) implement a somewhat less laisser post policy ‘n practice than your current silent acquiescence to his mud-slinging nonsense would seem to suggest fits your purpose.

  • Keith Kloor

     Hilary (109),

    You mean “more thoughtful blogs” with posts titled “standing up for misconduct”– that seem to willfully misrepresent  and misinterpret someone’s words? Or do you mean “more thoughtful blogs” like ones that feature frequent guest posts from one of the climate skeptic sphere’s favorite spokesmen?

  • Nullius in Verba

    #111,

    Yes, exactly.

    Partisans on both sides always view their own mudslinging as justified, while the other side is just being unreasonable. That’s human nature. The art of civilised debate is in remaining polite even when you think the other side doesn’t deserve it.

    The aim, surely, is to raise the tone through leading by example? The collision of worldviews leads to myriad misinterpretations and differences of opinion. I don’t agree with your interpretation of BH or WUWT, although I don’t think it’s a wilful misrepresentation, either – I accept opinions will differ. Detoxifying the debate and the tribal polarisations always requires of us more tolerance of those we dislike than any of us would like to show. But that has always been the nature of peace talks.

    Perhaps that’s why peace has been so hard to find.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Sorry, Keith. If what I wrote was over the line (as a response to personalized attacks) then the line is too tightly drawn for me. 

    Marlowe wins and I lose. Congratulations, Marlowe and good luck at Discover, Keith.

  • Keith Kloor

    Tom, for a guy who enjoys hurling his share of insults, you’re a sensitive guy. If you (and others) can’t keep the venom in check, that’s not my problem.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Keith, I honestly don’t know how much attention you pay to comment threads. When I get attacked I respond in kind. I’ve mentioned before that the ref often catches the second foul.

    Like I said, Marlowe and his buds win. They baited me, I responded, you saw my response. I’m not going to make a promise I have no intention of keeping. 

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    I have just reviewed comments 106 and 107. I do not believe your irritation towards me is justified. Sorry. I thought I was quite restrained in my response. So I think it’s better if I let the conversation at Discover continue without me.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Tom,

    While it’s annoying that the Ref always catches the second foul, that’s just life. It’s not worth fussing over. Just move on, and look forward to a conversation where the situation will never arise, because if anyone makes personal attacks against you in future, Keith will kick them out instead of just letting it happen. (You will, won’t you Keith?)

    Anyway, it’s a lot more effective to stay polite. It makes your opponent look even worse than they already do.

  • BBD

    Hi Hilary

    Seasons greetings and all that,

    XXX!!

    BBD

  • kdk33

    Oh please.  Like you guys thought Keith was neutral in all of this.  Any frequent visitor knows where his thumb lies, but his comment policies are a lot better than other.  Same with BBD.  It’s not like he’s doing anything different than he ever has.  And let’ be honest: mudslinging is half the fun ainit?  :-)

  • harrywr2

    #103 BBD

    The PDO phase and GAT have diverged since the early 1980s.

    Here is the latest ‘climatology’ paper for Alaska..http://www.benthamscience.com/open/toascj/articles/V006/111TOASCJ.pdf

    In general, the temperature has increased in Alaska since instrumental records are available. Stafford et al. [2]analyzed 25 Alaskan stations for the time period from 1949-1998 and found a mean annual temperature increase for all stations in the range of 1.0°-2.2°C, with the greatest warmingoccurring in Interior and Southeastern Alaska…….Looking at Fairbanks inInterior Alaska [4], for which a century of data are available,a total warming of 1.4°C was observed, which is about twice the global value, hence, in agreement with the so-called polar amplification..We looked at the temperature trend of the first decade of the 21st century for the 20 first order stations in Alaska and found that 19 of the 20 stations showed a cooling trend. In Fig. (3) we plotted the mean values of these 20 first order stations and added the line of the best linear fit. The mean cooling of the average of all stations was 1.3°C for the decade, a large value for a decade…..At this time it cannot be decided whether this is a climatic shift during the first decade of the 21st century or if it represents decadal-interdecadal variability.

    . Questions, questions, questions. 

  • tlitb1

    @110: Keith Kloor Says:

    “You mean “more thoughtful blogs” with posts titled “standing up for misconduct””“ that seem to willfully misrepresent and misinterpret someone’s words?”

    But the Bishop does say what he means by his title and writes some words to explain it. You don’t bother to address any of them but rather attach descriptions such as “twitchy” and talk vaguely about how it “seems” to you. I think you clearly *seem* to expect your choir to fill in the blanks for you. I think you have arrived at a state of intellectual discourse on this subject where you are quite unaware of this reliance aren’t you?

    Yes it seems the projection makes sense. Maybe this lashing out at alleged rival “choirs” gives the game away? Showing a subconscious awareness of a reliance on choirs makes one pay too much attention to the others alleged choirs and not the choir master? Sorry, going too far applying cod psychology there ;)

    Whatever. However here it is clear that all the elision and implicit condescension really can only demand a “choir” is available to fill in the blanks of the empty clichéd reasoning you have now found yourself engaging in.

    Is Discover hoping for you to take the choir with you? Maybe they are already singing in tune there? ;)

  • BBD
  • BBD

    …and yet again, the axis scaling breaks for unknown reasons. Sorry. Click repeatedly just to the left of the green block on the blue bar below the x-axis to get rid of the C20th pre- 1975.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @Keith

    Oh come on. without playground insults the inter-tubes would be boring. imo there is nothing wrong with insults so long as they done with style. civility is over-rated when you’re dealing with conspiracy theorists…

  • huxley

    Tom Fuller: I was interested in your numbers earlier for carbon emissions over the recent history, and normalized them to yearly carbon output in million metric tonnes per year:

    year0 year1 MMT MMT/yr
    1751 1880 5128 39
    1881 1910 14046 468
    1911 1945 36002 1029
    1946 1975 82979 2766
    1976 1998 132427 5758
    1998 2011 110000 7857

    Your point, as I understood it, was that temps have remained basically flat since 1998 despite massive outgassing of human emitted CO2 — over 35% greater than the 1976-1998 period when temps rapidly climbed — which seems hard to reconcile with global warming theory.

    In any event I just wanted to see the numbers calculated rather than estimated in my head. Take care.

  • BBD

    Some time ago I mentioned carbon sinks.

    Let’s look at the evolution of the Keeling curve. Do you see a sharp increase in slope over the last three decades? Remember, this is the actual atmospheric fraction of CO2 we are looking at, in ppmv. Not estimated *emissions* – which are not the same thing at all.

    Do you think you are missing something here?

  • BBD
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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, a senior editor at Cosmos magazine, and adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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