Thanks very much for this and also for the other Lindzen posting and discussion. Here’s a question version of something that several people have brought up recently about both Lindzen/WSJ and Will-Novak/WashPost, and please forgive me if it’s already been answered and I somehow missed it: Has Profesor Kirk-Davidoff, or any RC scientist, or any other expert queried the op-ed-page editor at the WSJ about submitting some version of this, or of something like it, as an op-ed-length response? (With a query, if they stonewall you or turn you down, at least you haven’t wasted your time crafting something carefully for an audience that won’t ever see it.)
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 13 Apr 2006 @ 5:11 PM
“The particular anecdotes I have heard about political influence on the federal grant making process go in the other direction, where people are told that they should pubish findings supporting large climate sensitvity, at least until after some election.”
Is there perhaps a missing “not” in this sentence? Otherwise it tends to reinforce Lindzen’s point!
[Response: There was indeed a ‘not’ missing. The post has been edited to reflect that. Thanks. -gavin]
Almost any of us could think of dozens of examples to add to Daniel’s affirmation that ‘curiosity driven” climate science is alive and well. Think of all the work on the Neoproterozoic Snowball Earth, the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis on the Early Earth and its role in the transition from a methane-dominated to a CO2-dominated greenhouse, Martian paleoclimate, the climate of Venus and Titan, the nature of the glacial-interglacial cycles, and so many more. In fact, it was Congress, not the scientific community, that foisted on NSF the requirement that all grant proposals and reviews contain a statement of relevance (euphemistically referred to as “Broader Impacts.”). I myself am rather curious about just exactly what will happen to clouds in a high-CO2 world, since this would help resolve some of the mysteries of the Cretaceous climate. In this instance, though, I confess I would be happy to not have my curiosity satisfied.
You are showing too much sufferance and giving far too much space to avowed bozos who offer nothing to your (our) page. Even if it does require diligence and a bit more time, would you please open a BOZO BIN for the blatant, time-wasting, know-nothings who care nothing about the most critical issue confronting our children. RealClimate announces in the ABOUT:
The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.
It is time to honor your objectives for this page and give the nihilists a page of their own to spread their foolish rants among themselves. PLEASE! Don’t sensor them; just direct them to the BOZO BIN.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 13 Apr 2006 @ 7:29 PM
What Corneliussen said. Get it into the fray. I read snowball earth, but in the end wasn’t convinced. Anybody have any updates on this hypothesis?
[Response: A lot of people aren’t convinced. I mentioned it only because there’s really not much reason to study Snowball Earth except for sheer intellectual curiosity’s sake. To be sure, sometimes things people study for curiosity’s sake turn out to have important spinoffs, but that’s another matter. As for your question on the hypothesis, there’s a lot of new stuff going on regarding Snowball Earth, but this thread isn’t the right place to discuss it. I don’t know of a review article since Hoffman and Schrag, but Paul Hoffman is writing a whole book on the subject, which will ultimately be the best place to turn. I suggest we not go further into Snowball Earth here, curiosity notwithstanding. –raypierre]
Why not go a step further and only E-Mail each other? This way you will only have one sided point of view never have to defend a stance and all of US Science Challenge Bozos would never have to read or hear from the GW science again.
Is that what you want?
This is my First Post on this site. I have been a reader for a long time and I have learned a lot.
Some stance I agree some I do not but I welcome all points of view even if it does not fit what I believe in.
I am approching the 60 Year of age and have seen these type of opinions before.Heard the same comments,words during the Cooling World days.
Do not bite the hand that feeds you.
[Response: I’m sure John was referring to comments that lack any reasonable scientific basis, or had no scientific interest, or deal with things that have been extensively rebutted already. Scientifically valid criticisms of any aspect of climate theory are always welcome, of course — the object is just to keep the noise level down to where the really important issues have some prominence. Regarding amply rebutted issues, see this post to be educated regarding the “Cooling World” myth. –raypierre]
I may misunderstand the Bozo Bin comment, but it seems to me that at some level it contains an important, and puzzling, and recurrent, contradiction.
On the one hand it says that climate change is “the most critical issue confronting our children.” On the other hand, it advocates a strictly conservative interpretation of RealClimate’s sensible resolve not to stray from science into political or economic implications.
But it seems to me that if an issue is the most critical one facing our children, it’s by definition political, even if it’s scientific at the same time. This issue is technopolitical, as illustrated vividly by the recent op-ed columns of George Will, Robert Novak, and Richard Lindzen — high-visibility op-eds that, in my view, RC would have been remiss to ignore, and about which it’s healthy for RC to host discussion.
We’ve debated versions of this point often in RC’s blogspace, and no doubt we will again. My own view remains that RC construes its sensible resolve just a bit too strictly, rather than too liberally. If you want to win a debate, you have to participate in it — even if doing so gets way uncomfortably political. In fact:
What Mark A. York said. Get into the fray.
[Response: Indeed, it is a hard line to draw. Those familiar with the unruly ruckus known as sci.environment know what we’re trying to avoid. Feedback on how well we’re doing at drawing the line is certainly welcome. –raypierre]
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 13 Apr 2006 @ 8:26 PM
Re welcome feedback — Up to the last four threads RealScience stayed mostly with the science and the issues thereof. I found all of that, including some rather policy oriented discussions, entirely appropriate. Indeed, I fear that a through explaination of actual error in op-eds is also, unfortunately, necessary and appropriate.
What has not be appropriate, imho, has been calls for action in the comments — even such calls as writing letters to editors. We are all sufficiently mature here, I hope, to recognize when such actions are needed and within the scope of our expertise. So no reminder of the obvious ought to be required.
Further, I hope that in the future our excellent and kind moderators will take the time to keep the comments rather more oriented to the science, including the misstatement thereof, and doing more to avoid the politics or action oriented commentary. I gather there are other sites appropriate for that?
In any case, I want to thank the moderators for being willing to undertake such a difficult task as keeping RealClimate going, and largely going most smoothly.
[Response: The last few posts, commenting on the Will column, the Novak column and Lindzen’s WSJ op-ed inevitably impinged on politics, but the main reason for commenting on them in RC is that all three pieces propagated junk science. Commenting on science coverage in the media will always be part of our mission. The Bush post didn’t have this as an excuse, and reasonable minds could certainly conclude that one was a mistake. Certainly, things like the Venus post that Rasmus and I did are much more fun to write and to moderate, but ironically (as you can see) they attract a lot fewer comments, and perhaps less readership. I conclude that people are quite interested in having commentary on things like Lindzen’s piece –raypierrre]
Comment by David B. Benson — 13 Apr 2006 @ 9:04 PM
Although the stated mission (and proper purpose) of RealClimate is to disseminate scientific information about AGW, the actual *goal* seems to be to persuade the public and policymakers to take action on the issue.
With that in mind, I think it’s perfectly valid to discuss the latest salvo from contrarians, and proper refutation. We achieve our goal by persuading people, and arming ourselves with this information helps achieve the goal.
So, although I don’t want RealClimate to lose its focus on the science, I think it’s perfectly valid to address the issue of persuasion, and provide readers with tools to help.
“that all three pieces propagated junk science”
Yes Ray and the tragedy is readers don’t know one from the other. We need you and your collegues to tell them the difference. As it is, up-is-down will remain the norm and Jim Hansen et al will be yelling into the wind while Michaels and Lindzen rule the day. That’s seems a shame to me.
From a policy perspective, writing about extratropical storms decreasing in intensity in a warmer climate is a red-herring because they don’t do much damage. Tropical cyclones are responsible for the vast majority of loss of property and life and the level of scientific uncertainty regarding genesis and intensity of TCs is greater than extratropical, baroclinic storms.
Have there been any scenarios studied – paleo or future – in which the intensity of extratropical storms increases to the point of causing significant damage?
Given the unusual magnitude of the current planetary energy imbalance and uncertainty about its implications, careful monitoring of key metrics is needed. Continuation of the ocean temperature and altimetry measurements is needed to confirm that the energy imbalance is not a fluctuation and to determine the net climate forcing acting on the planet. … Understanding of the forcings that give rise to the imbalance requires more precise information on aerosols(35). … Quantification of these sources is possible using precise satellite altimetry and gravity measurements as initiated by the IceSat (36) and GRACE satellites (37), which warrant follow-on missions.
Emphasis mine. Hansen (Science, 5/3/2006) seems quite capable here of both adding to certainty of the problem and asking for more research. Perhaps you should tell him those are views are inconsistent. And of course it wasn’t 25 years ago that Hansen received $250,000. Seems like a pretty good reward for being credited as the first to raise the alarm. Or we could just look at the budget for climate related research. Do you think its going up or down? The premise that raising the importance of the problem reduces the need for study is silly. Drop it and stick with good reasons.
“So, although I don’t want RealClimate to lose its focus on the science, I think it’s perfectly valid to address the issue of persuasion, and provide readers with tools to help.”
RC keeps losing its focus on science.
Rather it tries to make any opponent of the theory that AGW will lead to catastrophe look stupid.
[Response: Only if their arguments make them deserve to look stupid. To be more precise, we only make stupid arguments look stupid. It’s mostly irrelevant whether or not the person making the argument is or isn’t stupid. –raypierre]
Seems to me that regardless of the distortion in the truth on climate change the popular perception is that there is a issue with climate but the people that matter (the US really along with India and China) are just not seeing the issue as being serious enough as yet to be worth putting their economies at risk as they see it.
The rebuttal of erroneous claims is most welcome by the likes of ME, I only have a healthy interest in climatology and no qualification in the subject so without the rebuttals it is very easy for me to be led down the garden path, this site is a first choice for factual information and debates that hone the inteligence, please keep up with factual rebuttals as in #1 even if it (bends) your policy on not getting political.
I would disagree that extratropical storms don’t cause significant damage. Lothar and Martin, the extratropical storms that hit Europe in December 1999, killed 140 people and were estimated to cause US$13 billion in direct damage and a similar amount in indirect damage. According to this article, the losses in the 1990 storms were greater. The 1999 storms would easily make the top 10 in US hurricane damage see this list of wealth-adjusted damage. I can’t find good numbers, but I’d guess that cold-season extratropical cyclones probably cause >US$2B in damage a year and, with the exception of the years with Camille, Agnes, and Katrina, have killed more people almost every year in the last 40 years.
It took me a moment to understand the line David was using to criticise the central point of Lindzen’s article.
David says the Lindzen is applying suspicious logic in the piece because those who are concerned with AGW would want to see their own budgets cut at the expense of say the engineering departments that can figure ways of reducing AGW gases with better techonolgy.
Is this a joke or is it a (fantastic) misunderstanding of human motivation. 30 years ago climate science was a section of a section of a department relegated somewhere between the toilet area and the showers, whereas now some of the players are getting near to celebrity status.
David wants us to believe that climate guys understand that money is a finite resource and therefore dutifully want to cut their budgets to “help” out the engineers.
Would David have any tangible proof of this? Even evidence of one department turfing the money to the engineers would satisfy my curirosity.
[Response: The point is that if climate researchers were really in this for the money, they would all be saying how uncertain everything was and pressing the ‘we must do more research’. The current situation is completely opposite – climate scientists in the main agree on the basics of the problem and state that the remaining uncertainty is not enough to prevent remedial actions. It is those who would rather do nothing that insist that more research is needed and fund us accordingly. – gavin]
I understand the desire to steer clear of politics and the vitriol it can sometimes inspire but I’d just like to join snavecire in saying how valuable these clarifications of mass media pieces are to those of us who are not climate specialists, but *merely* interested in and concerned about climate change. Please do continue to include them, even if it blurs the lines of your mission a bit. RC’s expertise and voice are very much needed. I am sure there are other non-specialist readers who join me in thanking you for taking the time to engage the wider public.
And of course it wasn’t 25 years ago that Hansen received $250,000. Seems like a pretty good reward for being credited as the first to raise the alarm.
I’m sure that award was at the top of Hansen’s mind during his ’88 congressional testimony. Oh, wait, it didn’t exist then. It’s ridiculous to think that an occasional large payout can intellectually distort a field – discount that $250k by 20 years of effort and any single researcher’s expectation of receiving it and you wind up with an amount that most consultants wouldn’t get out of bed for.
Or we could just look at the budget for climate related research. Do you think its going up or down?
As I pointed out here it’s going up very slowly – less than GDP and much less than other areas of science (e.g. NIH). Earth & environmental science salaries have gone up less recently compared to other disciplines like physical science or mathematics & computing. One could as well argue that the intellectual ferment around climate is attracting more researchers than the budget can sustain.
The premise that raising the importance of the problem reduces the need for study is silly.
I agree in principle that hyping the problem potentially attracts funding, it’s just that it’s an incredibly weak link that has to be placed in the context of other motivations. Funding is essentially a commons so individual researchers have little incentive to grow it; there are other more direct ways to career success (like being right about a controversial problem). No one who’s primarily motivated by money would go into climate science anyway.
Re: “No one who’s primarily motivated by money would go into climate science anyway.”
I’m reminded of the episode of the Simpsons where a chimp researcher (loosely based on Jane Goodalle) is secretly forcing the chimps to work in a diamond mine. At one point, Homer lies on the bed throwing diamonds over himself, saying, “Look at me! I’m a scientist!”
Those of us who do it for a living know very well how funny this is. If you want to get rich, find another occupation.
Here, I suspect, is a clear window to the workings of the contrarian’s mind (from Lindzen’s article):
“Indeed, the success of climate alarmism can be counted in the increased federal spending on climate research from a few hundred million dollars pre-1990 to $1.7 billion today. It can also be seen in heightened spending on solar, wind, hydrogen, ethanol and clean coal technologies, as well as on other energy-investment decisions.”
Where is the context? A few hundred million in the late 80’s to 1.7 billion — 5x? Not very much over 20 years. How much have hurricane damages increased over the same period? How much has spending increased on traditional fossil fuels (or on oil security)? I would also choose to compare funding trends to genetics to make a point, but maybe funding to astronomy would be a better comparison.
[Response: One of the truly ludicrous things about Lindzen’s WSJ piece is that he would think that the WSJ readership would be the least bit impressed by a number like $1.7billion per year, regardless of the growth rate. That’s just over two weeks of ExxonMobil’s 2005 profit. It’s about the amount Americans spend on dog food in a month. The run-up in climate science funding is rather modest compared to other areas of science funding, and a more reasonable interpretation of the funding picture isn’t that climate scientists are trying to act alarmed in order to run up their funding, but rather that they (we) are trying to run up funding because they actually are alarmed and feel that the subject needs to be understood better. –raypierre]
Another consideration about grants and financial motivations is how does getting a big grant effect a researcher’s life? If someone makes a proposal for a major study, do they get a “cut”, like a used car salesman (I somehow doubt that!), or does it just mean their salary is secure for the next year or two or whatever? Now I don’t know the specifics, but for Lindzen’s imsinuations to hold water I would need to see a correlation between grant levels and researcher compensation levels. eg. Does Jim Hansen’s salary go up with the levels of grant money he attracts? Otherwise, we are left with the weaker incentive of mere job security rather than getting rich.
[Response: For those of us with tenured or tenure track positions at US universities, the only effect of grant funding on salary is that we can pay ourselves up to three (more commonly two) months of summer salary at our usual rate. That effect saturates out pretty quickly, and is hardly a “get rich” incentive. Academics in Canada and at Caltech don’t even have that incentive. Federal employees (e.g. NOAA or the DOE labs) see even less effect of grant funding on personal income, and since it’s almost impossible to fire a US Civil Servant, job security isn’t even much of an incentive. In France, CNRS (the appointment of choice) chercheur salaries are fixed by age and (to a lesser extent) scientific distinction, so grant funding doesn’t buy you a fancy apartment and lunches at Archestrate there either. The main group whose personal economic well-beeing is affected by grant funding are the soft-money researchers, and for those it’s mostly a matter of survival and paying the mortgage, not getting rich. I haven’t noticed that soft-money researchers are particularly in the forefront of raising concerns about climate change, as you might expect if financial incentives were primary. For almost all of us, the only incentive to run up research funding is that it pays for things that we think are important to do. –raypierre]
Re: #21 — yes, that was a good episode. I can’t remember who said it first about becoming a priest to meet chicks, but Nancy McIntyre references it here:
“However, scientists are also fueled by passion about what they do (for there are few incentives to do science other than intellectual satisfaction – going into science for fame and fortune is like becoming a priest to meet women), but it is assumed that this passion is always under tight rein. And science, like everything else humans do, is burdened by preconceptions about how things ought to be.”
We can’t stop at the choice of a profession, of course, because some priests (or doctors or architects or construction workers…) may be tempted by circumstances to act in ways incongruent with what motivated them toward their specific career. I am certain that there are many scientists whose conclusions and public statements are influenced by the possibility of getting more money (I have seen it). But I am equally certain that they are far outnumbered by scientists motivated by a drive to understand whatever it is that they study. Science has a good track record of replacing inferior conclusions based on the former with more robust and general conclusions based on the latter.
Hectoring “get into the fray” seems to suppose two things: 1) that each and every venue must “get into the fray” the same way and 2) that the site contributors have no other means than this site to “get into the fray”.
The ultimate enemy is ignorance and keeping this site accurate and timely and pared down on poltical rhetoric provides a useful tool against ignorance. As for 2, the site maintainers have their own say on how their time is spent.
Hansen’s probably a GS-15 senior scientist. That’s the top of the scale below administrative. I’m a perpetual GS-5 seasonal technician, although I advanced once to a professional series 0482 biological sciences fishery biologist, albeit at the same grade, only to fall back the next time around for a different agency, BLM from Forest Service. For permanant staff a layoff or firing is rare so Hansen has little incentive to drum up “make work.” Moreover it’s public service which isn’t meant for self-enrichment. I made a quip in my first book “Against a Strong Current” a memoir with science in it, that an interest in science can be dangerous to your economic health. I was working for Idaho Fish & Game for $4.66 an hour at the time.
As for fray issues, in media the fray is the op-ed pages. Scientists who want to participate can and should in my view do so lest the best ideas get the widest audience. Professors like Ray Pierre H frequently do on any number of subjects where they have expertise. When only the charlatans show up it skews the view for the public. That’s not a good thing. That’s all I’m saying.
I don’t remember if you folks have done a post on the language and typology of “catastrophes” and “abrupt change,” but it might be a good idea, if you can find the time.
I was at first puzzled by Mr. Lindzen’s rhetoric that “alarmists” are “trumpeting catastrophes that couldn’t happen even if the models were right.” As I read further, from the context, he appears to be referring to a specific question about extreme weather — yet his rhetoric seems to be aimed at implying a broader conclusion about the intellectual clarity, and motives, of the scientists he calls “alarmists.”
Similarly, comment #14, above, invites a request for clarification, because it leaves open the question of what sort of catastrophe is being argued about.
So I think “catastrophe” needs to be better defined. People use it to mean everything from “temporally accelerated” (e.g., the hockey stick) to “unexpected, or not quite predictable” (e.g. ocean current redirection) to “tragic and immoral” (e.g. wild species extinction.)
It looks to me like there are at least three different meanings of “catastrophe” in this debate, when categorized by predictability: (1) extreme events, such as violent storms, ice-sheet collapse or flooding, which might be given probabilities by models, (2) events which seem possible and even likely, but which may be impossible to meaningfully quantify, such as the acceleration by climate change of wild species extinctions in fragmented natural landscapes, and (3) possible sudden breakpoints that we don’t know about or can’t know about, i.e., a precautionary tale, inferred from the general behavior of other complex systems.
I would like to know if any writers have dealt with this at length.
Be all that as it may, the confusion, or conflation, of the meanings of “catastrophe” has been used rhetorically in this recent spate of pop editorials and opinion columns. They switch quickly among uncertainties of vastly different kinds, to cast doubt upon the understanding of this science, and upon the recommendations which might be drawn from it.
So I hope a climatologist will stand outside his/her science for a moment, and give a clear outline and overview of the main types of catastrophe and uncertainty. Then, perhaps, we can move over to those economists who are alarmists about the costs of climate mitigation, and ask exactly what sort of catastrophes they are projecting in their own subject.
[Response: Interested readers may want to look at Richard Posner’s book “Catastrophe.” A lot there should be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s very interesting to see a died-in-the-wool conservative arguing (correctly) that the extreme cases rather than the mean should be given weight in making policy. See also the special “Catastrophe” issue of the Chicago Journal of International Law. You can see my own article, on “A catastrophe in slow motion” on my publication page here. The full issue should be available shortly here . –raypierre]
I will say that rebutting myths from both sides is important. As a concerned layperson I had been taken in by some of the panic side of the arguement, the “we are all doomed doomed” viewpoint. And there are still people taken in by the “skeptic” side as well; I know of one very bright economist who is an example of that. So rebutting (and hopefully) refuting misinformation (including various types of character assasination) remains an important role for this site in my opinion.
I would like to weigh in regarding recent commentaries on this site on op-ed pieces. I think they are EXTREMELY important. I know a lot about the scientific merits of Peak Oil, but next to nothing (at this stage) about the scientific merits of climate change. Consequently, I am, for example, in no position to see the intellectual (and moral?) bankruptcy of an argument by someone like George Will about the Global Cooling Scare unless I come to a site like this. I am all for requisite restraint with regard to political rhetoric also, but for someone with next-to-no knowledge of the topic like me, your critiques of the “Junk Science” found by mainstream pundits is probably the most valuable function your site provides. So please, keep it up.
Comment by Michael Wenisch — 14 Apr 2006 @ 5:40 PM
In fact, I have a special request regarding a piece I personally would like to see debunked. FIRST THINGS is right now the leading review in the United States among intellectually serious and conservative Roman Catholics. (This is a not-insignificant subculture in our society, by the way – and all the more so in view of the worldwide power of the Catholic papacy to influence opinion on all kinds of issues.) If someone has the time, could you please do a review and critique of, and/or run a thread about, the following piece by Thomas Derr, entitled “Strange Science,” which appeared in the November 2004 issue of FIRST THINGS? Here is the link: http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0411/opinion/derr.htm
And maybe you could also send a letter to the magazine about it, as the Editor in Chief, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, ran a comment about this matter just two days ago. For him, George Will constitutes a serious authority on the topic of global warming – and this from arguably the single most influential Catholic intellectual in the United States right now! See http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=229
Comment by Michael Wenisch — 14 Apr 2006 @ 5:51 PM
Rain rain rain
I liked the article on tropical storms. They seem to be vapor pumps, lifting water vapor, releasing heat into mechanic and radiative? forms, then releasing the water.
We have record rains, I think, or close to it in California, and rivers are swolling to flood levels in Europe.
Have we accounted for all the energy conversion going on in storms? Are we sure we have not left something out of the heat flow that could allow a severely stormy epoch to keep global warming down? (Excepting more photosynthesis)
RE# 30 Even worse is Steven Milloy featured prominently here calls himself the “Junk Man.” He’s FOX News junk science judo columnist so to the deniers all good peer reviewed science is junk. For the untrained this is really through the looking glass stuff. This what we’re up against and this is who Crichton and Will listen too. It’s mindnumbing to think of it. It has to be exposed as the BS it is.
Comment by Lawrence McLean — 14 Apr 2006 @ 11:51 PM
I have an interesting fact to share…”Methane is an important greenhouse gas and its atmospheric concentration has almost tripled since pre-industrial times1, 2. It plays a central role in atmospheric oxidation chemistry and affects stratospheric ozone and water vapour levels. Most of the methane from natural sources in Earth’s atmosphere is thought to originate from biological processes in anoxic environments2″.
Any feedback is welcome.
I too wonder about the massive new heat engine being rapidly opened in the Arctic. From a 90 percent reflective to a nearly 80 percent absorptive surface will come huge new moisture into an atmosphere about which we have little understanding.
Are Arctic storms becoming more frequent and intense since 1990 when Arctic ice meltback began to accelerate? We know freshwater input to the Arctic has incresed significantly in the past 30 years. And, is the diminished new ice a function of warmer air masses crossing open water in the early winter months? Where will we see impacts of a massive new 32 degree water mass being felt? More snowpack in the East Arctic? Hopefully the IPY will give us answers.
I am most concerned about wide scale weather pattern changes in West Central Canada and the Northern Plains states and find virtually no new investigation expect for the news reports of record breaking high temperatures in some of the coldest regions of the world..Winnipeg and that region.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 15 Apr 2006 @ 11:06 AM
Today’s Wall Street Journal carries a brief, discouraging letter headlined “Perpetual Alarmism.” In it, David W. Lincoln of Edmonton, Alberta, says he thinks “it’s time for the privileges accorded to the alarmist crowd to be revoked. They have shown that they are not interested in an evenhanded debate on global warming and what contributes to it.” He goes on: “The people who peddle the alarmism that began in the 1970s have done a wonderful job of undermining the credibility of themselves and of those who disagree with them — all to the detriment of everyone everywhere.”
So I sure wish an RC scientist would answer the question in comment 1 above, though I also hope that the reason there’s been no answer is that something that shouldn’t yet be discussed publicly is actually happening. It’d be a shame to see this round of the WSJ debate end with a letter attacking everyone who thinks as the RealClimate scientists do — a letter globally condemning them by alleging an omni-harmful alarmism, a letter that grants a license to the powerful and influential readership of the WSJ to keep holding their hands over their ears.
Maybe the cynics are right; maybe the WSJ is not just biased, but outright dishonest. In that case it’d never print the evenhanded debating that this letter writer says, utterly wrongly, that RC scientists can’t or won’t produce.
But I still wish someone qualified to try would try.
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 15 Apr 2006 @ 11:40 AM
I read the article you reference. I’ll address just a few points. Let’s start with this:
>The past century, we are told, has been the hottest on record, with temperatures steadily rising during the last decades. Since human population and industrial activity have risen at the same time, it stands to reason that human activity is, one way or another, the cause of this observed warming. Anything wrong with this reasoning?
Of course this reasoning is faulty. And IF this were the basis for the global warming hypothesis, I’d be fighting against it! What’s *really* wrong is to imply that this is our reasoning. But, this is a common tactic of contrarians: paint a ridiculous — and very false — picture of our ideas, then ridicule it.
>… there are still ways of discovering the temperatures of past centuries, … tree rings … Core samples from drilling in ice fields … historical reconstruction … coral growth, isotope data from sea floor sediment, and insects, all of which point to a very warm climate in medieval times.
No. In early medieval times, temperatures were not as warm as they are *today*. Tree rings, ice cores, sediment cores, corals … ALL POINT TO A WARMER 20TH CENTURY THAN ANY TIME IN THE PAST 2,000 YEARS, and a MUCH warmer past few decades.
>Abundant testimony tells us that the European climate then cooled dramatically from the thirteenth century until the eighteenth, when it began its slow rewarming.
Another trick of contrarians: refer to past cooling as “dramatic” (even though it was slow and slight) and modern warming as “slow” (even though it’s *much* faster than at any time in at least 2000 years). Take another look at the “hockey stick” graph. Does that look like “cooled dramatically” followed by “slow rewarming?” Or does it look like “cooled slowly and slightly” followed by “dramatic warming?”
>… the nineteenth-century rewarming trend which began with a much smaller human population and before the industrial revolution.
The warming trend doesn’t start in the 19th century, it begins early in the 20th century, by which time we were well into the industrial revolution.
Most of the article is an attempt to explain *why* climate scientists are being so “alarmist.” His suggestions:
1. … bad news is good newsâ??for the news media.
2. … the IPCC is a UN body and reflects UN politics, which are consistently favorable to developing countries
3. … intellectual pride…
4. … a somewhat murky antipathy to modern technological civilization
It amazes me that he (and so many others) are eager to accuse AGW advocates of “intellectual pride,” “antipathy to modern technological civilization,” and other crimes against truth, but gives the impression that contrarians (like Lindzen) are only doing it because of the purest concern for the good of mankind. Let’s see… one side raises alarms because of their pride, but the other side is totally immune to any ulterior motive, in spite of billions of dollars from big oil companies and conservative think tanks?
Do you really believe that NASA scientists (or scientists in general, for that matter) have an “antipathy to modern technological civilization?”
One more thing: the skeptics have hardly been “drowned out.” They’re writing op-ed pieces for the Wall Street Journal.
[Response:The WSJ probably has a wider readership than most scientific journals, at least on a short time horizon. The readers of WSJ are also more gullible. -rasmus]
I’m almost through State of Fear and past a lot of the assertions that numerous studies show no increase in extreme weather, hurricnae strikes have decreased since 1900;Kilamanjaro has been melting since the 1800s long before GW and is caused by deforestation and a drying of the air; only 79 glaciers out of thousands are melting thus they all aren’t melting; sea levels have risen only 4 to 8 inches per 100 years and computer models can’t prove anything since predictions haven’t happened yet and so on. His reams of temperature charts from GISS I assume are presented to show it hasn’t warmed at all at the selected locations I guess?
I’ll have to go back over your posts on this but he cites Lomborg repeatedly that the world is getting better while people yell decline. In my work evaluating streams, fisheries and forests I find little improvement, only decline and a concerted effort to rehabilitate the ecosystem, that is running far behind the decline that came at the hand of industry; timber, mining etc. I find this naysaying cavelier and disconcerting to say the least.
Perhaps analysis of the HIV-AIDS controversy, and the history of the skeptical stance regarding the central role of the viral infection would be useful to this discussion. I am far from being fully informed about the science of HIV-AIDS. Were the skeptics ever convinced that they were, in fact, mistaken, or did the media eventually just conclude that this viewpoint was no longer worthy of coverage? Did anyone ever apologize for sowing confusion that slowed prevention efforts, as in South Africa? Inspection of a few web sites, such as http://www.virusmyth.net/aids/controversy.htm, suggests that the mix of credentials of those involved was comparable to those playing a similar role in the global warming arena. There are other interesting analogies. For example, on that web page we see that a mathematics professor at Yale University (from whose excellent textbook I learned abstract algebra) was critical of some statistical analyses of the link between the virus and the disease and, as a result, was publicly critical of the scientific establishment and the media for spreading misinformation about the nature of AIDS. In retrospect, it seems amazing that a mathematician, however prominent, would consider himself qualified to judge the consensus of the biomedical community on such an important issue with such assurance. He may have had a useful point to make about a particular statistical analysis, but what damage did he do with his misinformed critique of the big picture? What amazing arrogance! And yet how familiar.
I don’t think that there is anything distinctive about the issues we face with regard to fringe opinions concerning global warming. You can’t prove that you are smarter than everyone else by being part of a consensus, but you can hope for this outcome by being a contrarian.
Michael, you might find this site useful. It is targetted specifically at the very common by trivially incorrect misconceptions and attacks on global warming science. It makes many references to this site for more detail and authoritative information but tries to be stand alone for interested but non-technical readers.
As for your “Strange Science” article, here are a few of the specific rebuttals you would want:
#37: “Maybe the cynics are right; maybe the WSJ is not just biased, but outright dishonest. In that case it’d never print the evenhanded debating that this letter writer says, utterly wrongly, that RC scientists can’t or won’t produce.”
The cynics are right in regard to the WSJ’s editorial page. They have a near-perfect track record in regard to any environmental or conservation issue that has an impact on industry. It’s all based on “junk science”, in their view.
For example, here’s a synopsis of a fairly recent WSJ op-ed on the old-growth logging issue in the Pacific Northwest:
“The Executive Director of the Evergreen Foundation, James Peterson, argues in a Wall Street Journal opinion article that the decline of the spotted owl in the U.S. Pacific Northwest is not due to logging in old-growth forests. Peterson, who has been given a string of awards by various logging industry groups, referred to an unspecified “privately funded” study which “infers an inverse relationship between harvesting and owls.” This, he argues, justifies “a long-term thinning program,” an oblique reference to the Bush administration’s Orwellian-sounding Healthy Forests Initiative, a program to log national forests. The Evergreen Foundation says it works to “restore public confidence in forestry.” The foundation’s website states that funders include logging and logging equipment companies, including Boise Cascade, Potlatch, Westvaco, Mead, Caterpillar and Timberjack. The foundation’s logging industry funding, however, wasn’t mentioned in Peterson’s Wall Street Journal article.”
You can write letters to the editor until your keyboard falls to pieces, and they won’t publish you. In their eyes, this single, unspecified piece of industry-funded research debunks three decades of research, research that (by whole-organism biology standards) was highly-funded throughout the 1990s.
Pick an issue, any environmental or conservation issue of consequence, and we can find you a WSJ editorial or op-ed based on lies.
The mathematician referred to in comment #40, Serge Lang, was a first rate mathematician, and he had a history of controversial forays outside mathematics. But he was very much an exception. Generally, mathematicians are reluctant to criticize people outside their area of expertise, and I can think of few prominent mathematicians other than Lang who had a habit of doing that. There is a tendency for very smart people to think they can master a difficult subject, perhaps by cutting through to essentials, in a short period of time, and since some mathematicans are indeed very smart, there may be a slight tendency in the field foolishly to rush in. But most of us know better.
Crichton received the American Association of Petroleum Geologists 2006 Journalism award. AAPG Communications director Larry Nation told the New York Times “It is fiction, but it has the absolute ring of truth.”
Somehwere above or elsewhere I mentioned the comment I wrote to Opinionjournal on the Lindzen piece. Editor James Taranto, who I know albeit vaguely, didn’t print it in favor of the six or seven adoring believers who always say “yeah it’s those crazy liberals again” or somesuch. It’s been my experience that on big issues like environment where their dogmatic disbelief is the strongest, they won’t publish my counter commentary because I have more than average knowledge and experience as a government biologist. They don’t want that getting in the way of their storyline. If no scientist sends in a refutation in an op-ed they will will win the media battle and lies will become the public belief. Goodness knows they’ve got a big enough head start on that body of misinformation as it is. This is just one more nail.
A coworker of mine in 2005, while reading Crichton’s State of Fear at the office, said she was learning a lot from the book.
At the same time, my supervisor at the National Weather Service (NWS) said I must not research climate change while at the office because climate change was not part of the mission at NWS North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC).
In this recent article in the Grand Forks Herald , my supervisor (until I left in 2005) said:
“Our mission is to protect life and property,”
I have a few other problems with what the NCRFC Hydrologist in Charge said in the article, below.
Apr. 08, 2006
Predicting river crests involves some guesswork
FARGO – There is a lot of technology used to estimate river crests, but the ultimate prediction also involves a little guesswork.
Fifteen forecasters and two computer models formulate predictions for the Red River Valley from the National Weather Service North Central River Forecast Center in Chanhassen, Minn.
The agency bases its predictions on stream gauges from the U.S. Geological Survey that transmit river level data to satellites, said hydrologist Dan Luna.
The data is forwarded to computer models at the forecast center. Luna said the computers often provide different information about when rivers will crest. That leaves the final prediction up to forecasters.
“It’s very similar to people,” Luna said of the computer results. “We all have our own opinions, strengths and limitations.”
Because of the Red River Valley’s flat terrain, the south-to-north direction of the Red River and ice jams, the river is a challenging area to forecast, Luna said.
Oddities also can occur, such as the river cresting in Grand Forks before it did farther south in Halstad, Minn., this spring. That was due mainly to local runoff, Luna said.
The forecast center begins tracking flood information in October by studying soil moisture, snow, the amount of moisture within the snow and frost. The center also has hundreds of people who call in with weather information from across the region, Luna said.
Signs of potential Red River Valley flooding first became evident last fall when rain left the soil moist right before freezing, he said. A November ice storm then created a sheet of ice that prevented runoff from being absorbed into the soil.
The valley received average snowfall, but the amount of moisture in the snow was well above normal, Luna said. Rain, fog, frost and a fast snowmelt across the region this spring also contributed to the flooding, he said.
Crest forecasts are purposely predicted on the high side so cities are prepared, Luna said.
“Our mission is to protect life and property,” he said.
#45: “If no scientist sends in a refutation in an op-ed they will will win the media battle and lies will become the public belief.”
Well, they’re unlikely to print such a piece.
Remember, when Christy and Spencer first announced their analysis of the MSU data, the WSJ crowed that “this is a wooden stake through the heart of the AGW hypothesis”. The WSJ led the huzzays and hurrahs for the heroes responsible for proving that global warming was a myth.
Now that Christy and Spencer have been proven to be wrong, and the models vindicated, one might expect an honorable editorial staff to note that fact. Even a teensy little thing saying “well, maybe we were premature”.
But, no, anyone who gets their climate science from the WSJ editorial pages (and I suspect many influential business leaders do) will still be under the impression that the MSU data proves that global warming’s a myth …
[Response: Speaking of oldies but nasties the WSJ has never retracted, how about their 1997 front page piece, “Science has Spoken –Global Warming is a Myth.” It featured the incorrect Spencer and Christie analysis, a comparison with a GCM simulation done with steady 1% CO2 increase and no aerosol forcint (meant as a sensitivity study, not a forecast!) , and the bogus Fries-Christenson correlation between solar activity and climate. The article and the graphic is reproduced here, courtesy of Steve Milloy’s outfit, which still seems to be disseminating it as if it were the gospel truth –raypierre ]
There are several comments here about how climate scientists have to write op ed pieces for various papers/magazines. Guys you are still playing the wrong game and you will ALWAYS lose if you continue to ignore reality.
Lindzen does not approach the WSJ and offer to write an op ed piece. Some flack from the Cato Institute is calling up editors full time offering to have “the distinguished Prof. Lindzen from MIT” provide an op ed. They make deals, I’ll send you two op eds, one from our famous columnists and another from this guy Pat Michaels if you agree to publish both, and so on.
Take a look, for example at http://www.exxonsecrets.org/ and you will get an idea of the kind of links you need to get real estate on the op ed page of major papers as a regular thing. AND it is just as important to get placement on secondary papers, where different eyeballs are looking. To do that you need a permanent staff working full time to place your stuff, you need copy editors who understand how to leave an impression while not quite saying anything that cannot be implausibly defended.
Why do you think that second raters such as Tim Patterson, Pat Michaels, et al get such prominent placement. They have well funded, large staffs working on their behalf at AEI, SEPP, Cato, CEI, etc.
What that means is that if the Real Climate folks want to compete they are either going to establish a tax free foundation, find funding and hire a staff, or they are going to have to accept help from sympathetic organizations such as the Sierra Club who have at least some of the staff, contacts and experience needed.
I realize that this is 180 degrees from what the Real Climate folk want to do, and 180 degrees from what people like Roger Pielke recommend, but it is the only way that they can succeed in countering the propaganda offensive from the radical right.
And, let me close with one simple thought. If I am right (even partially), what does that say about the motivations of those who keep telling you to stay pure?
I don’t think offering up a reasoned peer-reviewed opinion has anything to do with purity. The op-eds are paid gigs. $375 at the NY Times for anyone but it’s an editorial decision wherever it is. Naturally the conservative papers will cater to their thinktank contributors like Pete du Pont et al. Send one to the Times. They’ll publish it, I assure you.
I was wondering; what meaning and implications are ofthe comment by Lincoln: “it’s time for the privileges accorded to the alarmist crowd to be revoked”. By the comments in this and related threads it seems that the WSJ does not publish anything contrary to their dogma and world view anyway. I may be wrong I have never read it. I was going to send a letter to them, just to see what happened, however, a subscription is required and I am loath to give any of my money to them.
Comment by Lawrence McLean — 16 Apr 2006 @ 12:21 AM
#36: “Are Arctic storms becoming more frequent and intense since 1990 when Arctic ice meltback began to accelerate?”
The answer is yes, despite less steeper baroclinic differences. The reasons are much more complex than I previously thought. But warmer air intrusions “attacking” cold air formations play a major role.
[Response: This is interesting. I wasn’t aware of this result and would like to learn more. Any paper out on it yet? –raypierrre]
I feel that the Real Climate folks are doing an excellent job. I have used information on this site to directly enlighten about fifty people. The things you mention need to be picked up by someone (or organization) that already has expertise and resources in that area. Let people do the job that they are best at.
Sure, I understand that a very dirty war is being waged, even though the salvos are words, I will not call it a game, as the stakes are too high to call it that.
I agree with you, that the naysayers need to be challenged using techniques that you mention, however Real Climate should stay as is.
Comment by Lawrence McLean — 16 Apr 2006 @ 1:32 AM
The posting of Lindzen’s article appears to be a case of putting him in the stocks and sitting back to watch the wet sponges fly. This is what happened, with most posters assuming Lindzen to be misguided. This is a newspaper “opinion” – an experienced and respected climate scientist saying “this is what I believe” – so criticising him for not providing substance is not really relevant. The “point-by-point” rebuttal is a combination of differing opinions (which is fine, but that’s what it is – a different opinion) and the politician’s tactic of mis-interpreting points made. For example, Lindzen does not question that a link between global warming and extreme weather has been made. It is predicted for decades into the future in the event of significant temperature rises. What he questions is how recent extreme weather (which has always happened and always will) can be so confidently blamed on global warming (which the media and politicised scientists regularly do). With regard to funding, only those involved in the process can really know. With regard to the scientific consensus, Lindzen is accused of oversimplifying this. However, the media regular report or imply – incorrectly – that there is consensus on the more extreme claims. The recent “Time” article (13 April 2006), after giving a list of recent extreme events (Cyclone Larry, forest fires in Indonesia, Hurricane Katrina, etc) presented as being caused by climate change, then states “the serious debate has quietly ended”. Criticising Lindzen for not explaining “models” is an irrelevant editorial one, given that anyone who has been following the debate will have some understanding of what they are. The scientific debate continues. It is a reality that politicians and policy makers often need to make key decisions where uncertainty remains. However, scientists (like the UK’s David King) have a duty to be honest to their “clients” and the public about the uncertainty.
Re the response (by Raypierre, I think?) posted within 28, thanks for mention of Posner on ‘Catastrophe’ and I’d welcome pointers to more discussion of that wherever it’s happening — can’t find your own articles, links OK?
[Response: The “catastrophe” issue with my article and Posner’s is not yet online, but I imagine it will be shortly. The print issue just came out. To read my various articles, go here and look for whatever interests you. I haven’t gotten around to posting some of the more recent writings yet, but the catastrophe article is there. On the subject of catastrophe, if you can read French, I very highly recommend the marvelous booklet by Jean-Pierre Dupuy, petite metaphysique des tsunamis . –raypierre]
I observe two aspects of the media ‘balace’ issue that have yet to be addressed here –
First – why would anyone assume that a media organ, such as WSJ, will give an honest account of the major threat to its very major advertizers (Big Oil & Big Auto) that provide an essential portion of its revenues, beside having unparalleled influence over other sectors’ advertizers ?
Surely if they were going to give an honest account before it becomes utterly discreditable in their readers’ eyes to do otherwise, they would have done so by now ?
Second, as one aspect of the Oil-based status quo’s strategy of “Distraction in total depth”,
the longer the public debate can be focussed on the reality of AGW, the longer the urgency of coherent global action can be ignored.
Yet this is merely the next hedge – in stating, however tersely, just how urgent / genocidal is the problem, we are distracted from discussing just what, precisely, are the solutions.
RC does noble work on propagating sound science in the face of the billions that Big oil could throw at multifacted disinformation if it felt the need,
but, to be effective (i.e. to practice Applied Climate Science) we plainly need to establish a global focus on the discussion & evaluation of the solutions.
As I’ve been unable to find any such public forum website, despite diligent searching, I wonder whether RC might be willing, in common with other reputable sites, to host discussion of its formation ?
For what it’s worth, as far as I’ve seen the ultimate “hedge of distraction” lies in the heavily propagated delusion
that a clear international consensus across all major states is required before a vanguard of nations can begin formally to discuss the requisite framework of the requisite Treaty of the Atmospheric Commons.
If others here concur with the need to help establish such a website, then I would propose that getting beyond that final hedge of “Awaiting Consensus” should become one focus within it.
[Response: I doubt that the problems with the WSJ science reporting are driven by advertising revenue. Other business publications, like The Economist also get a lot of energy industry advertisements, as to general publications like Time , but do not have the same ideological filter on interpreting scientific results. For that matter, many of the WSJ advertisers are not in industries directly affected by energy prices, and some are in industries that are sensitive to climate change. The biggest advertisers are investment banks, which rake in money no matter what happens to everybody else. On top of all that, WSJ is probable less reliant on advertising revenue vis a vis subscriptions than most other newspapers. Newspapers have an institutional culture, and WSJ clearly has an extreme ideology that says something like “Corporations can do no Wrong”. This goes way beyond merely being pro-business. Perhaps the ideological bent is reinforced by what the editors perceive as their subscriber base, and perhaps it represents a perception of what the editors think will make them and the group they associate with richer; I can only speculate. The distressing thing to me is that, while one could hardly fault a paper for letting ideology affect editorial discussions on policy matters, the WSJ takes the ideological filter to an extreme and applies it to science as well — both on the editorial page, and in the coverage of science in the news reporting sections of the paper. Whatever the motivation, the fact that the editors clearly do not understand the way science works, and how to evaluate scientific arguments, is the real scandal here. I wouldn’t want people to assume that being “pro business” or “pro capitalism” necessarily means being like the WSJ. In fact, the way the WSJ reinforces the impression of an unbridgeable gulf between the business community and the community favoring environmental protection is one of the more damaging faults of the paper. Please do note that the problem is most extreme on the editorial page. Some (not all) of the science reporting that appears elsewhere in the paper is quite forthright. Recently, there was a very honest article about Alberta tar sands, which was forthright about the environmental damage that tar sand recover causes. True,there was almost a gleeful streak about how damaging this industry is, but nobody reading the article would be misinformed about the environmental problems. Several years earlier, WSJ had a very insightful front-page article debunking claims that the new oil-drilling technology was so clean you could drill in ANWR without any significant impact. –raypierre]
Comment by Lewis Cleverdon — 16 Apr 2006 @ 6:10 AM
RICHARD LINDZEN wrote … Everything from the heat wave in Paris to heavy snows in Buffalo has been blamed on people burning gasoline to fuel their cars, and coal and natural gas to heat, cool and electrify their homes. … what the public fails to grasp is that the claims neither constitute support for alarm nor establish man’s responsibility for the small amount of warming that has occurred. …
Climate of Fear – Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence. http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110008220
PHEaston wrote … scientists (like the UK’s David King) have a duty to be honest to their “clients” and the public about the uncertainty (comment 53. in RC).
Scientists (like Richard Lindzen) have a duty NOT to imply to the pubic that: 1) there is no support for the human human population being responsible for most or all of the warming in recent decades, and 2) NOT to imply that there is only a small amount of warming recently. These are much more than mere distractions. Actually, due to the severe consequences of contributing to people’s attitudes to continue business as usual with respect to GHG emissions, this is much more than just a duty NOT to imply and mislead, this like a 11th Commandment which thou shalt NOT break.
It is a weak argument to say the climate reseachers would never fan the flames of alarmism.
[Response: You are being unfair to researchers. There’s a difference between being “alarmist” and being genuinely alarmed about a problem, and arguing for more research funding as a result. I’m not alarmist — I’m just plain alarmed. –raypierre]
What do you think medical doctors do when they want more money for research or treating certain disease. Breast cancer and AIDS get huge funding for research and treatment, far more than more serious problems like lung cancer and heart disease, in proportion to the number of victims of these diseases.
[Response: I certainly wouldn’t argue that the distribution of funding for biomedical research in the US is optimal, but what are your ideas for doing it better? Do you trust Congress to make these decisions for you without input from victims? Do you think that if you shut off input from doctors and victims that the input from other lobbyists would lead to a more equitable distribution of funding? I think the answer isn’t quieter victims, it’s smarter congresspeople. Whatever you think about the equity of medical research funding, you can hardly deny that breast cancer and AIDS are serious problems. It’s hard to see any big waste of money there. ]
Hysteria over breast cancer and HIV, followed by political action, has been a financial bonanza for certain segments of the health care industry. Just follow the money.
[Response: If you follow the money, it certainly won’t lead you to climate research.]
A case in point is the U. Maine. It recently changed the name of its Quaternary Institute to the Climate Change Insititute. I wonder why?
[Response: Maybe because it’s more descriptive of what they actually do these days. Maybe because they want to make it easier for students to recognize what they do. Lots of good reasons. ]
The Climate Change Institute (formerly the Institute for Quaternary and Climate Studies) is an interdisciplinary research unit organized to conduct research and graduate education focused on variability of the earths climate, ecosystems, and other environmental systems and on the interaction between humans and the natural world.
That last phrase, italics added, I sure they are hoping will add millions of dollars in research funds over the years.
[Response: I can’t speak for the University of Maine, and I doubt that you can either. Besides, there’s nothing wrong in a University hoping to raise funds for work in an area they think is important. Gee, that was pretty underhanded of the University of Chicago to play on peoples’ knee-jerk concern for childrens’ health by opening a Childrens’ Hospital. Must have just been a ploy to get their hands on more of the donors’ money. –raypierre ]
Of interest, U. Maine researchers recently let Greenpeace use them to put out an alarming press release on the melting of Greenland’s glaciers, with all the usual hype. They actually used a Greenpeace ship to help conduct their research, and came back with the very results Greenpeace wants to hear.
[Response: Hamilton and one grad student got a lift to Greenland on a Greenpeace ice cutter. Other’s have gotten lifts on goverrnment vessels and aircraft, or even on Gary Comer’s yacht. They and other U. Maine researchers get a great deal more funding from peer-reviewed grants, which provide strong vetting of the science. They publish the results in peer-reviewed journals, and the results regarding what has been going on along the Greenland coast have been verified by independent researchers. It’s hard to make the case that this is a Greenpeace “work for hire.” Greenpeace does sometimes oversimplify scientific results in its press releases, and gets some things plain wrong — though by no means as often as they are accused of doing. If you provide me with the URL for the press release, I can give you my read on it. I couldn’t find it on Google News. ]
Now tell me, how is this any different from a researcher taking money from Exxon, and then telling Exxon, and the world, what Exxon wants to hear? Or taking money from Big Tobacco and announcing that the link between smoking and ill health is not well defined.
[Response: Published primarily in peer-reviewed journals, extensively cross-checked by other scientists, primarily funded by peer-reviewed research grants, etc. etc. Guess which research program I’m referring to here. Another clue: How much money does Greenpeace have? How much money does ExxonMobil have? How much money does Phillip Morris have? ]
I haven’t read any criticism of the U. Maine for this sort of rank opportunism and for letting themselves be co-opted by Greenpeace.
[Response: “Opportunism?” The dictionary definition of an opportunist is “a person who places expediency above principle,” or “taking immediate advantage, often unethically, of any circumstance of possible benefit.” There’s a difference between “opportunism” and “benefiting from opportunity.” U. Maine could be construed as “opportunist” only in the weaker form of the second definition, in the sense of taking immediate advantage, though not necessarily unethicallly. “Rank” and “Co-Opted?” definitely not.]
I have only noticed these activities at the U. of Maine because a relative was a grad student there, otherwise I would never have taken any notice. I wonder how much similar opportunistic activity is ocurring around the country at other research institutions?
[Response: Your definition of “opportunistic” is so broad that it would take in virtual any scientific research a University or other research organization seeks funding for. ]
Grant money is the lifeblood of scientific research, afterall.
It is surprisingly easy to be a skeptic.
[Response: Yes, it is much easier to be a GW skeptic than to think for yourself and try to understand the scientific arguments. See Gavin’s article on How to be a real sceptic –raypierre]
When you read that “the judgments of alarmists” is that global warming is “settled science”, you can be sure that you are about to hear the voice of multinational corporate polluters speaking through their impressive array of public relations firms and political allies. The only people saying that “alarmists” claim that the “science is settled” are right wing think tanks, like Cato, SEPP, and Friends of Science, and industry funded politicians like Inhofe. And now the Catholic Church.
Suppose that the science is not settled (whatever that means), how does it follow that “It is probable that the case for anthropogenic warming will not hold up” If you don’t know enough to claim that global warming is real, then how can you know enough to claim that AWG won’t hold up?
Uncertainty, by definition, can go either way. Uncertainty doesn’t mean there is nothing to worry about. There is a lively debate in the scientific community about whether increasing hurricane intensity is a result of natural cycles or global warming. If you were deciding whether or not to rebuild your flooded home in New Orleans, would the “unsettled” link between GW and hurricanes is give you peace of mind? Some of the science of GW is not settled, but this should be no comfort to those who prefer to be complacent about the future.
Most climate scientists, and every credible scientific institution, after decades of research, have voiced confidence in the conclusion that human causes largely responsible for global warming. Clear and present effects have been well documented, and future dangers are based on an enormous body of scientific investigation. To dismiss this by denigration as “alarmist” is simply rhetorical polemic, and not an honest description of the science.
The eleventh commandment: Do not mislead your neighbor about the cause of severe recent global warming by human activity nor distract from your neighbor effort to save Earth for inhabitants of today and tomorrow.
Gamblers go to the race track to bet on animals – dogs or horses -running on dirt tracks. These speculators carry newspapers that chronicle the animals recent past and offer some advice on their future. With this set of tools, generally reasonable people hand their money over a hopefully honest syndicate with the intention to collect their winning if the gamble pays off.
Compare that scene to Wall Street and it is not a stretch to find some parallels. So, why would the WALL STREET tout sheet give a lot of editorial ink to to an honest appraisal of the earth’s changing climate. Some of its most important customers are betting huge sums on what they know best…the performance the companies in their portfolio and price-earnings ratios, etc.
There is not time to crack the WSJ editorial page but we can appeal to the Boards of Directors of some very influential and vital corporations in the food and grain industry…as have enlightened voices made appeals to the insurance industry. Their message is getting play and internal discussions about flood insurance and other aspects of the underwriting industry are beginning to reflect the concern RealClimate and its serious readers have been aware for about 20 years.
Lindzen is not the issue, really. He is the image of our frustration. Think past him to the interests that read the WSJ for the sake of knowing the future and direct our knowledge and concern to them.
Politicians have a two, four or six year lifespan unless they have declared themselves dictators for life.
Corporate leaders hope to retire with a fortune and they likely never think or hear about how a changing world climate is going to either make them richer or bankrupt.
Capitalist survival strategies are not the realm of RealClimate but whatever it takes to open minds is worth the effort.
Name some industries that have or soon will have a dog in the climate change fight and try to find new voices there to drown out the skeptics.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 16 Apr 2006 @ 10:11 AM
Thanks for the continued commentary about the WSJ opinion pages’ and editors’ performance, and for the conjecturing about their motivations, and for the conjecturing about whether or not the WSJ would print a Lindzen-rebutting op-ed — not letter, but op-ed — from a scientist of high stature.
One of my own conjectures is to disagree with the claim that only organizations with high-powered PR hacks can place op-eds. I’m just not convinced, not yet anyway, that the WSJ would spurn a well-crafted op-ed from, say, James Hansen himself. The WSJ does love to publish big names.
And more importantly, I have no evidence that anyone has gone past theory and actually run the experiment. When a theory can actually be tested, don’t scientists usually insist on going after the empirical data?
It seems to me that Raypierre was right to say: “Whatever the motivation, the fact that the editors clearly do not understand the way science works, and how to evaluate scientific arguments, is the real scandal here.” But I do think it’s important to try to assess motivation, if possible, simply because understanding a problem is a step in solving it — even if, as some predict, the only possible solution to the WSJ problem will turn out to be ignoring the WSJ, and its audience, as being hopeless.
As I say, I’m just not yet ready to buy that prediction, or the belief expressed by some that the WSJ’s editors are just plain liars. I think it’s not that easy. And I have an analogy question about it: In the nineteenth century, powerful journalists claimed that God had ordained a system in which some people owned other people. Were those journalists lying? Or did they actually believe that nonsense?
I think it’s pretty clear that many of them fervently, ardently believed it. True, one of the flaws in the analogy might be that that wasn’t about science, but it’s also true that a junk-science tradition already existed for justifying odious racial beliefs.
In following the WSJ’s op-ed choices fairly closely, I track what James Taranto says about climate science in the WSJ’s “Best of the Web.” Taranto, apparently operating out of a depth of ignorance of the principle of sample size in statistics, frequently joshes about a global warming speech that Vice President Gore once delivered on an outlier of a really, really cold day. Taranto appears genuinely to believe that this is a hilarious irony, and that it tends to discredit the scientific climate consensus. Now, if he and his colleagues are just scheming liars — as opposed to being grossly biased like those nineteenth century journalists — it seems to me that it’s pretty interesting that Taranto carries the lying deviousness to this level of pitiful attempted humor.
Here’s why I think it all matters. I just flat disagree with the verb when someone says that he “suspects” that many influential business leaders get their climate science from the WSJ editorial pages. Suspect? It seems to me that the country, especially its business enterprises, is run by people who follow one more news medium than President Bush does — and that one single outlet is the Wall Street Journal.
So I repeat what I said in comment 1, but re-phrased this way: if RealClimate, which is intrinsically based on a faith in democratic discourse, is worth doing at all, the Lindzen-rebuttal op-ed experiment is well worth conducting, whether or not directly by RC scientists.
[Response: I agree in principle, but plead lack of time and low probability of payoff. (I believe some of the rest of us are nonetheless having a go at the NY Times). Something to realize is that with any newspaper, the chance that any given op-ed will be accepted is very low, yet it takes a great deal of time to craft an op-ed that is well-written enough within the word count constraints that it even stands a chance. Thus, even viewed as a scientific experiment, a rejection of a single –or even a few — op eds by the WSJ would tell you very little. I’ve had a lot of op-eds rejected by the NYT, but their editorial policy re climate change coverage is basically fine. Another thing to realize is that newspapers essentially never use op ed space for op eds directly rebutting other op eds. I don’t know why this is, but what journalism professionals have told me seems to be borne out by my own reading of op-ed pages. It’s true that it would be very informative to get together a group to submit, say, a dozen sound-science climate change op-eds to the WSJ over the coming month, and see what happens. I’m not sure the experiment has ever been tried. It’s just that it would be a whole lot of work to do, and most of us feel (rightly or wrongly) that the chances of being surprised by the WSJ are rather small. I do agree that finding some way to establish a dialog with the WSJ readership is critical. Trying to do that through the WSJ editorial pages may not be a particularly effective way to proceed. As for myself, I probably connected with much more of the WSJ readership when I gave a talk at the Winnetka Garden Club than I would through any number of op-eds I might submit to the WSJ. –raypierre]
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 16 Apr 2006 @ 11:12 AM
I wasn’t at first convinced. But you’ve persuaded me that yes, the experiment is worth trying. I would also point out that if the WSJ declines to print the rebuttal op-ed, very little is lost, but if the WSJ *does* publish it, quite a lot would be gained.
“the WSJ takes the ideological filter to an extreme and applies it to science as well — both on the editorial page, and in the coverage of science in the news reporting sections of the paper.”
I find frequesntly the reporting side exposes the editorial page as the misinformed ideologues they are, but I have no idea how often. I applaud Ray’s an RC’s efforts and hope they do so. It’s true that wouldn’t tell us anything we don’t know about subject selectivity at the papers. My op-ed’s are rejected all the time. I once got beat out by Michael Dombeck Chief of the Forest Service who had just been let go by Bush who essentially said the same things I did on the Clinton Roadless Rule. That’s the kind of literary luck I have, but it’s clear I was beaten out by the ultimate big gun. That’s how it works. The important thing was it was said in the public space. The letters to the editor have to concern a specific op-ed.
I’ll include it here as an example of an opinion piece:
[Response: The Dombeck piece is indeed a well-crafted op-ed, and I hope people will take the time to read it either through the Times archives or through a link that Mr. York can provide. I’ve edited it out of this comment because the subject matter itself was off-topic and I didn’t want our discussion to get derailed into a discussion of forest policy,important though that is –raypierre]
“Something to realize is that with any newspaper, the chance that any given op-ed will be accepted is very low, yet it takes a great deal of time to craft an op-ed that is well-written enough within the word count constraints that it even stands a chance.”
For a climate science professional living in an area with a reasonably large daily, it shouldn’t be hard to get an op-ed in. I have several friends who’ve written op-eds for my local daily (The Oregonian).
Not as important or as high-profile as the WSJ or Times, by any means, but still, exposing a few tens of thousands of readers to the real science of global warming is worthwhile.
And certainly I’m not suggesting it’s not worth trying to get a piece into the WSJ. I’m just saying I know where I’ll lay my bet if a pool’s started on whether or not they’ll publish such a piece :) A sound piece there would be read by many important people.
But raypierre’s right, op-eds are usually not published if they simply provide rebuttal to a previous op-ed. Better would be to jump on a significant announcement and use that as a platform to build an article on. For instance the last round of corrections to Christy and Spencer’s MSU analysis would’ve provided such an opportunity.
What about an op-ed in Time to counter their outrageously alarmist article of 3rd April 2006. This starts with “Polar ice caps are melting faster than ever; more and more land is being devasted by drought; rising waters are drowning low-lying communities. By any measure, Earth is at the tipping point. The climate is crashing, and global warming is to blame.” This is very much a taste of what follows. As serious scientists, you should be concerned that this will ultimately damage your case by ‘crying wolf’. Unless these statements are true – and no serious scientist would claim this, however convinced he/she is by the truth of Man’s influence on climate change – there will come a time when the public will become jaded and cynical.
[Response: I can quibble with some of the details in the Time article. For example, the statement that polar ice caps are melting “faster than ever” ought to have some qualification with regard to time frame; how you would work in precision of that sort while keeping to standard punchy journalistic writing style, I’m not sure. The main thing is that the Time article gives a correct overall impression of the nature of the problem, even if it is wrong in some of the details. I can’t say the same for Lindzen’s piece. Will and Novak have already had their shot at countering the Time article, and rather than raising legitimate points where clarification could have been useful, they squandered their chance on baseless character assassination and rehashing of already debunked arguments. –raypierre]
[Response: Having reflected a bit more on the interesting issue you raise, I’d like to clarify my response. I agree that Time’s science reporting is often rather sloppy. After all, it was Time that brought us the botched 1970 “global cooling” story that has caused so many headaches. In fact, compared to, say, The Economist, there are a lot of pretty shallow and unsatisfactory aspects of Time’s reporting all ’round. All I’m saying is that, given that I see Time’s article as a move in the right direction for their journalism, compared to the even more flawed “false balance” approach, it’s not exactly at the top of my to-do list of crusades. If there were any useful role that Will or Novak or Lindzen could have played in this, it would have been to point out the precise areas where Time went overboard. Chris Shea’s piece in the Boston Globe made a lot of sense in this direction, and deserves wider play. It will be important to keep the pendulum from swinging too far the other way, and implying that there is more certainty than there really is. This will become increasingly important as the discussion moves beyond the amount of warming, and begins to focus instead on the severity of the impacts. Here, we are unlikely to have much certainty in time to take the kind of action that would be required to avoid a dangerous degree of climate change. If it is implied that we can deliver certainty, and if it is demanded that we do deliver certainty, then all hope of taking any action is lost. Policy decisions are always made in the face of uncertainty, and climate change is no different. The role of science will be to discover new bad consequences that need to be considered, and to try to see which of the possible bad consequences can be ruled out in the light of new research. What remains is in the realm of possibility, and must be factored into policy decisions even if the probabilities are uncertain. I’d say that if there is a problem, it is not that scientists have to be alarming in order to get funding. Rather, it’s that politicians never seem to take action unless somebody gets hysterical. I just don’t know what to do about that. –raypierre ]
OK guys — I’ve taken the bait. I’ve just submitted a brief Letter to the Editor of the WSJ, raising a few issues with Lindzen’s op-ed. Please help me watch out to see if it appears. I’m not a regular reader.
I’ll keep an eye out for a newsworthy hook that would justify an op-ed submission. This may take a little time away from the time I spend responding to RC comments (very addictive, that!)
About #51, Raypierre, there are no papers yet on this issue that I know of, but there are statellite pictures and surface weather maps, which often show strong winds in the 40 to 70 knot range, sometimes with huirricane speeds, without any significant pressure differences. Suggest the following websites:
Surface map which may show very strong winds without steep baroclines…
But in particular look for Infrared signature of a blizzard associated with the strong winds, sometimes occuring without steep baroclinic differences, they can be identified as small 60 nautical miles radius or so, pockets of white, apparently very high turbulent air, definitely turbulent on surface, characterized by very high in altitude blowing snow, appearing brilliant white, away fom apparent storm zones, very misleading often appearing as high cirrus, Must compare surface map link above with http://www.weatheroffice.ec.gc.ca/data/satellite/hrpt_dfo_ir_100.jpg
to see them… Last one seen was April 7 vicinity Resolute Bay, to the south and southwest,, at the edge of a very large but none significant low centered 400 miles awayto the North, part of one of its cloud bands had 3 distinct turbulent zones.
#36: “Are Arctic storms becoming more frequent and intense since 1990 when Arctic ice meltback began to accelerate?”
The answer is yes, despite less steeper baroclinic differences. The reasons are much more complex than I previously thought. But warmer air intrusions “attacking” cold air formations play a major role.
Thank you Wayne for that reply.
It would seem the U.S. Coast Guard stations monitoring fishing fleets and providing at sea rescue in the West Arctic would be a good place to ask if recent storm activities have increased.
I have a copy of the Arctic Environmental Atlas issued in 1999 by the Office of Naval Research and will contact some of the authors and contributors to make inquiries.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 16 Apr 2006 @ 2:39 PM
Ray, as you move into the public area, be prepared for a vicious pushback. From a comment that I made about a year ago elsewhere IMHO the point is that for too long the soapbox in the public arena has been the property of those pushing denial. The Lottâ��s Seitzâ��, Singers, Michaels and the rest of the gang of six have worked assiduously to get their screeds onto op ed pages of many newpapers where they are read by millions of people while folk who write science have their stuff read by maybe a hundred in some refereed journal or maybe a thousand on some blog such as this.
They (the gang of six, or maybe twelve) are aided by public relations shops such as AEI who have people talking to editors of editorial pages every day. What Real Climate needs is some funding for its own public relations firm to compete, and the realization of what the game is.
When anyone threatens to compete for real estate on op ed pages and talk shows there is a huge push back, not just from the few denialists but from the entire public affairs apparatus that is pushing them. That is why you need cover.
#69. Hank, no publications, not even research on some of these anomalies…. there are some general archives presented in various forms, but there are some weather and sea ice features out there, rarely discussed if not known at all. We can present them, but understanding their mechanisms is far from being achieved, there are clues, such as warm and cold air disparities. The greatest mystery yet, is why 100 cm high tides can rip open the Arctic ocean ice pack shore line for hundreds of miles during new moon and full moon periods.
The just of the story is Lindzen can’t , I am sure that he knows this, generalize on
meteorology, as if in one hand we would expect less baroclinic storms when we know that the causes of storms are not at all totally very well understood.
#72, that is agood idea, Resolute is being hit more often than ever
with “warmish” blizzards,
[Response: It’s a pretty robust feature in general circulation models that the midlatitude storm tracks shift poleward as the climate gets warmer. I wonder if the indications you are seeing of an increase in Arctic storminess might be a reflection of this. It’s possible that one could see an increase in Arctic storminess at the same time the maximum global windspeed of midlatitude storms was going down modestly. Certainly, there’s more to life than baroclinicity, so the simplistic reasoning in the Op-Ed is not compelling. To be fair, the old simplistic reasoning — that water vapor would make midlatitude storms more intense — isn’t compelling either. The simplistic reasoning that warming will cause all forms of storms to carry more rainfall does, if you’ll forgive the expression, appear to hold water however. –raypierre]
Raypierre, that is correct, most recent significant storms, within the last 5 years , headed Northwards, and had extreme wind velocities along with abnormaly warm temperatures. Namely a February cyclone which warmed up South Baffin to +5 to 9.5 C above zero (something like a +40 C anomaly), which stopped moving over Ellesmere, warming it up enormously before fading away. Hats off to the GCM models calculating this…
[Response: The AR4 suite of GCM predictions for the newest IPCC report are now available online. I wonder whether anybody has yet analyzed these models for storm track and jet shifts, and for what happens to the wind speed and rainfall in extratropical synoptic eddies. With regard to the storm track shifts, I’m most familiar with the results from GCM’s run with idealized boundary conditions (aqua planet and so forth). –raypierre]
Concerning Raypierre’s response to 61 and his own comment 67:
It seems to me undeniable that, just as you say, there’s “a low probability of payoff” for you at the WSJ or any national paper in return for the “great deal of time” necessary “to craft an op-ed that is well-written enough within the word count constraints that it even stands a chance.” But as I suggested in 1, why not just send a query instead?
If they stonewall or outright spurn a query briefly characterizing the op-ed that you’d craft if they would agree to consider it, at least you haven’t wasted your time crafting something carefully for an audience that won’t ever see it. Moreover, in that case, you’d then at least gain a useful datum. It’d be this: the publicizable fact that the WSJ had either refused or stonewalled a request to respond that it received from a scientist numbered among the very scientists that the WSJ and its op-ed authors have been criticizing. Of course, that’s only one datum, but as a next step, you could get another climate scientist of stature to send a query — and then, if need be, another, and then yet another.
My point has to do with power. These irresponsible people at the WSJ can control their own propaganda, it’s true. But that doesn’t exempt their actions from speaking louder than their words — and it doesn’t preclude earnest, honest, dignified climate scientists from proving to the world that the WSJ dishes it out, but dodges taking it.
You yourself have now sent a Lindzen letter to the WSJ, you say, but other well-known climate scientists among your colleagues could submit op-ed queries, and for that matter you still could too. And of course, if the WSJ surprises you or one of your colleagues by first agreeing to consider a submission, and then by actually printing it, so much the better. Let their readers, in that sunny case, look at themselves in the mirror and somehow not see that their hands are cupped tightly over their ears.
By the way, if you guys really believe that, as an expert told you, “newspapers essentially never use op ed space for op eds directly rebutting other op eds,” then maybe it’d be better to offer to engage the denialists’ larger themes anyway: their junk science, their tarring of you all as “alarmists,” their idea that what’s genuinely alarming is really only the concoction of a “science-journalism complex.” If you really think, in other words, that the WSJ would never consider a Lindzen rebuttal, then maybe some of you could offer to rebut the whole problem emanating from them and from others who share their denial. You could see what they say in response to the queries, or whether they stonewall.
My point is that the lofty editorial page of the WSJ doesn’t have all the power in this equation, not even concerning their own page — and they most certainly don’t control the international discussion, even if they do manage to shelter their powerful readers from it. You guys represent a powerful scientific consensus, after all. Even Nature’s editors said so. That’s a form of power too, whether or not the WSJ knows it. And you, but not they, have been trying to use your power responsibly in this matter. So I still hope you’ll call their bluff. I still hope you’ll make them do right or show themselves to the world as unwilling to do right.
It may sound distastefully political to those RC readers who (in a way that puzzles me) want you to remain in a condition that they seem to believe is pristine, but my point is that you could do this bluff-calling with dignity and with no cost whatsoever to your scientific integrity — and that you could then just let the WSJ editors choose the manner in which they themselves wish to respond.
That’s a position into which they most richly deserve to be put, even if they turn out to be too stupid to see that you have put them into it.
Thanks for indulging my long-windedness, and thanks again for your technocivic efforts.
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 16 Apr 2006 @ 10:22 PM
Lindzen does have a point: Alarmism pays. This is not specific to climate change, but to all of science. My field is utterly different from that of most people here, but we all apply for grants the same way – by first stating what the problem is, how that problem is important, and how our science will help solve the problem. Whether we like it or not, there is going to be a bias towards exaggerating the size of the problem. To think otherwise is to think too highly of ourselves. Coupled with self-selection bias (people researching any topic are likely to think that topic is important), and you have a significant bias in the process that we should all be willing to admit.
[Response: While you are correct in stating that most people are in a field because they think it’s interesting, and they tackle problems thought to be important, it does not follow that is an inherent bias towards exaggerating the size of the problem. Why not? Because the reviewers of the proposals, the panel members and program managers are an extremely critical lot, and at any indication of ‘overstretch’ they mark down proposals accordingly (believe me, this happens a lot). I will grant that funding of the field as a whole is broadly reflective of the importance society as whole thinks it worth (hence the huge funding for NIH and the manned space program), but I disagree that this leads to an incentive to exaggerate or be alarmist. As I pointed out in one of the previous threads, just look at the proposals that NSF actually funds in climate change research – as far as can tell it is all interesting and capable stuff, but you would be hard pressed to say it was alarmist. If what you said was true it would be clearly obvious. – gavin]
Re: P Neuman (56 and >>>>). Lindzen does not claim “there is no support for the human human population being responsible for most or all of the warming in recent decades” (although he seems not to agree with it). Rather, his point is that the suggestion that humans are responsible for ‘most or all of’ recent extreme weather events is alarmist. With regard to whether there has been only a small amount of warming recently: That doesn’t have to come from Lindzen. Its a fact that mean global temperature has risen no more than about 0.5 degC in the past 27 yrs – as you know, almost identical to the rise between 1910 and 1945, when CO2 emissions are accepted to have been two small to influence, and there’s certainly no indication of it ‘accelerating’. Re 59. I disagree with confusing faith with science. Its quite wrong to suggest a scientist is ‘evil’ (ie by breaking a comandment)just because his views differ from your’s. All he’s doing is stating his beliefs based on scientific research.
I have to say on balance I agree with Chad (#77) here. Of course everyone thinks that their own speciality is important, and thus they end up saying how important it is. In climate science, this often boils down to saying that there is a big threat or problem, or at least risk. IMO it’s better to accept that this tendency exists, and to always read stuff with at least a pinch of salt, than to pretend it doesn’t.
RC has done a good job of debunking some of the more extreme comments on the alarmist as well as septic side of the debate. IMO it is more realistic to recognise that the extreme wing is not a few “bad apples” among an otherwise honest and upstanding band of citizens, but just the natural tendency to overstep the line occasionally when everyone is trying to get as close to it as possible.
Gavin, when is the last time you saw a proposal that said “this work, if funded, probably won’t make much difference in the great scheme of things”. Yet I am sure that a significant proportion of research could be honestly described in that way, even a priori!
[Response: I have probably reviewed a few hundred proposals by now, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen a proposal sold, or oversold, on the grounds that it would save the world or head off catastrophe. Why would scientists do that in their proposals, given that they are reviewed by their peers — other scientists — rather than by senators? The temptation to exaggerate or oversimplify results would come in advocacy roles, in communicating with the media and public, and in arguing before Congress (and the equivalent in other countries) for funding of specific scientific programs. It’s a temptation that’s there, to be sure, and I won’t say that scientists never give in to it. There really is almost no indication of this in grant proposals. Naturally, grant proposals are going to try to make the best possible case that their results are going to be important, but that’s a far cry from anything that could be called “alarmist.” I don’t know myself what the “great scheme of things” is, so I can’t say whether a significant proportion of research is known a priori to not matter to that. I can say that most research that’s funded on the basis of peer review is funded because at least somebody believes the results will be interesting, or advance the state of knowledge. Society funds basic research partly because of sheer curiosity, partly because of technological spinoffs, and partly because the answers to some questions are needed to set policy decisions. It’s in the nature of basic research — being inquiries into the unknown — that a lot of what is done will turn out to be in some sense useless. Some of that useless stuff will look useless for a century or more, but then turn out to be the key to something else. Some of it will probably always be useless. All attempts to channel basic research into “useful” or “relevant” directions have only resulted in stifling creativity and making the whole enterprise work less well. Hence my disgust at the required NSF “Broader Impacts” criterion on grant proposals. –raypierre ]
[Response: Well, in defense of ‘broader impacts’ (though possibly not of the importance they are officially accorded in the NSF process), it is worthwhile now and again to ask yourself why society should be funding our personal interests. Educating the next generation of scientists, communication of interesting results, and indeed, providing the raw material out of which the IPCC reports and such like are formulated are all ‘good things’. Completely blue-sky or off the wall ideas will always have a hard time getting funded when placed in competition with more developed ideas/projects and that has always been an issue that predates the ‘broader impacts’ criterion. Going back to James’ point – there is a big difference in saying funding my research will lead to an important advance in our understanding on this issue (the usual line) and saying you must fund my proposal because the fate of the world rests upon it (an ‘alarmist’ line if you like) . It just doesn´t work that way… – gavin]
The bias issue has analogues in ecology. The science of ecological niches asks how a niche was changed by the introduction of a new animal, for example. The ecologist steps back and constructs the niche in the absent ot the new animal.
We have a hard time doing that, for some obvious reasons. Self interest, we are the dominant animal. The scale, we have never dealt with an ecological niche of this size in ecological terms, the way a forester might be able to. And finally, intelligent self deception.
But, the climatologists need to theoretically remove man from the niche to understand the tipping points and trends that underly the glacial cycle, especially that this period is recently unique. If we know a tipping point was expected at some time X in the future, then we better estimate the amount of corrective action, we plan better.
Re #79.. I am doing ocean/climate research in a small teaching-1 university and NSF has been very generous in funding my research proposals which are for sure not sensational or alarm-worthy. In fact, it has been my experience with NSF that “catchy,” “alarming,” “we must study this or die” type of broader impact statements work against the proposers and are considered mostly naive with “unsound scientific basis.”
Re 79, Ray has already noted this but I’d like to underscore it: stating or arguing that something is important is not being alarmist. It has to be needless (whatever that means) and it has to involve exaggerations or falsehoods. I mentioned in #25 that I have seen/heard researchers make statements that they wouldn’t have made if there weren’t funds at stake. An example may be helpful: I was at a workshop regarding Late-run sockeye on the Fraser River where different research approaches were being discussed. There was a significant amount of money available for the research — these fish were entering freshwater more than a month earlier than normal, and picking up a kidney parasite there that killed as many as 90% of them while they were waiting around to spawn. (Yes, warm water temperatures were/are partly to blame.) At the time of this workshop, nobody really knew what was going on and there was a great variety of proposed research — based on their area of expertise, descriptions of postential research evolved into arguments about the importance of understanding trends of chemicals dumped into the river recently, or migration energetics, or salinity in the estuary, or predator trends in the gulf and estuary. Here we had an alarming fact (fish dying) and we had researchers overstating the relevance of their research style for the study of the problem (all were potentially relevant but many statements were more certain than they should have been). This was not alarmism. All ‘salesmanship’ was directed toward determining mechanisms, not toward alarm.
I doubt that tendancies in climate research are wholely different from the kind of thing involved in my example. If they were, wouldn’t there be trends in, for example, sensitivity estimates increasing over time rather than staying fairly stable? Wouldn’t climatologists be scrambling to claim special expertise regarding clathrates, such that they could access funding which would “no doubt” result from the alarm generated by their potential impact? Or why aren’t clathrates played up in the media by climatologists?
James, I don’t disagree with you regarding the presence of a bias. But I wonder if you can point to a case within the field where that bias is evident. My argument here is that if alarmism works at a broad level (climate research funding for global warming) for getting funds, it should also work at the finer scale (within climate research). I’m not qualified to address the fine scale. At a broad level, instead what I see is a zoologist/population geneticist (me) pushing global warming alarm with no hope of receiving funding in return.
On another note…why is the Lindzen post (12th April) closed?
[Response: I closed it mainly so as to concentrate the substantive discussion here. –raypierre]
Comment by Stephan Harrison — 17 Apr 2006 @ 11:43 AM
Sorry to go OT, but I do not see it tackled elsewhere…Has anyone yet tried to connect climate change with this week’s record levels of the Danube in Europe, causing flooding and mudslides across the Balkans?
Re 85. I travel a fair amount in East Europe – and was in Belgrade last week. The floods were already predicted then. The flooding is explained by higher than usual snowfall in late winter, followed by a late, but relatively quick onset of spring, with the flooding due more to snowmelt than rain. Spring has certainly come late in much of Europe this year. We’re still looking at bare trees in Brussels. So more snow and extended winter are not explained by global warming, unless you assume this is an early sign of the Gulf Stream switching off. But then, of course, one year doesn’t make a trend.
“Its a fact that mean global temperature has risen no more than about 0.5 degC in the past 27 yrs – as you know, almost identical to the rise between 1910 and 1945, when CO2 emissions are accepted to have been two small to influence, and there’s certainly no indication of it ‘accelerating’.”
The claim about warming between 1910 ang 1945 is literally true but potentially misleading. Looking backward from 1910, we see temperature variations of about +/-.2 to .3 C. 1910 is tne most recent absolute low in that variation. Choosing that precise lowest year is ‘cherry-picking’ the start date, ignoring the variation in a way to mazimize the statement of early century warming.
If one uses the midpoint of that earlier variation to define the start of the 20th century warming trend, one starts at a date closer to 1920, and knocks a full 0.1+ C off the early century warming. If one uses the top of that variation, so that we only consider previously- (recently)-unobserved temperature regimes, one finds that we dont return to the top of the previous range until about 1930, and there is only about 0.25C “novel” early century warming.
Trend lines are used precisely so as to avoid these kind of arbitrary choice of starting points, and using trend lines, one finds clearly that there is more absolute warming late century than early century.
All complicated, of course, by the fact that other factors than CO2 (et al) are in play. Failure to find a monotonically perfect reflection of the CO2 trace (or the fossil-fuel CO2 release trace) in the temperature trace is not evidence that the accelerating CO2 levels are not going to overall lead to (short term) accelerating temperature increase. One must correct for other factors as they are understood.
Sorry to be a bit pedantic; sometimes restating the basics is useful.
First of all: Thanks for the website. I first starting coming here after an article in Scientific American a while back (interview with Mr. Mann, I believe), and I have enjoyed it ever since.
Now for the comment (question?): Has anyone (from this website’s contributors) tried to submit an op/ed and/or rebuttle to the WSJ? Was it published? That, to me, would be the big story!
Comment by Vincent Belovich — 17 Apr 2006 @ 3:03 PM
Sorry for this being a bit off-topic: There has been a lot of debate whether climate science is being ‘politicized’ by scientists. Very rarely have I felt this being the case – and never on this site. But I am deeply troubled by recent statements by Sir David King, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser. You can read it here http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,,1754276,00.html.
I know he is in a very difficult position by being both a scientist, supposed to advise the government, but holding what is effectively a political appointment.
He explains that CO2 levels of 550ppm will probably mean around 3oC warming and have devastating consequences for millions of people. Nothing wrong with that. He also expresses his own – understandable – pessimism about countries like the US and others acting in time to prevent such levels. I am concerned about him speaking about 3oC warming being inevitable (when clearly, in theory, it is probably not at all inevitable). Above all, I am very concerned about his conclusion: “It must be below 550ppm but if we can get international agreement and there’s public agreement around the world behind action required then that can be ratcheted down to, say, 500.”
This figure is quite arbitrary, based on his understanding of the political reality possibly more than of climate science. I am very worried that Sir David King’s 500 ppm figure will be adopted and in effect ‘water down’ the current EU position of stabilising the climate below 2oC warming. I would compare this to Hansen’s warning why levels above 400ppm could cause dangerous climate change – and he didn’t then add ‘but hey, be realistic about the negotiations, I think if we can settle for an extra 100ppm we will have done pretty well’.
I wonder if anybody has similar concerns – or whether my reading of this is wrong or unfair?
[Response: I think you left off a decimal point on those temperatures — it should be more like 2.0C or 3.0C, not 20 or 30. Remember, that the amount of warming that goes with any given CO2 level is uncertain to within about a factor of 2. These warmings you are quoting are more or less mid-range warmings. Now, as to whether the target should be 400ppm or 500ppm or something else, keep in mind that there is no magic number below which the climate changes are inconsequential and above which catastrophe occurs. There are ‘abrupt switches” in the system, but there are a lot of them, not just one. The higher the CO2 goes, the more effects you’ll see and the greater the chance that you’ll hit an unanticipated tipping point of some sort. Hence, we can say that 400ppm is safer than 500ppm, but there is really no magic number in the system. 500ppm does give you a quite substantial climate change. However, 1000ppm would give you even more, and the way things are going, if we could come to an agreement that led to capping CO2 at 500ppm, that would already be good progress. It would be a start, and then in the next decade or two as technology emerges, maybe some way to do better than a 500ppm cap will start to look more feasible. –raypierre]
Thank you Hank Roberts, you are so right. If you look hard enough at the data, you can find the ‘right’ answer. My data are from NASA. If I were to cherry-pick, I would have chosen either 1907 as a minimum (-0.39) or 1917 (-0.4). Then for a maximum, I would chose 1944 (+0.2) to give a rise of 0.6 degC. As it happened, I just took 1910 as a round date from a trend line graph. The truth is, that whichever data you cherry-pick, you cannot demonstrate that the current rising trend is significantly different than between approx 1910 and approx 1945 (when CO2 could not be to blame). Also, between 1979 and now, despite the claims that climate change is ocurring ever more faster, the temperature data show no indication of an increasing rate – unless of course you want to cherry-pick. However keen you may be to demonstrate my arguments are misleading, I am afraid to report I am simply a scientist who feels stongly about protecting our natural environment, and who agrees global warming is a potential risk, but yet who remains unconvinced by the generally alarmist claims that the end of the world is nigh.
Yes, sorry, I meant to say 2 degrees C – not 20 degrees! Completely agree that there is no ‘safe level’ of further CO2 increases – but still worried by Sir David King having upped his ‘target to go for’ from 450ppm to 500ppm over the course of a year, and certainly not because of any reassuring findings about the climate. I know, the way climate change negotiations are going, it’s a lot better than business as usual, but I also worry about any excuse for the EU to move away from their present 2 degrees C max policy, given that the UK have just effectively scrapped their medium-term emission reduction promises which were made over years…
Re #92 It could be true that the warming in the first half of the 20th Century was caused by the increase in carbon dioxide. In fact, in 1938 a British amateur climatologist Guy Callendar did suggest that the warming was caused by CO2, and at one time the greenhouse effect was called the Callendar effect! However it is interesting that the gradient in the first and the last thirds of the 20th C. were similar. Whether they were both caused by global warming or not, it would be nice to know why they are the same. Even it that was a coincidence, it would also be interesting to know why the gradient during the middle third of the century was flat.
I disagree. You don’t have to cherry-pick the “turning points” in temperature trend, you can deduce them from the data themselves. The results of my analysis are quite clear: the rate of warming from the last turning point (1976) to the present is ~ 2.5 deg.C/century, faster than that of the early 20th century (1919-1942) at 1.8 deg.C/century.
Re #95 I don’t think Sir David is implying that it is now safe to go to 500 ppm rather than the previous 450 ppm. He seems to me to be saying that it is inevitable that we will reach 500 ppm. Moreover, he is implying that when that happens, perhaps billions will die! If he had said that explictly, then he would be called a scare monger and no-one would believe him.
The best scientific guess is that 500 ppm will lead to a 3C global rise. That means a rise of 6C in land temperatures and 2C in the oceans. Then there is polar amplification so the 6C in in the tropics will be 12C in the northern mid latitude continents where most of us live, and 24 C at the poles. It has happpened before. Perhaps you can see now why Sir David is so worried.
In today’s The New York Times, on the op-ed page, Paul Krugman has a piece entitled “Enemy of the Planet”, regarding “ExxonMobil: the real scandal”. I quote just one sentence: “The people and instituions ExxonMobil supports aren’t actually engaged in climate research.”
Comment by David B. Benson — 17 Apr 2006 @ 5:12 PM
I’ll correct myself. I was using data for the northern hemisphere only. I downloaded the GISTEMP data for global land+sea temperature, and the results are:
early 20th century: 1915 – 1940, 1.3 deg.C/century
recent data: 1973 – 2005, 1.7 deg.C/century
Are we assuming that all posters here are gentlemen?
[Response: I think we’re assuming all posters are “gentlemen” in the sense of good behavior and good will, not in the sense of gender. Does somebody have a good gender-neutral term that conveys the impression of “gentlemenly,” etc? –raypierre]
Re 77 and 79. I too review a number of grants (as a matter of fact, I am procrastinating on a response by typing this) While one does not see
“…a proposal that said “this work, if funded, probably won’t make much difference in the great scheme of things”. Yet I am sure that a significant proportion of research could be honestly described in that way, even a priori!”
You don’t seen many that say it will be the end mankind if it is not funded either (been a while since I was on an NIH panel tho). What you see almost always is:
“…This study will significantly add to our understanding of (insert problem) which is of great interest for various reasons to various parties, including those funding these grants.”
Re #102: I prefer ‘gentlehommes’ rather than ‘ladies and gentlemen’. So strictly the answer to your question is no. But in intent, I say yes, until proven otherwise. Why do you ask?
Comment by David B. Benson — 17 Apr 2006 @ 5:46 PM
Re 104: Just that I, for one, am a female scientist. But you clarified it for me, thank you. And, although I would love to claim that “ocean” is my real name, the reason I am using a pseudonym is that anonymity allows me more confidence in asking stupid questions because I am still on a learning curve with global warming on other material discussed on RC. But I am very interested and really appreciate this website.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe references like “accelerated global warming” have mostly appeared in the popular press, not in scientific literature. I believe that what the phrase is trying to get at is either the acceleration relative to the pause in the 1950-1970 period, or the acceleration in accumulation of noticeable consequences — worldwide glacier melt, sea ice retreat, earlier onset of springtime, (possibly) increasingly intense hurricanes, Larsen-B breakup, melting of Greenland along the margins, etc. I don’t know if it’s fair to say there’s been an acceleration detected in the rate of warming (relative to the early part of the 20th century), but certainly the situation is very different from 20 years ago when one would have been hard pressed to point to any consequences that were conceivably linkable to global warming.
Re 103 A point that all three of you (Eli, Gavin and James) seem to be missing is that if someone submitted a proposal claiming it was to save the world he would be turned down. Anyone considering submitting such a proposal knows that. Therefore such proposals are not submitted. This has has the undesirable consequence that those scientist who are extremely worried about the state of the world cannot publish their fears. And it explains why I cannot prove this by referencing papers. No such papers exist nor could exist under the present system of peer review.
However, I can provide some circumstantial evidence. I recently attended a meeting where James Lovelock introduced his new book “The Revenge of Gaia”. He said that when he visited the Hadley Centre (the UK world leading centre for climate change) he discovered in each room scientist deeply concerned about the danger of positive feedback leading to serious consequences. But in each room it was a different danger, and since science is now so specialised, they did not confer. It was on his journey home that he decided to write his book.
Last september some scientists, even before the full results were known, announced that the Arctic sea ice had reached a new minimum. That is as close to panic as you are allowed to get if you are a scientist. We know that the Greenland ice is now melting. since it is being caused by global warming from carbon dioxide, the way to stop it, and prevent sea level rise, would be to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. That is politically impossible, hence sea level rise has now passed its tipping point! Will any scientist dare say that?
The reason that no one is predicting the end of the world is because you can’t get a grant to do it, not because it is unscientific. Anyone who did try to get such a paper published would recieve the same treatment as that about which Lindzen has complained.
Re #107: Well, if you don’t care for ‘gentlehommes’ then ‘colleagues’ will do. Surprising as this may seem to some, I’m not a ‘climate enthusiast’…
Comment by David B. Benson — 17 Apr 2006 @ 6:57 PM
Re my requests in #’s 30 and 31: Thanks to all who took the time to contribute a critique. I will make a collage of all the responses, and send it to Fr. Neuhaus, the editor-in-chief (who at least has the grace to admit that he himself doesn’t really know anything about global warming – which is why he places his trust in people like George Will!)
Comment by Michael Wenisch — 17 Apr 2006 @ 7:24 PM
What about abrupt climate change Ray? I got into that at the ice core team website and the Wood’s Hole Paper. Isn’t that accelerated of sorts?
Re #99 – Alistair, where do you get those figures? I assume you are using a climate sensitivity of 3 degrees, but the amplification values seem a little high. When I look at the global surface temperature chart for the past half century, I see a 0.5 degree global rise, with about 1.5 degrees over northern continents and 3 degress in the Arctic. Those ratios are smaller than yours.
Perhaps there is an acceleration of amplification as global temperature warms. Can you point me to a reasonably simple calculation where one can derive this kind of result?
I would certainly agree that the grant application process is somewhat more measured than some of the extremes that appear in the media. But still, here’s one random example from this call for proposals:
“The intent is to increase dramatically the accuracy of computer model-based projections of future climate system response to the increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.”
That’s not specifically alarmist but it’s certainly exaggerated, and it encourages (requires?) applicants to talk up the importance of their work. I would be interested to hear anyone’s (Gavin, Ray?) interpretation of what measurable outcomes would constitute a dramatic increase in accuracy of computer models. A halving of errors, perhaps? Or would you argue that this wording is ok because it is only an “intent” not a plausible expectation of this 5-year program?
[Response: “Alarmism” is the process of raising unjustified concern for the purpose of gaining attention or gaining some other end. As an example, the claim that Iraq had an immediately threatening WMD program was clearly alarmism. The words “alarmism” and “alarmist” are clearly part of the skeptics new playbook, much as the words “flip-flop” were part of the Republican playbook. (To see how effective this is, I ask Democrats as well as Republicans out there what comes to mind when I say “flip-flop”). Thus, we should be careful not to play into the hands of this campaign by using the term inappropriately, or even repeating it unnecessarily. The phenomenon you are describing in the DOE call for proposals is regrettable, but something else entirely. Government agencies of all types often bid for increased funding by promising more than they can deliver, or setting unrealistic goals. Scientists who may have a more sober view of what they are actually likely to be able to do respond to the signals by also promising more than they can deliver. Somehow, out of all this mess, good science gets done anyway. In the instance you mention, it may be an admirable goal to dramatically reduce forecast uncertainties, but it is irresponsible to promise this. What’s more likely is that we’ll discover new uncertainties and gain a better appreciation for the nature of the uncertainties we know about. Grandiose and unrealistic goals are a disease DOE is particularly prey to. NSF, while not perfect, is much less programmatic, and much better. Chalk another one up for “curiosity-driven” science” –raypierre]
[Response: I´m not at all sure what your point is here. The goal of building better models (that respond more realisitically to all sorts of forcings) is something that is perfectly reasonable. – gavin]
Re: 94. Hank, I know you were agreeing with Lee – just a little British sarcasm there. Re: 96. No, I’m not picking arbitrary start dates. As I said it was a ’round’ year. You could ignore dates and draw straight lines along each trend period (early 20th C and late 20th C), and they would be not far off parallel. Grant calculates (in 101) 1.3deg/century and 1.7 deg/century respectively – which I would agree with. In the context of the complexity of this issue, the uncertainties in the data and natural variability, this difference is not significant. Its reassuring to hear from raypierre in 106 that claims of accelerated global warming is a feature of the popular press rather than the scientific literature and that its not fair to say there’s been an acceleration detected in the rate of warming (relative to the early part of the 20th century).
[Response: I’m just saying that I’m not aware of any claims in the scientific literature of accelerated warming (yet) in terms of trends. There’s a lot to read, and somebody else might have noticed something I haven’t. I certainly have seen references to accelerated warming in the press, and I do think what they really have in mind is something like “accelerated impacts of warming,” which would be a fairer description of what has been coming out in the scientific literature. In any event, focusing on the rate of increase in the past twenty years vs the rate of increase in the early 20th is the wrong question. The important thing is whether the observed increase is in the range yielded by the models used to predict the future, and there it’s clear that the spread of model results covers the territory. There’s no evidence in the recent record for a sensitivity greater than that covered by the models. In that regard, it’s the Cretaceous that has me worried we’re missing something, not the 20th century. The Younger Dryas also has me a bit worried. –raypierre]
Re Pat’s 115. I was not writing about external censorship of the scientific view, which I am sure is much worse than most people realise. I was writing about self censorship. I was arguing that some scientists are reluctant to express their true fears because they know that their ideas will not be published, and/or ridicule will be heaped upon them.
The pardigm of uniformitarianism is not dead, and the idea of a catastrophe is anathema to most people. Thus anyone who suggests that disaster is around the corner is labelled a ‘Chcken Little’ and their ideas are ignored.
James Hansen has pushed his minder to one side and forced his way to the front, but he gives us ten years before we reach the tipping poiont. I am saying it is obvious that we have already passed that point, but the conservatism and self belief of the scientific establishment won’t let them see that.
Of course, what I am saying will be described as scare mongering. But in the interests of scientific truth all possibilities should be investigated, no matter how frightening they may appear.
Valid arguments, such as that Planck’s function should not be being used to calculate the emissions from greenhouse gas molecules, are consigned to the sci.environment rubbish bin because they are embarassing. What hope then for the plausible idea that the Arctic sea ice will disappear within the next five years, triggering an abrupt global warming of 3C.
Re #122, Blair, those figures were just a rough guess. AFAIK the most accurate that I know of are those in your post :-) It seems to me that people have concentrated on calcualting the global sensitivity, but have ignored the local effects, which are the ones we will have to live with.
I did use James Annan’s 3C as a global temperature rise, although his sensitivity would be for 540 ppm of CO2. I then used a factor of two for each of the amplifications. That agrees with your values for the mid latitude continents to polar, but you are probably correct to say my calculation for the tropics to midlatitudes is too high.
I came across the following diagram in the IPCC TAR while researching another matter: http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/fig2-23.htm It shows a large amplification polewards, and a low global sensitivities prior to the Eemian interglacial – more in line with what Lindzen predicts!
[Response: I don’t understand this remark. There’s little doubt that there is a great deal of polar amplification in the Northern Hemisphere during glacial-interglacial cycles. This graph is hardly the best kind of support for that, but leaving that aside, I don’t see that it tells you anything much about “reduced sensitivity” before the Eemian (since you’d need to know the forcings to say that) and I certainly don’t see that it has any bearing on anything Lindzen has theorized about. Which Lindzen theory did you have in mind? Over the years, he’s published a number of purported global warming killers, all of which have fallen by the wayside under scrutiny. –raypierre]
Re 99: Although global averages are quoted in almost every mass media story on climate change I’ve never seen them broken out this way. This is a bit of information, that if accurate, we, the wider public could be remined of more often. I’d like to learn more – can someone point me to a resource that explains a little about how the global average is calculated.
Also, can someone tell me why CO2 concentrations are prefered to a more inclusive number that includes other green house gasess? Does it have to do with data reliabilty or atmospheric half-life or some thing else?
Climate change is I am assuming “linear” in nature but at some point it would appear to me anyway “non linear” mecahnisms (normally in the form of +ve feedbacks) will kick in and hey presto the end of the world is nigh I hear doomsayers say. Now scientists could never say this, they would just say that +ve feedbacks will cause this or that to possibly happen. Hardly a reason for a Government to get excited, drop fossil fuels and develop new means of stoppng the world from ending.
Scientists are judged by their peers and not politicians, the only time we will be doing something is either by accident such as when Oil becomes economically to expensive and hence new technologies get their chane or when a climate catastrophe happens such as many hurricanes in a single season battering the same place repeatedly and that place being significant.
No it stands to reason that 500 to 550 ppm “linear” will happen and we had better hope that the non linear does not take over and cause tragic consequences which are unpredictable by their very nature.
re: Alastair’s 117. I think external censorship may contribute to self censorship.
In my 2003 presentation on earlier snowmelt runoff in the Upper Midwest/ northern Great Plains, which I did while I was employed by NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) at the North Central River Forecast Center in Chanhassen, MN, I arranged for a national Press Release (PR) which was issued with my money ($500). In the PR, I included a general comment that GHG emissions were the main cause of rapid global warming based on an enormous number of well documented reports and evidence. My supervisor told me that the acting director of the NWS Central Region said that NOAA’s James R. Mahoney told others in headquarters that he wanted me fired for doing the PR, but that his NOAA lawyers advised that there was insufficient cause for removal so they gave me a suspension instead.
I believe that I was harassed by my supervisor and others in NWS for over a year after the suspension, related to my concerns on climate and hydrologic change as that can affect hydrologic modeling which NWS river forecast centers uses for flood and water supply forecasting. Eventually, I was removed from government service (July, 2005).
It seems clear to me now that Mr. Mahoney had a part in my removal, at least indirectly. It probably would have been better for my family if I had kept my mouth shut for a few years but I couldn’t do that (although I never used improper language or behavior in response to what I believed was harassment from NWS management, but I was not able to keep my voice from getting elevated in reply to what I felt was harassment from supervisors and some of my X coworkers at NWS NCRFC from Jan 2000 to mid July, 2005.
In my case, perhaps self censorship due to external censorship would have made things easier for some people.
BTW, I got the link to the Washington Post article by Juliet Eilperin in climateark.org (re: 115) from the climatesciencewatch website, which has links to many other informative articles on climate politics, at: http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/
99, 112, “the best scientific guess is ….”
I agree with Blair that Alastair’s 2nd paragraph is a very quotable, pithy summary. Those are very tempting and rare. Meaning no offense to Alastair, I’d like to see the names of the best scientific guessers who agree on that wording, before quoting it.
Re #102: I believe ocean’s remark may have been triggered by a prior use of “guys,” but certainly there have been other careless gender references made. I find that “folks” works well as a friendly collective form of address.
Scientist Who Spearheaded Attacks on Global Warming Science Also Directed $45 Million Tobacco Industry Effort to Hide Health Impacts of Smoking
Former National Academy of Sciences President Admits Being Paid $585,000 by Tobacco Companies.
This is referring to Frederick Seitz. The webpage has an audio briefing that includes Jim Hansen.
And in today’s The New York Times, on the op-ed page is a piece by Nicolas D. Kristof entitled “The Big Burb Theory of the Apocalypse” and highlighted by the phrase “The invasion of the methane hydrates”. While the piece mentions, favorably, RealClimate and quotes Gavin Schmidt, I will again just quote one sentence: “But our political system doesn’t seem able to grapple with scientific issues like climate.”
Comment by David B. Benson — 18 Apr 2006 @ 4:34 PM
To response in response to #116, regarding the definition of “alarmism”:
The definition looks fine, except two little things. First, what if justification of concerns is based on one-sided analysis and ignoring concepts a researcher is not familiar with? How does it make him less “alarmist”? Or is he now a “true believing stalwart”? Second, common definition of “alarmist” does not include his/her motives, see e.g. http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=alarmist
Regarding the RC subject, the justification does not seem to pass a major criteria – be consistent with historical records and ranges.
Take for example the geological paleo-reconstructions based on distribution of climatically sensitive rock types:
The set of methods does look pretty convincing. The result is that our Earth temperature always has been fluctuating +-5C around global average of +17C, regardless of CO2 levels up to 5000ppm and above. No global boiling in oceans have been identified, and no global snow coverage, so most temperature sensitive lifeforms have survived and evolved, and made it to layers and layers of sediments. How does it align with most alarming model predictions?
One more on “alarmist” moniker: I guess the sceptics are just trying to be polite :-)
[Response: You seem to have completely misunderstood the data on the Scotese web sit, or perhaps read your misconceptions into it. There is nothing there that implies that the massive climate fluctuations of the past (e.g. Cretaceous hothouse to Pleistocene icehouse) are independent of CO2. Much evidence in fact supports the association, and there is no viable theory at present that comes close to accounting for such transitions without invoking a substantial influence of CO2 or other greenhouse gases. (For that matter, ever heard of the Faint Young Sun problem?) I don’t know why you feel compelled to mention “no oceans boiling” since nobody with any scientific training is invoking a runaway greenhouse as a possible consequence of anthropogenic global warming (see my Venus Express post, for example). You also are clearly ignorant of the evidence for Neoproterozoic and Paleoproterozic “Snowball Earth” episodes, which not only involve near-global ice cover, but also would be followed by extremely hot postglacial climates with temperatures of 40-50C — not yet observed, but not yet ruled out by any geological deposits by any means. You have a lot to learn about climate. But, maybe I’m just being polite :) –raypierre]
“I came across the following diagram in the IPCC TAR while researching another matter: http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/fig2-23.htm It shows a large amplification pole wards, and a low global sensitivities prior to the Eemian interglacial – more in line with what Lindzen predicts!
“[Response: I don’t understand this remark.”
The more often I read it, the more cryptic I find it, so I will try and decode what I wrote in a way that everyone can understand what I am trying to say!
Let’s starts with this diagram http://www.uea.ac.uk/~e032035/petit_et_al_1999.png from Petit et al. 1999, (which has the time axis in the opposite direction from that used in the TAR.) For the purposes of this exercise ignore the bottom graph, and note that the other two are very similar. One is a chart of Antarctic temperatures and the other is the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Both are taken from the Vostock ice core. TNote that the temperature is local but the CO2 is global because the atmosphere is always well mixed. Now returning to fig 2-23 above, the bottom graph, labeled South Atlantic SST, has a similar shape to the Antarctic temperature and CO2 graphs, so I was using that as a rough graph of global CO2.
The second approximation I used was even cruder. I am arguing that because the area of the polar region (higher than latitude 60) is approximately a third of the area of the tropics (lower than latitude 30), then the global temperature will be dominated by that of the tropics. So the SST of the tropical Indian Ocean can be taken as rough graph of global temperature.
Combining the bottom two graphs in the TAR, you have CO2 on the bottom and global temperature above it and it is easy to see that there is little correlation, and that the sensitivity is very variable. This is very crude, but I do think it shows that sensitivity based on ice cores alone may be an exaggeration.
What struck me as strange was that the tropical Indian Ocean showed virtually no change in the three glacials leading up to the Eemian interglacial. In other words, it is only in the last glacial (100 kyr) that we see any change in tropical temperature corresponding to that at the poles. I can think of two reasons for that. First, it may be that the older part of the signal has been smoothed by diagenesis. Second, that Lindzen is correct and that there is a strong negative feedback effect from the clouds in the tropics, which prevents the sea surface temperatures from changing there. This last remark does not depend on the Indian Ocean SSTs being a good proxy for global temperature. However, it does mean that even if Lindzen’s Iris does exist, we in the mid latitudes are not safe from the effects of global warming.
I you look at that graph, most of the time it does not fluctuate between 12C to 22C, it switches between them. The danger is that by adding CO2 to the atmosphere we will cause another switch from 12C to 22C. As Ray said, no one is arguing that the oceans will boil dry, but if you look at that chart again you will see there is a small blip where temperatures rose above 22C to 23C. That was the Permian-Triassic (PT) mass extinction when 90% of all species became extinct. If we switch the temperature to 22C and then the methane clathrates erupt, as it is suspected happened at the PT boundary, then the effect on us will be similar to the oceans boiling.
[Response: A technical thermodynamic point of some importance: In a runaway greenhouse, the oceans do not boil. Boiling occurs when the saturation vapor pressure exceeds the total atmospheric pressure, so that bubbles can form in the interior of the fluid (the ocean, in this case). In a runaway greenhouse, enough water vapor evaporates from the ocean to keep the surface at saturation, and even if there weren’t any contribution to surface pressure from the rest of the atmosphere, this would prevent boiling. Boiling occurs in your kitchen because the water vapor escapes and can’t build up so as to increase the surface pressure. In a pressure-cooker, the water vapor stays inside, and thus allows liquid water to get arbitrarily hot without boiling — until the whole thing explodes, which is why there is that little thinghy on top which in fact limits the pressure and instead allows the water to boil at a higher temperature than normal. –raypierre]
Ray re your response to 131, I would have thought that global temperatures would never reach 100C anyway. Before that could happen, the atmosphere would be so full of cloud, which would prevent solar flux reaching the surface, that the maximum surface temperature would be much less than 100C. I am curious to know whether you agree?
[Response: Nope — look what happened to Venus. First, clouds can have a greenhouse effect that can offset their albedo effect and allow warming. Second, clouds are cause by saturation, not by the absolute amount of water. An 80 bar steam atmosphere could still have substantial clear sky patches. Kasting had one very primitive go at a radiative-convective study of the effect of clouds on runaway greenhouse, which suggested that clouds might prevent the whole ocean from going aloft. No problem getting to 100C or more, though. The cloud effects do need to be re-examined in this problem, particularly in a GCM that could do something with fractional cloud cover. But, I’m afraid we’re getting off topic. Perhaps further discussion of runaway greenhouse stuff should be moved to the Venus discussion –raypierre]
Still nary a peep out of WSJ in response to the letter I submitted. Nor has anything but the most adulatory material been allowed through into the online comments on http://www.opinionjournal.com. Take a look, in case there’s anybody who feels sentimental for what the Pravda letters columns used to look like – or the old show, Moscow Mailbag, hosted by Victor Posner on Radio Moscow in the 1960’s. Here are a few chestnuts from OpinionJournal. I especially like the first one. It puts Dick in the right company, so far as his claims about global warming go.
Simon Jackson – Bellevue, Neb.
I sympathize with what this scientist and his colleagues are going through. Creation scientists are even more marginalized although their work easily stands on its own scientific merits. …
David W. Lincoln – Edmonton, Alberta
The reprobates, the hacks, and the scalawags who peddle the alarmism that began in the 1970s have done a wonderful job of undermining the credibility of themselves and of those who disagree with them–all to the detriment of people on the face of the earth.
Far left agendas demand “global warming?” No problem, I can prognosticate the earth roasting to cinders in a fortnight with the “proper” data at my disposal–any weather guy could. Meterorology is an exact science only so long as you are currently looking out a window. Climatology, on the other hand, is a science of motivated hunches.
In response to #129 I got this:
[Repeat of entire response edited out. You can read it yourself under 129.]
Nice response, thanks :-(. You seem to have completely embedded yourself into some limited paradigm such that you started to imagine certain things everywhere. Nowhere did I state in my post anything about correlation or anti-correlation between massive transitions in Earth temperature and CO2, nor any other fine time dependency. The Scotese chart implies that there are quite rigid bounds in temperature swings, _regardless_ of the global _levels_ of C02. Perhaps it is you who failed to recognize the most important implication of the Scotese reconstructions, and got lost in less essential details of partial climate stability issues. Whenever the T< ->CO2 association is supported or not, absence of a current “viable” theory is not an evidence of absense :-) .
The reason I felt compelled to resort to the hyperbola of “boiling oceans” is simply to stress the absurdity of talks about “tipping” points and “points of no return”, especially when no appropriate model have been devised, no analysis of possible global attractors have been conducted, and no analysis of their bifurcation has been conceived. The problem has not been even clearly defined to address these issues.
Regarding the fainted Sun, the estimation covers a period of 3.8B years, while the Scotese chart covers only about 1/4 of that, which must make some difference if you would pay attention to details, not counting for other equally contraversal explanantions like solar winds and cosmic rays stimulating cloud formation. You also need to recognize a distinction between “global” and “near-global” ice covers. And what about those ice episodes that “would be followed by extremely hot postglacial climates”? I am under impression that all current climate models can’t see farther than their nose of returning to “global equillibrium” after perturbation in “forcing”, any substantial excursions of state trajectories are dismissed as numerical errors, so the global glaciation-deglaciation episodes have no support in current global climate models. I would be delighted if this impresson is wrong.
[Response: I stand by my original comment. You have a lot to learn about climate, and what you write above only consolidates my impression. I’ll leave it to our readers to respond any further. You could hardly describe the range of climate fluctuations of the Phanerozoic as being in a narrow range. If an increase to,say 4X CO2 were enough to cause an inexorable transition from a Holocene climate to the Cretaceous type, I think any reasonable person would call that a tipping point. I’m not saying that is the threshold, only contesting your unfounded assertion that the Scotese summary implies there are no tipping points. Some people say the Snowball did cause global sea icecover, and essentially global land ice cover. I mentioned that, and the Faint Young Sun, only to show that you are wrong in your assertion that the geological data shows that the Earth can only change in narrow ranges. The Faint Young Sun paradox cannot be resolved without the warming effect of greenhouse gases. —raypierre]
Concerning 133, please let me try in a new way what I urged in 76:
It’s true that the WSJ has all of the power when it comes to controlling their own propaganda, but the increasingly internationally prominent scientists who speak in RC and elsewhere for the scientific consensus _also_ have an important kind of power. That power could be used in an effective way against the consensus-denying, alarmism-alleging WSJ.
Several well-known names among those scientists could individually query the WSJ, in each case offering, just in a brief note, to submit an op-ed engaging the WSJ’s consensus denial and its alarmism allegations. The investment cost is low so far: no time spent crafting the proposed essays.
In response the WSJ could, on the one hand, (1) stonewall, or (2) spurn, or (3) express interest but then stiff a submitter’s carefully crafted essay; on the other hand, it could (4) express interest and then print an op-ed essay.
Realization of possibility 4 would be useful, obviously, in that it would mean getting past those hands that are tightly cupped over the ears of the WSJ’s powerful and influential readership.
But any mix of the three possible kinds of negative response would be useful too. An aggregate negative response could be publicized. It would prove even to citizens who are consensus skeptics that in the several instances when scientists earnestly and honestly offered to extend the WSJ’s discussion, the WSJ ducked and dodged. It would show that the WSJ can dish it out, but won’t endure taking it — won’t allow its readers even to hear from the maligned consensus side.
The WSJ editors control their own propaganda, it’s true, but they don’t control the international discussion, and they don’t control the truth. And what’s true — even without getting into the actual merits of the debate over the consensus — is that so far, the WSJ has sheltered its readers from consensus science’s side.
You guys have the power to call their bluff, and I hope you use it. True, the WSJ might be too stupid to see that that’s happened or to believe that it matters. But even in the cases of possible outcomes 1, 2, or 3, much of the rest of the world — people whose attention and respect you’ve earned, but also, and crucially, people who are not quite yet with you — would get it. You don’t have to be a climate scientist to understand what’s fair in the structure of a civic debate.
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 19 Apr 2006 @ 6:02 AM
Some people are saying that the tripping point has already been reached, others not.
A measurement that may go along some way to clarify this is the rate of increase in all Greenhouse gas levels (H2O, CO2, CH4 etc). CO2 is of course particulary insidious as it stays clear, it doesn’t condense out forming reflective clouds as H2O does. If measurements of the increase match what we estimate we are adding to the atmosphere, then the tripping point may not yet be reached. However, if it is accelerating and growing faster than what we are adding directly, not good!
Are there any of these measurements being made, including the rate of increase?
[Response: All the GHGs are measured. CO2 and CH4 and the well-mixed gases are now easy; H2O varies a good deal so is harder (see our other posts about the role of WV, though). But there is no sign of any “tipping point” in terms of GHG concentrations – any such event would come about due to non-linear effects in the climate system. Methane in particular isn’t showing any acceleration – quite the reverse – William]
Comment by Lawrence McLean — 19 Apr 2006 @ 8:25 AM
Having reached a tripping point doesn’t matter that much to me because if we aren’t there yet we will be before too long anyway. It’s less like we’d get a handle on GHG emissions than get populations of undeveloped countries under control (little or no chance without a catastrophic event). What matters to me are the lives of children on earth now and their children. Slowing the rates of our GHG emissions might slow the rate of global warming a little, which could help some. We must try all we can. Those who don’t try, likely have little conscience about what they do to the lives of others.
Ray, mine either. The letters we sent would go into the print edition. Comments online close at about noon EST of the day the piece runs so those were the only ones that Taranto et al let in that day. There won’t be any more on the Lindzen piece online. The letter should go to the letters editor and op-ed to Tunku V. for consideration.
[Response: Its already been debunked: see Tim Lambert and Jim Easter. TL has a nice pic of the “obs” that Jaworowski is using, from which it is immeadiately obvious to anyone that the early high values are measurement error. Any skeptics trying to use this argument are going to look very stupid indeed – William]
[Response: In fact JE has an update noting Milloys nonsense and Foxnews’s pickup… -W]
I am a little confused. You have argued with me with great conviction on other venues that the ice core records do not have great enough temporal resolution to justify saying that CO2 has not risen so high before. Yet here you using what must be an extremely coarse temperature record to make a very sweeping statement about rigid bounds in temperature swings.
I don’t know where did you find my assertion that “Scotese summary implies there are no tipping points”. You continue not to hear me for the second time. Maybe I was not clear enough, but now this is again: the Scotese chart shows boundness of the global climate attractor. True, it also shows transitions between upper and lower bounds, but you might be correct that I really hesitate to call them “tipping points”. How do you suppose to call reverse transitions, “untipping points”, or what? You also say that you are “not saying that is the threshold”, while every definition of the lousy sociological term “tipping point” has severe resemblance and is synonomous to “threshold” as it is understood in “catastrophe theory” (which is an application of more general theory of bifurcations in one-parametric families of dynamical systems). No reasonable person would consider the CO2 as independent bifurcation parameter since the CO2 is continously produced and consumed in large quantities within the “climate-generating” system depending upon interplay of other variables. Therefore, for any reasonable person the term “tipping point” is completely inapropriate for back and forth climate transitions, and usage of it does not seem to be professional.
Then, you still insist on resolution of the Faint Young Sun paradox withing the paradigm of greenhouse gases. I already mentioned that there might be no paradox in first place (Scotese chart is way shorter than 4B years), plus you filtered out other equally speculative theories. And again, geological data presented by Scotese do show +-5C, just as I originally stated, and I haven’t put any further qualifications whether it is narrow or not, it is your straw.
I agree that the climate topic is vast, and it is quite entertaining to learn about fuzzy methods and loose assumptions that are employed without proper justifications. I do realize that this is largely due to your inability to set up a well controlled experiment in this field, most data are eroded, undersampled, underesolved, and wide open to interpretations, time scales are way beyond the life of an observer, etc. Models require unattainable resources to yield meaningful and verifiable results. This is not your fault, the problem is just too big. However, your fault is that you have an audacity to project conclusions from primitive and deficient models (and frequently just from handwaiving about “tipping points” and “sensitivity”) to practical life. Devising finger-level models and doing ballpark estimations out of academic curiosity is quite different from advising to cut on life support.
Since you elected not to address the issue of models capability to represent critically-important glaciation-deglaciation episodes, now I have developed an impression that certain climate scentists have to learn a lot more about possibilities that are hidden in behavior of a large and complex dynamical system.
There is no contradiction. The CO2 bubbles are _assumed_ to have the same composition as 400,000 years ago, and I was not presented so far with any quantitative analysis of processes that can skew this composition in one or another way, that’s why there are justifiable concerns. The trace gas can rise and go in those bubbles during occlusion times, gydratization ages, depressurizing during bore sampling, etc., and this would leave no obvious traces in ice layers.
The lithologic indicators of temperature, in contrast, are based on plants and animals that are sensitive to climate. Those organisms are sort of living thermometers, so their deposits present direct “readings” frozen at that time. The deposits either are there, or get terminated giving reasonable information about temperature bounds.
Re #139 and response to it:
I find the “debunking” is plain pathetic, especially by “Jim Easter”. His essay represents the worst case of rebuttal – he starts with political agenda, consensus, Kyoto, and then then upfront accuses Dr. Jaworowski with “extravagant claims of bias and dishonesty in the scientific community”. Then Jim Easter shreds the text into three-word chunks, and even then his debunking goes with questinable success or outright falure.
[Response: Jaworowski knows absolutely nothing about the physics or chemistry of the preservation of the CO2 in glaciers. His arguments have no credibility whatsoever among scientists who actually know the subject. To see this, just look for Jaworowski’s name in Google Scholar or Science Citation Index. You’ll find some work on health effects of radiation, but you won’t find any peer-reviewed work on CO2. His main claims about CO2 were published in a libertarian magazine fundeed by Lyndon Larouche, not in a scientific journal. Now, go take a look at the publications of any one of the hundreds scientists involved in recovering the Antarctic gas record. Lorius, Severinghaus, Jouzel, the scientists of the EPICA group, and many more. Case closed. The fact that Milloy would claim Jaworowski’s statements (I won’t dignify them by the name of “work”) trump decades of carefully verified and cross-checked work by widely respected scientists only shows that Milloy is utterly without shame or principle. That doesn’t come as news to most of us, but sadly, it probably would be news to a great deal of the Milloy readership –raypierre]
Re response to #143:
I cannot see how the lack of publications defies validity of any citical claim, nor how does it matter where the criticizm was published. What is important is if there is any quantitative error analysis of the whole process of CO2 preservation (and occlusion, and sample extraction) in glaciers conducted and published by all those fine individuals you mention above.
Say, can you point me to an experiment where a known atmospheric composition was mixed with a snow, then gradually compressed to proper pressure for a year or two, then abruptly de-compressed, crushed in a stainless steel chamber, and the output was analyzed and compared with the original one? It is preferred that the aging times differ so one could try to determine if there is an aging trend. It is also desirable that the compressed state lasts as close as possible to the time scales in question, unless some dimension analysis was conducted and parameters were scaled in accord of pi theorem to achieve a similar aging effect.
Slighly OT, what magazine was that?
AFAIK, the Libertarian Party wants nothing to do with Larouche (an known Trotsky fan). Perhaps it was merely a Libertarianesque magazine.
[Response: The mag was 21st century . It is published by Larouche, and it was on that basis that I tagged it as “libertarian.” I know libertarians come in many flavors, and perhaps it was unjust to associate Larouche with libertarianism in general. Apropos of that, the Cato Institute magazine, Regulation this month had a really neat article in it about the fallacy of “grandfathering,” as implemented for old coal plants in the Clean Air Act. It comes out in favor of pigouvian taxes instead of grandfathering. Very intelligent analysis. On the other hand, the same issue had a Pielke Jr. article in it, in which he once more trots out the claim that because virtually the whole mainstream climate science community (which Pielke refers to loosely as “pro Kyoto” lambasted the flawed Baliunas et al Climate Research article, we all must be letting our political convictions over-ride our scientific judgement. It’s surprising to me how hard a time political scientists have understanding that correlation is not causation. Could it not be that the article was just bad science? That, on the whole, those who favor action to avert global warming are basing their convictions on sound science? I bet that you’d find an overwhelming majority of pro-Kyoto climate scientists disagreeing with Jaworowski’s stuff, too. All that tells you is that such folks can spot bogus science when they see it. –raypierre]
Had to comment on the Larouche thing — from all I know of this guy, he is an extreme statist. The last time I looked (early ’80s) he wanted a crash reindustrialization program funded by the federal government and building 1,500 new nuclear power plants. For his dreams of a top-down, state-run economy plus his anti-Semitism and devotion to conspiracy theories, quite a few of his enemies on the left call him a fascist, and for once I think they may be justified.
[Response: Having now educated myself more about the history, I regret having called Larouche a libertarian, and now find it bizarre that he is sometimes labeled as such. Mea culpa. Anyway, my point was that Jaworowski published his main claims in a non peer-reviewed magazine, and one run by a fringe organization at that. –raypierre ]
I haven’t had a chance to read all of the comments in this thread, so some of my points may have already been raised.
Rather than focus on Lindzen’s extended WSJ op-ed-whine, I comment on the original Lindzen et al. BAMS paper, Does the Earth Have an Adaptive Infrared Iris?, BAMS, v. 82, no. 3, March 2001. The quality — or lack — of that paper is central to Lindzen’s claim that he and his co-authors have been unfairly retaliated against by a climate science establishment cabal, funded, peculiarly enough, by an administration deeply hostile to the results of the cabal’s research.
As a mathematician/engineer, not a climate scientist, I tried to read and understand Lindzen et al. and the rebuttal papers that eventually apppeared. Several things stood out.
1) The early pages of the paper are filled — appropriately — with what I would characterize as scientific “weasel words”, phrases that capture the hypothetical and speculative nature of the paper’s assertions. “we may plausibly expect … plausible interpretation … appears to act as an iris … the possibility exists … Theoretically … it seems likely … We will attempt to account for this by normalizing … we lack supporting data comparable in time and space resolution to our cloud data, and, hence, cannot be sure that the proportionality is simple .. Since our aim is not so much to produce a definitive analysis as to obtain some idea of the existence and magnitude of the effect, we will examine a variety of possibilities … we may plausibly expect … suggests that the area effect in Figs. 5a and 5b is likely to be underestimated … A potential problem here is that area may not be a reliable measure of cumulus activity … Figs 5c and 5d suggest that a simple linear regression may not be entirely appropriate.” There are many more examples of this sort of cautious language. To a certain extent, the Conclusions section of the paper stifled the cautious language by suggesting that the possible existence of this iris effect required modifications to GCMs. Further, the GW denier community completely suppressed the speculative nature of Lindzen et al. and treated it as a thorough refutation of GCMs and the GW consensus.
2) Early in the paper, Lindzen et al. write: “Since feedback factors are additive (see discussion in Section 4), we can examine the addition effect of feedbacks found in GCM results by simply adding their feedback factors to that of the area effect.” Well, only if the climate system is a linear dynamic system — which, of course, it isn’t.
3) Lindzen et al. use data from the Japanese Geostationary Meteorlogical Satellite, data for the ocean portion of the rectangle 30S to 30N by 130E to 170E. The GSM is stationary on the equator at 140E. That implies the existence of data from 110E to 130E which meets the putative criteria for the Lindzen et al. analysis — open ocean NW of Australia and warm pool ocean in the Indonesian archipelago. The paper does not contain and I have not read subsequently any explanation of why this data was not used.
4) Because of the NE corner of Australia (excluded in the Lindzen et al. analysis), the actual data analyzed by Lindzen et al. is approximately 60-65% ocean above the equator and 35-40% below the equator. Further, since Lindzen et al. used the full 17 months of data they had from the GSM archive, we have the potential for seasonality in the data. In fact, if you look at Lindzen’s et al. raw data for their strange parameter A and SST and calculate the 17-month linear regression for A(SST) = slope*SST + intercept,
you get a slope of -0.0147. On the other hand, if you try to suppress the seasonality by looking a various 365-day windows in the data, you get slopes of -0.00955, -0.00898, -0.00997, -0.0111, -0.0105, -0.0123, and -0.0117. So looking at one-year windows in the data and suppressing seasonality eliminates from 16% to 39% of the putative iris effect, depending on which window you look at.
5) Lindzen et al. reports a number of linear regressions, but does not report the r-square values, which give the percentage of total variation explained by the linear regression equation. By my calculations for the 17-month and one-year regressions, the explained variation is between 2.4% and 6.6%.
6) I considered Lindzen et al. to be rather convincingly refuted by a series of papers from researchers in the Deprtment of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington (Fu et al. and other papers), by Lin et al. (J of Climate, v. 17, p. 1239) and by Chambers et al. (J of Climate, v. 15, p. 3719, 15 Dec 2002).
Bottom line: There were several aspects of Lindzen et al. that set my non-specialist’s teeth on edge and subsequent give-and-take in the peer-reviewed literature has, I believe, refuted the original BAMS paper.
[…] the totality of that report. Surprised? Of course not. How many people wrote that document? Look up Richard Lindzen; I’m certain that’s the most prominent person that fits his description. Chuckles says […]
[…] Richard Lindzen is indeed respected for his previous contributions to the scientific literature. The only problem is that Lindzen now takes positions which are in no way supported by the evidence, and some of which are explicitly contradicted by a large weight of tested and verified evidence. Quite simply, his words are false, and well known to be. See for example; Lindzen’s House of Lords testimony and Lindzen point by point. […]