How the Texas Textbook Censors Got Onto Climate Change

By Chris Mooney | January 12, 2010 10:24 am

Joe Romm has an important post about the folks down in Texas who are constantly trying to bring the textbooks into line with ideology. This is something we usually think of as affecting the evolution issue, but no–climate change is also a topic that is being watched closely by the watchers of educational content.

Romm himself is linking a Washington Monthly piece called “Revisionaries,” which reports the following:

A similar scenario played out during the battle over science standards, which reached a crescendo in early 2009. Despite the overwhelming consensus among scientists that climate change exists, the group rammed through a last-minute amendment requiring students to “analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming.” This, in essence, mandates the teaching of climate-change denial. What’s more, they scrubbed the standards of any reference to the fact that the universe is roughly fourteen billion years old, because this timeline conflicts with biblical accounts of creation.

The strategy is identical, isn’t it? “Critically analyze” evolution, “critically analyze” climate change…and smuggle bad science into the classroom to sow doubt and confuse the kids. Frankly, I am wondering these days if climate denial may not be growing into an even more massive phenomenon than evolution denial in the US. I doubt it has the potential to be as long-lived. But the intensity of it, which I feel every day now, simply dwarfs what’s going on in the evolution fight….

Comments (78)

  1. Gus Snarp

    It’s not just science either. The Washington Monthly article also says they are making similar changes to social studies curricula, and my favorite, apparently they had a picture in a health textbook changed from a woman with a briefcase to a woman baking a cake. Yeah, heaven forbid our children learn that women can have a job outside the home.

  2. PJ

    This is just partisan politics (and its associated principles) trying to get forced on students under the guise of objectivity. That shouldn’t be allowed in science. Ever.

  3. Tom Ulcak

    as far as the “revisionists” are concerned, the only textbook in the classroom should be the bible…

  4. muraydog

    From the cartoon Moral Orel:
    “What did you put for number 3 on the science test, Orel?”
    “Jesus, of course”

  5. It is easy to make fun of this, but the history of the California Republican Party in the last 20 years involved a specific effort by ideologues to control the party beginning with the County Central Committee and the School Boards. The move from School Board to County Supervisor / City Council and then on up the ladder. Just following the plan.

    This introduction of science and ecology in schools is challenged by the likes of Holly Swanson all over the West. She considers education on sustainability part of a big plot.

    The concept of sustainability, the idea of leaving the world a better place, is not the issue. The problem is that public support for the general concept of sustainability is being used to impose the Green’s political agenda. A prime example of this is Education for Sustainability. This program, although presented as non-partisan, reflects the goals of the international Green parties.

    The Republican War on Science has never ended.

  6. Jonathan King

    There’s no place for science in religion or religion in science. We now have both with evolution and global warming alarmists.

  7. Captain Kangaroo

    Texas is such a big state that text book publishers bend to the wills of religious fundamentalists that run its schools. You end up with a whole country using textbooks that search for the lowest possible threat to political correctness.

    Mel and Norma Gabler started an organization called Educational Research Analysts(ERA). During their 30 year run, until they died in ’04, and ’07,they heavily revised or rejected 1/2 to 2/3 of all textbooks in Texas! ERA has taken its show on the road to California and is working with right wing groups to help hijack their textbooks too.

    Her’s a pearl from Mel Gabler, “Too many textbooks and discussions leave students free to make up their minds about things.”

  8. moptop

    Be kind of cool if the schools concentrated on critical thinking instead of telling kids what to think. What you warmies are mad about is that you were telling the kids what to think, a business you never should have gotten into in the schools. How to think is the important thing. Most of you guys don’t come here to think, you come for that little frisson of superiority that Mooney gives you by telling you that you are somehow superior to Texas Redneck Christianists, when in fact you and they both use the same playbook.

    I know, I know, there is “overwhelming evidence” of unprecedented warming…. It just all boils down to a few studies by the same group of people involved in climategate.

    Chris,
    You were going to get back to us to answer some more skeptic questions based on your post “Should we reteach climate science” Instead, so far, all I have seen is a plea that we should believe the models “despite their flaws.”

  9. moptop

    Can’t wait for the long list of independent studies that don’t rely on Climategate’s Briffa and the CRU DB.

  10. PJ

    moptop,

    give us 10 evidence-backed examples that debunk what science says about climate change, and you’ll have a point.

    Otherwise, you’re just arguing that we should promote unsubstantiated accusations and finger-pointing to the level of science. Anyone with half a brain knows how stupid that is.

  11. Steve H

    Evolution is of little consequence to most people (well, except, it really isn’t, but it doesn’t require consciousness on their part). Climate change is really a subset of sustainability, which is itself a subset of economics. As Jane Jacobs has written, sustainability is a study of how economies can continue to thrive, given fluctuations in the needs of humans, as well as the imports into economic systems (i.e. natural resources). The “goals of the international green parties”, as referenced above, are to adjust the local economies in a manner that, quite frankly, aren’t compatible with the wanton procurement of marginally-necessary goods and services. In other words, climate change and sustainability inherently effect the ability of most people to live their lives in the manner which they have been, in a manner they believe represents the ‘good life’, and in a manner which gives too little regard to the economic consequences of sustaining this lifestyle. Let me tell ya’, it ain’t no fun when you’ve become able to incorporate sustainability into most of the purchasing decisions you make. But, at the end of the day, I know the lives of my children will be tremendously better (i.e. less struggle for attaining needs) when most people have consciousness of climate change and sustainability.

  12. Busiturtle

    My science text book said Pluto was a planet…

    On a more serious note there does seem to be a problem, at least in Texas, with the text book vetting process becoming so politicized. I doubt the kids are harmed one way or another but the current process sure seems like a waste of time and money.

    On the other hand perhaps this is Texas’s problem and the rest of the country should let ‘em be. A textbook that claims things that are obviously wrong will pique the interest of the intelligent kid and perhaps that will motivate him or her to pursue a more diverse education.

  13. moptop

    “give us 10 evidence-backed examples that debunk what science says about climate change, and you’ll have a point.”

    Whatever. You guys are the ones who want trillions of dollars. You can’t even point to independent evidence of unprecedented warming not involving the climategate players. Look at the polls and see how your tactics of ignoring questions and shouting conclusions is working. Not very well.

  14. moptop

    “what science says about climate change” – SLC

    Can anybody tell me what that specifically means? I mean, if I give a study, that is what “science says about climate change,” isn’t it? Don’t you think it would be more rational to give me some specific point of view or hypothesis to debunk?

  15. bilbo

    Let the record stand that moptop failed to substantiate skeptic claims for a third time.

    Verrrrrry telling.

  16. Unklar Klaar

    I don’t understand the constant need to berate religious people in this blog. The nonstop name-calling does nothing to bolster your point. It only points out your inability to cope with dissenting viewpoints. Being loud and obnoxious doesn’t necessarily mean you are right (or wrong).

  17. Gus Snarp

    @ 16. Unklar Klaar – Do you have an example of name-calling and berating of religious people? I don’t see any such thing in this blog post. And in fact, the authors of this blog are known for NOT berating religious people. If you want to see what berating religious people looks like, go see PZ Myers’ blog.

  18. Adeist

    I’m not entirely sure why anyone is even bothering with this. I’m sure everybody remembers Richard Feynman’s essay on when he got involved in selecting school science textbooks (“Judging books by their covers”), and given some of the things I see being presented as science education today, I don’t believe for a second that anything has changed in the slightest.

    Science education has for many years taught belief in scientific authority, because they don’t have time to do it properly. If it did it properly, then you could relax and let them try to push creationism, ufology, homeopathic dowsing crystals, or whatever, because the kids would just apply the scientific method and rip it to shreds. That *is* what it’s for, isn’t it?

    But the reason all these crazy beliefs can survive is that nobody actually teaches kids how to do science. Instead they teach them scientific facts, scientific calculations, and how to go through the motions of experiment. They’re given scripted experiments to do, designed to give the ‘right’ result, which they duly get. If you asked them to design the series of experiments themselves, you’d get a blank look. They’re taught the *conclusions* of science, and an orthodox version at that, not science itself.

    When the creationists are begging you *not* to let anyone do the bible in science class, only then will you know you’ve got it right.

    The same ought to go for climatology. Show people the evidence, the complete chain of logic, don’t fob them off with simplifications and excuses, show all the working, show how the very best of the challengers when given every aid and opportunity fail to dent the theory, and there will be no possibility of pseudo-science getting a significant foothold.

    Until then, whether you teach evolution or creation, carbon dioxide or cosmic rays, it makes no difference. Because whatever it is you think you’re teaching, it isn’t science.

  19. Busiturtle

    Adeist,

    Great reference to Feynman.

    It seems what is needed is a Scientific Indoctrination class to instill in kids the “facts” as the community understands them and a Scientific Inquiry class that actually teaches kids how to do science. I wonder if this compromise would please everyone?

    Bear in mind (those on both sides of the debate) your average science teacher may be a better teacher than a scientist. So don’t go into this expecting him or her to make much sense of anything too complex.

  20. bilbo

    That’s funny, Busiturtle. Most of the “Scientific Indoctrination” classes I’ve taken wear dissent and disagreement in the scientific community as a badge of honor; multiple viewpoints aren’t just taught, they’re encouraged.

    They just don’t include something like climate change skepticism unless it has a strong, evidence-based background to stand on. Skepticism certainly doesn’t, from what I’ve seen, although you could go miles to improving that by answering the challenge I’ve now posed to you and any other skeptic here four times. It’s been evaded every one of them.

    Make this the fifth.

  21. Special K (NJ)

    Until a phenomenon is universally recognized, no direct or indirect indoctrination–by including a chapter in the textbook, for example–is warranted.

  22. bilbo

    So we shouldn’t have chapter in physical science textbooks about the structure of atoms because the deatils of that topic aren’t “universally recognized,” Special K?

    And we shouldn’t have any scientific curriculum about the nature of our solar system since some aspects of it are debated?

    I imagine you’d want things like acid rain struck from the textbooks, too, since industry-backed groups led a politicized skepticism campaign against that several decades ago. Look how that one turned out.

  23. Michal

    I hardly see that “religion” is being attacked, as it is only one denomination of religion that is causing all of the problems and it hardly has a patent on the term.
    For all of the castigation that Islam is receiving these days it’s ironic that it’s mainly fundie Christians causing the stink in the scientific realm.

  24. Busiturtle

    According to Feynman the value of science is its truth can always be independently verified and science education should be centered on this principle.
    http://www.fotuva.org/feynman/what_is_science.html

    And that is what science is: the result of the discovery that it is worthwhile rechecking by new direct experience, and not necessarily trusting the [human] race['s] experience from the past. I see it that way. That is my best definition.
    ….
    When someone says, “Science teaches such and such,” he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach anything; experience teaches it. If they say to you, “Science has shown such and such,” you might ask, “How does science show it? How did the scientists find out? How? What? Where?”

    It should not be “science has shown” but “this experiment, this effect, has shown.” And you have as much right as anyone else, upon hearing about the experiments–but be patient and listen to all the evidence–to judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at.
    ….
    Another of the qualities of science is that it teaches the value of rational thought as well as the importance of freedom of thought; the positive results that come from doubting that the lessons are all true. You must here distinguish–especially in teaching–the science from the forms or procedures that are sometimes used in developing science. It is easy to say, “We write, experiment, and observe, and do this or that.” You can copy that form exactly. But great religions are dissipated by following form without remembering the direct content of the teaching of the great leaders. In the same way, it is possible to follow form and call it science, but that is pseudo-science. In this way, we all suffer from the kind of tyranny we have today in the many institutions that have come under the influence of pseudoscientific advisers.

  25. Adeist

    Acid rain? I think that one went very quiet shortly after the anti-pollution organisation set up by the government did experiments to measure the impact by watering several stands of trees and plants with acid. See here for one example: http://www.springerlink.com/content/j61k847064719524/

    Of course there’s no problem with presenting phenomena that are not universally recognised. All you have to do is tell people that there’s disagreement. In fact, since science operates by examining the strength of the strongest arguments against, you must.

    I don’t even have a problem with presenting phenomena that aren’t true. We start with a uniform gravitational field (with Galileo), move on to Newton’s inverse square, then Einstein’s general relativity, and then point out that it doesn’t play nice with quantum mechanics and we don’t know yet how to fix it. Physicists can still happily use the uniform Galilean version in calculations, knowing full well that it’s wrong, because they understand its limits.

    Where it goes wrong is if you teach it to them as a “scientific truth”, and then somebody with mischief in mind shows them the limits.

  26. bilbo

    “Limits.”

    Such as?

  27. Gus Snarp

    @Adeist – Acid rain “went very quiet” when we instituted cap and trade on sulfur dioxide and largely eliminated the acid rain problem.

  28. Busiturtle

    Acid Rain was a real but overhyped phenomenon. Really no different than Global Warming science which takes the highly beneficial phenomenon of greenhouse gases and uses the media to hype a simplistic linear model of ever increasing global temperature.

    That said there has been a real benefit to reducing noxious power-plant emissions. So in this light one can say the Acid Rain movement was a success. Although the science was questionable and the politics were the usual half-baked compromises.

    Random thought: Has it ever occurred to any global warmers that the reduction of SO2 emissions may have contributed to to higher global temperatures?

    In any case, here is one perspective on Acid Rain science and politics
    http://www.chetlyzarko.com/publications/acidrain.html

    Krug and Frink studied the historical land use patterns of the US, Canada, and Scandinavia and found that the content of soil was more important than the acidity of rain in determining the acidity of lakes and streams. It was the acid contribution of plants and other natural substances that resulted in the acidification of lakes and streams and not acid rain.

  29. James Mayeau

    There is growing concern about magazines such as Nature and Discover being owned by public school textbook publishers.
    Should McMillin McGraw Hill be allowed to pummelgate dubious peudoscience in these magazines, hiding behind the false credit of peer review, when their articles are never forwarded to peers, and barely reviewed by partisans, then point to the consensus of articles in Nature and Discover as if selective censorship were evidence in of itself?

    The infliction of pol partisan interests on children via textbooks is one of the main spiraling controversies surrounding the global warming quagmire.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if legislation regarding conflict of interests by schoolbook publishers becomes high on the agenda after the next election.

  30. James Mayeau

    Show me the rivers and lakes that have recovered due to acid rain cap and trade legislation? Name three. Don’t even need links just the names.

    Hell. Name one!

  31. gillt

    Busiturtle: “According to Feynman the value of science is its truth can always be independently verified and science education should be centered on this principle.”

    And that’s exactly what science education does. It just happens far far beyond your education level.

    All through grade school and high school and most of undergrad, science is largely memorization of facts and theories and observation that a consensus of experts have figured out and independently tested. This isn’t always fun or perhaps even ideal, but it’s to some extent necessary.

    It is not until graduate level and beyond where you’ll find yourself in a position–with the training and the tools–to independently verify a scientific claim.

  32. Busiturtle

    Hey gillt,

    When my child’s fifth grade teacher rationalizes every decision concerning class activities around the concept of “being green” whether or not the claim is justified, is that science or indoctrination?

  33. moptop

    bilbo,
    How does one answer the demand to “debunk what science says about climate change”? Science says a lot of things about climate change. For instance, it says that the CO2 may cause a 1C temp rise per doubling, and it says that CO2 may cause a 6C temp rise per doubling. Which one am I supposed to debunk? “Science” doesn’t speak with one voice on this issue.

  34. gillt

    “When my child’s fifth grade teacher rationalizes every decision concerning class activities around the concept of ‘being green’…”

    Sounds like reactionary hyperbole, Busiturtle.

    If your so concerned about exposing your child to both sides, why not let your fifth grader come on this blog to witness science pitted against anti-science hackery. See if your fifth-grader has the critical chops to tell the difference.

  35. Adeist

    gillt,

    I’m not at all convinced that it is “to some extent necessary” but I’ll leave that aside.

    Either way, this would seem to have identified the problem. If most people are never taught science, there is little wonder that the public understanding of science has such problems. And if, as you say, it is necessary not to teach them, then it would appear that there is no solution.

  36. james wheaton

    Moptop is a terrific example of what is happening in this country (unfortunately increasingly) – minority contrarians with a penchant for crying aloud and spouting disinformation to suit their ideology which unfortunately is becoming dangerously out of step with the realities of this planet, these worthless and unsupported contrarian views being given equal footing by the media with good science which is backed by rigorous application of the scientific method. What results is victory for the bad guys – a stalemate where nothing happens but continuation of the status quo.

    Moptop has the gift of baffling with BS, just as his more notorious deniers do on the national scene, but I see through it easily. I think most people on this post see through it also. Everything he says can be debunked.

    The big question is – how do we as a nation and as a people take back the debate. Somehow, as time runs low, we must expose the moptops for what they are – mere spinmeisters who are trying to protect their unsustainable turf. Once accomplished, we can move ahead and protect the future of our children.

  37. Adeist

    James,

    “The big question is – how do we as a nation and as a people take back the debate.”

    We were just discussing that. I shall repeat myself:

    But the reason all these crazy beliefs can survive is that nobody actually teaches kids how to do science. Instead they teach them scientific facts, scientific calculations, and how to go through the motions of experiment. They’re given scripted experiments to do, designed to give the ‘right’ result, which they duly get. If you asked them to design the series of experiments themselves, you’d get a blank look. They’re taught the *conclusions* of science, and an orthodox version at that, not science itself.

    When the creationists are begging you *not* to let anyone do the bible in science class, only then will you know you’ve got it right.

    The same ought to go for climatology. Show people the evidence, the complete chain of logic, don’t fob them off with simplifications and excuses, show all the working, show how the very best of the challengers when given every aid and opportunity fail to dent the theory, and there will be no possibility of pseudo-science getting a significant foothold.

    Until then, whether you teach evolution or creation, carbon dioxide or cosmic rays, it makes no difference. Because whatever it is you think you’re teaching, it isn’t science.

  38. gillt

    @adeist

    Is is to a great extent necessary as part of science education to understand the universe and how it works. That will require a lot of memorization.

    And of course I never said it wasn’t necessary to teach them. I would like to see more critical thinking being taught in school, at a young age, and perhaps science classes are a good place for it.

  39. James Mayeau

    dangerously out of step with the realities of this planet” ?

    Haiti had it’s already tiny carbon footprint further lowered by a 7.5 earthquake.

    Various aquatic and reptilian species were exterpated from Florida, hopefully including invasive species such as pythons, by the cold.

    Think of those Canadian wood beatles. They served their purposes a few years back, but the climate botherers won’t be mentioning them again anytime soon.

    I read that clearcutting in Maine in the early 1800′s lead to the unnatural reduction of acid content in some rivers. These rivers were colonised by salmon and steelhead. Then in the late 1900′s the ecology movement was born. The forests were restored along with the river’s acid content.

    So much for status quo.

  40. Busiturtle

    What is the scientific basis for the Doomsday Clock?

  41. james wheaton

    Mr. Mayeau (#39) – you bring up a good point. Just what should be our goal as far as protecting the earth’s climate which is variable even if we get AGW under control? What we know is that our society and our human make-up are based on an overall world climate pattern that has been, with few exceptions, fairly constant for thousands of years. I think it behooves us to try to keep it that way, and that is the reason I urgently support climate change action worldwide. Otherwise we risk some real bad things happening that cannot be undone for a very long time.

    It would be interesting if we were in a situation where an ice age tipping point was at hand – I wonder how the world’s civilizations would react to that. Would we try to prevent it with technology?

    And please – no comments on the global cooling scare in the 70′s. What a bogus claim by the righties…

  42. Just what should be our goal as far as protecting the earth’s climate which is variable even if we get AGW under control?

    The problem isn’t that the climate is changing. It’s that the climate is changing much more rapidly than we can respond to it.

  43. moptop

    “Everything he says can be debunked.” – somebody upthread about me.

    Speaking of fifth grade educations, the above is what an elementary school teacher might call a “topic sentence.” Once written, the idea is to support it with evidence and logic. Then in a classic paragraph, one would summarize with a conclusion. In creative writing, as opposed to expository writing, the prescriptions is to “show us, don’t tell us.” What I see is that we have been told that everything I say can be debunked, but not shown. If a creationist used this line of argument, you would, correctly, accuse him of “Bible thumping.” I should charge you guys for these lessons in debate.

  44. moptop

    “And please – no comments on the global cooling scare in the 70’s. What a bogus claim by the righties…” – pompous somethingorother…

    “Meanwhile, newly created global temperature series showed cooling since the 1940s.[…] By the early 1970s, when Mitchell updated his work (Mitchell 1972), the notion of a global cooling trend was widely accepted, albeit poorly understood”

    Actually, if you look at the temp histories, there was a cooling trend underway between the ’40s and the ’70s, still there today, albeit with the 1940s “warming blip” tamped down by the CRU. You can search on “warming blip” in the climategate emails, if you wish to inform yourself further. So the whole point about the seventies being on the tail end of a cooling trend is that the warming trend we have been enjoying is only a warming trend because it was cherry picked to start at a cool point in the century. Since the thirties there has been little trend at all.

    I understand that my comments may “baffle” some of the readers here, but oh well, those who are able to draw their own conclusions are invited to do so.

  45. bilbo

    Various aquatic and reptilian species were exterpated from Florida, hopefully including invasive species such as pythons, by the cold.

    So much for status quo.

    I think you mean “so much for scientific reality.”

    “Aquatic and reptilian species” don’t just drop dead when it gets cold, O Science Scholar. The iguanas that were falling out of trees go into a suspended animation-like state and will wake up, just fine, when it warms. Most of the other reptile species do similar things, just not to that dramatic of an extent. Trust me, smug-yet-obliviously-stupid denialist, there will still be pythons and native reptiles and “aquatic species” when this winter is over. This isn’t “warmer” predictions; it’s basic freaking biology.

    James Mayeau: just another halfwit denialist. A fine example of one, at that. They live in alternate realities.

  46. bilbo

    Once written, the idea is to support it with evidence and logic. Then in a classic paragraph, one would summarize with a conclusion. In creative writing, as opposed to expository writing, the prescriptions is to “show us, don’t tell us.”

    Hmm. That’s an interesting statement coming from the same moptop who falls stunningly silent when asked to support his claims about climate science with evidence. The irony is strong with this one.

    moptop: just another denialist coward, impotent to substantiate himself.

    (You may now either assume tone troll status and cry about getting called a denialist, moptop, or you may deflect, as usual. I will only snicker. As usual.)

  47. Brian Too

    Great article Chris. I’d add that these tactics were essentially also those of the tobacco lobby for many years and feature many of the same players.

  48. moptop

    bilbo,
    Keep up the good work. Everybody should read the thread. His trenchant criticism of my posts and incisive commentary is a shining beacon leading the way for all who aspire to protecting the planet through the rough and tumble of online debate. You should read each post of his and each of mine. Undertand though, aspirants, that you may not have bilbo’s gifts, intellectual hypertrophy, quick and charming wit, and so may not be able to replicate his results.

  49. james wheaton

    Moptop – I am curious. What is your underlying motivation to refuse to accept the conclusions of a very large body of science, where oh so few object to those conclusions? It is a complex field to be sure, and arguing about it here is of no use because we are not the experts. But not being experts, we have to rely on experts to help us. Why go with a small minority contrarian view in the face of such a consensus, especially with the potential ramifications?

    BTW – your belief that the old global cooling scare is important to this issue is a dead giveaway of selective research on your part. My strong suspicion is that you are ideologically opposed to such a thing as global warming, and your mind is made up regardless of the evidence no matter how overpowering.

  50. moptop

    What is your underlying motivation to refuse to accept the conclusions of a very large body of science, where oh so few object to those conclusions? It is a complex field to be sure, and arguing about it here is of no use because we are not the experts. But not being experts, we have to rely on experts to help us. Why go with a small minority contrarian view in the face of such a consensus, especially with the potential ramifications

    Do you notice anything about the quote above? I do. It is completely free of specifics of any kind. Then there is a statement that the subject is too complex for you to understand, which explains the lack of specifics; I will take your word on that one. Why, after admitting that, you appoint yourself defender of the faith on this issue, I will never know. I guess your thought process is just too subtle for me.

    “your belief that the old global cooling scare is important to this issue is a dead giveaway of selective research on your part. “

    I was just pointing out that there was a cooling trend that ended in the seventies. They knew it at the time, and we know it now. Go check with RealClimate if you don’t believe me. From that, one can surmise that choosing that period as a climate reference point amounts to cherry picking to get the scariest warming trend. Nothing more, nothing less. If you can infer my state of mind and reading habits from this, you are an amazing person.

  51. james wheaton

    Moptop – sorry if I accused you of trotting out the global cooling scare tactic the far right is so fond of using. That said – concerning the past decade or so, as you no doubt can find easily (RealClimate will do nicely) the real cherry picking has been done by the denialists with the claim that global warming ended after 1998. How on earth can you describe the reams of world temperature data taken by the climate science community as cherry picking? Try running that past the RealClimate people and see what they say.

    Please don’t baffle us with BS. Here is something you wrote in an earlier reply:

    “I know, I know, there is “overwhelming evidence” of unprecedented warming…. It just all boils down to a few studies by the same group of people involved in climategate.”

    What is clear here is that you are drinking Glen Beck coolaid or some such thing. You are apparently guilty of embracing the classic conspiracy theory thumb-suck that so much of America lives for. Everyone with an objective outlook knows that the “Climategate” hack reveals nothing of the sort that you insinuate here (i.e. the fox guarding the hen house).

    Here’s why you have ruffled my feathers so much. I am in a profession (engineering) which requires a heckuva lot of experience and expertise to do well. That experience and expertise is hard earned. Furthermore I have to day in and day out rely on the expertise of others in related engineering fields to do my job. It is just too hard to do by oneself. And it works really well! Same for all things complex – we rely on experts even if we don’t like what their news is. It is inconceivable to me that a pragmatically thinking person not well versed in a particular field of science would willfully reject the expertise of the near entirety of said field of science. It is an insult to experts everywhere, and so typical of the anti-intellectual movement in this country. This is why I am convinced you have an agenda you are unwilling to share with us. Logic would dictate you would respect the hard work done by honest climate scientists and go with the odds and join those who recognise the distinct possiblity of dire times ahead unless we move out swiftly (and vote accordingly). I have kids, and attitudes such as yours collectively pose a direct threat to their future.

    Could I be wrong? Sure. But you know – I am going with the odds.

  52. Adeist

    James,

    “But not being experts, we have to rely on experts to help us. Why go with a small minority contrarian view in the face of such a consensus, especially with the potential ramifications?”

    Because the first sentence is ‘argument from authority’ and the second is ‘argument from popularity’. Neither of these are scientific arguments. That’s not to say they’re necessarily irrational, especially lacking any alternative, but they’re not scientific, and therefore do not have the high level of confidence that comes from being science. It then becomes an ordinary decision of who to trust – on the same level as which politician, which merchant, which high interest savings account, which used car salesman you decide to trust; something people are more used to, and which they do for all sorts of reasons.

    There is a very large body of scientific philosophy (Locke, Popper, Bacon, etc.) that rejects argument from authority (even the authority of scientists) as being a logical fallacy. Scientific revolutions are considered brilliant in proportion to the magnitude of the consensus they overturn. So I could equally well ask why do people persist in using it and relying upon it when it is so comprehensively rejected? Especially when they have better arguments? Why go with the small minority contrarian view in the face of such a consensus? I’d ask, except that I already know the answer.

    If your views were based on science, then you would have first set out the (only?) argument that supports AGW – i.e. that the computer models prediction of 20th century climate fit the curve with CO2 turned on, and don’t fit it with CO2 turned off. And then you would explain why this is not an “argument from ignorance” and why it is (sufficiently) impossible that any other model could ever be devised to fit the curve using any other variable. And then you would ask which part of this Moptop disagreed with, and fill in more detail in that part, and continue until you had narrowed it down to something testable.

    (Incidentally, I’m not intending to take sides on AGW here. It’s just a handy example. I’m talking about something far more interesting – the basis on which people choose to believe or disbelieve in a scientific claim: the logic/fallacies by which they decide. Something might be learnt from comparing both your methods.)

    Since you have become so firmly convinced of its truth, you must have gone through such a process, and you must have constructed such a logical chain, and satisfied yourself of each link’s validity. Since the evidence is so overpowering, this will be easy. Doesn’t that seem like a better place to start?

  53. james wheaton

    Adeist

    I am certainly familiar with logic fallacies like the argument from authority and the like. And I have boned up enough on this subject of AGW where I think I could take on a specific argument scientifically (like moptop’s 1 deg C or 6 deg C rise comment) with facts and data, etc. However I am time constrained as most of us are.

    There is a pretty good book out called “What’s the Worst That Could Happen” by Greg Craven. His major point is that climate science is complex and a talented crank can do a pretty good job of tying up a layman, which is what is happening so much right now (in this blog and in politics). In the midst of such confusion, he presents a good logical method for deciding which “authority” to go with and which not to. An important part of his point though is the urgency factor. If it is sufficiently urgent and/or if the stakes are high enough if we wait for the smoke to clear, then we kind of have to decide in the midst of uncertainty. Which I guess is a form of succumbing to the argument from authority.

    That’s kind of where I am coming from. I really hope AGW deniers are right, but the evidence is saying otherwise as I think you know. I’ve killed alot of time researching it and it sure seems so to me (and the NAS I might add). If they are wrong and succeed in roadblocking any meaningful change for a fairly long time – well, you know the rest….

  54. moptop

    I think I could take on a specific argument scientifically (like moptop’s 1 deg C or 6 deg C rise comment) with facts and data, etc. However I am time constrained as most of us are.

    Yeah, you sure *sound* like someone who believes the world is ending. You guys have had so many opportunities to knock me down, if you had the facts. Which is why I think you don’t.

  55. moptop

    he presents a good logical method for deciding which “authority” to go with and which not to. An important part of his point though is the urgency factor. If it is sufficiently urgent and/or if the stakes are high enough if we wait for the smoke to clear, then we kind of have to decide in the midst of uncertainty. Which I guess is a form of succumbing to the argument from authority.

    Doing something has consequences too. You seem to think that all of the GHG remediation is free. We will be making ourselves poorer if we are throwing out a perfectly good system of generating energy for a new one which is less efficient. Once we are poorer, where do we get the resources to handle major catastrophes, man caused or not. At least you have admitted that the science is not settled. Thanks for that. BTW, I will listen to arguments, I want the truth. I just don’t see any here, from Mooney on down. You would think if the world was ending, *somebody* would swoop in and demolish my arguments…

  56. james wheaton

    “You seem to think that all of the GHG remediation is free.”

    No I do not. I recognise there is a cost. But it pales in comparison to the costs of doing nothing, if the consensus is right (and odds are it is).

    “At least you have admitted that the science is not settled.” Dude – are you Marc Morano in cognito? You know as well as I that science never reaches “certainty”. The IPCC language corresponds with levels of probability which are more than high enough to warrant immediate action. Give me a break….

    Mooney treats this issue very fairly in my opinion, as well as many of the commenters. You seem extra hostile about it and it all seems pretty reasonable to me.

    “You would think if the world was ending, *somebody* would swoop in and demolish my arguments…”

    OK, I will assume you are not merely a troll and will take a crack at it. Can you give me one?

  57. Adeist

    “In the midst of such confusion, he presents a good logical method for deciding which “authority” to go with and which not to.”

    So isn’t that saying that he *specifically* endorses argument from authority?

    I do recall seeing an argument long ago from the same guy that was basically a rehash of Pascal’s Wager. But that was a while ago, and he may have updated his arguments since. I’ll have a look.

  58. Texas Science

    “OK, I will assume you are not merely a troll and will take a crack at it. Can you give me one?”

    I’ll let moptop speak for him/herself, but since you offered, I’ll try to take advantage to satisfy my curiosity. Here are some ‘Texas textbook’ questions.

    (1) a. Describe the temperature and climate during the Eemian period.
    b. Find the rate of sea level rise during meltwater pulse 1A. How does this compare to the IPCC projection of modern sea level rate of rise?
    c. Explain why temperature-sensitive corals are not already extinct.

    (2) a. Describe Darwin’s theory on the formation of coral atolls and the reason for their close match with sea level.
    b. Describe how river deltas form, and the reason the resulting plain is flat and very close to sea level.
    c. Explain possible reasons why despite a sea level rise of 20 cm over the past century, the country of Bangladesh is currently increasing in area. Assess their likelihood.
    d. Do the expressed concerns of low lying countries about the IPCC-projected 59 cm/century sea level rise in the business-as-usual scenario take these effects into account in their calculations of population displacement? Give an example.

    (3) Consider the (simplified) chemical equilibrium:
    CO2 + H2O + Ca(++) = CaCO3 + 2H(+)
    a. If you add some hydrochloric acid this will add more hydrogen ions. Which way would you expect this to push the equilibrium? Explain why.
    b. If you add extra carbon dioxide, which way would you expect this to push the equilibrium? Explain why.
    c. Some pure water has a pH of 7. You add CO2 under pressure, which dissolves to form Carbonic acid H2Co3. Has the concentration of carbonate ions increased or decreased? Has the pH increased or decreased? Does a change in pH always affect carbonate ion concentration in the same way?

    I don’t really expect anyone to provide comprehensive homework answers, but do you think those would be good questions to put in a textbook? If not, why not?

  59. moptop

    “Can you give me one?”

    Sure. I am going to be traveling this long weekend, but I will check in occasionally, and will be sure to check back on Tuesday, at a minimum. This thread will be here for a long time.

    To summarize the back and forth so far:

    I was challenge ot “debunk the science.”

    I asked what that meant specifically, then pointed out that there are scientific papers that show a sensitivity of 1C and, I presume, 6C, since the IPCC seems to be using that figure.

    Nobody answered me as to which of these two scientific conclusions I was to debunk.

    As to science never being settled. We got to the Moon using Newtonian mechanics, even though we *know* that they are incomplete and incorrect at certain speeds and scales. Yet in our day to day world, engineers make their living assuming they are true and correct. This is “settled science.”

  60. Moptop

    OK, I guess I misunderstood your post.

    Here is an argument: The models “argue from ignorance”, as Adeist says. They claim that any warming in the past thirty years that they can’t account for in their models without tweaking CO2, means that all warming that their models don’t predict must be due to GHG. This assumes that they have a solid grasp of the climate, which they do not.

  61. james wheaton

    Moptop – it is my understanding that a very important part of validating the predicting power of a model is to “postcast” global temperatures based on what we know is in the historical record or ice cores, etc. And that effort has been by and large successful indicating to me that we have a pretty good idea how to model the effects of CO2.

    Also, variations in global temperatures have been correlated to CO2 atmosperic concentrations.

    I don’t know where to go to specifically address this concern – I could back up what I said above though. But as elementary as your statement seems to be, I suspect you are underestimating the advances that have been made in climate science by a long shot. You are essentailly saying climate science does not know how to model CO2.

    By the way – you had a previous comment on 1 deg C versus 7 deg C temperature rise – I will assume the idea is science is unclear what the projections really are. I have not seen this. I have however seen projections that evolve based on continued refinements of the climate models and that is why the different IPCC reports contain updates different from previous updates (and usually more dire too). Feedback mechanisms seem to dominate these forecasts – trying to predict what melting ice, tundra thawing, etc will do.

  62. richard pauli

    Why don’t they just repeal the oppressive laws of thermodynamics for the state of Texas?

  63. Adeist

    James,

    Here is a comparison of models with observation. Scroll forward to figure 1, which is fairly self-explanatory.
    http://www.pas.rochester.edu/~douglass/papers/Published%20JOC1651.pdf

    Of course, you shouldn’t take the author’s word for it, just because he’s a professor of atmospheric sciences at a university publishing in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. :) I only off it as food for thought/discussion.

    The problem is that we don’t really know how to model climate – because it is *incredibly* difficult. It’s probably harder than simulating the human brain in terms of computational complexity. We can get something close enough that it does look like realistic weather (as opposed to diverging off into ice ages, which is what all the early models often did) but I’d have low confidence that it’s accurate enough for us to say this is the *actual* climate in these conditions, rather than a *plausible* climate.

    Here’s what the IPCC have to say (http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg1/378.htm):

    “The limitations of AOGCM [the current best type of climate model] regional information are, however, well known. By definition, coupled AOGCMs cannot provide direct information at scales smaller than their resolution (order of several hundred kilometres), neither can AOGCMs capture the detailed effects of forcings acting at sub-grid scales (unless parametrized). Biases in the climate simulation at the AOGCM resolution can thus be introduced by the absence of sub-grid scale variations in forcing. As an example, a narrow (sub-grid scale) mountain range can be responsible for rain shadow effects at the broader scale. Many important aspects of the climate of a region (e.g., climatic means in areas of complex topography or extreme weather systems such as tropical cyclones) can only be directly simulated at much finer resolution than that of current AOGCMs. Analysis relevant to these aspects is undertaken with AOGCM output, but various qualifications need to be considered in the interpretation of the results. Past analyses have indicated that even at their smallest resolvable scales, which still fall under our definition of regional, AOGCMs have substantial problems in reproducing present day climate characteristics. The minimum skilful scale of a model is of several grid lengths, since these are necessary to describe the smallest wavelengths in the model and since numerical truncation errors are most severe for the smallest resolved spatial scales. Furthermore, non-linear interactions are poorly represented for those scales closest to the truncation of a model because of the damping by dissipation terms and because only the contribution of larger scale (and not smaller scale) eddies is accounted for (e.g., von Storch, 1995). “

    The IPCC say they think it’s OK anyway. But I’ve yet to see a convincing argument as to why.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t know what to conclude about AGW. All I can say is that I’ve looked, and I haven’t *found* any solid scientific evidence for it; but that does not at all mean that it doesn’t exist. However, I *am* fairly confident that *most* of the people saying they are solidly convinced have not seen it either. They believe for fundamentally non-scientific reasons – which is of course fine so long as this is acknowledged. Taking scientists’ word for it is not scientific. What gets me is when people – often for similarly non-scientific reasons – choose *not* to believe it, they get called names. I don’t consider people foolish for believing in AGW, any more than I would if they believed in a particular political party, commercial product, or fashion. But unless and until you expect people to have read through the detailed science and understood it, it’s not at all unreasonable or “unscientific” for people to think differently on it.

    Trying to set science and scientists up as yet another absolute authority, that people are supposed to believe even if they have never really been properly taught to understand it, is ultimately corrupting. Science isn’t like that. And it’s precisely because it’s not like that that it’s so effective.

  64. james wheaton

    Adeist – man, where do I start….

    First of all, any paper with Singer’s name on it rings the alarm bells loudly. I didn’t check the credentials of the other authors, but I know Singer to be a most dishonest fellow with a pretty shady history. To offer works by that person strongly suggests things to me.

    Secondly, the paper has been refuted loudly. Here is an example:

    http://www.realclimate.org/docs/santer_etal_IJoC_08_fact_sheet.pdf

    Let me know if you feel that sources from RealClimate cannot be trusted. Other refutations can be found on the web. I will be the first to say that the arguments contained in these papers fairly quickly go over my head, as I am not in the business. For me to choose which is closer to reality – I figure anything with Singer’s name on it should arguably be rejected automatically based on his affiliations past and present. My suspicion is that some or all the other authors will have similar problems with their credentials, based on the non-impact of the paper.

    Third – you say you have found no solid evidence for AGW – I will give you the benefit of the doubt that the issue to you is whether or not the warming that is happening is human caused. Scientific evidence for warming, human caused or not, is EVERYWHERE. I lived in Washington state for nearly 30 years, did alot of mountain climbing. One certainly can see it there with the dismaying shrinkage of alpine glaciers and upward migration of ecosystems. I noticed before I even got interested in the global warming issue. It’s happening for sure, and at a rate similar to what those crazy scientists are saying.

    Fourth – it’s vital to a democracy for its electorate to be educated and place informed votes. But it is not realistic for the electorate to be well enough informed on things so complex as climate science or a myriad of other fields. Believe me, I know how disruptive an inadequate grasp of a subject can be – my engineering profession exposes that regularly. So we rely on the expertise of others. What a concept. John Q Citizen, you, Moptop, and I certainly do not have an adequate grasp of climate science. We are forced to accept to a certain extent the argument from authority. I infer from your comments that this is categorically unacceptable, and I guess that means to you that policy makers need to suspend action until the science is clearly settled in the eyes of the non-experts. Well the experts have seen enough – should be no argument there, and we see their recommentations. It is clear to me that the Fred Singer’s and Marc Morano’s and Jim Inhoffe’s of this world, all of whom have various reasons to fight back, are perfectly capable of trotting out one bogus argument after another to further muddy the waters in the eyes of all but the experts. And the news media can be relied on to perpetuate the “controversy”. Considering the potential consequences, a time comes where it’s time for action. IMO that time has passed.

    I wonder how settled the science was when we took action on CFC’s….

  65. Adeist

    James,

    OK, it seems to me there are two approaches I can take. The first is by noting that your argument against the data showing obviously different curves for observed and modelled results is first, an *absolute classic* example of argument ad hominem – determining the truth of an argument by the identity of the arguer. The second is by pulling up the next link in the chain of refutation and counter-refutation and counter-counter-refutation that goes on in science.

    I’ll deal with the ad hominem first.

    “but I know Singer to be a most dishonest fellow with a pretty shady history”
    How do you know? I know that people on the AGW side of the debate have frequently asserted it, but then people on both sides of this debate have continually thrown the same sort of accusation against one another. For example, the paper you cited has amongst its authors Phil Jones, the man at the epicentre of the climategate emails. There was a case a few years back where Jones, working with a professor Wang in America, published statements on Chinese temperature stations and how they were selected that we know now could not possibly be true. When this was pointed out by a mathematician named Keenan, they refused to discuss it with him at all (because he was a sceptic) and later denied the claim, saying they had other documentation justifying their statements which they nevertheless refused to produce. Keenan made a formal complaint, and Wang was investigated for scientific fraud. However, in direct contravention of the university’s written policies, this investigation was held behind closed doors, and neither the evidence nor the reasoning that supposedly cleared him was ever released. The paper was never corrected, and the IPCC continued to rely upon it for showing that the urban heat island effect could be safely neglected.

    This would all be just yet another unresolvable argument between AGWers and sceptics, except for the fact that we do now have an additional piece of inside information. Tom Wigley, another of the names on your paper, wrote in a private email that Keenan was *absolutely correct* in his accusation, the statements in Wang’s/Jones’ papers were wrong, Wang at least must have known it at the time, and Jones/Wang should have corrected the paper as soon as they were told. However, even though this was then a case under investigation for scientific fraud on a matter of the greatest importance for global policy, he did not make his concerns public. His primary concern in his email seemed to be the damage it would do to CRU’s and (as director of CRU at the time Jones published the paper) his own reputation. It was only revealed as a result of climategate.

    So if you want to play ad hominem, then at least two of the names on your paper would appear to fall into such a class – one of them having admitted that the other committed fraud, and then conspiring to keep it quiet. I can tell you, those two are not the only ones that appear in climategate in a poor light, either.

    But ad hominem arguments are fallacious, and I absolutely reject them. It doesn’t matter to me whether Phil or Gavin or Al Gore himself was to make the argument – the argument is debated on its own merits, not those of its author.

    Now, it so happens I do already know of this paper, known in the trade as Santer08. One approach for me would be to go into the statistical claims of its author, discussed at the next link of the chain. http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0905/0905.0445.pdf It turns out that Santer et al. only analysed data up to 1999, and if extended to 2007 (data Santer had at the time) using Santer’s own method then the statistical significance reappears. It is noteworthy that Santer sought to refuse supporting data when McIntyre asked, and it required an FOI request to pry it loose. McIntyre, on the other hand, published all his data and code at the end of his paper, so you can run it yourself.

    But since you have already acknowledged that you don’t follow the statistics, it’s likely to be a fruitless pursuit going down that avenue. However, that brings me to the main point I was already discussing.

    I have absolutely no problem with people believing, or not believing, AGW for non-scientific reasons. You can believe it for any reason you like, including taking people’s word for it. But what you *can’t* do is to claim that this behaviour is in any way scientific, or backed by science. Science is the polar opposite of authority. Nor can you say that people who believe otherwise are being especially irrational, dishonest, or anti-scientific. You can’t pick one side in an acrimonious debate about a scientific point, believe what they say, believe them when they say you shouldn’t believe a word the other side says, and say as a result that you’re able to refute any sceptic arguments with scientific evidence yourself. You have admitted yourself, and there is no shame in this, that you are not capable of doing so.

    It would be my fervent wish that the general public should know more science, and be able to take a greater part in scientific debate. But the truth is that most people have not been taught it. They have a selection of conclusions from science that are delivered in simplified form, backed by an aura of authority. But having been taught by one authority, people are consequently susceptible to other figures of authority and arguments in the same style, and see no real difference. The abject failures of public scientific education have created this whole problem. And now when people debate what to do about it, their arguments are all for *shoring up and strengthening* the “approved” authorities by means of various advertising campaigns!

    It is a disaster waiting to happen. Strengthening authority just increases the public’s vulnerability to it. And increases the risk of the alternative disaster – that the authorities get fundamentally and publicly discredited by making a mistake in some policy debate of critical importance to peoples’ lives. If you think the fight against pseudo-science is hard *now*…

    But we shall just have to see. Events are already in progress, and there is little we can do about fixing it now.

  66. moptop

    James,
    How about answering the same direct question that I have been asking ever since I found this blog. You say that the models are better than I give them credit for, well then, how do the models account for clouds?

  67. james wheaton

    Moptop,

    Clouds in the GCM’s – is this a trick question? Anyway, I pulled this off an FAQ from RealClimate which is the best I can do in the time available:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/01/faq-on-climate-models-part-ii/

    “Are clouds included in models? How are they parameterised?

    Models do indeed include clouds, and do allow changes in clouds as a response to forcings. There are certainly questions about how realistic those clouds are and whether they have the right sensitivity – but all models do have them! In general, models suggest that they are a positive feedback – i.e. there is a relative increase in high clouds (which warm more than they cool) compared to low clouds (which cool more than they warm) – but this is quite variable among models and not very well constrained from data.

    Cloud parameterisations are amongst the most complex in the models. The large differences in mechanisms for cloud formation (tropical convection, mid-latitude storms, marine stratus decks) require multiple cases to be looked at and many sensitivities to be explored (to vertical motion, humidity, stratification etc.). Clouds also have important micro-physics that determine their properties (such as cloud particle size and phase) and interact strongly with aerosols. Standard GCMs have most of this physics included, and some are even going so far as to embed cloud resolving models in each grid box. These models are supposed to do away with much of the parameterisation (though they too need some, smaller-scale, ones), but at the cost of greatly increased complexity and computation time. Something like this is probably the way of the future.

    What is being done to address the considerable uncertainty associated with cloud and aerosol forcings?

    As alluded to above, cloud parameterisations are becoming much more detailed and are being matched to an ever larger amount of observations. However, there are still problems in getting sufficient data to constrain the models. For instance, it’s only recently that separate diagnostics for cloud liquid water and cloud ice have become available. We still aren’t able to distinguish different kinds of aerosols from satellites (though maybe by this time next year).

    However, none of this is to say that clouds are a done deal, they certainly aren’t. In both cloud and aerosol modelling the current approach is get as wide a spectrum of approaches as possible and to discern what is and what is not robust among those results. Hopefully soon we will start converging on the approaches that are the most realistic, but we are not there yet.

    Forcings over time are a slightly different issue, and there it is likely that substantial uncertainties will remain because of the difficulty in reconstructing the true emission data for periods more than a few decades back. That involves making pretty unconstrained estimates of the efficiency of 1930s technology (for instance) and 19th Century deforestation rates. Educated guesses are possible, but independent constraints (such as particulates in ice cores) are partial at best.”

    I have heard this argument before, as if cloud modelling can make or break the case for AGW. And to read it, it is true that cloud modelling has a ways to go to get better. It must not be that much of an issue though – what do you have that indicates otherwise?

  68. james wheaton

    Adeist -

    The Keenan/Jones/Wang ordeal is a big he-says-she-says thing – I doubt seriously you know the truth there. Nor do I. However the whole thing is very consistent with the famous API “victory memo” -

    “Victory will be achieved when….average citizens ‘understand’ uncertainties in cliimate science…[and] recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom’.”

    As for Fred Singer – his credentials go back to the tobacco lobby days fighting the smoking/cancer movement. Singer is a poster child for the prostitution of “expertise” to the highest bidder be it big tobacco or big oil. You are apparently well read – so you must know this. It is true that you technically cannot judge a works by the affiliations of its author. But forgive me if I am strongly suspicious for obvious reasons.

    There is an honest to god fabricated controversy going on out there in our fine land, and even some other places, by those who cannot stand the idea of abandoning fossil fuels. Of that, there can be little doubt, and it has happened before many times on other “controversies”. Putting the science to the test is good as long as there are genuine reasons for doing so. I have concluded however that most of what we see is a deliberate attempt to roadblock progress, for reasons the perpetrators are not willing to admit.

    Thanks for sparring – maybe we can take it up againg in another article.

  69. moptop

    “It must not be that much of an issue though – what do you have that indicates otherwise?”

    “There are certainly questions about how realistic those clouds are and whether they have the right sensitivity”

    Well, “the right sensitivity” is what it is all about, isn’t it? The observations seem to show a climate senstivity of about 1 to 1.2C, well within variability. The models claiming disaster scenarios depend on these models in which one of the major forcings, clouds, are poorly understood. The CRU temp data is being re-analyzed and the source data made public. This also has a bearing on observed sensitivity. It will be a couple of years before we have the results of that re-analysis.

    How did you conclude that it *must not be much of a problem*? Because Chris Mooney assured you? Or because you read it somewhere in the popular media? Did you read it in the AR4? because I don’t think it is in there.

    I never said that the case stands or falls on clouds, I don’t doubt that there is AGW, I am just saying that these breathless proclamations that Greenland will melt in 100 yrs, or the Arctic will be ice free in five are not based on any kind of solid science, they are worst case scenarios based on poorly understood inputs and unsupported by observation.

    This whole thing was based on your assertion that if we narrowed the argument down to one issue, I couldn’t bob and weave and confuse the conversation, and you would be able to disprove my point. It just ended with you giving an apology from an admitted propaganda outlet, RealClimate, (see ClimateGate emails re RealClimate) that said that the assertion that they don’t parameterize clouds is false, they do, they just don’t know if it is right or not. (I paraphrase) Not the stuff on which trillions of dollars should be spent. Sorry.

  70. Adeist

    James, you’re welcome.

    “It must not be that much of an issue though”

    Why?

    You don’t need to tell me about it, (although I’d love to know the reason myself,) but perhaps you should articulate for yourself exactly why it can’t be much of an issue.

    “The Keenan/Jones/Wang ordeal is a big he-says-she-says thing – I doubt seriously you know the truth there. Nor do I.”

    Some would say the whole AGW debate is a big he-says-she-says thing, wouldn’t they? So shouldn’t you draw the same conclusion, and reserve judgement?

    Just some things to think about.
    Until next time.

  71. james wheaton

    Moptop, Adeist -

    “It must not be that much of an issue though”

    By that I meant climatologists have formed their consensus based on a preponderance of evidence from the GCM’s, and also observing what has happened and is happening to the planet especcially in the far north and south.

    Let’s all agree that this field of science is maturing and will get better as more observation is done, computing power grows, models get more stuff in them, better analysis of all that. In the mean time – and this is where we will agree to disagree I guess – the lesser risk is to start vigorous action to stop and then reverse GHG emissions. If later it is found to be largely bogus and/or ineffective, we can adjust.

    I worry about my kids’ future in a potentially much more cruel world due to the effects of AGW, and am willing to risk some increased near term hardships to combat CO2 rise.

  72. Adeist

    James,

    Let me get this straight, because I think it is a critical point.

    You have concluded that the known ‘issues’ in the GCMs are not a problem because the climatologists have based their consensus of firm conclusions on them?

    I’m guessing your reasoning goes as follows:
    The pro-AGW climatologists are honest.
    Honest climatologists would never base such a firm consensus on unreliable models.
    The pro-AGW climatologists have come to such a consensus.
    Therefore the models are not unreliable.
    Therefore the consensus conclusion based on them is likely correct.
    Therefore the pro-AGW climatologists can be trusted.
    Therefore anti-AGW climatologists can, as the pro-AGW climatologists say, be dismissed as being dishonest, unsupported by the scientific evidence, and very probably wrong.

    Is that right?

    Because if it is, I find it a quite remarkable chain of logic that I am, nevertheless, not going to remark any further on. Please don’t take offence that I ask, but I would rather not go away believing that this is what you meant if in fact you didn’t.

  73. james wheaton

    Adeist – your logic chain is largely on the mark although I would grind off a few of the sharp corners. The description is too absolute. And why do you sound so surprised – I have alot of company.

    The honesty quotient appears in the first and last statement – I believe strongly that the probability that the consensus is backed by honest (albeit not infallible) science is large. I believe strongly that the probability that the collection of contrarian views is backed by dishonest science is also large. I say this because the world has seen it so often. One need go no further than the evolution/creationism/ID wars to see it in action. Also, the affiliations of so many contrarians to dishonest right wing think tanks and big oil simply cannot be dismissed. Singer is a perfect example.

    Urgency plays into this too. The current thinking (by the consensus) is that worst case climate scenarios are not that improbable based on the GCM’s and real observations. I suspect had the perceived urgency been low, the calls for action and the conclusions reached so far might be delayed until more uncertainties were eliminated. Heck – Hansen has been chomping at the bit for years now, and he has had to endure being reigned in by his own field (not to mention the Bush administration…). Climate science is walking a tightrope – they see the potential and it’s scary, but to go off half cocked can perhaps unnecessarily impact the world economies. It’s a tough spot – what should the timing be….

    Of course there are theories about climate science being in collusion with a new world order to further clamp down on personal liberties, or merely trying to perpetuate grant money and their own jobs, or influencing green energy investments. The odds of those ideas being true can be compared to the odds of contrarians having big ideological and/or religious problems with the concept of AGW, and/or being paid by industry to obstruct progress. I think I know which I would pick assuming it’s time to pick. And I think it is.

    As for your own views – I can only guess that you are doubtful enough of the science that you believe the worst case scenarios to be exceedingly unlikely. I just can’t see the logic trail there.

  74. Adeist

    James,

    Thanks for confirming that. I know you have a lot of company, but it would take too long to explain my surprise.

    I was interested by your “the world has seen it so often” argument. We have indeed seen many such arguments. Take for example the overpopulation consensus of the 1970s. The prediction was standard Malthus: population expanding faster than resources, massive famines in the 1980s, Western civilisation could collapse by 2000, no point in trying to save the developing world, apparently brutal decisions necessary to prevent even worse to come, population control, sterilisation programmes tied to aid, all sorts of stuff.

    It was serious – wars, famines, plagues: global disaster was predicted. It was urgent – only a few decades to spare. The logic was inescapable – resources are finite, and the population is booming. And the damaging decisions we were called upon to make were less costly than what was otherwise inevitable.

    So should we have set out on a programme to impose involuntary population control measures on the poor but fecund, as governments were asked to, and a few actually did? What do you think?

    Because in the end governments by and large didn’t. They ignored the message. And unless we all died about 15 years ago and I didn’t notice, they were completely wrong. But what, I ask you, if the doomsayers had been right?

    I am on the other hand less interested by the ‘big oil’ conspiracy theory. Funding available for pro-AGW research is about a thousand-fold what any of the sceptics have got, and the vast majority of sceptics have no connection to industry whatsoever. You presumably know about Al Gore’s historic connection to the tobacco industry, and Phil Jones’ connections and funding from the oil giant Esso, revealed in Climategate. You presumably also know of the billions of public money to be made in the new carbon credit markets, and who their investors are backing. To suggest that this sort of thing constitutes an argument is ridiculous.

    I have no idea if Fred Singer has any real connection to these oil Illuminati, and no interest either, but given the sort of people pushing the story I’m inclined to doubt it.

    (I do know of one world leader who reportedly said “Copenhagen was just the first step towards a New World Climate Order” but I assume she wasn’t who you were talking about.)

    As for my own views – I don’t dispute the science at all. Over the past century the CO2 level has risen by about 40%, and the global mean temperature anomaly has risen about 0.8C +/- 0.5C, part of which will be due to CO2. That fits perfectly with radiative balance calculations of CO2′s (pre-feedback) effect. Assuming an exponential rise (although the past data looks quadratic), one might therefore logically project a 40% rise over the next century, with something like a 0.5C rise due to the CO2. On a planet that varies between +50C in the African desert to -90C in Antarctica, that varies 10 or 20C day to night, summer to winter, it isn’t immediately obvious that it’s going to be a disaster.

    Everything else is speculation. It might be true. There might be mysterious yet-undetected feedbacks that magnify the effect, and there might be other effects that simultaneously mask its occurrence in the 20th century. There might be some reason why it would be a disaster, rather than just another minor and maybe even beneficial fluctuation. The Earth has had warmer climates before. (Holocene optimum, Eemian, Dansgaard-Oeschger/Bond events, etc.) It has also had disasters before. I don’t know.

    But I *do* know that I’m not about to believe in stuff for which I can’t find any actual empirical evidence.

  75. moptop

    “I worry about my kids’ future in a potentially much more cruel world due to the effects of AGW, and am willing to risk some increased near term hardships to combat CO2 rise.”

    You forgot the part about where you are willing to beggar them in process… just sayin.

  76. moptop

    BTW, you never did get off your argument from authority thing, for the record.

  77. Sean

    Please don’t waste your time “debating” with Bilbo. His only tools are foul language and fabrications.

    In a previous “debate” on this blog he literally fabricated a quote from scratch to support his claim that climate change “deniers” also deny the link between smoking and cancer.

    I asked him to provide a link to the quote and all I got was a barrage of insults.

    When I demonstrated through a google search that he definitely fabricated the quote he went silent and moved onto this page.

    You can read all about it here:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/12/09/how-the-global-warming-story-changed-disastrously-due-to-climategate/

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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