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  1. Would it not be better to ignore oafs like Imhoaf? It is curious that he calls upon a science fiction writer to appear on climate change. I would think that Crichton, who has had some scientific training as an MD (?), would not intrude on a discipline so far removed from his training and background. Perhaps he views all disciplines as suspect? Has anyone looked into his academic background to see if he published any papers in reputable scientific journals?

    Comment by Hugh Curran — 28 Sep 2005 @ 10:56 PM

  2. you can’t ignore them, because the Imhoafs of the world can say things that affect how a lot of people think, because unfortunately a lot of the American public is easily swayed by strategies and arguments that dont necessarily hold up under scrutiny. the majority of the public isn’t going to do the research to investigate the validity of such claims. so though it may be better to ignore Imhoaf, you can’t because not everyone else will be.

    Comment by Jenn — 28 Sep 2005 @ 11:44 PM

  3. Crichton and Inhofe cannot be ignored if for no other reason than that they are influential. Defense of the real science should be no less vigorous than has been the defense of the faith by Christians who recognized the threat posed by the fictional work, “The DaVinci Code.” Often, fiction is not just fiction in the public mind, and the objective of the skeptics is to spread doubt, not engage in true debate.

    Comment by Dan Smith — 29 Sep 2005 @ 12:09 AM

  4. like the town that fails to put up a stop light until enough cadavers are carried away from an intersection, i am very pessimistic the United States will act on consequences of warming or mitigate them until the evidence or damage is overwhelming.

    mitigation is the name of the game right now. i doubt warming trends can be reversed quickly.

    of course, the economic damage from a succession of catastrophes might end the USA’s status as a world leader, simply because prevention is, for the most part, cheaper than reaction.

    like consider evacuation as a means of response: if the natural threat is avoided, it seems all it does is teach people to disbelieve in the value of the alarm. if the threat materializes, it’s essentially a means of letting the threat take whatever it wants, “pre-displacing” the population to elsewhere in the States.

    Comment by Jan Theodore Galkowski — 29 Sep 2005 @ 12:27 AM

  5. I am not surprised by this take of the government, after all the other options promoted by Green think tanks seem to have failed (Kyoto-Protocol f.e.). I don’t know what kind of climate change we will get and wether humans are responsible. This is for the scientists to work out.

    But imo, there is no reason that politics should interfere in it or use it to employ ridiculous policies that only hurt most hard-working people. (I live in Germany and thanks to the Kyoto-protocol my energy provider has raised his rates)

    I don’t think that politics is the answer to global warming, but technology and this is the field scientists should engage in. Therefore, I think good forecast methods are necessary and I think Mann et. al. have certain points to make on this.

    Comment by Max — 29 Sep 2005 @ 8:00 AM

  6. Inhofe has a degree in Economics from Tulsa, so he may not be best placed to interpret scientific data. Since then his history has been the army, small business and politics. They wouldn’t seem to be great preparation for scientific interpretation either. But current climate research indicates uncertainty (never mind that we’re speaking about probability) in the future, and as an economist he will know that uncertainty is bad for business. So Crichton’s views are useful because they imbue certainty – it’s all twaddle, all remains as it was, ergo certainty and business-as-usual.

    This is going to be a long fight to enable the population at large to be able to appreciate the import of the current climate consensus within the scientific community. Until that happens there will be no political incentive to take things seriously, because no politician will lose their seat over it, because the electorate remains ignorant.

    Comment by Phil de Jonge — 29 Sep 2005 @ 8:27 AM

  7. Re: comment 1 on Crichton viewing all disciplines as suspect…that’s probably close to the truth. Look at the range of his novels. Many deal with science-technology running rampant. And at least one character seems to be the “conscience of humanity” asking: Should we really be doing this? That, and the novels and movies are great-paying gigs. Some science-fictions writers write from a basis of hope they see in the new possiblities science and technology can bring. He seems to write as a Jeremiah. It’s almost as though he has a deep suspicion of science, regardless of what the science acutally is trying to accomplish.

    Comment by Pete — 29 Sep 2005 @ 9:28 AM

  8. I commented briefly here. (Tried a trackback but it didn’t work – your fault or mine?)

    Comment by James Annan — 29 Sep 2005 @ 10:12 AM

  9. “(I live in Germany and thanks to the Kyoto-protocol my energy provider has raised his rates)”

    Actually you can mostly blame your government for giving away pollution allowances to generators instead of using the money to reduce rates.
    The http://www.rggi.org trading program in the US will likely auction at least part of the allowances as we’ve learned from Germany and the UK’s mistakes.

    Read more here:
    http://www.energy-business-review.com/article_feature.asp?guid=56712827-16C9-4A21-AD09-192980B92C28

    Comment by Roger Smith — 29 Sep 2005 @ 10:43 AM

  10. To be balanced, the committee should also get the creators of DAY AFTER TOMORROW & WATER WORLD to advise them. I’m doing a fictional piece on runaway global warming, and I’d be happy to advise them. Who needs science, when we have fiction writers. Or, maybe it’s just that gov people don’t want to be balanced or get the truth (stochastic as it may be).

    As for Crichton’s medical background, I’d say he’s a hypocrite to the hypocratic oath – First, do no harm, & don’t be in the business of killing people. The “medical model,” unlike the “scientific model,” tries to avoid the false negative (of saying there is no problem, when in fact there is) in order to protect people’s lives. The “scientific model” avoids the false positive (of saying there is a connection, when there isn’t) to maintain their reputation so people will believe them. “Scientific caution” (and the RealClimate folks are right on the mark in that department) is very different from “medical caution” or “policy-making” (which should sort of be like the medical model at the societal level).

    Some may argue that prevention costs money, but I’ve found (to my surprise) that “proaction” on GW is not only cheaper (#4) than “reaction,” it actually saves money for households & businesses without lowering living standards or productivity — at least down to reductions of 1/2 our GHG emissions (I modestly figure), maybe 3/4, as Amory Lovins of NATURAL CAPITALISM figures. Now it would probably take five or so years to reduce 1/2 or 3/4 of our GHG emissions cost-effectively (assuming people put forth serious effort to do so). That’s how long it took me. By that time, then we might think about sacrificing a bit. Or new technology or methods by then might even help us reduce more. Let’s do it, people. Anyone out there? Knock, knock.

    I happened to talk to an government engineer yesterday about global warming, and he trotted out Crichton’s STATE OF FEAR, suggesting it had a lot of truth in it. I said no it didn’t & he’d better check out RealClimate.org to see its critique by real climate scientists (luckily you’re on that topic again, in case he visits here).

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 29 Sep 2005 @ 11:43 AM

  11. Re: #10,

    “To be balanced, the committee should also get the creators of DAY AFTER TOMORROW & WATER WORLD to advise them.”

    I concur, though it would lower the common denominator even more.

    What we need is for someone like Drs. Mann, Bradley, Santer, Karl, Trenberth, etc. to go on television to explain what is really happening, in scientific, but understandable, language to raise the bar and the consciousness of North Americans to this urgent issue.

    What is unfortunate, though, is that, by doing this, network news stations (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) risk losing advertising. Companies that are opposed to mandatory measures will be unhappy with a real scientist going on television and explaining what is happening and what we must do to combat climate change (i.e. setting significant and mandatory greenhouse gas reduction targets), which, they think, will reduce their profit margins.

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 29 Sep 2005 @ 1:01 PM

  12. It is rather curious that apparently Crichton’s testimony ended up asserting the degree of uncertainty we face in making forecasts regarding future climate or the anthropogenic role in it. Thus, if Inhofe’s goal was to obtain certainty and a particular line, he did not get it from Crichton, certainly not to the extent he was probably hoping for.

    Comment by Barkley Rosser — 29 Sep 2005 @ 1:17 PM

  13. That’s not right Rosser, Crichton said that the best policy is having no policy on climate change and this is my idea, too.
    It’s the uncertainty that is dangerous, when used in technocratic rules made by government.

    Comment by Max — 29 Sep 2005 @ 1:27 PM

  14. Thanks for your summary of the “usual suspects”; in reviewing them, I followed the link for the third rebuttal(“yes, they have”), but only found a description of a press release about the submision of two papers about five months ago. Is there any news on when these papers will be available to the general public (e.g. are they now “in press” or are the articles posted somewhere)?

    [Response: Rumour has it that both manuscripts are pending final acceptance from the respective journals. - mike]

    Comment by Armand MacMurray — 29 Sep 2005 @ 1:49 PM

  15. I was wondering if you were aware that it appears that aircraft (jet) are a major, if not the major cause of accelerated climate change (both by direct & indirect emissions and also warming effects)?

    Some information can be found at: http://www.areco.org (see “Studies”, “Climate”.

    Thank you.

    Jack Saporito

    Comment by Jack Saporito — 29 Sep 2005 @ 2:48 PM

  16. I live in Illinois. My provider of electric power is proposing to raise rates, and will probably succeed in doing so despite some opposition from state officials. More seriously, my natural gas rates are predicted to go up by about 70 percent, as reported in the media. And all this despite the fact that my national leaders, including Senator Inhofe, seem entirely disinclined to do anything to deal seriously with CO_2 emissions.

    Comment by Leonard Evens — 29 Sep 2005 @ 4:05 PM

  17. Thanks for the tip. Here’s the email I sent to Dr. Gray:
    ———-
    Dear Dr. Gray,

    I watched with interest your testimony before the
    Senate yesterday, when you said:

    “I predict, now I think I know as much as anybody,
    I’ll take on any scientist in this field to talk about
    this, I predict in the next 5 or 8 years or so the
    globe is going to begin to cool as it did in the
    middle 40′s.”

    I would like to know if you’re willing to make a bet
    over this confident prediction of yours.

    My global warming bets are here:

    http://backseatdriving.blogspot.com/2005_05_01_backseatdriving_archive.html#111700433898143899

    The bets are for 10 or 20 year periods. The 20 year
    bets at the least should be very attractive to you,
    based on your testimony before Congress.

    I would also note that one of my proposed bets is a
    “charity” bet where all proceeds go to the charity of
    the winner’s choice, and your choice could easily be
    your Tropical Meteorology Project.

    While I am not a scientist, I don’t think that should
    decrease the value of my bet – my money is still good,
    and I would be happy to enter into an enforceable
    contract. If you only care to bet scientists,
    however, I can also put you in touch with them.

    Please contact me if you have any questions, and I
    hope to hear from you.

    Best,
    Brian Schmidt
    ————–

    I literally just sent this, so we’ll have to give him a little while to see if it generates a response.

    Comment by Brian S. — 29 Sep 2005 @ 4:06 PM

  18. Re #13 et al,
    “the best policy is having no policy on climate change”

    This is hilarious. So the mood now swings from flat denial to suicidal resignation?

    Comment by Florifulgurator — 29 Sep 2005 @ 7:19 PM

  19. On something of a tangent, I was interested by the five bullet points summarising popular myths about GW (and links to refutations.) I find these, and a few others, come up time and time again in conversation with uninformed people. About a year ago I recklessly announced on Slashdot* that I was so fed up with seeing the same misinformation and misunderstandings repeated ad nauseam that I’d take on the job of collating a FAQ page listing the most common such myths and misunderstandings, along with brief summaries of why and how they’re wrong and links to further information. A lot of nonsense could then be easily refuted by reference to such a ‘GW Myth List’. One of the email responses said “Someone’s already doing this, it’s called realclimate.org”, and I dropped the idea and lost myself in trying to catch up with the dozens of very interesting stories posted here.

    One reason I allowed myself to get discouraged was that when I started collecting ‘in the wild’ examples, I stopped collecting at about thirty-five statements which ranged from the utterly wild or ignorant, to the relatively subtle criticisms of the likes of Crichton and Co. I also didn’t have the resources to do the debunking process justice. I wanted to have links to journal articles and the like, or failing that, to articles on credible and authoritative science sites – not to mention that I also doubted my ability not to make hideous blunders or mistakes of my own.

    So, my questions is: has anyone else compiled such a list?
    If not, would anyone here be interested in helping to compile such a list?

    (* No, I don’t really expect learned or informed debate on Slashdot, but repeated clear explanations of how other popular misapprehensions are wrong has eventually caused some to either die out or retreat to the status of ironic in-joke – which leads me to hope, perhaps naively, that the might be true of wider society.)

    Comment by A. Simmons — 29 Sep 2005 @ 7:19 PM

  20. Re #19,
    “repeated clear explanations”

    Yes, it works. Dead slow, but works. Much more needs to be done to push brain lard on. Plus: Don´t be sparing with ironic in-jokes and dark sarcasm. That also works. What else can there be uttered about contemporary U.S. senators?

    Comment by Florifulgurator — 29 Sep 2005 @ 8:57 PM

  21. Michael Crichton’s basic question was whether the “methodology of climate science is significantly rigorous to yield a reliable result,” given the modification of data by filling in gaps, and the supposed lack of verification of the results. He cited the Mann hockey-stick flap as an example.

    His second point was “what to do with research that is unverifiable?” citing the UN’s 3rd assessment report stating that GCM’s are “unverifiable.”

    If Michael Crichton understands science at all, then he knows these are unexceptional questions, with rather standard answers. The question therefore remains: why did he do this?

    Nonetheless, climate scientists must work very carefully to address these public criticisms at every step, and we may be glad that it will no doubt improve their rhetorical skills.

    While the idea of verification of results is a good (if unexceptional) one, it should be remembered that part of the political tactic of the anti-science politicians in Washington on other issues (see examples in Chris Mooney’s book) has been to introduce as many conflicting studies from industry-funded thinktanks as possible, however faulty those studies are, to bury the debate under noise. So look out, the obfuscation has only just begun!

    By far the smartest speaker was Richard Benedick, who showed the way into the future for climate policy. This is a brilliant man. He was very persuasive in his depiction of unpredicted consequences, and inferring the possibilities of nonlinear events, in his story of the ozone-damaging chemicals. In addition, his CFC episode showed that market economics is creative enough to find new ways to do things, with no net loss of growth.

    Despite the impossibility of predicting the unpredictable, the fact remains that OTHER complex systems we have observed, usually INCREASE the probability of catastrophe under new “forcing.” This is a factual result, and the inference is clear.

    It argues for the Precautionary Principle. That is where we are all going to end up.

    Comment by Lee A. Arnold — 29 Sep 2005 @ 10:20 PM

  22. “A highlight of the session was Gray making one particular statement that he may be asked to defend (at least financially): “I’ll take on any scientist in this field …. I predict that in 5 to 8 years the globe will begin to cool.”

    I’ll take on any scientist who is a primary or secondary author of the IPCC TAR, as well as William Connolley and Gavin Schmidt, that Michael Chrichton’s prediction of 0.81 degrees Celsius warming in this century will be more accurate than all the scientists who came up with the IPCC TAR:

    http://www.longbets.org/180

    http://discuss.longbets.org/discuss/postlist.php?Cat=&Board=180

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 29 Sep 2005 @ 10:32 PM

  23. Re #19:

    Tim Lambert wrote a helpful post refuting skeptics’ arguments that I’ve used several times, called “Global Warming Sceptic Bingo” (forgive his Australian misspelling). It’s here:

    http://timlambert.org/2005/04/gwsbingo/

    While very useful, I think an even more comprehensive version of this idea would be even better.

    Different topic: we need some type of clearinghouse to announce when prominent or semi-prominent people deny global warming, so people like me will know to ask them if they’ll put their money where their mouths are.

    Comment by Brian S. — 29 Sep 2005 @ 11:31 PM

  24. Just saw the whole thing in video (amazing what I can do from Yokohama). Much of your criticism seems justified, but to offer a little counterbalance:

    I don’t recall them making a claim that scientists, specifically, were making peer-reviewed predictions about an imminent ice age, but rather, such talk (in the popular press) was common at the time. Likewise, I don’t believe they refererred to the cooling in the 40s-70s as proof per se global warming is not occurring, but that it should raise questions in people’s minds about drawing conclusions based on recent trends.

    Perhaps unfortunately, the reality is creation of public policy is determined to a far greater extent by popular publications such as Time and CNN than by peer-reviewed journals, since it is inherent in a polician’s nature to seek votes and influence above other considerations, and it is the groundswell of public opinion which gives politicians windows of opportunity to act. Still, we should also be wary of placing too much faith in peer review, since the problem of global climate is interdisciplinary and professional review is rarely done across fields.

    I am inclined to support your third point, but it wouldn’t change the fact scientific studies with great influence on policy are often not independently verified. With respect to modeling, it is a great tool for finding the right questions to ask, but by their very definition can not provide answers since a model always has the possibility of carrying the modeller’s biases and blind spots. In particular, unless there’s an accurate model for modern human society — and there isn’t — the blind spot in this case is the very agent for change that is being predicted.

    It was disappointing both sides didn’t address the issue of whether anything actually should be done in the face of climate change, be it human-induced, sun-induced, or whatever. Inhofe et al. seem to have allowed that if GW is actually occurring, they would necessarily have to change course and create a specific policy to lower it. Likewise, Clinton et al. (and nearly all climatologists as far as I can tell) seem to take government intervention on an urgent, global level — literally, laws to change the weather — as a given. My preference (and shouldn’t it matter as much as any climatologist?) would be not to attempt a massive global weather “correction” by government bureaucrats (right on, #13).

    It is also troubling the term “scientist”, as repeatedly used by both sides, only seems to refer to those with degrees in certain hard sciences. Anyone wanting to understand the human organism as climate participant had better be willing to get dirty in the social sciences. Yes, economics is a science (re #6 above, though I would concede Inhofe is no scientist!), as are anthropology, statistics, behavioral sciences, political science, archaeology, history, sociology, etc., etc.

    Peace.

    Comment by Keith Moulton — 30 Sep 2005 @ 2:31 AM

  25. Re #5 and #13

    I would question whether any government can ever have “no policy on climate change”.

    The policies which lead to higher emissions are not “do nothing” policies. They involve billions of dollars of subsidies of fossil fuel industries, of airport expansion and of road building, regulations which favour dirty technologies over clearn ones, granting planning permission for coal fire stations but refusing it for wind turbines, etc. The high emission scenarios come about because of very active government policies, and decisions made by businesses and individuals, not because of people doing nothing. And all this is done in the clear knowledge that an unstable climate is threatening most of our cities and food supplies, as well as much of life on earth.

    Max complains about his higher energy bills. The main reason for this is that natural gas is not being produced (or delivered to Europe and North America) at a rate which matches demand. I just read that China is becoming a world leader in renewables and can power 35 million homes with solar energy. If your German government (or any other) had shifted support from fossil fuels to renewables, perhaps Max’s home would now be powered with solar energy or wind and he would not have to worry so much about ever higher fuel prices. Plus his government could be earning a lot of money from exporting renewables – instead of risking a trade deficit by purchasing gas at ever higher costs. After all, supporting clean energies is not necessarily more costly and no less profitable than supporting dirty ones. It also makes people healthier even in the short term, apart from helping to stabilise the climate.

    Comment by Almuth Ernsting — 30 Sep 2005 @ 4:59 AM

  26. Robert Heinlein gave testimony on the space program and aging. I think other writers have done so as well.

    [Response: You appear to be correct. Heinlein was actually an engineer, but clearly he was called to testify due to his status as a pioneering sci-fi author. It just goes to prove the old maxim about history repeating itself... -gavin]

    Comment by TCO — 30 Sep 2005 @ 8:05 AM

  27. I don’t understand it when people who are worried about Global Warming complain about peak oil or high gas prices. High prices REDUCE CONSUMPTION. One of the major levers that people look at in fighting GW is to raise costs of using fossil fuels by taxing them. If we run out of them anyway, then that’s going to reduce consumption ANYWAY. Pick a disaster: (1) run out of fossil fuels, (2) keep using fossil fuels. But THINK about the interaction.

    And please don’t come back with some comment about how the government should take care of everything and invent magic foofoo dust of science to fix all energy problems with stuff that is both cheap and clean…you want your renewables…prepare to PAY and have a lower standard of living…

    Comment by TCO — 30 Sep 2005 @ 8:41 AM

  28. Leaving the gross misrepresetations about MBH aside. The thing that sticks out to me is the contradicting statements offered by Crchton and Inhofe in the Q & A session. Crichton claims that proxies are useless. Inhofe claims the MWP was warmer than present. How, exactly, does Inhofe know this if proxies are useless? On what basis can he make such such a claim? Where is Inhofe’s science?

    Comment by Bob — 30 Sep 2005 @ 9:40 AM

  29. Re #21

    Michael Crichton’s basic question was whether the “methodology of climate science is significantly rigorous to yield a reliable result,” given the modification of data by filling in gaps, and the supposed lack of verification of the results. He cited the Mann hockey-stick flap as an example.

    His second point was “what to do with research that is unverifiable?” citing the UN’s 3rd assessment report stating that GCM’s are “unverifiable.”

    If Michael Crichton understands science at all, then he knows these are unexceptional questions, with rather standard answers.

    I thought these were some of Crichton’s strongest points. I was quite intrigued by his claim that the TAR calls GCM’s unverifiable. Indeed, if there are “rather standard answers” to the above questions, would someone kindly give us the answers and reasons why the questions are “unexceptional”?

    Re #24
    I second the notion that global cooling was not brought up in terms of what scientists believed, but in terms of hysterical politicians and popular magazines.

    [Response: Well the discussion in the TAR is actually very clear about what can be evaluated (current climate conditions and variability, past changes etc.) and the use of GCM projections of possible future climates, and all of the apparently dramatic points made by Crichton are acknowledged and discussed there. We've discussed this previously. -gavin]

    Comment by J. Sperry — 30 Sep 2005 @ 9:46 AM

  30. I’m just a reader here, but may I, Oliver Twist-like, ask “Please, sir, a little less.”

    The info to rebut the likes of Crichton is already available, and coverage of the politics lessens the focus of this site.

    [Response: Sorry about that. We'll be back to normally scheduled programming shortly. -gavin]

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 30 Sep 2005 @ 9:47 AM

  31. Slightly off topic, but I hope no one minds. Has there been a discussion on this site of the (relatively) recent McKintrick & McIntyre (2005) paper? I’m away from the library and my subscription to Web of Knowledge ran out today!

    [Response: here. - gavin]

    Comment by SteveF — 30 Sep 2005 @ 9:49 AM

  32. Thanks Gavin. Carry on………

    Comment by SteveF — 30 Sep 2005 @ 10:09 AM

  33. Re #22: The problem with making bets over a long time period like 100 years is that it becomes problematic to define the terms. I happen to agree with you that the middle or upper end of the IPCC scenarios are unlikely to come to pass but for rather different reasons: I believe that if we are headed in that direction, we will change course and avert such a disaster.

    Really, what the argument is about is not what the temperature will be in 2100 but what it will be in the absence of taking any measures to prevent climate change from occurring. Those are two very different issues.

    Re #27: TCO, I happen to agree with much of what you said about high gas prices. I am happy that prices have gone up. (Well, I am not so happy when I pay $30 to fill up my Prius but I am happy when I think about what is really best for the country and the world.) On the other hand, I think it would be better for our economy if prices went up in a more controlled manner and if some of the money went to the government which could use it for investment in alternative energy resources or to reduce taxes, rather than just going to windfall profits for the oil companies. Still, all things considered, higher gas prices are better than artificially low ones in my book.

    Comment by Joel Shore — 30 Sep 2005 @ 10:49 AM

  34. Re #27 [TCO]: The only problem with waiting for peak oil, etc to help us cut CO2 emissions is that the default response of the oil companies is to get the oil from a dirtier, more polluting source [such as the Canadian tar sands]. Also if we burn all the oil that there is, that would probably release too much CO2 to limit global warming to 2 degrees centigrade.

    I think that we need to find a way to keep most of the fossil fuels safely underground if we are going to avoid ‘dangerous’ consequences [see perhaps http://www.stabilisation2005.com such as melting of the Greenland ice sheet. [OT: New Orleans' levees would have to be mighty high to keep *that* water out!]

    I don’t think this is going to be possible without direct government intervention [mainly making CO2 emissions expensive and subsidising/investing in renewables]

    Comment by Timothy — 30 Sep 2005 @ 11:37 AM

  35. RE #27, here’s an idea: Create a GHG tax, so that the cost of emitting GHGs goes up, but then put that money from taxes back in people’s pockets, so they haven’t lost one cent. There may be enough smart or poor people out there to start looking into energy efficiency, conservation, and cheaper forms of alt. energy (I’m paying $1 a month less for 100% wind power), who would like to save $$ on this scheme.

    I think the way it works right now is on April 15th we pay for other people to lavishly emit GHGs through subsidies & tax breaks to fossil fuels. In other words, we not only pay more at the pump, but also on tax day.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 30 Sep 2005 @ 12:07 PM

  36. Re #27:

    1. In America, TCO, gas consumption may be relatively inelastic. Land rents force folk farther away from Central Business Districts. The term is called ‘drive ’til you qualify’.

    Discretionary trips can be reduced, but not the drive to work without some disruption.

    2. You may want to think about the connection you made between worrying and complaining wrt my 1. High fuel prices affect the lower incomes more than the higher incomes. Future scenarios of climate change necessarily consider social change as well, and fuel prices are a component of these scenarios; fuel use being relatively inelastic affects consideration of social change, which affects emissions, which effects climate.

    3. Your request is dependent upon the premise that the constructed narrative of gummint solves everything is something that everyone who does not follow your ideology believes. You may want to double-check that premise. Politics is used to help solve these issues, and politics is a component of government. If you have a solution where politics works outside of government, do share.

    Best,

    D

    Comment by Dano — 30 Sep 2005 @ 12:14 PM

  37. This whole thing is depressing. In 1990, I thought all I had to do was tell people about GW, and everyone would start solving this problem (esp after I found out the $$$ that could be saved). Nada. Then in 1995, I thought, we now have 95% certainty on this (which seemed a scandal, since we should’ve started acting well before 95% certainty), now people will act. Nada. Then in 2001, with the U.S. Bishops’ statement that the prudent thing to do was reduce our GHGs, even if we weren’t sure of the science (see: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/globalclimate.htm ), I thought at least Catholics would start doing something. (I thought the statement a scandal for not coming out 10 years earlier – as the Pope’s statements on GW had.) Nada.

    And last year we get STATE OF FEAR, but since then all sorts of actual GW evidence (I’m not referring to models here) has been pouring in (e.g., warming oceans). I think Crichton mentions in his book about some glaciers (I think in Greenland) that are increasing. If I’m not mistaken, I think those self-same glaciers are now found to be decreasing (or at least glaciers in general are decreasing), etc., etc. So I thought by now Crichton would have realized his errors, and wouldn’t have the audacity to persist with them.

    I now realize there is no amount of evidence that will ever convince contrarians that GW is happening & is (net) harmful. It’s like banging our heads against the wall. Anyway, I just keep banging.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 30 Sep 2005 @ 12:32 PM

  38. #27 – “One of the major levers that people look at in fighting GW is to raise costs of using fossil fuels by taxing them.”

    Fuel taxes are already quite high. Higher even than sales taxes and both the federal government and state governments take their share. More info is here: http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/analysis_publications/primer_on_gasoline_prices/html/petbro.html

    Quite unnoticed in the GW hysteria is the amount of our taxpayer dollars that go to the fossil fuel industry in the form of direct and indirect subsidies. Yes, Exxon, and Mobil are corporate welfare queens thanks to your local sleazeball politician. More info: http://www.taxpayer.net/TCS/fuelsubfact.htm . But that link doesn’t touch on the indirect subsidies known as the Gulf War I and II, the securing of the seas for oil transport, and the state department which spends a lot of its time placating foreign governments to insure a reliable supply of oil flows in our direction. These subsidies act to artificially lower the price of gas.

    If we paid the true price for gas at the pump, then alternative fuel vehicles, riding a bike and even walking would look a lot more attractive and CO2 emissions from autos would plummet.

    Comment by nanny_govt_sucks — 30 Sep 2005 @ 12:41 PM

  39. Your castigation of Crichton would seem to lend credence to one of his primary arguements. That those who are skeptical of the scientific basis of popularly held theories such as human caused global warming are immedietly attacked on a personal basis, not on the merits of their arguments.
    As to Hansen’s model prediction accuracy. He accuses Crichton, in “State of Fear” for deliberately and falsely pointing out a 300% error in his Temperature Prediction results. Showing that one of his models correctly predicted the current tempature base on one forcast of CO2 output. He fails to mention that the model based on more extreme CO2 output, the one closer to actual output over the last two decades, was in fact 300% incorrect. Crichton stated all this in his book. So you just have to wonder who is being false here, and why.
    Overall, I like this website, I find it much more informative than many of the purely ‘political’ propaganda sites that discuss GW.

    (and I wouldn’t have found it except for Crichton and George Will)

    [Response: I have been quite careful to only 'castigate' Crichton's arguments, not him personally. I think he is demonstrably wrong, and he has used misleading arguments to make his points. With respect to the Hansen testimony, it is quite clear from the linked commentary by Hansen that all of the results discussed in his testimony came from scenario B which was described as 'most probable'. The uncertainty in future economic growth (then and now) means that we have to use end member scenarios (both worst (A) and best (C) cases) to bracket the possiblities. These should not be assumed to be equally probable - which is way Hansen's testimony focussed on the most probable scenario (B). That this scenario has actually proved to be the most realistic, and the projected temperature changes the closest to observed is a triumph of climate modelling. To turn this triumph into a condemnation of the approach as Crichton does is misleading and wrong. - gavin]

    Comment by David Hiser — 30 Sep 2005 @ 3:01 PM

  40. 38 seems to conflate two issues which go in the opposite way: (1) taxes (which author agrees are very high) and (2) indirect subsidies of oil prices by fighting wars. One drives price down, one raises it. The author does not note the difference in directionality or distinguish which effect is larger than the other. Finally, to give her credit, her comments DO HAVE relevance to a comparison of renewables/gasoline (my throwaway gibe), but don’t affect the logic of the main point that if “peak oil is the disaster people are screaming about and the Saudis are misstating their reserves and we will have a huge crash that the futures markets are not capturing** because of running out of oil faster than expected and this causing $200/barrel and creating a recession”, than this factor is one that ameliorates GW.*** At least let’s be insightful and realize that the contemplated disasters pull you in different ways.

    *Would be more reasonable to say that GW1 reduced gas prices by stopping Saddam from taking over the SA peninsula. GW2 probably raised them by mucking about the whole area and reducing Iraqi production (unless you’re a neocon and think we need to be there long term).

    **Econbrowser site is a good one to read up on peak oil. Led by a UCSD econ professor

    ***It’s of course an interesting issue as to which is worse (if you could pick). Perhaps a (lower end of the climate models) GW would not be so bad and would be preferable in terms of impact on people all over the globe, especially the poor people, rather than $200/bbl oil.

    Comment by TCO — 30 Sep 2005 @ 3:32 PM

  41. WRT 39, the person’s comment was saying that CO2 went up the amount in scenario A, but we got the warming in scenario B. I would think this is relevant (if so…I have not checked out the Hassen stuff yet…so please spoonfeed me the facts!) So what if he predicted a set amount of warming and we got that amount if it is a result of his errors cancelling (underestimated CO2 rise, but overestimated impact of CO2). At a minimum, this shows that the impact of CO2 was not well understood.

    [Response: Not so. The actual rate of growth of CO2 was closest to scenario B, not A. -gavin]

    Comment by TCO — 30 Sep 2005 @ 3:36 PM

  42. 36: wrt inelasticity, yes, gas is relatively inelastic (one reason the government loves to tax it!!). I agree with you.* My major point (in analogy to peak oil/global warming) is that the issues argue against each other. If you beleive in inelasticity, means carbon taxes are not as effective a GW reduction means (or must be very draconian). Of coures if you are a real peak oiler and think we will have a hard, hard bust (and I’m not…I think those types are a little nutty), then the inelasticity is a bit irrelevant. Those guys go around saying the oil just isn’t there (and if you blather about biodisel or shale, they will tell you that it takes more energy to get that stuff than you get out of it.) Note I’ve also (once or twice) kvetched Steve M and the auditors on similar issue of multiple lines of attack. (some of the criticisms might be individuall corrrect, concieveably, but were self-contradictory…they couldn’t all be valid gripes as they fought each other.)

    Will address rest of your points later.

    *and the whole pick where you live by driving out on the highway and get off at an exit where you can afford it is cute–I heard that one before. And a reason that I sympathize with the red-state exurbanites…although I’m a yupppy urbanite…but not a John Kerry townhouse in Georgetown rich type…rather an apartment dweller…that is until I wing me a wifo.

    Comment by TCO — 30 Sep 2005 @ 3:49 PM

  43. Gavin, thanks for the spoonfeeding. I guess to make it mathematical could take the ratio of temp rise/CO2 rise? Then compare that?

    Comment by TCO — 30 Sep 2005 @ 3:56 PM

  44. wrt 42. Are you aware that carbon is emitted from sources other than gasoline combustion?

    Comment by Bob — 30 Sep 2005 @ 4:07 PM

  45. WRT43: Yes.

    [Response: Note: discussions of economics and elasticity of supply are outside the remit of this site - William]

    Comment by TCO — 30 Sep 2005 @ 4:21 PM

  46. RE 39
    Gavin,
    Thanks for the reply. If what you say is true and the input for Model B was closest to the actual then Crichton was wrong to use it as an example and probably owes Hansen an apology. It would have been useful to have had his forcasted CO2 plotted w/ the actual.
    I am used to seeing plots for Atmospheric CO2 for the entire 20th century and they certainly show expotential growth (Model A) over that period. http://www.grida.no/climate/vital/07.htm
    Which makes me curious as to why during the period 1910-1940 when surface tempatures increased even more dramatically than the last two decades, http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/fig2-5.htm
    the increase in CO2 was fairly flat?
    I hope these links work.

    [Response: Part of the answer is in http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/figspm-4.htm - William]

    Comment by David Hiser — 30 Sep 2005 @ 4:30 PM

  47. The best science available said that we needed to spend a few billion to protect New Orleans. This was ignored. Now we’re spending hundreds of billions. I guess we never learn.

    Comment by tom — 30 Sep 2005 @ 4:39 PM

  48. RE #24, I’ve also brought up the need to consider social science “forcings,” but the CC models do sort of account for them by including a range of emission scenarios:

    1. Worse-case, we all totally pig out perversely emitting all the GHGs we can as fast as we can (even though it makes no economic sense at all to do so), and

    2. Best-case, we all suddenly become decent, circumspect, compassionate saints (or at least smart money-grubbers), and reduce our GHGs as much as we possibly can, as fast as we can.

    They perhaps naively think the most likely scenario is somwhere in the middle. They don’t know about that really awful Freudian (or some such)perversity lurking in our collective subconscious — which, of course, is unprovable & nonempirical, but we know it’s there. It’s the only thing that really explains GW very well.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 30 Sep 2005 @ 5:14 PM

  49. MC’s main points in State of Fear are completely valid.

    1) The major reason climate research gets funding is because of fears of Global Warming. If climatologists prove global warming is a myth, they’ll lose all their funding. This doesn’t make for unbiased science. Even when someone makes a point that might cast doubt on global warming, they still follow it up with “and of course global warming exists.” A local magazine had both an article like this (describing a new sink for CO found, large enough to cancel out the effects of industrialization in England) which said “But of course global warming is a certainty” and a review criticizing State of Fear — the review stated that SOF claimed that global warming was a fraud perpetrated by homicidal environmentalists. :p

    2) Michael Cricton uses real numbers and statistics to argue his points, which is a lot better than what you can say for most global warming sites. Google “Global Warming” and look for the evidence. One site had 200 “proofs” of global warming. Example: “In 1988, France had a heat wave in which 14 people died.”

    If you don’t understand why this is bad statistics, you don’t deserve to be arguing about global warming in the first place.

    MC also doesn’t say GW is a myth. He is claiming that the process studying it is horribly biased, and flawed. Leave the crappy story about the eco-terrorists out of it, and you have a valid critique of the scientific community.

    [Response: Just using google to find something like GW isn't such a good idea. There are too many links. Dismissing the concenpt because you found one site saying something silly is an obvious logical fallacy. But if you want real information, you can follow the links here, or read this for some basic sources. Your point (1) isn't science. Your point (2) doesn't actually address any scientific concerns. Which, exactly, of C's points about the actual science do you find so convincing? Why is it that all the people that adore what C says never actually quote any of it? - William]

    Comment by Shaka — 30 Sep 2005 @ 7:05 PM

  50. RE #49

    1) This is the same argument I have heard regarding medical research (“If somebody cured cancer, all the funding for cancer researchers would dry up.”). The science is driven by the data, which are available for anyone to examine. There have been many opportunities for researchers to challenge that consensus of the climatology community, but the case supporting anthropogenic climate change has only become stronger.

    2) Shaka, please examine the articles posted on this site. You will find many numbers and statistics that come from the peer-review literature. There are other sites (Union of Concerned Scientists, Pew Center on Global Climate Change) that are sources of useful information.

    Comment by David C — 30 Sep 2005 @ 8:42 PM

  51. Re 49:

    What you describe is not a “critque” of the science at all. It is an ad hominem attack on scientists (“they’ll lose all their funding”), followed by an assault on a straw man (someone on the internet said something stupid). What thoughtful person could ever be impressed by a that kind of critique?

    Comment by leekelso — 30 Sep 2005 @ 9:44 PM

  52. I have read all the articles on here. I’m a reasonably well informed person. I’m impressed by statistics and not impressed by wow-ism. I think Americans these days are intellectually lazy. When they debate, they merely quote experts at each other, that back up what they already believe. I am actually open minded about issues, which is more than you can say for than most posters on here. And, laugh, a group with the name of “The Union of Concerned Scientists”. (I recall during the Cold War similarly-titled groups of scientists recommending self-destructive actions (in re: to the Soviet Union), with similar arguments from their supporters (“100 scientists can’t be wrong!”). Do you think if conclusive evidence came out that global warming was false that they’d change their stance, with a name like that? If you say no, then what they’re doing is not science.)

    The fact is, the articles on here on State of Fear don’t answer the points he raises in the books, sidestepping some of the issues entirely. He raised valid criticisms from the data (NOAA, etc.). Answers should be given from the same, instead of via hand-waving. If a place as well respected as RealClimate can’t answer his critiques directly, then a reasonable person has to wonder why.

    DaveC — “There have been many opportunities for researchers to challenge that consensus”. As I said, any article which casts doubt on global warming always includes the byline “but remember global warming is still real”, which makes Cricton’s point obvious. (I’ve read these papers myself.) The correct thing to do scientifically is to draw a conclusion from data, not to slavishly toe a party line. As Crichton says, the environmental movement is an entrenched organization in modern America.

    Leekelso — It’s obvious you haven’t read, or understood the book. It’s not an ad hominem attack. The scientific method breaks down when there is bias in the experimentors. Pointing out that bias exists is part of the PROCESS OF CORRECT SCIENCE. What he didn’t propose in the book (and read the appendix, not the horrendously bad fiction), was eliminating funding for climate scientists. He proposed instead a system what would try to minimize or eliminate bias. This is correct scientific practice.

    What thoughtful person could not agree with that goal?

    [Response: This is funny. You complain that people are "intellectually lazy. When they debate, they merely quote experts at each other" and yet you do nothing but quote Crichton! If you're interested in the science of, say, the Urban Heat Island, then read this. If *you* aren't intellectually lazy then please talk specifically about a piece of science and the problems raised with it - William]

    Comment by Shaka — 30 Sep 2005 @ 10:43 PM

  53. “1) This is the same argument I have heard regarding medical research (“If somebody cured cancer, all the funding for cancer researchers would dry up.”).”

    Yes, but the cancer researcher who discovered the cure for cancer would be very rich and very famous.

    What does the researcher who shows that that IPCC TAR projections are nonsense get?

    [Response: You have your arguments the wrong way round. What would the researcher who proved that there was no possible cure for cancer get? Does that demonstrate that all cancer researchers are only in it for the money? Of course not. - William]

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 30 Sep 2005 @ 10:51 PM

  54. Re: #53. Q: “What does the researcher who shows that that IPCC TAR projections are nonsense get?”

    A: Extensive grants from ExxonMobile (filtered through various non-profits). A fellowship at AEI. Intense promotion of his/her book on the topic and lots of mysterious “bulk purchases” of same to push the book to #1 on the NY Times list. Extensive speakership fees. Frequent repeat invitations to appear on cable news shows and plug his/her book.

    Comment by Outsider — 1 Oct 2005 @ 10:50 AM

  55. To me, the simple fact that somebody like Michael Crichton would even be considered to address the Senate on ANY science topic really illuminates a more fundamentally alarming issue here. The subtext to this entire exercise is the Republican party’s disdain for science in general. I do not believe that this kind of thing stems completely from ignorance alone. I DO believe that these politicians will resort to any means whatsoever to repudiate ideas that are inconvenient to their misguided and short-sighted economic policies. I mean come on, Michael Crichton?? You can’t tell me that the Senator does not know in his heart how absurd this is. I have a checking account and a mortgage but that does not qualify me to testify before the Senate finance committee! To me this is a glaring example of politicians who are NOT acting in good faith. They are not actually interested in the truth and that is what frightens me the most about the existing political climate and its implications for our future.

    Sorry if this rant went a little bit off the subject of the actual science!

    Comment by Jeff Walter — 1 Oct 2005 @ 11:23 AM

  56. Re question in 46 why “period 1910-1940 when surface tempatures increased even more dramatically than the last two decades, http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/fig2-5.htm, the increase in CO2 was fairly flat?”

    The surface temperature trend from 1910 to 1940 is exactly the rebound effect one would expect from the well studied cooling effect of the 1883 Krakatoa volcanic eruption.

    Comment by Donald Condliffe — 1 Oct 2005 @ 1:26 PM

  57. Not really science but this thread seems to allow for a bit of lee-way.

    Why is everyone taking such a confrontational approach?

    Right or wrong, Crichton’s concerns about the integrity of climate science are very much in vogue, have powerful voices behind them, and I am sure are quite capable of slowing down science and policy and dragging down the reputation of climate science. Why not try a positive and inclusive approach and get some of the animosity out this?

    E.g. ask Steve McIntyre (for example) what standards or processes *would* restore the credibility of the process in his eyes and then either discuss why they are not appropriate or fulfil them? Ask those who are not content what they propose instead. That way climate science is not always on the defensive. It is a standard approach for anyone owning a process which is being criticised.

    Or maybe this has all been tried?

    Comment by Mark Frank — 1 Oct 2005 @ 2:03 PM

  58. Re: #38, “Fuel taxes are already quite high. Higher even than sales taxes and both the federal government and state governments take their share.”

    Fuel prices in the US are nothing compared to what they are in Europe.

    http://www.see-search.com/business/fuelandpetrolpriceseurope.htm

    Where I am (Winnipeg, Manitoba), the average price is about $1.05 (Canadian) per litre (or about 51.8 pence/litre on the table they have on the above site).

    Even Norway (a major oil producer) has fuel prices of 94.8 pence/litre. about 2.5 times what the price is in the US.

    Quit complaining. Americans have it easy.

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 1 Oct 2005 @ 5:51 PM

  59. Re 56

    This is how I became a skeptic. Used to be a beleiver and walked around with a concerned worried frown. Saw the hockey stick. Noticed that there was a natural temperature surge 1910 to 1940. This natural surge preceeded the CO2 surge (1970 to 2000) and as luck would have it all surges where nicely bracketed by modern measurements. Further for 900 years before the natural and the CO2 surge there was virtually no variation at all. No measurements to back-up the 900 year dorment period. What rotten luck!

    This does not pass a rudimentry blink test. The convential view before the mid 90s was that there was a MWP and LIA. (TAR 2) It is just not beleivable that the one and only natural temperature surge just came along when direct measurements started and also just before the nasty CO2 surge. Perhaps there was more temperature change before 1910 and also perhaps that CO2 surge might have been reinforced by the same driver that caused the 1910 one????

    [Response: Two points. CO2 has been rising since ~1800, not just from 1970, and we have discussed previously the factors that lead to the 1910-1940 temperature rise - a mix of GHG forcing, reduced volcanoes, some solar etc. with no one forcing being dominant. Since 1970 with volcanism going the wrong way, solar close to stable, and GHGs continuing to climb, the attribution is much stronger. Globally, temperatures to 1940 aren't particularly exceptional in the millennial context - it is only once you get to the late 20th Century that things start popping up above the levels of natural variability. -gavin]

    [Response: Also: by "TAR 2" do you mean the IPCC SAR, ie the 1995 report? If so, you need to brush up your history: try [[MWP_and_LIA_in_IPCC_reports]] – William]

    Comment by Gil Pearson — 1 Oct 2005 @ 6:01 PM

  60. Now that we’re on money, I just want to thank all you honest climate scientists for your dedication. As a university person, I understand where that big grant money goes. A portion (often the largest) goes to the institution never to be seen again (I guess they need it for administrative costs, etc.). Then (usually) a smaller portion goes to the actual science projects and their costs–equipment, field research expenses, travel to present papers, research assistants (usually grad students), staff, supplies. Not one red penny goes to the scientists’ salaries (that’s how it works at my U).

    I also know that some climate scientists had actually started out in other related fields and probably expected a rather quiet, happy career in the lab, field, and classroom. The best & brightest scientists gravitated to this important topic of climate change science. (Who knew 30 years ago it would be THIS important!) In other words, if GW were ever to be conclusively disproved, these bright scientists would have those old jobs to go back to at more or less the same salaries, and without all the headaches. As far as I know the scientists here at RealClimate are volunteering their time & expertise for this website, without any remuneration. Also, scientists don’t get one red penny for the articles they have published (though publications might help toward merit raises, and we’re not talking big bucks for those raises either). So, while there are a lot of headaches in having to defend each & every facet of their research & (modest) scientific claims, there is no great monetary incentive for going into climate science. There are other fields that for the same level of education & effort & even less brains, they could have made double or triple what they’re making now.

    Unless, of course, the scientists go over to the dark side and become “skeptics” (claim the most modest GW scenario, and spends all their time trying to find flaws in the data, methods, and conclusions of other climate science – they do occasionally get published in peer-reviewed science journals) or “contrarians” (who make unacceptable claims, unsubstantiated by evidence or appropriate methods & theories – they don’t get their works published in peer-reviewed science journals). Now these skeptics & contrarians get enormous “consultancy fees” from the fossil fuel industry. Universities do allow faculty to moonlight & get such fees.

    I just hope & pray none of the honest scientists get tempted and goes over to this dark side. Otherwise who would there be to give us honest analyses of honestly gathered evidence and honestly constructed models & methods. And I thank all who stay on this honest, though not-as-financially-enriching side.

    As for the NRDC (on which Crichton seems to base his sinister organization, NERF), I don’t think Robert Kennedy, Jr., needs extra money. And such environmental organizations wouldn’t have to be collecting so many pennies from us little people, if the government would start helping, rather than hurting the environment & us people, who are dependent on a healthy environment. If the government & big business tries to do us in for power & profit, at least we have some NGOs & honest scientists working on our side.

    Furthermore, most environmentalists I know are motivated by concern for others, not fear for self. A book truer to reality might be titled STATE OF LOVE; its plot would be a total inversion of SOF.

    As for the tons of statistics Crichton lays on us, I was reminded of how villages in India used to avoid paying higher taxes to their various kings and rulers. They would lay on at many stats as they could find – each chicken & egg was included. The upshot, the tax-collector, dizzy with so many numbers to calculate, simply said, “I believe your assessment.”

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 1 Oct 2005 @ 6:20 PM

  61. #57 – “Quit complaining. Americans have it easy. ”

    If I quit complaining, then my local politicians will think that taking 20-30% of the price of my gasoline bill is OK with me, and they will think why not take another 10 or 15% as a GHG tax. They will think that MY hard-earned money is actually THEIRS and they can take it anytime they want. They will think that political manipulation of free-society supply and demand is OK, and just leads to a “better world” (which it does – for politicians).

    Someone has to try to stop the onward march of Big-Government and Big-Taxation. It might as well be a complainer like me.

    Comment by nanny_govt_sucks — 1 Oct 2005 @ 7:14 PM

  62. Re: #61, “If I quit complaining, then my local politicians will think that taking 20-30% of the price of my gasoline bill is OK with me, and they will think why not take another 10 or 15% as a GHG tax. They will think that MY hard-earned money is actually THEIRS and they can take it anytime they want.”

    You DO have an option here. If you reside in a major (or even minor) city, you do not need to drive a car or gas-guzzling SUV everywhere. You can take public transit, which includes little-to-no fuel tax (and is actually much cheaper than using a vehicle).

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 1 Oct 2005 @ 7:28 PM

  63. [Response: This is funny. You complain that people are "intellectually lazy. When they debate, they merely quote experts at each other" and yet you do nothing but quote Crichton! If you're interested in the science of, say, the Urban Heat Island, then read this. If *you* aren't intellectually lazy then please talk specifically about a piece of science and the problems raised with it - William]

    They’re intellectually lazy because they don’t take the time to read both sides of an issue in depth. I have. I found RealClimate’s responses to MC to either not answer them directly, or misinterpreted his points. It’s been a while since I’ve read the articles, so I’m not qualified to make a comprehensive list without reading them all again, which isn’t something that fills me with excitement.

    And lay off the ad hominem. You’re just reinforcing the criticism of GW researchers that belief in GW has become dogmatic, and a person subject to persecution if they disagree with the majority. Debate should be in the scientific arena. If someone makes a point on either side, it should be held accountable solely on its scientific merit.

    I made a valid point, that eliminating bias from science is part of the scientific process, you either answer it, or look like just another dishonest person trying to dodge an issue.

    [Response: But of course we all agree that eliminating bias is a good idea, and the evaluation and robustness of results is important. How could it be otherwise? The point of contention is not whether those goals are appropriate, it is whether the consensus of climate scientists is robust or not. We say it is based on decades of work and after the processes most appropriate to the field have been followed. Crichton disagrees. Yet the model that he would have us follow (the double-blind drug test) just isn't appropriate in most circumstances (and that is as true in medical science as climatology). For instance, you can't have one group of climatologists digging up a sediment core, another group analyse it, and someone else make an interpretation - no-one would want the first two jobs, and by cutting the link between interpretation and analysis you lose the feedback between the two that the experts implicity use when proposing new studies or new techniques. Instead, robustness is shown by completly independent methods - looking at snowlines, or coral or tree rings. And of course once the data is published, others are free to reinterpret it and/or use it in another way. Pure 'epidemiology' doesn't work here precisely because climate observations are not 'clean' - there are all sorts of problems in calibration, measurement, noise, data gaps etc - all the data must be processed by experienced workers before analysis (look at the estimatation of the variations in the Total Solar Irradiance for instance, or the MSU data). Where independent analysis will be particularly useful, the field embraces it - for instance, with the 300+ independent teams analysing the output of the ~19 models participating in the IPCC AR4 . All this to say that each field has developed techniques that work well for the particular cases that they need to deal with. Thus criticsims of those procedures have to be considered in the context of the problem at hand. So, give examples, and tell us what you think should be happening. Nothing is ever perfect though (in climatology, or in drug tests), and so there may be things that can be done to improve the situation - but making vague complaints about process when really you just don't like the result is indeed lazy. Step up to the plate! - gavin]

    Comment by Shaka — 1 Oct 2005 @ 9:25 PM

  64. Re: #63, “I made a valid point, that eliminating bias from science is part of the scientific process, you either answer it, or look like just another dishonest person trying to dodge an issue.”

    Eliminating bias is what the IPCC scientists are trying to do.

    Most skeptical scientists, however, are not trying to do this, since much of their climate change-related work cannot pass the peer-review process (which is undertaken to weed out fatally-flawed studies and does a sufficient-enough job).

    These skeptics publish such reports in journals like “World Climate Report,” “Energy and Environment,” etc. whose primary readership are people in the fossil fuel industry. The aforementioned WCR is actually funded by the oil industry (ExxonMobil, for one), which does not weed out flawed reports but encourages them, since it confuses or obfuscates the general public and policymakers into believing this hogwash.

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 2 Oct 2005 @ 12:55 AM

  65. Re: response to #63:
    “And of course once the data is published, others are free to reinterpret it and/or use it in another way.”
    It seems that one good step would be for journals to require public archiving of all primary data & methods as a condition of publication. Would you support this?

    [Response: Yes. In paleoclimate research, I think that once a time series is published, it should be made available at one of the standard archives. This almost always happens with new papers now, though there are a few exceptions, mostly from older papers that were published prior to universal web access. The methods description just needs to be enough so that some else can work out what was done. Model results are made available through the IPCC archive or at the institution itself. Many of the climate model source codes are also freely available for home or office use (NCAR, climateprediction.net etc.). - gavin]

    Comment by Armand MacMurray — 2 Oct 2005 @ 4:33 AM

  66. Re debate about “biased methods”:

    I’m not a scientist myself, but one thing I have picked up in the debate is that those who have studied current climate change have looked at it from completely different angles. Some look at computer models, some at ground temperature measurements, some at glaciers and ice caps, some at ocean temperatures, etc. They all use very different starting points and methods and somehow they all reach similar results. That’s what I cannot understand about climate change deniers -there are an awful lot separate findings which must be “wrong”.

    One of the most striking reports I have ever read (for a lay person like me) is one produced by the Catholic aid agency Tearfund, called “Dried up, drowned out” (sorry, not on line, but contact Rachel Roach if you want to order it for free). They have asked their workers in 13 countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa to ask project partners (ie people working with the poorest communities on the ground) as to whether they have noticed any changes in average weather and everything associated with it. Then they wrote all those reports down (they are very shocking and alarming ones, about sea level rises, animal extinctions, droughts, floods, etc), and they then looked at the IPPC TAR and compared those findings and predictions with what ordinary people on the grounds said. And both are strikingly the same, for every single region. It is pretty powerful to read for a non-scientist like me! Seems like the IPCC got things right so far, according to poor farming communities who have never read the report.

    Comment by Almuth Ernsting — 2 Oct 2005 @ 12:05 PM

  67. “The best policy is no policy” is a conclusion some obtain from perceived uncertainty, real or imagined.

    It seems to me that the sensible response to uncertainty is to take the threat seriously until it can be disproven. A literally conservative course would be to maximally refrain from changing the radiative properties of the atmosphere, wouldn’t it?

    This idea that what conservatives conserve is an economy, rather than a real world that the economy merely abstracts, is anything but traditional conservatism, which after all shares not only etymological roots but philosophical outlook with conservationism.

    Treating the economy as a gift from God and the atmosphere as a sort of conceptual artifact seems to me astonishingly and idiotically radical and out of touch with reality as much as it is out of touch with traditional moral values.

    In the absence of useful information, obviously the best, and indeed the most conservative policy is to minimize change in the environment, not to minimize change in the law.

    The other point about uncertainty is that it cuts both ways. Matters may be much less threatening than consensus science indicates, but again they may be much more threatening as well. By placing the “skeptics” position in opposition to the consensus position, they achieve the trick, increasingly common in US politics, of casting sober middle-of-the-road thinking as a pole of two-sided debate.

    In climate policy as elsewhere, the actual pole opposite to the self-proclaimed conservative position, in this case the pole of worst-case outcomes, gets dramatically less attention.

    Here, rational risk weighting weighs the high risk cases heavily, but they are rarely even mentioned eitehr in the popular press or in policy journals. So not only is the middle cast as extreme, the opposite extreme, which in this case deserves a serious hearing in a cost-benefit analysis, is utterly ignored.

    The arguments we are seeing are increasingly divorced from reason and increasingly amount to manipulative garbage. That Crichton was given a platform in opposition to the scientific community in the senate (rather than in oppostion to other science fiction writers at a fan convention) is a travesty and a tragedy. This hearing hasn’t gotten much attention in the press, what with all the action purely political spheres last week, but it’s likely that future generations will neither forgive nor forget this grotesque circus.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 2 Oct 2005 @ 6:34 PM

  68. Re: #63 to 67

    This is getting to the heart of the political, as opposed to scientific, debate, although we all hope the site will soon return to the “regularly scheduled program.” So it might help to make explicit the two separate issues in the Response to #63, because otherwise some readers might miss the distinction:

    (1) To talk about “eliminating bias,” you have to talk about the nuts and bolts of a single, real study. The methodology for every different study is carefully thought-out. If you find that bias might have happened in a study, then you figure out how to fix it. That’s the science.

    (2) There are lots of different studies of very different things, and together the weight of their evidence proves partially-anthropogenic global warming. Indeed, possible bias could not account for it all, at this late date, and so it is simply not an issue. That’s also the science.

    Comment by Lee A. Arnold — 2 Oct 2005 @ 8:16 PM

  69. #68 – “There are lots of different studies of very different things, and together the weight of their evidence proves partially-anthropogenic global warming. ”

    I’m curious about this list of “different studies of very different things” that together prove AGW.

    Can you provide some categories of what these “different things” are, and perhaps a link to a primary/representative study for each?

    [Response: I recommend this. But then, I wrote it... - William]

    Comment by nanny_govt_sucks — 2 Oct 2005 @ 9:04 PM

  70. For instance, you can’t have one group of climatologists digging up a sediment core, another group analyse it, and someone else make an interpretation – no-one would want the first two jobs

    Rhetorical question: Why not? In my mind, the answer is that only the third group gets the fame and fortune (well, as much as you can call research grants “fortune”). It seems like everyone is just accepting that this is the way it has to be. In my mind, it’s not that “no-one wants the first two jobs”, it’s that “no-one benefits from the first two jobs”.

    [Response: Exactly. So no one good does them, and the jobs would devolve to contracters working for the lead scientists... which leads us back to where we are. -gavin]

    by cutting the link between interpretation and analysis you lose the feedback between the two that the experts implicity use when proposing new studies or new techniques.

    I don’t see why this feedback has to be lost. First of all, the groups can read eachothers publications. Second, there is no reason the first two groups can’t also carry on with the analysis/interpretation. That would mean you get one group collecting samples, two analyzing, and three independent intepretations. You get rid of any of the bias that Crichton has a problem with, and you get your final result triple-checked to boot. Yes, it is perhaps less “efficient” than the way it is currently done. But might it not be better? I would find it much more compelling. I guess the easy way out is to say that this is not currently possible (limited funding, etc), but if GW is really that important, I would think that there would be some interest…

    [Response:Triple our funding then! In practice such things do occur though. For instance the GRIP and GISP2 ice cores were drilled indpendently by US and European teams only 30 miles apart.]

    And of course once the data is published, others are free to reinterpret it and/or use it in another way

    That doesn’t actually work. Once person A says that data X shows conclusion Y, person B examining X has been influenced. If it’s not done independently and simultaneously, it’s biased.

    [Response: But scientists are professional sceptics (in the original sense of the word) and so we tend not to simply take peoples word for things. And many records have been radically re-evaluated often many years after the original interpretation was published - Greenland ice core isotopes for instance. This kind of post-publication re-interpretation happens all the time and is part and parcel of the field. ]

    Comment by RMS — 2 Oct 2005 @ 10:12 PM

  71. I wasn’t satisfied with the within-the-post reply to Jim Sperry about the philosophy issues that Crichton raised and which another poster dismissed as everyone in science knows how to handle those. I got my union card and won a national award. But I never learned those answers. Could we keep that topic alive? Or could the dismissive poster, please share the actual answer? these seem like meaty concepts in science method/ethics. I warrant that DicK Feynman or Wilson would engage on these topics…

    Comment by TCO — 2 Oct 2005 @ 10:16 PM

  72. I found this on pandas thumb. It pretty well nails Crichton and his crew:
    http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/08/thoughts_on_the.html

    ******************************************
    - A favorite passage from an article by an author I don’t usually admire: “[O]ne cause of the tendency of scientific law to become mechanical is to be found in the average man’s admiration for the ingenious in any direction, his love of technicality as a manifestation of cleverness, his feeling that law, as a developed institution, ought to have a certain ballast of mysterious technicality. Every practitioner has encountered the lay obsession as to the invalidity of a signing with a lead pencil. Every law-teacher has had to combat the student obsession that notice, however cogent, may by disregarded unless it is official. Lay hair-slitting over rules and regulations goes far beyond anything of which lawyers are capable. Experienced advocates have insisted that in argument to a jury, along with a just, common-sense theory of the merits, one ought to have a specious technicality for good measure.” Roscoe Pound, Mechanical Jurisprudence (1908) reprinted in Morris R. Cohen and Felix S. Cohen, Readings in Jurisprudence And Legal Philosophy 537 (1951).
    *************************

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 2 Oct 2005 @ 11:24 PM

  73. #68:

    Can you provide some categories of what these “different things” are, and perhaps a link to a primary/representative study for each?

    Sure. Click here. Hope that helps.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 3 Oct 2005 @ 12:02 AM

  74. It seems like everyone is just accepting that this is the way it has to be. In my mind, it’s not that “no-one wants the first two jobs”, it’s that “no-one benefits from the first two jobs”.

    [Response: Exactly. So no one good does them, and the jobs would devolve to contracters working for the lead scientists... which leads us back to where we are. -gavin]

    Isn’t it up to the scientists working in the field to decide whether or not anyone should benefit from the first two jobs? I can’t speak on Climate Science, but in my field (computer science), whether or not one receives funding is largely decided by peer review (in Canada, anyway). So then it would seem that peer review is saying “those first two jobs aren’t important”, obviously leading to the situation where nobody wants to do them.

    So, is it the case that nobody in Climate Science actually thinks those jobs are important enough on their own?

    I suppose the other possibility is that everyone finds them more of a necessary evil, too mind-numbing to focus on. But my experience says otherwise. It seems like there are always people who absolutely adore doing the sorts of things others find menial, and would focus on them completely if the community valued it.

    Comment by RMS — 3 Oct 2005 @ 12:37 AM

  75. Re #63 “For instance, you can’t have one group of climatologists digging up a sediment core, another group analyse it, and someone else make an interpretation ” Strictly speaking this still would not be a double-blind test. You would need two cores one of which had been exposed to the earth’s climate and another of which had not. Then you would need to allocate each core to separate group of analysts and the analysts would not know whether they the “real cores” or not. There seem to be some practical problems here :-)

    Comment by Mark Frank — 3 Oct 2005 @ 3:21 AM

  76. Has anyone read Mr. Crichton’s portrayal of mathematics (not to mention mathematicians)! Wow! he might as well be holding a sign in front of his face saying “Any relationship of what I’m saying to reality is strickly accidental.”

    Comment by JHM — 3 Oct 2005 @ 6:15 AM

  77. Re: David Hiser [#46]: “I am used to seeing plots for Atmospheric CO2 for the entire 20th century and they certainly show expotential growth (Model A) over that period. http://www.grida.no/climate/vital/07.htm

    I can’t remember where I heard this, but I did hear that CO2 emissions had only just gone back over their 1990 levels recently, with the dip primarily caused by the large reductions in CO2 emissions when the economies of the USSR and Eastern Europe collapsed. This might help to explain the apparent contradiction betwen what you would expect from looking at the graph you link to [which is based on a 100-yr running mean so wouldn’t have much of a response at the end to any deviation from the exponential growth pattern.

    Hope that helps

    Comment by Timothy — 3 Oct 2005 @ 6:46 AM

  78. [Moderator: apologies if my previous post on 7/30 was too lengthy or contentious. Here is a lightened version, though I prefer the original.]

    Re #25, although a government may have myriad policies affecting climate indirectly, that’s very different from a policy whose goal is to change global temperature (or even more ambitious, stabilizing world climate). My personal plea would be for governments to focus their attentions on reducing toxic emissions, rather than the GW problem per se. Human nature suggests the Kyoto Protocol will only encourage policy makers to turn away from these more immediate problems and solutions, which will likely in the end have more effect on lowering CO2 than the protocol itself would. Two examples of a more local policy would be NY attorney general Eliot Spitzer’s successful lawsuit against polluting coal plants, and the Dublin Air Pollution [Law and] Study which clearly demonstrated the local hazard of particulates in the air (~359 deaths per year).

    Re #37, depressed Lynn should perhaps appreciate many people against governmental policies aimed at reducing GW are not necessarily skeptical of GW itself, although they may not always be able to articulate that uneasiness and find it easier simply to disregard the science. With Kyoto in place, the basic thrust of global policy appears to have already been decided and there is little room left to manueveur so the science becomes the de facto target. My feeling is if the theoretical climate change is within parameters seen over the last millon years or so, we should probably not attempt to change course and instead do our best to adapt.

    Re #48, the human organism (compared to other species) is extremely sensitive to changes in its environment and reorganizes its habitat quickly and frequently. All the noise surrounding Katrina, for example, is also a feedback loop between human culture and habitat. Expect to see SUV sales plummet (even if the price of oil drops back down) and hybrids become the norm, for example.

    Comment by Keith Moulton — 3 Oct 2005 @ 10:09 AM

  79. I can’t remember where I heard this, but I did hear that CO2 emissions had only just gone back over their 1990 levels recently, with the dip primarily caused by the large reductions in CO2 emissions when the economies of the USSR and Eastern Europe collapsed. This might help to explain the apparent contradiction betwen what you would expect from looking at the graph you link to [which is based on a 100-yr running mean so wouldn’t have much of a response at the end to any deviation from the exponential growth pattern.

    Surely it’s the levels of CO2 that are “well mixed” in the atmosphere which are important. These have risen each year without exception. David Hiser’s point is perfectly valid, therefore.

    Comment by John Finn — 3 Oct 2005 @ 11:06 AM

  80. Re: #69 “Can you provide some categories of what these “different things” are, and perhaps a link to a primary/representative study for each?” Chemistry, radiation, oceanography, biology, history… A great place to start is at AIP. Plenty of links from there.

    You could also read every article on this site, RealClimate, since the beginning; there are many links to the important studies. It’s a very active science, so there will always be new ones. Also have a look at other sites they list on the side under “Other Opinions” and “Science Links” and do the same.

    You could go to the home pages of SCIENCE and NATURE magazines and do searches, although non-subscribers can only read the article abstracts.

    Comment by Lee A. Arnold — 3 Oct 2005 @ 11:27 AM

  81. Re: #71 “Or could the dismissive poster, please share the actual answer?” Wasn’t being dismissive, just trying to be brief. Michael Crichton painted with a broad brush, when he should know that the debates are much further along than he indicated. What is the question? On model unverifiablility, see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=100, and follow the other links from there. On the Mann hockey-stick, see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=121, and follow the other links from there. But what is your specific question? I don’t have a national award, but I want to know the questions, too!

    Comment by Lee A. Arnold — 3 Oct 2005 @ 11:57 AM

  82. I haven’t seen the testimony so I can’t offer any comments on it. But I’d like to comment on the rebuttals that started this discussion. Is there a transcript, by any chance?

    1. “the claim that global climate models can’t reproduce past climate change” is countered by the set of graphs http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/figspm-4.htm In my view, these plots prove little if anything. All I see is that the models capture first order response to CO2 forcing. The observed temperature curve frequently gets out of the band which strikes me as a bad sign. Anyhow, until you select a metric (e.g. correlation) to quantify the similarity between observed and predicted, the statement “yes they can” is borderline meaningless. Moreover, the plots are produced with all the benefits of hindsight that allowed the authors to tune the model to achieve the best results. Forecasting 21-st century could require a different set of parameters.

    2. “the claim that climate can’t be predicted because weather is chaotic” is countered by by Stefan’s spoof. While the piece is funny it does nothing to contribute to the substance of the matter; I don’t see the point of linking it in this context. The presense of the annual cycle in the temperature signal in no way contradicts the chaotic nature of the climate system. I’m sure everyone here understands it. For example, we cannot predict when the next ice age could naturally start. Therefore the quoted statement is not exactly “wrong” as stated above. It’s not entirely valid either, of course, but it deserves a bit more than derision.

    Comment by Sashka — 3 Oct 2005 @ 2:13 PM

  83. re #82,

    It’s difficult for me to believe that you can look at graph c in the link and not perceive a correlation! It does not “frequently get out of the band”. Are we looking at the same thing? Perhaps you are focused on graph b, which plots the imaginary effects of CO2 changes alone, and shows, as the models predict and as is confirmed by the data, that CO2 changes *alone* cannot account for known, past climate change. Nobody ever claimed they could. But CO2 in conjunction with other known forcings can explain past climate remarkably well.

    (2) Your statement that “the plots are produced with the benefit of hindsight” is interesting in two respects. First, Crichton has argued that the models cannot produce historical climate changes. It is a little dubious therefore, when shown that this is wrong, to turn around and say, oh well, doesn’t matter anyway, because they’re produced with the benefit of hindsight. Either its useful to verify climate models by looking backward or it isn’t. By challenging the results when one turns the models backward, Crichton suggests that it IS useful to do this. And on this single point I agree with him. It is useful. He is simply wrong on the facts – the models verify well when pointed backward to look at past climate change. Also, by stating, “the plots are produced with all the benefits of hindsight that allowed the authors to tune the model to achieve the best results” you are making incorrect assumptions about how the models are constructed. No climate scientist says, “let’s test out ten different levels of sunlight absorption that CO2 might have, and see which fits with the past climate changes best.” Rather, the known laws of physics demand a specific value for sunlight absorption for each frequency, and this is what must be input into a climate model.

    2. The point that climate cannot be predicted because weather is chaotic is frankly ridiculous. Consider Niagara Falls. The behavior of each molecule of water cannot be predicted well. What eddy will it wind up in? Where will it land at the base of the falls? Who knows. But we can say, with a great deal of precision what volume of water, in aggregate, will fall in the next ten minutes. There are countless other examples, where the micro events cannot be predicted, but the macro effect can.

    Comment by Dan Allan — 3 Oct 2005 @ 3:55 PM

  84. #73 – Do you have anything more specific? I’m looking for the categories, and the specific studies.
    #80 – The link you provided is broken.

    [Response: Fixed -gavin]

    Comment by nanny_govt_sucks — 3 Oct 2005 @ 3:55 PM

  85. Re: 83.

    No, I’m looking at (c). What you don’t seem to appreciate is that the band representation doesn’t allow you to compute the correlations because you don’t know how the individual model runs behave. The authors could have presented the mean trajectory but chose not to do so. The likely reason is that they wanted you to “perceive” better agreement than there actually is.

    1. First of all, it is NOT shown that models can produce historical climate changes. Even under most favorable interpretation, the currently available results are only good 150 years which is a very short time apparently dominated by the strong CO2 forcing. Show me a model that reproduces ice ages (a Little Ice Age, at least) and then maybe you’ll have a case. Second, every climate model has dozens of “free” parameters that the modelers are free to choose to their liking. There is nothing wrong about tuning the models but there is no guarantee that the same set of parameters will be as useful looking forward.

    2. With your Niagara example, you can predict the volume over the next 10 minutes. But you can’t predict the volume next year, much less in a 100 years. If you read my post carefully you’d notice that I didn’t state that climate cannot be predicted because weather is chaotic. Crichton did. What I said is that he’s not proven wrong because nobody even claims the ability to predict the climate on long (>= 1000 years) time scales.

    Comment by Sashka — 3 Oct 2005 @ 5:55 PM

  86. Re: 38

    “These subsidies act to artificially lower the price of gas.”

    Think about it. Oil companies own major oil fields. Why would they benefit from low gas prices?

    “If we paid the true price for gas at the pump, then alternative fuel vehicles, riding a bike and even walking would look a lot more attractive and CO2 emissions from autos would plummet.”

    I wonder what you consider “true price”. Is it somehow related to the cost of production? Do you know what the cost of production is in Gulf countries? Check it out and you’ll find that we pay an order of magnitude more than we should.

    Comment by Sashka — 3 Oct 2005 @ 6:00 PM

  87. re 85:

    where to begin? your first criticism of the graph showing correlations is that it doesn’t show a mean line so perhaps there is no correlation. However, even if you were to draw a mean line in the most disadvantageous way possible, and still keep it within the grey area, “strong correlation” would practical scream out of the graph. Not sure what degree of correlation you expect. No doubt you would be unsatisfied until the lines were 100% co-positioned, at which point you would (rightly) challenge the authenticity of any data that came out so conveniently perfect. Next you challenge the time-scale – but of course you will note that the timescale includes ample peaks and valleys to demonstrate a correlation, and that, without the inclusion of CO2 forcing, you do not produce a correlated graph.

    regarding the dozens of free parameters – i’m sure you picked this up on some skeptics’ site, but everything i have read tells me this is not true. the few flux parameters that were included in early gcms have become unnecessary in later versions.

    but allow me to ask you a question: which part of the GW argument to you disagree with:

    1. CO2 is increasing due to human activity (proven fact, even accepted by skeptics)
    2. C02 has a known physical property, whereby it absorbs sunlight rather than allowing it to reflect back into space.

    If you accept that both of these are correct, what force, specifically, do you expect will inhibit global warming?

    Comment by dan allan — 3 Oct 2005 @ 7:07 PM

  88. anyone have a transcript (as opposed to a realplayer vidoe file) of the session/testimony?

    Comment by TCO — 3 Oct 2005 @ 8:57 PM

  89. In #49, Shaka wrote that Michael Crichton’s position was, “The major reason climate research gets funding is because of fears of Global Warming. If climatologists prove global warming is a myth, they’ll lose all their funding. This doesn’t make for unbiased science.”

    In #50, David C. responded, “1) This is the same argument I have heard regarding medical research (“If somebody cured cancer, all the funding for cancer researchers would dry up.”).”

    In #53, I responded to David C., “Yes, but the cancer researcher who discovered the cure for cancer would be very rich and very famous. What does the researcher who shows that (the) IPCC TAR projections are nonsense get?”

    My point was that it’s wrong to claim that all cancer researchers are not interested in curing cancer, even if “all the funding for cancer researchers would dry up” if cancer was cured. Each cancer researcher knows that if he or she comes up with a cure for cancer, he or she will be rich and/or famous. In contrast, a researcher who points out that the projections in the IPCC TAR are pseudoscientific nonsense doesn’t get anything (beyond knowing he or she is right).

    And let me emphasize that the IPCC TAR projections ARE pseudoscientific nonsense. For example, they have no probabilities attached to them, which alone renders them completely worthless, as a matter of science. For example, the frequently-quoted range of “1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius” means nothing, since there are no assessed probabilities of the likelihood of where the temperature rise will fall within that range – or even if the rise will fall within that range at all! (Not having any assessed probabilities DOES aid in the use of the projections for alarmist propaganda purposes, however!)

    In response to my comment, William Connolley replied,”You have your arguments the wrong way round. What would the researcher who proved that there was no possible cure for cancer get?”

    No, my argument is not “the wrong way around.” The IPCC TAR projections are pseudoscientific nonsense. The fact that they haven’t been universally denounced as pseudoscientific nonsense by the “climate change community,” demonstrates the point Shaka attributed to Michael Crichton perfectly: the “climate change community” does not denounce the pseudoscientific nonsense, because doing so would result in significantly decreased funding for climate change.

    This whole situation is essentially a repeat of the “Limits to Growth” nonsense…but tremendously magnified, in terms of money. (And slightly less ridiculous, in terms of the “science.”) I don’t blame the small minority of the lay public who can see through the nonsense, for becoming cynical about anything labeled as “environmental science.”

    Mark Bahner (environmental engineer)

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 3 Oct 2005 @ 9:36 PM

  90. Re: #85, “2. With your Niagara example, you can predict the volume over the next 10 minutes. But you can’t predict the volume next year, much less in a 100 years. If you read my post carefully you’d notice that I didn’t state that climate cannot be predicted because weather is chaotic. Crichton did. What I said is that he’s not proven wrong because nobody even claims the ability to predict the climate on long (>= 1000 years) time scales.”

    Here’s the thing that bothers me most about climate skeptics’ arguments, the “climate cannot be predicted because weather is chaotic” part. You (Sashka) may not have said it, but many skeptics have.

    Climate is an essentially smoothed out chronology of weather, which on larger-scale time scales IS generally predictable (at least statistically) as long as the statistical process is followed correctly. If it is, the study should pass the peer-review process and be published in a reputable scientific journal.

    One can place a sufficient boundary to the path of a line graph and be proved accurate 19 times out of 20 (a 95% significance level). (The same methodology seems to work for Tropical Cyclone track projections, though that is a weather prediction.) Unless something catastrophic were to occur (such as multiple Tambora-scale volcanic eruptions), the projections should be proved accurate.

    Therefore, such bets by climate skeptics that the Earth’s atmosphere will cool in 5-10 years, will warm less than the IPCC has predicted, etc. are highly foolish. The odds that the skeptics will win are very long. These bets are made to fool the general public (as is their point) into thinking there is a chance that business-as-usual scenarios will not result in significant planetary warming. I’ll even bet (not for money, though) that the fossil fuel industry will actually cover the losses of these unwinnable bets by skeptics.

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 3 Oct 2005 @ 11:40 PM

  91. re 89:

    Mark,

    First, I’m not aware that skeptics are having trouble getting funding. I have no doubt that the big energy companies would be delighted to fund any credible skeptic. So if you are arguing that individual scientists are forwarding a theory so they can get funding…that motivation would almost certainly drive them to be skeptics, not supporters. There is fame and glory in being a skeptic – just as there is in being the scientist who cures cancer. You get wined and dined at the Cato institute, your rear is kissed by the party in power, and exxonmobilhalliburton will find all the funding you could ever need. So please let’s drop this nonsensical argument, because it undercuts your own position.

    to your second point: the idea that the ipcc range is unscientific because it doesn’t weight the different scenarios according to probability is itself an unscientific argument. this is an arbitrary demand that has nothing to do with the strength or weakness of the theory. If they did this, of course you would find some other requirement they didn’t fulfill to your liking. there is always more that can be done. but results do need to be published every now and then.

    Finally, I’m curious, if it is all pseudoscience, why you are not more specific. Please explain what is pseudoscience. Is CO2 not really increasing? Is it not really a greenhouse gas? Is there a negative feedback that you have powerful evidence will overwhelm the C02-induced temperature increase? If so, what, specifically, is this negative feedback? Where are your volumes of perfectly accumulated evidence that prove it (I assume they are from a multiplicity of independent sources, using double-blind techniques). Let’s hear YOUR theory.

    Comment by dan allan — 4 Oct 2005 @ 1:52 AM

  92. John,

    Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, has a plan that involves “ditching” the use of fossil fuels. We’re stuck in a fossil fuel economy for the forseeable future. Everyone knows that. So your statment is incorrect.
    What is up for discussion are suggestions – no doubt evil ones from your point of view – that we learn to curb our fossil fuel appetite, drive more efficient cars, etc.

    Now, I put the same challenge to you that I put to Mark and Shashka:

    what is YOUR theory? Is CO2 not increasing? Is it not a GHG? Please illuminate us. And be absolutely sure that all of your statements meet the skeptics’ standards that they expect other climate scientists to follow.

    Comment by Dan Allan — 4 Oct 2005 @ 9:28 AM

  93. re 87
    1. CO2 is increasing due to human activity (proven fact, even accepted by skeptics)
    2. C02 has a known physical property, whereby it absorbs sunlight rather than allowing it to reflect back into space.

    re 1: Would you believe that there are even emeritus professors (Thoenes and Rorsch) that hold a a recent natural rise of CO2 plausible?
    re 2: CO2 doesn’t absorb sunlight, it absorbs and emits infrared radiation (elementary physics).

    [Response: Re: 1. Unfortunately, 'emeritus' is not synonymous with 'correct'. See here and here. - gavin]

    Comment by Hans Erren — 4 Oct 2005 @ 11:32 AM

  94. While I am not a climate scientist, I am trained in statistics, experimental method, and engineering risk analysis. The polarization on the issue of global warming and its human causes has obscured the point most important to residents of planet earth. After science delivers its predictions it is up to the politicians to formulate and implement the solutions and responses to the problem. Those solutions will impact every energy user on the planet, that is, everybody.

    Demonization of the skeptics diverts attention from the real issue, what are the consequences if the conclusions about anthropogenic global warming are wrong? At the moment the evidence supports those conclusions. Ultimately, however, the conclusions are based on correlational data and computer models. No matter how rigorous the methodology or genius of the researchers, the conclusions do not have 100% probability of being correct. Policies intended to deal with the predicted events are far reaching and impose great costs on social order, local and world economies, and the individual lives of billions of people. It is reasonable to challenge the conclusions that would drive such draconian mitigation strategies.

    Likewise ignoring the predicted outcomes of global warming is also irreponsible. The politicians responsible for setting the policies of the world’s governments are justified in seeking very high probability assurance that the extensive costs of mitigating greenhouse gases are really necessary and are a better response than developing approaches to deal with the effects of climate change.

    Science needs to contiue its cycle of research, review, and challenge to continuously improve its preditive consclusions. The skeptics are necessary. In addition there needs to be an analysis of the risks and costs associated with the probability that global warming theory is correct as well as the probability that it is wrong.

    Comment by Paul Emberger — 4 Oct 2005 @ 12:02 PM

  95. Re #92
    While oil does not represent the sole source of CO2, there is perhaps no need to make a plan for ditching it. Apparently, our society will face “the end of abundant and cheap oil on which all industrial nations depend” in about 30 years. This according to Campbell & Laherrere in Scientific American (3/98). SA is peer-reviewed, right? From a usage standpoint, it doesn’t really matter if more expensive oil were still available: once it becomes more expensive than some other energy source, its use will drop precipitously.

    On a separate note, I would urge the GW skeptics’ skeptics to compare the history of this scientific puzzle with that of determing the cause of the lowly stomach ulcer (see nytimes today). For decades, medical researchers assumed bacteria generally couldn’t survive the high acidity present in the human stomach, and therefore no chance the malady was caused by bacteria. Indeed, ulcers could be treated by drugs which lowered the PH, thus it was perceived there was no need to understand the actual mechanism whereby ulcers come about. There was a very strong consensus for this view; and it was wrong. Climate science is the same. It says: we know the inputs and we know the outputs; therefore, there is no need to understand exactly what’s happening in the black box before we go spend tens of trillions of dollars on it.

    Comment by Keith Moulton — 4 Oct 2005 @ 12:35 PM

  96. re 93:

    “Would you believe that there are even emeritus professors (Thoenes and Rorsch) that hold a a recent natural rise of CO2 plausible?”

    Again, skeptics want to hold “believers” to the most rigorous scientific standards. Yet seem to be persuaded because one lone scientist somewhere believes that the CO2 rise is natural. Where is your curiosity about this scientist’s method? His dataset? His peer review? His bias? Other data that support / contradict him? Where is your “skepticism”?

    Comment by Dan Allan — 4 Oct 2005 @ 12:35 PM

  97. Re: 87

    “No doubt you would be unsatisfied until the lines were 100% co-positioned”

    If you have no doubts there’s nothing you can learn.

    “regarding the dozens of free parameters – i’m sure you picked this up on some skeptics’ site, but everything i have read tells me this is not true.”

    This only means that you haven’t read much. Could I ask the esteemed owners of the site to publish a full ist of “free” parameters in a typical GCM?

    Comment by Sashka — 4 Oct 2005 @ 12:54 PM

  98. Re: 90

    “Climate is an essentially smoothed out chronology of weather, which on larger-scale time scales IS generally predictable (at least statistically) as long as the statistical process is followed correctly.”

    The caveat in the end is essential. Of course, IF the statistical process is followed correctly then there is no trouble computing the averages. The problem is that this is not quite the case. Not sure what you meant by weather predictability. What time scales are you talking about?

    You next paragraph I don’t understand at all. Even the best models routinely make huge errors in forecasting hurricane trajectories, even on short time scales.

    Comment by Sashka — 4 Oct 2005 @ 1:12 PM

  99. Re #95 (Keith Moulton): You’re perfectly right that at some point relatively soon (the debate is over when, not if) there will be an supply-enforced reduction in our use of natural gas and oil. Whether this is starting to happen now, in ten years or even in fifty years any rational person should be frightened by the lack of planning for the inevitable crunch. Absent that planning, the fall-back is going to be coal, which will have all sorts of bad implications. Your position seems to be that until all uncertainty is reduced to zero we should do nothing. That thinking worked very well on Easter Island, for the classical Mayans, etc. You should consider very carefully the extent to which humans have been shown to be capable of soiling our own nest. Is there some reason to think our current society is immune to such thinking?

    The black box analogy is strange. There are no significant unknown factors in global warming. If you disagree, please point to one.

    Re #97 (Sashka): Even as early as 1991/2 Jim Hansen was able to successfully predict the cooling associated with the Pinatubo eruption. He also predicted that this year would come very close to a new record high global mean temperature, and is clearly going to be right. Just lucky guesses, you think?

    Regarding the skeptics generally, consider that the fossil fuel companies have buckets of money, and have been shown to be perfectly willing to spend it on science that opposes the climate consensus, but after twenty years of this activity no model or alternative body of science has been developed to support the skeptical view. Indeed, a number of these companies (BP most promninently) have signed on to the consensus, although ExxonMobil at least continues to actively fund skeptics. As well, there’s not much to show after five years of a Bush administration clearly on the lookout for credible skeptical science. Why not, do you suppose?

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 4 Oct 2005 @ 2:05 PM

  100. Re #94: Regarding those politicians, I think we have to ask why it’s been so difficult to get much traction on the non-draconian “no regrets” conservation, efficiency and alternative energy measures (of the sort detailed by Roger Pielke, Jr.) that would be of benefit (by reducing air pollution, dependence on Middle Eastern oil, etc.) even if global warming were not a concern. The cynical but probably realistic conclusion is that nothing very meaningful will be done about global warming until the politicians are being hammered over the head with the consequences.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 4 Oct 2005 @ 2:31 PM

  101. Re: 99

    “Even as early as 1991/2 Jim Hansen was able to successfully predict the cooling associated with the Pinatubo eruption.”

    You don’t need to be Jim Hansen to predict the short term effect of major volcano eruption on climate. This is completely off-topic.

    “He also predicted that this year would come very close to a new record high global mean temperature, and is clearly going to be right. Just lucky guesses, you think?”

    This is not exactly what he predicted but it was certainly a daring bet. However it also has nothing to do with the subject of predictability.

    Generally, skepticism is a healthy attitude with respect to any science. A skeptic shouldn’t necessarily be expected to produce independent research with the opposite results. Challenging the facts, the statistics, the logic and the assumptions is sufficient.

    Comment by Sashka — 4 Oct 2005 @ 3:15 PM

  102. re 97: “if you have no doubts, you cannot learn”.

    actually, i would turn it around: if you believe nothing, then you cannot learn. Also, if you insist

    Re #95:

    It is important to address this issue of scientific concensus and look at this analogy to ulcers. While it is true that many scientists believed ulcers were due to stress and diet, and this was later proven wrong, as with many early medical beliefs, the believers never had a significant body of evidence or research to support this contention. Climate science does have this body of research. When a researcher presented evidence that the cause was bacteriological, the medical community embraced this evidence quickly (in spite of the WSJ’s implication to the contrary in today’s editorial). On the other hand, the skeptics have not presented any credible evidence that the AGW theory is wrong. They just “don’t believe”. So there is no analogy here.

    Concensus is not proof that a theory is correct. But it certainly cannot be used, as skeptics do, the insinuate that a theory is wrong. The logical extension of this line of thinking is to consider every scientific text as “likely to be wrong” because a concensus of scientists agree with it – a ludricruous proposition.

    Do GW skeptics believe in theory of relativity? If so, why are they NOT skeptical? And please don’t tell me it is because they’ve read Einstein’s / Rheimann’s math and proven it for themselves and found it to be correct. If they believe in relatively, it is because a *concensus* of scientists continue to assert that it is correct.

    In fact, virtually everything that we believe that we know – that the civil war took place, that viruses cause disease, that gravity is proportional to the inverse of the distance squared – we “know” because other people, a concensus of experts, tell us it is so. So if you are going to doubt, as Chrichton does, simply because a concensus of so-called experts asserts that it is so, then what is it that you think you “know”?

    Comment by Dan Allan — 4 Oct 2005 @ 3:40 PM

  103. Excellent comment Paul Emberger.

    D

    Comment by Dano — 4 Oct 2005 @ 3:45 PM

  104. Re: #98, “The caveat in the end is essential. Of course, IF the statistical process is followed correctly then there is no trouble computing the averages. The problem is that this is not quite the case. Not sure what you meant by weather predictability. What time scales are you talking about?”

    Well, weather prediction is much less certain than climate prediction, since even small “butterflies beating their wings in South America” can effect change in short-term atmospheric processes. Climate neutralises these small factors, however, so even, say a 0.02% decrease in CO2 concentration can be easily dealt with in climate models. These climate models are NOT the same as weather models, I might add, which is one of the lies spun by many climate skeptics to try to inject uncertainty into the debate.

    Also, as it relates to statistical processes, every study that passes the peer-reviewed test undergoes rigourous examination and analysis to determine whether there are flaws in the study which jeopardise the study’s findings. If the flaw renders the study useless, the study will be rejected. If it passes the test, the study is published.

    I have no idea how you could say: “The problem is that this is not quite the case.” This is patently false. You seem to be regurgitating Steven Milloy’s gobbledygook.

    “You next paragraph I don’t understand at all. Even the best models routinely make huge errors in forecasting hurricane trajectories, even on short time scales.”

    I seem to recall Katrina and Rita’s projections being quite accurate, even over a week in advance. If you checked out Stan’s projection prior to it reaching the Yucatan three or four days ago, you would be impressed on how well the path was forecast.

    Why can’t you realise that the science is there? The IPCC is the largest gathering of scientific minds in the history of civilisation, which is remarkable, since a scientist’s challenge is to prove your hypotheses correct and to disprove others’. To have hundreds, even thousands, of scientists agreeing on hundreds and thousands of pages of documents is most definitely unprecedented.

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 4 Oct 2005 @ 3:59 PM

  105. Re: 101

    It’s easy to day today that “the believers [of the 'consensus' ulcer theory - S.] never had a significant body of evidence or research to support this contention. Read the history about how the dissenters were treated by the majority (Marshall had to infect himself to persuade the stubborn establishment.)- the similarity with the climate debate is striking. Which is not to say the outcome will be similar, of course.

    “Climate science does have this body of research.”

    Sure but there is a number of unexplained facts. It’s not that I “just” don’t believe. I don’t believe in projections of an incomplete theory which is nothing more than a normal skepticism. Blindly believing in such projections just because the majority of experts say so is quite foolish.

    [Response: I'm curious. what are these "unexplained facts"? - William]

    Comment by Sashka — 4 Oct 2005 @ 4:29 PM

  106. re 96: I absolutely do not endorse Rorsch and Thoenes, thank you very much! I got kicked out of the climatesceptics forum because of supporting a critic who attacked this view…..

    Gavin can testify, he is stil in…

    Comment by Hans Erren — 4 Oct 2005 @ 4:50 PM

  107. Re: 103

    Steven, it’s as if we’re speaking different languages. Sometimes I have no idea what you are talking about. E.g. “Climate neutralises these small factors, however, so even, say a 0.02% decrease in CO2 concentration can be easily dealt with in climate models.” Whatever … Also, I don’k know who Steven Milloy is. I cannot check Stan’s projections for the same reason. However I do check the hurricane forecasts on weather.com on a regular basis. The projected paths (after landfall) typically vary widely between the models and seldom match the reality more than 2 days forward.

    “These climate models are NOT the same as weather models, I might add, which is one of the lies spun by many climate skeptics to try to inject uncertainty into the debate.”

    Speaking of lies, would you care to enumerate the differences between climate and weather models?

    “I have no idea how you could say: “The problem is that this is not quite the case.” This is patently false.”

    You can go ahead and get the patent if you like. If the models are so perfect in following the weather statistics, how come we don’t know whether the next January will be cold or mild?

    “Why can’t you realise that the science is there?”

    Who told you that I don’t? I do. But I also realize that not all science is there.

    Comment by Sashka — 4 Oct 2005 @ 4:53 PM

  108. I completely agree with comments #1 and #7. Anybody who have read Crichton’s novel “Prey” already knows his stance to science, and it´s not a friendly one.

    Comment by smart shade of blue — 4 Oct 2005 @ 7:34 PM

  109. Re #104 – “Well, weather prediction is much less certain than climate prediction, since even small “butterflies beating their wings in South America” can effect change in short-term atmospheric processes.”
    1) Where has this “science” been documented?
    2) What is your source?
    3) Has this effect on Climate been measured and where?
    “Climate neutralises these small factors, however, so even, say a 0.02% decrease in CO2 concentration can be easily dealt with in climate models.”
    4) Where can I find this documented?
    5? What models “easily” deal with this level of change and what is its effect on temperature change?
    6) Or by “easily dealt with” do you mean ignored?

    [Response: I'm surprised you're objecting to this so violently, since its all well accepted. Some of the answers are at my pet blog - William]

    Comment by Gerald Machnee — 4 Oct 2005 @ 9:20 PM

  110. Re #101 (Sashka): Please don’t dodge. As you well know the key point regarding Hansen’s Pinatubo prediction is that he got the *amount* right. Regarding this year, I’ll agree that was essentially a weather prediction. On the other hand, it wasn’t exactly a cool year, was it? While we’re on the subject, could you say how many more years of warming will be needed to convince you that the theory is correct? Just curious.

    On the role of skeptics, sure it’s important to have them. I’ll even agree with you that any given skeptic doesn’t need to engage in original work to have some credibility. If, however, the collective of all skeptics/contrarians only ever engages in sniping, denial, palpably bad science, etc., *especially when the resources are available for them to do real science*, it’s hard to avoid drawing certain conclusions. As in, they’re probably wrong.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 4 Oct 2005 @ 9:31 PM

  111. Re: #107, “Speaking of lies, would you care to enumerate the differences between climate and weather models?”

    This is easily found on the NOAA pages and at climateprediction.net.

    Weather models: http://www.nco.ncep.noaa.gov/pmb/nwprod/analysis/

    Climate model explanation: http://climateprediction.net/science/model-intro.php

    “You can go ahead and get the patent if you like. If the models are so perfect in following the weather statistics, how come we don’t know whether the next January will be cold or mild?”

    Many climate models are generally satisfactory in predicting future climate patterns. That is AVERAGE weather conditions over a set time frame (such as one month) and not a single day’s weather conditions. It is easier to predict a month’s climate conditions for a general location three to six months in advance than it is to predict the weather conditions for a single day three to six months in advance. The climate models prove that, since they take teleconnections, atmospheric composition, etc. into account).

    Re: #109, “1) Where has this “science” been documented?
    2) What is your source?
    3) Has this effect on Climate been measured and where?”

    It’s chaos theory. One minute change in the atmospheric regime can slowly effect further changes in the system and the chain reaction can occur, which, in the end, could shift a jet stream a few kilometres and create conditions possible for storm intensification, which may result in the flooding of an area where the storm would not have been or would have been greatly minimised. It’s a bit convoluted, but such complexity is the nature of the atmosphere, though we chould NEVER take any chances with what it might do if even more significant changes occur (such as increasing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere due to fossil fuel burning).

    “4) Where can I find this documented?
    5? What models “easily” deal with this level of change and what is its effect on temperature change?
    6) Or by “easily dealt with” do you mean ignored?”

    Please see the sites above. They may turn you in the right direction.

    As for point 6, that is NOT what I meant. These small alterations are taken into account in climate models, with the average of all models (i.e. an ensemble forecast, a term you should know well as a former meteorologist), scientists (like those at the IPCC) can arrive at a sensible estimate of what we are likely to experience in the future.

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 4 Oct 2005 @ 11:53 PM

  112. Re # 111 – “Climate neutralises these small factors, however, so even, say a 0.02% decrease in CO2 concentration can be easily dealt with in climate models.”
    You have not answered this. Climate models use a more coarse grid and will not handle fine details. In other words they become smoothed or “ignored”.
    Chaos theory does not work well in practice.

    Comment by Gerald Machnee — 5 Oct 2005 @ 12:19 AM

  113. Re: #112, they become smoothed, as in taken into consideration in the models. Why can’t you understand that?

    Off topic: an absolutely excellent article on the Sierra Club website, an interview with esteemed climatologist Stephen Schneider:

    http://www.sierraclub.org/planet/200505/hotornot.asp

    Here’s an excerpt, which I found very prevalent:

    “The fundamental mechanism of global warmingâ??that gases like carbon dioxide accumulate in the atmosphere and trap heat from the sun, creating a greenhouse effectâ??is widely accepted. Whether human activities such as burning fossil fuels is contributing to the greenhouse effect is where much of the debate lies. But who is stirring up the debate?

    Not the thousands of scientists around the globe who have reached a consensus on the significance of global warming and the need to reduce the role of humans in it. Nor the hundreds of governments, from towns to nations, that have signed on to the Kyoto Protocol to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    A corporation like ExxonMobil may claim that its â??actions include investments and strategic planning that address emissions today, as well as industry-leading research on technologies with the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the future,â?? according to its corporate Web site. But that is hard to reconcile with evidence like the 1998 memo from an industry-wide project that considers the recruitment of â??a cadre of scientists who share the industry’s views of climate science and to train them in public relations so they can help convince journalists, politicians and the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain to justify controls on greenhouse gases,â?? as described by the New York Times. Nor does it square with the existence of 40 or more organizations that work to undermine mainstream climate science and have received funding from ExxonMobil, according to Mother Jones magazine.”

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 5 Oct 2005 @ 12:51 AM

  114. Re: 111

    Recent temperatures (high overnight lows) and hourly dewpoints have set new record high readings for October in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    Last night, the Twin Cities area had 3 inches of rain in 45 minutes. Overnight, areas in eastern Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin had rain amounts exceeding 6 inches. Some spots had 21 inches or more over the last couple weeks. The high intensity rainfall has led to significant flooding in many local areas in MN and WI. Rivers are rising.

    Now that global warming is underway, how do government meteorologists and hydrologists use ensemble forecasting to account for increasing potentials for high intensity rainfall in fall and winter months?

    Are the the assumptions used in the probabilistic river forecast products (link below) valid?

    Probabilistic River Forecast Products
    http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ncrfc/

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 5 Oct 2005 @ 8:16 AM

  115. Re: 114 Correction: Some spots had 21 inches or more over the last couple months (not weeks).

    In my backyard (15 miles southwest of Minneapolis) rain gage, I measured large 24 hour amounts of 6.50 inches on Sept. 4 th and 5.30 inches this morning. High winds during part of the rain last night may have resulted in my measured 5.30 inches being too low by about 0.50 inches … lower than the total amount of rain that actually fell near my gage, due to turbulence around the gage. Gage underestimates of precipitation for snowfall events can be low by more than 200 percent for blizzard conditions. I am not aware of any studies on gage catch errors with rainfall events. The error would be less with larger gage openings like the 12 inch precipitation gages used by government agencies.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 5 Oct 2005 @ 9:21 AM

  116. re 112:

    Gerald,

    Predicting weather and predicting climate change are two very different sciences. It is not an issue of “documenting” this. Weather, since it is chaotic, is highly sensitive to small changes in initial conditions. Therefore, predicting the weather on September 7, 2226, in Duluth North Dakota is impossible. It would involve looking at the current weather map for the planet and iterating forward, hour by hour, using weather forecasting models, for twenty years. Small errors in hourly forecasts get progressively larger, until, after a couple of weeks, the forecast bears no relation to reality. Predicting the net average temperature for the planet earth in 2226 uses a totally different method. In aggregate, the overall climate in non-chaotic, and non-chaotic systems are far more predictable. We know, for example, where the planet Neptune will be many centuries from now, because we understand the physics of gravity and momentum, and because the solar system is a non-chaotic system. Of course, the physics of climate is far more complex than the simple gravitational interaction of two bodies, so our climate predictions are far less sure than locating the position of Neptune 100 years from now. But the principal is the same. Unlike weather, the if we know the physics, know the inputs and their influences, it seems that we can make pretty good predictions, as has already been fairly well demonstrated (albeit not absolutely conclusively).

    re 105:

    Sashka,
    “Blindly believing in such projections just because the majority of experts say so is quite foolish.”

    First, I don’t blindly believe. I have read extensively about climate change and certainly allow for the possibility that some assumptions and / or findings could be wrong. I might note that blindly disregarding experts is every bit as foolish as blindly believing. Isn’t it? An example is the suggestion you made (I think it was you) that perhaps the increase in CO2 is not due to burning of fossil fuels. Well, actually, this one has been proven extremely convincingly, by carbon the carbon isotopes in the co2 in the atmosphere, versus the carbon isotopes in ice-core co2. The increase in CO2 in the atmosphere IS due to burning of fossil fuels. This is fact to the extent that anything in science is fact. Denying it is not wise or thoughtful or healthy. It’s nonsensical.

    Moreover, using your degree of skepticism, which includes an inherent skepticism of anything agreed upon by a “consensus”, you have not explained why you believe anything. Why do you believe in relativity (if you do)?

    Lastly, please, will one of the skeptics provide his or her own well-formed theory that explains how the increase in CO2 is NOT going to warm the atmosphere?

    Comment by Dan Allan — 5 Oct 2005 @ 10:23 AM

  117. Re: 110

    [some inflammatory remarks have been deleted -moderator].

    “If, however, the collective of all skeptics/contrarians only ever engages in sniping, denial, palpably bad science, etc., *especially when the resources are available for them to do real science*, it’s hard to avoid drawing certain conclusions”

    I disagree on all counts. The premise is incorrect which is easy to demonstrate by mentioning Lindzen. The logic is absent, too. In math, for example, someone who didn’t believe yet another proof of Fermat theorem wasn’t ever expected to show an alternative proof.

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Oct 2005 @ 11:32 AM

  118. Re: 111

    “Speaking of lies, would you care to enumerate the differences between climate and weather models?”
    “This is easily found on the NOAA pages and at climateprediction.net.”

    No it’s not easily found there. Please summarize the differences in your own words.

    “how come we don’t know whether the next January will be cold or mild?”
    “Many climate models are generally satisfactory in predicting future climate patterns.”

    OK. So tell me: will the next January in NY be cold or mild?

    [Response: The weather next January is... weather. Not climate - William]

    “It is easier to predict a month’s climate conditions for a general location three to six months in advance than it is to predict the weather conditions for a single day three to six months in advance. The climate models prove that, since they take teleconnections, atmospheric composition, etc. into account”

    How do the climate models take into account teleconnections and atmospheric composition? Do weather models handle these differently or not at all?

    [Response: Teleconnections are taken into account in the models. Teleconnections are just atmospheric dynamics. Weather models may or may not include changes in atmos comp - over their timescales, the changes are small - William]

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Oct 2005 @ 11:41 AM

  119. Re: 116

    ” Predicting the net average temperature for the planet earth in 2226 uses a totally different method.”

    Could you describe this method and summarize the differences against the weather forecast?

    “In aggregate, the overall climate in non-chaotic”

    Do you have a proof?

    “We know, for example, where the planet Neptune will be many centuries from now, because we understand the physics of gravity and momentum, and because the solar system is a non-chaotic system.”

    First, it’s a bad example because the set of equations is entirely different. Second, solar system is many-body problem which becomes very quirky.

    “if we know the physics, know the inputs and their influences, it seems that we can make pretty good predictions, as has already been fairly well demonstrated (albeit not absolutely conclusively).”

    We don’t know all physics and it wasn’t demonstrated at all that we can make good predictions.

    “I might note that blindly disregarding experts is every bit as foolish as blindly believing. Isn’t it?”

    True. I’m not sure why you brought it up, though.

    “An example is the suggestion you made (I think it was you) that perhaps the increase in CO2 is not due to burning of fossil fuels.”

    Think again.

    “Moreover, using your degree of skepticism, which includes an inherent skepticism of anything agreed upon by a “consensus”, you have not explained why you believe anything.”

    I didn’t say any of the above. You did. In the future I’d appreciate if you stopped putting words in mouth. I hope the mod won’t consider it as an inflamatory remark.

    “Lastly, please, will one of the skeptics provide his or her own well-formed theory that explains how the increase in CO2 is NOT going to warm the atmosphere?”

    Do you realize that being skeptical to particular positions adhered to by the majority doesn’t equate to wholesale rejection of what climate science has produced? Or you can only see the world in black and white?

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Oct 2005 @ 12:18 PM

  120. Re #100: I would disagree with your comments about progress and the need to hammer politicians.

    Comment 1. “I think we have to ask why it’s been so difficult to get much traction on the non-draconian “no regrets” conservation, efficiency and alternative energy measures…”
    In fact progress has been made in those areas and continues to be made. The rate of change may be slower than some want and uneven across the world, but it is nevertheless not zero.

    Comment 2. “The cynical but probably realistic conclusion is that nothing very meaningful will be done about global warming until the politicians are being hammered over the head with the consequences.”
    This is my point. They do not need a hammer, If the goal is creation of an effective, realistic, and affordable energy policy, they need a realistic assessment of the probabilities associated with the question of global warming: its liklihood, its causes, and the mitigations it may require. There are consequences associated with each of the following risk scenarios.
    * global warming and its causes are exactly as currently described and humanity does nothing about it.
    * global warming theories are wrong but governments enact mitigation policies that disrupt social orders and world and local economies.
    * global warming is not significantly affected by human activity but governments expend resources and disrupt social order and economies to reduce human impact but make no provisions for dealing with the effects of warming.
    (There are other risks, but these 3 illustrate my point.)

    The risks need to be assessed and then there needs to be dialogue among nations to determine which is the greater risk (Global Warming is right or Global Warming is wrong) before jumping to solutions.Cuuerntly the noise generated by the current polarized debate ( see many comments above) obscures the evaluation of risks associated with both sides of the issue.

    Comment by Paul Emberger — 5 Oct 2005 @ 12:36 PM

  121. In comment #91, Dan Allan wrote, “Please explain what is pseudoscience.”

    I’ve explained this and responded to your other comments here:

    http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2005/10/responses_to_da.html

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 5 Oct 2005 @ 12:42 PM

  122. Just a picky note to Hans Erren’s 93. The solar spectrum does have an IR component (it mostly declines reasonably sharply from its peak at ~520 nm as any good blackbody spectrum would) and there are absorptions in the near IR from especially water overtones and combination bands, but also from CO2. There is even a tail in the solar spectrum that extends to the near IR. These absorptions have been measured in great detail. You can find them, and their cross-sections in the HITRAN database.

    So yes, you can say that CO2 absorbs sunlight, just not very much of it.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 5 Oct 2005 @ 12:58 PM

  123. Paul Emberger is wrong on multiple grounds when he states:

    “Ultimately, however, the conclusions are based on correlational data and computer models.”

    While you might argue that the best quantitative and detailed estimates come from computer models, the physics of the greenhouse effect are very basic indeed. This is shown by the fact that estimates of the effect on global temperature from a doubling of CO2 have not moved significantly (even as a function of the fraction of the total greenhouse effect) since the turn of the century. The basic physics is there and can only be ignored at our peril. The derivation of size the of the greenhouse effect is very simple, and takes about half a page in an atmospheric science text. Go look it up.

    Secondly, conclusions are not only drawn from the basic physics and the correlational data and the computer models separately but from the ability of the models to track multiple data parameters in both time and space.

    It is amusing to now see Emberger now say

    “Policies intended to deal with the predicted events are far reaching and impose great costs on social order, local and world economies, and the individual lives of billions of people. It is reasonable to challenge the conclusions that would drive such draconian mitigation strategies.?”

    when for over 15 years those of us who follow atmospheric trends have been advocating no cost and negative cost policies to deal with the global climate change while the Embergers of the world have been playing grasshopper. The problems are upon us, the easy solutions are no longer enough, and of course, the blame is being distributed to those who advocated early preventative action. We are indeed into the third stage of the problem.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 5 Oct 2005 @ 1:15 PM

  124. Re: 122

    “the physics of the greenhouse effect are very basic”

    This is true. It’s the feedbacks that are not trivial.

    “The derivation of size the of the greenhouse effect is very simple, and takes about half a page in an atmospheric science text.”

    Also true. As long as you ignore everything else that happens in the atmosphere.

    “Policies intended to deal with the predicted events are far reaching and impose great costs on social order, local and world economies, and the individual lives of billions of people. It is reasonable to challenge the conclusions that would drive such draconian mitigation strategies.?”

    While I’d wholeheartedly support no cost and negative cost policies (should they existed), the quoted statement is right on the money.

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Oct 2005 @ 1:53 PM

  125. Re: 115 Correction – The error would be less with larger gage openings like the 8 (the 12 in message 115 was incorrect) inch precipitation gages used by government agencies.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 5 Oct 2005 @ 1:54 PM

  126. re #82′s point 2:


    “the claim that climate can’t be predicted because weather is chaotic” is countered by by Stefan’s spoof. While the piece is funny it does nothing to contribute to the substance of the matter; I don’t see the point of linking it in this context. The presense of the annual cycle in the temperature signal in no way contradicts the chaotic nature of the climate system. I’m sure everyone here understands it. For example, we cannot predict when the next ice age could naturally start. Therefore the quoted statement is not exactly “wrong” as stated above. It’s not entirely valid either, of course, but it deserves a bit more than derision.

    The claim that “climate can’t be predicted because weather is chaotic” is clearly false. It is being replaced here by the suggestion that “climate can’t be predicted because climate is chaotic”.

    If the poster understands the distinction between weather and climate then the first claim should have been withdrawn and the second made separately. If the poster understands the technical meaning of “chaotic” then clearly the time scale of the sensitivity to initial conditions should be specified. Otherwise the assertion has no practical import for the sorts of questions taht appear to be the poster’s interest.

    In fact, it is simply not the case that on can assert that climate is predominantly chaotic. Certainly, global mean temperature on a century time scale appears to be predominantly a predictable function of forcing. There is no reason to assert that chaos especially enters into it.

    As for the idea that the glacial cycle is chaotic, that seems to be a confusion between “chaos” and “incomplete understanding”. In fact, one of the mysteries of the glacial cycle is its regularity, i.e., predictability.

    I wish the discoverers of “chaos” had come up with a different name for it. Its confusion with the vernacular meaning has caused no end of confusion. I also thought Gleick’s book on the subject was awful. It left many people with a vague sense that they understood something deep and fundamental, whereas in fact they misunderstood something straightforward and modestly important.

    On the other hand, #82′s point 1 is not without merit:

    “the claim that global climate models can’t reproduce past climate change” is countered by the set of graphs http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/figspm-4.htm In my view, these plots prove little if anything. All I see is that the models capture first order response to CO2 forcing. The observed temperature curve frequently gets out of the band which strikes me as a bad sign. Anyhow, until you select a metric (e.g. correlation) to quantify the similarity between observed and predicted, the statement “yes they can” is borderline meaningless. Moreover, the plots are produced with all the benefits of hindsight that allowed the authors to tune the model to achieve the best results. Forecasting 21-st century could require a different set of parameters.

    In fact, the true test of climate models is paleoclimate reconstruction, in which they have been rather successful. I happen to know that a major oil company uses climate models of the deep past to inform their oil drilling operations, for instance.

    I suspect that this obvious test of the validity of GCMs is not emphasized in public discussions because of the considerable influence of people who have an unshakable belief that the earth is 5000 or so years old, such that paleoclimate evidence is unconvincing to them. However, I would urge readers who are unconstrained by such beliefs to examine the paleoclimate literature.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 5 Oct 2005 @ 2:03 PM

  127. Re: 126

    “The claim that “climate can’t be predicted because weather is chaotic” is clearly false. It is being replaced here by the suggestion that “climate can’t be predicted because climate is chaotic”. If the poster understands the distinction between weather and climate then the first claim should have been withdrawn and the second made separately.

    I didn’t make the first claim. However if the claim is so clearly false I (and everyone else) would appreciate if you can demonstrate it. I didn’t make the second claim either. What I said is that the notion is not disproved or ridiculous. What I meant is that the locals (mods) do a disservice to their cause by pretending that the issue doesn’t exist.

    “If the poster understands the technical meaning of “chaotic” then clearly the time scale of the sensitivity to initial conditions should be specified.”

    Before it could be specified it should be studied first, don’t you think? Currently, we haverather limited means for such studies.

    “In fact, it is simply not the case that on can assert that climate is predominantly chaotic. Certainly, global mean temperature on a century time scale appears to be predominantly a predictable function of forcing. There is no reason to assert that chaos especially enters into it.”

    Quite the contrary. There is a lot of interannual variability that cannot be explained by the monotonous forcing alone.

    “In fact, one of the mysteries of the glacial cycle is its regularity, i.e., predictability.”

    Too bad none of us will live long enough to check your prediction.

    “I also thought Gleick’s book on the subject was awful.”

    IMO, Gleick’s book is absolutely brilliant.

    “In fact, the true test of climate models is paleoclimate reconstruction, in which they have been rather successful.”

    Is there a model which can reproduce the last 1000 years worth of climate record?

    I happen to know that a major oil company uses climate models of the deep past to inform their oil drilling operations, for instance.

    Would you provide any details?

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Oct 2005 @ 3:10 PM

  128. Re: 126

    Even if a climate model is successful in paleoclimate reconstruction it may fail badly in its prediction for this century and beyond. People have changed the surface vegetation and water quality in drastic ways. The previous periods of global warmth had thick subtropical vegetation over large parts of the world. The northern Great Plains are known to have had subtropical vegetation just 50 million years ago (Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming), with crocodiles in the Arctic. The changed surface conditions of today will not allow plants to migrate or adapt with rapid global warming. In comparison to the large amount of CO2 that was removed from the atmosphere by vegetation during past warm episodes, the rate of CO2 removal by vegetation during the 21st century and beyond will be orders of magnitude smaller. I doubt that climate models used today account for the substantial differences in vegetation for the predicted period, versus vegetation for the past warm climate episodes used for paleoclimate reconstruction.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 5 Oct 2005 @ 3:58 PM

  129. Re: #127, “”The claim that “climate can’t be predicted because weather is chaotic” is clearly false. It is being replaced here by the suggestion that “climate can’t be predicted because climate is chaotic”. If the poster understands the distinction between weather and climate then the first claim should have been withdrawn and the second made separately.

    I didn’t make the first claim. However if the claim is so clearly false I (and everyone else) would appreciate if you can demonstrate it. I didn’t make the second claim either. What I said is that the notion is not disproved or ridiculous. What I meant is that the locals (mods) do a disservice to their cause by pretending that the issue doesn’t exist.”

    You “didn’t make the first claim?” What about this: “There is a lot of interannual variability that cannot be explained by the monotonous forcing alone.”

    “”In aggregate, the overall climate in non-chaotic”

    Do you have a proof?”

    He doesn’t need “proof.” The definition of climate is long-term weather patterns or long-term weather AVERAGES. An average eliminates all chaos and sorts it out into some semblance of order.

    “”In fact, it is simply not the case that on can assert that climate is predominantly chaotic. Certainly, global mean temperature on a century time scale appears to be predominantly a predictable function of forcing. There is no reason to assert that chaos especially enters into it.”

    Quite the contrary. There is a lot of interannual variability that cannot be explained by the monotonous forcing alone.”

    Sashka, your response completely ignored the “Certainly, global mean temperature on a century time scale appears to be predominantly a predictable function of forcing” part of his argument. The previous message mentioned CENTURY TIME SCALES, not INTERANNUAL variability. Please read everything thoroughly before responding next time.

    Sashka, please read into peer-reviewed journals and not the ExxonMobil Public Relations brigade’s bulletins. The authors of the former are actually climatologists, i.e. people who study the world’s climate, while the latter are not even scientists much of the time and most of what they say is completely inaccurate.

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 5 Oct 2005 @ 4:54 PM

  130. Re #128, CGMs do not currently include the carbon cycle, so your concern is not with the models as they now exist but with the uncertainties of the forcings which are applied to them.

    That said, efforts are presently under way to add a complete carbon cycle to CGCMs. I actually suspect that these efforts are ill-advised for several reasons, some of which are related to Pat Neuman’s concerns.

    While it’s not at all clear that Neuman’s intuition that biomass will decrease along with biodiversity is correct, I am concerned that coupled carbon cycle GCMs may be severely underconstrained. If so, they are, at great trouble and expense, unlikely to tell us much about the past and future trajectory of the carbon budget beyond what a simple desktop model might.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 5 Oct 2005 @ 4:59 PM

  131. Michael Tobis writes, “In fact, one of the mysteries of the glacial cycle is its regularity, i.e., predictability.”

    Sashka responds, “Too bad none of us will live long enough to check your prediction.”

    I think there’s an outside chance that some people who are less than 20 years old today will live 10,000 more years. And I think there’s a better-than-50/50 chance that some people born after 2050 will live 10,000 more years.

    But I don’t think anyone who is born or lives in the next 100,000 years will see an ice age. Human beings will have both the power and the will not to let the world slip into another ice age.

    After all, contrary to what is implied by many on this blog, it’s pretty obvious that a world that is 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 degrees Celsius warmer is better than a world that is an equal amount *cooler.*

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 5 Oct 2005 @ 5:08 PM

  132. Sashka,

    I don’t have the time or energy to respond to everything in your email (post 119), but I would like to take up a couple of points.
    I wrote:
    “Predicting the net average temperature for the planet earth in 2226 uses a totally different method.”

    You replied:
    “Could you describe this method and summarize the differences against the weather forecast?”

    I did this in my email. I discussed the difference between a series of iterations based on initials conditions in weather science, versus a more linear equation that derives a climate at any point in time from a set of forecast.

    I wrote:
    “In aggregate, the overall climate in non-chaotic”

    You replied:
    “Do you have a proof?”

    I’m not sure what would constitute proof of this. How does one prove anything is by-and-large non-chaotic? Climate does not have the attributes that one associates with highly chaotic systems – though there are some feedback loops, so it would be a mistake to claim that it is 100% non-chaotic.

    I wrote: “Moreover, using your degree of skepticism, which includes an inherent skepticism of anything agreed upon by a “consensus”, you have not explained why you believe anything.”

    You replied: “I didn’t say any of the above.”

    Well, if you didn’t say it then my mistake. I’m somewhat bombarded here and lose track of who said what.

    Your point in post 117 re fermat’s theorem:

    Yes, a skeptic of the proof would not be required to propose an alternative proof. But he would of course be expect to show, with absolute precision, what was wrong with the proof that was published and independently reviewed. I don’t see that it is asking too much for climate skeptics to do the same:

    (1) show what part of the theory is wrong, and why.
    (2) Explain why temperatures are rising, if not due to increased C02, or if you agre that they are rising due to increased CO2, why, specifically, do you not expect that to continue?

    Comment by Dan Allan — 5 Oct 2005 @ 5:09 PM

  133. There is a lot of interannual variability that cannot be explained by the monotonous forcing alone.

    I think you mean “monotonic” here. Of course, only one of the major forcings is monotonic. I’m not claiming that there is no free variability. I’m simply saying it doesn’t dominate the global temperature record on time scales of longer than 10 years from all current indications.

    Too bad none of us will live long enough to check your prediction. [re predictability of glacial cycle]

    I think it’s generally agreed that the next ice age is cancelled or postponed as a consequence of the increased greenhouse gas inventory. Aspects of the recent geological past do appear notably unchaotic, though.

    Is there a model which can reproduce the last 1000 years worth of climate record?

    Nobody has done this as far as I know, but on that time scale, there would be little point. As we read here endlessly, the millenial record itself is not fully known, and is really quite unspectacular as far as variability is concerned. Further, the solar forcing is not known on that time scale. So you are asking to replicate bumps and wiggles that are both small and not well-known in the presence of forcing that is also small and not well-known. It would be hard in this instance to distinguish success from failure.

    Simulations of the more interesting and better observed twentieth century have been extensively done, and it’s widely known that models can do very well with reasonable representations of aerosol and greenhouse forcing, but are not known to do as well in the absence of either or both.

    For example http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/ccr/publications/meehl_solar.pdf

    However, the best test of models’ utility in the dramatically changing future is how well they apply in the deep past. This presumes you are willing to accept the existence of a deep past, though.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 5 Oct 2005 @ 5:18 PM

  134. Sashka is playing Why daddy? Usually this ends in tears.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 5 Oct 2005 @ 5:28 PM

  135. Re: 129

    He doesn’t need “proof.” The definition of climate is long-term weather patterns or long-term weather AVERAGES. An average eliminates all chaos and sorts it out into some semblance of order.

    This is a misconception. Once you fix the “long” to be a particular time scale of interest (say 10 years or 100) you’ll see non-periodic oscillations on greater time scales. Generally, I believe it’s a known fact that fixed-length moving average of a chaotic trajectory is still chaotic. Certainly, the longer the time scale the more “semblance” of order you’ll see but at the same time you’ll lose the information.

    Sashka, your response completely ignored the “Certainly, global mean temperature on a century time scale appears to be predominantly a predictable function of forcing” part of his argument.

    I apologize for the omission and I’ll take the opportunity to comment on this now. If the statement above were true we’d never experience the Little Ice Age or Medieval Warming, not to mention Younger Dryas.

    please read into peer-reviewed journals and not the ExxonMobil Public Relations brigade’s bulletins.

    Thank you for your reading advice. I assure you I’ve read more peer-reviewed publications than you would be willing to believe. In turn I recommend exactly the same to you instead of spending time on the Sierra Club web site.

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Oct 2005 @ 5:37 PM

  136. WRT 124:
    ER1: “the physics of the greenhouse effect are very basic”
    S: This is true. It’s the feedbacks that are not trivial.
    ER1: “The derivation of size the of the greenhouse effect is very simple, and takes about half a page in an atmospheric science text.”
    S: Also true. As long as you ignore everything else that happens in the atmosphere.

    The fact that you CAN ignore everything else and get good agreement with the basic global surface temperature indicates that you CAN ignore everything else on a global scale. For the spherical elephant stage of any physics argument this is typical. (physicists define elephants as spherical to first order) Where you definitely CANNOT ignore it is for spatial distributions and small changes in forcings.

    You would have a possible argument if the ghg perturbation were small, and indeed this was the case up until a few years ago, but as we move inexorable toward 2xCO2 it no longer is.

    The only feedback which is NOT significantly balanced is the water vapor cycle, but, again on a global scale that is just driven by the Clausius Clapyron relationship. QED

    “Policies intended to deal with the predicted events are far reaching and impose great costs on social order, local and world economies, and the individual lives of billions of people. It is reasonable to challenge the conclusions that would drive such draconian mitigation strategies.?”

    S: While I’d wholeheartedly support no cost and negative cost policies (should they existed), the quoted statement is right on the money.

    You are cordially invited to prove it.

    FWIW no cost policies include more efficient lighting (moving away from incandescent bulbs), intelligent electric motor controllers, more efficient combustion engines, lighter cars, etc.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 5 Oct 2005 @ 5:46 PM

  137. Re: 132

    How does one prove anything is by-and-large non-chaotic?

    In simple cases, one can find actual solutions and analyze stability using well-developed mathematical machinery. You can google for Lyapunov exponents, for starters. In more difficult cases, well, you have to do more work, I’m afraid. Like I said, this is not a trivial thing at all.

    Climate does not have the attributes that one associates with highly chaotic systems – though there are some feedback loops, so it would be a mistake to claim that it is 100% non-chaotic.

    But of course it does. Lorenz derived his equations from the same Navier-Stokes equations that any GCM is based upon (caveats apply).

    Yes, a skeptic of the proof would not be required to propose an alternative proof.

    Great to hear that I am relieved from one responsibility at least.

    But he would of course be expect to show, with absolute precision, what was wrong with the proof that was published and independently reviewed.

    I agree but let’s remember that climatology is not an exact science. It’s all about assumptions and probabilities. It’s hard to pinpoint anything because so little is certain. For example, I have no way to know what exactly each GCM is doing. They won’t even tell me what free parametrs the GCM is using.

    All I’m doing at this point is discussing a couple of particular claims made on top of the page.

    (1) show what part of the theory is wrong, and why.
    (2) Explain why temperatures are rising, if not due to increased C02, or if you agre that they are rising due to increased CO2, why, specifically, do you not expect that to continue?

    (1) I don’t know that the theory is wrong. It’s partly right and partly questionable. The part related to the quantitative predictions of the temperature rise is not well-grounded.

    (2) I agree that the temps will probably rise for the next few decades, probably (mostly) due to CO2 but I don’t know what feedbacks could kick it later on (or earlier). I have little confidence in models predictions.

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Oct 2005 @ 6:02 PM

  138. Re: 133

    I’m not claiming that there is no free variability. I’m simply saying it doesn’t dominate the global temperature record on time scales of longer than 10 years from all current indications.

    I don’t know whether it’s true. Even if it is, I’m not sure it equates predictability.

    I think it’s generally agreed that the next ice age is cancelled or postponed as a consequence of the increased greenhouse gas inventory.

    I’m not aware of such consensus. Doubt it.

    Nobody has done this as far as I know, but on that time scale, there would be little point. As we read here endlessly, the millenial record itself is not fully known, and is really quite unspectacular as far as variability is concerned. Further, the solar forcing is not known on that time scale. So you are asking to replicate bumps and wiggles that are both small and not well-known in the presence of forcing that is also small and not well-known. It would be hard in this instance to distinguish success from failure.

    The record may not be fully known but it is known that it contains centennial time scale variablity that the models won’t be able to reproduce. Why? Either we don’t know something about the physics or the models are deficient. In both cases, the projections into future are suspicious. The third possibility is the (solar) forcing. But there are no such results, as far as I know.

    Simulations of the more interesting and better observed twentieth century have been extensively done, and it’s widely known that models can do very well with reasonable representations of aerosol and greenhouse forcing

    In my initial post here I disagreed with precisely this statement.

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Oct 2005 @ 6:13 PM

  139. Re: 136

    The fact that you CAN ignore everything else and get good agreement with the basic global surface temperature indicates that you CAN ignore everything else on a global scale. For the spherical elephant stage of any physics argument this is typical.

    No you can’t. If that were true, a 1D heat balance model would be sufficient but it isn’t. We need GCMs. But I’m glad you mentioned the elephant.

    The only feedback which is NOT significantly balanced is the water vapor cycle, but, again on a global scale that is just driven by the Clausius Clapyron relationship. QED

    Let’s see. For starters, how about a possibility of increased cloud reflectivity? Just Clausius “Clapyron”?

    You are cordially invited to prove it.

    To prove what? That before spending a trillion dollars it’s only reasonable to ask why?

    FWIW no cost policies include more efficient lighting (moving away from incandescent bulbs), intelligent electric motor controllers, more efficient combustion engines, lighter cars, etc

    Those are technologies, not policies, and they are not free. But these are all wonderful things.

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Oct 2005 @ 6:23 PM

  140. >….”"”The claim that “climate can’t be predicted because weather is chaotic”"… I didn’t make the first claim. However if the claim is so clearly false I (and everyone else) would appreciate if you can demonstrate it.

    The seasons and the climate of Mars are two clear examples Sashka….

    BTW, its dead-set simple to determine whether chaos is important for the problem you are looking at. Simply perturb the initial conditions (or models components). This has been done to death in climate, and shows that it doesn’t change the global warming story. Just as butterflies flapping wings in Brazil don’t stop the coming of winter, similarly the flapping of butterfly wings don’t stop the coming of anthropogenically induced global warming…

    Regards,

    David

    Comment by David Jones — 5 Oct 2005 @ 6:38 PM

  141. Re: [#130 > CGMs do not currently include the carbon cycle,]

    Do the latest model simuations by The Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg include the carbon cycle?

    Excerpt:
    02 Oct 2005
    â??The Max Planck Institute for Meteorology is participating in the calculation of the IPCC scenarios with a coupled atmosphere-ocean model that is considered one of the best climate models worldwide. As scientists, we want to provide politicians with a decision paper that is as understandable as possible, and from which they can decide which measures ought to be politically implemented as urgently as possible,â?? said Dr Guy Brasseur, director of the Max Planck Institute.
    http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/4155.html

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 5 Oct 2005 @ 7:43 PM

  142. “Policies intended to deal with the predicted events are far reaching and impose great costs on social order, local and world economies, and the individual lives of billions of people. It is reasonable to challenge the conclusions that would drive such draconian mitigation strategies.?”

    S: While I’d wholeheartedly support no cost and negative cost policies (should they existed), the quoted statement is right on the money.

    Eli: You are cordially invited to prove it.

    To prove what?

    “Policies intended to deal with the predicted events are far reaching and impose great costs on social order, local and world economies, and the individual lives of billions of people. It is reasonable to challenge the conclusions that would drive such draconian mitigation strategies.?”

    Shall we go another round?

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 5 Oct 2005 @ 8:51 PM

  143. “Policies intended to deal with the predicted events are far reaching and impose great costs on social order, local and world economies, and the individual lives of billions of people. It is reasonable to challenge the conclusions that would drive such draconian mitigation strategies.?”

    S: While I’d wholeheartedly support no cost and negative cost policies (should they existed), the quoted statement is right on the money.

    Eli: You are cordially invited to prove it.

    To prove what?

    “Policies intended to deal with the predicted events are far reaching and impose great costs on social order, local and world economies, and the individual lives of billions of people. It is reasonable to challenge the conclusions that would drive such draconian mitigation strategies.?”

    Shall we go another round?

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 5 Oct 2005 @ 9:05 PM

  144. re #141:

    Do the latest model simuations by The Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg include the carbon cycle?

    Not to my knowledge. The quoted text gives me no reason to think otherwise.

    Dynamic climate models (CGCMs) are typically run with prescribed atmospheric composition ot prescribed changes in atmospheric composition, commonly called “scenarios”. The main reason climate models run into the future are not really predictions is that it is very expesnive to run each scenario, and so there are far too many of them to run every plausible case.

    So if nuclear power suddnly becomes popular ( good news ) or clathrate feedbacks start (bad news) or anything like that, it will affect which scenario is appropriate, but these events will be outside the issues dealt with by CGCMs, which are what is commonly meant by “climate models”.

    In my opinion this is as it should be, but that’s controversial within the field.

    [Response: HadCM3 can be run with a carbon cycle. Often it isn't - William]

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 5 Oct 2005 @ 11:26 PM

  145. Re: #139, “‘The only feedback which is NOT significantly balanced is the water vapor cycle, but, again on a global scale that is just driven by the Clausius Clapyron relationship. QED’

    Let’s see. For starters, how about a possibility of increased cloud reflectivity? Just Clausius “Clapyron”?”

    Increased cloud cover would result in more reflectivity, but would also result in a greater percentage of heat trapped in the atmosphere. It is unknown, to me at least, how much of each would be the result, but there are many other impacts of cloud cover fluctuations than just a change in reflectivity.

    “‘please read into peer-reviewed journals and not the ExxonMobil Public Relations brigade’s bulletins.’

    Thank you for your reading advice. I assure you I’ve read more peer-reviewed publications than you would be willing to believe. In turn I recommend exactly the same to you instead of spending time on the Sierra Club web site.”

    Well, to turn the tables on you, Sashka, which peer-reviewed publications have you read? “Energy and Environment” and “World Climate Report” are not peer-reviewed, for your information, so discard those from your list.

    Also, being on the Sierra Club web site does not discredit my arguments, which have been made by several highly-touted climatologists in the past (some of whom post on this site from time to time). I was attracted to the Schneider interview because it was of Dr. Stephen Schneider, a climatologist with an impressive publication list. His site can be found here:

    http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/index.html

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 5 Oct 2005 @ 11:41 PM

  146. Re 123: Rabett proves my point about the focus of the Global Warming debate. Because I advocated for a careful risk analysis of the probabilities associated with global warming models and projections he immediately casts me as someone who has no interest in conservation or alternative energy sources. It is important to know the chances of being wrong or right to effectively respond. The stakes are too high to avoid the debate. Calling skeptics “grasshoppers” does nothing to further the goal of increased understanding and better predictions leading to better policies.

    Rabett says “The problems are upon us, the easy solutions are no longer enough, and of course, the blame is being distributed to those who advocated early preventative action.” Blame is a completely irrelevant issue in this discussion.

    Comment by Paul Emberger — 6 Oct 2005 @ 12:57 AM

  147. Update on comment 17, my bet offer to Dr. Gray: I’ve heard nothing. I emailed him again today, requesting a response one way or another. I’d say give it another week without a response, and then we can guess what the answer is.

    [Response: I mailed him too, today. Nothing yet, but I'll be patient - William]

    Comment by Brian S. — 6 Oct 2005 @ 1:32 AM

  148. Re: 140

    The seasons and the climate of Mars are two clear examples

    I’ll let this hang without a comment.

    BTW, its dead-set simple to determine whether chaos is important for the problem you are looking at. Simply perturb the initial conditions (or models components).

    To trust this logic you have to trust the models in the first place, don’t you?

    This has been done to death in climate, and shows that it doesn’t change the global warming story.

    Surely you won’t mind posting first 5-10 references?

    Comment by Sashka — 6 Oct 2005 @ 9:16 AM

  149. Re: 142-143

    “Policies intended to deal with the predicted events are far reaching and impose great costs on social order, local and world economies, and the individual lives of billions of people. It is reasonable to challenge the conclusions that would drive such draconian mitigation strategies.?”
    Shall we go another round?

    Here: Kyoto is estimated to cost 5 trillion dollars.

    http://www.aei-brookings.org/admin/authorpdfs/page.php?id=236

    You agree that 5 trillion dollars is draconian, don’t you?

    Comment by Sashka — 6 Oct 2005 @ 9:27 AM

  150. Re: 144

    Do the latest model simuations by The Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg include the carbon cycle?
    Not to my knowledge. The quoted text gives me no reason to think otherwise.

    Look for references to Archer and Maier-Reimer.

    Comment by Sashka — 6 Oct 2005 @ 9:30 AM

  151. Re: 145

    Increased cloud cover would result in more reflectivity, but would also result in a greater percentage of heat trapped in the atmosphere. It is unknown, to me at least, how much of each would be the result

    I didn’t say anything to the contrary. What I said was that the discussion of feedbacks doesn’t end with “Clapyron”.

    Well, to turn the tables on you, Sashka, which peer-reviewed publications have you read? “Energy and Environment” and “World Climate Report” are not peer-reviewed, for your information, so discard those from your list.

    Thanks again for your enlightening reading advice. For the record, I’ve never seen a single issue of “Energy and Environment” or “World Climate Report”. The journals that I read include JC, JAS, JPO and JMR. (I wonder if you know what these mean.) May I ask what what are the sources of your wisdom, apart from Sierra Club?

    Also, being on the Sierra Club web site does not discredit my arguments

    Yes indeed. My arguments would be discredited if I read “industry” journals (which I don’t). But yours cannot be. Brilliant.

    which have been made by several highly-touted climatologists in the past (some of whom post on this site from time to time). I was attracted to the Schneider interview because it was of Dr. Stephen Schneider, a climatologist with an impressive publication list.

    Unfortunately Gavin doesn’t permit me to reply to this. Tell you what: I also blog on willmott.com. Post a “hello” on this thread: http://www.wilmott.com/messageview.cfm?catid=15&threadid=29176 and I’ll give you an earfull of my unmoderated views.

    [Response:See response to #152 -gavin]

    Comment by Sashka — 6 Oct 2005 @ 9:46 AM

  152. Re: #149, “Here: Kyoto is estimated to cost 5 trillion dollars.

    http://www.aei-brookings.org/admin/authorpdfs/page.php?id=236

    You agree that 5 trillion dollars is draconian, don’t you?”

    Not if it saves 10 trillion dollars in property damage, 100,000 lives a year due to drought-induced famine, increased frequency and intensity of severe weather events, or other related incidents.

    Also, the leader which you likely support most (Bush) has racked up a 3 trillion dollar debt in his time in office. Do you call that draconian as well?

    Re: #151, “Thanks again for your enlightening reading advice. For the record, I’ve never seen a single issue of “Energy and Environment” or “World Climate Report”. The journals that I read include JC, JAS, JPO and JMR. (I wonder if you know what these mean.) May I ask what what are the sources of your wisdom, apart from Sierra Club?”

    Yes, I know what those mean. I read some of them (not too familiar with JMR), as well as Int. J. of Clim, Mon. Wea. Rev., Science, Nature, etc.

    As for the Sierra Club bit, the ONLY article I have posted on RC is the Schneider interview. I have read seriously only one or two articles from the Sierra Club website, though I support their stands on most issues.

    Your sentiments of the Sierra Club smacks of McCarthyism, however. They are a force for good and for the betterment of the planet and bring the public’s eyes and ears to environmental issues.

    “Unfortunately Gavin doesn’t permit me to reply to this. Tell you what: I also blog on willmott.com. Post a “hello” on this thread: http://www.wilmott.com/messageview.cfm?catid=15&threadid=29176 and I’ll give you an earfull of my unmoderated views.”

    Why should I? If these views are slanderous, I do not want to be exposed to them. Also, the Wilmott site certainly does not have the scientific background that RC has. I will stick with those who can publish their studies in peer-reviewed journals, rather than those who think Michael Crichton is one of the greatest climatological minds on the planet.

    As for your constant demands for references, I’ll direct you to this site that has dozens of reports/studies which show conclusively that CLIMATE CHANGE IS HAPPENING!!!

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/recons.html

    Get your head out of the sand, Sashka. Read some of these!

    [Response: To Steve, Sashka, Dan et al. - The noise level on this thread is mounting rapidly. Please confine future statements to scientific issues (and not each other's presumed reading or voting habits) and deal with them seriously. There are plenty of places on the web where you can indulge in un-moderated flame throwing - this is not one of them. Be warned, comments that we feel advance the discussion will be allowed, others will not. Play nice now! -gavin]

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 6 Oct 2005 @ 12:13 PM

  153. re #138

    You seem reasonably sound and sophisticated, but inexperienced in understanding climate.

    I think you raise a lot of points worth discussing. We should address them carefully; it may be a useful exercise for all concerned. However, in short, you underestimate the maturity of the present understanding of climate, and you overestimate the importance of unforced variability. Both of these errors are much promulgated in the so-called “conservative” political literature, so I imagine you are coming at this from an atypical direction. I think throwing pop science at you is a mistake. It will be necessary to formulate arguments carefully. As the ground you propose to examine is not as fertile as you may think, there isn’t a lot of published discussion to draw upon.

    In short, though, I think that the interest in unforced variability and in instabilities both in the field and in the general public masks the well-known fact that the time constant for radiative equilibrium of the atmosphere alone is on the order of weeks. The time constant of the upper ocean is perhaps ten years. While the characteristic time scales of the deep oceans, the cryosphere, and the carbon cycle are much longer, the fact remains that these problems are to all appearances separable. This means that whatever the phenomena of climate dynamics may be, the statistics of weather can be understood (roughly and qualitiatively) from a specification of the instantaneous state of the long time scale phenomena.

    Now, bringing it back to the particular phenomenology that relates to policy, we really don’t have much time to exercise the long time scale phenomena. There’s a very important caveat. We need CGCMs (coupled ocean-atmosphere models) rather than GCMs (ocean only and atmosphere only models run asynchronously) specifically because of a decadal time scale heat transfer into the oceans. The details of this are work in progress, and there’s (fortunately for me) considerable room for improvement. In practice, there is no sign that this is happening fast enough to hit dynamic predictability limits in the next century. Farther out in time, the complaints that we don’t capture century-scale dynamics may be more relevant, but that’s typically outside the realm of policy debate anyway (although perhaps it shouldn’t be).

    We have no a priori reason to expect any given system of the complexity of the climate system to be dynamically predictable on a century time scale, it is true, but we have no a priori reason to expect it to be unpredictable either. In fact, the question is not even well-posed, since the system is a very complex physical one, without a known mathematical representation! The question, however, must have a qualitative answer, and this answer can only come from experience thinking about the system itself.

    The answer appears to be that the climate, as meaningfully understood for human impacts, is predictable over a century or two for a given trajectory of primary forcings. It’s not provable, (perhaps it’s not even a formal conclusion), but there don’t seem to be any candidate phenomena that would indicate otherwise. Furthermore, the empirical evidence is reassuring, both in replicating paleoclimates, and in replicating the observational trend over the twentieth century.

    All of this is my own opinion of how to describe the situation to a mathematical dynamicist or someone influenced by that school of thought. It’s an informal argument, not published anywhere by me or anyone else as far as I know, and probably not passing muster of peer review. I do think it describes what’s going on (and would welcome informed critiques).

    However, let’s consider the implications if that’s all nonsense, and climate is not meaningfully predictable for a century. The conclusion that you appear to take is that therefore no expensive policies should be undertaken to minimize human forcing of climate. This seems to me completely irrational.

    It is certainly known that human activity is changing the radiative properties of the atmosphere, and in precisely what degree. Chaos doesn’t enter into the forcing term – it’s classical radiative physics. We also know that this forcing is large compared to natural variability in the forcings. There are various ways to estimate how the system will respond to such forcing. Suppose we grant the possibility that our knowledge of this is weak.

    Now, a rational response to a risk is to weigh the probable outcomes with a suitable cost function, and to expend preventively comparably to the risk. If we know a lot about the situation, the risks are well-constrained. If we know relatively less about the situation, it is at least possibly true that the outcome “nothing of any serious consequence happens” may be relatively more plausible. It is also the case that “enormous and cataclysmic changes occur” also become relatively more plausible. In a rational risk-weighting, the outcomes with greater cost dominate the total risk, increasingly as their likelihood is less well-constrained. Therefore, the less reliable the models, the greater the risk-weighted cost of allowing the perturbation to continue to increase. If you don’t believe the models, you ought to be more alarmed, not less.

    That we are substantially changing the radiative properties of the atmosphere is not open to sensible dispute. Given that, the argument that “in the absence of further information we should do nothing”, taken to mean “do nothing to the economy” rather than “do nothing to the radiative properties of the atmosphere”, is clearly irrational.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 6 Oct 2005 @ 12:15 PM

  154. Gavin – please put us all out of our misery and close this thread.

    We all need to get a life. Most of all me.

    Sashka – since I don’t yet have a life, please await my replies to your many important posts and piquant observations.

    - Dan

    [Response:See response to #152 -gavin]

    Comment by Dan Allan — 6 Oct 2005 @ 1:00 PM

  155. Michael,

    I question one point in your last post:
    “If we know relatively less about the situation, it is at least possibly true that the outcome “nothing of any serious consequence happens” may be relatively more plausible. It is also the case that “enormous and cataclysmic changes occur” also become relatively more plausible. In a rational risk-weighting, the outcomes with greater cost dominate the total risk, increasingly as their likelihood is less well-constrained. Therefore, the less reliable the models, the greater the risk-weighted cost of allowing the perturbation to continue to increase.”

    If we take this to a logical extreme, don’t we wind up with the paradoxical proposition that, “if we know nothing at all that is predictive, we should be most willing to invest to thwart the possible catastrophic outcome”?

    I think the question of what to do from a policy point of view, to mitigate risk in a situation of uncertain degree of uncertainty, is extremely problematic and far too subtle to expect any government to handle it well. And from that point of view, to be cynical, the whole issue is academic (though still interesting), since however ideally we pose and model the question, the decisions will be sure to be made in the spirit of acrimony, ignorance and irrationality on all sides.

    Comment by Dan Allan — 6 Oct 2005 @ 1:51 PM

  156. Re: 152

    Michael, that was a lot better!

    I mostly agree with what you wrote in the first half of your essay (the agrreable part ends with In fact, the question is not even well-posed, since the system is a very complex physical one, without a known mathematical representation!). Again, it is my strong opinion that the post of this nature should have come from the founders but I appreciate your taking time to write it.

    The answer appears to be that the climate, as meaningfully understood for human impacts, is predictable over a century or two for a given trajectory of primary forcings. It’s not provable, (perhaps it’s not even a formal conclusion), but there don’t seem to be any candidate phenomena that would indicate otherwise.

    It’s not provable indeed but candidate phenomena do exist. There are “known knowns and known unknowns”. The former are represented by the COnveyor belt that can stop any day, for all we know. The example of the latter is whatever cause Medieval Warming and Little Ice Age. Why can’t it happen again beginning tomorrow?

    [Response:Economics removed - William]

    Comment by Sashka — 6 Oct 2005 @ 2:38 PM

  157. Well, here are a few thoughts, in the spirit of bipartisanship, regarding costs.

    When people the right say, “why should we spend to avert a possible bad outcome, when we dont know very well yet the probability of that outcome.”

    The left invariably replies, “isn’t that what we did when we went into Iraq, on the theory of pre-emption of a possible bad outcome, and didn’t we want up spending hundreds of billions, thus far with little to show for it?”

    My own feeling is, yes, that is what we did, so I’m not sure why the right thinks preemption was a good idea then but is a bad idea now.

    On the other hand, if you are on the left (as I am), and therefore likely think it (preemption when the risk is unknown) was a bad idea then, why is it suddenly a good idea now?

    Of course this an oversimplification. One could say (a) Iraq was, at least in intent, about more than just averting a potential bad WMD outcome, and in any case, the probabilities and degree of catastrophe between Iraq WMD and Global warming cannot be compared.

    My own view is, (a)if we wind up at the lower end of the IPCC expected warming, maybe we shouldn’t be spending large sums to avert it, whereas if we are likely to land at the high end, the costs miht start to get fairly grave (b) nobody has a very good idea how much it would really cost to avert, or slow, global warming (hope this doesn’t contradict (a)).

    If there is acrimony and bias is the GW science debate, I think it is multiplied several-fold in the discussion of costs of averting it versus costs of living with it.

    On the other hand, arguably there are policy changes we could make that have no cost. For instance, we could have a revenue neutral increase in tax on burning of fossil fuels – whereby all revenue gains would be offset by tax cuts in other areas. This would serve multiple purposes, of (a) weaning us from dependence on foreign oil and simultaneously depleting terror-exporting countries of their revenue stream, (b) reducing other pollutants besides CO2, (c) encouraging a more gradual and less economically disastrous transition from an economony based on a finite resource, (d) slow global warming, (e) move us in the direction of a VAT tax rather than an income tax (actually, personally I don’t think e is such a great thing, but as many conversative groups favor it, I don’t see why they would oppose a revenue-neutral tax on fossil fuels.

    Comment by Dan Allan — 6 Oct 2005 @ 3:47 PM

  158. Re: 152

    You agree that 5 trillion dollars is draconian, don’t you?”

    Not if it saves 10 trillion dollars in property damage, 100,000 lives a year due to drought-induced famine, increased frequency and intensity of severe weather events, or other related incidents.

    IF. It’s a huge if. While 5 trillion dollars is a certainty.

    Your sentiments of the Sierra Club smacks of McCarthyism, however.

    Really? To imply that Sierra Club is not an objective source is McCarthyism? OK, I’m not going to get to this level.

    the Wilmott site certainly does not have the scientific background that RC has.

    FYI: Willmott is mainly populated by Ph.D.’s in hard sciences.

    As for your constant demands for references, I’ll direct you to this site that has dozens of reports/studies which show conclusively that CLIMATE CHANGE IS HAPPENING!!!

    I didn’t ask for the references for this. Nor did I ever dispute that climate change is happening? Why are you screaming? Upset that you had to eat your words about lies spun by many climate skeptics?

    Comment by Sashka — 6 Oct 2005 @ 3:55 PM

  159. Re # 147 – Dr. Gray gets paid to forecast and research, not bet. However, will you make your forecast on the temperatures and donate to charity even if he does not respond and if he is correct?

    [Response: I don't get paid to bet either. If I'm risking my money I expect the chance of a corresponding gain - William]

    [Response: And Gray made the offer in public... asking how serious that was is a valid inquiry. -gavin]

    Comment by Gerald Machnee — 6 Oct 2005 @ 3:55 PM

  160. Re: response to #152, I agree. I was getting too charged up. I should take a less emotional response to this issue, since increased emotion leads to poorly-made arguments. Sorry, guys.

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 6 Oct 2005 @ 4:00 PM

  161. re #156:

    I am gratified that you find my posting agreeable until just before what I consider to be my thesis statement. Let me restate it:

    “The question [of whether climate is predictable on a century time scale], however, must have a qualitative answer, and this answer can only come from experience thinking about the system itself.”

    The climate research community on the whole believes in the predictability of the large features of climate on the century time scale, though possibly not on the millenial time scale or longer.

    re #137:

    In response to:

    >>Climate does not have the attributes that one associates with highly chaotic systems – though there are some feedback loops, so it would be a mistake to claim that it is 100% non-chaotic.

    Sashka writes:

    But of course it does. Lorenz derived his equations from the same Navier-Stokes equations that any GCM is based upon.

    This shows a lack of clarity of thinking about the subject.

    The state of the Lorenz system is unpredictable over a sufficiently long time interval; it has chaotic weather. However, the *statistics* of the Lorenz system are not only predictable but static. The shape of the trajectory space does not change. The shape of the trajectory space is the system’s climate.

    Its climate is entirely predictable even though its weather is not. Indeed, its climate is changeless.

    re #150:

    Pat:
    >>> Do the latest model simuations by The Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg include the carbon cycle?

    me:
    >> Not to my knowledge. The quoted text gives me no reason to think otherwise.

    Sashka:
    > Look for references to Archer and Maier-Reimer.

    Indeed, since my name is on one of those papers, I am aware of this work. I certainly wasn’t claiming that there are no models of the carbon cycle!

    I was trying to state that there are not yet, to my knowledge, 21st century scenario model runs of CGCMs coupled with complete terrestrial carbon cycle models.

    CGCM 21st century scenario runs is what the public usually means by “climate models”. The idea that runs of that sort predict carbon as well as climate is a common misperception in public discussions of the science.

    [Response: Cox et al (2000)? -gavin]

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 6 Oct 2005 @ 4:16 PM

  162. Re: 161

    “The question [of whether climate is predictable on a century time scale], however, must have a qualitative answer, and this answer can only come from experience thinking about the system itself.”

    As you correctly pointed out, the problem is not even well-posed. Why must it have an answer? There may be no answer at all. What is “qualitative answer” in this context anyway?

    The climate research community on the whole believes in the predictability of the large features of climate on the century time scale, though possibly not on the millenial time scale or longer.

    Correct. I only note that the belief is at least partly based on wishful thinking.

    The state of the Lorenz system is unpredictable over a sufficiently long time interval; it has chaotic weather. However, the *statistics* of the Lorenz system are not only predictable but static. The shape of the trajectory space does not change. The shape of the trajectory space is the system’s climate.
    Its climate is entirely predictable even though its weather is not. Indeed, its climate is changeless.

    On the sufficiently long time scale – yes. On a shorter time scale – no. If you define the “climate” time scale in Lorenz model being shorter than typical time between jumps you’ll have a variable climate with 2 states with non-periodic unpredictable time of change.

    As you probably noticed, William cut off the part of my post where I challenge your policy/risk analysis. If you like we can take it elsewhere.

    Comment by Sashka — 6 Oct 2005 @ 5:50 PM

  163. I am surprised by the folks who are surprised that congress is calling a science fiction writer to testify and those who think that this sort of thing is peculiarly republican. Both of the major parties now use hollywood types to pitch policies for them. Michael Crichton, whatever his faults, is well above, say, Sean Penn, in terms of both raw smarts and policy relevant knowledge. I seem to recall that Sally Field was once called to testify about farm policy because she had played a farm woman in a movie. I have no idea which party was in charge at the time; both are awful on farm policy so it could well have been either.

    The point of hearings of this sort is not knowledge creation, it is entertainment.

    Jeff

    Comment by Jeff Smith — 6 Oct 2005 @ 8:15 PM

  164. Thanks, Gavin.

    Cox 2000 does indeed report some experiments that fit (albeit a bit uncomfortably) into the category I defined, so I accept the correction, and I appreciate the interesting link.

    That said, the CGCM 21st century projections (IPCC scenario runs) typically used in policy discussions do not include a coupled carbon cycle model, though many people seem to think that they do.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 6 Oct 2005 @ 8:19 PM

  165. “I seem to recall that Sally Field was once called to testify about farm policy because she had played a farm woman in a movie.”

    I read that in the 1980s, Sally Field, Jessica Lange, and Sissy Spacek were all invited to testify on farm policy.

    And being an environmental engineer (and regular viewer of “60 Minutes”), I definitely remember Meryl Streep being invited to testify on Alar!

    http://www.yale.edu/opa/v31.n17/story3.html

    P.S. I’ll give everyone two guesses which party invited Ms. Streep to testify on Alar, based on her education and experience in chemistry and toxicology. :-/

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 6 Oct 2005 @ 9:27 PM

  166. Re #158 (Sashka): I read the document you linked to at http://www.aei-brookings.org/admin/authorpdfs/page.php?id=236 and found out that the $5T number you claimed as the cost of Kyoto compliance is not that at all, but is actually Bjorn Lomborg’s quote of Nordhaus’ figure for how much it would cost to pay for global warming-caused damage in the developing world over the course of the current century if nothing were done to impede the warming. Lomborg’s talk was a little incoherent, so I somewhat understand your confusion, but probably it would be best to stick with primary sources for this sort of information. BTW, the point Lomborg was trying to make in quoting the (probably spurious anyway) $5T figure was that it is chump change for the global economy over the course of a century.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 6 Oct 2005 @ 11:08 PM

  167. RE: #151 Sashka:
    Your comments on the Quantitative Finance site Wilmott.com addressing Climate Change do not seem to be any more well received there than those on RealClimate.
    Those in the Wilmott Brainteaser Forum, however, seem acceptable to the Wilmott members.
    Is your area of expertise in Finance, Climate or Mathematics?

    Comment by Henry Molvar — 7 Oct 2005 @ 12:30 AM

  168. 165:

    Mark,
    Just one point of clarification. Streep did not pretend to be an expert on the science and/or safety of alar. What she said was, to paraphrase, Americans have a right to know what additives are in their food. Silly, yes. I personally don’t care about Ms. Streep’s opinions and they don’t influence mine. But it is far different from Crichton appearing as someone capable of passing judgment on AGW.

    Another general point regarding cost – because I think, again, both sides have been guilty of the same oversimplification. Some (not all) lefties have analyzed cost of AGW by simply looking, for example, at harm to existing farms if their climate changed, without regard to the fact that farmers would adapt, choose different crops to grow, etc. Not a very sensible analysis.

    But I have also seen quotes of the cost of averting AGW that fall victim to the same oversimplification: that look at what it would cost if we all switched to hybrids, or changed our home heating to an alternative source, without regard to the fact that new tehnologies will be developed to fill demand, cost of hybrids will come down as production scales up, etc. Nobody can really say what averting AGW will cost, because it is not possible to incorporate rate of improvement of technology into an economic model. If fusion reactors become available in fifty years, the ultimate cost will be far less, for example, than if they become available in 200 years, and no model can forecast which is these outcomes is more likely.

    Comment by Dan Allan — 7 Oct 2005 @ 8:40 AM

  169. Re: 188, responding to belatedly noticed comments by William.

    The weather next January is… weather. Not climate.

    Sure. However: (1) I was merely addressing Steven’s claim that models correctly reproduce weather statistics; (2) I can rephrase this question. Will the average winter in NY over the next 10 years be mild or cold? This is a climate question to which you have no means to provide a confident answer.

    Teleconnections are taken into account in the models. Teleconnections are just atmospheric dynamics.

    My point was that those are present in both weather and climate models.

    Comment by Sashka — 7 Oct 2005 @ 10:23 AM

  170. Re: 166

    I have to confess that I read the document a while ago and could have mixed up. In this case I apologize. Could anyone post a link to another estimate?

    Re: 167

    Good points, especially in the 2-nd and 3-rd paragraphs.

    Comment by Sashka — 7 Oct 2005 @ 10:54 AM

  171. re #162:

    Sashka,

    I would like there to be a moderated venue to discuss economic and policy aspects of this matter. The policy and economic aspects of the problem are, I believe, considerably less well-understood than the physics and chemistry, and dominate the difficulties ahead. However, even if I had the time it is less than clear to me that further discussion with you would be fruitful.

    I think your idea that the “climate” of the Lorenz system *may* be (in my opinion peculiarly) defined such that it is changing is not exemplary of reasoned discourse. That interpretation is quite irrelevant.

    You appear to understand the definition of climate that I was applying. The usual definition of climate is “the statistical properties of weather”. In this sense, the climate of the Lorenz system is stationary and hence perfectly predictable. Therefore, for entirely reasonable and germane definitions of weather and climate, that system demonstrates that weather may be unpredictable while climate remains predictable, which directly refutes your stated position that the statistical properties of an unpredictable system must necessarily be unpredictable.

    I believe that you have the intellectual capacity to understand this. I would appreciate if you were not so stubborn as to refuse to concede the point.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 7 Oct 2005 @ 5:25 PM

  172. Re #159: I’d be happy to donate to a charity of your choice should temperatures fall or increase at a slow rate, IF you’re willing to donate to a charity of my choice, should temperatures increase above a slow rate. Details here:

    http://www.longbets.org/196

    Thanks for bringing up this suggestion – I hope you’re interested.

    Comment by Brian S. — 7 Oct 2005 @ 6:32 PM

  173. Well, regarding the question of whether climate is / might be chaotic, I would like to lay one last kick into this dead horse.

    As most readers of my posts have now discerned, I don’t have a rigorous math background, or even an non-rigorous math background or, for that matter, any math background, or any science background beyond seventh grade frog dissection. Still, I am compelled, as an educated layman, to share a few thoughts, even if they are “not well formed”.

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but to me the difference between climate and weather can be reduced (with some oversimplification) to different aspects of heat transfer. Weather is all about convection, which, it seems to me, is almost always chaotic. Climate is about radiation and conduction. Shine a heat lamp at an object with an atmosphere (enclosed, for example in a glass case), and the temperature inside the glass will reach an equilibrium based on the amount of heat entering, from the lamp, and leaving, through conduction, into the room (assuming of course the room is kept at a lower temperature). At least, that is how basic thermodynamics have been described in that I’ve read.

    The point of equilibrium will of course depend on all of those forcings that are studied in climate – what is in our man-made atmosphere, what is the albedo of the surface of our “planet”, but I have no doubt that an equilibrium will be achieved.

    Since these processes, radiation and conduction, are not chaotic, where would chaos come from in climate? The logical candidates are the feedbacks – the ways in which change in climate will influence future change in climate. But I have difficulty seeing how these feedbacks would become chaotic. Is there a point in global warming where albedo would suddenly increase instead of decreasing? Doesn’t seem likely. Would natural CO2 sinks pop up in some unpredictable way, sufficient enough to start reducing the CO2 content of the atmosphere? I just don’t see from what the chaos would arise.

    Does this prove that climate is non-chaotic? Certainly not. But if we set up an expectation that one should be able to prove formally that climate is non-chaotic, maybe we are setting up a rather unrealistic, and somewhat unfair expectation. It seems to me that there a many fully accepted tenets of science that have not, and cannot, be formally proven.

    Please feel free to correct if I am off-base.

    - Dan

    [Response: Climate is the statistics of weather (the average, if you want to think of it in simple terms). There is no distinction in terms of processes. Large parts of the world have weather without having convection - William]

    Comment by dan allan — 8 Oct 2005 @ 8:25 PM

  174. Re #170 (Sashka): I’m not aware of much out there besides Nordhaus. But, here’s his web page with recent work: http://nordhaus.econ.yale.edu/recent_stuff.html . There a number of links to pdfs that look like they might fill the bill. It appears he hasn’t done much new work on global warming for several years. For potential other stuff, use Google Scholar; if you’re not familiar with it, once you find a particular study (easy with the author and title) it will give you a list of subsequent published research citing to the study. This allows one to get a pretty good sense of the current thinking in a given area of research. The articles themselves are frequently subscriber-blocked, but normally the abstracts can be viewed. As with the page noted above, Nordhaus and some others I’ve seen have posted their past publications on their own web sites even though many may remain blocked at the publication site.

    BTW, I should mention that I don’t find the whole subject of Kyoto costs very interesting since I think that while there will be a global mechanism for reducing GHG emissions in the not very distant future, it won’t have much resemblance to Kyoto. Nonetheless, Kyoto is valuable in terms of establishing international cooperation on solving the problem. From what I can see, and I hadn’t been aware of this, that seems to be Nordhaus’ general view as well.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 8 Oct 2005 @ 10:06 PM

  175. Further to #171 etc,

    Not only is the climate of the Lorenz model easy to understand, it is also simple to predict how it will respond to a variety of “external forcings”, in the form of either a parameter perturbation or direct forcing term in the dynamical equations. Eg see here and here. However the detailed trajectory is unpredictable except in the very short term.

    This of course gives the lie to the septic standby “we can’t predict the weather, therefore we can’t predict the climate”. I should emphasise that demonstrating the falsity of that claim was not the specific purpose of the linked papers, indeed I doubt that this particular issue has ever been considered scientifically interesting. That some septics actually try to use this argument only demonstrates the vacuity of their position.

    Comment by James Annan — 8 Oct 2005 @ 10:31 PM

  176. My concerns about human activity causing rapid climate change has led me to have a goal to inform others about this who may not know. However, my ways of communicating this have resulted in much dislike or hatred toward me by those who have chosen to remain indifferent or skeptical. I don’t know if I’ve helped or hurt the goal, and I don’t know if speaking out is worth any effort on my part anymore. Comments?

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 8 Oct 2005 @ 10:52 PM

  177. Re #172 – An interesting question- How will the temperature change be determined? How many years will be used in the calculation? i.e. What is the starting point temperature?

    Comment by Gerald Machnee — 8 Oct 2005 @ 10:55 PM

  178. Re #176 (Pat Neuman): It sounds like you may have been free-lancing this stuff, which is tough under the best of circumstances. Resources are available to help. This is way OT so I’ll leave it at that other than to say to look for an email from me.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 9 Oct 2005 @ 5:02 AM

  179. Re #173 (Dan Allan): Large-scale reasons for the chaos include planetary tilt (= seasons), a high rate of rotation (= major Coriolis effect), much more solar heat applied at the equator than at the poles, unevenly distributed land, air and water, a molten core resulting in tectonic activity including continental drift and volcanos, the occasional hammer from space, a really large satellite creating major tides in addition to minor ones from the sun, plus some stuff I’m probably forgetting. Add all of them together and this planet *sloshes*. Is it sounding like enough of a mess yet? Climate, which is a function of all of these things (and more) is plenty chaotic even without a bunch of monkeys pumping crap into the air and water. Did someone suggest otherwise?

    Regarding climate vs. weather, consider a pot of boiling water: It’s chaotic all right, but similar to climate its behaviour can be predicted within certain parameters. Predicting the weather is perhaps analogous to trying to predict the path of a specific steam bubble as it rise from the bottom of the pot. Given some good observations and a suitable model one could hope to do so for a brief distance, but inevitably chaos would take over and we would fail to predict the exact point where the bubble would surface. At the same time, we could observe the boiling and come up with pretty good measures of the overall rate of boiling, the range of the size of steam bubbles, the number that are at the surface at any given point in time, etc., in other words everything that really matters about the pot of water as distinct from the individual bubbles.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 9 Oct 2005 @ 5:45 AM

  180. Re 178 (Steve Bloom)

    I think my situation is similar to what others have to deal with, in part a result of what skeptics Inhofe, Crichton, Christy and Pielke Sr. have said, and in larger part due to what’s not been said, or allowed to be said, by managers of federal and state offices having responsibilities in public safety throughout the U.S. I think it criminal.

    [Response:FWIW RP Sr explicitly denies being a skeptic and has said things (can't find them just now) to make this plausible. That said, I find his insistence on land use and small scale stuff doesn't help. Christy whilst a sort-of skeptic helpded author the ?AGU? position statement. But C and Rp are both definitely scientists. Neither deserves bracketing with Inhofe or Crichton - William]

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 9 Oct 2005 @ 10:14 AM

  181. Re 180

    I forgot to include, Patrick Michaels, a meteorologist of some sort.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 9 Oct 2005 @ 1:27 PM

  182. William,

    I think you may have misinterpreted what I said.

    In what I described (176, 180, 181) as “my situation” (as in what I’ve had to deal with in part as a result of what skeptics Inhofe, Crichton, Christy and Pielke Sr. and Michaels have said), … I think Christy and Pielke Sr. do fit with the others (skeptics of GHG driven rapid global warming).

    The fact that Christy and Pielke Sr. are scientists allows their skeptical positions on rapid GHG driven global warming to be even harder to deal with when I attempt to inform people that rapid GHG driven global warming is happening and that humans need to act quickly to reduce GHG emissions in order to delay and to reduce the catastrophe that lies ahead due to global warming.

    The positions of Christy and Pielke Sr., and other scientists with weak positions on reducing GHG emissions, have been most detrimental in advancing the need to act strongly to reduce GHG emissions from ground and air and power plants.

    [Response: I think your position with regard to RP and JC is unreasonable. See [[Roger A. Pielke]] and [[John Christy]]. That said, I don’t much care for JC’s senate testimony… but we’re getting off topic so I shall stop – William]

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 10 Oct 2005 @ 10:02 AM

  183. Re: 171, 175

    Once again: I never that statistical properties of an unpredictable system must necessarily be unpredictable. In particular, I never said that climate is unpredictable. What I said was (and Mr. Tobis grudgingly agreed to that above) that there is not and (IMO) there may not be a proof that climate is predictable.

    Lorenz was only mentioned to demonstrate the potential for chaos in climate, so a deep discussion is off-topic.

    Comment by Sashka — 10 Oct 2005 @ 10:06 AM

  184. Re 182 correction, should read as …

    … need to act strongly to reduce GHG emissions from ground and air travel, and power plants.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 10 Oct 2005 @ 10:24 AM

  185. Re: 182, 184

    The positions of Christy and Pielke Sr., and other scientists with weak positions on reducing GHG emissions, have been most detrimental in advancing the need to act strongly to reduce GHG emissions from ground and air travel and power plants.

    You sound as if you want everyone who disagree with your position to shut up.

    GHG driven global warming is happening. It doesn’t follow, however, that we need to act either quickly or strongly. I agree with Michael Tobis that the policy and economic aspects of the problem are considerably less well-understood than the physics and chemistry, and dominate the difficulties ahead. My opinion is that we should better focus on adaptation to the inevitable rather than wasting resources trying to stop what cannot be stopped.

    The talk about catastrophe that lies ahead due to global warming is no more than fear-mongering. For all we know, the climate change will be gradual. An abrupt change is possible but not very probable. We don’t have any means to credibly assess the probability of abrupt change. Much less can we assess our ability to delay or avoid the catastrophe should the danger be real. The catastrophic scenarios are so far away in the left field that they shouldn’t be even mentioned in a reasonable policy discussion.

    Comment by Sashka — 10 Oct 2005 @ 12:26 PM

  186. Re # 183;

    I am responding to the exchange in # 132 and #137, notably

    Dan Allan:

    >> Climate does not have the attributes that one associates with highly chaotic systems – though there are some feedback loops, so it would be a mistake to claim that it is 100% non-chaotic.

    Sashka:

    > But of course it does. Lorenz derived his equations from the same Navier-Stokes equations that any GCM is based upon. (caveats apply)

    Aside from the caveat at the end, which presumably is not “caveat emptor, the previous claim may be totally invalid” this reply remains fundamentally incorrect.

    There’s nothing morally wrong with saying something incorrect, but refusing to be corrected on it is disturbing. It makes me suspect that like so many others who doubt climate science, you are pushing an agenda rather than searching for truth. You may reassure me by withdrawing your claim in #137 quoted above. That will incline me to take discussions with you more seriously.

    I will concede, in any case, that there is not a proof that climate is predictable, in most reasonable senses of the words “proof”.

    You can only prove statements about a model, not about the world, because the world is not a mathematical abstraction. Even the most robust laws of physics are empirical observations before they are mathematical assertions. There’s a lot more I could say about that, but it’s seriously outside the RC bounds. Let me just sneak in the observation that however great the impact of this problem may be on the value of climatology, it seems to me drastically more severe when applied to economics. Yet a modern society expects its government to make economic decisions all the time, without demanding “proof”.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 10 Oct 2005 @ 3:41 PM

  187. Re: 185

    You are right: it wasn’t a caveat emptor. The caveats applied to the large set of factors that distances a CGCM from Navier-Stokes equations and even further away from Lorenz equations. There is no way to directly map Lorenz’s results onto the climate system. I agree that I made a gross simplification but I disagree that the statement is fundamentally incorrect. If you elaborate on your fundamental disagreement I might reconsider my views under the weight of arguments.

    Let me just sneak in the observation that however great the impact of this problem may be on the value of climatology, it seems to me drastically more severe when applied to economics.

    I agree.

    Yet a modern society expects its government to make economic decisions all the time, without demanding “proof”.

    That’s an interesting thought. IMHO, the reason why it is so is that people didn’t enjoy the boom-bust cycles all that much. But I’m not sure how many people expect the government to be right all the time. I guess, not too many.

    Whatever the case may be, what is the implication? Had the lack of proof of predictability been the only problem with the proposed mitigation of climate change, I would agree that your argument is pretty strong. But it isn’t. The only reason I brought up the issue of predictability was that Gavin and Michael pretended that there is no issue.

    [Response: I don't recall having made any such statement, but regardless, the proof of the pudding is in the hindcasting. Simulations of the last century and on-the-money forecasts made in 1987 as well as innumerable model evaluation studies of the response to volcanic or solar forcing demonstrate empirically that some quantities in climate are indeed predictable (given a reasonable knowledge or estimate of the forcings). The clearest quantity with some apparent predictability is the global mean temperature anomaly, where the chaotic (unpredictable) component appears to be much smaller than the forced (predictable) one. -gavin]

    Comment by Sashka — 10 Oct 2005 @ 4:49 PM

  188. Re: #185, “You sound as if you want everyone who disagree with your position to shut up.”

    This is untrue, except that, by adding the element of confusion to the mix (which most skeptics do well), progress to find environmentally-friendly alternatives to high-polluting infrastructure and industries (such as coal-fired power plants and Hummers) is slowed due to political inertia.

    “For all we know, the climate change will be gradual.”

    This has been true in the past, but at the present, it is not. The IPCC’s estimates of temperature increase over the course of the 21st Century (1.4 C to 5.8 C as of the 2001 report) are at least more than double (and almost 10 times at the upper end) the rate of increase over the 20th Century.

    This would result in an exponential rate of increase, which cannot be called “gradual” in the least.

    “It doesn’t follow, however, that we need to act either quickly or strongly.”

    Why do you say this? If the bulk of the evidence is present that says a business-as-usual scenario will result in this exponential rate of temperature increase, then we must find ways to reduce this increase.

    The possible biological effects of this temperature increase are staggering, such as the loss of millions of species and desertification of land (which will reduce the ability of this planet to feed the species, including other humans, which call it home). If we fail to do anything (not even including something drastic) to combat this possible calamity, we as a species should essentially be charged with a sort of negligence causing genocide.

    Also, since when is proof mandatory to change one’s way of life? If there is a chance that you could develop cancer by eating too many hamburgers (for example), you may decide to reduce the number you eat to minimize the risk. If there is a chance you may become diabetic from drinking large quantities of soft drinks, you may reduce (even eliminate) the amount of soft drinks you consume to minimize the risk. Waiting until you get cancer or become diabetic from maintaining a high-risk lifestyle before you make changes is a foolish way of living.

    This scenario is similar to the climate change issue. If there is a chance that whole ecosystems will die, and since we as (supposedly) intelligent beings (apparently) have the ability to effect ecosystem-friendly changes to our lifestyles, it is almost suicidal not to change anything and let these vital regions die before we actually do anything.

    “The catastrophic scenarios are so far away in the left field that they shouldn’t be even mentioned in a reasonable policy discussion.”

    Ummm. Remember the Pentagon report? That was far from being in “left field.” Even some Neo-Conservatives and some members of the Christian Right (both of whom I normally do not agree with) are saying we must invest in renewables to allow for a healthy environment and to reduce America’s dependence on Middle-Eastern oil (reducing the monies available to Islamic Fundamentalists).

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 10 Oct 2005 @ 5:26 PM

  189. Re: 187

    Gavin, I was referring to the last bullet point in your and Michael original article. You countered Crichton’s claim regarding unpredictability with a joke.

    I don’t find the simulations of last century convincing until the success of the simulation is quantified. To my eye, the simulated interannual variability [define it as Sum(delta_T^2) in the detrended time series] is way below observed. I’m not sure therefore how you can say that unpredictable component is much smaller than forced.

    Again and again: I don’t deny that the climate is predictable on the decadal time scale and possibly even longer. I objected to trivializing a non-trivial issue.

    [Response: The tired claim that 'weather isn't predictable therefore climate can't be' is quite well countered by satire as in the link we gave. How predicitable climate actual is and on what timescale is a much more serious issue and one that we certainly don't trivialize. Possibly you assumed that we implied that 'weather isn't predictable, therefore climate must be'? - this clearly does not follow and does not represent our thinking. Since we are all now agreed, maybe we can move on? -gavin]

    Comment by Sashka — 10 Oct 2005 @ 5:46 PM

  190. Re #185 (Sashka): You wrote:

    “The talk about catastrophe that lies ahead due to global warming is no more than fear-mongering. For all we know, the climate change will be gradual. An abrupt change is possible but not very probable. We don’t have any means to credibly assess the probability of abrupt change. Much less can we assess our ability to delay or avoid the catastrophe should the danger be real. The catastrophic scenarios are so far away in the left field that they shouldn’t be even mentioned in a reasonable policy discussion.”

    I have to disagree. There’s already a body of work on many aspects of this, with some pretty considerable additional research going on. Part of the problem is semantic: “Abrupt” and “catastrophic” are inavoidably subjective terms, although the former is a bit more prone to definition (e.g., any change of climate state involving a rapid transition from one state to another, although of course we then have to further define “rapid” and “climate state”). Some conflate them entirely (as you seem to have done above), which is understandable but not very helpful to advancing the discussion. As well, a catastrophic change could easily be gradual (in human terms, anyway).

    Just to throw out a few examples:

    Artic sea ice summer disappearance: Abrupt (human scale), perhaps not catastrophic unless you’re an Inuit or a polar bear (and yet antother definitional problem appears). (Oh, and the models predicted this one as part of the package of overall Arctic warming.)

    Greenland melting: Abrupt (geologic scale, but short), arguably catastrophic.

    West Antarctic Ice Sheet melt: Like Greenland, only bigger.

    East Antarctic ice sheet: Abrupt (geologic, but still shortish), absolutely catastrophic (even over centuries; 70 meters covers an awful lot of arable land and infrastructure, and there’s no guarantee that the remaining dry land will be an Eden).

    Permafrost melt: Abrupt (human scale), locally catastrophic for sure and maybe globally depending on the consequences of the methane pulse. Already happening (although the extent is still unclear).

    Clathrate melting: Potentially abrupt (scale less certain here, and would depend greatly on depth of melt), potentially very catastrophic. This may be our best way of melting East Antarctica.

    Tibetan plateau melt: Abrupt (human scale), catastrophic if you’re one the 50% of the human race living in that watershed, or live someplace they may wish to migrate to. Already happening, probably to the point of complete melting.

    Sierra snow pack reduction or elimination: Abrupt (human scale), not especially catastrophic if you’ve got $50 billion or so in loose change laying around to completely rebuild the CA water infrastructure. This is of course a minor impact compared to most of the others. Enjoy your vegetables while they’re cheap!

    Notice that these all involve melting, which raises the issue of synergies between them. Up north, things seem to be melting rather quickly at the moment: http://paos.colorado.edu/~dcn/reprints/Overpeck_etal_EOS2005.pdf , plus some up-to-the-minute info at http://nsidc.org/news/press/20050928_trendscontinue.html and http://cires.colorado.edu/science/groups/steffen/greenland/melt2005/ .

    And last but not least:

    Ocean acidification: Abrupt (human scale), catastrophic if you’re a fish, a plankton, a coral, or anything that eats them or depends in any way on ocean ecosystems. Otherwise, no problem. :)

    Not all of these are already committed to, but as noted some are. Others will happen to a degree, some maybe not at all, or maybe all of them will. How much of the future are we willing to bet on the assumption that there’s no problem at all?

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 10 Oct 2005 @ 5:47 PM

  191. Re: 188

    By gradual I meant non-catastropic. Gradual is not the same as small.

    If the bulk of the evidence is present that says a business-as-usual scenario will result in this exponential rate of temperature increase, then we must find ways to reduce this increase.

    That’s fine as long as this reduction can be shown to be meaningful (beyond uncertainty) and at reasonable cost compared to the expected results.

    Also, since when is proof mandatory to change one’s way of life?

    We are talking about policies that will be in effect for decades at huge expense to the taxpayer. It’s not one’s way of life. A lot more is at stake.

    Remember the Pentagon report?

    I don’t care about Pentagon’s views on climate change. And I wholeheartedly support investing in renewables.

    Comment by Sashka — 10 Oct 2005 @ 6:00 PM

  192. This may seem like a minor point, so I explain my purposes in its dogged pursuit below.

    Dan Allan:

    >> Climate does not have the attributes that one associates with highly chaotic systems – though there are some feedback loops, so it would be a mistake to claim that it is 100% non-chaotic.

    Sashka:

    > But of course it does. Lorenz derived his equations from the same Navier-Stokes equations that any GCM is based upon. (caveats apply)

    and:

    > There is no way to directly map Lorenz’s results onto the climate system. I agree that I made a gross simplification but I disagree that the statement is fundamentally incorrect.

    Your “but of course it does” is simply incorrect. “A gross simplification” is backpedaling, which to me is not good enough. I want a simple, straightforward admission of error.

    A reasonable reply would be “I’m sorry, I was confused. It’s certainly the case that the Lorenz system has a predictable climate. Therefore it offers no support for the assertion that the realistic climate system ‘of course’ is chaotic, and I withdraw any implication that it does.”

    It really isn’t much to ask in scientific circles. Scientists don’t much like to say things in print, though it’s not unheard of. In conversation, though, it comes up regularly. “You’re right, I was confused, thanks.” It’s becoming a lost art in the rest of society.

    Politicians just try to change the subject, usually, and rarely admit to an error. (One’s predatory opposition can be expected to indulge the horrifying predatory habit of mindlessly siezing on this sort of thing as “flip-flopping”, after all.)

    Certainly the naysayers are almost entirely political these days. One so misses the days when an actual conversation with someone open-mindedly skeptical of the climate change problem was possible that one tries to engage anyone who seems articulate. In the end they, almost without exception, turn out to be much more like lawyers marshalling points to support their argument than like scientists testing their argument by focusing on its weaknesses. This would be awfully tedious and enervating if it weren’t, given the circumstances, so terrifying.

    So, Sashka, are you interested in deciding what an optimum policy would be in the light of climate science, or are you here to defend your idea of the optimum policy, whatever the science might say? That you won’t fully admit to even a minor, unambiguous error gives me the impression that you have no intention of admitting anything. If so, this means you and I are playing different games, and we can each win the argument by our own lights.

    Unfortunately, it seems that any decision makers are so interested in the political game that they seem to have forgotten that the more civilized and interesting one even exists.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 10 Oct 2005 @ 7:56 PM

  193. Re #177: I’m happy to use the methodology in the bet James Annan made with the Russian climatologists. Details here:

    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2005/08/bet.html

    If you’re serious about this, contact me by clicking on my name or through the longbets.org link, and we can start arranging details off-line.

    Comment by Brian S. — 10 Oct 2005 @ 8:58 PM

  194. Re 185

    Comment by Sashka … > My opinion is that we should better focus on adaptation to the inevitable rather than wasting resources trying to stop what cannot be stopped.<

    Sashka,

    Adding more rain to a river basin where rivers are already rising will cause the rivers to go over their banks sooner than if the rain had stopped or was reduced. Adding more GHGs to a global climate that is already heating up will make the very hot come sooner. By reducing GHGs, millions of people would suffer less during their lifetimes. Reducing GHG emissions as much as possible is the right thing to do.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 10 Oct 2005 @ 10:36 PM

  195. Re: #191, “By gradual I meant non-catastropic. Gradual is not the same as small.”

    Gradual: 1. taking place or progressing by degrees; 2. not rapid or steep.

    How can you use a word for which your meaning has no relevance? That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever!

    “We are talking about policies that will be in effect for decades at huge expense to the taxpayer. It’s not one’s way of life. A lot more is at stake.”

    How could it be a “huge expense to the taxpayer” if the taxpayer would not have to shell out $4 (US) per gallon and up for gasoline? I’d think of it as a huge savings to the taxpayer if they wouldn’t have to shell out a high price for gasoline for their gas-guzzlers and for heating oil for their houses. Sure, buying a hybrid that goes 70 mpg costs a bit of an arm and a leg right now, but over the long run, the savings on gasoline will more than make up for this initial cost.

    “I don’t care about Pentagon’s views on climate change.”

    My point was that not only people on the left of the political spectrum are conservationists in nature. Some segments of the right are, as well.

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 10 Oct 2005 @ 11:17 PM

  196. Re 185 Should read…

    Adding more rain to a river basin where rivers are already rising will cause the rivers to go over their banks sooner than if the rain had stopped or was reduced. Adding more GHGs to a global climate that is already heating up will make the very hot come sooner. By reducing GHGs, millions of people would suffer less during their lifetimes. Reducing GHG emissions as much as possible is the right thing to do.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 10 Oct 2005 @ 11:59 PM

  197. Re: 190, 195

    I acknowledge that sematics need to be clarified. Indeed, when I said catastrophic I meant abrupt. I don’t think this is an uncceptable usage and it was my impression that Pat Neuman meant it that way.

    However, I’m willing to use your definition. I’ll accept, for the purposes of this discussion, that at some – highly uncertain – time in the future some of the “catastrophic” melting events will indeed take place due to the GW. Questions:

    1. How do we know that we can substantially delay or stop them?

    [Response: Economics deleted - William]

    Comment by Sashka — 11 Oct 2005 @ 10:47 AM

  198. Re: 192

    Michael, I made no error at all. Atmospheric dynamics are governed by Navier-Stokes equations (plus thermodynamics + atmospheric chemistry + Coriolis force etc. – those were the caveats). Lorenz derived a simplified system from Navier-Stokes equations and showed it to be chaotic. Therefore climate does have attributes of chaotic system, contrary to what Dan Allan claimed. Q.E.D.

    Now, your claim about stationarity of the “climate” in the Lorenz system is not without a merit but hinges on the selection of the time scale. Either way, your point has no bearing on the Earth climate because clearly the system has multiple time scales some which are a lot longer than any time scale that can be reasonably associated with climate.

    Certainly the naysayers are almost entirely political these days.

    And so are the yeah-sayers. I didn’t really utter much of “nay” before I was accused of being a McCarthyst, no less.

    Sashka, are you interested in deciding what an optimum policy would be in the light of climate science, or are you here to defend your idea of the optimum policy, whatever the science might say?

    If you found me in denial of something that climate science proved beyond reasonable doubt please point me in that direction. For lack of such pointer, consider your question answered.

    I took liberty of sending you a personal e-mail because the relevant post of mine didn’t appear on this page.

    Comment by Sashka — 11 Oct 2005 @ 11:10 AM

  199. Re #197 (Sashka): Thus we get to the crux of the problem: How much are we willing to pay now to avoid these future problems? The response implicit in your answer seems to be “not much” absent a degree of certainty that science probably can’t provide for the simple reason that we haven’t been able to observe such events before; i.e., we’re running the experiment now. Some of these changes are a bit more prone to prediction than others, but there will still be some uncertainty about the exact amount of GHGs over what period of time will be needed to make them happen and about the implications of each change. The problem is that by the time uncertainty is eliminated we will have very few options. But just out of curiosity, how much certainty would it take to convince you?

    I should add that the semi-destruction of New Orleans by Katrina (at a cost of how many billions?), despite the fact that it was known for decades that a relatively small investment in the levees could have forestalled most of the damage from at least this storm, is a good example of our society’s ability to deal with this sort of problem. This example raises an interesting point, which is that the uncertainty regarding a major hurricane hitting New Orleans was only in the timing and our society still decided it had other priorities for the money. An even worse example of this is the Chinese deciding to rely more and more on coal despite the probably-horrific consequences of losing the Tibetan plateau glaciers, although in that case they can probably be confident that it will be at least a generation before things start getting bad (and of course the Chinese plants are only part of the problem).

    (BTW, I just saw a paper in GRL [abstract below] indicating that in addition to the problem of water supply disruption from the lack of a Tibetan glaciers cap, climate change makes the Indian subcontinent vulnerable to flipping into a stable dry state. Other research indicates that the loss of the ice should make the monsoon wetter, though. More uncertainty, I guess.)

    GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 32, L15707, doi:10.1029/2005GL022771, 2005

    Is the Indian summer monsoon stable against global change?

    K. Zickfeld
    Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany

    B. Knopf
    Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany

    V. Petoukhov
    Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany
    Oboukhov Institute for Atmospheric Physics, Moscow, Russia

    H. J. Schellnhuber
    Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany
    Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Norwich, UK

    Abstract

    The stability of the Indian summer monsoon is investigated by means of a box model of the tropical atmosphere. At the heart of this model is the moisture-advection feedback which allows for the existence of two stable regimes: besides the â??wetâ?? summer monsoon, a stable state exists which is characterized by low precipitation. The model is employed for the identification of changes in the qualitative systems behavior in response to changes in boundary conditions. The most notable result is the occurrence of saddle-node bifurcations against changes in those quantities which govern the heat balance of the system, i.e., the planetary albedo, the insolation, and the CO2 concentration. These findings are remarkable insofar as they indicate that anthropogenic perturbations of the planetary albedo, such as sulphur emissions and/or land-use changes, or natural variations in insolation and CO2 concentration could trigger abrupt transitions between different monsoon regimes.

    Received 23 February 2005; accepted 8 July 2005; published 9 August 2005.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 11 Oct 2005 @ 1:48 PM

  200. re 198:

    Shash,

    A couple of points: I never made a categorical claim that all climate was nonchaotic. My statements were qualified. For example: “Climate does not have the attributes that one associates with highly chaotic systems – though there are some feedback loops, so it would be a mistake to claim that it is 100% non-chaotic”.

    I think the question is the magnitude of the chaotic effect: if it so small as to be far below the signal level, that isn’t really very consequential, is it? Indeed if weather is chaotic – which we all agree on – than it seems certain that, just by virtue of the two ends of a thirty-year time slice being effected by one day’s worth of “weather” climate in some tiny way is also chaotic. But I don’t see how this effect is of the slightest consequence, ultimately.

    An additional point is the one Gavin made: the models, as is shown in graph c in the article, are able to reproduce past climate pretty darn well via direct (non-chaotic) reactions to forcings. This is evidence to me of what already seemed to make sense logically: that chaotic effects in climate generally are quite small. I know that you will dispute my interpretation of this graph, and claim that the models were built by a sort of trial-and-error to fit the historical forcings / temperatures. But we will have to disagree on that point.

    One other point: I thought you agreed with Michael, earlier, when he said that the question of whether climate is chaotic is, technically speaking, not well-formed mathematically, and therefore cannot be answered one way or the other precisely. Yet now you have, apparently, *proven* that it is chaotic in spite of this.

    William – sorry if I’m being dense – where on the planet is there no convection? (your reply to 173). If temperature were uniform and there was no therefore convection, would there be wind? precipitation?

    Comment by Dan Allan — 11 Oct 2005 @ 2:01 PM

  201. Re: #198, “And so are the yeah-sayers. I didn’t really utter much of “nay” before I was accused of being a McCarthyst, no less.”

    I never accused you of being a McCarthyist. What I said was:

    “Your sentiments of the Sierra Club smacks of McCarthyism…”

    That is a bit different. If you took it the wrong way, I apologise, but I was trying to say something to the effect that it was silly for you to criticise me for reading a SC interview, which you made sound like something to the effect that I was drabbling in some sort of environmental “Communist Manifesto.”

    If you read some SC material, you would see that there is some sound science in there, rather than the junk science that exists on the Marshall Institute site (and others).

    There is a real problem that certain segments of the population (those on the conservative right) blame environmentalists for the problems of the world, such as those associated with the Katrina disaster. They say that enviros are to blame because they blocked improvements on levees. What is really to blame is poor land management and building infrastructure on land which was not meant for human inhabitation, as well as increasing the amount of toxins that are present (leading to what resulted from Katrina, the toxic soup that remained on the streets of New Orleans).

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 11 Oct 2005 @ 2:16 PM

  202. Re: 200

    But I don’t see how this effect is of the slightest consequence, ultimately.

    The trouble is that chaotic noise coming from the unpredictable weather could (doesn’t have to) accumulate and pull the solution trajectory to a different part of the attractor. I intentionally speak very loosely here.

    I know that you will dispute my interpretation of this graph, and claim that the models were built by a sort of trial-and-error to fit the historical forcings / temperatures. But we will have to disagree on that point.

    The parameter fitting is is not a subject of an argument, it’s a fact and there is nothing wrong about it. The interpretation of the graph is indeed subjective. In addition to what I said before, reproducing past climate pretty darn well must include reproducing regional climate change, not only global mean T.

    Yet now you have, apparently, *proven* that it is chaotic in spite of this.

    Not true. I never said or implied that I have a proof. I certainly have an opinion that climate is chaotic and unpredictable on sufficiently long time scales. But this is no different qualitatively from what most climate scientists would tell you. We can only differ in the subjective estimates of the predictability limit.

    Now I’ll go out on a limb to make a claim that I won’t be able to prove. Any state of the art climate model (CGCM) under stationary forcing (plus annual cycle) will eventually demonstrate some sort of chaotic behavior and/or will drift away from the realistic description of the actual atmosphere. Corrections with references to the published research are gratefully accepted.

    Comment by Sashka — 11 Oct 2005 @ 3:04 PM

  203. Re: 199 (Steve Bloom)

    Thus we get to the crux of the problem: How much are we willing to pay now to avoid these future problems? The response implicit in your answer seems to be “not much” absent a degree of certainty that science probably can’t provide for the simple reason that we haven’t been able to observe such events before; i.e., we’re running the experiment now.

    This is not what I asked (and, BTW, I didn’t give any answer). The question that William allowed was How do we know that we can substantially delay or stop them {catastrophic melting events)? Curiously, your version is a mixture of my questions.

    Some of these changes are a bit more prone to prediction than others, but there will still be some uncertainty about the exact amount of GHGs over what period of time will be needed to make them happen and about the implications of each change. The problem is that by the time uncertainty is eliminated we will have very few options. But just out of curiosity, how much certainty would it take to convince you?

    I cannot even begin answering this question without building a certain framework. Unfortunately, the moderator believes it’s off-topic.

    I don’t know what will happen by the time uncertainty is eliminated. The question is whether we can significantly change the outcome.

    Comment by Sashka — 11 Oct 2005 @ 4:36 PM

  204. Re # 198

    Lorenz derived a simplified system from Navier-Stokes equations and showed it to be chaotic. Therefore climate does have attributes of chaotic system, contrary to what Dan Allan claimed. Q.E.D.

    This is incorrect.

    That the Lorenz system’s trajectory, i.e., its weather, is chaotic is clear. That its statistics, i.e., its climate are chaotic, is clearly false.

    That weather is chaotic is probably true. That climate is chaotic is undetermined and plausibly indeterminate.

    The only bearing the Lorenz system has on the matter is to show that nonchaotic climate is not trivially excluded by chaotic weather. The Lorenz system’s relevance to the point at issue therefore wieghs in only in the opposite direction that Sashka alleges.

    It’s also still indeterminate whether Sashka is obfuscating or confused, but those appear to be the only alternatives.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 11 Oct 2005 @ 4:37 PM

  205. Re: 204

    The only bearing the Lorenz system has on the matter is to show that nonchaotic climate is not trivially excluded by chaotic weather. The Lorenz system’s relevance to the point at issue therefore wieghs in only in the opposite direction that Sashka alleges.

    This doesn’t make any sense. You don’t need Lorenz to see that chaotic weather doesn’t exclude anything about climate.

    [ad homs removed - gavin]

    Comment by Sashka — 11 Oct 2005 @ 6:15 PM

  206. Sashka,

    Stop me if I’m nitpicking.

    You said, in post 198: “Therefore climate does have attributes of chaotic system, contrary to what Dan Allan claimed. Q.E.D.”

    In post 202 you wrote: “I never said or implied that I have a proof. I certainly have an opinion that climate is chaotic and unpredictable on sufficiently long time scales.”

    Don’t you think Q.E.D. implies, in fact says, that you have proven the assertion therein?

    Comment by dan allan — 11 Oct 2005 @ 8:38 PM

  207. Re: 197

    I meant catastrophic as widespread destruction and death.

    That is why I think it is irresponsible to re-post old ideas and articles about global warming which no reasonable scientist would support in 2005.

    Global warming is not a debate game. Global warming is a serious wrong which we are doing to life on this planet. New information on global warming is coming in by the minute. That is why I said in a previous post to my yahoo group members: Old articles and arguments which are obviously not valid now should not be posted to these groups.

    [odd circular reference deleted- gavin]

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 11 Oct 2005 @ 9:57 PM

  208. Re: 207

    Right. The odd circular reference deleted by gavin in 207 was my reference to a commentary at: http://www.earthinstitute.columbia.edu/index.html

    Perhaps the following excerpt and reference may be of interest.

    The Lost City – Was It Global Warming?
    Oct 6, 2005, Rolling Stone magazine.

    Excerpt: “Katrina should cure us of the happy delusion that we can easily adapt to global warming”.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 12 Oct 2005 @ 12:24 AM

  209. Re: 206

    IMO, nitpicking is exactly what you are doing now.

    Climate is an average of weather over “long” term. The climat’s underlying quantity (weather) is chaotic and there is no reason to believe that chaotic component would average out to zero without impacting the mean. It may or it may not. This means that the climate has attributes of chaotic system but cannot be proven to be actually chaotic.

    It is probably not the most important issue relevant to climate projections and policy making. But I feel cheated when it is simply ignored or laughed at.

    Comment by Sashka — 12 Oct 2005 @ 9:01 AM

  210. re: 204 et al,

    Sashka,

    per your statement: “In addition to what I said before, reproducing past climate pretty darn well must include reproducing regional climate change, not only global mean T.”

    I would like to clarify that, in speaking about climate as generally non-chaotic I have been focussed specifically on global mean T. If I were to think about it as looking at regional as well as global climate, I would probably alter much of what I said previously in this post. I do see the possibility (again, as a non-scientist) of considerably more chaos arising at a regional level, particularly due to possibly chaotic changes in ocean currents.

    I’m not aware that climate scientists even claim that they are in a position to predict specific regional climate changes to a high degree of accuracy. Perhaps one of the moderators can chime in on this point. If this is so, then we are not really in that wide a disagreement about how much we think we know, just about whether what we do know is sufficient to be meaningful, useful, etc.. In this regard, I would observe that at least one important AGW effect, rising sea level, does not depend on a specific regional outcome so much as on global mean T. (At least, I think this is so (because my understanding is that most of the rise comes from lower density of warmer water, not from melting ice sheets – though again, not 100% sure on this point)).

    Finally, I would say, generally, that I feel that I am somewhat shooting at a moving target. Perhaps this is just due to miscommunication. First you challenge graph c on grounds that it does not show a correlation. Then the issue is that the correlation, which perhaps does exist, was backed-into by arbitrary adjustment of parameters. Then, in post 204, that is okay. The issue has become that global mean T correlation is not enough, because it does not help with regional climate changes.

    Comment by Dan Allan — 12 Oct 2005 @ 9:32 AM

  211. Re: 207

    I meant catastrophic as widespread destruction and death.

    Sorry that I misunderstood you. In this case you need to demonstrate that destruction and death will be significantly more widespread under business as usual scenario compared to mitigated.

    Re: 208

    Katrina should cure us of the happy delusion that we can easily adapt to global warming.

    It is a delusion to link an individual weather event to GW. No such connection was or can be scientifically established.

    Comment by Sashka — 12 Oct 2005 @ 10:30 AM

  212. Re: 210

    1-st paragraph: progress!

    2-nd paragraph: Note that rising sea level depends on melting at very specific locations of which by far the most important is Antarctica. Not only we have no ability to make a reliable regional forecast, but the current thinking suggests that Antartcica is net-net accumulating ice due to increased precipitation. As per IPCC (all caveats apply), thermal expansion is expected to be between 11 and 43 Cm. Unpleasant perhaps but hardly catastrophic.

    [Response: I'm baffled by what you write here. As you clearly state, the bulk of SLR is expected to come from thermal expansion; and Ant is expected to be a net contributor to fall. So why say "rising sea level depends on melting at very specific locations of which by far the most important is Antarctica". Do you mean, that getting SLR in xs of the std IPCC prediction means this? Then you are likely wrong, since Greenland is more probable. If you mean WAIS, then... maybe - William]

    3-rd paragraph: Please understand that I couldn’t say everything I have to say in my first post. There are multiple issues that I wish to address. I had to start somewhere. So I chose a couple of points that I considered least controvercial. Little that I knew … So, I’m not moving the target. Everything I said stands. Effectively, I’m making the target bigger and easier to shoot at by including additional concerns.

    Comment by Sashka — 12 Oct 2005 @ 10:56 AM

  213. re 212:

    well, in that case I appreciate your expanding your target.

    Best.

    Dan

    Comment by Dan Allan — 12 Oct 2005 @ 2:16 PM

  214. Well, this post is potentially off-topic. But I have a minute here and feel like writing it, and it will make a nice threshhold-test for our moderators, who will hopefully let is slip through (You guys are doing a great job by the way. Have I mentioned that?).

    One thing that is surprising, given the level of vitriol on both sides, is that when you come down to it, the skeptics and the believers are not as far apart as it might seem. We apparently agree that cimate is warming due to increased CO2, and only disagree on the magnitude of the effect. We apparently agree that climate could respond chaotically to forcings, but again, apparently disagree on the magnitude of the effect. We apparently agree that predictions about regional climate are not yet that reliable (again, moderators, correct me if I’m mistaken), but disagree here on how to weigh this in terms of where the science is.

    What becomes apparent, then, is that the vitriol is coming from the what is underlying, the subtext: “i don’t want to pay for your dumb mitigation costs” versus “you myopic fool, we need to spend now to avoid spending later.”

    In fact, some of the comments here that are ostensibly about pure science – that it is “unscientific” to not include likelihoods of different outcomes within the ipcc 1.4c to 5.8c range, or that you cannot predict climate well until you can predict regional climate well -show that the two issues, the scientific one and the cost one, are so inextricably wound together that even thoughtful people have trouble separating them. After all from a purely scientific point of view, predicting global mean T (if we are successful at it)is quite a triumph, just like predicting the acceleration of a falling body was a triumph. Whether it has application or not. Why complain about it? The complaint implies that underlying debate about “what does this mean for me?”

    As I have said before, I am a skeptic regarding all statements of cost, on either side of the debate. Because if we really want to see free parameters at work, we should take a look at how economic models are constructed. (They also have they unfortunate habit of being wrong pretty frequently).

    I am therefore pretty centrist on the subject of mitigation. But I do (no surprise here) tilt a shade to the left, out of a simple, fundamental view that the planet that we have inherited is pretty darn great, beautiful and life-sustaining, and the less we muck with it the better.

    Do I know of specific outcomes that will be catastrophic? No. I don’t even really buy the argument that AGW will trigger mass extinctions – partly because we have already bent the environment to our will so completely that this is just one more challenge among a great many that species will have to adapt to. Many specialist species are already on their way out. Most large mammals are already hemmed into cages and electrified fences of game parks. The battle has been lost and won (to paraphrase MacBeth). And we are the winners. And the losers.

    How much am I willing to lower my standard of living, if that is necessary, to avert AGW? Hard to say. There are some trapping of fossil-fuel based affluence I would not want to part with. But there is also plenty I can live without.

    [Response: I'm happy with that. Especially the bit about is doing a great job! para 3 (vitriol) is perceptive - William]

    Comment by Dan Allan — 12 Oct 2005 @ 3:02 PM

  215. Re: 215

    More progress! Just two minor points:

    1. Don’t judge skeptics based on my example because my comments are not accepted any more warmly among real skeptics than here. Similarly, note that most of the true believers fell out of this discussion long ago. They either lost interest, or ran out of depth or lacked time. Either way, I’m sure that most of them feel as far apart from me as 2 weeks ago.

    2. As for moderation, I don’t entirely agree. In a some cases, I wasn’t able to post succinct messages that were IMHO closer to the subject than some of the allowed page-long posts from the “believers”.

    Comment by Sashka — 12 Oct 2005 @ 5:49 PM

  216. I have a question:

    You say above: “Even more to the point, successful climate predictions have actually been made in past Senate hearings. The figure at the end of this comment by Jim Hansen demonstrates that projections of global mean climate presented in a 1988 senate hearing (17 years ago) have actually been right on the money.”

    The graph certainly is convincing.
    However, although I am no expert in these things, I am under the impression that GCMs have come a long way since 1988, incorporating important new revelations about the climate and related systems. If so, then how were models in 1988 (which incorrectly left out these phenomena) able to make such accurate predictions?

    Thanks!

    Ryan

    [Response: An excellent question! It is true that GCMs have got better over the years and now include more processes, better resolution and more sophisticated forcings. These extras have enabled us to understand and model more and more diverse aspects of the climate and climate change. However, the dominant forcing today is from CO2, and so it was 30 years ago as well. The physics of the greenhouse effect has been well known for a hundred years, and our best bet for the climate sensitivity (how much the climate warms for a doubling of CO2) is still around 3 deg C. The models in 1987 contained that physics, as do models today. The one slightly fortuitous aspect to this is that the forcing from CO2 alone is around 1.5 W/m2, while if you add up all of the forcings, including warming factors (like CO2 and CH4) and cooling factors (like aerosols), you end up with a total around 1.6 W/m2 - i.e. all of the extra stuff we've put in over the years pretty much cancels out in the global mean. So just using CO2 gives you a good estimate of what has been happening (though of course you need all the other forcings to properly get the full 20th century variability and some of the key regional changes.) - gavin]

    Comment by ryan — 12 Oct 2005 @ 8:33 PM

  217. Ok, that is very helpful, but leads me to some other questions:

    I do not know exactly how much money has been spent in the US on developing our scientific understanding of the climate system since 1987, but I believe it is many billions of dollars, yes?

    Given that our best bet of climate sensitivity has remained the same (1.5 – 4.5 C) for over 30 years with all new information “pretty much cancelling out”, at one point do we begin to focus this investment more on mitigation or another approaches to climate change in general? at one point do we have enough information, and who makes that decision?

    I am not suggesting that research on longterm climate should be discontinued, but with no change in consensus after 20 years of modeling, maybe it is time for a new approach?

    i feel that sometimes there is confusion between “climate science” and “the issue of climate change” (a much broader concept that includes climate science, societal values, international AND domestic policy, economics, etc. etc.). Simply spending billions of dollars on honing our seemingly immovable estimates addresses only one tiny aspect of the latter.

    Thanks again

    Ryan

    Comment by ryan — 12 Oct 2005 @ 9:42 PM

  218. Re #217:

    > Simply spending billions of dollars on honing our seemingly immovable estimates addresses only one tiny aspect of the latter.

    I think the misapprehension that this is all there is to climate science is all too common. Certainly it’s all most people hear about. I would hope that broadening that perspective is part of what this site is for.

    The lion’s share of the two billion often quoted goes to NASA for deploying and supporting earth observation satellites. I believe that observing the earth is a good use of funds regardless of the climate change issue, but somehow it gets charged to us.

    There are many other issues that the remainder funds, including short-term climate prediction, theoretical meteorology, interactions between atmosphere and soil, hydrology, etc. Certainly, the field that is lumped in under the 2 billion is much broader than the climate model development community and its policy-driven experiments, which I would guess amounts to less than 5% of the total.

    Climate science is an extremely valuable pursuit in itself. It lies at the cutting edge of what humans and their machines can manage. It is paradigmatic (sorry, I don’t care for that word but it really is) of multidisciplinary science. As such, it has a lot to offer the development of science as a whole. Remember that “chaos” thing, for instance?

    Certainly the fact that it has policy implications shouldn’t count *against* climate science in funding, should it?

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 12 Oct 2005 @ 11:26 PM

  219. Sashka:

    Re: 211. The reason why AGW should be a concern on destruction grounds is that the current pattern of development worldwide – i.e. where our cities are, where we farm, the types of building constructed – are adapted to local sea level and climate conditions. Some dramatic cases will involve the swamping of entire cities, but more subtle effects include cities losing their water supply. This is a highly destructive process. Even though adaptation is possible – for example farmers changing their crop mix – whilst the climate is changing, there is great uncertainty as to exactly what they should plant. To summarise; any given constant climate is fine; change is bad. Rapid change – which is something that is observed in the climate record – would be catastrophic.

    With regard to linking extreme events to AGW, see other discussions; it would be fair to link a proportion of hurrricane damage to AGW. This is not an all or nothing proposition.

    Re: 215. I judge skeptics (or, indeed, any participant in the climate debates) according to their willingness to admit error, willingness to learn, and quality of argument. I try and apply this to both sides; climate scientists are usually fine, but the more committed environmentalists frequently appear to hear only what they want to.

    Comment by Andrew Dodds — 13 Oct 2005 @ 4:14 AM

  220. Re 211

    My point (in 196) was that not acting to reduce GHG emissions will bring on the catastrophe sooner, impacting more people here today, and those not yet born. Young married couples are planning to have families right now. They should be considering global warming. Most are not because they continue to be mislead by others. If they had the latest information, I think most would limit their family size, or not have children. If I were one of them, I would consider it my responsibility to not have children who will likely have to live in an environment with horrific conditions, made worse by those who don’t care enough to change their excessive burning of fossil fuels in any way.

    Your comment about the excerpt from Rolling Stone tells me that you misunderstood. I suggest you review the entire article before making additional remarks on that.

    The Lost City – Was It Global Warming? (Rolling Stone)
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/_/id/7661162?pageid=rs.Politics&pager
    egion=single1&rnd=1129096734590&has-player=unknown

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 13 Oct 2005 @ 8:49 AM

  221. re 218

    “Certainly the fact that it has policy implications shouldn’t count *against* climate science in funding, should it?”

    I completely agree. There are many good reasons to fund climate science.

    But the need for a policy outcome is not one of them. Given the last 30 years there is no reason to believe, from a policy perspective, that spending more money on climate change will lead to any more certainty about climate sensitivity. Nor is there any reason to believe that such certainty (were it achieved) would somehow answer the question of what we should do about it. The nature of the debate might change, but it would be no less polarized.

    Does climate science get funded at $2 billion a year because of its valuable contributions to concepts like chaos theory, or because politicians think (or like to tell us) that it will solve the problem of climate change? In the case of the latter, only a shift in thinking (and funding?) will lead to new approaches to that particular problem.

    i suppose we are fairly off topic now…

    Comment by ryan — 13 Oct 2005 @ 10:48 AM

  222. Re: 219

    95% of the problem is overdevelopment and overbuilding in places where nothing should have been built in the first place (IMHO). GW is almost irrelevant. See Robert Korty’s article for more:

    http://grist.org/comments/soapbox/2005/09/07/korty/index.html

    Last sentence is 100% on the money.

    Comment by Sashka — 13 Oct 2005 @ 11:26 AM

  223. Re: 220

    How much sooner? A week? A year? 100 years?

    I’ve read the whole RS article. Science-wise it is content-free.

    Comment by Sashka — 13 Oct 2005 @ 12:05 PM

  224. Re: 212 (Response to William)

    Maybe I wasn’t very clear. I’ll try to clarify what I meant. The context is the possibility of the catastrophic SLR due to GW. The last sentence was to note that catastrophic SLR won’t come from thermal expansion (per IPCC). Therefore if catastrophic SLR is to occur it will come from melting. But where? First of all, we can’t predict regionally so we can’t really say. Antarctica is by far the most dangerous but it goes the opposite way for now. So the likeliest source is Greenland (you are right) but it doesn’t have enough ice to enable catastrophic SLR. Does it make more sense?

    [Response: [NB. SLR= Sea level rise] – Two things, IPCC discussed both the (rather predictiable) thermal exapansion and also the (more uncertain) issue of ice sheet melting. It makes sense to separate out the two components given the different degrees of uncertainty. That doesn’t mean that the IPCC thinks the possibility of ice sheet melt is small, just that there is a large uncertainty in how likely it is. Secondly, there is plenty of ice available to cause significant (which could be catastrophic) sea level rise. Only the central East Antarctic ice sheet is accumulating (which is expected). The margins of all ice sheets (including Greenland) are in retreat, and accumulation is negative over almost the whole of the West Antarctic sheet. At the last interglacial, there was probably 5 to 6 meters higher sea level, of which most came from Greenland, but a significant chunk from Antartica as well. It was not that much warmer then than now, and so continued warming is likely to put us in a similar position. The actual mechanics of the whole thing are a hot topic (basal lubrication effects, ice shelve supports, ice stream variability etc.) and so actual predictions are in short supply. But don’t conclude from that that there is no potential problem. -gavin]

    Comment by Sashka — 13 Oct 2005 @ 12:17 PM

  225. Re: #224, “So the likeliest source is Greenland (you are right) but it doesn’t have enough ice to enable catastrophic SLR. Does it make more sense?”

    No, it doesn’t make sense. It is incorrect, as well.

    From: http://www.earth-policy.org/Books/PlanB_ch4_climatechange.pdf

    “The prospect of much warmer Arctic summers is of concern because Greenland, which is three times the size of Texas, lies partly within the Arctic Circle. An article in Science reports that if the entire ice sheet on this huge island were to melt, it would raise sea level 7 meters (23 feet). Such a melting, even under the most rapid warming scenario, would be measured in centuries, not years. Nonetheless, if the Greenland ice sheet does disappear, hundreds of coastal cities will be below sea level, as will the rice-growing river floodplains and deltas of Asia. Many island countries will cease to exist.”

    That would certainly be a catastrophic result of climate warming.

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 13 Oct 2005 @ 1:10 PM

  226. Re #221

    In my opinion, climate should be studied because it’s intrinsically valuable to study it. Climate should be modeled because it’s intrinsically useful to model it.

    Whether it’s possible or not to get good regional climate predictions is an open question. This is a legitimate utilitarian policy-driven application of contemporary climate science, and is a major focus of ongoing effort. It is not clear whether it will work out or not, but the question is still open enough to pursue.

    If we can understand regional impacts we can go a long way toward reducing the impact of the climate change we are already committed to. Regional climate prediction can contribute directly to mitigation. Who needs to worry about drought? About floods? About storms? About floods? Different regions will face different problems, and will require different civil engineering strategies.

    Also, we do need as many people as possible who understand the state of the art as thoroughly as possible, so that in forums like this one information isn’t drowned out by misinformation (not to mention deliberate disinformation). This is an important role of the climate science community.

    These are among the reasons to continue funding climate science. I suggest it should not be funded *less* than it would have been in the absence of policy controversy, nor *less* than the amount spent studying the atmosphere of other planets.

    However, I agree that justifying a big budget line item on the grounds that “further research is needed” to drive greenhouse gas emissions policy is not justifiable.

    The global temperature sensitivity to anthropogenic forcings is probably known about as well as it will be known for the next few decades. It’s unlikely that further research will narrow or change it enough to make a huge difference to the policy picture. I think that’s a sound observation.

    As I see it we already have a clear picture that the Kyoto protocol is inadequate as a final policy, that it is useful only as a first step toward very serious changes that will be necessary. We are so far from that sort of a sensible emissions policy that fine tuning the science is not relevant to that question in the short run. Maybe in some happy future, once we get the costs and risks into a reasonable balance, fine tuned science will be needed to fine tune the policy, but at present there is little that “further research” can offer in that regard.

    “Further research on this controversial question is being generously funded” is used as an excuse to avoid coping with the emissions side of the problem. Among other unfortunate consequences, this results in institutional pressure to be as inconclusive as possible in public communications. The scientific community ought to have the spine to avoid complicity in this, but it does not always manage it.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 13 Oct 2005 @ 1:46 PM

  227. Re #223

    The Rolling Stone article is not totally content free. It has this nice observation.

    “You might think of the climate as a drunk,” writes Richard Alley, a paleoclimatologist at Pennsylvania State University. “When left alone, it sits; when forced to move, it staggers.”

    That analogy is both memorable and worth remembering.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 13 Oct 2005 @ 1:59 PM

  228. Re: 224, 225

    I stand corrected on the size of the Greenland ice sheet, thanks to Gavin and Steven. (For some reason, a number an order of magnitude maller stuck in my head.) It would indeed be a catastrophic result of climate warming.

    My other points remain:

    1. We cannot yet make a regional forecast, especially for the centuries that it would take the Greenland ice sheet to melt.

    2. Major part of Greenland ice sheet melted in the past without any help from humans. (Actually, this is Gavin’s remark.) Obviously, this is a part of glacial-interglacial cycle. While GHW probably will accelerate the process, we don’t know by how much.

    3. It is not clear what can we do about it (how much the proposed mitigation will help).

    Comment by Sashka — 13 Oct 2005 @ 2:04 PM

  229. Re 217, 218 funding for climatology etc.

    NSF reports federal funding for all environmental science (earth/ocean/atmosphere) at about $3.5 billion/year – up from about $2 billion/year in real terms in the 70s and 80s. It’s not clear to me how the budgets really add up (because they are reported by different sources) but the USGCRP spends about $2b/yr, of which satellites consume about half.

    The Earth Observing System is regarded with some consternation – NASA wants to slash it to fund Mars exploration and it’s eating up a huge chunk of climatology budgets. On the other hand, the cost of a more comprehensive system could be much greater (see Stormy Forecast for Climate Science in Science).

    In addition to satellites, the money supports about 750 phd degrees/year and there are about 20,000 phds in the workforce (only a fraction of those are doing climate work) vs. about 100,000 physicists.

    To put the $ in perspective, remember that damage estimates and mitigation cost estimates are both at least an order of magnitude greater.

    Given that our best bet of climate sensitivity has remained the same (1.5 – 4.5 C) for over 30 years with all new information “pretty much cancelling out”, at one point do we begin to focus this investment more on mitigation or another approaches to climate change in general? at one point do we have enough information, and who makes that decision?

    That new information has been cancelling out could be taken as a sign that the original theory was basically right. Otherwise it’s likely that some major negative feedback, like Lindzen’s adaptive iris, or natural forcing, like solar output, would have turned up by now.

    I think the reason that focus hasn’t shifted to mitigation or other options is that skeptics (including the current administration) have set the bar impossibly high, requiring total scientific certainty on impacts in order to justify costly action. This is a parlor trick because the mitigation cost estimates are at least as uncertain (last time I checked, economics still wasn’t a hard science) and because emissions are more irreversible than mitigation costs.

    Crichton uses the same parlor trick in his description of arsenic policy:

    My point here is that based on the current data on arsenic, a good case could be made for 50, 20, 10 or 5 parts per billion. We don’t have decisive data telling us what to do. We know the cost differential between setting a level at 20 ppb and 3 ppb is about three quarters of a billion dollars.

    The argument that I would make is that simply because we don’t have the information is not a reason for us to think we can’t get it. We might reduce contentiousness if we set a policy and simultaneously initiated an epidemiological study to tell us if the policy was correct.

    Now, in the case of arsenic, this is going to be a long-term study. Arsenic cancers develop late in life; many are not fatal, so we’re talking about a hundred year study. But so what? And if it costs you a million dollars, it’s still a bargain. Because it’s a lot better to spend a million and set your level at a certain higher point and review it again in 20 or 30 years, than it is to commit to 750 million dollars now. …”

    It’s not easy to dismiss 20 or 30 years of sunk health effects, ignore asymmetries in cost and benefit assessment, neglect cost-reducing learning curves, etc. with just a wave of the hands, but Crichton pulls it off. There’s no doubt that he is adept at making technical subjects sound good to the layman; too bad he wastes his efforts on making a bunch of hooey sound good.

    If we really want to pursue a learning strategy for climate, as Crichton seems to suggest, we should be doing more climate research and nontrivial mitigation experiments at the same time.

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 13 Oct 2005 @ 2:10 PM

  230. Re: 227

    Climate was left alone (by humans) for millions of years yet it fluctuated widely.

    [Response:Trees fall down all the time too. It doesn't imply that clear cutting doesn't exist. -gavin]

    [Response:Despite the evidence for rapid regional climate changes during certain past transitional periods (e.g. the Younger Dryas), there is no evidence that global mean temperature changes of the amplitude seen in the past century have occured on centennial or shorter timescales in the past. Moreover, greenhouse gas concentration increases of the magnitude observed over the past two centuries have in the past occured only taken place on timescales of millions of years. -mike]

    Comment by Sashka — 13 Oct 2005 @ 2:46 PM

  231. 227, 230:

    If we treat the atmosphere/hydrosphere as the climate system, do we know of any wide climate fluctuation that was unforced?

    The Younger Dryas was forced by the undamming of Lake Aggasiz. The glacial cycle of the past million years was forced by long-term orbital variations. The K-T boundary was (almost certainly according to my most informed source on the matter) caused by an asteroid impact. Most of the other long-term fluctuations are apparently connected to (tectonically forced) greenhouse gas variations and continental configurations.

    Climate was surely unforced by humans until recently. Even so, most of its changes appear to have been forced by natural events extrinsic to the climate system.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 13 Oct 2005 @ 3:43 PM

  232. Re: 230

    Gavin: I agree with you but not with Richard Alley.

    Mike: I agree with you too but with the caveat. We don’t know everything about past climate variability on centenntial or shorter timescales. Moreover, I’m not sure how much is knowable about past climates on short timescales. Therefore, while your “no evidence” statement is probably (a caveat reflecting my incomplete knowledge) correct, it doesn’t follow that the current rate of change is actually unique.

    Comment by Sashka — 13 Oct 2005 @ 3:59 PM

  233. Re: #230, “Climate was left alone (by humans) for millions of years yet it fluctuated widely.”

    And now that our activities are directly affecting the world’s climate, this fluctuation will exacerbate, and not just on a million-year time scale, but on a century- and decadal-scale (and if things go really badly, possibly on an annual-scale).

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 13 Oct 2005 @ 4:17 PM

  234. Re: 231

    Not necessarily. If we were in the cooling phase then it will be moderated or reversed. If we were in the warming phase then the trend will be exacerbated. The scale is likely to be closer to centennial because it takes us over 100 years to double CO2. In any event, Richard Alley’s statement is indefensible.

    [Response: Not so. As a surrogate for the real world in the absence of forcings, climate models do tend to a stable quasi-equilibria (with some intrinsic variability of course, but with a stable climate). Since we cannot examine the real world in the absence of forcings (there is always solar variability, volcanic eruptions, orbital forcing and random events like asteriod impacts), it is a valid working hypothesis to assume the models are reasonable. Whether this will remain so as more and more geo-biochemical/vegetation feedbacks are included remains to be seen, but my forecast is that it will. Whether ice dam breaks or ice sheets are forcings or feedbacks is more of a semantic issue than a real one. If your model doesn't include the physics of ice sheets (i.e. they are fixed), than changes need to be imposed as a forcing. If your model simulates the growth of ice sheets, then they will be a feedback. Since we are talking about the models that are being used today to model the next 50 or so years and that those models don't generally include ice sheet models, it is correct to describe ice sheet changes as forcings in this case. It is not worth making a federal case out of though. -gavin]

    Comment by Sashka — 13 Oct 2005 @ 4:26 PM

  235. re funding global warming science:

    Seems like we have two contrasting views here. Ryan, in 217 and 221, is suggesting we may not need to fund it at currently levels because it already so good, so predictive, it doesn’t really need to improve (from a policy point of view). Whereas many skeptics consider it so bad as to be useless (from a policy point of view). Guess there’s no winning.

    One point I would at to responses to 217: just because the CO2 forcing alone came close to predicting the temperature anomaly for 1998 (the other, smaller forcings apparently cancelling each other out), that doesn’t mean this will be the case for all years. For example, without understanding impacts of other forcings, predicting the effects of large volcanic eruption would not be possible. Etc.

    re AGW costs versus mitigation costs: i hope realclimate will reconsider its policy of limiting discussion on this topic. I realize you are not experts in this, but perhaps you could have a separate post written / moderated by someone expert in this. There certainly is a dearth of decent information on this topic, and it is plenty interesting – not to mention important – in its own right. Moreover, we can have lots of good fun applying our understanding (in my case limited) of feedbacks and chaos to economic modelling.

    Comment by Dan Allan — 13 Oct 2005 @ 4:35 PM

  236. Re: 231

    The Younger Dryas was forced by the undamming of Lake Aggasiz.

    In my book, it’s not forcing per se, it’s an intrinsic source of variability; I can call it intrinsic forcing for brevity. What caused Little Ice Age and Medeival Warming? Whatever it was, it’s most likely to be intrinsic.

    [Response:With regard to the LIA and MWP, this is clearly not correct. As we have discussed several times elsewhere on this site, studies employing model simulations of the past millennium have been extremely successful in reproducing many of the details evident in paleoclimate reconstructions of this interval as a forced response of the climate to natural (primarly volcanic and solar) and in more recent centuries, anthropogenic, radiative changes. This is true both with respect to hemispheric-mean temperature changes and spatial patterns of climate change (see our previous discussions of this precise point here (see 4th paragraph and figure 2), here (see 8th paragraph), and here (see final paragraph). -mike]

    The glacial cycle of the past million years was forced by long-term orbital variations.

    Why not before that? What’s so special about last 5 million years?

    Even so, most of its changes appear to have been forced by natural events extrinsic to the climate system.

    I’ll agree to accept Milankovich and even plate tectonics as extrinsic. But not the ice sheets freezing/melting.

    Comment by Sashka — 13 Oct 2005 @ 4:37 PM

  237. Excerpt from Rolling Stone (208)
    ————————————-
    Katrina should cure us of the happy delusion that we can easily adapt to global warming.

    Comments by Sashka (211)
    It is a delusion to link an individual weather event to GW. No such connection was or can be scientifically established.

    Comments by Sashka (223)
    I’ve read the whole RS article. Science-wise it is content-free.

    My reply to Sashka:
    You seem to be having a debate with yourself. Rolling Stone has a wide audience of non-scientists. The author of the RS article did not make the connection which you implied (211), nor did anyone besides you imply that the article was scientific.

    The Rolling Stone article concludes:
    —————————————
    The real message of Katrina is not that big winds blow down houses. It’s that on the Greenhouse Planet, we all live in New Orleans.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 13 Oct 2005 @ 5:38 PM

  238. Re #236 (Sashka): Consider the implications of this latest research just published in Science. If CO2 changes drive both ice ages and SSTs, and we are pumping CO2 into the air at a faster rate than naturally possible, don’t you think there’s cause for alarm?

    Link Between Tropical Warming and Greenhouse Gases Stronger Than Ever, Say Scientists

    October 13, 2005

    (Santa Barbara, Calif.) – New evidence from climate records of the past provides some of the strongest indications yet of a direct link between tropical warmth and higher greenhouse gas levels, say scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The present steady rise in tropical temperatures due to global warming will have a major impact on global climate and could intensify destructive hurricanes like Katrina and Rita.

    The new evidence linking past tropical ocean temperatures to levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases is published in this week’s Science Express, the on-line publication of the journal Science. The authors are Martin Medina-Elizalde, graduate student in the Department of Earth Science and the Interdepartmental Program in Marine Science at UC Santa Barbara, and David Lea, professor in UCSB’s Department of Earth Science and the Marine Science Institute.

    The link between increased atmospheric greenhouse gas and global temperatures underlies the theory of global warming, explained the authors. This link can be established by computer climate models or modern observations. Another way to study the link is through paleoclimate observations where past climate is reconstructed through natural archives. This latest study is based on such paleoclimate observations; the scientists analyzed the chemical composition of fossil plankton shells from a deep sea core in the equatorial Pacific.

    “The relationship between tropical climate and greenhouse gases is particularly critical because tropical regions receive the highest proportion of solar output and act as a heat engine for the rest of the earth,” said Lea.

    Modern observations of tropical sea surface temperature indicate a rise of one to two degrees Fahrenheit over the last 50 years, a trend consistent with rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to fossil fuel combustion, according to the authors. The paleoclimate evidence from this new study supports the attribution of the tropical temperature trend to the ever-increasing greenhouse gas burden in the atmosphere.

    The research described in this week’s article demonstrates that over the last 1.3 million years, sea surface temperatures in the heart of the western tropical Pacific were controlled by the waxing and waning of the atmospheric greenhouse effect. The largest climate mode shift over this time interval, occurring ~950,000 years before the present (the mid-Pleistocene transition), has previously been attributed to changes in the pattern and frequency of ice sheets.

    The new research suggests instead that this shift is due to a change in the oscillation frequency of atmospheric carbon dioxide abundances, a hypothesis that can be directly tested by deep drilling on the Antarctic Ice Cap. If proved correct, this theory would suggest that relatively small, naturally occurring fluctuations in greenhouse gases are the master variable that has driven global climate change on time scales of ten thousand to one million years.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 14 Oct 2005 @ 4:44 AM

  239. Re: 236

    Mike: Correct me if I’m wrong, but it was my impression that the scientists haven’t entirely settled all issues regarding solar forcing in the last century. First we read about modest increase in irradiation, then about solar dimming. Given that, I’m rather skeptical regarding what we really know about solar irradiation 800 years ago. You could possibly explain LIA by abnormal volcanic activity, I’d buy that. But if you want to explain MW by cranking up solar forcing, you need solid reasons. BTW, I wasn’t able to download the review paper (Schmidt et al, 2004) as Acrobat dies immediately on both of my computers.

    Gavin: Currently, your comment appears in 234 but it is clearly meant for 236. It’s true that we can’t observe real world in the absense of variable forcings. Therefore it’s best (especially for a scientist) not to say what you can’t prove. Are models reasonable? “Reasonable” is not a quantitative statement. The answer is not “yes” or “no”, but “to an extent”. But you can’t say that the Earth’s climate would hang around in a stable quasi-equilibrium for a million years if variable forcings would suddenly disappear because that’s how the models behave. The models need a lot more validation before you could claim things like that.

    WRT ice sheets, it’s more about time scales than about semantics. If you are making a 50 years forecast then of course ice sheets can be considered as forcings. If you are talking about climate variability on the scale of 100,000 years then it’s clearly a feedback.

    Comment by Sashka — 14 Oct 2005 @ 10:25 AM

  240. Re: 238

    First of all, I never said that there is no reason to be alarmed. There is. It doesn’t follow that current mitigation ideas are any good.

    As for the Science paper, I’m confused. I thought we know already from ice cores that CO2 at times lags behind the T. For example, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=13

    Comment by Sashka — 14 Oct 2005 @ 10:34 AM

  241. >> The glacial cycle of the past million years was forced by long-term orbital variations.

    > Why not before that? What’s so special about last 5 million years?

    I don’t know the latest thinking on this.

    As far as I know, the leading theory is that the long-term decline of CO2 since the Eocene might have crossed a threshhold where perennial glaciers become stable. (This would seem to be consistent with Alley’s analogy.)

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 14 Oct 2005 @ 11:02 AM

  242. My thinking regarding climate changes (500 ma to present) has been that whenever greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations were high, GHGs drove climate changes. Whenever GHGs were low, other factors may have triggered climate changes. (High GHGs assumed when CO2 above 350 ppm.)

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 14 Oct 2005 @ 12:03 PM

  243. Re: 237

    RC also has mostly the audience of non-scientists. The content, however, is scientific.

    Comment by Sashka — 14 Oct 2005 @ 12:17 PM

  244. re 239:

    Sashka,

    Not sure why I go on, but here goes:

    It seems to me that idea that climate would likely hold steady were there no change in forcings could be reasonably inferred from climate data even in the absence of a long period of steady forcings.

    Let’s say a period exists where, for example, three variables are holding steady and one is changing, and the climate change appears to have, in that period, a fairly direct relationship to the one changing variable, it would surely lead one to suggest that, had this variable not moved, the climate probably would have remained steady. One instance of this wouldn’t prove much. But if the data repeatedly showed proportional changes in climate associated with specific changes in forcings – which I believe is what the data do show – then it seems to me that a reasonable inference can be drawn.

    Comment by Dan Allan — 14 Oct 2005 @ 2:45 PM

  245. Re: 244

    I don’t believe we can always reliably differentiate between forcings and responses. CO2 is the best example.

    Comment by Sashka — 14 Oct 2005 @ 3:13 PM

  246. Re: #245, “I don’t believe we can always reliably differentiate between forcings and responses. CO2 is the best example.”

    This statement is without any merit, whatsoever. The Keeling Curve shows a steady increase in CO2 content, which correlates with the global temperature increase very well.

    How could a CO2 increase be a response and not a forcing? About the only way it could be is if ocean temperatures rose to the point where the waters could not absorb any more CO2, but actually began to emit CO2. Also, dealing with the forests as a “carbon sink,” deforestation and other factors may have rendered trees as a net carbon emitter, rather than a sink.

    Where did you get that one, Sashka?

    [Response: To pre-empt some mutual incomprehension, note that industrial CO2 rises are certainly an anthropgenic forcing and not a response (see here and here), but clearly CO2 changes over glacial-interglacial cycles is both a response (to Milankovitch-driven changes) and a forcing (since the additional radiative forcing from CO2 is about a third of that needed to keep the ice ages as cold as they are - see here). Therefore there is no contradiction with something being both a forcing and a response - though in different periods the balance may well be different. -gavin]

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 15 Oct 2005 @ 6:09 PM

  247. I spent two or three hours yesterday evening reading my way down this entire thread. Even for a crass layman, it’s been an interesting dialogue. The conversation seems to have progressed constructively from what was, at the start, a standard believers vs. sceptics stand-off to something more useful. If I can presumptively precis where the discussion stands now, it seems to me we have something like:

    “Okay, something supra-natural clearly IS happening to Earth’s climate. The question is what – if anything – we can or even should try to do about it.”

    The moderators have already let some fairly wildly off-topic diversions pass (a critique on the intellectual capacity of actors?), so let me try another:

    Our ancestors became bipedal perhaps five million years ago, but it took them the next four million years to master fire. 300,000 or so years ago they came up with stone-tipped spears. It’s been just 5,000 years since homo sapiens figured out the wheel, two or three hundred since we invented useful engines. A little over 100 years ago we finally came up with a practical lightbulb and started to utilise radio waves. Then, 60 years ago our greatest brains ‘mastered’ nuclear fission and 25 years later they put us on the moon. Today, global diffusion of the internet and of optical fibre have made possible this discourse.

    So, two conclusions suggest themselves. Either Outcome A; our exponentially growing rate of technological change will quickly lead us to exert such devastating impact on our planet that we’ll be extinct within a few generations (apologies to the guy who thought his kids would live 10,000 years), or Outcome B; our exponentially growing rate of technological change will quickly lead us to effective measures to control the global climate.

    Nothing new there of course. But which is it to be? Is a choice even necessary? The collapse of numerous pre-industrial civilisations suggests we could fail (or perhaps are even bound to). But since we ‘got’ technology we’ve actually done pretty well. Look at disasters we’ve averted or overcome: the Dust Bowl; the threat of Silent Spring; nuclear Armageddon; the population explosion in China (even globally?); and on a far smaller scale, I’d argue also Chernobyl and New Orleans. Not without losses, of course. But it seems to be human nature and hence also the nature of our political leadership to step up to the plate and do the right thing when the ‘clear and present danger’ is finally seen.

    Kyoto was a first step, and many more will be needed before consensus is achieved. No doubt more drastic ‘incidents’ will occur, and many more people will die. But the first juddering signs of a direction change in the global juggernaut can already be seen. Pollution emissions have been vastly reduced in the most advanced nations since the 1970s. Japan may serve as a perfect example. No doubt China and other developing countries will follow as their economies advance, their citizens’ voices grow and they become better able to afford the ‘luxury’ of environmental controls. As noted elsewhere in this thread, rising oil prices are already spurring the development of alternative energy technologies – even (some of) the oil companies have seen the light. For all the angst devoted to the perceived obtuseness or even perfidy of the USA’s current administration, I’d say fear not – they just need a little more prodding from Mother Nature and/or their citizens, and if that doesn’t work, don’t worry, a new bunch will be along soon anyway.

    As a layman, I’m not qualified to even participate in this discussion. I am permitted to read your exchanges, however, and what I’d like to read is your thoughts on some of the above. In particular, from your eye-of-the-storm point of view, do you see the inevitable, inexorable process evolving that I do, or am I being a complete Pollyanna?

    Comment by John Dickison — 16 Oct 2005 @ 5:11 AM

  248. Well, the whole question is one of time scales. If the time scale necessary for us to get kicked hard enough to take action to prevent the death of our civilization is longer than the time scale on which we have to take action, then we can’t wait for the prodding from Mother Nature. Or, at least, we need to pay close enough attention and make enough noise that the prodding happens when the effects are still subtle. But the tendency to discount subtle-seeming effects works against us. E.g. “Two degrees Celsius? What’s that to us?”

    Industrial civilization hasn’t been around for all that long, and there’s not really a lot of data to go on. I hope that the corrective effects you’ve mentioned are enough but I am not entirely sanguine.

    Comment by Matt McIrvin — 16 Oct 2005 @ 1:02 PM

  249. Re: 247

    The question is what – if anything – we can or even should try to do about it

    This is my question indeed. The trouble is that for most people here there is no question. They see the problem and the want to act now in hope (e.g. 248) to fix it.

    My immediate objections are not as much about the uncertainty of the climate forecast but mostly about the economic uncertainty and attainability of the stated goals.

    [Response: Then you're at the wrong blog. This one is about climate science - William]

    On a “macro” level, the consequences of CO2 build-up will not, in my view, be the principal challenge for the humanity in this century. The principal challenge will be posed by the upcoming energy crisis. My hope is that we’ll learn to reduce emissions in the process of dealing with the scarcity of fossil fuels. I believe the economics of the energy-starved world won’t leave us any choices other than to become more efficient. A market-based solution is likely to be better than whatever the bureacrats can concieve.

    Comment by Sashka — 16 Oct 2005 @ 4:09 PM

  250. Re: #249, “I believe the economics of the energy-starved world won’t leave us any choices other than to become more efficient.”

    Shouldn’t that be “energy-wasteful world” instead of “energy-starved world?”

    We have easily the technology to make our machines and lifestyles far more energy-efficient, but political pressure (mainly from the energy industries) prevent governments (at least in North America) from actually setting targets which will make meaningful progress (i.e. mass-hybridisation of vehicles, increasing mass transit, ridding the world of gas-guzzlers, and greatly increasing mass wind and solar electricity generation) and helping to minimise the effects of the 21st century’s greatest problems, climate change.

    By making these changes, perhaps there will be enough energy for developing nations, as well as ourselves. Without it, we’ll all be in for more than just an energy pinch.

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 16 Oct 2005 @ 5:57 PM

  251. Re 247

    A ‘clear and present danger’ IS seen by many, but human nature and the political leadership do not have the will to step up to the plate and do the right thing, and… global warming is on an entirely different playing field.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 16 Oct 2005 @ 9:01 PM

  252. Re #249 (Sashka): The scenario of fossil fuel shortages forcing us to reform our carbon-emitting ways before anything really horrible happens to climate is an optimistic one, but I don’t think it’s right. A more likely scenario if we do nothing is that emissions will continue at a rapid pace as oil from sand and shale plus coal substantially replace oil and natural gas, with the consequence that we will have dug ourselves into a deeper hole in terms of having sufficient resources to reduce emissions sufficiently without major disruption to our society. If we start now, the transition will be far less painful. Unfortunately, our society can’t even get it together to overcome the resistance of the fossil fuel industry to minimal changes like switching to CF light bulbs.

    Regarding using free markets as a tool to protect the environment, the record isn’t good. Free markets may from time to time benefit the environment, but such effects are incidental and are the consequence of actions taken for reasons related to profit. Even where market mechanisms have had some success, it has been under a government-enforced scheme.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 17 Oct 2005 @ 4:54 PM

  253. re 249 and 252:

    Shaska,

    here are my two cents on this off-topic:

    Not all problems are solvable by the free market. Consider pollutant A, which everyone expends into the environment. Each person’s contribution to overall A pollution is so slight – given that there are 6 billion others out there – that, guided purely by informed self-interest of the sort the market is based upon, he has no incentive to reduce his emission of pollutant A. In fact, it is *against* his own informed self-interest to reduce his own A emissions, even if he is highly concerned about the environment. So even if private companies were to produce more-expensive products that did not use A, a traditional economist would conclude that no right-minded person would choose to buy such a product.

    In this respect, pollution-control has a game-theory-like aspect.

    The rational actor is only interested in reducing his own pollution if he knows others will be required to do so as well, i.e., if there is a law that requires it. Without such a law, there is no reason to believe A emissions would ever be controlled.

    Comment by Dan Allan — 18 Oct 2005 @ 12:17 PM

  254. Folks, I hope you are all enjoying the conversation. Isn’t it fun when you can say all you want but your counterparty cannot respond?

    Re: 253.

    Without much hope to see it posted, I’ll still say that your logic, Dann, is flawed. Just look at Europe and observe that they drive much smaller cars than us. Guess why.

    [Guys, this is getting way off topic. No more posts on this please! -moderator]

    Comment by Sashka — 18 Oct 2005 @ 1:42 PM

  255. Now, class, just to prove to the moderator that we can stay on topic, let’s all repeat after that nice Dr. Gray (paraphrasing here but I think accurately): “All this hurricane activity is part of a natural cycle. It has nothing to do with global warming. Even if there is some global warming effect, and believe me there isn’t, no particular hurricane can be shown to be affected by it anyway. So you’d all better just stop thinking about any hurricane – global warming connection.” To which Fred would add (exact quote): “Wiilllmmaaa!!!”

    Wilma has blown up from a tropical storm into a very strong Category Five hurricane faster than you can say “Andrew.” I understand it has some other unique characteristics (e.g., the tightest eye ever for a cat 5) that make its behavior a little hard to predict. Key West’s long run of luck may be about to end, with heavily populated areas of south Florida nearly certain to be struck. It might weaken a bit (hard to say with that weird eye) and/or it might manage to stay in the Florida straits and miss a landfall altogether. Maybe. Evacuation in the time available will be problematic.

    MIAMI, Florida (CNN) — Hurricane Wilma has strengthened into an “extremely dangerous” Category 5 hurricane, with sustained maximum winds of 175 mph, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday.

    The hurricane’s minimum pressure is 892 millibars — the lowest pressure observed in 2005.

    Forecasters warn that the storm could possibly slam into southwestern Florida by this weekend.

    At 2:30 a.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center reported an Air Force plane had found 175 mph winds with higher gusts in Wilma.

    Wilma “has become an extremely dangerous Category Five hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale,” the center said in an advisory.

    The storm’s minimum pressure of 892 millibars “is equivalent to the minimum pressure of the 1935 Labor Day hurricane in the Florida Keys,” the advisory added.

    The storm has already left seven to 10 people dead in Haitian mudslides caused by heavy rains, government officials told Reuters news agency.

    The latest in a slew of devastating storms to sock the Gulf region, Wilma became a hurricane Tuesday — tying the record for both most hurricanes in a season with 12 and most named storms at 21.

    Just nine hours after becoming a hurricane, Wilma’s wind speeds had jumped from 75 mph to 100 mph. Then, within two hours, the winds intensified from 110 to 150 mph. A short time later, its winds had increased to 175 mph.

    At 2 a.m. EDT, the center of the storm was located 170 miles south-southwest of Grand Cayman Island and about 400 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico. It was moving west-northwest at nearly 8 mph and is expected to turn to the northwest over the next 24 hours, the hurricane center said.

    A Category 5 hurricane can cause a storm surge of more than 18 feet above normal.

    Projections for Wilma’s path suggest the storm may skirt the western tip of Cuba on Friday, possibly as a Category 4 storm with winds of greater than 130 mph, before curving eastward and barreling toward the southwestern Florida coast.

    “All interests in the Florida Keys and the Florida peninsula should closely monitor the progress of Wilma,” the NHC said.

    Hurricane-force winds extend outward about 15 miles from the eye, and tropical-storm-force winds stretch up to 155 miles from the center.

    Cuba has issued a hurricane watch for the provinces of Matanzas westward through Pinar del Rio and for the Isle of Youth, according to the hurricane center. Late Tuesday, Mexico extended a hurricane watch for the Yucatan Peninsula. The watch area now stretches from Punta Gruesa to Cabo Catoche. A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions, including winds of at least 74 mph, are possible within 36 hours.

    A 150-mile stretch of the Honduran coast is under a tropical storm warning, and the Cayman Islands are under tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch.

    The hurricane center said Cuba could get anywhere from 10 to 15 inches of rain in Wilma’s wake, with some areas getting socked with as much as 25 inches. Additional rainfall accumulations of of up to 10 inches, with up to 15 inches possible in some areas, was possible across the Cayman Islands and Jamaica through Thursday. Across the Yucatan Peninsula, rainfall of up to 6 inches was possible, with up to 12 inches in some areas.

    Wilma is the 21st named storm of the 2005 hurricane season and the 12th to reach hurricane status. Of those, five have developed into major hurricanes.

    The only other time 12 hurricanes have been recorded in the Atlantic was in 1969, according to the hurricane center. The most major hurricanes in a year was eight, in 1950.

    Wilma is also the final name on the 2005 list. The hurricane center does not use certain letters of the alphabet, including X, Y and Z, because there are so few names begin with those letters.

    If any tropical storms and subsequent hurricanes form before the season ends on Nov. 30, they will be classified using the Greek alphabet, beginning with Alpha.

    If that happens, it would be the first time since the naming of storms began in 1953, according to the hurricane center.

    Reuters contributed to this report.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 19 Oct 2005 @ 4:16 AM

  256. Wilma update: As of 5:00 AM EST, Wilma is the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record. Still no global warming anywhere around those parts, no sirree Bob.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 19 Oct 2005 @ 4:59 AM

  257. Re: 255, 256

    To paraphrase the old proverb, no matter how many times you repeat “GW”, it doesn’t make a hurricane. By the end of the day, these are just words that are worth nil. There is no connection between the individual weather events and GW. The unusually strong hurricane season is explained by the huge local SST anomaly in the Western Tropical Atlantic. The possible connection to of this SST anomaly to GW is purely speculative.

    Comment by Sashka — 19 Oct 2005 @ 12:32 PM

  258. Re 257

    Clearly individual weather events are not unconnected with global climate (perform an extreme conditions thought experiment: are weather events somehow invariant to snowball earth or runaway GW conditions)?

    If you think that the cause of the SST anomaly is unknown, then you can’t disprove a GW link any more than you can prove cyclical behavior.

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 19 Oct 2005 @ 5:12 PM

  259. Re: 258

    This is the case when extreme conditions thought experiment is not helpful. The reason is that the amplitude of the SST anomaly is huge compared to global trend. Consider: the world ocean warmed up by about 0.5 C over hundred years (that’s, roughly, GW signal). The local SST anomaly is about 4 C over one year. To deduce that the latter is caused by the former requires more than handwaving. Just saying “clearly” doesn’t make it any more clear.

    The cause of the SST anomaly may not be entirely unknown. Local currents and/or cloud cover patterns must have contributed. I can’t disprove a GW link other than by pointing out that from a physical point of view this claim is as nonsensical as the groundhog routine. However, I’m not in the business of disproving everything than can ever be claimed without a reason. In science, the party that makes a statement is supposed to prove it. Otherwise it’s just hot air.

    Comment by Sashka — 19 Oct 2005 @ 6:17 PM

  260. Re 259

    In science, the party that makes a statement is supposed to prove it. Otherwise it’s just hot air.

    Right. You said, “There is no connection between the individual weather events and GW.” Absent proof, that’s hot air. Had you said, “Wilma is just one more data point that doesn’t prove a connection by itself” I wouldn’t have argued.

    I didn’t deduce that this particular SST anomaly was caused by GW. My thought experiment was intended as a counterexample to restrict the idea that there’s no connection between GW and SST anomalies. I agree that the signal hasn’t clearly emerged from the noise, but that’s not the same as no relationship. It strikes me as odd to posit a dead spot in the transfer function between GW and weather around current conditions simply because stochastic variation is hiding the real relationship.

    Stepping back from SST to currents or clouds doesn’t change anything. If some cause of the SST anomaly is known, it would be interesting to see some citations. If it really is a mystery, then I don’t see how GW is more nonsensical than other hypotheses. If I take your meaning correctly, the groundhog routine is nonsense because accumulated evidence makes it easy to reject the notion that rodent shadows are predictive of spring. That’s not a good analogy for this case.

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 19 Oct 2005 @ 7:15 PM

  261. I have an impression that we are sort of splitting hair. If we agree that Wilma has nothing to do with GW, that’s pretty good already.

    If I’ll be allowed a word on philosophy of science, I’ll add that it doesn’t matter who said it first. For lack of knowledge (or at least suggested mechanisms) to the contrary, the default is “no connection”.

    The groundhog routine is nonsense not only for lack of evidence which is sometimes imagined by biased observers. It is nonsense because there is physics behind it. Likeweise, we don’t know physics that explains how a super-strong SST anomaly can be born out of tiny backround global trend.

    [Response: Everything we said about Katrina goes for Wilma as well. -gavin]

    Comment by Sashka — 20 Oct 2005 @ 8:34 AM

  262. Shashka,

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but it seems to me your own data run somewhat counter to your argument. The ocean warmed by .5c over the last 100 years, presumably due primarily or entirely to AGW. The SST anomaly is 4c on top of the .5c. So, of the total anomaly, AGW represents roughly 1/9th contribution. Still smaller, to be sure, than natural variability, but certainly not nothing, when once considers that that each degree c represents a 15-20 mph increase in potential hurricane strength.

    Comment by Dan Allan — 20 Oct 2005 @ 10:13 AM

  263. I apologize for failing to read the prior discussion – thanks, Gavin. If you guys don’t want to listen to me nor my reasoning, read what the founders have to say:

    there is no way to prove that Katrina either was, or was not, affected by global warming. For a single event, regardless of how extreme, such attribution is fundamentally impossible.

    Re: 262

    Dahn,

    Even if the GW trend is additive to local SST event, it doesn’t necessarily translate to proportional increase in wind speed. However, this is not the point. The point is that is impossible to link the origin of the SST anomaly to GW.

    Comment by Sashka — 20 Oct 2005 @ 11:36 AM

  264. Well, we almost agree. But the hair we’re splitting is rather important. First, I wouldn’t say that Wilma has nothing to do with GW; I’d say that Wilma increases our knowledge of hurricane-GW links by some small fraction (the share of Wilma data among all data on the topic). The RC Katrina quote doesn’t say “nothing to do” either; it says “no way to prove”. Second, I think Occam’s Razor actually selects Dan’s contribution (1/9, or 1/8 if the anomalies aren’t additive), not 0. To presume 0 d(local SST anomaly)/d(global anomaly) requires an extra assumption that the Atlantic is somehow special, such that all the effects of global radiative imbalance wind up elsewhere in the ocean. Even if currents are chaotic, so anything goes at a particular point in time, you’d expect the local statistics to follow the global, absent some theory about why it should be otherwise.

    At least you’re in good company with William Gray. I found his written testimony rather puzzling. It refers to a Figure 5 showing SST anomalies with a forecast to 2020. Yet elsewhere he argues that climate models “have no damn skill” and that oceans are poorly modeled. So, where does the 15-year SST forecast come from, if not an ocean model? Just a strong presumption of mean-reversion or oscillation?

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 20 Oct 2005 @ 3:24 PM

  265. “No way to prove” means the issue is not in the realm of science. Let liberal arts majors talk about it and save these pages for rational discussion.

    I’m afraid you misunderstand the meaning of the SST anomaly. Should the same thing happen 100 years ago, it would be, roughly, 29 C SST over average of 25 C (an average for a previous long term observation period for the same location and season). Today we have 29.5 vs. 25.5. You need to make a case that extra 0.5 C in the background state somehow enabled 4 C anomaly. Just noting that 1/9 is greater than 0 doesn’t do the trick.

    I skimped through Dr. Gray’s testimony. Regrettably, I have to decline the honor of being in his company. While he is not entirely unreasonable, especially when he is talking about hurricanes, I cannot share company with someone who is convinced that in 15-20 years, we will look back on this period of global warming hysteria as we now look back on so many other popular, and trendy, scientific ideas — such as the generally accepted Eugenic theories of the 1920s and 1930s that have now been discredited. It’s OK to be a skeptic but there is nothing out there to be firmly convinced about.

    Re: Fig 5, my (possibly wrong) interpretation is that he is simply extrapolating the observed fluctuating pattern into the future. It has nothing to do with models’ skills. The exercise doesn’t prove anything but it’s no worse (probably better) than projecting current warming trends 50-100 years into the future.

    Comment by Sashka — 20 Oct 2005 @ 4:34 PM

  266. Re 265

    I’m afraid you misunderstand the meaning of the SST anomaly…

    Not at all. As pointed out in the Katrina thread, it’s the absolute temperature that matters. Moving the basis period for the anomaly around is irrelevant, and isn’t normally done as far as I know (most data I’ve seen is based on 1961-1990). If, as you say, today we have 29.5, and would have had 29.0 with no GW, there’s your contribution of GW to SST.

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 20 Oct 2005 @ 6:58 PM

  267. Tom,

    Well said.

    Sashka, regarding your post 263. You write:
    Even if the GW trend is additive to local SST event, it doesn’t necessarily translate to proportional increase in wind speed.

    True. But we have all been busy attributing the busy hurricane season (and strong hurricanes) to high SSTs. You and me and Dr. Gray and, I think, Gavin, have all accepted this highly reasonable assumption. So if we accept that the active season is due to high SSTs, and accept that roughly 1/8th or 1/9th of the high SSTs is due to AGW, then it is reasonably to infer, that overall AGW is having some slight-to-moderate contribution to the activeness of the season. It would be odd indeed if the first 4c caused more hurricanes but the last .5c did not.

    BTW, I know I’m not supposed to follow up on your latest pollution post…rrrr….it’s not easy. Suffice it to say that I am hording my ammunition.

    - Dan

    Comment by Dan Allan — 20 Oct 2005 @ 9:16 PM

  268. These hearings show the importance of experts. When dealing with a complex topic like climate change science people with training and experience in the field are necessary. Not everyone has this type of knowledge (although I suppose I could have gone to grad school and not law school, biogeological cycles would have been an interesting area to get into) so we do need experts to explain complicated topics.

    The use of experts can have positive results. Largely from reading RealClimate I think I have a basic handle on the science of climate change. I recently saw an interview with Dr.s Landsea and Curry about hurricanes and global warming and the discussion was complex but I was able to understand it because of what I have learned from RealClimate.

    Reliance on experts also makes us vulnerable because we can be misled if the experts are incorrect. Crichton’s testifying is similar to how experts are used in legal proceedings. In a lawsuit you are not trying to find the facts you are trying to win a conflict. The objective truth is secondary to your side winning (Steven Schneider has a good section on this on his site). The most important ability an expert witness can have in a trial is not proving that something is factually correct, it’s convincing people to support your side. This leads to the use of experts who are not giving accurate testimony because of political or philosophical reasons (IMO Crichton) or economic reasons.

    Experience with experts in the courts has helped me to understand the use of science in the climate change debate. IMO when someone hears or reads something about climate science they should be careful about taking things at face value, consider that climate change science does have major regulatory/economic/environmental repercussions, realize that the source may be motivated by these potential repercussions, and look at the past behavior of the source (have they usually said accurate statements?).

    That being said I would characterize Sashka as a sophisticated skeptic. As with many skeptics Sashka is economically/politically motivated. Sashka’s main goal seems to be convincing us about the uncertainty in climate science, then to use this uncertainty to argue against regulatory action. Sashka is careful not to openly reject the scientific consensus on AGW, but Saska does touch on the skeptic’s talking points that AGW is synonymous with extremist claims, is a belief, models aren’t reliable, GW is a natural cycle etc. Finally Sashka complains about not being listened to e.g. #209. I hope Sashka doesn’t start comparing himself to Galileo ;)

    United States has the most extensive system of environmental regulation and has the largest and strongest economy in the world. Environmental protection and economic prosperity are not exclusionary. More importantly if GW regulations are created it will mean more work for lawyers! This is the most important reason for passing laws that address global warming! Don’t you want those kids in law schools to get good jobs?

    Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 20 Oct 2005 @ 11:00 PM

  269. Re: 267

    I don’t think I’m making a very complicated point but you and Tom repeatedly miss it. I’m not saying that background SST trend contributed nothing to hurricane stregth. I’m saying that we can’t link the current anomaly to GW.

    [inflammatory remarks deleted. -moderator]

    Re: 268

    [inflammatory remarks deleted. -moderator]

    As with many skeptics Sashka is economically/politically motivated.

    Same thing. I am not allowed to make this sort of statements here. Let’s migrate to an unmoderated environment and I’ll

    [inflammatory remarks deleted. -moderator]

    Sashka is careful not to openly reject the scientific consensus on AGW, but Saska does touch on the skeptic’s talking points uch on the skeptic’s talking points that AGW is synonymous with extremist claims, is a belief, … GW is a natural cycle etc.

    Examples please?

    [inflammatory remarks deleted. -moderator]

    Not that I have much hope that mods will let it through but you never know.

    [we rarely admit a posting with so many instances of inflammatory language; it is much easier to simply screen those out than go through, as we have done in this case, and carefully edit out the inflammatory remarks. Please be more careful in the future--just make your points objectively. We have no problem with that. However, if the post is filled with ad hominem remarks, vituperative language, or otherwise inflammatory content, we will most likely just screen it out as per our comment policy. -moderator]

    Comment by Sashka — 21 Oct 2005 @ 11:30 AM

  270. I don’t think we’re missing the point; we just disagree – perhaps only on definitions. Here’s an trial balloon. Suppose that SSTs consist of two separable components – a mean with a long run trend, and an oscillation:

    SST[t] = SST[1961-1990] + a*(t-1976) + b*sin(w*t-p)

    You seem to be arguing that GW has no effect (or at least no provable effect) on the amplitude of the oscillation, b. I think there’s general agreement that that’s a reasonable null hypothesis. But today’s anomaly, SST[2005] – SST[1961-1990], depends on both the GW trend in the mean a and the oscillation, in which case the current anomaly is influenced by GW. If you redefine “anomaly” as SST[t] – SST[1961-1990] – a*(t-1976), then the anomaly is independent of GW, but has little physical meaning w.r.t. hurricanes and is impractical to implement. Same applies if you change the reference period to a sliding window or define the anomaly as SST[local]-SST[global].

    No redefinition supports the statement that “There is no connection between the individual weather events and GW.”

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 21 Oct 2005 @ 12:55 PM

  271. The anomaly is a singular event, so your equation is inapplicable. At the very least, the argument of your oscillating term must be multiplied by the indicator function of this summer-fall seasons.

    As for he last sentence, I cannot argue this point better than the founders did before.

    Comment by Sashka — 21 Oct 2005 @ 2:22 PM

  272. Re 271

    If the anomaly is a singular event then the 2nd term gets replaced by something else (an impulse function or …) but that doesn’t change the argument. What equation would you propose?

    As for the last sentence, the RC position that there is no way to prove that Katrina either was, or was not, affected by global warming contradicts your assertion that there is no connection, unless by “no connection” you mean only “no inference from an event to GW is possible.” I had the impression that you meant that there was no causal influence of GW on events.

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 21 Oct 2005 @ 3:13 PM

  273. SST[t] = SST_mean + a*(t-t0) + b(t)*indicator_function(2005)

    You need to show that b(t) isn’t zero due to background state (first 2 terms) reaching a threshold.

    Most people are sure, without a reason, that Katrina, Rita, Wilma etc are due to GW. or was not is irrelevant to the point.

    Comment by Sashka — 21 Oct 2005 @ 3:28 PM

  274. Shaska,

    re post 267:

    If I’m missing your point, I assure you it is not deliberate. Maybe your wording is ambiguous or maybe I’m being slow on the uptake or maybe both. But I have tried to keep this in the spirit of friendly, if frank, debate.

    you said “I’m not saying that background SST trend contributed nothing to hurricane strength. I’m saying that we can’t link the current anomaly to GW.”

    Would you accept that current SST (not current anomaly, but current local SST) is the result of a combination of cyclical variation plus GW?

    Comment by Dan Allan — 21 Oct 2005 @ 4:18 PM

  275. Re: #273, “Most people are sure, without a reason, that Katrina, Rita, Wilma etc are due to GW. or was not is irrelevant to the point.”

    This is incorrect. Most people are sure, with plausible reasons, that Katrina’s, Rita’s, and Wilma’s severity are, at least in part, due to human-induced climate change. Most people do not say that these storms are entirely (or entirely not) due to GW.

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 21 Oct 2005 @ 4:42 PM

  276. Re: 274

    Dan,

    Since your tone have drastically changed after your dramatic #154, I no longer have any personal issues with you. Even if it doesn’t come across that way, I’m actually being friendly, despite your misspelling my name. :)

    Would you accept that current SST (not current anomaly, but current local SST) is the result of a combination of cyclical variation plus GW?

    Yes, I accept it. What I’m saying, though, is that the cyclical part, for all we know, is independent of the trend and dominates it by 3 orders of magnitude. (I am referring to the partial derivative of temperature with respect to time.)

    Comment by Sashka — 21 Oct 2005 @ 4:55 PM

  277. Re: 275

    Most people are sure, with plausible reasons, that Katrina’s, Rita’s, and Wilma’s severity are, at least in part, due to human-induced climate change. Most people do not say that these storms are entirely (or entirely not) due to GW.

    Most people (including yourself, on many occasions) don’t tend to make well-hedged statements like yours above. Laymen conversation typically doesn’t include caveats in each sentence. I hear what I said I hear: “This is GW! Let’s do something! NOW!”

    Earlier (222), I linked an article by Robert Korty where he explains why GW contribution is small.

    Comment by Sashka — 21 Oct 2005 @ 5:06 PM

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