Attacks on Michael Mann: Here We Go Again

By Chris Mooney | April 7, 2010 7:47 am

If you haven’t yet heard my Point of Inquiry podcast with Michael Mann–probably the most popular show I have done so far–I encourage you to listen here. In it are refuted numerous false claims about Mann with regard to the so-called “ClimateGate” fiasco.

I bring this up because some people never tire of the same old routine, and so there is yet another round of attacks on Mann afoot, courtesy of usual suspects like Fox News, Steven Milloy, etc. Once again, the fact is that Mann’s employer, Penn State University, vindicated him on numerous charges relating to “ClimateGate”–although one aspect of that investigation currently continues.

More on the attacks on Mann here. And listen to the POI interview  here.

Comments (112)

  1. Will

    My wife and I listened to your podcast and didn’t come to the same conclusion as you at all– he sounded like an arch-decon spouting religous dogma. Mann just doesn’t sound like a scientist to me.. Sorry.

    Contrast him to someone like Richard Lindzen (atmospheric physicist at MIT who also did a stint as lead author at the IPCC) and I think you’ll see what I mean.

  2. William Furr

    Regardless of what he sounds like, Mann is a scientist. If you think he sounds like a believer, it’s because he is. His belief is based on the *science* behind global warming and the IPCC’s risk assessment; that we need to do something *now* about global warming.

    He’s not blindly following a book written thousands of years ago translated by a 15th century Englishman.

    If his fervor is off-putting to you, perhaps you should question why that is. What is it about your worldview or your lifestyle that you feel is threatened? Can you find some way to reconcile it with the reality of global warming?

  3. Ian

    @1, I agree with the you that Mann does not come across very well, but can I ask whether you’ve heard an arch-deacon and whether such a comparison is fair or indeed scientific?

  4. Walker

    “Contrast him to someone like Richard Lindzen (atmospheric physicist at MIT who also did a stint as lead author at the IPCC) and I think you’ll see what I mean.”

    The contrast is that Lindzen sells his consulting services to oil and coal interests and, as has been pointed out numerous times, has allowed this conflict of interest to unduly affect his opinions. Many of his scientific pronouncements have been repeatedly debunked by the scientific community.

  5. bilbo

    This post wins the “Blogging about what we all knew was inevitable” award.

    I remember back when ClimateGate broke, some commenters here made the pronouncement that the investigations would uncover all sorts of wrongdoing and even more damning evidence and that people like Mann would “rot in jail for his crimes.” Now that the investigations have proven that nothing wrong happened (outside of foul-mouthedness and namecalling), those same people are claiming that they weren’t wrong – it’s that the investigations just HAD to have not been right.

    You see, that’s how denialism works: you invent conspiracy-themed conclusions to attempt to reconcile inconventient truths. Scientific data aren’t jiveing with your prejudiced opinions? Declare that the data are all a fraud!! Independent investigations prove that those data weren’t a fraud? Accuse the investigations of being frauds!!!

    And around and around this circle-jerk we go……..

  6. bilbo

    This post wins the “Blogging about what we all knew was inevitable” award.

    I remember back when ClimateGate broke, some commenters here made the pronouncement that the investigations would uncover all sorts of wrongdoing and even more damning evidence and that people like Mann would “rot in jail for his crimes.” Now that the investigations have proven that nothing wrong happened (outside of foul-mouthedness and namecalling), those same people are claiming that they weren’t wrong – it’s that the investigations just HAD to have not been right.

    You see, that’s how denialism works: you invent conspiracy-themed conclusions to attempt to reconcile inconventient truths. Scientific data aren’t jiveing with your prejudiced opinions? Declare that the data are all a fraud!! Independent investigations prove that those data weren’t a fraud? Accuse the investigations of being frauds!!!

    And around and around this circle-jerk we go……..

  7. Will

    Ian: Although I did grow up a church-go’er, I’ve never actually heard an arch-deacon. :) I thought it sounded better than saying ‘religious’, ‘pastor’, or ‘reverend’. Anyway, in those cases yes I think it’s fair. I’ve been trapped deep in the woods where the only available radio stations were the type the attribute all of the worlds problems and solutions to Jesus; I find listening to M.M. strikingly similar.

    William: Not all scientists are created equal. Just as there are incompetent lawyers, there are incompentent climate ‘scientists’. Don’t you find it hard to believe that someone who can ‘model’ the entire planet hasn’t yet won multiple nobel prizes for solving the plethora of complex problems that have been plaguing the rest of the scientific community? It’s very disappointing that more students haven’t been asking better technical questions of the models, data collection, statistical methods, and simulations… perhaps the quality of scientific education in the US is degrading.

    The claim that these beliefes are based on science is naive. A 90% confidence that the world is, on average, slightly warmer now than at the beginning of the 1900’s says NOTHING about the cause. It’s not rocket science, it’s Bayes theory, and even the IPCC says that the total elimination of CO2 would do very little to affect things. A lot of the policy-type stuff coming out is opinion based on feeling and not based on fact.

    Walker: Take the exact same comment you wrote and change the name ‘Lindzen’ to ‘Mann’ and ‘oil and coal’ to ‘big government’. It works both ways. If you don’t respect Lindzen on his merits and achievements then there is little more I can say.

    This all sounds like it came straight out of Orwells 1984. “Can you find some way to reconcile it with the reality of global warming?”. Let’s make it all pshychological then: Why are you personally wounded when someone disagrees with you? Do you really believe that those of us who don’t agree with you have no concern for the future? Where did you learn your intolerance? Who taught you how to close your mind? Think back…

    Of you two (bilbo doesn’t count.. He’s a troll not a person), which of you has kids? How serious are you about saving the planet? If you really care, how come you’re not rallying around more pressing causes? For example:
    – Giant rocks from space are very dangerous and we currently have no defence should the situation arise.
    – The birth rate in much of Europe is dropping to the point of implosion. How come?
    – Much of the US is facing an obesity epidemic. It’s expensive and possibly deadly, and affects many young people.

  8. TTT

    The birth rate in much of Europe is dropping to the point of implosion. How come?

    Who cares? Humankind will survive. Sex feels good and most people like children. This is not a “pressing” problem at all, especially not from a scientific standpoint, and in my experience most of the fears really boil down to the idea that Europe’s white Christians are being outbred by Arab Muslims. And even if that were true, it is neither a scientific problem nor a force for potentially unmaking all of modern mercantile-agricultural civilization as is AGW.

  9. TB

    I have kids, they’re not obese and global warming is one of the problems we’re concerned about. It’s also the topic of the thread which is why people are discussing it but doesn’t explain why you’re trying to change the subject.
    I find the “big government” consperacy theory pretty funny, as for eight of the last ten years “big government” was headed by two oil and gas guys who were only able to suppress science and not disprove it.

  10. Bob

    Its unfortunate that the enquiry into Michael Mann never called witnesses and only took his word for things. Why is that this handful of wacko scientists do not wish to even consider what is normal planetary warming and cooling. The science is far from settled. We have scientists that are so politicaly driven to get their grant money they will do anything.

  11. Will

    TTT: You answer a question with a feeling… Not scientific at all. Clearly this is something going on as it affects a sizeable portion of the population. Maybe it’s something in the water, or the food, or the air? It is more pressing than “Global Warming” as the effects will be felt sooner.

    TB: I didn’t change the topic. Some other posters got ‘touchy-feely’ so I continued in the same vain. Annoying, isn’t it? Why do so many warmists need to call people names and turn the discusssion towards pshychology?

    ‘Big government’ is who funds the bulk of the research in to these sorts of things TB, and it’s not a conspiracy at all because it is no secret! It’s where M.M. gets his funding from. This information is publicly available.

    You are naive in thinking that ‘Green’, Cap-and-trade, CO2 reduction, and Big Oil and Gas (or any large business entity) are somehow unreleated. Again, no conspiracy because it’s no secret.

    Bob: If this were financial fraud, and the investigation consisted entirely of asking the accused if he did it or not, this place would be screaming for justice. The exact same thing happens to M.M. and P.J. and instead they scream ‘Vindication!’. lol Yeah, and it’s equally amazing how anytime a credible scientist disputes the ‘science’ he is immedately labeled a shill for ‘Big Oil’. Yet when ‘Big Oil’ contributed to the CRU but I guess that’s okay.

  12. Nullius in Verba

    “In it are refuted numerous false claims about Mann with regard to the so-called “ClimateGate” fiasco.”

    Can you point out to me where he refutes any of the observations on statistical flaws, such as the use of Bristlecones/Foxtails (already known not to be temperature proxies) as temperature proxies, the invalid use of decentred PCA, the inconsistent extension of selected chronologies (such as Gaspe) by padding the data with infilled values, the use of obsolete data series, the failure of the R-squared cross-validation statistics, the failure to report the failure of cross-validation, even though it had been calculated, the contents of the ‘censored’ directory demonstrating knowledge that the result was not robust to removal of the non-temperature proxy Bristlecones, or why even though he supposedly had 112 (or 159 according to a later story) series, only 16 of them had any significant effect on the outcome, of which 15 were stripbark Bristlecones sampled by Donald Greybill from the same part of the world?

    Mann refuted nothing, because you didn’t ask any of the pertinent questions, because you don’t appear to know what the scientific argument is actually about.

    “I remember back when ClimateGate broke, some commenters here made the pronouncement that the investigations would uncover all sorts of wrongdoing and even more damning evidence and that people like Mann would “rot in jail for his crimes.” Now that the investigations have proven that nothing wrong happened (outside of foul-mouthedness and namecalling), those same people are claiming that they weren’t wrong – it’s that the investigations just HAD to have not been right.”

    I’m glad that the enquiries have proved that nothing bad happened. Can you refer me to the pages in the reports that explain the innocent backgrounds to:

    Tom Wigley stating that Doug Keenan was right regarding his accusations that Wang and Jones had committed scientific fraud;
    Ed Cook discussing a confidential review of a statistics paper that Ed said demolished the method used in paleoclimatology with Briffa and making the statement “It won’t be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct theoretically”;
    the attempts to have sceptical journal editors ousted or journals publishing sceptical papers boycotted;
    the manipulation/breach of IPCC publication deadlines in order to get the repeatedly rejected Wahl and Ammann paper into the 4th report? The one that in its final version confirmed the failure of theirs and Mann’s cross-validation, but excluded any mention of it in the non-accepted version that went to the IPCC?

    There are more, of course, but those will do for a start.

    Because so far as I can see, they haven’t actually addressed or even examined any of the scientific issues.

  13. Will

    TTT: One other thing; humand kind will easily survive hugely elevated CO2 levels. The estimates by the IPCC would put us at about the same level you would find when walking through the forest. Most people enjoy a walk through the woods, though admitedly not as much as they enjoy sex. Plants tend to grow better with elevated levels of CO2 and this would very likely help agriculture.

    By your own criteria of not caring, since it won’t kill us all, could be pleasurable, and could very well help agriculture, are you prepared to drop AGW for a new cause?

  14. David

    ” In it are refuted numerous false claims about Mann with regard to the so-called “ClimateGate” fiasco.”

    I would beg to differ.

    By taking that tone, you make it sound as if everything was cleared up in the interview. I would heartily agree that Mann repeated the denial that there was anything wrong from the beginning. You make it sound as if just him saying it makes it so.

    He just rants that “Big Oil” is trying to smear him and has everyone in their pocket. By the same token, we might as well say that this site is in the “Pocket of Big Oil” because of the ads from Shell.

    Yes, I know that they have real work in environmental issues as well. But since you are taking money from Big Oil, does that mean that your opinion is invalid?

    This whole ad hominem attack still does not have any traction and is just ridiculous to keep repeating it. Big oil would be bankrupt if it had as many people in its pocket as is claimed. As I have said before, pointing and yelling BIG OIL is about the same as covering your ears and yelling “La, La, La, I can’t hear you!!!”

  15. One other thing; humand kind will easily survive hugely elevated CO2 levels. The estimates by the IPCC would put us at about the same level you would find when walking through the forest.

    I think you’re confused. Nobody is claiming that humans will succumb to asphixiation due to rising CO2 levels.

  16. Will

    Nullis and David: It’s unlikely you’ll get a worthy response. These guys are only capable of spouting GreenCult(tm) rhetoric. As soon as anyone brings up a concrete fact or a challenge that has a clear resolution then they suddenly disappear, probably to confer with the rest of their friends in the Hitler Youth. Not a single one of them has actually said anything beyond personal slander or insult.

    Bilbo the Troll has been challenged before on these forums, but he always scurries away.

  17. As soon as anyone brings up a concrete fact or a challenge that has a clear resolution then they suddenly disappear

    Please point to a single concrete fact or a challenge that has a clear resolution that has been brought up yet in this comment thread.

  18. Tester

    I think it disgusting that Michael Mann and the CRU people were criticised at all. They believe in Man Made Global Warming and have worked like stink for years and years to try to find some evidence for it. Just because they haven’t found any yet is no reason to treat them they way they treat people who disagree with them.

    I know they deny that recent climate events are at all natural in causation. But that’s no reason for them to be called insulting names like ‘deniers’. That word and other insults should only be used of people who disagree with them. That’s science after all. They are the good guys so anybody with a different opinion has to be thorougly insulted, made to shut up and above all prevented from publishing. That is the peer review process after all. Isn’t it?… Isn’t it?

    Just because every other climate change event in the past 5 billion years has been 100% natural doesn’t mean the latest one was natural. There is no reason for them to even consider that as a possibility because they know different and they cannot possibly be wrong, about anything.

    They are the experts after all because they are paid to find evidence for man made climate change and they are such wonderful people I am sure they will find some one day even if they have to work up until we are all buried in ice.

  19. And this line:

    Not a single one of them has actually said anything beyond personal slander or insult.

    following directly after this line:

    probably to confer with the rest of their friends in the Hitler Youth.

    Is a bit much don’t you think?

  20. bilbo

    I don’t know, Jinchi. Will has tried so hard to discredit my character before I’ve even made a legit argument that maybe I really am in the Hitler Youth. We must be threatening for him and others to waste so much breath trying to character assassinate me. Come to think of it, I have a Hitler Youth meeting to go to tonight after I finish my dinner of infant’s brains and finish this grant proposal that I’m just making up off the top of my head (I would use scientific data, but ALL of it is useless according to Will et al., so why bother?).

    I do chuckle at the use of “troll” to describe me, not because I’m a troll but because Will seems to be using it while being simultaneously oblivious to its actual definition…

  21. bilbo

    This whole ad hominem attack still does not have any traction and is just ridiculous to keep repeating it

    So….a member of the ideological mind-slut group who does little more than attempt to discredit Mann solely via ad hominems is giving a lecture about the fruitlessness of ad hominems?

    I suppose there wouldn’t be a better person to lecture us…

  22. chrisd

    Now that the investigations have proven that nothing wrong happened (outside of foul-mouthedness and namecalling), those same people are claiming that they weren’t wrong – it’s that the investigations just HAD to have not been right.

    This was completely predictable because it is Conspiracism 101.

    Anyone who claims not to see the conspiracy is part of the conspiracy. Any organization that investigates a conspiracy and finds nothing is part of the conspiracy. Any investigative report that finds no conspiracy was performed by secret members of the conspiracy.

    This is why conspiracies can never be disproved.

  23. Will

    Jinchi:

    – Read Nullius In Verba’s post. He asked for just ONE instance of rebuttal by M.M. in Chris Mooney’s ‘interview, and was kind enough to provide an abridged list for reference. That’s a challenge with a clear resolution.

    – I brought up the 90% issue and how it does nothing to explain cause (Bayes, 1764) . That’s what I’d call a hard fact.

    You can visit some of the other discussions here if you need more.

    Chris Mooney made some claims that have been challenged, and the only response from the Hitler Youth has been personal attacks.

  24. Lurker

    The science is SETTLED, people, SETTLED!!! IPCC and Gore said that repeatedly! How DARE you argue against it???

  25. TTT

    Will: you overplayed your hand. At first I fell for your shtick and was taking you seriously. But after your bit about “there must be something in the water in Europe that keeps white people from having babies,” I feel like an audience member at an Andy Kaufman routine, watching him stand silently on the stage as he awaits the next chance to give the Mighty Mouse cheer.

  26. One other thing; humand kind will easily survive hugely elevated CO2 levels. The estimates by the IPCC would put us at about the same level you would find when walking through the forest.

    Humankind will survive, but, when we get to 2x and 3x CO2, it is not so clear that you and yours will. The entire ecosystem will be stressed and there will be a lot of suffering and deaths.

    Further, when the average CO2 density in the entire atmosphere is what it is when you walk through a forest today (or stand at a busy traffic intersection), the density in the forest, will be much higher than it is today. Same thing with global temperatures. If they are 4-6 F (2-3C) higher, that is an average, and a lot of places where folk reading this are, will be much higher. Worse, some of those places have enough ice which will melt to drown a lot of the houses folk reading this are living in today.

  27. David

    Bilbo:

    Such a withering riposte. I cower in the corner.

    I have been on the internet too long to rise to such a poorly crafted troll. Please try something that at least entertains.

  28. Will

    TTT: I was trying to be cute/funny. There is a reason. Social, chemical, whatever.. there is still a reason. And since you misquoted me I will clarify: I said ‘maybe there is something in the water, or the food, or the air?’

    Is it that hard to contribute something other than a personal attack? Is that what the L’il Hitler Youth Guidebook says to do?

  29. David

    Will,

    I really did not expect a logical reply. I really don’t even feel bad about the people that have been suckered in by the global warming snake oil crowd. I even remember when it was global cooling that was the cause du jour.

    Somehow they expect the word to be static and fragile. It will be still working long after we have wiped ourselves out by many of the more likely methods of war, starvation, and disease.

    It is kind of funny to see some of the things that they do to try to fix things. Like the cash for clunkers program. Yes, lets take all those fuming polluting vehicles off the road and put up new ones. Well, the initial production of the vehicles creates more pollution and greenhouse gasses than the car will ever produce in its usable lifetime. So, we go and get rid of the cars that have already done 95% of their entire environmental damage and create new ones that will run a fraction cleaner but spew tons of pollutants into the atmosphere in their manufacture. But that happens over in the 3rd world so it isn’t real pollution in my back yard.

    Lets starve all the poorest people by raising the price of food by making them compete with the developed world for corn to make biofuels so they can proudly drive around saying that they are doing so much to save the environment. In 1988 I had a Honda Civic CRX HF that got 55 mpg. Now you are lucky to get a vehicle that gets 35mpg.

    It is all about wearing your environmental pins on your lapel rather than doing anything substantive.

  30. a tree

    Personally, I like CO2, a lot. Make more plz thx

  31. Will

    Eli Rabbit: Lets throw some numbers in here. Feel free to correct any mistakes I’ve made with these figures.

    CO2 starts to become unpleasant to humans when it’s at about 10,000 PPM. You’ll feel tired. It doesn’t start to have adverse affects until you get to 70,000 PPM.

    Current average CO2 levels are at a whopping 387 PPM. At 20x concentration we would not even reach the ‘yawn’ mark.

    According to the omniscient IPCC, CO2 levels have increased a gargantuan 107 PPM since 1750. For the sake of argument let’s assume that CO2 levels rise in a constant linear rate. Doing some quick math I’ve figured that in 1000 years we would get the average concentration to a mind blowing 800 PPM. Hardly fear inspiring stuff.

    When I said ‘easily survive hugely elevated CO2 levels’ I didn’t mean ‘barely survive imperceptibly elevated CO2 levels’. I doubt that it would even be possible, given current technology, for humanity to get it that high.

    I’m curious to know why you think that the eco system will somehow be stressed to the point of causing a lot of suffering and deaths? To play devils advocate: How do you know that the ecosystem isn’t currently in a stressed state, and a rise in CO2 would bring it back to ‘normal’?

    Why do you think there is going to be a deluge of water from melting ice? Even if this were to happen why do you believe that it has anything to do with CO2?

  32. John Mashey

    If you want to see what some good US scientists think happens to the USA, see Global Climate Change Impacts in the USA. It is well-written book for a general audience, and includes 5-6 pages each for the (differing) effects in various regions of the USA.

    If you are not willing to listen to that material, and prefer folks like Steve Milloy, I suggest you absolutely make sure that your children, grandchildren, etc all start smoking by the time they’re 12-13, because they *might* get away with it – not everyone is affected by smoking. This would probably be kinder.

    The evidence for AGW is, in some sense, much stronger than the link between smoking and disease, as the latter is mostly statistical (but overpowering, of course), whereas for AGW to not be happening, you have to reject:

    a) Conservation of Energy (the Law) OR
    b) Physics of greenhouse gasses, i.e., based on quantum mechanics, which may not be perfect, but works pretty well, including for the semiconductors that let you read this.

    If you can prove either of these wrong, you will earn a Nobel in physics, immediately.

    As usual in such discussions, common wrong memes get repeated endlessly.
    An excellent compendium of such, with explanations, refutations, can be found at:
    Skeptical Science.
    Ice age predicted in 1970s = #8 on the list.

  33. John A. Jauregui

    What are the chances an infinitesimal trace gas, commercial greenhouse operators pay dearly for in order to increase the yield of their fixed facility plant production, can or will result in run away Global Warming?

    Answer: Infinitesimal

    The IPCC agrees. Read their Technical Reports under the heading Global Warming Potential (GWP). Carbon Dioxide is dead last well behind water vapor and a plethora of other gases.

  34. el gordo

    ‘Personally, I like CO2, a lot. Make more plz thx’

    I’m hoping for a return of the Holocene Climate Optimum, because the future looks so unbearably cool.

  35. Vince Whirlwind

    Will,
    Your statement:

    “A 90% confidence that the world is, on average, slightly warmer now than at the beginning of the 1900’s says NOTHING about the cause. ”

    Refers to *what*, precisely?

    The reason I ask is that I think it’s important for people who comment on another person’s statement to quote that statement accurately.
    In this case, you haven’t.
    In fact you’re being extraordinarily inaccurate.
    This means your argument on this point is fallacious.

    So, go back, read the IPCC AR4 summary report, and comment on what’s actually there instead of commenting on some random nonsense that’s popped into your head as a result of your a priori beliefs.

    As for David – “I even remember when it was global cooling that was the cause du jour. ”
    Oh dear, not another one…..how do these people all manage to “remember” something which was invented about 4 years ago by Oil-funded disinformation campaigns?
    You must by immensely suggestible….

  36. Lotharsson

    “Don’t you find it hard to believe that someone who can ‘model’ the entire planet hasn’t yet won multiple nobel prizes for solving the plethora of complex problems that have been plaguing the rest of the scientific community?”

    No, because that’s a bizarre fallacy to base your argument on. Why should competence in one area mean extreme competence leading to astonishing breakthroughs in other areas? Why should lack of those breakthroughs in other areas imply *lack* of competence in the first?

    Do you seriously expect your computer technician who can solve complex problems in a complex mix of technologies to provide you with solutions to longstanding medical conundrums? And when you need a computer technician, do you only select the ones who have published influential papers in medical journals?

    “A 90% confidence that the world is, on average, slightly warmer now than at the beginning of the 1900’s says NOTHING about the cause. ”

    You are conflating two issues that the scientists do not conflate. They are very confident it has been warming over the time period in question, and *separately* they are also more than 90% confident that anthropogenic factors have significantly contributed to this warming – which is about as confident as they can be in a complex system without a test bench.

    “If you don’t respect Lindzen on his merits and achievements then there is little more I can say. ”

    He was once a fine scientist, but that doesn’t mean every claim he makes will prove solid. You have to subject his claims to scrutiny, just like any scientific claims. The problem with Lindzen’s claims is that they have been getting louder and louder over the last ten years or so, even as they *all* fail to stand up to scrutiny.

    But if a future claim is shown to be solid, all the better for science. It would be fantastic if someone showed that humans aren’t significantly contributing to global warming – although given the fact that it’s clearly warming rather fast on climatic timescales, we’d still have to work hard to figure out what to do about it.

  37. Lotharsson

    “infinitesimal”

    As Inigo Montoya said – “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    “Read their Technical Reports under the heading Global Warming Potential (GWP). Carbon Dioxide is dead last well behind water vapor and a plethora of other gases.”

    You misunderstand. Global Warming Potential is defined for a given *mass* of gas. Given that we *add* vastly differing masses of the various greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, this figure doesn’t tell you what you think it does. Your argument is like saying that aluminium is a lighter element than lead, so this five tonne aluminium ingot here can’t possibly hurt more when dropped on my foot than this one ounce lead figurine.

    You should be looking at something like the IPCC’s anthropogenic radiative forcings table (e.g. http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/myths/images/climate-forcing/Radiative_Forcing_Components_IPCC_AR4.png/image_view_fullscreen), where CO2 clearly has the largest warming effect on the climate.

  38. Lotharsson

    “I even remember when it was global cooling that was the cause du jour. ”

    That’s a poor representation of the situation at the time.

    A few scientists were concerned that rising concentrations of anthropogenic aerosols would cause more cooling than the warming from anthropogenic greenhouse gases – in part because the data wasn’t good enough at the time to really tell which force was likely to be stronger. IIRC those concerns were written up in a popular magazine that didn’t give appropriate weight to the competing concerns of the vast majority of climate science at the time. And:

    (a) those concerned about cooling were proved right by further research – aerosols really can cause global cooling (amongst other issues) – so humans reduced their output and largely headed off that concern.

    (b) most scientists and published papers in the field at the time were concerned about future anthropogenic warming, and they were also vinidcated by further research.

    This whole story illustrates that the science – both as a body of knowledge and a process – comes out of a desire to find out how our climate system works – not shill for a pre-conceived result. But scientists can’t win. If they follow the evidence as it comes in, they’re accused of being incompetent because they change their mind (“global cooling was the cause du jour”), even as others accuse them of not following the evidence so that they can publish pre-determined results.

    “Lets starve all the poorest people by raising the price of food by making them compete with the developed world for corn to make biofuels…”

    That’s a bit rich when corn in the US is so cheap that they make *cat litter* out of it. http://www.worldsbestcatlitter.com/

  39. chrisd

    @Will #31

    CO2 starts to become unpleasant to humans when it’s at about 10,000 PPM. You’ll feel tired. It doesn’t start to have adverse affects until you get to 70,000 PPM.

    Current average CO2 levels are at a whopping 387 PPM. At 20x concentration we would not even reach the ‘yawn’ mark.

    You seem to have a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of the CO2 problem. It has nothing to do with direct physiological effects of the increased concentration. It has everything to do with the effects of that increased concentration on climate.

  40. Chris O'Neill

    Will:

    “A 90% confidence that the world is, on average, slightly warmer now than at the beginning of the 1900’s says NOTHING about the cause.”

    The 90% figure refers to the IPCC’s estimate of the likelihood that the warming is mainly human caused, not the confidence that it has warmed which is virtually certain. If you can’t even get your facts vaguely right about what the IPCC says, no wonder your opinions about Mann are so wacko.

  41. Will

    Chris O’Neill: the 90% is from Phil Jones at the UEA/CRU regarding warming trends. My facts are as straight as an arrow. Nobody is being fooled by you: all your doing is saying ‘liar liar’ without actually backing it up with anything.

    Lotharsson: Good example, but your logic is backwards. A climate scientist would need to be competent in statistics, computer science, chemistry, geology, history, and phsyics, with special knowledge of statistical analysis, fluid dynamics, software simulation and modelling, and astrophysics to name a few.

    Even the ‘simple’ problem of deriving temperature measurements through dendochronology is almost impossible, as are most other time series predictions involving an unknown number of unknown variables in a chaotic system. It’s why Wall Street continues it’s search for an answer to the exact same problem. I’d be more than happy to get in to a technical discussion on infilling and interpolation if anyone wants to debate this.

    Lotharsson: The Big Chill was a Big Deal in it’s day despite your attempts at dismissing it with a revisionist history.
    Lotharsson: In the USA, corn is heavily subsidised by tax dollars. It’s not as cheap as you think. Yours is a fine example of why, in science, we try not to use anecdotal evidence.

    Vince Whirlwind, Lotharsson, Chris O’Neill, John Mashey: I wager that none of you have actually read anything in the IPCC reports (or better still, the original content). On what page of the report do you see 90% confidence of AGW? I think that the lot of you are simply quoting me and assuming I mixed something up but haven’t actually seen this number before. This would make you very susceptible to suggestion.. I’d see a doctor if I were you.

    You poor INazis, I know you want to believe but I don’t know _why_ you want to believe. How many Google or Bing searches did you whip off today? How much CO2 do you think that generated? The answer might surprise you. If you really have drank that much Kool-aid then the best thing for you to do would be to turn off your computer NOW and never turn it back on again.

  42. David

    Vince Whirlwind:

    No, this is not something from 4 years ago, it was in the late 1970’s when the global cooling alarmists were rattling around if I remember correctly. There were many things in the popular media when the global cooling thing was going around as the cause for terror and it was way before 4 years ago. One of the things it did was try to link acid rain going amok and dissolving all the limestone and dust storms caused by the acid rain killing the forests blocking out the sun and the albedo effect of all the pollutants in the air reflecting sunlight.

    When that failed to capture the public’s heart, it was reused to create the nuclear winter scenario.

    However I will give you a couple extra points for slipping in the appeal to pity argument. I am neither helpless and suggestible nor are big bad oil companies blinding me with their disinformation. That and the condescending “Oh, another one” appeal to ridicule suggesting that the argument should immediately be marginalized was a nice touch.

    Please keep your arguments on point. Falling to the petty fallacies diminishes the forum.

  43. David

    Lotharsson:

    First, before I say anything else: Thank you. I really do appreciate a well thought out argument. It is quite refreshing.

    Bringing up the Global Cooling was not to debunk what was actually good research. The scale was wrong looking at local conditions and extrapolating to a global scale was where it fell apart. The whole point was that once the media gets hold of it and people making the big production, end-of-the-world TV shows about it is where the problem is. Just like the whole Inconvenient Truth type productions do for today’s topic. When you put out the docu-drama propaganda, it takes on a whole different life and reality for people. It doesn’t put things into scale. We have the current ratings driven media blasting out 10 or 12 stories a day repeated 24/7 on CNN and the like where it gets repeated so often that it becomes the “Truth”. And this is from the same sources that goes by the philosophy of “If it bleeds, It leads”. Imminent DOOM is much more interesting than seeing a bunch of scientists sitting around discussing statistical trends and projections. Except for a few notable exceptions, scientists are very poor public speakers.

    As to the kitty litter, if you follow that argument, gas is cheap because people in the US drive around Hummers and Ford Excursions. That has little bearing on people that get by on less than $100 US a year in poor countries. Add to that, at present, there is only a token amount of biofuel being produced. What that would do to the price of basic staples if biofuels went into large scale production comparable to the volume of fossil fuels is altogther different.

    Will:

    Enough of the Nazi stuff. Godwin’s law is very real. It detracts from the discussion.

  44. TB

    “You are naive in thinking that ‘Green’, Cap-and-trade, CO2 reduction, and Big Oil and Gas (or any large business entity) are somehow unreleated. Again, no conspiracy because it’s no secret.”
    Awesome!

  45. chrisd

    @David 42:

    it was in the late 1970’s when the global cooling alarmists were rattling around if I remember correctly. There were many things in the popular media when the global cooling thing was going around as the cause for terror ….

    And there you have it: “There were many things in the popular media ….”

    But not in the scientific literature. This has been conclusively shown by a review of the literature from 1965-1979. Almost nothing about cooling; quite a bit about warming. Any “global cooling alarmists” were on the newspaper staffs, not in the university halls.

    Furthermore, if you go back and actually look at that stuff from the popular media, you’ll find that it’s almost exclusively talking about how cold it already was. They’re talking about observed cooling, not predicted cooling; and there’s some “What if …” conjecturing about the effects if the cooling continued.

    Go read the two articles that everyone remembers from Time and Newsweek; they’re both online. The Newsweek article has exactly one very vague and totally unsourced prediction; the Time article has no predictions at all.

  46. chrisd

    @Will:

    A 90% confidence that the world is, on average, slightly warmer now than at the beginning of the 1900’s

    Where did Phil Jones say this?

  47. chrisd

    @Will 41:

    I wager that none of you have actually read anything in the IPCC reports (or better still, the original content). On what page of the report do you see 90% confidence of AGW?

    How about page 39 of the AR4 Synthesis Report:

    Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations. [emphasis in original]

    “Very likely” is defined as a >90% probability.

  48. Will

    chrisd: I don’t see the numbers 9 or 0 anywhere in the quote you posted. What does ‘most’ mean? 80%? 92%? 99.9999%?

    Let’s get some number please– something quantifiable. Then I’ll shut up. :)

  49. chrisd

    @John A. Jauregui #33:

    What are the chances an infinitesimal trace gas … can or will result in run away Global Warming? Answer: Infinitesimal.

    There’s no logic to that statement. Trace amounts of things can be critically important; simply noting that there isn’t much of something is completely meaningless.

    Do a what-if: What if that “infinitesimal trace gas” in our atmosphere were carbon monoxide instead of carbon dioxide?

    Extreme exposure (a CO level of 400 ppm and higher) will result in unconsciousness, brain damage and death. (http://bit.ly/cNt4pj)

    Uh-oh. The current CO2 concentration is around 390 ppm. 400 ppm of CO results in “unconsciousness, brain damage and death”. So, this “infinitesimal trace gas” that would be, well, lethal.

  50. Will

    chrisd: Never mind. I was being a dick about that. I lost my wager. I’ll accept your very likely.

  51. chrisd

    @Will 48

    I don’t see the numbers 9 or 0 anywhere in the quote you posted. What does ‘most’ mean? 80%? 92%? 99.9999%?

    Let’s get some number please– something quantifiable. Then I’ll shut up.

    Will, the report defines precisely what the various “uncertainty” phrases (“probable”, “likely”, “very likely”, etc.) mean. “Very likely” is specifically defined to mean a greater than 90% probability, which is what I said.

    You asked, “On what page of the report do you see 90% confidence of AGW?” This is it, in black and white. It’s on page 39.

  52. chrisd

    (Let’s try again, without screwing up the italics)

    @Will 48

    I don’t see the numbers 9 or 0 anywhere in the quote you posted. What does ‘most’ mean? 80%? 92%? 99.9999%?

    Let’s get some number please– something quantifiable. Then I’ll shut up.

    Will, the report defines precisely what the various “uncertainty” phrases (”probable”, “likely”, “very likely”, etc.) mean. “Very likely” is specifically defined to mean a greater than 90% probability, which is what I said.

    You asked, “On what page of the report do you see 90% confidence of AGW?” This is it, in black and white. It’s on page 39.

  53. David

    Chrisd @45:

    Good day sir!

    Herein lies the rub. I am being very specific so please bear with me. The point that you bring out is precisely the point. I am not singling out the scientists regarding the studies. They are not the crux of the problem. The journalists and popular media are the ones being the alarmists. The scientists are in the dreary world of journal and conference publication and the media picks out something “juicy” and screams to the world that the end is near. Then the politicians jump in, not wanting to be insensitive to the the plight of the world and fund more research to solve these real problems. Finally, the circle is complete when a new crop of researchers jump on the bandwagon and drop enough of the right buzz words in their NSF grant applications. Then, with this circle feeding itself, the outside forces see it as a vehicle to further their own pet agenda.

    You see this when listen to the people talk about their research. For a while, when it was in vogue, everybody said that their research in the rain forest was going to hold the cure to cancer. Then it was picked up by other fields of research and everyone claimed that their area of research was going to be it. Rain forest, ocean floor, deep ocean, you name it. Pure research was no longer good enough because the funding was directed to these “Hot” fields.

    I doubt very highly that Dr. Mann spent his time worrying about carbon taxes and such. He is interested in climate science. He just got sucked into the media feeding frenzy and when the sharks started circling, they left him hanging, threw a bit more chum in the water and stepped back and started filming.

    The driving force behind this is money. Money for research, money for the people fighting rightly or wrongly to maintain their lifestyle (Oil companies, Alternative Energy, Research Groups. ) The way that science journalism has chosen to make their niche is by fanning flames on both sides. Usually, when you see “scientists” in the media, they are not generally the ones with any real research. The ones doing the real research are too busy to mess with that kind of silliness. They are back in their labs, offices, and field studies doing more research.

    I am quite sure that Dr. Mann would have been quite happy to sit in his lab and conduct research and wishes that he had never been sucked into the whole media limelight. Yeah, they said some things to each other in their communications that were embarrassing in the light of day and probably a lot was said that they wished that they had not. But you know what? That’s the breaks. If you don’t want the media scrutiny, don’t jump in front of the camera. If you don’t want to be embarrassed by what you say, then speak carefully. If you don’t step out on the stage, you won’t be pelted with rotten tomatoes.

  54. Will

    chrisd: Yep. I conceeded that point above. :)

  55. chrisd

    @David 53

    I am not singling out the scientists regarding the studies. They are not the crux of the problem. The journalists and popular media are the ones being the alarmists.

    Well, what you said originally was:

    I really don’t even feel bad about the people that have been suckered in by the global warming snake oil crowd. I even remember when it was global cooling that was the cause du jour.

    This is a silly comparison. They are nothing alike. There was a brief period of media noise, mostly about observed–not predicted–cooling. That’s it. There was nothing like the mountain of research that lies behind AGW. There were virtually no global cooling papers. There were no global cooling conferences. There were no international global cooling commissions. There were no global cooling statements from national science associations.

    You try to make it sound like the current concern over warming mirrors the concern over cooling in the 70s. It does not. There’s no comparison. You are comparing thousands upon thousands of peer-reviewed research papers to a handful of newspaper and magazine stories about cold weather that didn’t even really try to predict anything. It’s nonsense.

  56. David

    Chris @ 55:

    Again, I am not discussing the validity of the research. That will only be actually proven or disproved on the basis of the science and not by my opinion or yours.

    I am talking about the non-scientists. The media, the actors, and politicians. They are getting out and getting all this air time promoting their OPINON on the public and bombarding the public with their gloom and doom and trying quite bluntly to implement social change and using global warming as a reason. Both sides. I am not saying it is just the people concerned about global warming. The other side is just as bad.

    Are you going to disagree that Senator Inhofe’s posturing is anything other than theater? The denialist side screaming that doing things to promote the environment is just leading us to some supposed new world order type garbage? I think that they are just as wrong as Al Gore out there telling us we are going to ruin the world.

    Do you think that the showmanship of things like Cash for Clunkers which actually causes more environmental harm than it solves is a good thing? Do you think any of that blatant consumerism disguised as being “green” is helpful? Do you think that Ford and Chevrolet putting all those little green stickers and leaves on the car saying FlexFuel and such when most places you cannot get anything other than normal gasoline is fixing anything? How about where they found so many of the Energy Star certifications were faked? They are using the global warming data to sell cars and appliances and not to fix anything.

    I believe it is just snake oil salesmanship and the general public is caught in the middle and being polarized into equally wrong positions.

    I think that the truth is somewhere in between.

    I would be happy to hear your take.

  57. bilbo

    ‘a tree’ says:Personally, I like CO2, a lot. Make more plz thx

    ‘your brain’ says: “Too much CO2 kills me – oh, and it stunts some plant growth. And really, it kind of offends me when you use about 5% of my processing capacity to make the stupid “plant food” argument. Now, you may return to your child porn.”

    Such a withering riposte. I cower in the corner.

    I have been on the internet too long to rise to such a poorly crafted troll. Please try something that at least entertains.

    Why, you certainly rose to criticize me, young David! Please try a statement that doesn’t refute itself.

  58. Chris O'Neill

    Will:

    “the 90% is from Phil Jones at the UEA/CRU regarding warming trends. My facts are as straight as an arrow. Nobody is being fooled by you: all your doing is saying ‘liar liar’ without actually backing it up with anything.”

    AR4 WG1 Summary for Policy Makers (google IPCC SPM) page 10:

    “Most of the observed increase in global average
    temperatures since the mid-20th century is very
    likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic
    greenhouse gas concentrations.”

    And on page 3:

    “Very likely > 90%”.

    That’s the back-up. You’re a liar.

  59. Lotharsson

    “A climate scientist would need to be competent in statistics, computer science, chemistry, geology, history, and phsyics, with special knowledge of statistical analysis, fluid dynamics, software simulation and modelling, and astrophysics to name a few. ”

    That might be why climate modeling tends to take place in groups composed of multiple scientists with different competencies.

    And it doesn’t refute my observation – that your implied assertion that climate modelers must be rubbish because they haven’t “yet won multiple nobel prizes for solving the plethora of complex problems that have been plaguing the rest of the scientific community” – is a fallacy.

    “I wager that none of you have actually read anything in the IPCC reports (or better still, the original content).”

    You lose.

    “It’s why Wall Street continues it’s search for an answer to the exact same problem.”

    Except that it’s not. Wall Street has no basic physics to rely on, and how often do you see Wall Street trying to infill stock prices? ;-)

    “Yours is a fine example of why, in science, we try not to use anecdotal evidence.”

    And do you have more than anecdotal evidence for your original assertion – “Lets starve all the poorest people by raising the price of food by making them compete with the developed world for corn to make biofuels…”? How much food for the poorest people has been lost? How do you know it would have been grown and delivered to the poor instead? How much have prices gone up as a result?

  60. Lotharsson

    “The whole point was that once the media gets hold of it and people making the big production, end-of-the-world TV shows about it is where the problem is. ”

    If the sober scientists are saying it’s a problem,the media talking about it in ways that you think are overblown doesn’t make the scientists’ position go away.

    “The scale was wrong looking at local conditions and extrapolating to a global scale was where it fell apart.”

    Not so sure that’s true. They didn’t have enough data back then, but with the data gathered since we see anthropogenic aerosols are still a notable forcing at global scale in the IPCC AR4.

  61. Lotharsson

    I find it interesting that the same Will says: “I wager that none of you have actually read anything in the IPCC reports…” clearly hasn’t read enough of the IPCC reports to know that it defines a correspondence between certain English terms (such as “very likely”) and probability values.

  62. David

    Lothlarrson:

    “And do you have more than anecdotal evidence for your original assertion – “Lets starve all the poorest people by raising the price of food by making them compete with the developed world for corn to make biofuels…”? How much food for the poorest people has been lost? How do you know it would have been grown and delivered to the poor instead? How much have prices gone up as a result?”

    Sorry, I didn’t see that on the bottom of the post:

    No, prices have not gone up yet as there is not an appreciable amount of biofuel in production. We still have huge tankers hauling oil and trains of coal, and government subsidized farming. Wait until the people get the legislation to effect the carbon taxes to discourage it’s use or outlaw it entirely.

    But even then, this goes back to my real premise. Pushing for the biofuels doesn’t really fix anything substantive. It reduces dependence on foreign oil imports but still it is not that much cleaner. It still produces the greenhouse gasses.

    The idea should be to have a well thought out plan in place instead of just a bunch of knee jerk legislation that is so short sighted.

  63. David

    Lothlarrson:

    Point one:

    “If the sober scientists are saying it’s a problem,the media talking about it in ways that you think are overblown doesn’t make the scientists’ position go away.”

    But unfortunately, the scientists are not the ones running government. It is being run by people that want to look good in the media.

    Point 2:

    “Not so sure that’s true. They didn’t have enough data back then, but with the data gathered since we see anthropogenic aerosols are still a notable forcing at global scale in the IPCC AR4.”

    Just to be clear: I am not supporting human activity pumping the aerosols into the atmosphere. I think that it is unsupportable on the local level and that in itself is reason enough to clean up our act. You don’t mess your own environment just because it is yours to do with as you will.

    Each volcanic eruption pumps more into the atmosphere than many decades of human activity and the world rebounds just fine. Mind you that these are just the minor eruptions we have seen in recent history. Nothing like the prehistoric large scale events. Add to that the catastrophic extraterrestrial impacts our planet has suffered and recovered from. On the global scale, they have been just pinpricks.

    That said, we probably agree that we, as a species, have been living in less than sustainable ways. My personal opinion is that much of what gets proposed as “solutions” are just things that give people the warm fuzzy feeling that they have “done something for the environment” and actually have no real benefit and many times actually create more problems than they solve.

  64. chrisd

    @David #63:

    <Each volcanic eruption pumps more into the atmosphere than many decades of human activity and the world rebounds just fine.>

    I don’t know offhand about particulates, but this is certainly not true of GHGs. It’s not even close. Annual anthropogenic emissions outweigh average annual volcanic emissions by orders of magnitude.

  65. David

    chrisd @64:

    The context of my statement was the magnitude of the events and not the gaseous composition of volcanoes.

    I will agree that if you single out one aspect of the output, the 100-300 million metric tons of CO2 expressed by volcanoes is less than the human output of CO2 at current eruption levels (depending on source of info which only take into account the fairly constant level of vulcanism with only an occasional major eruption ).

    But the system is much more complex than that. Many interactions with other gasses, ozone, ocean water, and other particulates add to the complexity.

    Other than to substitute a more effective power generation that does not produce CO2 (the closest we have is some tiny wind generation and nuclear.) What do you propose as a solution? Solar is not efficient enough. Biofuels still produce the CO2. Nuclear has that whole silly waste problem. Wind has that whole problem of not being dependable and no efficient way to store for the periods without wind. Not to mention our whole infrastructure being built upon fossil fuels.

    Solve those problems and you will be rich enough to buy half the world. May I have a nice island somewhere?

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post.

  66. John Mashey

    #41 Will

    “Vince Whirlwind, Lotharsson, Chris O’Neill, John Mashey: I wager that none of you have actually read anything in the IPCC reports (or better still, the original content). ”

    I normally ignore those with *serious* Dunning-Kruger, but in this case:

    How much will will you wager? I would be happy to take your money.

  67. Will

    I wasn’t going to continue but…

    Chis ONiell and Lothar: I wagered that you hadn’t read it. ChrisD has. I lost my wager, which I admitted to, but it doesn’t make me a liar. I also conceaded (before anyone needed to point it out I might add) that I was being a dick about ‘very likely’ -vs- 90%. Of course it’s not > 95%, which is typically what you would need anywhere else.. but whatever. The relevant point here is that you’re only recourse is name calling. That’s all you can muster.

    Lothar: The phsyics used in the climate models is not the same as calculating the trajectory of a rocket. Much of the data used is based on speculation, and much of the ‘modeling’ is based on over-simplificiation, guesses and estimation. Even ‘simple’ things like accurately (99% accurate) modeling the fluid dynamics within a teaspoon are, to the best of my knowledge, extreamly complex and so far ‘unsolved’.

    Hence, my point about the nobel prizes. There are people who have dedicated their entire careers to modeling and understanding much smaller more controlable experiments. Some of them have even been featured in Discover magazine, but I doubt you get past looking at the pictures.

    It’s is very similar to what wall street does. Yes, there are laws of physics, but thats not really what the models are trying to understand– it’s the emergent behavior. Just like Wall Street. But you don’t understand that and probably never will.

    The hockey stick stuff by M.M, AFAIK, is not what they would consider a climate model. His work and that of the CRU is a whole other thing entirely. There have been some really serious questions raised about their infilling and interpolation methods. The code that was leaked from the CRU is also questionable– because it’s so shoddy. Looks like a student wrote it (not that all students are bad coders).

    Lothar: ‘And do you have more than anecdotal evidence for your original assertion’ I didn’t make the assertion about starving people. David did.

  68. Rob P.

    Will: I’m not as charitable as John Mashey. I would classify your case of D-K as *fatal* rather than just *serious*. It is painfully obvious to the rest of us that you don’t even remotely understand the stuff you’re spouting off about. Even your contorted spelling (“phsyics”) betrays your lack of understanding of the basic principles behind climate science. Go play with the other kids over at WUWT and CA and let the adults discuss the serious matters.

  69. Will

    John Mashey: No surprise the only thing you would bite at is the non-technical one. Too late anyway. Wager was lost, but I’m quite capable of admitting in. Once again you can’t contribute anything beyond character attacks– is that what they teach the Hitler Youth these days? Of course, any one of you could have gone and D/Ld the PDF after the fact, right?

    Rob P: Typical Hitler Youth response. Attack the character not the message. I’m typing quickly on a new laptop (sometimes late at night)– I guess you see no problem defending a numerical transposition in a policy paper when the IPCC does it, but you’ll feel the need to attack one when it’s done on a blog?

    The only thing painfully obvious here is that you’ve been brainwashed. What part of my last post can you actually comment on, troll?

    – Data interpolation?
    – Serious questions raised about M.M.s choices?
    – Climate Models based on over simplification?
    – Climate models trying to express emergent behavior?
    – Accurate modeling of physics on a macro scale very difficult/almost impossible?

    This is getting so boring. With every post I comment on how you trolls can only make character attacks, and every response is.. surprise.. a character attack.

  70. Solar is not efficient enough.

    Not efficient enough for what? And why the presumption that solar efficiency cannot be made higher? Solar produces electricity with low emissions of CO2. Therefore, it can be part of the solution to the greenhouse gas problem.

    Biofuels still produce the CO2.

    I’m not a huge fan of biofuels, but biofuels don’t produce CO2. They capture CO2 from the atmosphere during growth and re-release it when burned. They don’t produce more than would be in the atmosphere in their absense.

    Nuclear has that whole silly waste problem.

    Agreed. But coal, gas and oil have pretty serious waste problems as well. Including the one that’s causing climate change today.

    Wind has that whole problem of not being dependable and no efficient way to store for the periods without wind.

    Wind is perfectly dependable. It just isn’t steady state. So you design your infrastructure to deal with peaks and troughs in supply. We’re already doing similar things to address peaks and troughs in demand.

    Not to mention our whole infrastructure being built upon fossil fuels.

    Well, not the whole infrastructure. The electric grid doesn’t care where the electrons are coming from. And cars that get 50 mpg get around just as well as those that get 5.

  71. Will

    Jinchi: Solar can mean a lot of things but if you covered a typical car with solar panels you wouldn’t generate enough power to move the car. Thats not to say this won’t change, but right now this is the case.

    Biofuels are not free. You still need to cultivate, fertalize, transport and process the crop before it can become a fuel. This all requires energy. I’m not saying they are terrible, just that they are not free.

  72. Rob P.

    “Will”: Your silly repetition of the “Hitler Youth” epithet, coupled with mindless repetition of discredited contrarian rubbish and innuendo makes me think you are in fact a sock-puppet for our Lord Monckton. Either way, nobody is buying your mindless drivel. Go back to what ever hole you came from.

  73. Chris O'Neill

    Will, you said:

    “the 90% is from Phil Jones at the UEA/CRU regarding warming trends.”

    after claiming:

    “A 90% confidence that the world is, on average, slightly warmer now than at the beginning of the 1900’s says NOTHING about the cause.”

    I’m guessing that your “90%” figure is a corruption of the 95% significance figure that related to Phil Jones statement about warming since 1995 as estimated by HadCrut3. In that case your 90% confidence figure about the world warming since the early 1900s is not referring to the same thing and is a lie and you are a liar. Unless you can show where Phil Jones backed your claim then this is not a name-call. It is a statement of fact.

  74. ChrisD

    @will #69:

    Typical Hitler Youth response. Attack the character not the message.

    You don’t see just a wee bit of unintended irony there, eh?

  75. Rob P.

    Chris: In fairness to “Will”, he may not be a liar. I see some support for the alternative interpretation that he’s just incredibly stupid. Sometimes its hard to tell.

  76. David

    Jinchi:

    Hi, thanks for joining us.

    Solar: Current technology is not efficient enough to compete anywhere near the cost of fossil fuels. If they get it up there? I am all for it. (Assuming the cell production doesn’t hide the real environmental cost) Of course production is pretty limited at night.

    Biofuels: Yes, they capture existing carbon and recycle it. As long as you don’t count the energy taken to grow, water, harvest, transport, and process it. Fertilizers are handy as well and they don’t magically appear. And we still have the problem that if it is cheaper for fuel than food, people will starve. I am quite against the whole starving part. Even if they are not food crops, there are a finite number of arable acres. If they are producing biofuels, they are not producing food.

    Wind: Wind farms are cool and I like them. Unfortunately, again current technology is not that good. The biggest problem is not light wind, it is too much wind. They have a small range of usable wind speed in which they function. Without some realistic method of averaging out the power that you alluded to, they don’t scale to city size installations or they are limited to supplemental production. I will admit that there is some promising technology that I have seen reported that looks good. The one where they pump air into underground storage and then use that for the power generation looks interesting. I hope they get things going with it.

    Infrastructure: The power grid is there but at least here in the US, we are stuck with crap for an infrastructure for moving goods. Yeah, we can have lights, tv, and play with our computers but the entire infrastructure for food, goods, transportatoin and a host of other things was foolishly built thinking that there would always be cheap fossil fuels. Yeah, 50mpg cars. Take a look at the cars that are being produced today. How many are in that range? The real sad part is I had a really nice car that got 55 mpg in 1986 or so. Why are they no longer in production and you are thinking you are doing great now to get something now that gets 35 or so?

    I am not against these technologies. I think that the corporations that give lip service to environmental efficiency without delivering are a bunch of liars. Case in point: the whole boggus Energy Star certification fraud that they recently discovered.

    What are we going to do? Drop all the advances we have made in technology and quality of life and jump back in time a thousand years? I don’t think that we should.

    My solution is to continue using the all the technology we have and replace as the other technologies are become realistic. I believe that assigning a punitive set of taxes to cripple the economy to try to pay restitution for some perceived inequity is completely flawed.

  77. Will

    Rob P: So clever how you’ve started using ‘contrarian’. Does that mean I have to stop comparing people to the Nazi’s too?

    Chris O’Neill: You’re kind of right. IIRC he said it was >90%, but lower than 95% (though close to it) without providing the actual number. I rounded down (instead of up) hoping someone might say something about it. So the number does come from Phil Jones. But hey, if I rounded up, would you have been okay with that?

    Anyway, I’m not arguing about warmer / not warmer. I think M.M. comes across like a true-believer (see @1 by Will). In the interview he’s even asked about what, if anything, could disprove the AGW theory and his reply seemed to indicated that NOTHING could disprove it. Chris O’Neill, if finding him a little religious makes me a whacko then color me crazy.

    Chris O’Neill, is M.M now acting spokes person for every scientist on the planet? Is it true that some scientists believe that CO2 is a trailing indicator?

  78. chrisd

    @Will #77:

    You’re kind of right. IIRC he said it was >90%, but lower than 95% (though close to it) without providing the actual number. I rounded down (instead of up) hoping someone might say something about it. So the number does come from Phil Jones. But hey, if I rounded up, would you have been okay with that?

    The problem is that you completely mischaracterized what Jones was talking about. He wasn’t asked whether the world was “slightly warmer now than at the beginning of the 1900’s”, as you claimed. The question was specifically about the period 1995-2009; he was asked if there had been statistically significant global warming since 1995.

    So, you used a hard number that Jones didn’t use, you tossed in the word “slightly” that wasn’t in either the question or the answer, and you got the timespan completely wrong. I don’t think you should be surprised that questions arose regarding the source of your number.

    But of course you were “hoping someone might say something about it,” which is pretty durn close to a dictionary definition of trolling.

  79. Rob P.

    “Will”: denier/contrarian/whatever. I actually prefer Chris D’s label of you as a troll. The point is that nobody here appreciates your astroturf cut-and-paste nonsense. We’re politely asking you to leave, so the sentient beings here can talk amongst themselves.

  80. chrisd

    @Will #77

    In the interview he’s even asked about what, if anything, could disprove the AGW theory and his reply seemed to indicated that NOTHING could disprove it. [I]f finding him a little religious makes me a whacko then color me crazy.

    Well, this didn’t sound like Mann at all, so I went to the interview. Here is the section you’re apparently talking about:

    In fact, decades of work by thousands of scientists around the world pursuing every lead … (most of what scientists spend their time doing is thinking of all the different possible explanations for the phenomena that they observe) now there is literally no evidence that I have ever seen that calls into question the basic radiative properties of greenhouse gases.

    He’s saying here that the basic physics of greenhouse gases is pretty much unassailable based on massive amounts of research and a total lack of any conflicting evidence . I don’t know of anyone who would really disagree with this. But then he goes on to say:

    What scientists actually spend time debating … is issues like feedbacks: What are the processes that can amplify that warming, what are the processes that might diminish that warming? And indeed there is evidence that can be brought to bear that can challenge various existing theories, for example, of … the role that clouds might play as a feedback as the climate warms. … There are questions that are still being actively pursued, but as far as the basic issue of the warming influence of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere, the scientific community moved on from that question decades ago, and we’re pursuing questions that relate much more to the specifics of how the climate will change and how various phenomena might be influenced. [emphasis added]

    This is very, very, very far from saying that nothing can disprove AGW. He says that it’s going to be pretty hard at this point to disprove the physics of greenhouse gases, in the same way that it’s going to be hard to disprove that the earth is round. But the simple physics is not the last word on the matter, so research continues on the overall effect of the physics on our atmosphere, i.e., what the net effect of all the feedbacks will be. The italicized part really says it all.

    There’s nothing “religious” about this.

  81. Will

    Rob P/ChrisD: ChrisD’s first post was a rant on conspiracy theories, and Rob P’s first was about a fatal case of Dunning-Kruger (which is funny given how M.M. comes across in his interview). Classic. Go join Bilbo under the bridge..

    ChrisD: It IS only slightly warmer. Not even 1 C. My local area has seen an average temp increase of 1.02 C over the past 72 years, which is also only slightly warmer.

  82. Will

    ChrisD @80: Thanks for the civil reply, and for the transcript.

    I think the question was:

    ‘What sort of potential evidence might be discovered in the near feature that could possibly falsify the cause of AGW, or what might cast it in doubt’.

    M.M. responds ‘Yeah, in fact……..’ and then what you wrote, but where does he say what, if anything, could disprove AGW?

    Challenging the theory ‘the role that clouds might play as a feedback as the climate warms’ has absolutely nothing to do with AGW. ‘How El Nino might be changed by Global Warming’ also has nothing to do with AGW. Of course both are related to climate science and climate change, but not AGW.

    ‘The scientific community moved on from that question decades ago’. Really? I’ve heard other scientists disagree within the past year.

    It would have been helpful if he could have expanded on the flat-earth analogy. To disprove a round Earth you could put a satellite in space, take a few pictures, and then check the picture to see if the earth is round. Simple enough, right? Is there test for AGW?

  83. Rob P.

    Will: Chris D has been kind and patient with you. I am less patient. You are a liar sir. You lie about Jones, Mann, and everyone else you misrepresent /misquote. That is not acceptable behavior on science-oriented blog. I hope the moderators are reading this.

  84. Nullius in Verba

    80. chrisd,

    Bear in mind that the basic physics of greenhouse gases being unassailable (which is itself a more complicated question than you might think) is a different statement to the primary claim of AGW – that most of the observed warming is due to human-generated greenhouse gases – being unassailable.

    The problem is that the amount of natural climate variability due to other factors is unknown. The weather routinely gets warmer or colder on yearly, 10-year, 50-year, 100-year, 1500-year, 100,000-year time scales. Periods when the temperature was considerably warmer than today, as well as colder than today are well known. So given that warm periods can happen anyway – on observing a particular warm period, how can you tell if it is due to a particular cause? The evidence for natural rises of a similar scale and speed is also pretty much unassailable, and natural variation would also predict that rises such as the one we have seen will occur, so has it been unassailably proven to be natural?

    Certainly, it can be said that CO2 rises will very probably make a positive contribution to temperature rise. Unless there is a feedback mechanism to cancel it out, the greenhouse effect definitely exists.

    The standard calculation says that other things being kept equal, each doubling of CO2 should increase the surface temperature by about 1.1C. Since the CO2 level increased 40% over the 20th century, that implies about 0.5C rise, and if the rise in CO2 continues exponentially at the same rate, another 40% over the 21st century would therefore lead to a prediction of another 0.5C.

    Of course, other things are not equal; there are feedbacks. If these feedbacks happen to be negative, then the above 0.5C could easily be lower. The observed 0.8C rise would have to be mostly due to other sources of variability. The future rise would be undetectable, against the natural background noise.

    So the question of whether AGW can be disproved depends on being able to identify the causes of a specific century-scale weather event, and in particular, the ability to eliminate all possible unknown causes in the climate system. It is an entirely different question to being able to prove or disprove the physics of the greenhouse effect.

  85. chrisd

    ‘The scientific community moved on from that question decades ago’. Really? I’ve heard other scientists disagree within the past year.

    “That question” is the basic “warming influence of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere.”

    What scientists said within the past year that greenhouse gases do not help keep the atmosphere warm?

    Once that question is agreed to (and it has been), and the fact of an anthropogenic increase in GHGs is agreed to (and it has been), then the only way to “disprove” AGW is to find and demonstrate some mechanism by which an increase in warming gases does not lead to an increase in warmth. The only way this can really occur is through some feedback mechanism, and that’s what he talking about, that’s where the research continues.

    Did he mention a specific item of disproving evidence? No. But this was a live interview. This sort of thing happens in virtually every live interview: people wander when speaking off the cuff, and the question doesn’t get explicitly answered. Mann provided the framework of his thinking on the issue.

    But there is an unbridgable chasm between “didn’t provide an example” and “believes there is no example”.

  86. David

    To drift back to the original topic of the post,

    I think that the biggest problem that I have with the position of climate scientists like Dr. Mann and possibly all of the other climate scientists is the establishment of what is “normal”.

    My personal background is in geology. I know that the planet has at times been much colder and much warmer. There have been times when the CO2 and O2 levels have been much different. I do not dispute the fact that it could be even as much as 5C different over the range of the last few thousand years. Maybe it *is* human generated. Their research could quite possibly be right. It could also be wrong. I don’t know. I do not have their entire data set and research and am going to let the peer review system figure that one out. If their methods are wrong, it will eventually be righted. If it is right, it will be vindicated.

    The time scale that they are using for basing their research is much like the Climate vs. Weather problem. Even if they could accurately deduce the entire climate range for the last 100,000 years down to 0.0001C, compared to the geologic time scale covering hundreds of millions of years, it is statistically insignificant. Much like comparing today’s weather versus the climate for the last 1000 years. We do not know the real period of the natural climate cycles. We really do not know where the last 100,000 years fits into one of the cycles. Are we at the beginning or end of a major cooling period? There are also small segments of warming and cooling imposed on the larger cycles. When you look aback at the last 10,000 years since the last small ice age, how long will the current warm period be? Are we in a 10,000 year cycle, a 100,000 year cycle? The dating methods we have that cover periods greater than about 60,000- 80,000 years (the limits for accurate Carbon dating last I heard) you get to dating methods that are accurate within a half a million years or more.

    If humans are generating some change in the climate, how does this affect the natural cycles in the global climate? It is not really even clear what drives the natural swings that bring on ice ages and warming periods. Some may be tipped in one direction or the other by catastrophic events like extraterrestrial impacts and large scale volcanic events. Some can be just bubbles of magma of different composition coming to the surface. Some can be just different compositions of crust being subducted into the mantle. Some can be the continents drifting and altering wind and ocean currents. Maybe solar system or even extra-solar system events. Lots of reasons and even if the current change is driven by human activity, there are countless changes that occurred before we were even standing upright and many other processes going on now.

    The real problem is that they have arbitrarily drawn a line on the graph of the climate temperature and told the world that “THIS IS WHERE IT SHOULD BE” when quite bluntly, they are pulling it out of a hat.

    Maybe we have made some changes that will eradicate humans from the face of the earth. Maybe we might have to upset our lifestyles and run away from a 50M sea level change. Maybe we are on the verge of a 10,000 year ice age. We need to be on the watch studying the climate and be prepared for all eventualities. These changes also might be driven by things we don’t even understand yet. The whole idea that mankind’s adding GHG is the only thing going on is either totally disregarding the real underlying uncertainties or being intentionally disingenuous.

  87. chrisd

    @David 86:

    I think that the biggest problem that I have with the position of climate scientists like Dr. Mann and possibly all of the other climate scientists is the establishment of what is “normal”.

    Nobody says that there is a “normal” climate.

    The whole idea that mankind’s adding GHG is the only thing going on is either totally disregarding the real underlying uncertainties or being intentionally disingenuous.

    Nobody says this, either.

    Double strawman argument. No bonus points, though.

  88. David

    Chrisd:

    I do not agree that it is a strawman argument.

    The entire buzz is centered around GHG as the basis for AGW. The entirety of AGW is based on mankind’s production of GHG. They are not talking about the electrons being moved or buildings blocking the wind. GHG are the basis for the ideas of a carbon tax.

    The whole basis of AGW is warming. If you say it is warmer, you *HAVE* to have a normal for a relation to exist. Warmer than what?

  89. Will

    chrisd:

    I’m not so sure that the ‘basic warming influence of greenhouse gases’ is well understood. There was an excellent interview done with Richard Lindzen and Hadi Dowlatabadi a month or so back, and that is one of the topics they touch upon.
    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/3/13/lindzen-on-tvo.html

    A geologist (IIRC) from one of the universities where I live, as part of a radio segment, gave an excellent talk on CO2 as a trailing indicator. Unfortunately I forget his name, but you could probably find others who share his opinions. My point being that I have heard some seemingly legitimate debate about this.

    I understand that it was a live interview, but in this case he was asked specifically about what could disprove AGW and it looks, to me, like he skirted around the issue. He’s a scientist, not a politican or lawyer, as he says– so why did he answer like a politician or lawyer? I wish he would have just answered the question directly.

    Another point that I would like to raise, because it’s one of the reasons I think he comes across as ‘religous’, is how often he uses the term ‘scientists’ (plural) when referring to himself and the mess that’s going on around him. It comes across as though a challenge directed towards him is a challenge against the entire scientific institution.

  90. chrisd

    The whole basis of AGW is warming. If you say it is warmer, you *HAVE* to have a normal for a relation to exist. Warmer than what?

    Warmer than what? Warmer than it would have been without anthropogenic GHGs.

    This does not imply that there is a “normal climate,” nor does it require a definition of “normal climate.”

    Now, you’ll want to take that and say, “Well, if there’s no ‘normal’, how can AGW be bad? If there’s no ‘normal’, there’s nothing to deviate from. But you must have something in mind when you say that AGW is bad.”

    Yes. We do. The climate that we’d prefer not to deviate from is simply the climate that we’re accustomed to. But noting that we’ve built our entire society around a certain climate, and that we rather like it the way it is, is not the same as saying that this climate is “normal.” We have no reason to believe, and every reason to disbelieve, that this rather pleasant climate is going to hang around forever.

    But our awareness that climate changes naturally doesn’t mean that we should be blasé about changing it ourselves. If I have a car long enough, eventually the windshield is going to crack. That doesn’t make taking a sledgehammer to it meaningless.

  91. chrisd

    @Will 84

    I’m not so sure that the ‘basic warming influence of greenhouse gases’ is well understood. There was an excellent interview done with Richard Lindzen and Hadi Dowlatabadi a month or so back, and that is one of the topics they touch upon.

    That interview is rather long, and I don’t have time to listen to it at the moment. Perhaps you can transcribe the part where Lindzen disputes that CO2 absorbs and emits infrared radiation, because that is what Mann is talking about.

    A geologist (IIRC) from one of the universities where I live, as part of a radio segment, gave an excellent talk on CO2 as a trailing indicator. Unfortunately I forget his name, but you could probably find others who share his opinions. My point being that I have heard some seemingly legitimate debate about this.

    Saying that CO2 is a trailing indicator doesn’t in any way dispute the physics of greenhouse gases. It is a completely different issue.

  92. David

    Chrisd:

    “The climate that we’d prefer not to deviate from is simply the climate that we’re accustomed to. But noting that we’ve built our entire society around a certain climate, and that we rather like it the way it is, is not the same as saying that this climate is “normal.” We have no reason to believe, and every reason to disbelieve, that this rather pleasant climate is going to hang around forever.”

    Your statement is exactly on point but not what the pundits put out. They are presenting the present climate as if it were “the true climate” that we are deviating from.

    It is *that* representation which I take issue with.

    Regardless of the finger pointing as to the “cause” of any climate change, we had better get prepared to play with what we are dealt. Just running around crying “the sky is falling” and we have to do something just to appear “environmentally correct” regardless of whether the corrective measures actually do anything is our biggest problem.

    The track record of the corrective measures already implemented and the planned measures scare the hell out of me.

  93. Will

    @Chrisd 94

    It is rather long but well worth the listen. Nobody disputes that matter can interact with energy (which is kind of what you are saying is the solid proof for AGW).

    One of the many things Lindzen and Dowlatabadi talk about is how clouds (H2O) can both cause cooling AND heating, depending on the circumstances. It’s not so simple a matter as H2O vapour absorbing IR energy (which is the greenhouse effect you are describing) as varying conditions can cause very different outcomes.

    I think Nullius in Verba (@84, @12) already did a good job of addressing the macro effect. It’s unfortunate nobody seems to want to respond to him.

    Regarding the trailing indicator: it certainley disputes the current version of AGW, and that is what is at issue here.

  94. Rob P.

    David: do you really not get it? Its a basic point that is being made, and Chris D has already spelled it out for you. We are highly adapted to the current climate, including the locations of our cities relative to coastlines, position of large population centers relative to critical water and food resources, etc. Dramatic changes taking place on timescales faster than we or the natural systems we rely upon can adapt, is a threat. You’re being obtuse–is it intentional? I think it is. Classic concern trolling.

    Will: I’ve mostly given up on you, though glad to see that Chris D is schooling you on some of the basics. Regarding your complaint about MM referring to the attacks again science in the plural, it is obvious that the recent attacks have been directed at the entirety of the climate research community, the IPCC, the fundamental reliability of the surface temperature record, the validity of the models, etc. To pretend otherwise betrays your attempt to have us believe that there is shred of honesty in anything you have to say. Troll of the lowest variety.

  95. Nullius in Verba

    “We are highly adapted to the current climate,”

    Which climate are we adapted to? The one in Canada? Or the one in Brazil? Or the one in North Africa? Or the one in Nepal? Or the one in Bangladesh?

    Did you mean “adapted”, or “adaptable”?

  96. Rob P.

    Nullius in Cerebrum: Give me a break. I’ll repeat my “You’re being obtuse–is it intentional?” comment. Anyone w/ half a brain understood the implicit point: different cultures have adapted to whatever conditions prevailed *locally*. And sea level rise inundates coastal settlements regardless of where they are. Did I really have to explain these things? I don’t think so.

    The adults have now officially fled this thread. You troll kids can stick around if you’d like.

  97. Chris O'Neill

    Will:

    “IIRC he said it was >90%, but lower than 95% (though close to it) without providing the actual number. I rounded down (instead of up) hoping someone might say something about it. So the number does come from Phil Jones.”

    You just don’t pay attention, do you? Phil Jones statement was about warming SINCE 1995. Your statement was about warming since “the beginning of the 1900’s”. You seem to have the bizarre notion that 1995 occurred at the beginning of the 1900s. In that case Rob P.’s interpretation that you are incredibly stupid is the right one. Thank you for showing us that someone incredibly stupid does not accept climate science.

  98. David

    RobP:

    Actually, coming onto this thread has been fun. We all are tolls. Just like you, when we click that submit comment, we know that the other side is not going to be convinced of anything. We all are sharpening our argumentative skills. Some are getting better. Some are repetitively clinging to the old ones. You have devolved to the “And your mother stinks too” argument. It was a good move switching from the bilbo name to RobP, though. Once things got hot coming in with a new persona dropped the baggage. Take a look at

    http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/

    It has some better definitions of some of the argumentative fallacies than the ones you have been trying to use. Good stuff to be found there.

    Will:

    See, how keeping it calm and positive lets them embarrass themselves? Dropping the nazi thing gave them nothing to hold on to? The later posts were much better on point and they had to drill in to trivial errors?

    Chrisd:

    Congratuations sir. Good show. A few shaky points but good recovery. There were a few times you could have drilled in on some mistakes I made when I tried to answer too quickly that you missed. I was worried that you had picked up on them. The one where I accidentally said the problem with wind generation was not enough wind was pretty glaring. I apologize. That was stupid on my part. Again, very good show overall though.

    Nullis in Verba:

    Touche sir. You have obviously played before.

    Well, this thread has gotten a bit long to have to keep scrolling through. I suggest we take a break and wait for the next one.

    Again, Good thread gentlemen. Maybe for the next thread, we can switch sides. It can add a new dimension to have to argue for the things you disagree with.

  99. Phil Jones statement was about warming SINCE 1995. Your statement was about warming since “the beginning of the 1900’s”.

    It’s even worse than that. There has absolutely been warming since 1995. The question put to Jones was whether that increase over the last 15 years was enough in and of itself to prove that we are experiencing a long term global warming trend. It just misses the 95% statistical confidence level.

  100. John

    The “vindication” came from Penn State, which is dependent on public funding for research. What are they going to say? “We scammed you out of a few million dollars, so can you increase funding next year?”.When a REALLY INDEPENDENT investigates Mann I will consider looking at it, not before.

  101. Chris O'Neill

    John:

    “The “vindication” came from Penn State, which is dependent on public funding for research. What are they going to say? “We scammed you out of a few million dollars, so can you increase funding next year?”.”

    That’s right, it’s part of the biggest conspiracy of all time.

  102. Will

    Jinchi: That was not the question– the question was ‘Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming’. He never did provide a number, but said it was ‘close’. Now you are in the same boat as me. Welcome aboard.

    Chris O’Neill: Would you at least agree that the term ‘vindication’ is perhaps overstating the facts? The report did not clear him of all charges and recommended further investigation.

    Chris O’Neill, I would really like to know your opinion about something. I think there are some legitimate questions and concerns that really do not have anything to do with my position on AGW. Unfortunately every time one of them gets raised, the OP usually gets attacked by the Disciples of Man(n) (that’s supposed to be funny for everyone).

    For example:

    On February 10, 2010, M.M. writes:
    ‘Those same models project far more profound and potentially damaging impacts of climate change if action is not taken to stabilize greenhouse gas levels this next decade.’

    Then in his interview with Judith Currey on April 10, 2010:
    ‘I think the climate models are becoming quite sophisticated. We learn a lot from the simulations. But you have to keep in mind that these are scenario simulations. They’re not really forecasts. ‘

    I have to ask:
    A simulation that does not forecast is what, exactly?
    If the model cannot forecast, then how can you know we need to act?
    If the model cannot forecast then how can you measure its error?

    i.e. A model of gravity that lets apples fall up is still forcasting up-falling apples for a given G (or some other parameter).

    It sounds like he is trying to have his cake and eat it too. The model cannot forecast (i.e. no need for an emperical measurement of accuracy) but it’s enough that we need to act now?

    I do not think it unreasonable for the people who will ultimately be affected by this ‘action’ to want to put the situation under a microscope. Do you see a gaping flaw with what I am asking?

  103. Will

    NOTE: When I say ‘cannot’ forecast, I mean ‘is not for making’.

  104. Marcel Kincaid

    Jinchi: That was not the question

    Yes, actually, it is — it’s what “statistically significant” means in regard to trends. The trend since 1995 just misses — it’s at about the 93% confidence level rather than 95%; but the trend since 1994 is over the 95% confidence level.

    Now you are in the same boat as me.

    What boat is that? Jinchi knows what he’s talking about and isn’t throwing up erroneous denialist talking points one after the other.

    Regarding the trailing indicator: it certainley disputes the current version of AGW, and that is what is at issue here.

    It does no such thing; that’s like saying that, if evolution were true, we would expect to see dogs giving birth to cats. It reflects ignorance about the theory and makes claims about what the theory predicts that are simply false.

    I’m not so sure that the ‘basic warming influence of greenhouse gases’ is well understood.

    So what if you aren’t? It is well understood, and if you weren’t intellectually lazy and committed to only listening to professional obfuscators like Lindzen you would learn about it.

  105. Will

    Marcel @104: I quoted the question directly. If you have another version that was published elsewhere that differs from the one I quoted, please post a reference.

    Re trailing indicator:
    That is a very poor example. The theory of evolution does not make any predictions about what the structure of a species will look like after a given period of time. It would neither confirm nor deny that a dog could give birth to a cat (fyi: there are organisms which give ‘birth’ to other species through parasitic relationships). AGW via the IPCC makes plenty of predictions on how it’s subject will look after a given period of time.

  106. Lotharsson

    Came back to this thread after a couple of weeks to see an awful lot of trolling on this thread, but perhaps one point is worth a quick post:

    Re trailing indicator…

    Anyone who’s studied (say) automatic control theory in engineering, or some aspects of science, will know that one can externally drive a feedback mechanism.

    Here’s a simplified analogy, not meant to be exact, but merely to illuminate the key insight:

    If I ignite a match by striking it (cause) I get heat (effect). Or as some might put it, “heat is a trailing indicator of ignition”.

    But if I heat a match enough (cause), I get ignition (effect) (which leads to more heat). Or as some might put it, in this case “heat is a leading indicator of ignition (which leads to a feedback producing even more heat)”.

    As I said, don’t try to map this exactly onto climate change. It’s an analogy. But the lightbulb should go on – a trailing indicator in one circumstance can be forced to lead in another.

  107. Will

    Lotharsson @106: Thank you for the reply. Your example is a good one I think, and I agree with you in the sample you provided.

    Another way of looking at it could be like this: A house is on fire. A match inside the house ignites due to the heat. How much heat did the match add, and is it directly responsible for melting the candles in the room next door?

    I realize that there are people trying to sort it out, but where is the smoking-gun of proof? Why couldn’t water-vapor from the meltic ice be causing global warming? Isn’t that just as plausible? Maybe a poor example on my part, but I would think there could be any number of factors.

  108. Lotharsson

    “Why couldn’t water-vapor from the meltic ice be causing global warming?”

    That’s the sort of question “attribution” studies address. The IPCC has some reporting on them. Water vapour is a very important agent, but we have a pretty good idea of how strong that effect is – and it’s not enough on its own. We also have a pretty good idea of how strong the effect of added CO2 is, and we can’t explain the observed warming without it – especially seeing recently some of the other factors (e.g. solar radiation levels) are currently acting to make the climate cooler than they otherwise would, but it’s still much warmer than normal.

    Here’s a greatly simplified analysis, not meant to be particularly accurate or exhaustive – but useful because it gives readers some idea of the most simplistic level of analysis you can bring to bear on your question about water vapour – http://tamino.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/not-computer-models/. Climate scientists tend to do more complex analyses taking into account more factors, variations and interactions…

  109. Will

    Lotharson @108: Appreciate the link. That is probably the best explanation I’ve seen so far.

    I was using water vapour as an example, although the explanation you provided does a good job at illustrating my point.

    In the example, Tamino is using (derived/estimated?) forcing data from GISS. It would stand to reason that his conclusion, derived from GISS data, will ultimately fit to the GISS data. Am I way off on this?

    As you said, climate models are also created in a simlar, though more sophisticated, manner: A series of approximations is used to derive a function that maps X to Y. Is this a fairly accurate statement?

    The kicker is that in both cases the model will do poorly against unseen data. If they did then nobody would have to say that the models aren’t for forcasting.

    From my perspective this is a strong indication of overfitting. Essentially the modeller has done an amazingly good job at describing what’s in front of them, but missed the underlying nuances of the system as a whole.

    The issue arises when the model is used as evidence for, or against, a particular influence. In the presence of overfitting it’s more likely that the model has not captured all of the relevant factors– either through absence of data or absence of functionality.

    To put it another way: one could accurately describe the same temperature plot using a DCT and a Fourier transform. This doesn’t mean that JPEG is the answer to whole-earth simulations.

    I’m not at all claiming the models are useless (in fact, I’d like to see a lot more work done in this area)– I’m claiming that they cannot, at this point, be used as evidence.

    So in the absence of ‘model evidence’, how do you know that it’s not water vapour, volcanoes, microbes, coal fires, tectonic activity, etc….?

  110. Lotharsson

    “It would stand to reason that his conclusion, derived from GISS data, will ultimately fit to the GISS data.”

    No, that does not follow. You aren’t considering the difference between dependent and independent variables.

    Separately measuring independent variables (such as forcings) and (believed-to-be-for-basic-physical-reasons) dependent variables (such as global temperatures) does not mean you end up with an inappropriate model or overfitting or whatever, even if the same umbrella organisation performs both types of measurements.

    The very difficult job is to produce a model that does quite well at explaining how the believed-dependent observations are explained in large part by the independent variables. And if you’re still paranoid, use (say) the GISS forcings (independent) in a model that attempts to explain HadCRUT surface temperature reconstructions (dependent, from a different organisation) – or even atmospheric records such as UAH and RSS (from other organisations).

    Note that even in the webpage I linked to there are a heap of demonstrated ways for an attempted fit to be very poor.

    “The kicker is that in both cases the model will do poorly against unseen data.”

    If it’s seriously wrong it certainly will! And there are so many ways to get the modelling wrong, and few parameters that you can really tweak, and a wealth of data to test against, that when you get a reasonably good fit across a good range of tests you have reasonable confidence that you’ve captured something about reality with reasonable fidelity.

    So to get to that point, you test it against some of the known independent data without using the related dependent data to see how well it predicts the dependent variables. In other words you blind the model to some of the dependent data you know about (thus making it “unseen” in your terms) and see how well it reproduces it. More formally you “backtest” or “hindcast” by running the model from a given point T in the past using the measured initial climate state at time T and the forcings (independent variables) from time T to T+N, and see how well it predicts the measured values of dependent variables (e.g. various types of global temperatures) over the period T..T+N. You do this for different values of T to gain more confidence that you haven’t just got very lucky at overfitting.

    (This is quite a simplified description – the real scientists run all sorts of tests and look at all sorts of dependent data, and have to deal with the fact that climate is a boundary within which chaotic weather trajectories occur so at a minimum multiple executions and statistical tests are necessary to figure out how well the models reproduce dependent observations…but you hopefully get the picture.)

    “So in the absence of ‘model evidence’, how do you know that it’s not water vapour, volcanoes, microbes, coal fires, tectonic activity, etc….?”

    A combination of physical measurements, studies in physics (and other sciences) and attribution studies can place bounds on many of these effects, showing that they do not have a big enough energy budget impact to explain the warming. It’s always possible there’s something we don’t know about these effects – or some other effect – that makes them bigger than we believe, but it’s not very likely given the amount of study undertaken (and given constraints on climate sensitivity imposed by observations of past climatic conditions). The biggest uncertainty is the cloud feedback, but this (roughly speaking) affects the climate sensitivity, not the conclusion that CO2 is by far the biggest anthropogenic climate influence.

    And look at the page I sent you to earlier. What do you think the chances are that you can find an explanation for the warming based on all of those factors, but NOT based on anthropogenic influences in particular CO2)? That example should give you an idea how unlikely that is given the observational data we have.

    But in the end ruling out models as evidence is not optimal either – ultimately models are attempting to capture what we know about physics and the interconnection between various effects. It’s just a more sophisticated mechanism to assess the physics.

  111. Will

    Lotharsson @110:

    I’m still not following. I could be missing something obvious (very possible– my background is not in physics simulations). Please bear with me.

    Taminos models produce results with varying levels of error. He selects the best model using a greedy evaluation criteria– the model that gives the lowest error against the entire series. I would assume the same is (generally) true of the more complex models.

    This does not guarantee (or even suggest) that the selected model is the best one, only that it is the best one for the data series provided.

    It is very possible that one of the other models is a more accurate description of the system as whole, even though it ignores aspects that cause variations in the training series. The only way to determine this is to run the model against future data.

    In the example you provided, about the independant sets: From the perspective of function approximation, how is this different than adding noise to the original data and re-running the model? This would help determinine the mean error of the interpolation but I do not see how it would help mitigate overfitting. Presumably the same factors affect temperature no matter who collects the measurements.

    As I understand it the models are not constructed exclusively using data from 1900 – 1980 (for example), and then tested against 1981 – 2010 (for example). From what I have read it appears that the models are constructed using all available data. If this is the case, isolating 1985 – 1987 (T[85…87]) to use as a test sample will give you a measure of how well the data has been interpolated over that given period, but not how well the model predicts (or ‘understands’) the system.

    “If it’s seriously wrong it certainly will! And there are so many ways to get the modelling wrong, and few parameters that you can really tweak, and a wealth of data to test against”

    I do not agree. There are many tweakable parameters. The models use many approximations that could radically affect their results due to the chaotic nature of the system. Without even getting in to the sciency bits, we know that horizontal grid size, vertical grid size, and the time step used for calculations are highly tuneable.

    “when you get a reasonably good fit across a good range of tests you have reasonable confidence that you’ve captured something about reality with reasonable fidelity.”

    Are we interpolating values or approximating a function? If we’re interpolating then you are correct in everything you have said. If we are approximating a function then we need to test the function against future data.

    Would you agree that if the models are not able to predict future events then the model is either a) missing parameters, b) missing data, or c) both?

    AFAIK the models are not able to reliably predict future events. It is my (possibly poor) understanding that they demonstrate negative skill.

  112. Lotharsson

    Let’s start with this:

    “AFAIK the models are not able to reliably predict future events.”

    It’s self-contradictory to say you know the predictions are not reliable if you also argue we haven’t waited long enough for data that post-dates the model to see if they’re reliable (“…we need to test the function against future data.”)

    **Which is it**? It can’t be both. Answering this question would be fruitful, otherwise you’re putting the models in a Catch-22.

    And when answering the question, it’s useful to specify HOW you assess whether a prediction has succeeded or failed – and whether that’s even a binary question or not, and whether predictions are single-valued or multi-valued.

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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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