House of Representatives Votes to Defund IPCC

By Chris Mooney | February 19, 2011 10:48 am

Amid invocations of “ClimateGate,” House Republicans have voted to abandon the work of this leading, and celebrated, international scientific body, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. The vote was 244-179, with Republicans charging that the IPCC would receive an undeserved $ 13 million in the president’s next budget. I’m not clear on the true funding amount because I’m seeing contradictory figures–but it’s clearly tiny in the context of total federal spending.

Rick Piltz has much more about how the debate went down. It’s pretty staggering that we’re now at a point where the most definitive outlet for information about the state of the climate is being not only rejected, but defunded, on partisan grounds.

Comments (140)

  1. From the Union of Concerned Scientists:
    “… according to the IPCC, its total projected budget for 2011 is less than $10 million (see Table 9). Since the IPCC’s inception, U.S. funding has fluctuated between about $200,000 and $5.6 million depending on the year (see Table 2).”
    As you point out, it is a ridiculously small sum in the larger picture of U.S. deficit woes.

  2. I hope that no one is surprised by this. These attacks will continue unabated for the next two years, at a minimum. Then, imagine if the elections of 2012 add another 10 like Rand Paul or Jim Inhofe to the Senate.

    The time for our electeds to make a principled stand is long past. I am still puzzled as to why the politicians who make the most noise about family values are also the once who seem to hate our grandchildren.

  3. I agree it’s not an important issue for the budget deficit. It is a matter of principle not to fund international organized crime.

  4. Huub Bakker

    “… seem to hate our grandchildren.”

    Try a little objectivity for a change. Do you really believe everything you are told without checking anything for yourself? IF man-made global warming caused problems for our grandchildren, which despite $79 billion in research spending by the US over 20 years is still only speculation, then we would need to act. However, we need look no further than the economic problems in Spain, the EU and California to see how unfettered subsidies on green energy, pogroms against coal and oil industries and ineffective taxes on CO2 will cause problems for our grandchildren.

    When seen in this light, the Republicans can be seen to be firmly pro-science.

    From Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of Working group III of the IPCC “Basically it’s a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization. The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War…. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.”

  5. Katharine

    Motl, stick to physics.

  6. Jody

    Shocking that people still deny climate change is man made. Even if carbon emissions aren’t causing global warming – which all credible scientific evidence indicates they are they are – the other issues associated with carbon release are not in question. Ocean acidification is absolutely caused by atmospheric carbon increases, that is not even debated by the most radical sciencephobes. The fact that people even think it’s possible that putting tons of carbon into the air every year doesn’t do anything is incredible. Conservatives must really believe that allowing the earth to die will bring about the rapture they’ve always wanted. There will be a reckoning.

  7. Smoke TNT

    “Even if carbon emissions aren’t causing global warming – which all credible scientific evidence indicates they are they are –”

    Share this evidence, please.

  8. Mike

    Thank goodness that Congress is defunding this garbage. AGW is a transparent scam, and I hope (and trust) that Congress will soon be holding hearings on scientists’ fraudulent misuse of public funds (e.g. Michael Mann) and making appropriate referrals to the Justic Department for prosecution.

    Scientists who fake/conceal data, rig peer review, and conspire to evade FOIA laws (Clkimategate e-mails) are criminals, and should prosecuted with vigor.

  9. Jon

    Wow, quite a scam, Mike. How did they rope in all these scientific institutions?:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change#Statements_by_concurring_organizations

    (Keep scrolling. You can stop at “dissenting organizations,” because there aren’t any.)

  10. Nullius in Verba

    #8,

    For items 5 and 6 on your linked list, can you tell me why the paper claimed the reconstruction passed the r-squared cross validation tests when it hadn’t? Can you explain why there are more than a dozen series where data was pasted into the wrong column? Can you tell me why the result depended almost entirely on a small group of Bristlecone pines from one small corner of the United States when it was already known and published in the literature that they were not responding to temperature? And indeed, that you could get two entirely different histories in different cores taken from the same tree? Can you tell me how all of this got past peer review, the IPCC lead author for the paleoclimate chapter, and the world’s collected climate scientists (like those in your list) for five years? And how you missed all this excitement and are still citing it as “evidence” seven years later?

    How is this possible, Jon? How?

  11. Huub Bakker

    Jody

    “all credible scientific evidence”

    People who use this line have never taken an objective look at the evidence itself but simply parrot what “experts” have told them. It adds nothing to the discussion since it has about the same weight as unsubstantiated rumour. I have yet to see any evidence that disproves the null hypothesis that the recent global warming (which stopped in 1998) can be explained by natural climate variation. And, no, I don’t include computer models as evidence of anything, nor does the null hypothesis admit simple evidence of warming.

    Jon

    All the studies on the page you mention are before 2000. Here are two on ocean acidification from the last few years.

    Ocean Acidification and Marine Diatoms
    Reference: Wu, Y., Gao, K. and Riebesell, U. 2010. CO2-induced seawater acidification affects physiological performance of the marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum. Biogeosciences 7: 2915-2923.

    Ocean Acidification and Marine Coccolithophores
    Reference: Halloran, P.R., Hall, I.R., Colmenero-Hidalgo, E. and Rickaby, R.E.M. 2008. Evidence for a multi-species coccolith volume change over the past two centuries: understanding a potential ocean acidification response. Biogeosciences 5: 1651-1655.

  12. Nullius in Verba

    #6,

    Jody, you believe in science. Can you tell me what the atmospheric concentration of CO2 was at the time that molluscs and corals first evolved? Has anyone ever told you?

  13. Jon

    …recent global warming (which stopped in 1998) …

    If this isn’t a warming trend, then what is it?

    http://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/images/906_2010dataset.PNG

  14. Nullius in Verba

    “If this isn’t a warming trend, then what is it?”

    Possibly a case of ARIMA-process “weather”, which can show that sort of behaviour even when there is no trend.

    And of course, your graph stops going up in 1998…

  15. Sean McCorkle

    @9

    …and conspire to evade FOIA laws…

    Since the FOIA requests were used essentially as denial-of-service attacks, the laws clearly need to be reviewed and modified to prevent any more such abuse of what were intended to be good-government laws.

  16. Huub Bakker

    Jon

    Wow! You actually believe what you see on Wikipedia is any form of evidence? Look at people like William Connelly (one of the Hockey Stick Team) to see why not. He was finally banned from being an administrator for his efforts.

    Stop resorting to appeals to authority and so us some REAL evidence for what you say.

    As to conspiracies and the like. It only takes a small group of scientists to steer the ship, many more will jump on board for the funding. Many more have no interest and assume that the science is being done properly (that was me). Politicians are usually in it for the control it gives them and would rather not question the science at all, thank you very much.

    Throw in mainstream media that is lumped into a few large media corporations that have their own agendas (look at the BBC that only advertises positions in the leftwing papers), have tossed out all their reporters with science qualifications because they cost too much, and like “the Earth is doomed” stories because they sell much better. Quote some imbecilic statements like “the science is uncontrovertible” (Nothing in science is incontrovertible!), “there is a consensus” (Consensus is something that usually holds scientific progress back until a Galileo, Newton or Einstein comes along.), that scepticism is anything less than a basic requirement of a scientist, or that anyone who displays scepticism is somehow on par with a holocaust denier and you have the situation before Climategate last year.

    Fortunately the science is speaking for itself and, as people take it on board, the global warming madness is abating. The vote in the House is yet another good omen on the way to sanity.

  17. Huub Bakker

    Jon,

    Read my lips “which stopped in 1998″. Now look at your plot again.

    Sean,

    I don’t call a handful of requests over a two year period “denial-of-service”. Yes, the was a point where people responded to a blog suggestion and sent in a number of requests but, reading from the Climategate emails, they CRU group spent far more time trying to find ways to evade them than it would have cost them to fulfill them.

  18. Nullius in Verba

    “Since the FOIA requests were used essentially as denial-of-service attacks,…”

    No they weren’t.

    And how does that work when the conspiring to evade the FOIA legislation started long before any FOI requests had been received?

  19. Sean McCorkle

    @11

    … recent global warming (which stopped in 1998) can be explained by …

    stopped in 1998? You’re claiming 2010 and 2005 were not hotter than 1998?

    can be explained by natural climate variation.

    Please explain: so what are the natural causes? Whatever they are, they’ve got to be physical. Energy has to be conserved, and the energy budget is purely radiative. Its not variation in solar flux – thats been flat to within ~0.15 percent since we’ve been observing it. There already IS an increased trapping of IR radiation caused by the increased CO2 levels and the observed temperature rise is roughly comparable to whats expected from that term. What are you claiming are the causes?

  20. Sean McCorkle

    @16
    I don’t call a handful of requests over a two year period “denial-of-service”

    I do call 40 FOIA requests in one weekend a denial-of-service attack. If the request is for all data – how many person-hours does it take to photocopy how many pages of how many logbooks times 40? How much digital data is requested – assuming $100 US a pop for HD drives, 40 requests can be a budget-buster for a small grant right there. And thats not including all the time needed for the legal dept. vetting process, pouring through all the collected material and logging etc.

  21. Nullius in Verba

    “Please explain: so what are the natural causes? Whatever they are, they’ve got to be physical.”

    Nobody knows for sure. Climate is complicated. But one possibility is changes in cloudiness. Recent satellite data has shown significant longer-term variations that drive temperature change over the oceans. But the satellites haven’t been up long enough, and don’t have the resolution to be certain.

    See for example Spencer and Braswell 2010.

  22. Nullius in Verba

    “If the request is for all data – how many person-hours does it take to photocopy how many pages of how many logbooks times 40? How much digital data is requested – assuming $100 US a pop for HD drives, 40 requests can be a budget-buster for a small grant right there.”

    Errr.. No.

    What happened was that a single request was made for some data. It was refused on the grounds that agreements with the national met office sources forbade passing it on to anyone.

    When it was discovered that the data had just been passed on (privately) to another researcher, a single request for this passed-on data was made. It was refused on the grounds that they had agreements with the national met offices sources forbidding non-academic use.

    This sounded very peculiar. In response to this, the 50-odd requests were made, requesting the details of these agreements. Each request was for a group of 5 countries, so they couldn’t try to refuse one on the grounds that it was too much work.

    The response to this took all of half an hour to ‘comply’ with, putting up a paragraph on the website to explain that they didn’t have any such agreements – they claimed to have lost track of them during an office move. None of the three agreements they put up had any wording specifically excluding non-academics.

    The requested data still hasn’t been released.

    Furthermore, the amount of work involved is not an excuse for breaking the law. Can I refuse to comply with the EPA anti-pollution regulations, on the basis that it constitutes a “denial of service attack” distracting me from my core business? Compared to the rate at which many other local government departments get and have to respond to FOI requests, 50 is not significant. And it wouldn’t have happened at all if CRU hadn’t persistently tried to evade their responsibilities under the act.

  23. Huub Bakker

    Sean,

    I wouldn’t know if 2010 and 2005 are hotter or not and nobody else does either. That’s because the difference of a few hundredths of a degree is well within the limits of uncertainty, which are in the order of tenths of a degree at best. Besides it’s the trend that matters not the peak and the trend is flat.

    My statement on FOI requests is true. I admitted that there was a spike in requests sparked by a suggestion in a blog but you wish to only consider that spike. When you are politely asked by a researcher if they can have a copy of the raw and processed data that you used to publish a journal paper, when that data is required to be posted on a site and available by the rules of the journal, when that data is paid for by the taxpayer and when that data is freely given to your ‘mates’ and when you refuse to give up that data, even in the face of an FOI, then I don’t care how may requests you get. It would take 2 minutes to email the same file you sent to your ‘mates’.

    “explained by natural causes”

    You know the interesting thing about a null hypothesis is that you don’t have to prove it’s true, you have to prove it is false. I don’t have to prove that global warming is caused by natural causes, you would have to prove that it is NOT caused by natural causes. That means you have to show that NO natural cause could have caused it.

    However, I could point you at the first half of the plot that Jon helpfully pointed us to –
    http://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/images/906_2010dataset.PNG
    – and ask what caused the warming before the second world war, because that was definitely not caused by CO2. You can see by looking, and by statistical means that there is no real difference between the warming period before the second world war and the one after.

    There is a much better correlation between global temperature and the Total Solar Insolation or the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillations than there is with CO2. I don’t care whether the solar flux has been with 0.15% of flat, the correlation is there and since the link is suspected to be cosmic gamma ray penetration of the Earth’s atmosphere it doesn’t have to change much. Now prove to me that these cannot be the cause of the warming in the second half of last century.

    “roughly comparable to what’s expected from that term”

    What’s expected depends entirely on what you consider the feedback to be. The IPCC says that the feedback is a large positive number, which I, professionally, find hard to believe. This would imply an unstable system and the Earth’s temperature over the last 4 billion years has been incredibly stable. The latest papers I’ve glanced at are quoting negative feedbacks. Either way the temperatures over the last decade are falling further and further below that predicted by the IPCC computer predictions.

    “Energy has to be conserved”

    Indeed it does but, considering that the heat has to go somewhere and there is nowhere for it to go, this is a point against global warming isn’t it? Remember Trenberth’s statement that it was a tragedy that they couldn’t find the missing heat? It’s still not there.

  24. Jon

    Huub: I wouldn’t know if 2010 and 2005 are hotter or not and nobody else does either. That’s because the difference of a few hundredths of a degree is well within the limits of uncertainty, which are in the order of tenths of a degree at best.

    You say with confidence that the data shows that “warming stopped in 1998″ (I will stifle a laugh, but that’s what you said) but then you go on to say 2010 and 2005 temperatures can’t be determined with confidence?

    Hmmm…

  25. genealogymaster

    Recently we were party to a mess with peer review. There is definitely a different way in which papers by the team are handled and others. If you don’t believe the religious lines then you don’t get published.

  26. J Bowers

    @ 16 Sean McCorkle

    Indeed…
    ______________________________________________________________
    # Steven Mosher Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 7:53 am

    […]

    WRT FOIA spamming I actaully orchestrated making sure that each country was covered…
    ______________________________________________________________

    http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/04/23/an-inconvenient-provocateur/#comment-4219

  27. J Bowers

    24. genealogymaster — ” If you don’t believe the religious lines then you don’t get published.”

    Cite one of these blocked papers.

  28. Huub Bakker

    Jon,

    “I will stifle a laugh”

    Hate to make you laugh but I do hope you buck up your ideas. Surely you know the difference between the uncertainty of a trend and the uncertainty of a single point. Here’s a more detailed plot of the more recent temperatures, plotted monthly.

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/

    Now, you can argue what the temperature for each year is but you would be hard pressed to draw any line through the years since 1998 that was not approaching flat or falling. You may note that 1998 and 2010 are both very warm years. This is due to the El Nino events in these years. (Note that this plot, from the UAH satellite data, shows 1998 as the hottest year with 2005 nowhere close but I’ll not argue that point as I don’t think it is important.)

  29. J Bowers

    ‘Tough action on climate change is ‘cost-effective’, EU report shows’

    “Higher emissions targets are more efficient, according to a draft policy document setting out a low-carbon roadmap to 2050″

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/feb/18/climate-change-action-cost-effective

  30. J Bowers

    27. Huub Bakker — “Now, you can argue what the temperature for each year is but you would be hard pressed to draw any line through the years since 1998 that was not approaching flat or falling. You may note that 1998 and 2010 are both very warm years. This is due to the El Nino events in these years. .”

    Ummm…

    Phil Jones was Wrong

    Wrong about what, you wonder? During an interview for the BBC he was asked, “Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?” Jones replied, “Yes, but only just.”

    Sorry, Phil, I disagree.

    Jones based his statement on straightforward analysis of the data and reported his result honestly…
    […]
    But by removing the influence of exogenous factors like el Nino, volcanic eruptions, and solar variation…., you find that yes, Virginia, the trend since 1995 is statistically significant. And that’s true for all 5 major data sets, including the HadCRUT3v data set from Phil Jones’s organization.
    […]
    Not only is the warming since 1995 statistically significant, the warming since 2000 is as well!

    I believe that includes Roy Spencer’s favourite, UAH, too ;)

  31. Wonderful news. Men of principal at last. I can’t wait for the 2012 election or should I call it the 2012 bloodbath?

    Pointman

  32. For Huub Baker:

    If you want REAL evidence, explain why the stratosphere (that’s the highest layer of the atmosphere) is cooling, without resorting to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the troposphere.

    Take your time and do your online research well. Please report your results here. If you have difficulty with this, feel free to reply and I will provide some informative Web sites.

    As for the subject of the thread: I’m nauseous at the level of science illiteracy this represents. Truly saddened and sickened.

  33. Wil

    Here are excerpts from an article yesterday, which says that 16 different U.S. government agencies spent $8.7 billion studying global warming, last year alone! This does not include colleges and universities.

    According to the article, a large part of NASA’s budget was spent studying global warming (and not space). I do not know how much science money NASA also spent flying around the world trying to make Muslims feel better about science, per the President’s orders last year. It’s a pity America has lost the ability to put a person into low earth orbit, and does not even have definite plans as to doing that ever again.

    The article also describes how the Goddard Institute for Space Studies changed their own published historical climate data in order to make recent decades appear to be warming. This is not space science, or science at all. It is simply in-your-face, shameless lying and cheating.

    “Members of Congress are asking something novel of NASA: to actually study space, not global warming. Representatives have just sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) and Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) asking for NASA to launch their efforts in a new direction — the old one.

    For many years, NASA has been spending vast sums of money to study global warming, despite the efforts already undertaken at other federal agencies where such research is more appropriate. The letter asks that NASA refocus on what it was created to do, which is to maintain and develop our space program.

    The amount of money being spent to study global warming, as a percentage of NASA’s budget, is startling — especially when one considers this is not part of NASA’s original mission. In budget year 2010, NASA spent 7.5% of its funding — over $1B — to study global warming. On top of that — the vast majority of federal stimulus money given to NASA in 2010 was spent on studying global warming.

    As a whole, the U.S. federal government has spent $8.7 billion dollars on global warming studies — just in the past year. Many of the sixteen separate agencies doing this work were performing redundant research.

    The principal arm of global warming research for NASA is the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). The homepage of GISS states:

    Research at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) emphasizes a broad study of global change.

    No mention of anything to do with space exploration. How odd. The overview continues:

    … which is an interdisciplinary initiative addressing natural and man-made changes in our environment that occur on various time scales — from one-time forcings such as volcanic explosions, to seasonal and annual effects such as El Niño, and on up to the millennia of ice ages — and that affect the habitability of our planet.

    Under the section titled “More Research News & Features,” there are seven different news items, all dealing with global warming. There is nothing about space or manned space missions or anything at all up there.

    The shift of the GISS research effort is mysterious, but so is the trend of their long-term temperature records. In the late 1990s, GISS published a graph of the United States yearly average temperature from 1880 to 1998. From the graph it is clear that 1934 is nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer than 1998, a very substantial amount. In fact, the graph ranked the four warmest years in order as: 1934, 1921, 1931, and 1998. But by 2009, an updated version of the graph shows some dramatic and remarkable changes: 1934, 1921, and 1931 are all now cooler than 1998!

    Somehow in the past decade, these three years that concluded seven or eight decades ago managed to cool themselves, and 1998 found a way to warm itself, despite this all requiring time travel and maybe a volcano and a second sun.

    How could “climate change” of this nature and magnitude take place when the readings were already determined? Apparently GISS found a way to “adjust” the temperatures of the past and present, by simply changing them. The obvious result of the change is twofold. The warmest decade of the last 130 years in the United States, the 1930s, has been “cooled” to make the current time period appear warmer. Another result of the change is that the years after 1970 have been adjusted warmer, to make the slope of temperature rise since then appear steeper and more significant.

    This interesting interpretation of temperature by GISS is not limited to the United States data. The differences between the GISS global average temperature and the University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH) satellite-derived average global temperature is revealing. Since 1998, the difference in the global temperature anomaly between GISS and UAH has increased to .72 degrees Fahrenheit, with GISS being the warmer. This difference is 70% of all the global warming anomaly since 1850.

    The UAH data shows a decline of average global temperature of .34 degrees Fahrenheit during January 2011. On the other hand GISS found an increase of .27 degrees Fahrenheit during the same month. From March of 2010 to January 2011, UAH data shows a substantial global temperature drop of 1.01 degrees Fahrenheit. GISS was showing a downward trend in global temperature of 1.03 degrees Fahrenheit from March 2010 to December 2010, but then reversed the trend in January. It was almost as if GISS had enough of this temperature drop, and called a halt to it.

    It appears that the climate in Washington is changing. We may see a significant drop in funding and a refocusing of NASA’s mission back to where it belongs, in space. The Goddard Institute for Data Adjustment may find that climate change does indeed have significant implications for the future, but those changes could be in a direction that GISS did not anticipate, and this time their attempts to change that direction may be out of their control.”

    The entire article can be found here:

    http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/congress-to-nasa-study-space-not-climate-thats-not-space/?singlepage=true

  34. The IPCC has the climate change of carbon dioxide backwards. Just like Al Gore did with his “Inconvenient Truth” documentary when he said about the Vostok Ice Core data, that a CO2 increase came first that made the earth temperature to rise. It was just the opposite, a temperature increase came first, the oceans got warmer followed by an increased release of CO2 from the oceans to the atmosphere due to decreased solubility.

    Actually carbon dioxide causes a slight cooling effect. Its concentration in the atmosphere is only around 400 ppmv compared to water vapor that can be as high as 4%, at that level around 1% of that for water vapor. It was proved after 9-11 that contrails cause cooling. With grounded air traffic (no contrails) the temperature actually increased 1 degrees centigrade for the 3 days planes were grounded compared to the 3 day temperatures before and after the grounding.

    It ain’t rocket science; all clouds of water vapor shade the earth and cool it during the day. At night a cloud covered sky keeps the earth from cooling off as fast (insulating effect). However, the cooling effect during the day dwarfs the slight warming at night.

    With a slight increase of CO2 in the atmosphere the cooling effect is there but it is so small one could not measure it. When this truth becomes widely known, will people start another campaign to eliminate CO2 because it cools the earth ever so slightly?

    As Wil says above; this climate change crap was always only about the money; there is no real science associated with it. Al Gore and David Blood of Goldman Sachs started Generation Investment Management in 2004 and in 2008 had $5 billion dollars in investments. It is a shame what has gone on but the world is waking up to the “Big Lie”.

  35. Smoke TNT

    Jon, I said ‘evidence’, not a list of discredited scientists with faulty methods and hearsay. Michael Mann throwing out tree ring data until he gets his desired results may be enough to convince you, but I prefer actual science based in reality.

  36. Nullius in Verba

    “If you want REAL evidence, explain why the stratosphere (that’s the highest layer of the atmosphere) is cooling, without resorting to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the troposphere.”

    Uh huh. I remember with some amusement the occasion when Gavin at RealClimate made a complete botch of trying to explain this. (Mainly because he didn’t properly understand the critical role of the lapse rate in the greenhouse effect – the stratospheric lapse rate is negative, so a rise in emission altitude due to extra CO2 gives cooling.) Of course, it’s an elementary logical error to think that observed cooling of the stratosphere being due to GHGs implies that observed warming of the surface is also due to GHGs. It’s an even more elementary error to assume that someone not being able to explain it without GHGs implies that GHGs are the actual cause – a form of ‘argument from ignorance’. It would, actually, be quite easy to offer possible alternative explanations, but there’s no need, since it’s not a point that most sceptics dispute.

    Oh, and the stratosphere is not the highest layer of the atmosphere.

    “Take your time and do your online research well. Please report your results here. If you have difficulty with this, feel free to reply and I will provide some informative Web sites.”

    Rather amusingly, my only ‘difficulty’ with this is that my comments are being held up in moderation for hours while everyone else’s are passed through. I find it funny that the moderators seem to think I need such a handicap to make it a fair fight! Thanks for the compliment, guys! But it does make holding a conversation difficult.

    Or perhaps the system is broken?

    “As for the subject of the thread: I’m nauseous at the level of science illiteracy this represents. Truly saddened and sickened.”

    My sympathies. It’s always hard for believers who cannot understand why others don’t share their beliefs.

    I am, by now, so used to the scientific illiteracy of people firmly convinced of impending climate disaster without having the first clue about the science, and equally convinced that blind faith in the authority of scientists is “scientific”, that I am no longer very bothered by it. But it is a sad state of affairs, I agree.

  37. Sean McCorkle

    @2
    My statement on FOI requests is true. I admitted that there was a spike in requests sparked by a suggestion in a blog but you wish to only consider that spike

    Its hard not to consider that to be network-coordinated harassment, made far worse by making it a legal request.

    When you are politely asked by a researcher if they can have a copy of the raw and processed data that you used to publish a journal paper, when that data is required to be posted on a site and available by the rules of the journal, when that data is paid for by the taxpayer and when that data is freely given to your ‘mates’ and when you refuse to give up that data, even in the face of an FOI, then I don’t care how may requests you get.

    Quite likely the institute involved has a legal interest in and on any data their staff creates and thus would have to be involved. FOIs are no simple requests for data They are really big deals and likely will involve legal counsel. Scientists typically put in long enough hours as it is and are almost always under pressures as a matter of course. That kind of deliberate and unreasonable demand on a probably already overburdened scientist makes my blood boil.

    It would take 2 minutes to email the same file you sent to your ‘mates’.

    I don’t know the actual details of the data in this case, but I can easily imagine data sets in this business being much larger than typical limits on email attachments. Quite likely there will have to be a detailed explanation composed to go along with it. Sorry, I don’t buy the two minutes, not by a long shot.

    You know the interesting thing about a null hypothesis is that you don’t have to prove it’s true, you have to prove it is false. I don’t have to prove that global warming is caused by natural causes, you would have to prove that it is NOT caused by natural causes. That means you have to show that NO natural cause could have caused it.

    Were it the case that the argument were being made strictly from data trends and attempting to infer causation from correlations, you might have a point. However, the case comes from physics and a couple of measurement histories. Incoming solar radiation heats the planet, and the planet radiates with a Planck-like spectrum, in which the total power output sharply depends on its temperature (T^4). Greenhouse gases (primarily H2O and CO2) in the atmosphere block a bit of that very close to the Planck-like peak (around 10 microns or so), so the planetary temperature rises until the input and output fluxes balance. Complicating this are variations in planetary albedo (clouds, ice) on the input side of the equation and variability of water vapor and clouds again on the block-the-output side of the equation. These are not well determined. However, there is a temperature record and an atmospheric CO2 concentration record, both of which are going up over the period 1958 to the present. Furthermore, the absorption terms for both CO2 and H2O are very well understood. While H2O vapor comes and goes, the CO2 concentration is slowly increasing, with a low-level annual cyclical variation. The CO2 absorption term in the energy can thus be accurately calculated, even if the others can not. The rise in temperature observed with the the contemporaneous rise in atmospheric CO2 is roughly (to within a factor of 2) what is expected just from CO2. The temperature-CO2 correlation is a roughly confirming observation. Furthermore we know the CO2 injection history and know that the measured rise in CO2 concentration is about 1/2 or so what was put there by man.

    We thus have a hypothesis that is more or less supported by the measurements. To be sure, there are uncertainties, and not every blip or feature is precisely explained. However it is a working hypothesis. My question is: what is an alternative hypothesis which is as at least as sound in terms of physics and explains the data at least as well (or even explains data which the AGW explanation does not)?

    There is a much better correlation between global temperature and the Total Solar Insolation or the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillations than there is with CO2. I don’t care whether the solar flux has been with 0.15% of flat, the correlation is there and since the link is suspected to be cosmic gamma ray penetration of the Earth’s atmosphere it doesn’t have to change much. Now prove to me that these cannot be the cause of the warming in the second half of last century.

    Its hard to know where to begin with these:

    I don’t care whether the solar flux has been with 0.15% of flat, the correlation is there

    Um if I look at the link you provided there’s a clear climb from 1950 to present in all the temperature curves, while the
    Solar flux is essentially unchanging since the 80s and you’re claiming they’re correlated, with one clearly going up and the other staying put? Must be some interesting new definition of the word “correlation” that I’m not familiar with.

    Incidentaly, that near-constant solar flux is important for the energy arguments being made. That is the energy incident on Earth.

    since the link is suspected to be cosmic gamma ray penetration of the Earth’s atmosphere

    Regarding cosmic rays, they’re simply non-starters in the climate change debate. I’m not sure if you are thinking about solar or galactic cosmics. In terms of energy deposition, the impact of what the very biggest CMEs can deliver to the Earth amounts to at most a hundredth of a watt/sq meter or so averaged over the Earth, and thats the total from one event, something which is not common even during solar maxima. Energy deposition from galactic cosmics is too small to even consider. It has been proposed that cosmics (from either source actually) can influence cloud formation—not an unreasonable nor unphysical idea—but there’s been no convincing evidence to show cloud cover is actually correlated with cosmic ray flux.

    Besides it’s the trend that matters not the peak and the trend is flat.

    Gosh it doesn’t look flat to me at all -looks a lot like its going up from the 50s to present in your link and also this graph as well.

    There is a much better correlation between global temperature and the Total Solar Insolation or the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillations …

    Now this seems really confused. These are ocean surface temperature oscillations and are part of the cycles of energy redistribution in the hydrosphere (and coupled to the land and air as well of course) but they are not SOURCEs of energy -the source of the energy is the Sun. So of course they’re correlated with global temperatures-they’re PART of the global temperatures.

  38. Jody

    Bob,
    The contrail effect didn’t have to do with co2, it had to do with reflectivity. Smog and other particulate pollution also creates a cooling effect. CO2 does not.

    After a certain point, the public and scientific community can stop answering these bogus challenges. We provide evidence, cite experts, show trends. Deniers point to typos in some studies and claim they are therefore invalid; they deny experts because the list shows up on wikipedia; they deny trends because of anomalies that are already reasonably explained and factored into the reports. After a certain point, we can treat these people like JFK conspiracy theorists, holocaust deniers, 9/11 truthers, and Obama birthers. After a certain point these people can be ignored.

    That point is now.

  39. Wil quoth:
    According to the article, a large part of NASA’s budget was spent studying global warming (and not space).

    The article is disingenuous, as have been many other articles about NASA’s supposed “global warming” budget. Did you know that they include funding for the most advanced precipitation measuring satellite that will ever be put in orbit, the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite successor to the phenomenally successful Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission? NOAA and ESA don’t have a satellite that can hold a candle to the capabilities of TRMM.

    Did you know that this budget includes the continuing funding for the pioneering GRACE mission, a tandem satellite mission that uses minute changes in the distance between two satellites to measure tiny changes in Earth’s gravity field, important for the water budget of many countries (including measurements of rapidly decreasing aquifer volumes around the world, including the Central Valley of California, the nation’s most productive farmland)? GRACE measurements also allow better calculation of ocean current speeds.

    Did you know that NASA’s Earth Observing Satellites (EOS) detect volcanic eruptions in inhospitable locations like the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia?

    Did you also know that most of the developments of NASA’s robotic exploration instruments for planetary science were based first on instruments that observed the Earth?

    The Republican GOP is characterizing all of NASA’s Earth science observation budget as a “global warming” budget. It’s a flat-out lie. No other space agency in the world has done what NASA has done in terms of developing and flying the most accurate and most useful Earth observing instruments. That’s what the Republicans want to stop.

    I-D-I-O-T-S.

  40. Sean McCorkle

    (Sorry that was supposed to be @22 in my long comment to Huub, not @2.)

    Bob Ashworth@33

    It was just the opposite, a temperature increase came first, the oceans got warmer followed by an increased release of CO2 from the oceans to the atmosphere due to decreased solubility.

    However, we have additional data: in addition to any natural releases, we have been injecting a great deal of CO2 into the atmosphere originating from carbon which hasn’t seen the light of day for well over 60 million years or so. You cannot ignore this.

    Actually carbon dioxide causes a slight cooling effect.

    Um, no, it will trap some heat, regardless of the amount of water vapor (quite a few of the relevant IR lines do not overlap with water lines).

  41. Shorter Republicans:

    1. If we stop studying the Earth we reduce the risk of learning anything about it.
    2. Put lots of classified military satellites in orbit.
    3. De-fund science and science education.
    4. ???
    5. Profit !

  42. Nullius in Verba

    #40,

    I have commented above on the FOI requests, so this only covers additional points.

    FOI requests should never have been necessary. Mostly, these are requests for scientific data that ought to have been published at the time for the studies to be replicable. If the study is done properly, the data should be gathered together with the software and archived anyway – it’s a trivial matter to copy it to the university ftp site. The choice not to is deliberate.

    “The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.”

    Note – this statement was obviously made before any FOI requests.

    “Yes, we’ve learned out lesson about FTP. We’re going to be very careful in the future what gets put there. Scott really screwed up big time when he established that directory so that Tim could access the data.”

    This was a case where data refused to sceptics was provided to a colleague and left on the public open-access ftp site. Steve McIntyre spotted it there and downloaded it. It’s not withheld because it would be a lot of work. It’s a deliberate effort to prevent critics getting hold of it.

    “p.s. I know I probably don’t need to mention this, but just to insure absolutely clarify on this, I’m providing these for your own personal use, since you’re a trusted colleague. So please don’t pass this along to others without checking w/ me first. This is the sort of “dirty laundry” one doesn’t want to fall into the hands of those who might potentially try to distort things…”

    FOI doesn’t have to be a big deal. You copy the data to the ftp server (30 seconds if the computers are networked, 15 minutes if you have to carry it across on a USB stick), and you send a formal email (there will be a standard form letter) telling the requestor where to find it. If you’ve got legal agreements restricting access, they should be held by the legal department and it’s not your affair.

    I’m curious as to why you don’t have the details of the data in this case? You clearly know about the number of requests, and you care passionately enough about the issue for it to make your blood boil, but you didn’t try to find out what the data was, or why it was being requested/refused?

    “The rise in temperature observed with the the contemporaneous rise in atmospheric CO2 is roughly (to within a factor of 2) what is expected just from CO2.”

    Congratulations! That’s exactly what the sceptics say. Problem is, with massive positive feedback it should be two to three times higher. Why isn’t it?

    I find your case against the solar connection to be interesting for its similarity to the sceptic case against CO2. You mention the existence of periods when the causal factor was going up and the temperature not, or vice versa. That’s exactly what sceptics do regarding the period from 1945 to 1970, and the post-2000 period. Your New Scientist link makes two arguments: that there is no evidence as yet for the role of ionisation in nucleation, and that the data showing a correlation relies on adjustments. For the first, the experiments are still in progress, and it seems odd to reject the hypothesis for lack of evidence before you have even done the experiment. The second, though, reflects the sceptic point that the temperature data has been adjusted too! It’s one of the biggest issues sceptics have with it. There are a couple of other points, but Svensmark only makes the claim regarding low level clouds, not cloudiness generally as stated, and sceptics who advocate for the solar-climate connection don’t claim that it is the only factor at work; they say the cosmic rays can only explain 1/3 to 1/2 of the post-1950 warming. The point is, this suggests the effect of CO2 is smaller, with negative feedback.

    But the solar hypothesis is a long way from proved, and I’m pleased to see the way your scepticism about it works. It shows that you can be sceptical about peer-reviewed published science, when you’re motivated to be.

    I’ve done the evils of drawing trend lines through autocorrelated data to death. It’s no more or less valid to draw a trend through the past ten years as it is to draw one through the past fifty. See my comments in earlier discussions.

    Regarding climate oscillations, the point being made is that the cycles of energy redistribution in the hydrosphere can cause long-term temperature changes, not just CO2. Of course the source of energy is the sun. It is for CO2 as well – you didn’t think that CO2 in the air actually generated that extra heat, did you?

  43. Jody giardina

    @38 “Rather amusingly, my only ‘difficulty’ with this is that my comments are being held up in moderation for hours while everyone else’s are passed through. I find it funny that the moderators seem to think I need such a handicap to make it a fair fight! Thanks for the compliment, guys! But it does make holding a conversation difficult.”

    Thanks for helping highlighting my point about the paranoid delusions of deniers. Clearly there is a bias against your posts. It’s not that they’re long, and it’s after 8 on a Saturday night, and you’re not the most important person in the world. Clearly my posts were up so much faster. It must be some conspiracy! Therefore all the arguments on this board against you are invalid!

    Congrats! You win. Now take your tinfoil hat and go to another board. Adults need to talk in private.

    There will never be 100% scientific agreement on any theory. For years after it was proven that the earth orbited the sun, there were people who didn’t agree. Einstein, a genius, didn’t think quantum mechanics were real…but dissent – even informed dissent – should not prevent progress.

    As in the case of climate change, when the vast majority of the scientific community agree that something is going on, it is incumbent upon society to act upon that assessment. In this case, the cost benefit argument (this might be pricey / inaction could cause millions to die) is so tilted towards the need for change that the choice is clear.

    Furthermore, just on logical spec, the emission of tons of CO2 is dangerous. With minimal, general knowledge of natural systems and balances, it is inconceivable that such emissions would have no impact. It is so beyond counterintuitive that the burden MUST rest on the dissenters to prove, beyond a shadow of scientific doubt, that the theory is untrue. This is well past nitpicking at updated data sets and claiming fraud…if your evidence is not smash-us-in-the-face-with-a-shovel obvious, we have an obligation to ignore you and take action.

  44. J Bowers

    Re. 42 Oakden Wolf

    And don’t forget the NOAA satellites which, by benefit of being pointed down at Earth rather than at space, have helped rescue 24,000 people so far..

    NOAA satellites were key factors in the rescues of 283 people throughout the United States and its surrounding waters in 2008. In each incident, NOAA satellites detected and located a distress signal from an emergency beacon and relayed the information to first responders on the ground.

    NASA’s $18.7 billion budget request for next year maintains Ames funding at about $755 million. NASA Ames’ budget for Earth sciences is $40 million. $40 million out of $18.7 billion can in no way be viewed as a large part of NASA’s budget. It is an outrageous example of sophistry.

  45. Sean McCorkle

    Oakden Wolf and J Bowers:

    I remember hearing a figure that something like half the observational satellites now in orbit (excluding communication, GPS or military) are looking down, not up and out. That’s been part of the argument for public funding of NASA for a few decades now: the High Frontier offers an unsurpassed vantage point for global observation of oceans, weather, crop and vegetation surveys, etc, that have immediate benefits for the public at large.

    That those luddites want to start bringing it down by killing the funding and turning us in a backwards direction towards ignorance makes my head explode.

    (and J Bowers @ 27 – BTW thanks for that link.)

  46. Jon

    Smoke:Michael Mann throwing out tree ring data until he gets his desired results may be enough to convince you, but I prefer actual science based in reality.

    Mann was only involved in two of the studies on that page. Even if Mann *hadn’t* been cleared of wrongdoing for “climategate” (which he was) Mann isn’t the only researcher who has been reaching the same conclusions. If you’re saying worldwide, all these scientists from all different institutions are committing fraud in unison, with no evidence that says so, it sounds to me like you’ve been learning your science from B movies.

    Huub: Surely you know the difference between the uncertainty of a trend and the uncertainty of a single point.

    But your trend line only consists of a few points, cherry picked from a much longer trendline that shows the opposite of what you’re saying, and then you’re saying even those small number of points are uncertain.

    Lets try a sports analogy: A baseball player hits the following number of home runs in successive years: 20, 30, 55, 67, 60, 65. 63. Say a sportscaster says, “His hitting streak is over. He’s been in decline since that year he hit 67.” That would be a pretty absurd statement wouldn’t it? If he were on a sports talk show, he’d get laughs.

  47. sHx

    “…[IPCC] the most definitive outlet for information about the state of the climate…”

    The above could/might/may/can/ is likely/most likely/very likely to be a most definitely misleading statement. IPCC is a political body, first and foremost, not a scientific one.

    If the IPCC reports were the village clock, I wouldn’t set my watch to it. By the time an IPCC report comes out, the freshest paper in it is already two years old. If a paper completely debunking the AGW science were to be published tomorrow, it wouldn’t make it into the pages of the AR5 that’s due to be released this year.

    Indeed, I am very curious to see if the initial results of the CLOUD experiment, due out in near future, will have any impact on the credibility of AR5. IPCC reports, I’m told, notoriously neglects solar influences and cloud feedbacks in favour of the effects of GHGs.

    I wish my government (Australia) cut all the funding to IPCC as well. The IPCC has been a great source of discord. It’s probably been the worst UN body ever.

    As a left/liberal (formerly a Green) voter and political activist, I have immense love and respect for all UN organisations. The IPCC is the one and only UN institution whose demise would gladden my heart.

  48. Sean McCorkle

    Nullius: my long comment (#40) above was held in moderation overnight.

    Our hosts have generously allowed us to spout off, often drifting off-topic for days at a time, here on their platform. Our comments appear in public by their good grace, and I therefore have no problem playing by any rules they lay down. In fact, I’m quite grateful for the opportunity to comment here at all.

    I would think that anyone with conservo-libertarian values would be completely in sync with this.

  49. J Bowers

    50. sHx — “IPCC is a political body, first and foremost, not a scientific one.”

    I’m afraid not.

    The IPCC, with a staff of roughly ten people [or less], does not suggest policy to the UN, it merely reports on the latest science to the UN who, after vetting the IPCC reports word by word, decide amongst themselves on what action to take if any.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intergovernmental_Panel_on_Climate_Change

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific intergovernmental body[1][2] tasked with reviewing and assessing the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It provides the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic consequences, notably the risk of climate change caused by human activity. The panel was first established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), two organizations of the United Nations—an action confirmed on 6 December 1988 by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 43/53. The IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President of the United States Al Gore.[3]

    The IPCC does not carry out its own original research, nor does it do the work of monitoring climate or related phenomena itself. A main activity of the IPCC is publishing special reports on topics relevant to the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),[4] an international treaty that acknowledges the possibility of harmful climate change

    […]

    Aims

    The principles of the IPCC operation[4] are assigned by the relevant WMO Executive Council and UNEP Governing Council resolutions and decisions as well as on actions in support of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process.

    The stated aims of the IPCC are to assess scientific information relevant to:[4]

    1. human-induced climate change,
    2. the impacts of human-induced climate change,
    3. options for adaptation and mitigation.

  50. Sou

    I’m also astonished by the actions of the US Republican Party. It’s as if they think what they don’t know won’t hurt them – or anyone else.

    Some Australians are just as willing to be ostriches as Americans, going by sHx’s post; which is even more astounding, given that Australia is one of the ‘poster’ countries showing other countries what they have in store as the earth continues to heat up.

    sHx is of the opinion that climate scientists who’ve been studying climate all their lives have not yet figured out the role of the sun in providing energy for earth, nor that they have been studying the effect of clouds on climate. (In case anyone’s wondering, sHx is wrong!)

    The IPCC, in synthesising and reporting to governments on the state of knowledge in climate science provides an essential service. If people want to improve the state of knowledge, they’ll have to be prepared to pay for more work to be done or do it themselves.

    BTW – if you can’t wait for the reports, keep an eye on the literature. The timetable for the next lot of reporting is as follows, from the IPCC website (for those too lazy to check):

    The Working Group I report is scheduled to be finalized in September 2013, the Working Group II report in March 2014 and the Working Group III report in April 2014. The Synthesis Report will be finalized in September 2014.

    I too would like to see more frequent reports issued by the IPCC, eg rolling reports on specific topics. On the other hand, having the report refer to papers that aren’t immediately fresh off the press provides some insurance against highlighting something that is subsequently refuted.

  51. Nullius in Verba

    #46,

    Jody,

    It’s only a paranoid delusion if it isn’t true. Several of the comments held up were short, and comments posted four or five hours after mine appeared promptly, with mine still held in the queue. I don’t know why they were held up – certainly not a conspiracy, since I doubt there’s more than one moderator on duty – and it’s not something I’m bothered about – posting here is a privilege and there are many AGW-believers elsewhere who censor out dissenting opinions, to their own discredit – but it makes it hard to hold a conversation, it messes up the numbering people use to refer to previous posts, and it doesn’t achieve anything anyway.

    I commented on it there because not answering could have been taken as not having a good answer. It would help if people are aware that somebody might not be answering for other reasons.

    And again, while I don’t mind what you call me in the slightest, do you think that “paranoid delusions”, “deniers”, “tinfoil hats” and so on are a sign of adult conversation? Whereas you can see I’ve been talking about cross-validation statistics, ARIMA processes, clouds, the detailed sequence of events related to FOIA breaches, stratospheric cooling, lapse rates, cosmic rays, and climate oscillations. A couple of you – Sean in particular – have managed to hold an adult conversation about them. We don’t agree, but we can hold a civilised debate. Isn’t this how it should be?

    Yes, I know that there is never 100% scientific certainty on anything, but that doesn’t mean everything falls short to the same degree. Younger sciences are naturally uncertain – there’s nothing wrong with that. But there is in pretending that there is more certainty about it than there really is. Taking the called-for level of action will cause billions to die in poverty when we could do something about it. Nobody has made any convincing case that not acting will result in anything we cannot easily adapt to. And the natural world has already shown that it can adapt – CO2 levels have been far higher in the past, and life has flourished.

    Based on our knowledge of the natural world over geological time, the default assumption ought to be that this isn’t unusual and there isn’t a problem. You have to show at least some reason, besides taking your word for it, to think that there is.

  52. The IPCC could get funding from other countries which are more concerned about climate change than the US. I am more concerned that the Republicans defunded Planned Parenthood. Way to celebrate “freedom” and restore “honor”.

  53. Braniac

    Wow! The tobacco and petrochemical industries certainly did their job on Nullius in Verba! And please don’t respond that the scientists are making a fortune on climate change, because I know some of those scientists, and if they really wanted to make money they would, and have had the opportunity to, work for an oil company.

  54. J Bowers

    @ 55. Nullius in Verba

    I posted a long comment last night which has been lost as well. I suspect they get held in moderation when a number of comments are made in a short period of time by the same commenter. It’s not unusual.

  55. J Bowers

    55. Nullius in Verba — “Younger sciences are naturally uncertain”

    Research on the radiative properties of CO2 and the “greenhouse gas effect” are older than the Theory of Relativity and quantum mechanics. Halley’s studies of the trade winds in the 17th C., and Jefferson’s on the Jet Stream in the 18th C., are climate research. There is nothing “young” about climatology or the radiative properties of gases.

    Have a read of Arrhenius’ Worlds in the Making (1908 edition, original 1906).
    http://www.archive.org/details/worldsinmakingev00arrhrich

  56. Jon

    Ask Nullius about scientists’ “unconscious biases” that lead them to do fraudulent research on climate change, and his contention that speculative books written in the early 70’s by people like Paul Ehrlich, are the same in terms of of quality control as the science endorsed by the NAS, IPCC, Geophysical Union, NOAA and all the other dozens of worldwide organizations…

    He’ll reply to you in long circumlocutions, but he’s essentially giving you the “paranoid style” delivered in a superficially intellectual way…

  57. tesuji

    Um, 97% of scientists say human-caused global warming is over. If you doubt global warming, you aren’t listening to scientists. In that case, what authority have you found that is better than science for this issue?

    Report: 97 percent of scientists say man-made climate change is real – global warming
    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2010/06/scientists-overwhelmingly-believe-in-man-made-climate-change

  58. Sean McCorkle

    Nullius@46

    What angers me is the bullying of a few individuals—who are ill-prepared to deal with the well-honed quote-mining and distortion tactics of the denial-industrial-complex— by a mob whipped up by a few coordinators. While you can point out emails reflecting some less-than-pure attitudes and actions by scientists, who formerly lived in a social world where interactions, fraught though they may be with human failings, are largely based on reasoned argument, suddenly find themselves vulnerable to the onslaught of the murdoch/fossil-fuel misinformation machine, I myself would be scared shitless if put into the same position, with little advice or support, and can at least understand their point of view, if not justify it.

    Regarding cosmics (I assume you mean solar cosmics when you say “solar” above), I realized today that calling the cloud nucleation idea a “non-starter” is harsh. It is at least plausible and physical, and it can be put to the test. It seems to be failing that at this point, however, if what I read is correct.

    Congratulations! That’s exactly what the sceptics say. Problem is, with massive positive feedback it should be two to three times higher. Why isn’t it?

    I’ve stated in the past that I’m naturally averse to model (calculation) dependent conclusions. Furthermore, if a model doesn’t fit the data, then -ding- it fails the test, and back to the drawing board (or computer in this case). (I do believe that the act of creating a model can be very educational and enlightening, especially for the creator).

    My point is that the CO2 IR trapping term IS well understood because of the long history and success of spectroscopy and because of atmospheric CO2 concentration measurement history. Furthermore, that term IS there in the energy balance, regardless of what anything else is doing—be they positive feedback, negative feedback, albedo changes, cosmic-induced clouds, whatever. Those things may and probably are going up and down in ways we know and don’t know. But the CO2 term is there in the balance and it is climbing. Period.

    If the actual rate of temperature increase is roughly half of that expected from the CO2 alone—if that is true, that tells us that all of the other terms sum up negatively to bring the temperature down, but only half of what is needed to completely counteract the effect of CO2—regardless of what those other forcings are, and what they are doing. This can be claimed on the basis of energy conservation. Then we’re back to this conclusion: if something natural IS driving the temperature up, then it must also be true that something else is bringing it back down again. You cannot erase the CO2 line item from the energy budget.

    All the other factors—which are important—which are adding and deducting from that balance are not well determined not because they are mysterious but because we don’t have comprehensive enough data. But they will be physical. For example, while the decadel and multi-decadel oscillations are not actually modeled yet, the periodicies are not inconsistent with estimates of oceanic energy storage timescales of a few decades, tops.

    Let me try to tie this back into the post topic. Those things which are not understood, such as albedo variability, ocean currents and temperatures, etc. are largely not understood because we don’t have comprehensive measurements. If satellite programs are cut, we will have even LESS measurements, which is the OPPOSITE of what we should be doing. If we REALLY want to understand what the story is with global warming, we should be working on collecting the important data, in order to settle the issues. Hence the angry response towards the house budget cuts on this issue.

  59. Nullius in Verba

    #57,

    I haven’t got anything from the tobacco (?!) or the petrochemical industry. That’s just classic conspiracy theory.

    #59,

    The original ‘greenhouse effect’ mechanism was due to Fourier, but it was realised in around 1961 (or before) that it was incorrect (Manabe and Moller 1961, I think). The calculation predicts an average surface temperature of about 60 C. It’s actually a somewhat more complicated mechanism including convection – it doesn’t have anything to do with how an actual greenhouse works (which itself does not work the way Fourier thought) and doesn’t work the way most of the explanations for the general public say. That’s a problem that causes enormous confusion when people with a bit of physics knowledge try to fit it all together, and find inconsistencies. That said, it does work, and the majority of sceptics acknowledge it.

    However, there are many aspects to the physics of feedbacks that have only come to be understood over the past 10-15 years, and it is only since then that the models have been able to generate even plausible weather without diverging straight into an ice age, let alone high confidence 100-year climate projections. Climate science is not just the greenhouse effect, it is also clouds, aerosols, oceanic oscillations, solar effects, and land use changes. Agriculture, deforestation, dams, and fertilisers all have an effect. It is a vast, mysterious machine of quintillions of moving parts that we have only the haziest inkling of. Yes, we’ve learnt a huge amount, but it is as nothing compared to what we have yet to discover.

    Relativity and quantum mechanics are easy compared to the climate. And you only have to ask the quantum gravity researchers to realise how much of an unknown even they are.

    #60,

    If anyone wants to ask, they can judge for themselves who is being superficially intellectual. As you will recall, I gave you a specific example of a quality control issue and asked you for a list of organisations that had given detailed explanations to show they had considered it. You changed the subject and gave no answer.

    #61,

    It depends precisely what question you ask, but for the most common ‘more than 50% of warming since 1950 is more likely than not anthropogenic’, the actual figure for climate scientists is about 85%. If you ask a question about the likelihood of climate catastrophe, the numbers are lower.

    I’m not sure which survey you were looking at – your link doesn’t work and there are a couple that give that figure. One counted the number of publications as a measure of credibility, and the other surveyed several thousand scientists, and then when the numbers didn’t say what they wanted, whittled them down by applying various conditions until the sample size was under a hundred. I wasn’t impressed.

    But numbers are irrelevant – that’s the fallacy of argument ad populam. Science is not a democracy. You ask what authority I have found better than scientists for this – the answer is that I am a scientist, and therefore I tried to find what the evidence actually was. I don’t put my faith in any authorities – doing so is unscientific.

    #62,

    I’m not sure what you mean by the “denial-industrial-complex” or the “few coordinators”. Unless you’re talking about the FOIs for the legal agreements they claimed were preventing them publishing the data, which had nothing to do with any industrial complex, I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve certainly never come across either – it sounds like a conspiracy theory to me, which I wasn’t expecting from you – but perhaps you could expand?

    I appreciate that you acknowledge that some of the actions of climate scientists are less than pure. We can work on that. It’s probably worth noting that they actually had professional advice from very early on – the RealClimate website is run by the advertising agency Environmental Media Services, a subsidiary of Fenton Communications. The CRU lot got media advice from Futerra, another advertising agency. The Climategate archive has a few of their documents. It makes no difference to whether their arguments are correct or not, but they’re not innocents abandoned to the wolves, either. Other NGOs like Greenpeace have a lot of money to put behind their media efforts, that sceptics cannot hope to match. And didn’t Al Gore promise 300 million?

    Nevertheless, the best advice they could have had is at the same time the most obvious. Be whiter than white. Be as rigorous and careful as you can be. Truth is the best defence. Be transparent and open and professional, and ask for help from other professionals if out of your depth. This is too important a problem to play silly games with.

    There are a lot of professional scientists who have to face far more stringent examination. If any of our software auditors came across the ‘Harry’ mess, more than the programmer would be out the door. That’s what makes a lot of scientists out in industry so angry about it. They know they’d never be able to get away with such nonsense. Those standards are not as impossible as academics seem to think.

    The actual rate of temperature rise (ignoring all the issues about data quality) are about the same as expected for CO2 alone. When you take the solar/cloud correlation into account, the rate of temperature rise is lower than expected, suggesting a negative feedback (the rise is multiplied by a number less than 1). But the orthodox climate modellers posit a feedback multiplier of about 3.5. Because this doesn’t fit the data, they also have to propose compensation from aerosols and “heat in the pipeline” absorbed by the oceans (which as Trenberth has said, they can’t find) to bring the 20th century back down again. It’s like having one equation in three unknowns – you can make it fit by assuming values for two of them, but it’s not the only way.

    Yes, I agree that the right way to resolve this is to improve the satellite monitoring. Whether that overides the fact that you don’t have any money left to pay for it is another issue, but I’d much rather you spent the money you don’t have on satellites than windmills. However, I can understand your anger and don’t have a problem with it. That’s normal for politics.

  60. sHx

    “sHx is of the opinion that climate scientists who’ve been studying climate all their lives have not yet figured out the role of the sun in providing energy for earth, nor that they have been studying the effect of clouds on climate. (In case anyone’s wondering, sHx is wrong!)”

    For two thousand years, astronomers studying the movements of celestial objects all their lives held the belief (nay, the fact!) that the universe revolved around the Earth. It is not that there wasn’t any speculation that the Earth might be moving around the Sun as far back Aristotle. But the mathematics wasn’t enough. Those who speculated the idea and those who had the mathematical skills lived far from each other even if they were contemporaries, so the speculation wasn’t seriously entertained. Stellar parallax wasn’t detected because the ancients had no idea how far the stars were. All the evidence pointed to the fact that the heavens moved about in the same order except for the Moon, the Sun and a few “wandering stars”. The Earth at the centre of the universe made a lot of sense, not just scientifically, but aesthetically and harmonically. And of course, the geocentric model was simple, elegant and beautiful. By the time of Copernicus the model was the consensus science, firmly established, and, from the Greek pagans to the Catholic Church, it had the full authority behind it. Who’d dare to cross Aristotle and the Pope at the same time?

    I am strongly of the view that that is going to happen to climate science, too. The twenty- year-old CO2-caused CAGW dogma will crash down and shatter within the next ten to twenty years because observations will not confirm the predictions. Indeed, it is that fear that’s keeping climate scientists from making firm predictions. They are afraid of being proven wrong. Hence, the wacky, insubstantial, catch-them-all claims of “weather extremes”. It is easy to manipulate people that way.

  61. sHx

    Ok.

    I just posted a comment and it disappeared without trace. So I’ll try it again in 15 minutes.

  62. sHx

    The second comment has also disappeared without trace.

    Let me re-start the browser, and re-connect to the web with a (possibly) fresh IP…

    Just done that and it still doesn’t work. So I’ll add the second message here. It is as follows:

    “Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!”

    Don’t you say!

    So from this I can only assume that the original, ‘lost’ comment is in moderation. The harshest word I’ve used in that comment is “climate dogma” or “CAGW dogma” (one of those, anyway). So I assume it’ll make it past the moderation. This blog is not Real Climate, Climate Progress, Tamino’s Open Mind and what not, that censor comments on the slightest whim.

    Let’s give it some more time and see what happens.
    ***

    There is still another outstanding comment. The original one! Let me add that here too.

    It is in response to Sou @54
    “sHx is of the opinion that climate scientists who’ve been studying climate all their lives have not yet figured out the role of the sun in providing energy for earth, nor that they have been studying the effect of clouds on climate. (In case anyone’s wondering, sHx is wrong!)”

    For two thousand years, astronomers studying the movements of celestial objects all their lives held the belief (nay, the fact!) that the universe revolved around the Earth. It is not that there wasn’t any speculation that the Earth might be moving around the Sun as far back Aristotle. But the mathematics wasn’t enough. Those who speculated the idea and those who had the mathematical skills lived far from each other even if they were contemporaries, so the speculation wasn’t seriously entertained. Stellar parallax wasn’t detected because the ancients had no idea how far the stars were. All the evidence pointed to the fact that the heavens moved about in the same order except for the Moon, the Sun and a few “wandering stars”. The Earth at the centre of the universe made a lot of sense, not just scientifically, but aesthetically and harmonically. And of course, the geocentric model was simple, elegant and beautiful. By the time of Copernicus the model was the consensus science, firmly established, and, from the Greek pagans to the Catholic Church, it had the full authority behind it. Who’d dare to cross Aristotle and the Pope at the same time?

    I am strongly of the view that that is going to happen to climate science, too. The twenty- year-old CO2-caused CAGW dogma will crash down and shatter within the next ten to twenty years because observations will not confirm the predictions. Indeed, it is that fear that’s keeping climate scientists from making firm predictions. They are afraid of being proven wrong. Hence, the wacky, insubstantial, catch-them-all claims of “weather extremes”. It is easy to manipulate people that way.

  63. Wilson

    Wow, I wonder how man was able to evolve and thrive to the present level, through all the cooling and warming periods, without AGW activists, IPCC busybodies, billions in “green investments” etc.

    The major breakthroughs in science came from those who rejected “the consensus”. Yes, the sceptics.

    It’s the religious fervor, arrogance and and intolerance and the obligatory name calling I see coming from the save-a-planet crowd that bothers me most.

    It’s documented right here in this conversation.

  64. Unlike the completely ignorant warmists in this thread, I have read most of the climategate emails, and have the necessary scientific knowledge to understand them.

    Of over a thousand emails, every single one smells at least a little bit funny. You can make excuses for each one, you can explain each one away – but you end up with a thousand excuses, explanations, and rationalizations. Every single email smells at least a little bit funny – they are the emails of a political campaign, a religious evangelical group, not the emails of scientific inquiry.

    It is not just that a few of them reveal great wrongs, it is that none of them, not a single one, are suggestive of genuine scientific inquiry. Rather, the only inquiry is search for evidence to support a pre-determined position, a pre-determined result.

    Every single email, of over a thousand emails, smells at least a little bit bad. A few of them look very bad indeed, but all of them look bad.

    These are not the emails of scientists, not one of the emails is the email of a scientist, but rather the emails of holy men and political activists.

  65. James Donald @ 68 writes:

    “I have read most of the climategate emails, and have the necessary scientific knowledge to understand them.”

    followed by

    “[N]one of them, not a single one, are suggestive of genuine scientific inquiry.”

    I am curious, what do you mean by scientific inquiry, and what quality or depth of science comprehension is required of understanding emails that are “of a political campaign, a religious evangelical group, not the emails of scientific inquiry”?

    This is posturing, especially with the initial use of the term “warmists.” Rather than couch the terms of your dialogue in the form of independent concern and some form of objectivity about the subject (for which I am objective and have no opinion to give one way or the other) you are deprecating and slanted.

    I’ve read every post in this thread and in virtually every other thread following a Chris Mooney post on AGW, “denialism” and “warmism;” they all have this kind of trashy, unscientific, pettily-framed aggrandizing gallantry in it.

    If anyone wishes to take on a more scientific approach to data managing, rather than anecdotal armchair paleometeorology/climatology, they are welcome to it.

    Taunts of religiosity in scientific fields are nothing new, and are the last bastion of a political, a-scientific opposition to a field, regardless of whether the field being questioned is scientific. This kind of idiocy is undeserving of the topic, yet many people (on both sides) resort to it. Pah!

  66. Wonderful news. I await Congress defunding General Relativity and Maxwell’s equations of electro-dynamics forthwith.

  67. Wow, I wonder how man was able to evolve and thrive to the present level, through all the cooling and warming periods, without AGW activists, IPCC busybodies, billions in “green investments” etc.

    The Permian mass extinction might enlighten you on this topic.

  68. Jody giardina

    If even 75% of scientists said that any child who touched a theoretical device would burst into flames and die a horrible death, even if you thought their data was based in some questionable work, would you let your kid touch the thing? That’s the kind of argument going on now. Your honestly saying that the hundreds of scientists who agree about climate change are SO wrong that we shouldn’t take precautions.

    I also don’t understand how people can maintain that continued reliance on fossil files, much of which are inported, is good EVEN IF climate change is total BS. Locally controlled, locally manufactured, sustainable energy is so flawed that it will never get on a paying basis? I think you need to recheck your data on the history of innovation and capitalism in the US? Or do you really feel that reduction of man-made CO2 emissions, regardless of a link to climate change, would be bad?

    When you factor together the potential risks of climate change that a large body of scientists agree on, combined with an honest cost/benefit analysis of moving towards sustainable, cleaner energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and even nuclear), the whole argument becomes very simple. If you look out your window and think status quo is good to go, I couldn’t disagree with you more.

  69. Sundance

    If the Republicans had any brains they would call for an open public debate on the issue. 3 climate scientists to represent each side in standard debate format. Americans love debates.

  70. Sean McCorkle

    Nullius@63

    I’m not sure what you mean by the “denial-industrial-complex” or the “few coordinators”. Unless you’re talking about the FOIs for the legal agreements they claimed were preventing them publishing the data, which had nothing to do with any industrial complex, I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve certainly never come across either – it sounds like a conspiracy theory to me, which I wasn’t expecting from you – but perhaps you could expand?

    Gosh thats probably best documented in entire books by Chris (“The Republican War on Science”) and Oreskes and Conway’s “Merchants of Doubt”, but a quick google search or two turns up

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/thinktanks-take-oil-money-and-use-it-to-fund-climate-deniers-1891747.html
    For these think tanks, see under sections “global warming” and “funding”a
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Competitive_Enterprise_Institute
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Heartland_Institute
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_C._Marshall_Institute
    …and there’s an entire broadcast network at their disposal
    http://mediamatters.org/research/200605190003
    http://mediamatters.org/blog/201012150004

    Am I being paranoid if I think that the extremely large and wealthy fossil-fuel industrial complex has a vested interest in repudiating the argument that the exhaust from their fuels is changing the climate in a harmful way?
    (BTW I can’t take credit for the term “denial-industrial-complex” but I do think its catchy. :) )

    But for the sake of argument, lets throw Phil Jones and Al Mann and their presumed cohorts under a bus, and just remove their work from the body of climate research. Does that kill the case for AGW?

    There are a lot of professional scientists who have to face far more stringent examination. If any of our software auditors came across the ‘Harry’ mess, more than the programmer would be out the door. That’s what makes a lot of scientists out in industry so angry about it. They know they’d never be able to get away with such nonsense. Those standards are not as impossible as academics seem to think.

    Scientists are not engineers (software or otherwise). In the engineering world, things are changing and evolving to be sure, but engineers have the luxury of being able to plan ahead based on previous experiences and often there is a LOT of previous experience that can be relied on. Methods and techniques improve with repeated practice. Scientists, on the other hand, always have to be on the cutting edge, always have to be exploring new directions, and often don’t have time to perfect their results before moving on. Entirely new analytical methods, experimental techniques, etc. have to be learned and adopted at the drop of a hat and then get abandoned as old questions give way to new questions. To be competitive, a scientist must continually be learning all kinds of things way outside their experience, and they usually can’t spare the time to refine and perfect methods once they’ve been used to answer a question, because its time to move on to a new question. Its a messy process. Its also a raucous process, a tradition that dates back to Galileo. Its a mistake to try to hold scientists to standards developed for engineering. Its also a mistake to try to run science as a business.

    The actual rate of temperature rise (ignoring all the issues about data quality) are about the same as expected for CO2 alone. When you take the solar/cloud correlation into account, the rate of temperature rise is lower than expected, suggesting a negative feedback (the rise is multiplied by a number less than 1).

    That’s a confirmation of AGW right there.

    But the orthodox climate modellers posit a feedback multiplier of about 3.5. Because this doesn’t fit the data, they also have to propose compensation from aerosols and “heat in the pipeline” absorbed by the oceans (which as Trenberth has said, they can’t find) to bring the 20th century back down again. It’s like having one equation in three unknowns – you can make it fit by assuming values for two of them, but it’s not the only way.

    and I’m not so much in disagreement with you on that. However, if there’s a consensus within the community about what the climate is expected to be doing, and the data doesn’t bear it out, thats a good reason to investigate further. Both on the data collection side and on the theoretical side, to understand the discrepancy.

    Yes, I agree that the right way to resolve this is to improve the satellite monitoring. Whether that overides the fact that you don’t have any money left to pay for it is another issue, but I’d much rather you spent the money you don’t have on satellites than windmills.

    Interesting that you pick on windmill subsidies and not the much larger fossil fuel subsidies. Careful – that type of thing is likely to feed my conspiracy-theory-paranoia! :)

  71. Sean McCorkle

    arg I can’t believe I screwed up that link in the last sentence. apologies. it was supposed to be this:
    http://ecopolitology.org/2010/03/08/think-renewables-need-huge-subsidies-federal-energy-subsidies-visualized/

  72. Nullius in Verba

    “If even 75% of scientists said that any child who touched a theoretical device would burst into flames and die a horrible death, even if you thought their data was based in some questionable work, would you let your kid touch the thing?”

    That’s a very good question! My answer is that I would ask the scientists why they thought what they did, and what their evidence was.

    If the evidence didn’t support their claim, or they refused to show it to me, or it was based on clearly shoddy work and poor quality data, then I would heavily discount their views. If some of their results were found on close examination to be badly flawed, and yet had passed their highest levels of quality control without being noticed, I would be disinclined to take the rest of their work on trust. And if the cost of not using this theoretical device was very high, I would want at least a proper independent audit and in-depth examination to settle the matter, presenting the evidence and arguments fully and openly in such a way that they can be checked. And if such was not forthcoming, I would ignore everything they said as obviously unreliable and use my own judgement as to the risks. Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

    The method of substituting consequences for evidence has a long history – it is the basis of Pascal’s Wager. Pascal argued that it was the only sensible course to believe in God, because if you did and God did not exist, nothing was lost, but if you did not and God existed, you would burn in hell for all eternity. With an infinite cost on one side, it didn’t matter what the probabilities were so long as they were non-zero – the only sensible choice would be devout piety.

    (Pascal wasn’t the first, of course – the same argument appears numerous times in the Koran. Most religions use some form of it.)

    Notice, he managed to do this without any reference to any evidence at all. It’s based entirely on hypothesising a sufficiently large cost. The problem is, one can make up any hypothesis and attach to it any terrifyingly apocalyptic outcome that would befall unbelievers in some distant or unfalsifiable future, and you have to act as if the hypothesis is true.

    So given that I think we have a fair number of atheists, agnostics, and indeed non-Muslims here, I guess that there must be people present who can see the flaw, yes?

    Understanding Pascal’s Wager and recognising it in its many different guises is one of the more useful tools of critical thinking. I highly recommend studying it.

  73. Jocie

    I for one, believe that individuals denying climate change is pure ignorance. There are studies leading back to the 60’s that evaluate how CO2 omissions will and already have had a profound impact on our planet and that imperative action would be needed just in order to reverse the process. But even now with 84% of scientists agreeing that climate change is occurring due to human activity (http://people-press.org/report/?pageid=1550), people still have the audacity to deny it. My question for you is even if you don’t believe in climate change, why do you want to continue breathing is carcinogens being omitted from what supposedly is not the cause of climate change?

  74. TTT

    Taking the called-for level of action will cause billions to die in poverty

    –followed by–

    the natural world has already shown that it can adapt – CO2 levels have been far higher in the past, and life has flourished

    –is just the latest example of Nullius In Verba being willing to vigorously debate against himself, conjuring up one paradoxical fantasy after another, as long as he can get in the way of serious discussions of scientific problems. “Environmental change cannot possibly harm us, but humans writing words on paper would be APOCALYPTIC GENOCIDE!”

    See, in the past, when CO2 levels were higher, “life flourished”–even though, y’know, not ALL of it flourished, in fact a great deal of it went extinct as a direct result of atmospheric and climatological change. That’s kind of what environmental change does. At this point in our civilization, it is imperative that we AVOID significant environmental change. There is no sudden climate alteration that could possibly be a net good. What we currently enjoy as a techno-agricultural globalized civilization of ~7billion people would never be able to exist during those past periods of higher CO2 levels, sea levels, and global temperatures. “We’d have been better off living in a prior hotter environment” is creationist-caliber reasoning, not one iota more valid than “why are there still monkeys?” We are now well beyond mere denialism of modern scientific observations, and have descended into denying the very concept of environmental conditions having any impact on human populations.

  75. Jody giardina

    @78 familiar with the concept, as an atheist myself. Please check out http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/The_global_warming_wager. That’s difference between my thought experiment and one having to do with religion.

    I also notice you didn’t actually answer the question, you just sort of waffled about data and verification. Pascals Wager, in the real world, is actually used to prove MY point – better to hedge your bets.

    Finally, I disagree with you on experts. “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”. What a bunch of hyperbolic junk. Science builds on the work of each generations’ experts. If each scientist had to reinvent every experiment for himself, progress would grind to a halt. We’d still be proving ‘fire hot’ because Ugnug’s sampling wasn’t unbiased enough for flame deniers. In the real world, not relying on experts is called “reinventing the wheel” and it’s a huge waste of time. In science, we don’t believe experts are ignorant – we just don’t think they are gods.

  76. Eric the Leaf

    “At this point in our civilization, it is imperative that we AVOID significant environmental change.”

    I’m no global warming denier, but this statement is ridiculous, or more appropriately, sad. First, it is an indictment of our civilization. Apparently, we have descended the slippery slope of cultural evolution to the extent that we barely can adapt to any climate variability. For the greater part of the history of our species, humans have coped with a variety of environmental changes. This leads to my contention, along the lines of Jared Diamond, that the origin of agriculture was worst mistake in human history.

    Second, we cannot avoid environmental change. This time around we may be the sponsor, but that was not always the true and it will not continue to be true. A good case for a poor evolutionary future can be made when specialization inhibits the ability to cope with environmental perturbations.

    I conclude that this is where we are, global warming or not.

  77. Bobito

    @80 ” “Environmental change cannot possibly harm us, but humans writing words on paper would be APOCALYPTIC GENOCIDE!”

    I ask, which has caused more trouble in recorded human history? Environmental change or humans writing words or paper? I think the answer is clear on that one.

    Humans are much better at killing humans than the environment is.

  78. TTT

    @82: It’s sad but true–as you rightly came to conclude.

    Too many people depend too greatly on global techno-commercialized agriculture, and many who rely on it are close enough to a marginal existence already that they wouldn’t have the skills or luxury of time to readjust themselves. The growing and shipping systems are extremely vulnerable to climate-based disruptions. If the climate bands were to significantly shift, we could never move enough of the growing space in time, especially if the newly-favored climates were otherwise inhospitable to agriculture, i.e. mountains, deserts, or cities. I don’t care how warm and rainy it is, you can’t grow wheat in sand or asphalt.

    For the greater part of the history of our species, humans have coped with a variety of environmental changes

    Species cope. Individuals die. If we were talking about the fossil record of some random other animal that would be fine, but we’re talking about human lives in the here and now. The human species “coped” with past periods of environmental change over tens of millions of graves, and if it happened again that would be exactly how we’d “cope” this time around too, except now with more extreme humanitarian and security shockwaves.

    @83: which has caused more trouble in recorded human history? Environmental change or humans writing words or paper? I think the answer is clear on that one. Humans are much better at killing humans than the environment is

    You’re not talking about “recorded history”–you’re talking about RECENT history, the period of just the last few centuries that were precisely when the global climate was stable enough to favor the growth of globalized commerce and agriculture. But go back to the 1300s and consider the environmental one-two punch of the Great Famine and Black Death.

  79. Bobito

    @84 “the environmental one-two punch of the Great Famine and Black Death”

    The Great Famine, from wikipedia: “Although blight ravaged potato crops throughout Europe during the 1840s, the impact and human cost in Ireland — where a ⅓ of the population was entirely dependent on the potato for food—was exacerbated by a host of political, social and economic factors which remain the subject of historical debate.”

    On “where a ⅓ of the population was entirely dependent on the potato for food”. Pretty much the whole of civilization is dependent on carbon based fuel.

    Then “was exacerbated by a host of political, social and economic factors”. Can we be certain that a rapid shift away from carbon based fuels will be handled by the worlds “host of political, social and economic factors” better than a gradual climate change?

  80. Jon

    Bobito: Humans are much better at killing humans than the environment is.

    Once the rest of the world catches on that we sat on our hands while all this came to pass, why imagine that it would have to be either one or the other? Also, what does it look like with *China* taking action, and us… not only *not* taking action, but defunding the IPPC?

  81. Jon

    Bobito: Pretty much the whole of civilization is dependent on carbon based fuel.

    And what’s that doing for us? It’s not doing us any favors, which is why we need to get to work. And BTW, fossil fuel is a finite resource to begin with, so we’d be wise to figure out other arrangements even if carbon wasn’t wrecking the climate:

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/green-and-how-i-got-here/

  82. TTT

    Bobito: wrong famine.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_of_1315%E2%80%931317

    This one was caused by climate change, and left surviving children malnourished and more prone to cataclysmic disease that came a few years later.

  83. Bobito

    Jon, agreed, we need to move away from carbon based fuel for the reasons you stated. Although I would strongly disagree with the sentiment “It’s not doing us any favors”. Unless you are saying we got ourselves into a pickle that EVENTUALLY will need to be addressed. Carbon based fuel has certainly been a boom for civilization otherwise.

    So, looping this back to the post. We need to be funding organizations that are looking for the next big idea that will give us an alternative, not political organizations that muddy the water and cherry pick facts to support an ideological goal.

    I’ve seen no consensus that we have to start forcing solutions on the world. Much of the “seas rising by 30 feet” and “Polar ice caps melting away” rhetoric has been dismissed by the main stream. We have time to let the migration to our new clean energy source happen organically. Forcing it will just cause issues that will be “exacerbated by a host of political, social and economic factors”.

  84. Jon

    Much of the “seas rising by 30 feet” and “Polar ice caps melting away” rhetoric has been dismissed by the main stream.

    I guess I don’t rely on “the main stream” as my compass on these matters. The main stream doesn’t do the scientific research, scientists do. I’ve never seen anything that convinced me that the IPCC isn’t a reliable body.

    As for “forcing it”, I didn’t buy the libertarian argument against going after tobacco companies either. If there is something that is dangerous to the public, and needs correction, that will happen, the sooner the better. The only question is when, and at what expense to us when consequences are felt (which I agree with Paul Krugman, is sooner than we think).

  85. Bobito

    Sorry, TTT. But, actually, that famine brings up another point as it was caused by the drop in global temperatures, The Little Ice Age, after the Midevil Warming period. This graph is a bit noisy, but it shows a sharp drop during the famine: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/1000_Year_Temperature_Comparison.png

    The article you posted also speculates the cause as a drop in temperatures, not a rise. Certainly climate change, but you can’t correlate the affects of a warming to a cooling. And, since we are heading towards the next ice age, the artificial warming we are experiencing may actually be helping us.

  86. Jody giardina

    @89 This is really sort-of off the cuff with no significant research, but I’d argue that the government forcing innovation was a boon. From the TVA to nuclear research, from all the inventions of NASA in the space race to DARPA and the Internet. This is, of course, American government in the 20th century, but I’d wager government spurring development in other eras also was more beneficial than hurtful – the medicis in Renaissance Europe and ancient Greek, Roman, and Chinese dynasties all pushed science and often forced progress.

    On the flip side, I find myself hard pressed to think of a time when scientifically-based shifts in economy or culture were really negative. Some might say the Nazis, but that was insanity wrapped in a thin gauss of pseudo-science, even for the time. When has government forcing innovation and change of this nature had a primarily negative impact? I’d be interested to see if there are any good examples, I really can’t think of any that come close to outweighing the historical “pros”.

    In the end, I don’t necessarily disagree that we could adapt in the long run. We’re pretty awesome. But I’d rather DO something than wait. I’d rather try and fail than hesitate and regret. And I think history shows that doing, trying, and yes even forcing works out for the best in the long run.

  87. TTT

    The article you posted also speculates the cause as a drop in temperatures, not a rise. Certainly climate change, but you can’t correlate the affects of a warming to a cooling

    I wasn’t trying to. The point was to show that sudden significant climate change, period, can have extremely serious and negative effects on human civilization, potentially far worse than new laws that are created and consented-to by humans and that can be uncreated just as easily by humans.

    I don’t know if a warming would be any better than a cooling, and neither does anybody else–it is only the glib, zero-data contrarians who say “well, it’d all be better if it were warmer!” (and I can’t help but note that nearly all of those people live in what are now the temperate, and thus wealthier, regions–I highly doubt anybody in India wants it to get much hotter). Disruption is disruption. And our species is overpopulated enough and dependent enough on global agriculture and commerce that any significant climate disruption in any direction would be a bad thing.

  88. Bobito

    @92 “but I’d argue that the government forcing innovation was a boon” Your examples are government funding innovation, not forcing.

    Forcing innovation generally lead to bad innovation. The TSA springs to mind here. Their security innovations are designed to address political talking points and do little to solve the problems of airport security.

  89. Bobito

    @93 “Disruption is disruption”

    So why rush to intentionally create a disruption when we don’t know what the climate is going to do? Temperature trend has been level for 10 years after the warming. Do we know it’s going to start going up again? We are on the ~100K year march towards the next ice age, what if we just got lucky that our carbon addiction has paused that march?

    In this case, we would have a double disruption. One of “outlawing carbon” thus making energy more expensive and placing a burden on the developing world (a burden the developed world did not have). And two, the disruption of Canada and Norther Europe being under 100 feet of ice.

    Since we are supposed to be going down, and Ice Ages are certainly a bad thing for civilization, it seems prudent to not force solutions to a problem we can’t validate.

    I believe that AGW is real. But nobody can say with certainty that it is categorically a bad thing.

  90. Jon

    But nobody can say with certainty that it is categorically a bad thing.

    We can discuss the range of scenarios people are projecting. But tell me Bobito, how do you handle risk in other parts of your life? Does your house have fire insurance? If the fire marshall told you your house was a fire trap, would you invest in a good fire policy?

  91. Jody

    @94 I disagree that funding and forcing are different in this context. The primary method governments use for “forcing” these things IS funding. It can help (as with the examples I cited) or hurt (Stem Cell research comes quickly to mind). Those seem to fit a not-too-broad definition of forcing innovation. Likewise, Kennedy said “We’ll go to the moon by the end of the decade”, and the government did it. Tons of innovations resulted. That’s pretty forced, in my book.

    I don’t think we’ve lost that power in the intervening time. So, Obama and the IPCC say “We’ll be XYZ percent free of carbon-based fuels by XYZ date” – then I think the governments do it, and tons of innovations will result. By the same token, Republican defunding of the IPCC hurts innovation. It hurts an organization tasked with looking at science and techniques for mitigating climate change, and I fear it will cause problems similar to the those encountered by stem cell researchers.

    (The TSA example seems a little weak, as well, although I’d wager you didn’t put much thought into it, and might come up with a better example. It’s not exactly a hard hitting one, oh the catastrophe of removing our shoes… I mean, the technologies aren’t BAD…backscatter machines and metal detectors and bomb chemical checks WORK. We could do better, and the administration of the system sometimes runs like crap. But it’s not like planes are dropping out of the sky every week. And innovations continue in the field, so I can’t see how forcing the innovation HURT the field, the public, or the economy as a whole. I saw a clip the other day about a guy who uses technology similar to backscatter to examine the contents of sealed wine containers, and in a kind of feedback loop his improvements are being looked at to beef up our current security detectors. Seems good to me. )

  92. Bobito

    @96 – Of course I would invest in a good fire policy. But your analogy doesn’t quite fit this debate in my opinion. Buying insurance guarantees a good outcome. We don’t have that luxury…

    I think this is a better analogy:
    I have the choice of 3 houses, the one I’m in could be a fire trap, one I can move to could flood, and another I can move to could collapse. In this case, I’d stay in the house I was in so that I wouldn’t waste any of my resources moving from one potential problem to another.

  93. Bobito

    @97 – We aren’t far off on this, I am all for federal funding of science. And don’t have any problem with money being target at a specific goal.

    I’m trying to stay on topic. I feel, and I am certainly not alone, that the IPCC is politically corrupt and thus are looking at the issue with blinders on. Comparing them to NASA and DARPA is not a fair comparison. I fully support funding for NASA to research AGW and it’s affects as their results have been proven to be largely accepted. And I fully support science researching new energy production methods, we’ll need to get there some day.

    What I am against is scare tactics from a (to some extent) corrupt organization forcing us towards a path that cannot be proven to have a positive affect when considering all ramifications. That path being rapid reduction of the use of fossil fuels rather than a natural progression to the next energy source.

  94. Nullius in Verba

    #81,

    “I also notice you didn’t actually answer the question,”

    I did answer the question. Right after where I said “My answer is…”

    “Pascals Wager, in the real world, is actually used to prove MY point – better to hedge your bets.”

    Yes. That was my point. So why are you an atheist, instead of hedging?

    “Finally, I disagree with you on experts. “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”. What a bunch of hyperbolic junk.”

    Do you mean to say you didn’t recognise the quote?

    “If each scientist had to reinvent every experiment for himself, progress would grind to a halt.”

    Scientists have to learn from the mistakes of the past, and one of the primary lessons we learnt was not to rely on experts. Before science, medieval scholars relied on the authority of experts like Aristotle. If Aristotle had said it – ‘ipse dixit’ – then there was no need to consider further. Modern scholars built on the foundations set by the ancients, they didn’t go re-examining them or testing them to see if they were true. This realisation was one of the foundation stones of Science itself: that belief can only be reliably based on empirical evidence, not authority. “Take nobody’s word for it”, they said.

    This has been at the core of the philosophy of science since its beginning. It is its defining essence: science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. And yet, this hard won lesson is in constant danger of being forgotten, having to be reinvented over and over again.

    Not even scientists are immune from the lure of easy authority. Here’s another quote from a more famous essay.
    “I was shocked to hear of an experiment done at the big accelerator at the National Accelerator Laboratory, where a person used deuterium. In order to compare his heavy hydrogen results to what might happen with “light hydrogen” he had to use data from someone else’s experiment on light hydrogen, which was done on different apparatus. When asked why, he said it was because he couldn’t get time on the program (because there’s so little time and it’s such expensive apparatus) to do the experiment with light hydrogen on this apparatus because there wouldn’t be any new result. And so the men in charge of programs at NAL are so anxious for new results, in order to get more money to keep the thing going for public relations purposes, they are destroying – possibly – the value of the experiments themselves, which is the whole purpose of the thing.”

    In this important essay he discusses several cases of what is called science – what a layman would assume to be science, done in universities by professors and suchlike – and yet is not, because it is missing something essential.

    It’s something missed in modern science education – where the history runs like a heroic narrative and scientists leap easily from each truth to the next – and that is how unbelievably easy it is to fool yourself, and how incredibly difficult it is to design your procedures and experiments so that you can’t. Science is a history of errors. Scientists keep getting it wrong, time and time again. Most of those bits get edited out of the story, but they are the most important bits.

    Science requires careful and painstaking attention to detail, to report everything that might make it invalid, and then systematically check and eliminate each possibility, and report each in enough detail that another researcher can check it to be sure that you have; to spot anything you might have missed. And then do it again. Science succeeds only because of the care it takes.

    It’s hard to do, and difficult to see the need; and with funding tight and the public clamouring for results, it’s tempting to cheat: “To be competitive, a scientist must continually be learning all kinds of things way outside their experience, and they usually can’t spare the time to refine and perfect methods once they’ve been used to answer a question, because its time to move on to a new question.” Fine. But you can’t rely on the result until somebody else has gone back and refined and perfected the methods. If the work is sloppy, how do you know you haven’t missed something essential? Something fatal to your conclusion? It is an exaggeration to say that such work is worthless, but it doesn’t merit the name and reputation that science has built up.

  95. Jody

    @100. You did NOT answer the question. I asked a yes or no question. You responded “That’s a very good question! My answer is that I would ask the scientists why they thought what they did, and what their evidence was.” Stating “my answer is…” does not mean it’s an actual answer to the question posed. I stand by my characterization of this as waffling.

    If you actually read about the way pascal’s gambit is used in practice, it’s used to hedge bets on real world, actual risks that are knowable and theoretically measurable. Like climate change. Any time it’s discussed, the actual “god” issue is dismissed because it’s unknowable. As noted in the link I posted.

    The rest of your post seems to be about reliability, repeatability, diligence, and peer review. Fundamentally I obviously agree. But I think you take it too far by taking feynmans quote literally. Maybe it was meant to be ironic that in discounting experts, you actually quote several.

    American Scientist had some interesting articles on honesty and peer review recently, and I agree it’s necessary and that sometimes it’s not done right. But that proves my point and takes us full circle. Part of the IPCC’s mandate was the careful review of scientific literature regarding climate change! Cutting funding undercuts your whole point.

    I would also point out another note from American Scientist this quarter. Scientists are not cold computers, passionless collectors of data. They have beliefs and desires and egos. The goal is to prevent those passions from corrupting the integrity of their work. But without them, there would be no drive to progress. The end of an article on memristors caught my attention.

    “He offered several substantive arguments, but he also added, candidly: “It’s the one I’m working on. I have to believe in it.” In a sense, this is the strongest endorsement anyone can give. As a bystander, I have the luxury of waiting on the sidelines to see how the contest comes out. But someone has to make choices, take risks and commit resources, or nothing new will ever be created.”

    Non deniers feel it’s time to take some risks and commit resources.

  96. Now, you can argue what the temperature for each year is but you would be hard pressed to draw any line through the years since 1998 that was not approaching flat or falling.

    Try 1.415 deg/Century.

    Slide it so that it passes through zero around April 1995. That’s the simple least squares trend that best fits your data from 1978-2011. Half the points fall above the trend line, half below.

    Now check the difference between that simple trend and the data from 1999-2011. Again, half the points fall above the line, half below. So the evidence from your own data set is that the Earth has continued to warm at a rate of more than 1.4 deg/Century since 1998, just as it did in the 20 years before 1998.

  97. Sean McCorkle

    Nullius@100

    Yes, scientists fall victim to authority reasoning. Yes, Science is a history of errors. I’m not sure about most of the mistakes getting edited out though. An important threshold in making a claim is getting past a couple of reviewers and into a journal, but thats not the end of it by any means. Once something is in print, then the audience of critics and fault-finders becomes much larger, and you’re subject to potential widespread attack by competitors, who take almost as much if not more pleasure in proving someone else wrong than they do in being right themselves. And there in the journals the record of mistakes is preserved.

    Science requires careful and painstaking attention to detail, to report everything that might make it invalid, and then systematically check and eliminate each possibility, and report each in enough detail that another researcher can check it to be sure that you have; to spot anything you might have missed. And then do it again. Science succeeds only because of the care it takes.

    This would be wonderful if were always possible to a perfect job, but its not realistic. For starters, scientists need to establish a publication record because thats the currency of value in that world. A scientist’s publication list in their CV are their credentials. Its an important part of any grant application. Among other things, tenure committees typically expect a minimum number of publications in so-called high impact journals before they start looking in detail at those publications. Depending on the field, a scientist needs to produce a few papers a year to hold a job or advance. Secondly, grant cycles are typically 3 years tops (at least in the U.S.) so the clock is always running on doing the experiment, analyzing, then publishing. Thirdly, if you don’t get it out soon, your competitors will. There’s several clocks running when you’re a researcher.

    … to spot anything you might have missed. And then do it again.

    Fourthly, unless qualified with in a reasonable amount of time, this is a potentially non-terminating process, incompatible with the time limits that I described above. Its non-terminating because there is no way to ensure that you have not missed something. So one does what one can, and then seeks out criticism from ones collaborators, then from the reviewers, and then from the scientific community at large, who read your paper with knives drawn and fangs sharpened. And even then, there’s no way to ensure that there still isn’t something that everybody missed.

    This last part is what good scientists worry about. They worry about the unknown gotchas that everybody missed. That’s why they tend to place a premium not so much on perfecting and refining methods which they’ll do up to a point, but more importantly, they’ll look as much as they can for corroborating or supporting evidence from completely different methods or lines of reason in in order to buttress their claims. If some other evidence contradicts them, its back to the drawing board to find the mistake or understand what the difference is due to.

    Fifthly, another thing driving the clock is the pace of everything else. New technologies are superseding and replacing older methods on timescales of a few years anymore. Sometimes the changes are so major that publications a couple of years old aren’t even worth reading (except for the historical value) because the current researchers are doing in a day what once took a few years, using completely different methods that render the old completely obsolete. And who would want to perfect and make rigorous some method that nobody will even pay attention to in a few years time. For example, the rapid exponential growth of DNA sequencing throughput has absolutely overwhelmed the existing software tools and has forced researchers to abandon many previous standard practices because there’s just too much data to check everything thoroughly anymore.

    And lastly, sloppy doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Enrico Fermi estimated the yield of the Trinity test to within a factor of two by dropping bits of shredded paper when the shock wave passed by and then pacing off the distance they were carried with his feet. That is a story known and valued by many scientists – its one of the things that makes him a hero in that world and something that many aspire to.

  98. Sean McCorkle

    BTW Jody@81:

    We’d still be proving ‘fire hot’ because Ugnug’s sampling wasn’t unbiased enough for flame deniers.

    LOL! thats beautiful!

  99. sHx

    “It’s something missed in modern science education – where the history runs like a heroic narrative and scientists leap easily from each truth to the next – …”

    That is indeed the case in modern science education. Not just for primary and high school kids. I suspect the perception that scientists don’t get many things wrong run all the way to post-graduate level. It is definitely evident in the supremely confident statements that begin with “97 percent of scientists agree that…”

    I don’t know if history and philosophy of science courses are compulsory to all science under-graduates nowadays, but it was available to me as a non-science student and I benefited immensely from it. It was in that course that I first found out no medieval astronomer thought the Earth was flat, not in my previous 12 years of education. The reasons for the spherical shape of the Earth was laid out by Aristotle in De Coelho (On the Heavens).

    Let’s not forget that it was also Aristotle who properly formulated the geocentric model of the universe. The model was much improved by Ptolemy when he added epicycles and deferents. Although the novelties introduced by Ptolemy made it much easier to predict the celestial movements, it also made the model incredibly complex as centuries passed. It became harder and harder to match observations with predictions because the geocentric model, although simple, elegant and beautiful, was wrong fundamentally.

    Enter Copernicus, who was so scared of the consequences of what he proposed that he didn’t want it published during his life time.

    Didn’t anybody ever think of the heliocentric model until Copernicus? Well, some people did as far back as the Ancient Greece. One astronomer we know of was Aristarchus of Samos. But we only know that Aristarchus speculated about the heliocentric model thanks to Archimedes, who dismisses the idea after brief consideration. So if you are a 15th Century monk/astronomer/astrologer who has dedicated his life to the study of the heavens, would you take the word of Aristotle and Archimedes and Ptolemy and whoever is the Pope at the time, or would you take the word of ‘non-entities’ like Aristarchus who couldn’t properly formulate the idea he speculated?

    There were probably many more who thought of heliocentrism in more than 1600 years that passed between Aristarchus and Copernicus. We’ll never know. But the fact is that all the best minds the humanity produced for many, many centuries got their science wrong.

    So whenever I hear people saying “97 percent of scientists agree that…”, I feel dismayed by the ignorance. The fact is once upon a time 100 percent of scientists agreed to something that later turned out to be completely incorrect.

    Might climate science one day have it’s own Copernicus moment? I think it will. Why? Because we are still very ignorant of atmospheric dynamics and we don’t have enough reliable climate data. This doesn’t seem to bother many in the CAGW dogmasphere because CAGW cultists are quite ignorant about the history of Copernican revolution.

  100. Jody

    @105. So do you laugh at this one: “more than 97% of scientists agree that the earth orbits the sun”? Clearly not. Why not? Because scientific techniques and procedures and measurements have improved since the ancients. Based on theories of orbits and space, we’ve launched all kinds of satellites and missions into space, spurring on great technical innovation and human progress. We non deniers are looking to do the same based on the scientific community’s majority opinions regarding man-made climate change.

    Why do you support the heliocentric theory but not ones on climate change? At what point, in deniers minds, do theories become actionable? Seems like never; deniers appear content to be bystanders in history.

  101. sHx

    @106

    “So do you laugh at this one: “more than 97% of scientists agree that the earth orbits the sun”? Clearly not. Why not? Because scientific techniques and procedures and measurements have improved since the ancients.”

    Actually, it is “100 percent of scientists agree on the heliocentric model” at the moment, but they’re all wrong.

    Although we’re orbiting it, what we think is the Sun is in fact a microscopic black hole that looks like a sun. You don’t believe me?

    I can’t prove this speculation at the moment because I lost interest in mathematics when I was at year 11, and I haven’t yet come across someone who could formulate the speculation for me pro bono.

    I know I’ll be proven right approximately in the year 4011, because scientific techniques and procedures and measurements that can prove my hypothesis will have been proven by then.

    Now, did somebody say climate catastrophe will happen in 2100, if we don’t turn off the lights and go back to the dark ages for a few decades?.

  102. Sean McCorkle

    sHx:

    A few points: A heliocentric system was considered by the ancient Greeks, but rejected. One of the arguments was that if the Earth were really orbiting the Sun, we should be able to see some parallax shifts in the stars (a correct presumption). They looked and saw no such evidence. What went wrong was that the parallax shift is too small to see with the unaided eye (seconds of arc or less) because the stars are so far away relative to the Earth’s orbit. Geocentrism is somewhat forgivable given that they didn’t have telescopes at that time.

    However, I think the Greeks were more hobbled by a philosophical belief that, while things were imperfect here on Earth, they were perfect up in the heavens, and that meant pure geometry to them. Nothing was more perfect than a circle, so the geocentric orbits must therefore be perfect circles. But this ran smack into the problem of quite obvious occasional retrograde motion of the planets. Ptolemy added epicycles (planets moving on circles moving on circles) which helped, but over the centuries, as the observations piled up, more and more epicycles needed to be added (up to 7 layers). The parameters of all these circles were adjusted and readjusted until they fit the observations. By the early Renaissance, the models were predicting the motions of the planets pretty well. Copernicus put the Sun at the center and the planets in motion around it and showed that it elegantly explained retrograde motion, but he was still tied to perfect circles and thus also had to add epicycles. It wasn’t until Kepler spent years pouring through Brahe’s data that a far simpler model, which threw off the shackles of the perfect circles, could be used to accurately predict planetary motion. Far less orbital parameters were required.

    Some lessons we’ve learned through this history are 1) philosophical beliefs can inhibit understanding when it comes to doing science, 2) the model must fit the data and 3) simpler is better, and simpler means less free parameters, among other things.

    Given that, and given a pretty solid history of molecular spectroscopy, atmospheric CO2 measurements, temperature records, and solar constant measurements, anthropogenic global warming is a relatively simple explanation that at least roughly explains the observed temperature rise. Its rough around the edges, to be sure. But is there a reasonable alternative hypothesis which explains that data at least as well, if not better? One might argue that the Greeks picked the wrong explanation because their measurements of parallax shift were not sensitive enough, and maybe something analogous is going on with climate. Maybe we don’t have accurate enough or comprehensive data. But at least they were lining up two models and comparing them. What’s an alternative to AGW that we should comparing with when examining the data?

    And that we don’t have enough accurate data is an argument FOR funding more data gathering and study on this issue.

  103. Jody

    @107…I am confused now. It sounds like you’re making fun of the arguments that deniers make. The way the large, nonscientific conservative/petrochemical bloc gets a few outspoken minority opinion scientists to give credence to their anti-GW theories (sometimes formulating speculation for them pro bono). And the way they claim that eventually, at some distant point, their outlier opinions will be proven true (or as you put it “Might climate science one day have it’s own Copernicus moment? I think it will. Why? Because we are still very ignorant of atmospheric dynamics and we don’t have enough reliable climate data”).

    Did I not understand your initial position? Or did your joking comments backfire horribly?

  104. ThomasL

    Jody (@#81),

    Poor example. Every child goes through the touch phase. That is generally where one learns about “hot” -> ask any parent. In other words, we have *all* tested that hypothesis and concluded it is reasonable.

    Part of what makes science “Science”, and generally very different from other fields, is in its *demand* that I test for myself. Perhaps if we spent a little time really studying what “theory” meant and required everyone to pass at least a year of logicreason, people would be able to see the difference instead of passing off bad science as a “time restraint” issue.…

    And actually Jody, yes I do laugh at “97% of xxx believe”. I am not overtly interested in what others believe. That’s how religions start, not how scientific discoveries are made.

    Sean McCorkle (#108),

    Interesting points, but the main point to take from the “tradition” of education found in the history of Philosophy through at least the renaissance is the danger of dogma and authority.

    One literally couldn’t write anything unless they were somehow able to show the ancients had shown such to be acceptable -> why all you ever read at the end of any major claim prior to that period is “as the teach showed us” (meaning the Platonic Dialogs), or “according to his student” (that would be Aristotle, of course). That’s where “everyone agrees” leads.

    No interest in going backwards people, sorry. I will continue to demand expanding proofs and proofs of all previous proofs. That’s how science works. Anything less is not science.

  105. ThomasL

    Honestly, anyone who is impressed by credentials has missed how little they mean anymore:
    “at least 45 percent of undergraduates demonstrated “no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills in the first two years of college, and 36 percent showed no progress in four years.”

    http://chronicle.com/article/A-Perfect-Storm-in/126451/

    Jody (@#81),

    Poor example. Every child goes through the touch phase. That is generally where one learns about “hot” -> ask any parent. In other words, we have *all* tested that hypothesis and concluded it is reasonable.

    Part of what makes science “Science”, and generally very different from other fields, is in its *demand* that I test for myself. Perhaps if we spent a little time really studying what “theory” meant and required everyone to pass at least a year of logicreason, people would be able to see the difference instead of passing off bad science as a “time restraint” issue.…

    And actually Jody, yes I do laugh at “97% of xxx believe”. I am not overtly interested in what others believe. That’s how religions start, not how scientific discoveries are made.

    Sean McCorkle (#108),

    Interesting points, but the main point to take from the “tradition” of education found in the history of Philosophy through at least the renaissance is the danger of dogma and authority.

    One literally couldn’t write anything unless they were somehow able to show the ancients had shown such to be acceptable -> why all you ever read at the end of any major claim prior to that period is “as the teach showed us” (meaning the Platonic Dialogs), or “according to his student” (that would be Aristotle, of course). That’s where “everyone agrees” leads.

    No interest in going backwards people, sorry. I will continue to demand expanding proofs and proofs of all previous proofs. That’s how science works. Anything less is not science.

  106. Jody

    @111. I don’t think you read my question closely, it’s not a stove…unless you think a stove is a theoretical device that might kill your kids (either way, don’t let them touch it).

    I don’t think Sean, I, or any others are saying we shouldn’t question or test theories. Like the news today about cellphones – many scientists had stated there was no effect on the brain from cellphones use, but a new experiment seems to show that cellphones do cause an increase in the brain’s energy consumption. Food for thought and further study, good science.

    But to just throw out the work of others is backwards. The study on cellphones used PET scanners – do you really think the scientists who conducted it should have gone back and reproven all the previous work on positrons and their use in medical imaging? Does the fact that they didn’t, somehow invalidate their work? Of course not.

    Anyone interested in science and logic clearly holds that adherence to dogma and unquestioning belief are anathema to scientific principles. But that doesn’t mean we should discount the work of others like a bunch of solipsists.

    As in most endeavors, scientists stand on the shoulders of giants. Deniers seem content to nip at the heels of giants.

  107. Jody

    @111. I don’t think you read my question closely, it’s not a stove…unless you think a stove is a theoretical device that might kill your kids (either way, don’t let them touch it).

    I don’t think Sean, I, or any others are saying we shouldn’t question or test theories. Like the news today about cellphones – many scientists had stated there was no effect on the brain from cellphones use, but a new experiment seems to show that cellphones do cause an increase in the brain’s energy consumption. Food for thought and further study, good science.

    But to just throw out the work of others is backwards. The study on cellphones used PET scanners – do you really think the scientists who conducted it should have gone back and reproven all the previous work on positrons and their use in medical imaging? Does the fact that they didn’t, somehow invalidate their work? Of course not.

    Anyone interested in science and logic clearly holds that adherence to dogma and unquestioning belief are anathema to scientific principles. But that doesn’t mean we should discount the work of others like a bunch of solipsists. Ignoring what “97% of scientists” have concluded out of mere antiauthoritarianism is, itself, scientifically unsound and irrational.

    As in many endeavors, scientists stand on the shoulders of giants. Deniers seem content to nip at the heels of giants.

  108. Nullius in Verba

    #101,

    “You did NOT answer the question. I asked a yes or no question.”

    You asked an unanswerable yes or no question; the information required to answer it was not supplied. My answer was that I would ask for the required information, and if it satisfied me my answer would be no, and if it didn’t or it was not supplied then my answer would be either yes or no based on my own assessment, ignoring the scientists.

    “Part of the IPCC’s mandate was the careful review of scientific literature regarding climate change! Cutting funding undercuts your whole point.”

    Yes. The problem is that they didn’t do it, and show no sign of fixing the problems so that they’ll do any better next time round. So far, they’ve spent almost all their time denying that they did anything wrong. That doesn’t build any confidence that they’ve learned any lessons.

    “Non deniers feel it’s time to take some risks and commit resources.”

    If you’re committing your own resources, that’s fine. But when you want to commit other people’s resources, they get a say in the decision too.

    #103,

    “For starters, scientists need to establish a publication record because thats the currency of value in that world.”

    Yes. And there are some people who say that this is precisely what has corrupted science. “And so the men in charge of programs at NAL are so anxious for new results, in order to get more money to keep the thing going for public relations purposes, they are destroying – possibly – the value of the experiments themselves, which is the whole purpose of the thing.”

    There is the scientific method, careful and methodical, and there is what scientists do, which is a human activity based on psychology, economics, bureaucracy, tradition, politics, and (hopefully) the ideals and understanding to overcome them. The two are distinct. Scientists aspire to follow the scientific method, but they don’t always. It’s not their fault (usually), but we need to be aware of it.

    “Fourthly, unless qualified with in a reasonable amount of time, this is a potentially non-terminating process, incompatible with the time limits that I described above.”

    Absolutely it’s a non-terminating process. Publication isn’t the end of the matter. That’s what sceptics are for.

    #106,

    Yes, orbital mechanics is able to make useful predictions, that have been tested and found to be accurate. Climate science has not, so far. That’s the distinction.

    #107,

    Somebody arguing that the Earth didn’t orbit the sun would probably argue that the concept of orbiting a point doesn’t make sense. Are we orbiting the sun, or the barycentre of the solar system, or orbiting the centre of the galaxy? Are we in fact tracing out a complex helical path as the sun and galaxy itself move through intergalactic space? If we look at it from some moving frame of reference, the answer changes. One way of looking at it is to define “orbit” in terms of acceleration relative to a local (sufficiently small) inertial frame, and say what point that acceleration is directed towards. But there isn’t a single point, nor is it the same for all objects everywhere, and for an object on or near the Earth the bulk of the acceleration would be directed towards the Earth, not the sun. (The question is actually an even more subtle one than I’m saying here – but I’m only illustrating a point.)

    Furthermore, general relativity would assert that there’s nothing special about inertial frames. It’s just that the laws come out simpler in an inertial frame, but you can introduce a different force law (adding centrifugal and Coriolis forces) to come up with a version of mechanics to work in any frame, including an Earth-centred one. It’s a matter of convenience and convention, not an absolute and objective fact.

    The world is more complicated than you think, and the “orbiting the sun” theory may one day be seen as naive a way of looking at things as the geocentric worldview.

    #108,

    “Given that, and given a pretty solid history of molecular spectroscopy, atmospheric CO2 measurements, temperature records, and solar constant measurements, anthropogenic global warming is a relatively simple explanation that at least roughly explains the observed temperature rise.”

    Not even roughly. The pure radiative greenhouse effect predicts an average surface temperature of 60 C. You also need to include convection, and that’s a highly non-linear, often chaotic phenomenon.

    “What’s an alternative to AGW that we should comparing with when examining the data?”

    There are several on offer. But even without alternatives, it’s still required to do the science on the CO2 hypothesis right.

  109. -Climate science has not

    Pinatubo for one, and others

  110. Nullius in Verba

    #115,

    Good one. That’s a usefully scientific answer, in that it’s testable. Here’s the response.

    But I’m more interested by that graph I found by following the link attached to the Pinatubo claim in yours. Note that only the part after 1988 is a prediction. But on what year, do you think, did they end the ‘observed’ graph? And in what year was that article published? Most amusing…

  111. Bobito

    @116 – That is too funny. Apparently “hypothetical government controls” work like a charm!

  112. Jody

    @114.  So at what point do we get to spend public funds on a subject?  If large consensus among scientists in the field isn’t the benchmark, what is?  Doesn’t have to be just climate change, pick any field of study.  Obviously the benchmark can’t be “they satisfy me, skeptic”. Surely you recognize that after a certain point we need to cut off debate and take action, especially when it comes to a subject that represents a potential threat to humanity?  Is there EVER a point where you would say “while I personally disagree with their findings, there seems to be broad consensus on this subject, and we should move forward”. If you’re saying that you would NEVER support funding something with which you personally disagree…surely you must see that is an irrational standpoint. 

    The point of the thought experiment machine question I asked earlier (which I’m sure you actually understood) was to illustrate that, at some point, it becomes irresponsible to ignore the majority opinion of scientists on a subject of risk.  

    Let’s try another thought experiment.  97% of scientists say that a large meteor is coming towards the planet, it’s a civilization killer.  Thankfully Bruce Willis and crew are ready with a plan to stop the impact.  It costs trillions of dollars.   About 75% of the scientists think the plan will work.  The remaining scientists think it will not.  And there are the vocal minority 3% of the whole who don’t think the meteor is going to hit the earth (or don’t believe in meteors, or think that meteors are a part of a natural cycle that is beneficial to human life).  You’re the guy who gets to give the yea/nay on the plan.  You’re in a bunker, all you have access to is the confidence statements above, not the scientists or their data.  Launch window: 5minutes.  Do you go with the plan, yes or no?

    Obviously that’s a dramatic example, but it’s an exaggerated example of what I’m saying.  Deniers claim (and some even make convincing, if narrow, arguments) that the data is wrong, or incomplete, or inconclusive.  But I think we can all agree that a large majority of scientists in climate study and related fields disagree with the deniers.  And a large portion of that majority has proposed several steps, some expensive, for mitigating the threat they perceive.  At what point can they have the money?  At what point can they stop spending time addressing critics and move forward?  

    Be scientifically objective and take yourself out of the argument, and give me a percentage of scientific consensus or other, equally impartial and measurable standard.

  113. ThomasL

    Jody (#112),

    You mean so you won’t go and write something like this: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2011/02/03/smart-meters-dumb-resistance/ ? -> because yep, that would be why we keep testing, even after we are *sure* we know the answer.

    And yes, I read your question carefully -> you have asked several things, are you sure you realize which question (posing as a statement) I answered?

    Who said anything about throwing out anyone’s work? There is quite a difference between:

    a) questioning something and expecting a coherent answer back

    b) questioning something by one who is lecturing you and getting told “it’s in the literature, go read it” (because that gives me great confidence in your understanding the thing you are lecturing on… and that is what happens in here constantly)

    and

    c) questioning something and getting told in response that there is no need, everything is settled.

    Then there is “throwing it all out”, which is generally what happens when someone comes along and debunks a huge chunk of what *everyone* already “knew”. A very major recent example would be something like Dinosaurs being cold blooded lizard type creatures that were slow movers… Something which everyone my age or older was taught with no doubt at all about the accuracy of such a claim.

  114. Sean McCorkle

    ThomasL@110

    Interesting points, but the main point to take from the “tradition” of education found in the history of Philosophy through at least the renaissance is the danger of dogma and authority.

    No disagreement there.

    Part of what makes science “Science”, and generally very different from other fields, is in its *demand* that I test for myself.

    Thats certainly in the right spirit. However, concomitant with that is that the test must be cast in a such a way that reasonable people can agree whether or not it passed or failed. For example, I can “test” predictions from the horoscope in my daily newspaper myself, but thats not science. Any reasonable scientist would point out the subjective and unreliable nature of my evaluations. There’s also a practical aspect in this day and age of large scale science. Most particle physics experiments have for years required large, energetic accelerators or colliders and elaborate detectors which require(d) large teams to build and operate—something an individual would have a hard time duplicating.

    No interest in going backwards people, sorry. I will continue to demand expanding proofs and proofs of all previous proofs. That’s how science works. Anything less is not science.

    Proofs and proofs of proofs are more in the domain of mathematics. The essence of Science is testing, and the tests either confirm or contradict hypothesis. They may disprove, but rarely prove.

  115. Sean McCorkle

    Nullius@114

    Not even roughly.

    I was actually thinking of your statement in #63 above:

    The actual rate of temperature rise (ignoring all the issues about data quality) are about the same as expected for CO2 alone. When you take the solar/cloud correlation into account, the rate of temperature rise is lower than expected, suggesting a negative feedback (the rise is multiplied by a number less than 1).

    The pure radiative greenhouse effect predicts an average surface temperature of 60 C.

    I think you’ve mentioned this before. Where is that calculation coming from?

    [wrt alternative working hypothesis to AGW] There are several on offer.

    So do any allow tests that differentiate them from AGW?

  116. ThomasL

    Sean (#120),

    Agreed in regards to proof in its most proper meaning ;). I also agree about one being able to look at what was performed and being able to conclude that the results are reasonable, though that is not the same as saying they are true -> rather only that I see nothing that would at this point lead me to believe it is other than presented. I may even be inclined to use them (results, devices or what have you) without further thought of proving the validity in such things -> for example that an x-ray is an honest representation of my internal bone condition, or that a plane will in fact take off and get me where I am going.

    That doesn’t mean that I accept “go read about it in the literature” from one who professes to know enough to lecture me -> I would think, they being so smart and all, that they should not find any question I pose to be overtly difficult. I also expect to be able to find answers to questions about such mechanisms and devices should I choose to do such research, and that all information required to arrive at the validity of the basic science is not hidden or kept in someone’s personal lock box (seems that such is how wizards of ancient lore held sway, not modern scientist’s…). I also accept that it is always possible that we are in fact misunderstanding everything and some future fundamental breakthrough will make most of how we view things seem very quaint (just like we view any understanding more than a few decades old…).

    That’s one of the great things about science. Because one is encouraged to ask questions and rethink old problems we arrive at ever better solutions and scratch our way ever so slightly closer to the truth.

  117. Jody

    @119. OK, at this point I’m saying the first question is moot. I don’t think you’re getting it, you don’t think I’m understanding your response. Let’s move on to something more productive. Genuinely interested in your responses (and the responses of others, on any side of the aisle) I posed in 118. To avoid confusion, the questions I’m specifically looking to see answered are:

    1. In response to the thought experiment: “Do you go with the plan, yes or no?” This requires a yes or no answer.

    I’d be a fool if I didn’t admit the thought experiment, while in my mind valid, is a bit loaded. So if you can’t bring yourself to answer, the one I’m REALLY interested in, with honest curiosity and free of rancor, is:

    2. “At what point can they have the money? At what point can they stop spending time addressing critics and move forward? Be scientifically objective and take yourself out of the argument, and give me a percentage of scientific consensus or other, equally impartial and measurable standard.”

    I know it looks like 2 questions because it has two ?’s, but it’s really one question restated for dramatic effect and because I am verbose. This question is in response to Nullius saying “If you’re committing your own resources, that’s fine. But when you want to commit other people’s resources, they get a say in the decision too.” It was aimed at him, but I’d love to hear your response as well.

    I’ll tell you my criteria if you tell me yours…

  118. TTT

    ThomasL @111: I will continue to demand expanding proofs and proofs of all previous proofs. That’s how science works. Anything less is not science.

    No, THAT is not science. Do you seriously think in a genetics R&D lab, the researchers first demand redundant proofs that those squiggly little double-helix-shaped molecules are really DNA? In a hospital emergency room when a patient is in cardiac arrest, should the doctors flay him from head to foot in order to give a fair chance for the heart to be anywhere in the body, having not really been proven to be in the chest? Should geologists studying continental drift have to continually survey and re-survey the shorelines of South America and Africa just to see whether they continue to align and haven’t changed by supernatural miracle in the last 30 seconds?

    A very great deal in science is proven beyond reasonable doubt–that is at the heart of the entire concept of gathering evidence to support any notion, which presupposes that something called “evidence” can ever exist and have intellectual consequence. The mantra of “no proof, no consensus, nothing, never” is just an unscientific shibboleth of denialism.

  119. Bobito

    On this thread I’ve read comparisons of AGW science to the certainty of human anatomy, that fire is hot, and the affects of an asteroid hitting the planet.

    Are the people posting these analogies trying to say we are as sure about AGW science as we are about those?

  120. Jody

    @125. Clearly those are exaggerated for the purpose of example, in the same way that deniers’ comparisons of AGW to pre-Copernican models of the solar system or a belief in the supernatural, also made here, are clearly exaggerated. To answer what I hope was your real question, I hold AGW as an overall theory a bit under evolution, mainly because evolution has been around longer. It is an anvil theory upon which the mettle of sub-theories may be tested. As with sub-theories in evolution, some will past the test, some will break, but after all the hammering I feel confident the anvil will remain.

  121. Bobito

    Evolutionary science is a much better analogy, still not perfect (few analogies are) but I’ll go with it.

    With that said, I’ll ask this: How will evolution change humans/zebras/dolphins/whatever in the next 500 years? The answer can be nothing other than speculation as there are too many variables to consider. One cannot say with any certainty that any species will change at all, or if they will change radically.

    To further the analogy, should we have a govm’t mandate that states all doorways must be converted to 8′ tall instead of 7′ tall since evolutionary science speculates humans will average over 7′ tall in 500 years? Or is it a better policy to deal with the issue of people banging their heads should that problem arise?

  122. Jody

    @127. Doesn’t really work, evolution isn’t designed to be specifically predictive. Different kind of science.

    Just to play the game though: no, not with the criteria you listed (give me credit for answering yes or no).

    If I may be permitted to change the criteria, however, if 97% of scientists in evolution and closely related fields (since that seems to be the percent floating around here) agreed we were going to experience such a growth rate in a shorter term, say 20 years -and if a large portion, say 75% of that majority, agreed that raising door height was a necessary precaution against the threestoogian head trauma of homo gigantus – then yes, I would support a phased and government mandated raising of door heights. Probably starting with new construction and then moving on to retrofitting existing structures.

    Your question, however, gets to the one I asked earlier. See my 123 and it’s reference. I asked the same question you did, in reverse. At what point WOULD YOU accept a government mandate based on scientific prediction? I answered yours honestly, and I asked mine first, so I deserve some responses, right?

  123. Bobito

    I answer every question honestly, why would I do otherwise. In this case, if 97% of scientists agreed I would agree that action needs to be taken. And I also like your course of requiring the change for anything new then back filling existing.

    I think the issue with the 97% number is that what are 97% agreeing with? I believe that number is referring to the question “Has the Earth been warming over the past 100 years”. And, in that case, I do agree with the 97% of scientists.

    I also agree with the 74% that state “Currently available scientific evidence substantiates the warming is human induced.” Although I will add “to some extent” to my agreement with that statement. Anyone that says they know for sure what percentage of the warming is due to human activity is only speculating, there is just no way to tell since the earth’s climate is naturally variable.

    (found above numbers here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change#Surveys_of_scientists_and_scientific_literature)

    The question that is important is “Does AGW require immediate action to correct, even if those actions will have a negative consequence in other areas?” This is a percentage I’ve had trouble finding, but it really is the number that is important at this point.

    To this question, my answer is “there is enough information for me to hedge my bet”. My hedge would be to gradually do away with carbon emissions in electricity production. Carbon capture and nuclear are ready to go, lets get them in place over the next 50-100 years. At that point, we’ll have a much clearer picture and, if we are lucky, will have come up with a new portable energy source that is viable for transportation.

    What I would NOT do is tax CO2 emissions and/or sources in any way. Fossil fuels are the life blood of civilization. We must be very careful in how we phase them out…

  124. Nullius in Verba

    #118,

    “So at what point do we get to spend public funds on a subject? If large consensus among scientists in the field isn’t the benchmark, what is?”

    Well, the political system for making these sorts of decisions that we currently live under is called “democracy”. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we’ve got.

    “Surely you recognize that after a certain point we need to cut off debate and take action, especially when it comes to a subject that represents a potential threat to humanity?”

    I personally don’t recognise that, but I recognise that throughout history some people have done.

    “The point of the thought experiment machine question I asked earlier (which I’m sure you actually understood) was to illustrate that, at some point, it becomes irresponsible to ignore the majority opinion of scientists on a subject of risk.”

    Yes, I understood, but I didn’t agree. It’s like a religious believer trying to persuade an atheist not to do something on the basis that it is a sin. It’s not that I don’t understand exactly what you mean, it’s that I don’t accept the premise.

    Your asteroid story is a bit unrealistic, but let’s use it anyway. Suppose in that 5 minutes you get a briefing from one of those 15% who are sceptical that the asteroid is on an intercept course. (97% agree that there are asteroids in space, some of which from time to time can hit the Earth, but that’s not quite the same thing, is it?) The sceptical scientist tells you that when he asked to have a look through the telescope he was told “why should I make my telescope available to you when you’re only trying to find something wrong with it?” Another sceptic tried to publish a lengthy mathematical demonstration that the others’ orbital calculations were wrong, the reviewer said to a colleague “It won’t be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct theoretically”. He shows you that one of the most dramatic pictures of the asteroid’s orbit was based on a duff calculation, where data from the telescope in Paris France was treated in the calculation as if it was in USA, where numbers were transposed from one column across a dozen others, where during an essential part of the calculation they subtracted the wrong value, and where the validation check that they said the calculation had passed, it in fact failed. And that nobody in the mainstream community had noticed, or checked the figures. Suppose they tell you that a lot of the telescopes are old and wonky, and have been moved around during the period of observations, and are subject to subsidence that has thrown the measurements off. The astronomers claim they can adjust for this, but the adjustments are as big as the values being measured, and they won’t tell anybody how they work them out. The notes for one bit of software used for the calculations ‘escaped’ and revealed that it was bug-ridden, had files missing, had fudges and patches and work-arounds galore, some parts of the output were described as “meaningless”, and nobody now knew how to replicate the calculations done previously. Admittedly, it wasn’t for quite the same calculation, merely from the same department – but nobody else had detected it, and until the leak nobody had admitted to it. There’s no doubt that the documents are genuine.

    Now, you have thirty seconds left. Do you bet 38 trillion dollars of other people’s money that these clowns really do know what they’re talking about?

    Fortunately, we’ve got a bit more than 5 minutes to think about climate change. so in answer to your question “At what point can they stop spending time addressing critics and move forward?”, the answer is when they actually show us their evidence.

    #121,

    The modern understanding of the greenhouse effect involves convection (and water vapour condensation) playing a fairly central role. By making a lot of simplifying assumptions about it, they can implement a model that gives the right ballpark figure for the surface temperature, and then if you model the effect of increasing CO2 while keeping everything else, including the effects of convection, the same it predicts the 1 C/2xCO2 figure I mentioned. If you exclude convection, and just consider the factors you mentioned – “molecular spectroscopy, atmospheric CO2 measurements, temperature records, and solar constant measurements” – then you get a different answer. Even the molecular spectroscopy is not straightforward – emission depends on the temperature at each level of the atmosphere, which in turn depends on the emission; there’s a lot of feedbacks going on. But in arguing about the exclusion of convection from your list of components, what I was really arguing with was your suggestion that there is a “relatively simple explanation”. Maybe “simplified” is a better word for it.

    “So do any allow tests that differentiate them from AGW?”

    Some attempts have been made – e.g. Spencer and Braswell 2010 – but in my view I don’t think the changes so far, if there are any, are detectable over the noise. This is in large part because we don’t really know how the background noise behaves.

    There was a famous (amongst sceptics) thread on another blog where a character called “VS” carried out a tour-de-force of statistical analysis to see whether you could. His conclusion was that you couldn’t, because the weather data time series has a “unit root”. Unfortunately, it’s highly technical, so I’m not proposing that you accept it without further explanation. It would take me a little while to explain it in simple terms, and I don’t have the time right now. Maybe at the weekend, if you’re seriously/genuinely interested.

  125. Sean McCorkle

    ThomasL@122

    That doesn’t mean that I accept “go read about it in the literature” from one who professes to know enough to lecture me -> I would think, they being so smart and all, that they should not find any question I pose to be overtly difficult.

    I have to strongly agree with you on this. While no one should ever be discouraged from going to the journals for answers or just to look out of curiosity, it can be a daunting task for the layman. Journal articles are terse, written intensely in the jargon of the specialty, and assume a lot on the part of the reader. And there’s tons of it. And as has been discussed above, publications can be wrong. The quality varies like crazy.

    I feel there is a great need for much more summary-level and also in-depth presentation of scientific material for the non-specialist, above and beyond the magazines and blogs that now exist (which are good – I like them and would like to see more). Maybe its just me, but it seems like this kind of thing was a lot more easy to find back in the 50s through the 70s. Agencies like NASA, the AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) etc. would pass out informative and interesting booklets and small books on pertinent subjects at the drop of a hat (somewhere lying around I still have a small booklet on the NERVA engine I got when I was in high school). Scientific American used to periodically publish really great paperback books which were essentially collections of articles on one subject. And I really miss Isaac Asimov’s non-fiction science education books. More than a few of them are priceless. I’d really like to see this vacuum filled again. Just thinking out loud here—maybe universities, research institutes and even journals themselves could be tasked with periodically producing entry-level to advanced guides to research fields.

    Furthermore, scientists need to make themselves more accessible to the public. If a scientist receives public funding, they have a duty to educate the public about what they’re doing. Some scientists do make a point of giving general talks and science cafe’s etc, but I think this kind of behavior really needs to increase. Its also important for the scientists themselves, for them to get out and schmooze with people who are potentially interested in the subject, to learn how to communicate without inadvertently confusing people with jargon, and learn to not avoid explaining a concept because it might require intense math (that is, figure out a way to explain without using advanced math). One of the things I really liked about Richard Feynman was that he felt that if you truly understand something, you should be able to explain it to a non-specialist. And most importantly, scientists should learn how not to put people off, as you describe above.

    And to try to bring this around to the topic of the post and a common theme at this blog, one of the reasons US science funding is in such dire straights today is that this kind of outreach has languished badly for a while now.

  126. Jody

    @129. Reasonable answer, and I don’t think we’re very far off.  More a matter of intensity, as I’d like the timeline for pushing off fossil fuels to be reduced.  Fundamentally that’s not much of a gulf, and it’s easy enough to reach a middle ground.  I’d argue that the 3 million for the IPCC isn’t much to ask in the overall context.  Ultimately the fact that we agree that there is a time for action, even if we don’t agree on the exact timetable, heartens me. Not just for AGW, but for any scientific prediction of risk.   Thanks for your answer.

    @130. Disappointed at your answers.  And not just because I disagree.  Again you didn’t give a yes or no to the thought experiment, and you changed the numbers around.  Since in lieu of an answer you asked another question, I’ll answer: yes, I’d still launch.  Ultimately you’re saying that 15% of scientists feel portions of the data are unreliable, but that 85% of scientists still feel the data is valid and action is called for, it would be totally irresponsible in the context not to take action.  You’re right, fortunately we have more than a few minutes.  But let’s just say I’m glad you’re not the waffler we put in the bunker.  If you were, the senario would probably end like the opening scene from War Games…”Turn your key sir!” 

    Your other answers “Well, the political system for making these sorts of decisions that we currently live under is called “democracy”. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we’ve got.”; “I personally don’t recognise that, but I recognise that throughout history some people have done.”; and “the answer is when they actually show us their evidence.” – I found these unsatisfactory from the standpoint of rational science.  That you don’t personally recognize that there is ever a time when scientific consensus warrants action is shocking – what is the point of doing predictive science on risks if we never take action on them?!  Your responses are not at all impartial, and it appears that you are saying that there is NEVER a time when action is justified if you are personally unconvinced.  That YOU are the arbiter of scientific debate.  Despite your earlier warnings against experts, your answers reveal that you believe in experts – namely yourself – and could never objectively compromise or yield the field.  For all your statements on AGW proponents being like religious followers, you come off as the true zealot.

    I don’t like quantum mechanics.  Never have.  The math is complex and, like Einstein, I have great difficulty marrying non-locality with my daily observations of the universe.  But I am able to divorce myself from my personal reservations and acknowledge that the field clearly needs study and funding, and that findings in the field have tremendous scientific merit.  I try to remain impartial. 

    I wasn’t asking you to suddenly support AGW.  Rather, I was asking you to propose an impartial measurement for funding and/or taking action on any subject.  I’d invite you to answer again.  I’ll post my criteria for board critique tomorrow, as I’m still waiting for other answers here and have to sign off for the next few hours.

  127. Nullius in Verba

    “Your responses are not at all impartial, and it appears that you are saying that there is NEVER a time when action is justified if you are personally unconvinced.”

    That wasn’t what I said. I said that I would never think it was the right decision if I was personally unconvinced. But in a democracy, if the representatives elected by the majority make the wrong decision then – within reason – that’s what we have to put up with. I’d say the same if the majority decided to make their decisions with a magic 8-ball.

    Democracy isn’t ruled by science, and science is not a democracy. The term ‘scientific consensus’ is an oxymoron. You can have a consensus of scientists, but consensus as such is not scientific. Science is based on evidence, not opinion. Not even the opinion of scientists.

    I changed the numbers around because the original numbers were wrong. It’s helpful not to let such misconceptions get too firmly rooted.

    If you insist on a definite yes or no answer, then I’ll give you a definite ‘no’, you can’t launch your planet-saving mission. Because the way you keep on trying to hustle me into a hasty decision without answering my questions or giving me the information I need makes me suspicious. Why would any real scientist act in such opposition to the principles of science? It’s evidently not science, and therefore I’ve no reason to believe it’s any better than any of the other schemes political lobbyists are pushing on me.

    What’s more, it’s one road to totalitarianism, and I’d almost rather the whole world die than that we go down that road. It’s as bad as the asteroid.

    “Despite your earlier warnings against experts, your answers reveal that you believe in experts – namely yourself”

    I don’t rely on my own expertise, either. That’s why I come to places like this – to have my views challenged, so that I can catch and correct my errors. Like I said, what matters in science is not experts but evidence.

    My criterion is that scientific belief is justified by a hypothesis surviving determined, motivated, competent attack in circumstances where one would expect any errors, if there are any, to be found. A hypothesis that loses but says it “doesn’t matter”, uses wrong maths, dodges the fight, or lists the people who were convinced rather than the evidence that convinced them is not to be believed. I don’t care if 100% of everybody says it – if you don’t have evidence for it, the belief is unfounded.

    “The math is complex and, like Einstein, I have great difficulty marrying non-locality with my daily observations of the universe.”

    Einstein was quite right about that, although wrong in his attempted solution. Quantum mechanics is in fact completely local and deterministic, as Einstein wished. The only bits that aren’t are interpretive additions with no observable consequences. Again, I believe the maths, not the opinions of famous physicists.

    “I wasn’t asking you to suddenly support AGW. Rather, I was asking you to propose an impartial measurement for funding and/or taking action on any subject. I’d invite you to answer again.”

    Besides what I said above, I’d simply say they have to provide solid evidence. Not opinion.

  128. Jody

    133. The way to change opinions is not to poke holes in others work.  That’s a misinterpretation of peer review.  Science isn’t about surviving skeptics.  The way you progress science is to make your own theories, then through observation and experimentation, prove or disprove those theories.  

    The problem with deniers is that they don’t do their own science, they just nitpick.  Then the scientists respond, the deniers pick again, and nothing gets done.  To use a previous example here, people who thought dinosaurs were warm blooded were once skeptics.  The way they changed things was to make their own theories and predictions, and through examination, interpretation and discovery, prove their predictions in publication after publication.  The beauty modern science is how fast it will actually respond to new and better ideas.

    AGW deniers don’t propose their own theories or make predictions, they attempt to disprove others.  Their alternative “theories” smack of those given by creationists, about natural cycles that aren’t explainable or testable, talking about variables that are unknowable.  You want to disprove AGW?  Stop nitpicking statistics.  You’ll never win that fight. You’ll make your claim, the scientists will counter with equally rational arguments over and over.  Make your own experiments, predict an outcome, prove your theory, and publish it.  If you’re right, science will recognize it.

    I also feel a bit sorry for you and your personal views of science.  It’s a cold pursuit of pure truth and logic that is unlikely to be fulfilled.  I think most people here think science is at it’s best when it helps people, and science that doesn’t help bring about meaningful progress for mankind is hollow.  Even pure researchers in theoretical science are building blocks on that road of change, and dream about seeing mankind into the stars, curing ailments, and improving the world for the next generations.   A pyrrhic victory in seeing the earth destroyed to preserve perfect science is pitiful.  Science serves humanity, not the other way around.

    You can respond if you like, and if you have a real question I’ll answer.  But you and I are so far apart in our opinions and morals that I’ll probably just refrain from commenting on your posts from here on out.  The gulf is too wide.

  129. Bobito

    @132 “I’d argue that the 3 million for the IPCC isn’t much to ask in the overall context.”

    This is certainly a separate argument to the AGW debate. I think we went back and forth a bit on this in an0ther thread. At that time I said (paraphrase) “I have no problem with funding organizations to study AGW (I specifically mentioned NASA do to their widely accepted results). But why would we fund an organization that is, to some extent, corrupt?”

    To argue that de-funding the IPCC and denying AGW are the same is to show your bias as, to use the AGW nomenclature, a denialist or a warmist. Being able to look at all information objectively is key to finding a resolution. If one find themselves always defending anything that supports one side of the argument and dismissing anything that supports the other is religion, not science.

    Do you find it unreasonable that someone can believe that AGW is real, but also believes that the IPCC is corrupt and Al Gore is a buffoon?

  130. Jody

    @135.  No.  Not unreasonable.  Unfair I think, especially in Mr. Gore’s case.  I think he’s trying to be a good salesman and spokesperson, not a scientist.  He’s trying to warn people about a threat that he, and many others, believe is very grave.  In lowering the science to a layperson’s perspective, accuracy is lost.  But that’s like blaming a circus barker if the show isn’t “the most amazing spectical in the history of live performance.” Even that’s a bit cynical.

    I disagree that the IPCC is corrupt.  I feel their answers to criticism and the subsequent independent statistical analysis of their work has validated the publications.  There were certainly errors, but I don’t feel the errors were intentional nor gravely significant in the overall conclusions reached.  Calling them corrupt is too far in MY book, but I couldn’t say it’s unreasonable.  There are facts behind the claim, I just disagree on their significance.  

    I believe the passion behind this thread comes from the flow of politically motivated, anti-AGW moves that followed the conservative sweep into office this last election. More than anti-AGW…anti-science.  Defunding the IPCC is symptomatic of this anti-science wave.

    I would prefer funding the IPCC and changing it’s structure to be more open and flexible.  As an alternative, take funding and give it to NASA to form a group specifically tasked to perform the IPCC’s functions, as outlined in post 53. Make the group out of scientists and teachers, because sometimes good scientists make poor teachers.  

    The problem is, if the conservative congress has it’s way, neither of these options will take place.  We’ll be left with nothing.

    Do you think the corruptions that you perceive in the IPCC are enough to justify defunding it and leaving nothing in it’s place?

     PS Wasn’t me in the other thread.  

  131. Bobito

    @136 – I’ll agree to disagree about the level of corruption. But I will say that it’s not necessarily the scientist that are corrupt, it is the inherent corruption in any political organization. And I will not accept arguing against it being a political origination since it is a UN organization. And if you disagree with my opinion that the UN is deeply corrupt, there is no point is arguing with me as I doubt my opinion can be changed. Save you a bit of typing there… ;)

    “I believe the passion behind this thread comes from the flow of politically motivated”
    Certainly, the dividing lines on this, and the AGW debate, are clearly drawn. I was only talking about my opinion on the IPCC not the motivation of the republican party in de-funding the IPCC. I doubt many that voted against the funding have spent any time reviewing the science of AGW let alone the validity of claims against the IPCC. However, I would also argue that most of the Dems that voted for the funding have not done any real research either. It was a “party line” vote to be sure.

    This is the problem with the AGW debate (as well just about everything political these days), each side thinks they are 100% correct. If someone dissents in the slightest they are made an outcast. Reason and rational thinking are gone (for most) and we are left with “denialists and warmists” that are blinded by their hatred of the other side.

    The AGW science was hijacked by liberals and blown out of proportion with threats of “The end is near” and when those claims were shot down the republicans hijacked the dissenting science and came out with “nothing to see here”. In my opinion, neither side it correct. There is something to AGW, but if we keep arguing “The end is near” VS “nothing to see here” we will get nowhere.

    “Do you think the corruptions that you perceive in the IPCC are enough to justify de-funding it and leaving nothing in it’s place?”
    I would have been more happy if the vote was to reallocate the funds for the IPCC to another organization (non political) rather than a straight de-funding. But I would rather have nothing than the IPCC, yes.

  132. Jody

    137. Fair enough. I disagree, obviously, but not enough to punch you, insult you mother, or force you to live in an AGW-induced costal flood zone. Your opinion seems based on rational thought. I imagine if we ran congress, we would be able to compromise.

  133. Nullius in Verba

    “Science isn’t about surviving skeptics. The way you progress science is to make your own theories, then through observation and experimentation, prove or disprove those theories.”

    But you can only prove or disprove it by subjecting it to critical examination.

    Clearing out wrong ideas from the body of science does count as progress. And a wrong argument is still wrong, even if the person pointing it out doesn’t have a better idea to replace it with. That would be like demanding that critics of fortune telling provide a better way to foretell the future before they’re allowed to ‘nitpick’ statistics on any of the current methods. Our position is that the future is unpredictable. You can criticise that for offering unexplainable variables if you like, but it doesn’t make Tarot cards or horoscopes work any better.

    “The problem with deniers is that they don’t do their own science, they just nitpick.”

    Actually, that’s incorrect. Many sceptic do do their own science.

    But there’s nothing wrong with ‘nitpicking’ if that’s another word for criticising bad science.

    “I also feel a bit sorry for you and your personal views of science. It’s a cold pursuit of pure truth and logic that is unlikely to be fulfilled. I think most people here think science is at it’s best when it helps people, and science that doesn’t help bring about meaningful progress for mankind is hollow.”

    I think you’ve misunderstood my view on science – it isn’t cold at all. We do science because it matters, because we can use it to solve important problems that make everybody’s lives better. But we do it by the right method because it is so important, and we don’t want to mess up. You ask someone doing pharmaceutical work just how slow and careful you have to be. Yes, it would be great to cure cancer – but it’s of no use whatsoever to produce a cure for cancer that doesn’t actually work, or even kills people, because you made errors in your statistics or mislabelled test-tubes, or said that it passed effectiveness tests when it didn’t. You can’t go charging off mixing up new concoctions in a slap-dash way in an effort to get their first. We take that level of care about the quality of science because we know how easy it is to let our hopes distort our judgement, and because we want to succeed and good quality is the only way to reliably achieve that.

    Science has achieved great things, but it has always done so by facing reality and looking at the evidence, rather than wishful thinking. You can’t just abandon it and use something else out of impatience; because whatever alternative you pick is almost certainly even less reliable.

    According to certain scientists, the Earth was destroyed ten years ago. Or at least, they said it would be back in the 1960s, and recommended some pretty draconian measures to try to reduce the impact of it. It’s all very well breaking the rules to save the Earth, but what happens when it turns out that you’re not, and the world was never in any danger? And now you’ve broken some pretty important rules, and got nothing for it except for the realisation on the part of the unscrupulous that they can get you to agree to absolutely anything if they just attach a scary enough story to it. That would be bad.

    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
    H L Mencken.

  134. Daniel J. Andrews

    Actually, that’s incorrect. Many sceptic do do their own science.

    Sorry, Nullis. You are incorrect. The vast majority of skeptics do not do their own relevant science. They nitpick, cherrypick, misunderstand, fabricate. They are not constrained to stick to the facts, something that has been pointed out numerous times now.

    And they’re not the slightest bit bothered by their own inconsistencies: Temp is stable, declining, can’t tell. Temp is rising but it’s the sun, cosmic rays, volcanoes, anything but us. Climate sensitivity is low. Climate sensitivity is high. More here .skepticalscience.com/contradictions.php, and essay here skepticalscience.com/skeptic-contradictions.html

    Are you able to list the “many” skeptics that do their own science? There’s Spencer. Christie. I don’t think Patrick Michaels has done anything. Lindzen? O’Donnell? Certainly the most prominent noise-makers don’t do science (Watts, Monckton, Plimer, the Mc’s, Carter–all they do is cherry pick, nitpick, misunderstand, and just make stuff up).

    And that is without getting into “skeptic” definition. Michaels, Christie, probably O’Donnell, acknowledge the temp is warming and that we are responsible–some might say that gets their “skeptic” card revoked right there because the party line is “not happening”, or “it’s happening but not our fault”.

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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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