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  1. Its very true that critics arose quickly, and that NASA doesn’t fund these skeptics. Keep in mind that controversy drives web traffic and many of these writers are financially rewarded for being popular more than being authoritative. Who is going to go back and point fingers at a blogger who gets it wrong. No one. The research is forced to stand on its own for years and years.

    Comment by Ben F. — 29 Dec 2010 @ 10:36 AM

  2. “This doesn’t replace the need for technical commentary to pass via the peer-review process though. In the end, that is what people will refer back to.”

    People with integrity will. Some less inclined will keep resurrecting zombie articles, commentary and arguments that suit their agenda but have long been discredited.

    Thank you for another clear and timely discussion. A happy New Year to all who make this place so informative and helpful.

    arch (from the hoi polloi)

    Comment by arch stanton — 29 Dec 2010 @ 10:49 AM

  3. The big question raised by these bacteria is to what extent do they actually use As in their own biomolecules, as opposed to merely tolerating it in their environment?
    RC readers may profit from this background on arsenic in biochemistry by PZ.
    The disputed point is whether the paper supports the claim that these bacteria in fact use As. This is disputed by Rosie Redfield among others.

    The public controversy may have been exacerbated by overdoing a press release (hardly a new problem). I also wonder about inexperienced young scientists getting involved with Paul Davies (see author list) who may try too hard to be deep.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 29 Dec 2010 @ 11:26 AM

  4. Great points here, illustrating a fundamental fact about science: it’s about inquiry, i.e. scientists (as a community) aim at epistemic goals, producing and evaluating evidence and arguments. The facile denialist description of scientists as selfish seekers of research support and personal status in a political game ignores how training and the social structures of scientific institutions, including journals, focus scientists’ efforts on epistemic goals. In fact, evidence suggests that introducing other goals (such as substantial monetary bonuses for certain kinds of results) actually reduces scientific productivity.

    How to incorporate the instant but unfiltered feedback provided by the web is a real challenge: free for alls get bogged down in noise, and the sheer scale of what’s out there offers too many opportunities to cherry-pick sources.

    Comment by Bryson Brown — 29 Dec 2010 @ 11:46 AM

  5. Highly interesting comparison! I fully agree with your lessons. This makes it even more strange why the process you describe, sound and full criticism, is so absent in climate science. However, you are missing one very important point here. Although the arsenic study is scientifically controversial it does not interfere with peoples fundamental values. In climate science the situation is completely different. There the underlying dogma is environmentalism, i.e. the idea that man is damaging the environment, which so many believe and want to believe (maybe as fundamental right now as e.g. believing in democracy). Although climate science is a proper science many of its advocates are typically so revealingly unscientific in their devotion to the subject and this causes the problem (almost embarrasingly conspicuous in this blog)

    [Response: What nonsense. The only people guilty of imposing their politics on a science process are people who make comments like this. – gavin]

    The arsenic case is extra interesting in an unexpected way. The very place for the Study, Mono Lake in California, is a very interesting habitat.

    [Response: Yes indeed it is.–Jim]

    Wolfe-Simon and coworkers chose the place because it is literally loaded with arsenic. I wrote the Mono Lake committee and ask about studies on the environment such as humans, birds of prey, ground water etc. Although I am sure there must be some they could not come up with one! Had this been a man made arsenic dump there would have been uncountable tons of investigations and I doubt that anyone would have been allowed within miles of the place. There you have the full environmental bias and this demonstrates the problem of the comparison.

    [Response: Your story is junk. First of all, the people at the Mono Lake Committee, which is a conservation and education organization, are not the ones to contact for details on scientific investigations on arsenic in the area. They are more geared, in the spirit of their late founder David Gaines, toward natural history education and preservation of water rights in the Mono Basin against the intentions of the city of Los Angeles, which very nearly destroyed that ecosystem, and would have had it not been for David and the Committee. Secondly, there have in fact been quite a number of studies of arsenic (and other rare elements) in relationship to microbial physiology in the saline/alkaline lakes of the western Great Basin, including Mono (and Searles etc) over the last several years, including other articles in Science. A simple Google Scholar search would have shown you this. The rest of your assertions are similar nonsense which you haven’t a chance of backing up, as they are based on your dislike of “environmentalism”, not reality.–Jim]

    Comment by Steven Jörsäter — 29 Dec 2010 @ 1:07 PM

  6. #5. Thanks for the comment, Gavin, it underlined my point.

    [Response: Sure it did. Anything to keep you in your little epistemically closed bubble. – gavin]

    Comment by Steven Jörsäter — 29 Dec 2010 @ 1:52 PM

  7. Steven Jörsäter, for what you seem to define as an “environmental” study, one needs changing conditions due to some external driver. Otherwise, it’s just ecology.

    [Response: Just? Not sure I follow the reasoning.–Jim]

    If being aware that human activity affects our environment is a bias, then it is a bias that every single human should have.

    So, Steven: don’t just sound off. Show us. Where is this absence of criticism in climate science? My impression is that climate scientists have a double burden to bear, because they have robust criticism from their colleagues and peers, and also the mindless sniping from the uneducated, uninformed wannabe “sceptics”.

    It is particularly telling that the mindless sniping continues long, long after the original research has been superseded (based on genuine criticism and further research, just how science is supposed to work).

    Comment by Didactylos — 29 Dec 2010 @ 2:57 PM

  8. Self correcting science, yup, you gotta like climate gate, and those other instances of the scientific method at work for the epistemologically challenged, the mindless, the unwashed, the trogs. Without the principle of intersubjectivity and the empirical invalidation of theoretical models the sun would still be revolving around the earth.

    [Response: Ah yes, the old “principle of intersubjectivity”. How easily we overlook it! By the way, what the hell is it?–Jim]

    Comment by don — 29 Dec 2010 @ 3:28 PM

  9. Steven Jorsater comes with the interesting claim that he contacted the Mono Lake Committee, and that they could not point him to any research. Let’s make that an “interesting” claim, as the Mono Lake Committee has a WEBSITE about research on Mono Basin, which includes Mono Lake:
    http://www.monobasinresearch.org/

    Jorstater may also be interested in this paper:
    Oremland et al. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 48 (2004) 15–27, which discusses arsenic and its impact on life forms at Mono Lake, referring to a host of other papers on the same topic.

    It appears to me that Jorstater is caught in his own biased view, and thus makes rather large claims without having any evidence. I hope he proves me otherwise, and thus my challenge to him to prove his claim that “Had this been a man made arsenic dump there would have been uncountable tons of investigations and I doubt that anyone would have been allowed within miles of the place”. After all, in science we do not base ourselves on our gut feeling, we come with quantifiable claims that can be tested.

    Comment by Marco — 29 Dec 2010 @ 3:38 PM

  10. YES! Excellent example.

    Nature isn’t just the final authority on truth, Nature is the Only authority. There are zero human authorities. Scientists do not vote on what is the truth. There is only one vote and Nature owns it. We find out what Nature’s vote is by doing Scientific [public and replicable] experiments. Scientific [public and replicable] experiments are the only source of truth. [To be public, it has to be visible to other people in the room. What goes on inside one person’s head isn’t public unless it can be seen on an X-ray or with another instrument.]

    Science is a simple faith in Scientific experiments and a simple absolute lack of faith in everything else according to:
    “Science and Immortality” by Charles B. Paul 1980 University of California Press. In this book on the Eloges of the Paris Academy of Sciences (1699-1791) page 99 says: “Science is not so much a natural as a moral philosophy”. [That means drylabbing [fudging data] will get you fired.]
    Page 106 says: “Nature isn’t just the final authority, Nature is the Only authority.”

    In the book: “Revolutionary Wealth” by Alvin & Heidi Toffler 2006 Chapter 19, FILTERING TRUTH, page 123 lists six commonly used filters people use to find the “truth”. They are:
    1. Consensus
    2. Consistency
    3. Authority
    4. Mystical revelation or religion [another name for several forms of mental illness]
    5. Durability
    6. Science

    As the Tofflers say: “Science is different from all the other truth-test criteria. It is the only one that itself depends on rigorous testing.” They go on to say: “In the time of Galileo . . . the most effective method of discovery was itself discovered.” [Namely Science.]

    The Tofflers also say that: “The invention of scientific method was the gift to humanity of a new truth filter or test, a powerful meta-tool for probing the unknown and—it turned out—for spurring technological change and economic progress.” All of the difference in the way we live now compared to the way people lived and died 500 years ago is due to Science. The other truth filters have contributed misery, confusion, war, fanaticism, persecution, terrorism, inquisitions, suicide bombings, false imprisonments, obesity, diabetes and other atrocities.

    Just for 5 Steven Jörsäter, could you dig out some of the early real skepticism of GW? Woops, that would be a lot of unnecessary work. Groan. Steven Jörsäter could look it up for himself, IF he were genuinely interested.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 29 Dec 2010 @ 4:06 PM

  11. #1–“Keep in mind that controversy drives web traffic and many of these writers are financially rewarded for being popular more than being authoritative.”

    As someone who writes a bit with the *potential* of profit for “web traffic,” I really, really, doubt that there is any meaningful financial “reward” for anybody blogging in such a specialized area; there’s just not the traffic.

    If someone wants to make money blogging, they need a really high-interest subject–say, Justin Bieber, or the ins and outs of the latest “Survivor.” It takes a topic like that to generate 100,000 page views a month–not arsenic v. phosphorus in DNA.

    Sad, perhaps, but there you are.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 29 Dec 2010 @ 4:26 PM

  12. O.K. Great start. Now lets reverse the situation:

    The consensus is ‘arseno-DNA’. Watson and Crick got it the wrong way due to contamination, and half a century later it is shown to be false, Phosphate is the key or whatever. Science found a way, but is on a dangerous path. There is a resession and the public have become increasingly wary of funding academics who ‘read all day and tell everyone else what to do’…

    Man! All those hundreds of thousands of scientific boffins are so stupid man! And I’ve been fertilising my fields with all this arsenic shit. Arrr!

    Now that would be an interesting press release (or would it?).

    Comment by Iso — 29 Dec 2010 @ 5:24 PM

  13. for Jim, response @8 – The “principle of intersubjectivity” is when a number of the “epistemologically challenged” get stoned together and have the same hallucinations ;)

    Comment by flxible — 29 Dec 2010 @ 5:38 PM

  14. > Iso
    ‘isotopious’ under a new name, or coincidental similarity?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Dec 2010 @ 5:54 PM

  15. I’m surprised that you didn’t make it clearer what the very definition of the word ‘Science’ is; i.e.: a sort-of contraction of the phrase “Sceintific Process” – which is what peer-review is all about: the moving of a ‘new’ discovery from the Status of ‘Scientific Theory or Hypothesis’, to the Status of ‘Scientific Fact’, through the process of having other accreditable researchers seeking to reproduce (or duplicate) the results in their own labs; as that’s something many of the people commenting here (other than the genuine researchers, and better {self, inmy case} educated types) don’t seem to get: the basic difference between ‘theory’ anbd ‘fact’, and how one transforms into the other.
    This is exciting, and I hope it’s correct; for, given the discovery of a ‘complex multicellular life-form’, living deep in on of the Meds anoxic zones, that uses Hydrogen instead of Oxygen to respirate; as it has, within it’s cells, ‘hydrogesomes’ (sp?) which are Mitochondria-like Organelle that do ‘the metabolic thing’ with (again) Hydrogen instead of Oxygen – well, either one or both, opens up WHOLE PLANETS worth the ‘New’ environments in which life might exist, doesn’t it?
    Nice diversion from the usual Climate Battle.

    Comment by James Staples — 29 Dec 2010 @ 6:27 PM

  16. #12–“Watson and Crick got it the wrong way due to contamination, and half a century later it is shown to be false. . .”

    Wouldn’t ever take half a century to figure *that* out–especially if fields were being poisoned.

    Was there a point here? Or just “fertilizer?”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 29 Dec 2010 @ 6:37 PM

  17. Lesson 4 : Complex, complete and careful analysis of the data is not enough. An appreciation of the data itself and where it came from and how it “fits together” within the context of the experiment is equally important when determining whether a result is at all valid.

    Lesson 5 : It is human nature to want a result to fit in with your belief but until other possibilites are properly considered and specifically investigated to the point of confident exclusion, then the result will always remain in doubt.

    Comment by TimTheToolMan — 29 Dec 2010 @ 6:38 PM

  18. The only flaw I can find in your arguement is that no one cares about THIS science like they care about climate science. No politician’s career and no trillions of public funds are on the line. No one is willing to put undue pressure on a scientist working in this field, therefore they have no reason to act politically.

    I’m not saying that you are wrong. It’s just that this case does not relate in any way to the climate issue. I do not have any problem with the peer review process. To do so would be to ignore the last 200 years of history. And I do not care about the climate one way or the other.

    [Response: You don’t?–Jim]

    I just think your arguement is flawed.

    It has been proven that people with science degrees will advocate a position that is false for personal benefit. They work for oil companies, tobacco companies, the third reich etc. So why should a person with a science degree who works for public dollars be any different? Not saying there is some conspiracy or that we should throw out science. But scientists are just as corruptible (no more, no less) as the rest of us.

    [Response: Uh, yeah, but you fail to realize that corruptible not = corrupted–Jim]

    Comment by Todd Actual — 29 Dec 2010 @ 7:04 PM

  19. Yes, Hank, and there is a coincidental similarity with climate change, or maybe I read too much Michael Crichton….

    What could possibly go worng?, etc..

    >Everything

    Comment by Isotopolopolus — 29 Dec 2010 @ 7:05 PM

  20. Lesson 4 : Complex, complete and careful analysis of the data is not enough. An appreciation of the data itself and where it came from and how it “fits together” within the context of the experiment is equally important when determining whether a result is at all valid.

    Shorter TimTheToolMan: “Climategate! UHI’s!”

    Lesson 5 : It is human nature to want a result to fit in with your belief but until other possibilites are properly considered and specifically investigated to the point of confident exclusion, then the result will always remain in doubt.

    Shorter TimTheToolMan: “Cosmic rays!”

    Comment by Adam R. — 29 Dec 2010 @ 7:36 PM

  21. Comment by Todd Actual — 29 December 2010 @ 7:04 PM

    Todd: The falicy in your comment is the notion that falsifying science would help one get a goverment grant or that there would be “pressure” or expectation to get a particular result. Any evidence of falsifying data or distorting science is the fastest way for a scientist to lose any chance of getting a government grant. Grants provide an oppotunities to make rigorous tests of hypotheses. Some of the results of my NSF grants supported expectations but the data always provided suprises. That’s the way science works. In fact, the best results are those that go against expectations.

    Comment by Bill DeMott — 29 Dec 2010 @ 8:15 PM

  22. Thanks for your comments Gavin, Jim and #7, #9 and #10. First, note my wording, I mailed the Mono Lake Committe and got no specific references. I did not, of course, undertake anything like a thorough investigation of all references. I don’t know the Mono Lake committee but they seem serious enough. My full mail to them and their answer can be read at http://klimatet.jorsater.se/Arsenic.htm . They wrote “As for arsenic in the ecosystem, it is not well-studied” which sounds clear to me and there was no reason for me to doubt that.

    My statement about a man made arsenic dump was clearly NOT scientific but indeed a gut feeling as are many statements on this blog.

    Comment #7 is interesting. Its says “…an “environmental” study, one needs changing conditions due to some external driver.” This may be so and in that case it is an excellent explanation of why environmental science is more or less by definition alarmistic

    [Response: Completely wrong, demonstrating exactly the problem with deniers in general–they cannot for the life of them separate the processes and output of science itself from the processes and output of those that publicize scientific results. Most of them are complete morons in that respect, and it leads to about 99% of all the hullabaloo. Environmental science is “by definition” the science of the environment, nothing more–Jim]

    which in the climate science context can be formulated as “warmer climate and/or higher CO2 abundance are possibly fine as long as they are not caused by humans in which case they are disastrous”. If you believe that then I understand why we disagree.

    Finally, Gavin and others, do you SERIOUSLY believe that science is not at all affected by the values or political views of the scientist? If you think so, take a close look at e.g. biology in the 1930’s.

    See also my comment a moment ago on “Cold winter in a world of warming”? (#414).

    [Response: I have claimed nothing of the sort. Surprise, surprise, scientists are human – with all that this entails. But it is an enormous and unjustified leap to go from ‘scientists are imperfect’ to claiming that a whole field of study involving tens of thousands of scientists of every background, multiple continents, political persuasion, religious outlook and temperament is somehow devoid of critical voices or debate. And I’ll thank you not to implicitly accuse any scientist you disagree with of being a eugenicist. – gavin]

    Comment by Steven Jörsäter — 29 Dec 2010 @ 8:32 PM

  23. Isotopolous “…or maybe I read too much Michael Crichton….”

    That would be ANY Crichton. Did he ever get anything scientifically correct in one of his novels?

    [Response: I liked the Andromeda Strain…. – gavin]

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Dec 2010 @ 9:08 PM

  24. And for a from an alternate universe.

    Warning! Do not consume beverages of any type while attempting to read this screed.

    Comment by Rattus Norvegicus — 29 Dec 2010 @ 9:09 PM

  25. Even though the paper has a lot of serious critics, I think the peer review process worked. A novel result may have a little easier time getting published the first time in order to stimulate discussion.

    Comment by Bibasir — 29 Dec 2010 @ 9:26 PM

  26. While on the topic of climate change, it is interesting that since 1980 to 2009, we have had 0.5 deg C of warming, with a linear trend of .16 deg C per decade.

    So for the warmaholics to be worng we would need 2010 to be -2.2 deg C to kill the trend.

    That’s not something I would bet on! Although perhaps -.16 over the next six years gives slightly better odds?

    Unlikely too I guess but live in fear, who knows what will happen over a decade or two (Oh the excitement!)

    Comment by Isotopolopolus — 29 Dec 2010 @ 9:37 PM

  27. On the question of whether Michael Crichton ever got anything scientifically correct in any of his novels (Ray Ladbury, #23), I confess with some pleasure that I have never read anything by Crichton, nor have I seen the movies, but apparently most of the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park” were, in fact, Cretaceous.

    Comment by S. Molnar — 29 Dec 2010 @ 9:38 PM

  28. [Response: I liked the Andromeda Strain…. – gavin]

    You mean the one where all the bugs mutated into a benign form at the same time? I was seriously disappointed.

    [Response: I was young.. what can I say? – gavin]

    Comment by NoPreview NoName — 29 Dec 2010 @ 10:22 PM

  29. Bill DeMott said: “Todd: The falicy in your comment is the notion that falsifying science would help one get a goverment grant or that there would be “pressure” or expectation to get a particular result.”

    Depending on the government it would help one get a government grant very much, like a grant from germany in 1938 to use skull measurements to prove aryan superiority. That is an extreme example and an exceptional one I know but you assume governments are honest. They are as honest as politicians and the people who elect them. And we live in the land of spin, everything is spun. For example even today there are nations that suppress research on sexual health and aids etc. because they are predominantly catholic. If a country and it’s politicians hold a “truth” to be self evident, then of course that opinion will direct the way research money is directed. Scientists aren’t dummies, they know which way the wind is blowing. I’m not talking about falsifying data, I’m talking about keeping their mouth shut and finding research to do that will be more acceptable to popular opinion.

    I’m not saying that scientists are making a concerted effort to pull the wool over our eyes about the climate or anything. Believe me I would trust a research scientist to tell me what he thought was true before I trusted a lawyer or priest or even an MD doctor. But the idea that they are immune to thoughts of self interest, peer pressure and groupthink because the ideals of their profession calls for it is absurd.

    [Response: No one is claiming that scientists are saints, but as expressed above in response to another poster, leaping from that trivial fact to the idea that there is some grand conspiracy of silence because scientists are afraid to rock the boat is completely unjustified. Going to any meeting, hanging out in any coffee hour or just seeing the questions and discussion after a guest lecture would almost certainly dispel any of these notions. Yes, there are are egos and self-interest, but even more obvious is a relentless curiosity to find out what the world is really like and why. In my experience, that trumps everything else. – gavin]

    [Response: As I said, the possibility of something occurring does not prove its actuality. You’re essentially just echoing the vast cynicism that exists in this society–and if you think that has it’s origins in scientists’ behavior you are very seriously missing the boat. It is in fact, the reason most of the deniers get any audience at all.–Jim]

    Comment by Todd Actual — 29 Dec 2010 @ 10:43 PM

  30. 18 And no #13 Trillion fossil fuel industry on the line either.

    Comment by JiminMpls — 29 Dec 2010 @ 10:53 PM

  31. Steven #22

    You wrote this:

    This may be so and in that case it is an excellent explanation of why environmental science is more or less by definition alarmistic which in the climate science context can be formulated as “warmer climate and/or higher CO2 abundance are possibly fine as long as they are not caused by humans in which case they are disastrous”. If you believe that then I understand why we disagree.

    Steven….I’m going to strongly guess that you can go back through the archives of Realclimate and not find any scientists saying that “CO2 abundance are possibly fine as long as they are not caused by humans in which case they are disastrous”

    Steven, you are clearly an extremely angry man, and are at this time anyways, mad at climate scientists. If you actually READ what these scientists are saying, you’ll find they do not have the biases you think they do. They are data driven.

    Here’s a simple question for you. How much have you read or listened to climate scientist’s on this topic? Seriouisly, how much? If the answer is almost nil, then go to the realclimate homepage and follow the guide to educate yourself on what they are actually saying. I think you’ll find your anger slowly dissapate the more you understand this subject.

    Comment by doug — 29 Dec 2010 @ 11:01 PM

  32. So why should a person with a science degree who works for public dollars be any different?

    Depending on the government it would help one get a government grant very much, like a grant from germany in 1938 to use skull measurements to prove aryan superiority.

    Godwin’s law.

    When you can prove that Lindzen, Spencer, etc have been purged like the Jewish scientists in Nazi Germany, forced to move to another country to fight for the benign nature of cigarette smoking, or the obvious truth that the world was created in six days, and no longer live in the US, but rather in more liberal countries than hours, you might have a point.

    Science in this country doesn’t work like science under Nazi Germany, and the fact that you suggest it might is offensive to the maximum, and indicates that you’re totally detached from reality.

    Comment by dhogaza — 29 Dec 2010 @ 11:55 PM

  33. Good post, and I fully agree with it; thanks for writing it. The arsenic-based DNA study contains an extraordinary claim, but so far the extraordinary evidence to back it up seems lacking.

    With respect to #23 (Crichton’s Andromeda Strain). You mean the novel where the microbes feed off the plasma from a nuclear blast?? I was enjoying the book immensely until that point. Crichton did not get the science right in that one either; sorry for the spoiler (but it is an old book).

    Comment by Mean and Anomalous — 30 Dec 2010 @ 1:42 AM

  34. My take is that NASA knew this would be a big event, so, unfortunately, they released the details way too early. IMO, it might have been better to release just a couple of days before publication, and in the mean time, maybe have the authoring team talk to some of you guys to get a sense of what was about to happen to their lives!

    Comment by DeNihilist — 30 Dec 2010 @ 2:00 AM

  35. I would like to hear from the next person who analyzes these bacteria. There is so much to learn. How many substitutions are allowed and where? How does this happen? Can arsenic be made non-poisonous? Are these bacteria more or less efficient than comparable bacteria in other environments?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 30 Dec 2010 @ 3:40 AM

  36. Re #5 Arsenic in the groundwater supply is a big issue worldwide, and especially in Bangladesh. This problem is entirely “the fault of nature”, the only thing man did was drilling the well.

    Comment by Carl Ellstrom — 30 Dec 2010 @ 3:43 AM

  37. Shorter Steven Jörsäter (summing up comments on this and other threads in the past 24 hours):

    “I say you’re blinded by confirmation bias, and everything you say confirms I’m right.”

    Anyone hoping to educate Mr Jörsäter may want to note that he has detailed a previous foray here on his Swedish blog (http://jorsater.se/klimatet/?p=49). He even compiled a 22-page PDF of the back-and-forth. To little avail: For instance, his blog post triumphantly repeated a nonsensical claim he made that Jim Hansen thinks 5-10 years suffices for a temperature trend, even though Ray L. had set him straight on the difference between averages (Hansen’s point) and trends.

    Comment by CM — 30 Dec 2010 @ 5:32 AM

  38. EG 10: 4. Mystical revelation or religion [another name for several forms of mental illness]

    BPL: Thanks, Ed. We love you, too.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 30 Dec 2010 @ 5:37 AM

  39. Todd 29: Scientists aren’t dummies, they know which way the wind is blowing. I’m not talking about falsifying data, I’m talking about keeping their mouth shut and finding research to do that will be more acceptable to popular opinion.

    BPL: You must never have met any actual scientists. In general they study whatever the H they WANT to study. That’s why they choose a field; that’s how they choose what to look into. The only major influence might be an advisor suggesting they look into this or that when the scientist in question is still a grad student.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 30 Dec 2010 @ 5:44 AM

  40. Excellent critique and summary of the scientific process. This is a text book case of how the communications process works in science and how it is different from what is being portrayed as science and the scientific process in the media. It is very important to differentiate the journalist’s process from that of the scientist and show the difference between rhetoric and peer review critique. I am going to use this as an example for my second year PR communications class. Thank you for the article.

    Comment by Richard Zurawski — 30 Dec 2010 @ 5:53 AM

  41. Todd Actual@29&18,
    Your argument betrays a deep ignorance of the scientific process–including the fact that first and foremost, it is a collective, not an individual, enterprise. Yes, A SCIENTIST may be corrupted. And his peers will find out and his career as a scientist will be over.

    The second thing you fail to comprehend about science is that it is not merely a body of knowledge, but a method. Part of that method reproducibility and verifiability. That’s the thing about Nature–ask her the same question and she tends to give consistent answers (at least if you understand the language of science).

    A related issue you evidently fail to comprehend is that science is progressive–each new result builds upon those that came before. Lies and fraud lead nowhere. They present no opportunity to build understanding, and as such they tend to be corrected as understanding builds.

    Science works. Maybe you ought to learn how.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Dec 2010 @ 6:36 AM

  42. Two points:
    First,which many have made, this is a case study to observe how science actually does get things right despite the all-too-familiar human failings of scientists. Novel and potentially science-altering hypotheses get attention and get tested quickly. The same happened with the Lindzen claim about strong negative cloud feedbacks and the cosmic-ray hypothesis for cloud formation to make a stronger positive feedback to solar activity. They have been treated seriously but so far have failed experimental/observational tests.

    2) The NASA press release shows the additional pressures associated with 21st century science. One pressure that has appeared in the last decade or so is the perceived need to publicize scientific claims early and to make them relevant to the public at large. Unfortunately, that leads to ‘breakthrough of the month’ science reporting. If people will note, most people objected to the NASA PR. The article kept the speculation more in line with the data.

    Comment by Mitch Lyle — 30 Dec 2010 @ 8:01 AM

  43. Any comments on “the decline effect” as described in this recent New Yorker article?

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/12/13/101213fa_fact_lehrer?currentPage=all

    Interesting that most of the examples were from the field of neuroscience.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 30 Dec 2010 @ 8:18 AM

  44. Walter,

    Personally, I would be wary of taking anything from that field and applying it to another field of science. In no other field of science is there such a thing as a placebo effect, for instance. In fact, there was recently a study that showed that the placebo effect can still work *even when the subjects know they’re taking placebos*. It’s an illustration of the powerful effect the mind can have on the body, or at least the perception of the body.

    However, chemicals don’t react a certain way because we expect them to, thermometers don’t measure a particular temperature because we think they will, and software doesn’t quit working because we’ve gotten tired of it.

    Comment by Maya from the peanut gallery — 30 Dec 2010 @ 9:33 AM

  45. RE: 29, 18, and the superb response at 41,
    It is indeed a sad reflection on the deniers (and many skeptics) failure to learn how science is conducted via the scientific method as it has been for centuries. It was taught in their high schools and colleges yet they ignore it. Then have the arrogance to claim that they know something or more than literally thousands of peer-reviewed (that’s part of the scientific method process, deniers) climate scientists and every major climate science professional organization across the world. As we have seen by some deniers and skeptics comments here, they will go an absurd and insulting step further by declaring that global warming science is a “religion”! Their intellectual laziness is simply astounding simply because they seem to flaunt it. There is no excuse for it when they have access to the peer-reviewed information to read at their fingertips through the internet and right here at Real Climate.

    Comment by Dan — 30 Dec 2010 @ 9:37 AM

  46. Walter Pearce: The ESP results can easily be explained as more controlled conditions in later tests will naturally reduce the scope for cheating. The mental health medication is an interesting case, and personally I believe that the decline is a result of a reduced placebo effect – patients expect less from the drugs, they are wary of the side effects, and often they can tell by the lack of side effects whether they are on the placebo or not. I would like to see more studies testing the strength of the placebo effect.

    But what does this have to do with climate?

    Comment by Didactylos — 30 Dec 2010 @ 10:03 AM

  47. Presumably it has not occured to the author that rules on funding etc which apply to subjects like this on which politicians have not publicly declaimed may not apply to those, such as alleged catastrophic global warming, on which they have.

    [Response: So how does this supposed to work precisely? Which politicians are we scientists taking our cues from? Senators like Inhofe? Presidents like G. W. Bush? And I suppose you have plenty of evidence for scientists changing their stances or opinions when the administration changes? Please do share! – gavin]

    If I am wrong he will be able to name the equally NASA funded studies by those who are sceptical that we are experiencing catastrophic warming.

    [Response: Roy Spencer and John Christy are both funded by NASA and have been almost their entire careers. ]

    Or perhaps “realclimate” will, once again, censor any dissent here?

    [Response: Or perhaps you could become just a little serious? – gavin]

    Comment by Neil Craig — 30 Dec 2010 @ 10:31 AM

  48. Gavin, a bit OT, but I am curious about something. Have you ever considered why you, as opposed to much more scientific offensive behavior exhibited by the likes of Keith Briffa, attracts so much animosity?

    [Response: Given that I reject absolutely your premise here (Briffa’s behaviour is not offensive either scientifically or otherwise), and I disagree that I attract “much animosity”, your perception is probably due to the fact that I am just more public. So when people want to make up some reason to take offense, or imagine some strawman caricature of what scientists are saying, or jump to conclusions based on nothing more than their prejudices, they attach public names to that. The number of times I find myself described as holding opinions that I have never stated, or acting in ways I would find abhorrent, or taking positions that are the complete reverse of positions I actually hold, is legion. Since these cases have clearly nothing to do with me as a person, and do not appear to have been informed by any kind of fact, I conclude that my name is being used symbolically rather than literally. And it is very easy for people to gather up animosity for symbols they create that represent everything that irks them. Such is life. – gavin]

    Comment by Bob — 30 Dec 2010 @ 11:24 AM

  49. Re: #46. Didactylos, I thought the topic wasn’t climate science per se, but rather the self-correcting quality of science. The New Yorker article bothered me and, at the same time, seemed relevant to the topic, so I thought I’d ask for comment here.

    And, thanks to Maya in the peanut gallery — your comments make sense to me.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 30 Dec 2010 @ 11:50 AM

  50. While politicians have some control over the amount of research funding, fortunately, politicians and bureaucrats do not control which proposals are funded by government agencies. Proposals are very critically evaluated by other scientisits. When I review a grant proposal, I look at the quality of the proposed research and the chance that it will lead to new discoveries, not whether it agrees with my expectations or favorite hypotheses. Scientists do not support weak studies in their fields of expertise. This is for at least two reasons. 1. They are rating their competitors. 2. They care very much about the credibility of research in their field of expertise. Personally, I feel some pride when a researcher in my speciality publishes something that will attract widespread interest. I also am unhappy, when a weak study that generally supports my favored hypotheses is published. I have also reviewed grant proposals for academies of science of seven foreign (not USA) countries and the expectation has always and only been, that I would fairly evaluate the quality of the proposed research and its potential international impact. Oh, I don’t know how research was funded in Hitler’s Germany or under Stalin, but I know a lot about how research is funded around the world today. American’s leadership in world science owes much to the competitiveness, fairness and openess of grant funding in this country.

    Comment by Bill DeMott — 30 Dec 2010 @ 11:53 AM

  51. Thanks for your reply. But I was asking something more personal, a “come to Gaia moment”. Why you?

    [Response: Now you’ve lost me, what ‘come to Gaia moment’? I don’t recall ever having discussed ‘gaia’ at all. Can you be more specific? – gavin]

    Comment by Bob — 30 Dec 2010 @ 11:56 AM

  52. The argument that studying CO2’s effects on climate is an environmentalists presupposition is like saying studying evolution steams from an Ape-fetish.

    As if only people who are in love with the fact that humans share ancestry with Apes would study/accept it…Or people who studied the linear response from the carcinogenic effects of smoking tobacco are just anti-smokers.

    And the one about scientists being flawed stating it is “proven” they must be corrupt; i.e some who worked with oil/tobacco… well lets actually cite some of that.

    A think tank called the George C Marshall Institute, scientists like Fred Singer and Fred Sietz who (afaik) never contributed any positive evidence, research or experiments to the Reagan defense initiative, Cfc’s link to ozone depletion, acid rain, tobaccos link to lung cancer and climate science… that was actually not their role. Instead their entire effort was advisory to political wheels, motivated by anti-regulatory politics. Their entire effort was to debate and confuse, stalling government from making regulatory decisions.

    They did NO research on these subjects, they just argued with established research in public arenas, taking entirely scientific issues and simply debating them politically. “Reasonable doubt”, a legal tactic, become their best tool to undermine decades of hard research on capitol hill.

    to cite those individuals contributing NO scientific data, as proof that ALL scientists ALWAYS conjure/argue false information is just a short-cut in thinking.

    Comment by Torbach — 30 Dec 2010 @ 11:58 AM

  53. > NASA, which is where early global warming theory started

    ROTFL. You can look this stuff up.

    http://web.lemoyne.edu/~giunta/arrhenius.html

    Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927)
    “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground” (excerpts) Philosophical Magazine 41, 237-276 (1896)[1]

    … the question, that has long attracted the attention of physicists, is this: Is the mean temperature of the ground in any way influenced by the presence of heat-absorbing gases in the atmosphere? …. too wide a use of Newton’s law of cooling, must be abandoned, as Langley himself in a later memoir showed that the full moon, which certainly does not posses any sensible heat-absorbing atmosphere, has a “mean effective temperature” of about 45°C.[6]

    The air retains heat (light or dark) in two different ways. On the one hand, the heat suffers a selective diffusion on its passage through the air; on the other hand, some of the atmospheric gases absorb considerable quantities of heat. These two actions are very different. …”
    ———-

    “Shooshmon” Turing test fail.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Dec 2010 @ 12:46 PM

  54. This is a good insightful article and does a good job of describing the high-level scientific process as it pertains to publishing, peer review, and controversy. However, I think there is a significant piece where the comparison to the scientific process of climate change is not correct. Equitable funding of both camps within climate science is not shown just because NASA (or anyone else) funds fringe science in some other field. Fringe science is akin to basic research and funding constraints are simply a matter of budget allocation based on broad curiosity and interest. Unless the study is scientifically about something far far outside the world of normalcy, funding is not withheld because the study is distasteful to many but only because there are not enough funds available.

    On the other hand skeptical global warming scientists have an even more difficult time getting funding because their area of study is, while not far far outside the world of scientific normalcy, is outside the strongly felt desired political expectations. The arseno-DNA episode has been criticized, even including the suggestion of withdrawing funding, but solely on proper (right or wrong) scientific questioning grounds as the post points out. But it was not criticized for heresy. Nor were the authors demonized or threatened with criminal prosecution. Nor was the funding organization itself demonized or threatened with criminal prosecution; at worst it was criticized for wasting its money but with no concerted effort to try to assure it doesn’t happen again. The two situations are not comparable in this instance.

    As what some might see as an odd epilogue, I would like to point out that IMO most of climate science funding ought to go to the AGW proponent camp. A reasonable but small amount of funding can go to recognized scientists who are clearly out to disprove current AGW — this in the vein of basic research. But the preponderance should go to proponents with an attempt to refine the current analyses, improve the models, address the areas of uncertainty, and even study specific areas of skepticism within the broad presumed accepted science (and this funding ought to be greatly increased from current levels.) This because there are many areas of uncertainties and looseness (IMO). In other scientific endeavors it wouldn’t really matter one way or the other. There is no earth-shattering result coming whether DNA is arsenic based or not. But the potential impacts from AGW might be great — maybe even literally earth-shattering. Even with my bold caveats this deserves a helluva lot of attention.

    Comment by Rod B — 30 Dec 2010 @ 1:11 PM

  55. Rod B makes some good points!

    (Probably not the ones he intended to make, but if you waffle on long enough, you have to rub against a few obvious truths eventually.)

    So, on the one hand we have NASA providing funding to Spencer and Christy, not to mention CERN going to great efforts to do further cloud research. On the other hand, we have Cuccinelli trying to start a witch-hunt against Mann, and the US House of Representatives trying to do the same against the whole of climate science…. it’s easy to see who is doing the demonisation.

    Comment by Didactylos — 30 Dec 2010 @ 1:58 PM

  56. “…skeptical global warming scientists have an even more difficult time getting funding…”

    I haven’t looked, but I’m betting that if you compare the available funding from the big oil companies to the available funding from NASA …

    Oh, wait, I know. Google. Let’s go look, shall we?

    Total NASA budget in 2010: $18.7 billion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Budget Total oil company income? Well, the first one that pops up is from 2007, so it isn’t quite comparable, but here http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/103679.pdf under “integrated oil companies” I see a net income of 127.9 TRILLION dollars. ExxonMobil *alone* has a net income more than twice the total budget of NASA, and if you compare 2007 to 2007, it’s nearly three times.

    Don’t feel sorry for the deniers not being able to get funding. And, I understand that oil companies don’t put all their available money into “studies” that are anti-climate-science, just as NASA’s budget gets spread around to all its different divisions. Still, when it comes down to who has the deeper pockets, well, as they say, follow the money.

    Comment by Maya from the peanut gallery — 30 Dec 2010 @ 2:15 PM

  57. re: 54.

    There are no “camps”. There is science. Hypotheses, data collection, analysis, peer-review, conclusions, more hypotheses, etc. After all this time, you seem to still believe that scientific analysis and results are predetermined. That is NOT how science is done, for the umpteenth time. You have been told this over and over again yet you plod right along.

    As for “On the other hand skeptical global warming scientists have an even more difficult time getting funding because their area of study is, while not far far outside the world of scientific normalcy, is outside the strongly felt desired political expectations”,…please. This has been refuted time and time again. Furthermore, from 2000-2008 the US had a presidential administration that was quite friendly to the “skeptical” scientists (and even got briefed about it from a science *fiction* writer). And the amount of funding that has been provided from the vested-interest think tanks (e.g. Cato Institute, The Heritage Foundation) and the private sector (e.g. Exxon/Mobil) to skeptics and deniers is nothing less than staggering.

    As an aside, what we have seen here is classic denier talk: Bringing up long-refuted denier talking points again and again and again, with no apparent learning curve over time. Classic.

    Comment by Dan — 30 Dec 2010 @ 2:15 PM

  58. Rod, this paragraph confuses me:

    On the other hand skeptical global warming scientists have an even more difficult time getting funding because their area of study is, while not far far outside the world of scientific normalcy, is outside the strongly felt desired political expectations. The arseno-DNA episode has been criticized, even including the suggestion of withdrawing funding, but solely on proper (right or wrong) scientific questioning grounds as the post points out. But it was not criticized for heresy. Nor were the authors demonized or threatened with criminal prosecution. Nor was the funding organization itself demonized or threatened with criminal prosecution; at worst it was criticized for wasting its money but with no concerted effort to try to assure it doesn’t happen again. The two situations are not comparable in this instance.

    Is there support for the contention that skeptical studies struggle to get funding? I’ve heard it said, but never seen it substantiated. Is this more than “everybody knows” handwaving?

    Further on you mention accusations of heresy, the demonization of authors, threatening them with criminal prosecution, and similar threats to the funding organization.

    What confuses me:

    1) I haven’t heard of anyone being accused of “heresy;”

    2) The other actions mentioned bring to mind those like the abominable Cuccinelli–or the equally abominable Limbaughs and Becks–whose threats and actions were directed against mainstream climatologists, not skeptics. Is that what you meant? Or is there some instance (hitherto unknown to me) of prosecution threatened against, say, Roy Spencer?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 30 Dec 2010 @ 2:20 PM

  59. Rod B.,
    Have you learned absolutely nothing about how science is done? Do you honestly think that granting agencies dole out funding based on what this scientist believes vs. that scientist?

    Good Lord! You get funded if you produce frigging results. Results mean understanding of your subject matter. If your research means we can do what we couldn’t before, you will get funded–and even moreso if it challenges comventional ideas.

    Rod, 97.5% of climate scientists who publish in the field agree with the consensus theory of Earth’s climate. An unfortunate corrolary of that theory is that we warm the globe when we produce CO2. Most of the 2.5% who dissent from the consensus get their funds from the same place the 97.5% get theirs–and yes, as Gavin has pointed out, they get funds.

    Why don’t they get more funds? Because frankly their research is crap. It does not add understanding. For Chrissake, Rod, get real!

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Dec 2010 @ 4:24 PM

  60. Maya 56,

    Wouldn’t 126 trillion be greater than word gross product?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 30 Dec 2010 @ 4:56 PM

  61. Sorry, “Gross World Product.” It was about 56 trillion last time I looked, although I’m sure it’s gone up by then. But not enough for the oil companies alone to be making $126 trillion a year. I think the whole fossil fuel industry makes about $2 trillion a year. Still motive for murder, but we have to get the magnitudes right.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 30 Dec 2010 @ 4:57 PM

  62. Eh, obviously I can’t do move-the-decimal-place math when I have a cold.

    NASA budget 2010: 18,724 million = 18.7 billion
    Integrated oil company profits 2007: 127,994 million = 127.9 billion, not trillion.

    My apologies. However, the basic point stands. If the oil companies want to fund “studies” they have more than enough money to do so.

    Out of curiosity, I looked up XOM’s (Exxon Mobil’s) net income summary. The numbers are annual, in thousands (don’t forget to move the decimal the right number of places!), Dec 2009, Dec 2008, and Dec 2007.

    Net Income From Continuing Ops 26,423,000 45,220,000 40,610,000

    Ok I’ll stop before I’m told I’m beating a dead horse or wandering OT.

    Comment by Maya from the peanut gallery — 30 Dec 2010 @ 5:10 PM

  63. BPL: Maya just made a typo. Check the source.

    Comment by Didactylos — 30 Dec 2010 @ 5:11 PM

  64. Thanks for posting on the self-correcting nature of science. Perhaps I’m hair-splitting, but I feel that this formulation can provide a mistaken notion that the overall movement of science follows a “scientists make mistakes, then others correct them” trajectory. I believe the idea of Successive Approximations is a more powerful meme, where movement toward a more robust representation of reality occurs incrementally despite the limitations, biases or questionable motivation of individual scientists. Successive approximation is the organizing principle underlying science. Please see Steven Jay Gould’s “The Mismeasure of Man”

    [Response: Not hair splitting IMO, and a point I strongly agree with. IMO, the vast majority of science is incremental advancements/improvements in the state of knowledge. Sometimes there are outright conceptual or other mistakes that need to be corrected (often involving math or statistics issues in my experience), but most of the time, it is instead advancements in technology (more or better data, better analysis tools etc) that lead to incrementally better understanding. A related point is that scientists do not commonly go out of their way in some conscious effort to “overturn consensus” on some topic, which is difficult in proportion to the amount of attention that has already been paid to it. You might have a chance at so doing in some relatively ignored backwater area, but good luck doing so on anything with a long and strong history to it.–Jim]

    Comment by Rich Creager — 30 Dec 2010 @ 5:15 PM

  65. re: #48
    1) The “It’s a few bad scientists, vilify them” approach is most virulent in North America, unsurprising given the location of many of the thinktanks and fronts that help organize this.
    Despite the attacks on Phil Jones, I’d say it’s still less bad in UK, among other things possibly because defamation law is so messy in USA compared to UK.

    2) But “It’s a few bad scientists” was common enough, even in in the Wegman Report, that when I wrote SSWR, I gave it a Meme label (Meme-d, since Skeptical Science didn’t have one for that), and the Index on p.8 lists 7 pages where it appears.

    3) In any case, the definitive study remains Monty Python witch scene.

    Comment by John Mashey — 30 Dec 2010 @ 5:43 PM

  66. GDP (purchasing power parity): $70.17 trillion (2009 est.)

    GDP (official exchange rate):
    GWP (gross world product): $58.09 trillion (2009 est.)

    from
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/xx.html

    Sum of nine integrated oil companies net income was $0.128 trilllion on revenues of $1.6 trillion in 2007 CE. (source: Robert Pirog, Congressional Research Service) [Does not include ARAMCO, PetroChina, and other majors which do not operate in the USA)

    Comment by David B. Benson — 30 Dec 2010 @ 5:56 PM

  67. Walter Pierce #43 & #49 re: Jonah Lehrer’s New Yorker article and the “decline effect.”

    Tamino has a post — The Power — and Perils — of Statistics — that predates Lehrer’s article but discusses the phenomenon in a way that I found helpful.

    Comment by Rick Brown — 30 Dec 2010 @ 8:06 PM

  68. [As I said, the possibility of something occurring does not prove its actuality. – Jim]

    And this is why there needs to be more openess in climate science, especially in regards to making data and code available. Scientists may feel they are wasting their time and energy being so open as in actuality they are doing nothing wrong, but the possibility that they are is why they should be.

    Climate science journals should be following policies like those of econometric journals. For example from the Journal of Applied Econometrics: “Authors of all papers published in the JAE are required to submit the data they used, unless they are confidential (see below). Authors are also encouraged to provide whatever other material is needed to ensure that their results can be replicated without excessive difficulty. This might include computer programs or technical appendices that are not part of the paper itself.”

    [Response: As we have discussed many times, much of this is indeed already available (but it’s much easier not to bother to look before pronouncing upon our perfidy). And it would be naive to think this insulates scientists from spurious criticism. For instance, all the GISTEMP data and code is available, and it has been independently replicated multiple times. Yet every week brings another spurious insinuation or accusation of malfeasance. The opposition to climate science has nothing to do with science, the scientific method, openness, transparency or any of the issues that you are apparently alluding to, and so progress in any of those areas (and progress can always be made), is irrelevant for the wider issue. – gavin]

    Comment by observer — 30 Dec 2010 @ 8:35 PM

  69. Trying again: http://tamino.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/the-power-and-perils-of-statistics/

    Comment by Rick Brown — 30 Dec 2010 @ 8:43 PM

  70. Rick Brown: “Tamino has a post — The Power — and Perils — of Statistics — that predates Lehrer’s article but discusses the phenomenon in a way that I found helpful.”

    As opposed to Lehrer’s piece, which was sensationalist crap. Another journalist I must watch out for lest I accidentally direct my piss stream toward them if they are on fire.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Dec 2010 @ 9:00 PM

  71. #54 On the other hand skeptical global warming scientists have an even more difficult time getting funding because their area of study is….outside the strongly felt desired political expectations.

    Bullsh_t. Just the opposite is true. The $13 TRILLION fossil fuel industry is the single most powerful financial and political interest in the world. Science threatens the fossilists quest for total world domination.

    Comment by JiminMpls — 30 Dec 2010 @ 9:12 PM

  72. Didactylos, I did not say there is currently no funding of skeptics, though I think it ought to be more available, and increased — while still keeping it small. Nor did I say AGW proponents have a monopoly on demonization. The skeptic/”denier” camp has some; I just don’t see a lot of it. But then I spend little time on skeptic blogs.

    BTW, I have commented that Cuccinelli, who strangely seems very astute in other areas, is way off base with his witch hunt of Mann.

    Maya from the peanut gallery, you’re comparing apples and tractors. Plus you should bone up on either your decimal points or reading financial statements. None-the-less, the 2007 net income of about $130 BILLION was exceeded by their tax payments, some of which certainty went to fund AGW science. Though I don’t know how that compares to the $20-25 MILLION they sent to skeptic groups over about 15-20 YEARS. Even devil Koch is reported to have funded “denier” groups to an estimated (unverified) $40-50 MILLION over the past 15 or so years while simultaneously funding 2-3% of NOVA’s (which ran a decent hour on Antarctic ice and sea rise the other day) budget.

    Comment by Rod B — 30 Dec 2010 @ 11:02 PM

  73. Dan (57), your meme and mantra is wrong and getting tiresome. Tell me how much government funding went to climate research between 2000 and 2008, and how much funding went to true skeptic/”denier” sites from the three or more entities you mention.

    Rich and Jim (64): interesting and helpful comments.

    Comment by Rod B — 30 Dec 2010 @ 11:18 PM

  74. [As we have discussed many times, much of this is indeed already available (but it’s much easier not to bother to look before pronouncing upon our perfidy).]

    Which of the leading climate science journals have something similar to the Journal of Applied Econometrics Data Archive ( http://econ.queensu.ca/jae/ ) which dates back to at least 1995?

    [And it would be naive to think this insulates scientists from spurious criticism. For instance, all the GISTEMP data and code is available, and it has been independently replicated multiple times. Yet every week brings another spurious insinuation or accusation of malfeasance. The opposition to climate science has nothing to do with science, the scientific method, openness, transparency or any of the issues that you are apparently alluding to, and so progress in any of those areas (and progress can always be made), is irrelevant for the wider issue]

    The issue isn’t whether more openess would insulate scientists from spurious criticism, which it clearly wouldn’t. In fact more openess with data and code would most likely lead to more spurious criticism. However it would also lead to more valid criticism and transparency that the possibility of self interest, peer pressure and groupthink has not become an actuality. In my opinion the benefits of more openess far outweigh the costs, even though I acknowledge the costs are not minor.

    [Response: Yes, open-ness is good and we should strive to maximize it. The problem is the gross distortion and biasing of the overall issue by certain elements, who completely ignore the vast amounts of publicly available data (which continues to come online in profusion on a daily basis). They favor instead, to make mountains from molehills about this that and the other, usually being flat out wrong in the process. They have zero objectivity. I defy you to find any field in the environmental sciences having the the amount and quality of publicly available data at large spatial scales as does climate science.–Jim]

    Comment by observer — 30 Dec 2010 @ 11:49 PM

  75. Rod B:

    though I think it ought to be more available, and increased

    Why? Why should mainstream science denialism be given prejudicial funding?

    The quack medical people have managed to do so, do you personally believe that studies into the placebo effect of distilled water is a particularly fruitful place for MY TAX DOLLARS to be spent? (homeopathy).

    Why should government science funds go to, for instance, geological research meant to “prove” the worth is 6,000 years old?

    You really believe in equal time?

    Tell me how much government funding went to climate research between 2000 and 2008, and how much funding went to true skeptic/”denier” sites from the three or more entities you mention.

    Hopefully no funding went to the equivalent of “6,000 year old earth” people.

    The reason why government science funding has gone to science is … because that’s where it’s supposed to go to.

    Do you have a problem with that?

    Yes, obviously.

    You’ve been here for years, and every day you post just solidifies the reality that you’re driven by politics, not science.

    Comment by dhogaza — 31 Dec 2010 @ 12:09 AM

  76. JiminMpls #30. Exactly. The only reason climate science is “controversial” is a massively profitable industry stands to lose big time if the mainstream findings translate to policy. The same happened with CFCs and tobacco.

    Edward Greisch #35: the reason arsenic is poisonous is it’s close enough to phosphorous chemically to substitute for it in molecules but not so close as to actually work for the all biochemical processes. I personally don’t see why it’s such a big deal for As to replace P in the DNA backbone except it’s not been observed before. The DNA backbone is not as I understand it deeply involved in cellular biochemistry though I don’t claim expertise in that area and could be wrong.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 31 Dec 2010 @ 12:35 AM

  77. Dod B #73: how about this for starters:

    nearly $16 million ExxonMobil spent between 1998 and 2005 to bankroll more than 40 groups to quell claims of global warming. Exxon Mobil spent nearly $27.5 million in lobbying last year alone, their second-highest year on the books after the election year of 2008

    Funding doubt is a lot cheaper than funding research: no satellites, no supercomputers, no PhD students, no postdocs, no research staff, only office space, PR firms, market research and overheads.

    Given that climate change threatens the lifeblood of the fossil fuel industry, why are they not funding genuine research to overturn the mainstream? Here’s a hint: they learnt a good lesson from the tobacco industry. Your own researchers will only confirm the bad news, so don’t listen to them, and confuse the public debate instead.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 31 Dec 2010 @ 12:59 AM

  78. 38 Barton Paul Levenson: OK I deleted that phrase in my document. I didn’t think it would ruffle feathers here.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 31 Dec 2010 @ 2:19 AM

  79. Rod B. – the way an international oil company pays taxes is fairly complicated. If they collect 30 billion in sales tax and remit 30 billion to various governments, they’re counting that as a tax they’ve paid. I believe it is the same for gas taxes at the pump. These mount up to huge numbers, but they have nothing to do with how much income tax the international oil company pays. The international oil company is happy to have these customers buying their products and they do not mind being the conduit for these taxes, which are obviously being paid by the customers, not the international oil company. The international oil company could lose gigantic amounts of money on operations, and those taxes would still be remitted to the state governments in full. It has nothing to do with their business profit or loss (admittedly there are situations where there are exceptions here, but dire corporate financial situations are not the subject.)

    Most international oil companies still own some gas stations. They sell candy.

    Collect 7 cents in sales tax from a customer on a candy purchase of $1; claim $1.07 in sales; remit 7 cents to the state government. Net sales after this slam-bam accounting: $1.00

    Maybe you’re impressed by this 7 cent in and out. I’m a shareholder of several international oil companies and I really don’t get why you’re impressed. Their income on the candy is $1.00, and from it they will deduct the expenses of earning it. That’s where I, hopefully, get impressed. I don’t mind at all if they owe 20 to 40 cents in income tax on that candy sale.

    On the funding of skeptic science, I agree with you. XOM the evil doers reports its giving, so there is no reason to throw around any numbers other than the reported numbers.

    Comment by JCH — 31 Dec 2010 @ 2:31 AM

  80. Should be:

    I don’t mind at all if they owe 20 to 40% in income taxes on the net profit of that candy sale.

    Comment by JCH — 31 Dec 2010 @ 2:35 AM

  81. 74 Philip Machanick: So As works OK in the DNA but not in other places? The backbone part of DNA is not critical to function? The bacteria must have special enzymes for that to happen? Do you know any good links for this?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 31 Dec 2010 @ 2:49 AM

  82. On the subject of the relations between scientists and politicians: Lately in Norway there have been a couple of cases in the media about politicians trying to influence (dictate) the conclusions of scientific surveys they’ve ordered. The result? The scientists went complaining to the media, and the politicians will hopefully remember the political cost of trying to dictate science.

    Comment by mrlee — 31 Dec 2010 @ 3:32 AM

  83. Problems with peer review:

    1. It is not transparent.

    2. It is too slow.

    3. It perpetuates silo thinking.

    4. It encourages ad hominum arguments.

    As a brief example take the flyer on Benzodiazepines on the Institute of Psychiatry website.

    http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mentalhealthinfoforall/treatments/benzodiazepines.aspx

    It gives a view of these drugs, supported by five references from peer reviewed journals and three other references that to the lay person have similar weight. The tone of the flyer would be strongly disputed by campaigners against the way benzodiazepines have been prescribed. A recent article in The Independent on Sunday (7th Nov 2010) gave some voice to their views:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/drugs-linked-to-brain-damage-30-years-ago-2127504.html

    Uncritical believers in the peer review process would naturally give much more weight to peer reviewed information than to campaigners, many of whom have been prescribed benzodiazepines for conditions related to their capability to cope with mental strain. If it were to be the case that the campaigners are right and there is something fundamentally flawed with the peer reviewed information or the way it is used, doubts might be raised about the status of peer review as it currently exists.

    Watch this space.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 31 Dec 2010 @ 4:51 AM

  84. EG 78,

    Thank you.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 31 Dec 2010 @ 6:12 AM

  85. #76 The same happened with CFCs and tobacco.

    But the stakes are much higher for the fossilists. 9 of the largest 15 public and private businesses are fossilist industries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companies_by_revenue

    It boggles any rational person’s mind that this idea that climate scientists are in it for the money and fossilists are not continues to be repeated over and over again. It’s a form of mass insanity.

    BTW, I can’t remember where I found the $13 trillion figure for the global fossil fuel industry, but if you add up all the oil, natural gas and coal producers and processors; utilities; the mfrs of production and refining equipment and machinery, plastics, paints and solvents, agricultural fertilizers, and fossil fueled vehicles; AND the distribution and retail channels required to support all of the above, and I’d say $13 trillion or 25% of the global economy is if anything, a conservative estimate.

    Comment by JiminMpls — 31 Dec 2010 @ 7:17 AM

  86. Re: 67. Thanks for the Tamino link, Rick Brown. Just what I was looking for.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 31 Dec 2010 @ 7:59 AM

  87. Re: #54. “…skeptical global warming scientists have an even more difficult time getting funding because their area of study is, while not far far outside the world of scientific normalcy, is outside the strongly felt desired political expectations.”

    Ah, Mr. Straw Man again. Got a cite for the statement above, or at least a few specific examples of funding denied? Shock us by backing up your statement.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 31 Dec 2010 @ 8:04 AM

  88. observer@74,
    Absolute horsecrap! Denialists have terabits of data available to them and have done bupkes with it. By all means, data should be archived and freely available. Code should be archived, but quarantined to avoid propagaton of any errors therein (if you can’t write your own code you have no business mucking about).

    Still, the idea that denialists would make the whole problem of climate change disappear if only they had access to data is fricking hilarious.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 Dec 2010 @ 8:25 AM

  89. So, Rod, how would you suggest we dole out the research funds to denialists?

    “Here, Sonny, I see you have never published anything vaguely related, but you think there’s a vast international conspiracy of scientists. Here’s a million for ‘research’.”

    -or-

    “Oh, I see you think you’ve disproved global warming because your thermometer was below 20 degrees F. To whom shall I make out the check?”

    -or-

    “Ah, I see that you haven’t published anything worthwhile in 20 years, but…yes, you still have a pulse. I’d better send your funding on a weeklyly basis.”

    Rod, here’s the secret of the global scientific cabal. I’m sure I will have hit men after me over this. Oh, look, there’s a ninja! Rod, the secret to tapping into research money: Publish! And op eds in the Wall Street Urinal don’t count.

    The few denialist scientists have a terrible record of publication–they usually don’t and when they do, it leads nowhere. This is not because they are unintelligent. It is because they have nothing to add in terms of understanding, because their opposition to the consensus model handicaps their own understanding. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go dodge some poison darts.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 Dec 2010 @ 8:35 AM

  90. Re: #89. Ray Ladbury, it appears that Rod B. is advocating additional wasteful government spending.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 31 Dec 2010 @ 9:05 AM

  91. Geoff Beacon,
    I don’t think the criticisms of the peer review process are universally applicable. Certainly, for many journals the peer-review process is as transparent as it can be while still preserving anonymity–also a priority.

    It CAN BE too slow, but it needn’t be and often takes only a couple of weeks.

    I certainly see no evidence that it promotes silo thinking or that it encourages ad hominem attack/argument. If it does in some field, I would contend it reflects a problem in the field that reaches much deeper than peer review.

    Peer review is intendes as a second hurdle (the first being the author’s/research group’s own integrity and skill). There are many more on the way to scientific consensus. If regulatory agencies are making decisions based solely on publication of one or a few studies, then I would contend that the regulatory agencies are pushing peer review into a role it was never intended to fulfill. Isn’t that more of a regulatory problem? Perhaps regulators–and the public–ought to be taught how to consume scientific information. And while we’re at it, maybe we could teach them a bit of the scientific method.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 Dec 2010 @ 9:06 AM

  92. #43 On the NY Lehrer article, PZ Myers has a good comment.

    Also worth looking at is the ‘how to have a discussion‘ flow chart. Maybe we should adopt that here…

    Comment by gavin — 31 Dec 2010 @ 10:05 AM

  93. “The DNA backbone is not as I understand it deeply involved in cellular biochemistry though I don’t claim expertise in that area and could be wrong.”

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 31 December 2010 @ 12:35 AM

    Philip: DNA is transcribed into mRNA which is translated into protein. Besides its function in reproduction, DNA is obsolutely essential in protein synthesis.

    Comment by Bill DeMott — 31 Dec 2010 @ 10:09 AM

  94. I completely do not understand the suggestion that “skeptics” and “proponents” should have different funding sources and different research agendas.

    Let’s say that some key analysis might support or conflict with current scientific views on climate change. Whether the scientists undertaking the research expect a positive (supporting) or negative (conflicting) results hardly makes a difference. The fact that most reseach is supporting the “concensus” is largely due to the results from data, no who is doing the research or the researcher’s prior expectations. In general, the best way to support an hypothesis is to undertake research that has a good chance of falsifying the hypothesis. I do mostly experimental research that gives easier to interpret results than most climate research. Still, scientific discoveries depend more on the quality of the planned research and “luck” than the expectations of the scientists doing the reseach. Everyday, scientists find and publish results that they personally found quite unexpected. In fact, these are the kinds of results tha can make one’s career. NSF and other federal agencies are indifferent to the outcome (i.e., which hypotheses are supported) of the proposed and funded research. The only point is that if you want to get a new grant, it’s important that earlier grants resulted in good publications. It’s very common for scientists to get great results from a grant-supported research project that are completely counter to their original hypothesis. I describe the results as “great” because they resulted in important publications that advanced scientific knowledge.

    Comment by Bill DeMott — 31 Dec 2010 @ 10:29 AM

  95. Re: #92. “Pushing at the boundaries of uncertainty” is a powerful way of thinking about the scientific method. Thanks for the link!

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 31 Dec 2010 @ 10:30 AM

  96. Rod B, it’s all very well complaining that “sceptics” don’t get enough funding. But who is asking for funding and not getting it?

    All the serious sceptics seem to be well funded. Maybe not as much as they would like, but I’ve never met a rich scientist ever. Who is going around claiming to have groundbreaking results if only they could be spared some cash?

    Most of the semi-credible sceptics seem to be content to sit out their retirement sniping from the sidelines. They aren’t seeking grant money.

    I’m sure a few people at Climate Audit would love some grant money. But are they applying for it? Of course not – they have no credible grant proposal to submit.

    So who does this leave?

    Governments and research organisations don’t generally thrust large quantities of money into the hands of a partisan group and say “go forth, overturn science as we know it”.

    Comment by Didactylos — 31 Dec 2010 @ 11:41 AM

  97. To assert “Scientists are not ‘afraid to lose their grant money'” is just not credible. Certainly, some scientists aren’t afraid all the time, and some aren’t afraid some of the time. It may even be that as to most issues and most scientists, the statement is generally true, but it certainly isn’t true for all scientists all the time. And it certainly isn’t true for all scientists as to politically charged subject like climate change.

    This post is a persuasion ploy: scientists challenge without concern for $ repercussions as to this issue; thus, they always challenge without concern for $ repercussions as to all issues. Don’t bother pointing out the really big differences in the issues, as well as the politics and economics surrounding those issues.

    [Response: In my experience I see the exactly the same behaviours in every field I’ve had contact with – whether they are in the forefront of some key policy-relevant question, or working on an obscure detail that is a long way removed from the fray. If you want to make the case for the contrary, then actually show some evidence. Show us the grant applications at NSF that got funded because they were ‘alarmist’ or the ones that didn’t because they weren’t. Show us where scientists have bent their opinion depending on the party in control of the administration. Show us where any scientist has been defunded because they voiced reasonable criticism of something ‘popular’. Absent such evidence, you are simply giving voice to your prejudices and assuming that because you can imagine something to be true, it must actually be so. That isn’t however the way science works. – gavin]

    Comment by DVG — 31 Dec 2010 @ 11:49 AM

  98. > the ‘how to have a discussion‘ flow chart.
    > Maybe we should adopt that here…

    It’d be a sad day for those who can’t or won’t cite sources.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Dec 2010 @ 11:50 AM

  99. Bill DeMott: People who base their understanding on the current state of knowledge naturally fall into the consensus view. As such, there is no reason why they should be biased for or against the consensus view – it is what it is.

    People who base their understanding on rejecting the consensus view are on more slippery ground. They often make public statements about their rejection of the consensus, so when inevitably they discover errors in their research, or find the mounting evidence against them too much to deny, changing their position impinges on their personal reputation. They have to admit that they themselves made errors of judgement. Contrast this to a “consensus” scientist – when they find errors or break new ground, then either they add support to the consensus, or they move the consensus. It is altogether a more positive experience.

    This is why it is unwise to tilt at windmills.

    Comment by Didactylos — 31 Dec 2010 @ 11:57 AM

  100. [edit – I understand the temptation, but please don’t post comments which are exclusively attacks on other commenters, regardless of egregious their perceived faults. – gavin]

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 Dec 2010 @ 12:40 PM

  101. Here’s another lesson: The Federal science agencies, including NASA, the DOE, the National Labs, etc. are in a state of crisis – public relations efforts now come before accurate scientific analysis, and those public relations efforts are typically skewed towards getting more funding for the agency, or supporting the agendas of the “private partners” (for example, by hyping nonsense about “extraterrestrial bacteria” or false claims about “oil vanishing from the Gulf of Mexico” or even more wildly fraudulent “zero-emission coal power” nonsense.)

    A downhill slide, indeed.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 31 Dec 2010 @ 1:38 PM

  102. Obs @ 74, In my view, a good corrolation to what Jim et al are saying is the O’Donnel et al 2010 paper/rebuttal to Stieg et al 2009 paper. As far as I can tell the O’Donnel group had no problems getting the data that they needed for their paper.

    One of the interesting things I thought from the last round of congressional hearings into CS, was an idea to fund a national repository for such data. Thus making it very easy to access. For me, it would make better sense to persuade say google or some such company, to operate such a repository for free for the government.

    Comment by DeNihilist — 31 Dec 2010 @ 4:43 PM

  103. Re: #92 and Lehrer article

    KK had praised Lehrer over at Collide-a-Scape and mentioned a Lehrer article whose focus included Bell Labs (where I used to work) and Arno Penzias (a friend).

    It is frustrating that Lehrer clearly understands a lot and can write well, but then screws up in pursuit of some idea for a story. It always makes me nervous when people are thrilled with a story whose simple factual errors are obvious to anyone who actually knew the real details or even looked at the right Wikipedia page.

    I ended up writing this, and this. I did ask Arno about the story. His view was amused, saying that he was always told no publicity was bad as a long as they spelled your name right. He also confirmed that Lehrer had not talked to him.

    Comment by John Mashey — 31 Dec 2010 @ 4:47 PM

  104. Rod, it would have been more accurate to compare total operating costs of the oil companies, since I was going with NASA’s total budget. What exactly do the taxes have to do with it…? I think others have made salient points along these lines, better than I can at the moment, and heaven forbid I make another mistake to give you fuel for your condescension.

    Comment by Maya — 31 Dec 2010 @ 5:08 PM

  105. Re Gavin’s response to #97:

    Wow, it would seem Gavin really believes that no scientists are ever afraid to lose their grant money. OK, I suppose I am giving “voice to my prejudice” — I don’t believe scientists, even client scientists, to be such an incredible exception to the rest of the human popultion. I’ll stand on my prejudice in that respect: to believe otherwise, as Gavin appears to, is not credible.

    [Response: Why is it no-one ever asks me what I think I meant before going off half-cocked with some impossible interpretation of their own? Had you done so, I would have been happy to respond. ;) … Ok, I’ll respond anyway: No, I don’t think that scientist never worry about their grants. For people on soft money, and for other scientists with post-docs and grad students to support, trying to maintain security of the funding is both stressful and time-consuming. The difference between the original statement and the imagined implication, is the reason why someone would be worried about there grants. This is usually a function of whether they’ve published enough, whether the data turned out to be interesting or not, etc. I know of no case and I have never heard it even raised among climate scientists that they are afraid that public discussion of climate or legitimate criticism of other scientists/science would cause them to be defunded. I have never been on a panel where someone’s public comments on anything have influenced the funding decision. Whether you think I am ‘credible’ or not, that is the truth. You might imagine that there would be much more dis-consensus if grants were not on the line, but this is simply wishful thinking on your part. – gavin]

    Comment by DVG — 31 Dec 2010 @ 6:41 PM

  106. DVG, first, what a scientist “believes” is irrelevant. What matters is what the evidence says, and nobody is going to lose funding for producing good evidence, regardless of what the evidence says. Second, can you name even one climate scientist who has lost his funding for speaking out on issues? Hell, a scientist in any field!

    Finally, science is not an individual but a collective activity. If the evidence really raised serious questions about the consensus, do you really think that 97.5% of climate scientists would just go baah-baah-baahing along. Do you think that every single professional or honorific society of scientists would blithely accept such an insult to science?

    [edit – as above]]

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 Dec 2010 @ 9:10 PM

  107. #81 Edward Greisch and #93 Bill DeMott: I’m not an expert on this stuff but I just finished a contract in a bioinformatics group and the biologists there saw no problem with the DNA backbone containing As instead of P, assuming there is some way of getting it there without poisoning other aspects of the cell’s biochemistry. The P in the backbone doesn’t get there by magic, and could easily have ended up in any number of other chemical reactions (so As, if it ends up in the backbone, would somehow have to be tolerated in other reactions – this has been observed in other organisms).

    The backbone is not involved in transcription. The bases that attach to it are. That’s the limit of my knowledge of the subject (in bioinformatics you tend to look at DNA as strings of bases).

    The big issue as I understand it is not whether the claimed finding is possible but whether it is a real finding rather than experimental error.

    Remember cold fusion? That’s another example of the self-correcting nature of science and in particular the fact that premature dramatic claims can stop a whole field in its tracks. There are still some people investigating the concept, probably fewer than had the original claims not proved flawed so dramatically, and I’m not holding my breath for results. This is if anything a better example to relate to climate science. Had early investigations proved insupportably alarmist, the field would have died the same death as cold fusion. Most scientists I know are very cautious of making dramatic claims, and wary of other scientists who make such claims.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 31 Dec 2010 @ 10:37 PM

  108. “Authors of all papers published in the JAE are required to submit the data they used, unless they are confidential”

    Clearly any research that is published at Journal of Applied Econometrics using massaged, faked data hidden behind a “confidential” smokescreen is just a bunch of propaganda designed by a “hockey team” of conspirators to establish a one world government and insure the continuing massive flow of research grants into their pockets. Their kind of economic alarmism is only designed to destroy United States business interests and transfer massive amounts of our cash to third world loser countries. It’s just another aspect of the Red Green Econometric nazis creeping soci alism that’s taking away our freedom. There are thousands, if not dozens of Nobel Prize winning physicists, chemists, and journalists turned political advisers who have spoken out against this sort of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Market Meltdown hysteria, standing in for the many brave actual economists who have been intimidated into remaining silent.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 31 Dec 2010 @ 11:19 PM

  109. dhogaza:

    I don’t know where your idea of equal time or your expression that I am somehow against government funding of science came from, but it sure wasn’t any of my comments. Before blasting my comments it might help to read them — or maybe not…

    JCH:

    Sales taxes are not included in revenue or taxes paid by a business. I don’t know for sure but I think the gas-at-the-pump tax is included in revenue and expense. You seem to be impressed if not astonished that if a company sells a product for $1.00 they report $1.00 in sales or revenue. Boggles the mind.

    JiminMpls:

    Who in hell told you the fossil fuel industry companies are not in it for the money? And you’re shocked that they are??!!?? HELLO!

    Ray:

    Funny. Though your made up examples are nowhere near — and in fact diametrically opposed to — what my comment implied. But don’t let that stop your routine.

    I do know specifically what the criteria should not be: ‘Do you completely agree with Mr. Ladbury?’

    Walter Pearce says,

    “… it appears that Rod B. is advocating additional wasteful government spending.”

    Do I assume correctly that you are referring to my suggestion that the current funding for AGW believing scientists ought to be increased??

    Do you guys read anything I post? Or just notice a comment from Rod B then cut and paste from your hymnal?

    Comment by Rod B — 31 Dec 2010 @ 11:28 PM

  110. gavin: Telling the truth does not work in all cases. There are people, maybe most people, who will not believe proposition X. Some of the time it is because of their own fixed beliefs. Some of the time it is because they just want to try to get you angry. Much of the time it is because they have never been there before or have never done that before.

    Very few people have degrees in science. Even fewer have ever applied for and received a research grant. Most people don’t know what you do with a research grant. Most people may think you just take it home with you.

    People believe a lot of really strange things. Why is a good question. It is clearly not because of evidence. If it isn’t a branch of psychology, it should be. I just googled “why people believe” and got About 1,440,000 results. Here are the first 4:

    Amazon.com: Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience …
    Amazon.com: Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time (9780716733874): Michael Shermer: Books.
    http://www.amazon.com › … › Psychology & Counseling – Cached – Similar

    Why People Believe Invisible Agents Control the World: Scientific …
    May 19, 2009 … A Skeptic’s take on souls, spirits, ghosts, gods, demons, angels, aliens and other invisible powers that be.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=skeptic... – Cached – Similar

    Why do people believe in God? || kuro5hin.org
    Jun 20, 2003 … I merely would like to point out some of the reasons I see why people believe in God. Another common thread among theists is some sort of …
    http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/6/20/44736/2173 – Cached – Similar

    book review -why people believe weird things by Michael Shermer …
    Even so, Shermer seems to have overlooked or underemphasized some fundamental reasons why people believe weird things. Ignorance, for example, seems to be …
    http://www.skepdic.com/refuge/weird.html – Cached – Similar

    I can say that I am glad that they have failed to get gavin angry. That is an amazing achievement on gavin’s part. Beyond that, I could refer you to research on the psychology of persuasion. Google Scholar gives me 463,000 results for the single word “persuasion.” Maybe That is what we need to study.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 1 Jan 2011 @ 12:39 AM

  111. Maybe this is a bit of science in action/correcting itself:

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2010/12/dessler-and-spencer-debate-cloud-feedback

    Drs. Dessler and Spencer debating by e-mail (so far up to tonight) the cloud feedback issue. Better then American Idol IMO.

    Comment by DeNihilist — 1 Jan 2011 @ 1:24 AM

  112. OH yeah, and wishing all here a wonderous and intriguing 2011!

    Comment by DeNihilist — 1 Jan 2011 @ 1:27 AM

  113. 108 Brian Dodge: “Red Green Econometric nazis creeping soc ialism” is just insulting.

    “taking away our freedom” is what Climate Science is NOT doing. But Business As Usual [BAU] is taking away our FOOD!

    Climate scientists are trying to protect your freedom, in particular, your freedom from hunger.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 1 Jan 2011 @ 1:29 AM

  114. Edward, see Poe’s Law; Brian gave an example.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Jan 2011 @ 2:57 AM

  115. #110 @ Edward Greisch – Going by some of the comments here, not only are there people who think you just take a grant home with you, those people don’t seem to have any understanding of what is involved in applications for funding. I’m thinking they are of the view that an individual writes a letter and says they are going to prove xyz and then they get money put into their personal bank account :) (And they think that more people are setting out to prove AGW than are wanting to prove AGW is a furphy.)

    They don’t understand that the funding is to investigate a specified problem or specific unknown and report, NOT to come up with an answer you already know. I mean, if you already know the answer, there is nothing to research is there.

    Scientists probably don’t realise how little some people know about project and program funding (whether for science or any other activity), or how little some people know about scientific research (or any research for that matter).

    For the record, I’ve been associated with research funding (from a management perspective – scientific mainly, but also other research such as politico-social) in Australia and internationally – including ‘competing’ for funding from an institute’s research budget, competitive funding from private and government sources, commissioned projects, interdisciplinary projects, inter-agency projects, and global collaborative projects. I don’t recall any project, no matter how small, that involves only one person (either doing the research or approving the project funding). Nor can I recall any project that did not require approvals up the line within the applying organisation before jumping through the requisite hoops of the funding body or, commonly, funding bodies. I don’t imagine it’s too different in any country.

    I greatly admire the infinite patience of Gavin and his colleagues.

    Happy 2011 to all.

    Comment by Sou — 1 Jan 2011 @ 4:55 AM

  116. Ah, I see Rod is still dodging the question. I will pose it again, Rod.

    What is your proposed basis for deciding what “skeptics” get funding if it is not their scientific output?

    And if it is their scientific output, then I think you will find they are already getting far more than their fair share. When was the last important paper published by a denislist?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Jan 2011 @ 8:18 AM

  117. Rod B. –

    International oil company note to summary statement of income:

    (1) Sales and other operating revenue includes sales-based taxes of $31,728 million for 2007, $30,381 million for 2006, and $30,742 million for 2005.

    The above taxes are paid regardless of profit and loss. A sales tax on candy is a sales-based tax.

    Comment by JCH — 1 Jan 2011 @ 8:28 AM

  118. Rod B: I think your “opponents” were simply having a little fun with your inconsistent and ever-changing positions.

    Still, it’s an interesting question: where *are* all these underfunded sceptics? You seem to be studiously avoiding this question, despite saying “A reasonable but small amount of funding can go to recognized scientists who are clearly out to disprove current AGW” and “I think it ought to be more available, and increased”.

    Who is signing all these imaginary grant proposals?

    Comment by Didactylos — 1 Jan 2011 @ 8:38 AM

  119. Re: #109. Didactylos was right — in part I was just having fun with your silly straw man.

    But also, I’ll play it straight for a moment: Gavin’s #92 on “how to have a discussion” gets to the heart of the hostile reception you often receive here. If you’re going to assert that “skeptical” climatologists are having difficulty getting funding, do everyone the courtesy of providing statistics or at least a few specific examples so that we can discuss your views from a common starting point.

    So — any specifics?

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 1 Jan 2011 @ 10:08 AM

  120. Ray Ladbury, my statement was, “… A reasonable but small amount of funding can go to recognized scientists who are clearly out to disprove current AGW — this in the vein of basic research… ” The criteria of “recognized scientist” is sufficient for my purposes. I would let the funding bodies refine the criteria. The “reasonable but small amount” is a judgement call that needs to be left up to the funding bodies even though it might entail a very difficult coordination of some kind that the bodies would likely be very reluctant to do. I don’t know how this could be enforced. I certainty would not burden the bodies with restrictions anywhere near akin to the NFL rule book. C’est la vie.

    Comment by Rod B — 1 Jan 2011 @ 12:13 PM

  121. JCH, a “sales-based tax” is not sales tax. It’s likely gasoline tax at the pump, maybe certain excise taxes, and some such. Companies are merely collectors of “sales tax” money that belongs at all times to the state or city or whatever. By law (normally) they can never claim it as their money — their revenue.

    Comment by Rod B — 1 Jan 2011 @ 12:23 PM

  122. > scientists who are clearly out to disprove

    Rod, you think funding people to try to reach a predetermined concusion, pretending it’s science, is a good idea in the Rod B. universe — why?
    Because you assume it’s what everyone does, right?

    Look up falsifiability.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Jan 2011 @ 1:00 PM

  123. Didactylos, Walter Pearce, et al: I’m reluctant to cite specific examples. This has often been done before, here and in other places/blogs (search RC for “lindzen funding” for example), and it always ends up with the same retorts like: he’s not serious, he’s a liar, it’s not logical that his funding would be withheld, he already got some funding, his publications have been refuted, his science is not credible or supported, etc., etc., etc. Pardon the expression, but a whole bunch of denialism.

    You guys and gals think skeptic scientists already have plenty of funding — likely too much. That’s your right. I think funding for skeptics ought to willingly increase (though not as much as “mainstream” funding ought to be increased.) Agree or not.

    [Response: This is very odd. Funding should be based on the quality of the ideas, tractability of the proposal and confidence that the work will be done by the proposers. It has nothing to do with what any of the proposers have said in the Wall Street Journal or the Guardian. Nothing. If someone wants funding to prove that all climate scientists are frauds, then that is unlikely to review well, but if someone wants to research cloud feedbacks, or carbon cycle issues, or dynamical thermostats, or climate sensitivity in the Tertiary, or any other scientific topic then they have to make a credible, researched case that they can make advances on the topic. That is open to everyone. There is no money specifically set aside based on the conclusions of the research! Look up what NSF funds (all the abstracts are online), it doesn’t resemble what you think is happening at all. – gavin]

    Comment by Rod B — 1 Jan 2011 @ 1:15 PM

  124. Ray Ladbury, my statement was, “… A reasonable but small amount of funding can DOES go to recognized scientists who are clearly out to disprove current AGW — this in the vein of basic research… ”

    Fixed that for ya, Rod B.

    Comment by dhogaza — 1 Jan 2011 @ 1:36 PM

  125. Yes Rod, who are these “scientists” who wish to disprove AGW? Am I mistaken in believing that scientists set out to investigate particular questions rather than entire bodies of fact? Who are these wunderkind that have a fundable study that could undo an entire theory based on coherent lines of evidence from thousands of scientists?

    Totally cool new live preview function, RC! Thanks!!

    Comment by flxible — 1 Jan 2011 @ 1:44 PM

  126. RodB. I think I can explain this to you in laymans terms. Funding bodies don’t give grants for people to “prove” or “disprove” anything at all. They fund investigations. That’s why the consensus among climate scientists is almost universal: the facts as observed dictate their position, although there will always be debate/research around the uncertainties. On the other hand, back in 1991, Prof. Lindzen was getting $2,500 a day for “consulting” to fossil fuel interests. How does that equate to underfunding? Can you imagine what they’d offer Gavin?

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 1 Jan 2011 @ 2:09 PM

  127. My guess is that anybody with credentials who wanted to “disprove AGW” could easily get money from Heartland. They could probably build them a lab and provide PR staff.

    Comment by Dean — 1 Jan 2011 @ 2:56 PM

  128. You guys and gals think skeptic scientists already have plenty of funding — likely too much.

    Without solid evidence to the contrary, I’d say they get more or less the right amount of funding, in terms of their slice of a pie that overall is smaller than I’d like to see (i.e. I’d like science funding to be increased, and the rising-tide-raises-all-boats principle suggests that top-ranked scientists (skeptic or not) might see their funding increased, or funding might be pushed further down the food chain (regardless of the inhabitants there being skeptic or not), or both.

    That’s your right. I think funding for skeptics ought to willingly increase (though not as much as “mainstream” funding ought to be increased.) Agree or not.

    Why should skeptics be singled out, rather than be ranked according to the quality of their work?

    Also, please provide solid evidence that, say, Roy Spencer is underfunded by NASA when judged by the quality of his work. Or Lindzen, who among other things is tenured at one of the most prestigious universities in the world (MIT). My guess is that folks like Ian Plimer and Tim Ball and Tim Curtin get little government research funding in their respective countries, but odd believes like “the sun is made of iron” (held by one of the above) tend to lead to folks being marginalized, and rightly so. And they don’t do climate science, and should not be funded as though they do.

    On the other hand, Spencer’s religious belief in creationism has nothing to do with his work in climate science, and should not impact his funding, and AFAIK has *not* impacted his funding by NASA, which is just as it should be.

    Yet, we have Theon being quoted as saying he would’ve fired Jim Hansen if Hansen hadn’t been protected by “political interests” … are you sure it’s skeptical scientists that are under the gun, here? I haven’t heard Inhofe or Issa talk about investigating Spencer or Christy or Lindzen for fraud, after all …

    OK, Rod B, you’ve made some claims, so back them up:

    Who are the deserving scientists who aren’t getting sufficient funding because of their skeptical views regarding climate science. Provide evidence.

    Comment by dhogaza — 1 Jan 2011 @ 2:57 PM

  129. Rod, Again, have you learned absolutely nothing about how science is done. One does not write up a grant proposal in purple crayon and say, “Can I haz grant money to dispruve Glboal Warming?”

    You come up with an interesting research question that bears on the responsibility of the funding agency/department. Usually, it will be competing with proposals from other researchers. Funding is decided by your track record of success, publications, etc. You bring up Lindzen specifically–not a great example, as he hasn’t published anything of import in over a decade. Spencer has been publishing more interesting work, but then he gets gummint money, and that kind of undermines your argument.

    The fact is that the consensus model of Earth’s climate is the consensus choice precisely because it is most useful for understanding the behavior of the climate and for predicting future behavior. Rejecting a significant tenet of that theory (e.g. CO2 sensitivity~3 degrees per doubling or positive feedback) simply because one doesn’t like its political or philosophical implications is bound to handicap one’s ability to understand climate, and therefore to publish. Sorry, Rod, that’s just science.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Jan 2011 @ 3:13 PM

  130. Rod B said: “I would let the funding bodies refine the criteria.” … “a judgement call that needs to be left up to the funding bodies” … “I certainty would not burden the bodies with restrictions”

    But despite this, you do want to dictate how they disburse money. Make your mind up!

    And in spite of your grandstanding, the funding bodies routinely make judgements as to what is worth spending money on. They most emphatically do not have a pot of money for “the team” and a pot of money for “the sceptics”, because that would be moronic.

    It’s a meritocracy. Deal with it. If your favourite “sceptic” scientists can’t cope, then find some better “sceptic” scientists, why not?

    Comment by Didactylos — 1 Jan 2011 @ 3:19 PM

  131. 113m Edward Greisch: 108 Brian Dodge: “Red Green Econometric nazis creeping soc ialism” is just insulting.

    I think that was a spoof. Hank Roberts refers next to Poe’s Law.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 1 Jan 2011 @ 3:51 PM

  132. Off topic but timely, in view of the reference to Poe’s law, here are other web laws:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/6408927/Internet-rules-and-laws-the-top-10-from-Godwin-to-Poe.html

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 1 Jan 2011 @ 4:00 PM

  133. Dean says, “My guess is that anybody with credentials who wanted to “disprove AGW” could easily get money from Heartland.”

    Hell, if someone had a frigging viable clue how to go about this, there is not a single research organization on the planet that wouldn’t fund them to their little heart’s desire. Any time you have reasonable chance of overturning a theory that has been established for over 100 years, people are usually quite happy to have a piece of that action–particularly when it has very lucrative implications.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Jan 2011 @ 4:22 PM

  134. This is a bit off topic, but relates to how science does or does not correct itself. Many faculty in developing countries and faculty in the West are pushed to publish in peer reviewed journals. So, a cottage industry has emerged of, let us say, lightly peer reviewed journals. Here is an example:

    http://www.scirp.org/

    It is easy to get nonsense papers on climate published in these. Here is an example:

    http://www.scirp.org/Journal/PaperInformation.aspx?paperID=3447&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=ijg13&utm_campaign=01

    These get picked on in denier blogs, like here:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/01/new-peer-reviewed-paper-absence-of-correlation-between-temperature-changes-and-co2/

    That’s not too harmful, but some of this will find its way into the mainstream media and Congressional hearings. How can the scientific community let the press and public know which journals are legit and which contain a lot of junk?

    Comment by Mike — 1 Jan 2011 @ 4:51 PM

  135. Mike,
    The thing about junk: it leads nowhere. It doesn’t leave you with more understanding than before you read it. It will generate a little excitement on WTFUWT, and then it will lie like a dog turd on a hot New York sidewalk.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Jan 2011 @ 6:02 PM

  136. The Annals of Improbable Research seems to have a bead on the publishing company responsible for the turd(s) just laid by the International Journal of Geosciences. (note to self, spell check suggested pseudosciences)

    Comment by Rattus Norvegicus — 1 Jan 2011 @ 8:03 PM

  137. Todd Actual,
    Although there are many people without conscience, there are also many others that do have conscience. Your assumption: (which you may not realize), that no scientists have conscience, is unbelievable!

    Comment by Lawrence McLean — 1 Jan 2011 @ 8:04 PM

  138. Seconding 137 Lawrence McLean: “people without conscience” = psychopaths. Psychopaths tend to be weeded out of sciences by self-selection. Science is too tedious and not financially rewarding enough for psychopaths. There are quicker ways to get the thrills they must have. People who just don’t care are easily bored. Psychopathy doesn’t lead to working the homework problems alone or doing the lab work carefully.

    Reference: “Science and Immortality” by Charles B. Paul 1980 University of California Press. In this book on the Eloges of the Paris Academy of Sciences (1699-1791) page 99 says: “Science is not so much a natural as a moral philosophy”. [That means drylabbing [fudging data] will get you fired.] A psychopath would not last long in science.

    I think that the professors would also weed out psychopaths among graduate students.

    Reference: “The sociopath next door : the ruthless versus the rest of us” by Martha Stout. New York : Broadway Books, 2005.
    4% of all people are born sociopaths/sciopaths/psychopaths.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 1 Jan 2011 @ 9:42 PM

  139. @Rod B:

    Perhaps all climate scientists, economists, and public policy analysts should be designated “pro-AGW” or “anti-AGW” for purposes of making federal research grant decisions. But why stop there? We could have “pro-Obama” and “anti-Obama” researchers, “pro-Ayn Rand” and “anti-Ayn Rand” researchers, “pro-Intelligent Design” and “anti-Intelligent Design” researchers, too!

    On the other hand, the current system of self-selection seems to be working quite well for distributing Koch Foundation grants at George Mason University.

    @Rattus Norvegicus,

    There was some discussion about the strange collection of journals under the umbrella of Scientific Research Publishing at Deep Climate a few weeks ago. In particular, an article coauthored by David Douglass of “A Climatology Conspiracy?” in Vol. 1, No. 3 of IJoG gained the initial attention there. My guess is that Scientific Research Publishing is either or both a) some kind of front for the Chinese government, hoping to attract manuscripts to get ideas about current research in the U.S.; or b) a vanity publisher for low-quality research that gets rejected elsewhere, i.e., a perfect home the publication of “anti-AGW” research.

    Comment by Taylor B — 1 Jan 2011 @ 11:30 PM

  140. Edward Greisch,
    Thanks Edward, I prefer not to use the term “psychopaths” in a public forum because the term is not fully standardized in meaning. And, when you use that term, people think that their personal understanding of the word is the standard.

    Psychopaths encompass a range of personality types in addition to the purely hedonistic subset. In my experience for example I have had dealings with one Professor that was a full on psychopath.

    Comment by Lawrence McLean — 2 Jan 2011 @ 12:35 AM

  141. re: #139 Taylor B
    Koch money: note that Mercatus Center and Institute for Humane Studies are GMU entities as well, and I have some later (larger) numbers in Appendix A.6.1 of CCC. Also, the Charles Koch Foundation is just one of the 3 (David Koch, Charles Lambe are the others).

    Finally, don’t forget the Scaife funds.

    BUG: on first try, I mistyped captch. Software cleared the entry window, told me Captcha was wrong.

    Comment by John Mashey — 2 Jan 2011 @ 1:31 AM

  142. what does “pro-AGW” mean exactly ?
    I can formulate a number of different assertions such as :

    * human activity contributes to increase the average surface temperature of the Earth (ASTOE)

    * human activity is the major contributor to the increase of the ASTOE

    * human activity is so significative that there wouldn’t have been any significative increase of the ASTOE without it.

    * human activity is the major contributor to the increase of the ASTOE, and it will cause a severe damage to the economy above a threshold of X °C (each value of X gives a different assertion), which is likely to be reached if no effort is made.

    * human activity is the major contributor to the increase of the ASTOE, and it will cause a massive extinction of all species including mankind itself above a threshold of Y °C (each value of Y gives a different assertion), which is likely to be reached if no effort is made.

    Obviously all these assertions are different and none of them imply the following ones. So where do you place exactly the border of “pro-AGW” and ” anti-AGW” ?

    (I think that a fair part of those you’re calling “deniers” would admit at least one of these assertions)

    [Response: The prefix ‘pro’ means ‘for’ or ‘supporting’, No-one outside of Fred Singer’s kitchen is ‘for’ AGW, and I assure you everyone in the mainstream scientific community is very clearly anti-AGW. So why introduce terminology that is completely inverse to reality? – gavin]

    Comment by Gilles — 2 Jan 2011 @ 4:20 AM

  143. We need a Standard and Poor’s for papers – refereed or not.

    Or rather a few of them.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 2 Jan 2011 @ 8:13 AM

  144. What about “Science is self-correcting. Lessons from the continental drift theory?”.

    What if some crucial decision for the future of the world had rested on that in 1920? Would the decision have been be deferred for forty years.

    What if some crucial decision for the future of the world had rested on that in 1660? Would the decision have been be deferred for four hundred years.

    I wish you scientists would stop being so smug and realise how far short of the mark many of you are falling. Hansen may be an exception.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 2 Jan 2011 @ 8:51 AM

  145. Geoff Beacon,
    Science is and needs to remain conservative. When you need to make decisions in the face of uncertainty, you are in the realm of engineering–particularly probabilistic risk assessment. This considers the consequences of a decision about a threat in addition to the probability of that threat being realized. The first step is to bound the adverse consequences–and if you can’t do that (as with climate change), the only responsible choice is risk avoidance. That is, don’t let it happen.

    We know how to do this. The politicians and business community just aren’t letting us.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 2 Jan 2011 @ 8:59 AM

  146. Gilles: “I think that a fair part of those you’re calling “deniers” would admit at least one of these assertions.”

    Unfortunately, science doesn’t run on a cafeteria system. You can’t take double helpings of one scientific finding and reject one that is as well supported by evidence. What makes one a denialist is not merely the rejection of a scientific finding, but the refusal to consider the evidence on which the finding is based.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 2 Jan 2011 @ 9:12 AM

  147. Ray

    If you say “science” needs to be conservative, then is it OK to tell scientists they should put more effort into telling decision makers and the media that influences them the dangers? Call that non-science if you wish.

    OK, RealClimate is one of the best at providing a platform for doing this but it’s just not enough. It may be true that “the politicians and business community just aren’t letting us.” To overcome this a more proactive approach is required.

    What do you think of the “Climate Change and ‘Balanced’ Coverage” on the NYT Green Blog?
    http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/23/climate-change-and-balanced-coverage/?ref=energy-environment

    ‘Balance’ is something touted by the BBC, who I don’t trust too much on climate change – one “Climate Correspondent” sent me an email containing this “Email from the US….how on earth man made warming fits in with the US now saying their hottest year was 1934 is anyones guess!”

    Do we need some BBC watching?

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 2 Jan 2011 @ 10:29 AM

  148. Geoff, I gave up on the NYT and the BBC as far as science coverage a decade ago. I think the NYT is afraid of putting off the “Bidness” community by telling the truth, and the BBC still thinks of scientists as those odd “boffins” (Yes, Snow’s Two Cultures still only engage in one-way commerce). The Economist sometimes gets it right, as does NPR, but I rely more and more on the editorials in Science and Nature and the blogosphere to keep me up on what’s going on outside of physics.

    Frankly, I don’t see any prospect for progress until the business interests that have something to lose from climate change (e.g. Insurance) or those with something to gain from averting it (e.g. green energy technologies…) pony up and start opposing fossil fuel interests. In the US, it is irrelevant what voters want–or rather corporations are the only ones who have a vote.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 2 Jan 2011 @ 11:12 AM

  149. 148, Ray Ladbury: Frankly, I don’t see any prospect for progress until the business interests that have something to lose from climate change (e.g. Insurance) or those with something to gain from averting it (e.g. green energy technologies…) pony up and start opposing fossil fuel interests.

    Are you asserting positively that companies with a financial interest in averting or preventing global warming have not been ponying up? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but you seem to be asserting that Cargill, ADM, GE, Siemens, former V.P. Al Gore, Sharp and others all have been silent these last 5 – 10 years.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 2 Jan 2011 @ 12:00 PM

  150. The BBC don’t advertise some sort of balance. They are in rather a special position, since they are not only expected to be unbiased, they are legally required to be non-partisan.

    This makes them susceptible to false balance, and token balance.

    Generally, though, they don’t do too badly. At least one of their editors has a clue about science and denialism. Some other editors, sadly, are particularly prone to throwing in both “sides”, and jumping on the nearest bandwagon. This is especially true of their anonymous articles.

    The best that can be said of their climate coverage is that it’s no worse than the rest of their science coverage.

    Comment by Didactylos — 2 Jan 2011 @ 12:11 PM

  151. It’s not that the discussion going on over this paper is fundamentally different from the types of discussions going on without the internet or blogs. It’s just that the process can now move much, much faster. Even before blogs, the worth of a paper was not judged solely by peer review, but in the impression it made to a field.

    Comment by Michelle Greene — 2 Jan 2011 @ 2:45 PM

  152. Would that the Drugs Industry were as pure as some of the above comments suggest is true of
    Scientifc Research. Such companies are allowed not to publish the results of their research into their
    own products and they often don’t. No suprises that they don’t publish results which cast doubt on the
    efficacy of their products

    Comment by colin Aldridge — 2 Jan 2011 @ 3:39 PM

  153. @151 Michelle. I like to think of peer review as being like cars racing to qualify for an F1 event. When they’re doing the timed laps they’re more or less alone – and they finish up at a certain position on the grid.

    When the race *really* starts, we get a different activity entirely. Pole position is an advantage but if the car blows up an irreplaceable component, it’s over. Just like a published paper.

    Looked good until … ….. oh dear. Only works under highly controlled conditions, or some other major flaw.

    Comment by adelady — 2 Jan 2011 @ 9:15 PM

  154. Ray (#135),

    Think about the smell.

    Comment by Mike — 2 Jan 2011 @ 10:29 PM

  155. Gavin : sorry, I just reacted to previous posts – I share your opinion about the stupidity of being “pro” AGW (although many people are actually choosing a higher average temperature when they leave on holydays or retire, so they are at least “pro-W”).

    Ray#146 : I agree with your general statements, but do you think that all these assertions are equally scientifically proved, and if not, which is the level where the doubt is scientifically unjustified, following you ?

    Comment by Gilles — 3 Jan 2011 @ 2:14 AM

  156. The carbon calculator from the UK Government (http://carboncalculator.direct.gov.uk) says of air travel:

    “Air travel now accounts for 6.3% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions and the full climate impact of aviation goes beyond the effects of CO2. Apart from emitting CO2, aircraft contribute to climate change through the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx). This forms the greenhouse gas ozone, especially so when emitted at cruise altitudes. Aircraft also trigger the formation of condensation trails, or contrails, and are suspected of enhancing the formation of cirrus clouds, both of which add to the overall global climate change warming effect. These extra impacts are examples of effects which are collectively known as “radiative forcing”. Recent scientific studies have shown that including the climatic impacts of non-CO2 emissions from planes could mean that aviation’s climate change impact is almost double that of its CO2 emissions alone.”
    http://carboncalculator.direct.gov.uk/carboncalc/html/faqs.aspx#3

    Trying the calculator for a return flight from Leeds UK to Brisbane Australia (and making everything except air travel zero) gives a carbon footprint of just over 2.9 tonnes of CO2. The Green Ration Book gives a figure for a similar journey of 6.8 tonnes (http://www.greenrationbook.org.uk/category/transport/). The difference is largely that the government calculator ignores the radiative forcing index.

    The calculator acknowledges the radiative forcing index but quietly ignores it.

    Who should read the small print and find them out? Scientists, journalists or whom?

    Does anyone care?

    [Response: Lots of people care. But the net non-CO2 impact from aviation (in particular) is still quite uncertain and different calculations give very different results depending on the calculation method. Some of the calculators therefore use a multiplier effect, others stick to the CO2 effect alone. – gavin]

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 3 Jan 2011 @ 4:01 AM

  157. Okay, this blog is STILL doing the thing where, if you get Captcha wrong, and then repost, it tells you you’ve made a duplicate post. What’s up with that?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 3 Jan 2011 @ 5:41 AM

  158. Geoff Beacon: I wish you scientists would stop being so smug and realise how far short of the mark many of you are falling.

    BPL: I wish you science illiterates would stop being so smug and realise how far short of the mark many of you are falling.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 3 Jan 2011 @ 5:41 AM

  159. Septic Matthew,
    Not silent, no. Merely drowned out by the STUPID financed by big oil, big coal and big asshats.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Jan 2011 @ 5:50 AM

  160. Barton Paul Levenson #156

    Example? I’m ready to learn.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 3 Jan 2011 @ 7:21 AM

  161. Gilles,
    Of course they are not equally established. The first 3 are virtual certainties (~95% CL or better). The others are more likely than not, depending on which particular climate related threat one considers, from 50-80% CL.

    There is, however, zero evidence supporting their negation.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Jan 2011 @ 8:39 AM

  162. Gavin

    Thanks for the response to #156 but it’s time to place our bets on the future of the planet. It isn’t good enough to just say “not sure so do nothing”.

    [Response: Who said that? – gavin]

    I am aware of Unger et. Al “Attribution of climate forcing to economic sectors”, and of Borken-Kleefeld et al, “Specific Climate Impact of Passenger and Freight Transport“ and know there are complications particularly when a mixtures of agents are in play. They have different temporal behaviour and some warm and some cool but we need an up-to-date best answer (or guess). Despite these complications, I think it sharp practice for DEFRA to say that the radiative forcing index doubles the effect of aircraft then in their calculator ignore it without explanation. By “who cares” I really meant “ I think DEFRA cheat. Does any one else care about this?”

    [Response: I disagree, if the answer to a question is uncertain, it is not cheating to say it is uncertain. With this particular issue the possible range encompasses no net non-CO2 effect at all, as well as older estimates indicating a factor of 2 or 3. Right now I don’t have a good sense for the latest calculations will take us (but a number of groups are working on them). – gavin]

    I notice you simply say “Some of the calculators therefore use a multiplier effect, others stick to the CO2 effect alone.” without expressing a preference. It may be prudent for someone in your profession to protect your reputation for all our sakes. Nevertheless it is important to have the best possible information – and have it credibly supported: Air travel is increasing. How bad is it? Should we stop it? If so how quickly?

    [Response: I think you need to get a little perspective here. Aviation emissions of CO2 are around 2% of current emissions. Even if air travel doubles or triples and/or the non-CO2 effects are large, it is still a small part of the pie (power generation and surface transport are by far and away the dominant sources). It is also the case that air travel is the hardest activity to find substitute fuel for (despite ongoing experiments with biofuel, replacing jet fuel with a non-fossil fuel derivative is real challenge). However, airplanes can become more efficient (a new 767 is some 25% more fuel efficient than a plane built 25 years ago), and there are many practices that can be tweaked that improve airline efficiency overall by some 10 or 20% (allowing more optimum flight paths, reducing the time before landing when landing gear needs to be deployed, reducing on-ground use of engines etc.). Thus there are many ways to push for airlines reducing their emissions in the short term. Note that none of this involves the ‘multiplier’ we started talking about. That only comes in to the picture if you are comparing aviation with other sectors – any goals or plans within the specific sector are not affected. But comparing across sectors on a very fine level is still at a very early stage of research – you would need the same kind of multi-emission evaluation for each (which the Unger paper is a first stab at). So, my feeling is that the exact multiplier effect is not required for the kinds of policies that need to be enacted now, but can be used as a heuristic for people to get a sense of what is happening. – gavin]

    There are lots of cases where guidance to policy is needed. A good example is tree planting as a means of carbon sequestration. What are the general rules for planting trees when albedo is balanced against sequestering carbon?

    You may have noted my earlier posts worrying about the Trillion Tonne Scenario that Raypierre discussed in “Losing time, not buying time”. I questioned the climate models that were used in its development having had some discussion with climate scientists in the UK. Did the models underestimate? Were feedbacks that may become significant missed? If so does this matter? If not why not?

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 3 Jan 2011 @ 11:28 AM

  163. Hank Roberts (122), good question. No, I don’t think funding people explicitly to try to reach a predetermined conclusion, pretending it’s science, is a good idea. But it is a matter of degree. For instance a research project that sets out to verify another’s results is perfectly proper in the correct context. There is almost always some predetermined idea by the scientist and the funders of the outcome of a research project. Kinda like the difference between “expect to happen” and “has to happen.”

    As an aside (and I’m not excusing it) there is a number of examples of scientists and especially funding organizations doing precisely that — “proving” a predetermined outcome.

    Comment by Rod B — 3 Jan 2011 @ 11:35 AM

  164. Rod, you don’t get funded to “verify another’s results”. If you sought an independent study via an indpependent and imporoved method tha might reproduce the results or support the results, you might stand a chance.

    I think that in your mind the question of anthropogenic climate change is a lot more central than it is in climate research. There are research efforts that bear on it (e.g. magnitude of aerosol or cloud feedbacks, other ways of estimating climate sensitivity). However, the frontlines of climate research have moved on from this. I think you have a rather distorted idea of how science actually gets done.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Jan 2011 @ 2:06 PM

  165. Geoff,
    You are mixing up science and engineering. Positing a radiation forcing index to bound the complex interplay of different forcings sounds like an engineering factor to me.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Jan 2011 @ 2:09 PM

  166. Gavin:

    airplanes can become more efficient (a new 767 is some 25% more fuel efficient than a plane built 25 years ago), and there are many practices that can be tweaked that improve airline efficiency overall by some 10 or 20% (allowing more optimum flight paths, reducing the time before landing when landing gear needs to be deployed, reducing on-ground use of engines etc.). Thus there are many ways to push for airlines reducing their emissions in the short term.

    The soon-to-be-delivered Boeing 787 will be about twice as efficient as the workhorse of the 1970s, the 727.

    When full, on flights of reasonable duration, you’re looking at about 60 seat-miles per gallon, which compares well with single-passenger automobile travel, but is worse than high-speed rail.

    Future airliners will probably continue to show incremental increases in efficiency, though my impression is that all of the low-hanging fruit’s already been harvested with the latest generation (i.e. 787). Well, the high percentage of composites used in that airplane isn’t really even “low-hanging fruit” …

    The kind of world being built in Europe, where rail travel times downtown-to-downtown competes well with air travel and beats driving 2:1, can perhaps push towards a kind of optimization where air travel is largely reserved for flights of 1000km and more, where there’s really no competition.

    Here in the US, airlines have been slowing cruising speeds by about 5%, yielding something like 10% in fuel savings (working from memory, here, but it’s something like that). This adds perhaps 15 minutes to an average hub-to-hub flight, a reasonable trade-off.

    In the future, more dynamic and computerized air traffic control will allow spacing between flights to be reduced, and allow for a much higher percentage of flights routing directly towards a runway, rather than slowly working their way through a complex pattern of holds at a particular altitude, turns, etc. This will also reduce fuel consumption, and on departure reaching cruising altitude more quickly (Gavin’s “more optimum flight paths”).

    Comment by dhogaza — 3 Jan 2011 @ 2:15 PM

  167. Hello. Re : #156, #162 – The person to talk to is … me. Well, I’m one of the people to talk to.

    What Gavin said in his inline comments is basically what I think. There’s a lot of work on aviation and forcing, but it’s not clear what actual number should be.

    The main issue is getting aviation into some kind of carbon pricing mechanism. At present we could use 1, 2 or 10 as a multiplier. It wouldn’t have any impact on emissions, as these are not costed at present.

    Comment by Silk — 3 Jan 2011 @ 3:02 PM

  168. Re#157
    Barton Paul Levenson, It seems that if you make a mistake, it still gets posted anyway.
    If this post makes it through, then I have just confirmed it!

    Comment by Lawrence McLean — 3 Jan 2011 @ 8:21 PM

  169. Gavin,

    DEFRA’s Act on CO2 said the radiative forcing index “could mean that aviation’s climate change impact is almost double that of its CO2 emissions alone”. If they believed that they should have put the current best estimate of radiative forcing into their calculations or at least explicitly warned users they were ignoring the issue. It is not clear even from their frequently asked questions that it is being ignored and this is at odds with the internal carbon counting done by UK Government departments and IPCC recommendations. I paraphrase the quote at the end of this comment as “We don’t know if the radiative forcing index is 1.9 or 2.7 so let’s call it 1.0″.

    Can I paraphrase your position as “IPCC estimates of the magnitude of the radiative forcing index are not accurate so substitute 1.0”. But why would you do this? A few sentences justifying such a judgement would be enlightening.

    “Aviation has effects on climate beyond that resulting from its CO2 emissions, including effects on tropospheric ozone and methane from its NOx emissions, water vapour, particle emissions and formation of contrails/enhanced cirrus cloudiness. This is usually calculated with the
    climate metric ‘radiative forcing’. Aviation was shown by the IPCC (1999) to have a total radiative forcing of 2.7 times that of its CO2 radiative forcing for a 1992 fleet (the so-called Radiative Forcing Index, or RFI), excluding any effect from enhanced cirrus cloudiness which was too uncertain to be given a ‘best estimate’.

    More recently, the radiative forcing for the year 2000 fleet was evaluated by Sausen et al. (2005) which implies an RFI of 1.9, based upon better scientific understanding, which mostly reduced the contrail radiative forcing. Similarly to IPCC (1999), Sausen et al. (2005) excluded the effects of enhanced cirrus cloudiness but others (e.g. Stordal et al., 2005) have improved calculations over IPCC (1999), which indicates that this effect may be 10 and 80 mW/m2 (cf 0 to 40 mW/m2 of IPCC) but are still unable to give a ‘best estimate’ of radiative forcing.
    Whilst it is incorrect to multiply CO2 emissions by the RFI, it is clear from the foregoing that aviation’s effects are more than that of CO2. Currently, there is not a suitable climate metric to express the relationship between emissions and radiative effects from aviation in the same way that the global warming potential does but this is an active area of research. Nonetheless, it is clear that aviation imposes other effects on climate which are greater than that implied from simply considering its CO2 emissions alone.“

    “Act on CO2 Calculator: Public Trial Version
    Data, Methodology and Assumptions Paper”, June 2007
    Department of Food Environment and Rural Affairs

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 4 Jan 2011 @ 1:53 AM

  170. Gavin,

    You say “Aviation emissions of CO2 are around 2% of current emissions.“ But “In 2005 aviation represented 6.3 per cent. of UK emissions …Using a radiative forcing multiplier of two, emissions from flights departing the UK contributed approximately 13 per cent.“1

    The difference between the figures is because most people in the world do not travel by air. They don’t travel much at all. In the affluent countries per capita carbon footprints for travel are many times that of poor countries. Within individual countries the carbon footprint of air travel for the affluent is greater than that of the poor2.

    Are we saying to developing countries “Don’t do what we do?”

    In the UK our government has set a per capita target for emissions of about 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to be achieved by 2050. The Green Ration Book divides this equally between categories “consumables”, “building”, “transport” and “government”. This allows 500kg CO2e per year for transport. A return flight to and from Australia is 6 tonnes CO2e (or 3 tonnes with a radiative forcing index of 1.0). That is 12 years (6 years) of a transport budget with nothing left for other forms of transport, such as cars, buses or trains.

    We must persuade (or cajole) the poor of the world not pollute the world as much as we do and you don’t get much flight time within a yearly CO2e budget for all travel of 500kg CO2e.

    1 Hansard (2 May 2007)

    2

    Beacon Dodsworth carried out a quick calculation using their P2 geo-demographic classification and the Target Group Index from the British Market Research Bureau.

    The P2 categories used were:

    A01 – Worldly Horizons
    A05 – Established Prosperity
    D11 – Matrimonial Homes
    G17 – Aspiring Streets
    M35 – Impoverished Elders
    L37 – Deprived Youth

    These are in descending order of wealth. Yearly CO2e from flying was estimated as

    A01 778 kg
    A05 756 kg
    D11 479 kg
    G17 491 kg
    M35 372 kg
    L37 211 kg

    The calculation did not take account of any differences between business and standard class.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 4 Jan 2011 @ 3:17 AM

  171. Gavin

    The advances in aviation fuel efficiency have been overplayed. Have you seen Peeters et al, Fuel efficiency of commercial aircraft. An overview of historical and future trends

    They say

    Existing estimates, such as the oft-cited 70% improvement from the IPCC Special Report on Aviation and the Global Atmosphere, ignore the record of the pre-jet era. Based on bottom-up (micro) and top-down (macro) analyses of aircraft fuel efficiency, it can be concluded that the last piston-powered aircraft were as fuel-efficient as the current average jet.

    Do lower-flying piston-powered planes have better climate characteristics?

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 4 Jan 2011 @ 3:30 AM

  172. #169 – Geoff. I’ll have a look into this and see what the reasoning behind the assumptions is. However, I should point out there is some evidence I’m aware of that suggests the index could be 1.0, so that’s not as outlandish a number of you might think.

    And in any case, the calculator is a calculator. It does, in of itself, price carbon. The trick is to get policy right (that the environmental impact of air travel is contained within the price of travel, and (I guess) that we use this pricing to reduce emissions). ‘Correcting’ the calculator doesn’t correct the problem with our economy – that people can freely emit CO2 (and other things) and not face the consequences of their actions. Or, at least, they do face the consequences, but not any more so (and in many cases, less so) than other people who didn’t emit that CO2.

    Policy is extremely tricky, and not an area for Realclimate. Does anyone know of any decent climate policy blogs out there?

    Comment by Silk — 4 Jan 2011 @ 3:53 AM

  173. Geoff,
    What part of “It is an area of active study,” do you not understand?

    Ferchrissake, we haven’t even managed to get governments to acknowledge two-century-old physics, and you are complaining about their not acknowledging something about which there is still controversy.

    We could stop all airline travel and it would not make a difference in our fate unless we also drastically decreased all our other fossil fuel production. So your attitude is not only disrespectful, but disingenuous.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Jan 2011 @ 5:14 AM

  174. Gavin

    Borken-Kleefeld et al, “Specific Climate Impact of Passenger and Freight Transport“ make an interesting point in the supporting information.They say

    Distance travelled is not the only aspect of passenger travel; travel time is equally important. Indeed, people seem to have a travel time budget of little more than one hour per day on annual average [5, 6]. The time available for an activity appears as primary constraint and the location for this activity is chosen according to the available means of transport. Their average travel speed then determines the range of activities available (cf. SI Table 4), along with the available budget and the travel costs. The speed differences result in very different distances traveled and hence different climate impacts per trip.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 4 Jan 2011 @ 6:45 AM

  175. Ray

    One of my irritations was that the DEFRA carbon calculator did not make it’s assumptions clear. I have been arguing this point for years. But I suppose I must wait for the white smoke from the chimney.

    You may have gathered that I am worried that climate science and IPCC predictions are behind the game. Look up the NSIDC and University of Washington websites to see the way Arctic sea ice and volume are decreasing – much faster than the IPCC was predicting a few years ago. I may be panicking but when I have contact with leading climate scientists seemingly unaware of the rate of decline, I worry.

    I also worry about the climate models behind the Trillion Tonne Scenario and you will notice I have had no assurances on that issue.

    Gavin’s comment on the impact of aviation may be correct but as you can see from my comments above, I think it is only a part of the picture.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 4 Jan 2011 @ 7:43 AM

  176. Geoff says, “Look up the NSIDC and University of Washington websites to see the way Arctic sea ice and volume are decreasing – much faster than the IPCC was predicting a few years ago.”

    Yes, and the IPCC projections are still labelled “alarmist” by not just denialists, but also by mainstream politicians and media. You have to understand how science works. There are some things we know with virtual certainty–e.g. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It is firmly part of the consensus, and pretty much anyone who doesn’t believe it doesn’t believe in science…or is an idjit. There are other areas where there is significant uncertainty, but where even the most optimistic bounds still pose concern–CO2 sensitivity is an example here, as even the warming we get with 2 degreees per doubling has serious consequences. Eventually you get to issues that are on the cutting edge of the science and about which there is still substantial uncertainty and controversy. Here, you will find considerable reluctance on the part of scientists to make definitive statements–particularly if the subject matter is outside their expertise or comfort zone. You would probably have better luck asking someone who has published specifically on the subject.

    Once we move beyond the consensus, we’re in the realm of engineering and risk management. The question here is no longer whether something is a threat, but rather how bad the threat can get and how much will it cost to make it survive that level of “bad” or to avoid that level of “bad”. You are well into the engineering range here, and you are asking for guidance from scientists. It’s like expecting beer to taste like wine.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Jan 2011 @ 8:33 AM

  177. I think there’s another rule that we may want to discuss:

    “Groundbreaking studies that challenge the status quo should never be initially announced as the lead item on CNN.”

    Almost no good can come from these stories promoted in such ways. Because of our nature, these “revolutionary” announcements have to be met with strong opposition by the “establishment”. Then journalists jump on the story because it’s now a food fight. In the end, all of the scientists look bad to the public (the “revolutionaries” because there’s considerable doubt as to whether they’re right and the “status quo” for being seen as intolerant of new thought).

    The proper place for this is in scientific journals, magazines and discussion forums (blogs, conferences, etc) and not national TV. Unfortunately, if this is the way it’s done, there’s no “grand public announcement” that so many people/institutions love to make.

    I guess we’ve not yet learned the lesson from Fleishman & Pons…

    Comment by Dean — 4 Jan 2011 @ 8:33 AM

  178. #177–Dean, I sympathize. But I don’t think I quite agree; I seem to recall quite a few instances where “the establishment” basically said something like “well, this is an interesting finding, and it will have enormous ramifications if it holds up. But there’s a good chance it won’t, so we’ll have to see what further inquiry tells us.”

    Then the “further inquiries” take place in journals, mostly. And if, as in the present case, there’s some “new media” back and forth around it, it still doesn’t turn into a full-fledged “food fight,” because there isn’t the denialist machine stoking fake controversy, as we see in the case of climate science today.

    And in any case, unless people eschew the press release altogether, surely it’s CNN’s choice to trumpet a given paper–not the researcher’s?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 4 Jan 2011 @ 10:09 AM

  179. > 175 Geoff Beacon says:
    > … when I have contact with leading climate scientists
    > seemingly unaware of the rate of decline, I worry.
    > I also worry about the climate models … and you will
    > notice I have had no assurances on that issue.

    Well, posting questions on the blog should not be represented as your success or failure to “contact leading climate scientists” nor to “get assurances” — Geoff, this is not the way to do what you want.

    There are lots of people who want to contact leading climate scientists and express their feelings or get reassured.

    Personal individual service happens sometimes but it’s not promised.

    All of us here are readers, a few are scientists with expertise, but asking broad questions about fears isn’t going to get you the answers you want.

    There is a way to get the best answers available:

    https://www.ipcc-wg1.unibe.ch/guidancepaper/ar5_uncertainty-guidance-note.pdf

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Jan 2011 @ 10:57 AM

  180. Re: the BBC comments by Geoff #147, Ray #148 & Didactylos #150

    I’m sure you will be amazed / disheartened by this link:-

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/8212616/Television-news-should-no-longer-be-impartial-Sir-David-Attenborough-says.html

    from which :-

    His opinions echo recent comments by BBC Director General Mark Thompson, who has argued that British broadcasters should be free to launch an equivalent to America’s right-wing Fox news channel.

    (sorry, I’ve forgotten how to quote & bold here at the moment)

    I wrote immediately to the Telegraph to register my disapproval but of course they didn’t print my letter.

    Comment by Clippo (UK) — 4 Jan 2011 @ 11:37 AM

  181. Hank 179.

    On the Trillion Tonne Scenario models perhaps I should have said “We have had no assurances”.

    “There are lots of people who want to contact leading climate scientists and express their feelings or get reassured.” But I do contact leading climate scientists and most give very helpful answers. It’s not just for my own reassurance. I make the effort to contact policy makers to pass on my experience.

    How should I report concerns about climate science gleaned from emails, phone calls, talks and personal meetings?

    I often ask for a legal opinion on what I post. You will appreciate that climate issues can be a minefield. My advisor tells me that “I think …” is a good way to limit the scope of potential legal actions.

    Clippo 180

    There is a difference between the balance between two views and the truth. I think the BBC should pursue the truth more. I am sure that, with a bit of effort, they could do it and keep within the “rule of balance”.

    Finally : You will notice I have had no assurances on missing feedbacks in the climate models used to in the development of the Trillion Tonne Scenario.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 5 Jan 2011 @ 6:29 AM

  182. Correction:

    Finally : You will notice we have had no assurances on missing feedbacks in the climate models used to in the development of the Trillion Tonne Scenario.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 5 Jan 2011 @ 1:10 PM

  183. > How should I report concerns

    Why do you think you need to “report” your concerns?

    Do you believe you have noticed something that no one else has noticed? To know that you’d need to read what others have already published. If you want reassurance that what you’re worried about isn’t novel — I could say trust me on this but I’m just some guy on a blog. Better to look it up.

    My take: you’ve brought up concerns widely shared and widely written about — uncertainties; climate model comparisons. You can blog about them, but I’d recommend doing so by pointing to the other places those are discussed.

    If you find a flaw in the published science, you could try to publish a letter in a journal — comments from reviewers who read what you
    send in might help you put your concerns in context of what’s already known.

    If your goal is to have your personal name and your issues prominent, a personal blog seems the way to go about it these days. You can become an IPCC Expert Reviewer by declaring yourself one, as others have done to draw attention to their concerns. But that’s PR, not about doing science.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Jan 2011 @ 2:14 PM

  184. Re :
    There is a difference between the balance between two views and the truth. I think the BBC should pursue the truth more. I am sure that, with a bit of effort, they could do it and keep within the “rule of balance”.
    …..

    I agree that they should pursue the truth more but I fear that will be wishful thinking if biased ‘politics’ comes into the UK TV system.

    The reason I say that is because, from “The Doubt Merchants” by Oreskes & Conway, the US extreme right wing have ruthlessly exploited the agreed ‘fair balance’ in US media since WWII. They have ‘doubted’ the consensuses – (should that be consensi ? ) – on the smoking/cancer link, the Ozone hole, Global Warming and even DDT by claiming the science isn’t settled so alternative views, (which generally ‘corrupt’ or cherry-pick the science), must be heard.

    And to the specific point of my above post, Fox News is recognised world-wide as one of the worst offenders in ‘doubting’ science and promoting the US rightwing ‘business-as-usual’ attitude.

    I fear also that, although the BBC is derided by many right wingers here as ‘left wing Labour luvvies’, in fact right wing influences may be behind the scenes. For example, about 18 months ago the BBC produced a 3 part series called “The Climate Wars” dealing with the disagreements in AGW. The second part, I think, showed a Heartland Institute conference in New York where most of the well known AGW deniers showed themselves to be the corrupt science abusers they are. Yet, the BBC has yet to issue this on DVD – very unlike virtually every other series they’ve done. Why ?
    ……………
    I apologise somewhat if this post is political rather than scientific but the said right wing organisations have consistently also abused the initial Peer-Reviewed process, and the post publication process – referred to in the initial text of this thread.

    Comment by Clippo (UK) — 5 Jan 2011 @ 2:36 PM

  185. Hank #183

    “Why should I report my concerns” on the climate models used in the Trillion Tonne Scenario? Several reasons.

    I haven’t seen any paper or commentary that criticises the models as used in this scenario. If you know of any I would be very pleased to know. These would be much more powerful in putting the case to policy makers. I have to put together material from information I have gleaned on modelling in general and guessed that they apply to this case.

    It would be even better if a proponent of the Trillion Tonne Scenario could give some considered judgement. It may even be that there are missing feedbacks in the modelling but these are not particularly significant. I had hoped for some guidance from the experts on this but I would welcome guidance from you as well. If I could get some better guidance I would feel that “reporting my concerns” had been fruitful but I regret it seems to have caused you some irritation.

    In 2007 I got this reply from a leading climate scientist

    The CH4 (and CO2) permafrost feedback isn’t included in current EarthSystemModels and it is potentially large but no-one really knows. I think the community has been a bit slow to take up on this feedback because of the lack of data.

    Subsequently I was told that funding was allocated to address this issue. Perhaps I have taken my eye off the ball but I haven’t heard of much progress. But I am aware of what Climate Interactive say in their frequently asked questions

    There are positive feedback loops in the real climate system that are not modeled in the current version of C-ROADS. Additionally, C-ROADS is based upon and calibrated to the results of models from the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. Recent science suggests that AR4 may underestimate the time-scale and magnitude of climate change. As a result, we believe that the Climate Scoreboard may well be presently a ‘best case’ interpretation of the long-term impacts of proposals on the table in the UNFCCC.

    http://climateinteractive.org/scoreboard/frequently-asked-questions

    Do underestimates affect the discussion between the Trillion Tonne Scenario and the Plan B that I read into “The Copenhagen Accord for limiting global warming: Criteria, constraints, and available avenues” by Veerabhadran Ramanathan and Yangyang Xu?
    http://www.pnas.org/content/107/18/8055.short

    Do they?

    Is the answer well known and I’ve missed it?

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 5 Jan 2011 @ 5:16 PM

  186. Clippo 184:

    Just seen the BBC evening news on the UK freeze and it’s causes. They mentioned the warmer Arctic, the cooler Pacific and the lower solar radiation. I think it was a bit “pay your money and take your choice”.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 5 Jan 2011 @ 5:30 PM

  187. Clippo (184), the banning of DDT and CFCs began in right-wing Republican administrations. Even the battle against tobacco saw its major effort starting in a Republican administration. Try to aim your mud a little better.

    Comment by Rod B — 6 Jan 2011 @ 10:50 AM

  188. Geoff, I’m just another reader here. If you want to attract the attention of someone, I recommend this approach, which I’ve found works if followed — and many bloggers have adapted and edited it, pick one of these:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=ask+questions+smart+way

    Once you’ve read that, and want to ask a question the smart way:

    Look at/look up the term you’re focused on: “trillion tonne scenario”

    Google Scholar finds nothing, zip, zero, nada. That’s one clue. It must be called something else if it’s published in the journals. Keep looking.

    Plain Google finds six hits for me at the moment — three are yours, three are by a Shell climate blogger. One of the latter gives you a useful pointer to the website of someone who could answer you. Have a look there.

    When phrasing your questions, again, I really most sincerely urge you to have read the “questions the smart way” method. The author is, well, see “Everybody Loves Eric Raymond” — but the advice he wrote in that piece is widely recommended and well considered for asking questions of any experts.

    The answers you want are in someone’s head; your task is to ask in an interesting and thoughtful way sufficient to charm that person into bothering to type for the public to read, or help you with a pointer.

    I told you my opinion; the trillion ton paper says the short term rates of change don’t matter, so you’re asking about uncertainties the paper has already said don’t matter. But you want an answer from someone who knows something. Finding out who to ask, and where to ask, and how to charm the answer from the person — is always an effort in this stuff.

    I’m done, hope something in there was helpful, if only keeping your question popping up in the thread for a few days. Maybe someone will notice.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Jan 2011 @ 11:58 AM

  189. Well, although I’ll agree that politically polarized mudslinging often involves oversimplifications, omissions, hypocrisy, and such unhelpful things…

    I think you will find that the banning of DDT in the US was the result of a long process began by researchers in the 1940s, greatly accelerated by Carson’s publication of “Silent Spring” in 1962, first addressed in US Government by Kennedy’s ordering an investigation in 1963,and that even during the Nixon administration, the progress was mostly due to strong pressure on the EPA from groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and court decisions. It would be a bit…disingenuous…to give Nixon the credit for the 1972 ban.

    Similarly with CFCs, the *start* of the banning, in my opinion, is clearly to be credited to the scientists who sounded the alarms. The regulatory bans in the US began in 1978 (Carter administration, but I’m still giving the credit to scientists and environmentalists here), and if you’re referring to the Montreal Protocol happening while Bush (HW) was in office, I have two responses: first, the administration (as usual) gets credit for not blocking progress in that case, but not for creating it, and second…G.H.W. Bush’s administration hardly seems “right-wing” to me anymore, since the rise of the neo-cons.

    Then with tobacco you shift your wordage to “first major effort starting in….” If you make your criteria sufficiently inconsistent, you can use anything as a supportive example, can’t you?

    Comment by Kevin Stanley — 6 Jan 2011 @ 11:58 AM

  190. Re :-Clippo (184), the banning of DDT and CFCs began in right-wing Republican administrations. Even the battle against tobacco saw its major effort starting in a Republican administration. Try to aim your mud a little better.

    Isn’t that what I implied from post #184 ? Republican administrations also started the EPA and have regularly supported NASA etc. etc. Furthermore, it was a Republican administration that wholeheartedly accepted the science of the smoking/cancer link and legislated to inform the US public of the dangers. The key point in all of this is that many Republican administrations have chosen ‘advisors’ from the US extreme right wing and they have manipulated the media to their own ends.

    My particular ‘beef’ in this respect is that science corrupters and doubters, (for their own vested interests), subverted the ‘fair balance’ rules of various aspects of the US media. Of course, Fox news didn’t exist in the early days of those ‘doubted’ subjects, but has been pre-eminent since, especially over Climate Change. I simply don’t want that approach imported into the UK.

    I’m a UK citizen, but I’ve assumed you Rod B. are a US citizen. If you are, perhaps you should investigate the political machinations of some of your extreme right wing ‘groups’. A good place to start would be the books “The Doubt Merchants” and “The Republican War on Science”.

    Comment by Clippo (UK) — 6 Jan 2011 @ 11:59 AM

  191. Oh, this is the short answer, if you don’t want to do any reading beforehand:
    http://trillionthtonne.org/questions.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Jan 2011 @ 12:01 PM

  192. RE: #187. Rod B, EXACTLY. I’m old enough to remember when the GOP (and the Dems, for that matter) wasn’t a wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Corporate Money. Seems quaint, does it not, to recall a time when political parties had a decent respect for science.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 6 Jan 2011 @ 12:09 PM

  193. Clippo (184), the banning of DDT and CFCs began in right-wing Republican administrations

    Totally off-topic but Nixon wasn’t particularly right-wing. Among other things he toyed with the idea of a negative income tax to achieve a modest shifting of wealth towards the poor, he attempted to get a comprehensive health care bill through Congress and only failed because it did not go as far as folks like Ted Kennedy thought they could get, he established relationships with China (any Dem doing that would’ve risked impeachment), negotiated détente with the USSR (emphatically rejected by the new right that led to Reagan’s being election), etc.

    No comparison between Nixon and Reagan, not to mention today’s Republican leadership which is far right of Reagan and almost incomprehensibly to the right of Nixon. Nixon would be driven out of today’s party, as has been true of many so-called “RINOs” …

    Comment by dhogaza — 6 Jan 2011 @ 1:00 PM

  194. Rod B,
    Agree that this is not even so much a matter of political affiliation as one of reality-based vs. reality denial. There is however an undoubted political correlation, which I find very unfortunate, as I found myself agreeing with at a reasonable percentage of Speaker Boehner’s initial moves yesterday.

    It is a pity that partisanship seems to preclude cooperation these days, but a prerequisite before I can buy into any political agenda is that it has to be consistent with physical reality.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Jan 2011 @ 1:18 PM

  195. Rod, I don’t know about the others, but the banning of DDT, while it happened during the Nixon administration, was *begun* during the Kennedy administration.

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

    In the late 1950s, Carson turned her attention to conservation and the environmental problems caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented portion of the American public. Silent Spring spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy—leading to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides—and the grassroots environmental movement the book inspired led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

    In one of her last public appearances, Carson had testified before President Kennedy’s Science Advisory Committee. The committee issued its report on May 15, 1963, largely backing Carson’s scientific claims.

    Comment by Maya — 6 Jan 2011 @ 1:18 PM

  196. Dhogaza,
    Only nit-picking, but it could be implied from your post #193 that I made the quote :-

    Clippo (184), the banning of DDT and CFCs began in right-wing Republican administrations

    I didn’t – this was made by Rod B in #187.

    As I said before, I am a UK citizen but with many relatives in the US and I’ve followed US politics for a number of years. On that basis, I don’t disagree that the GOP has had ‘varying’ approaches to ‘science’. All I claim is that generally your governments have been unduly influenced by business protecting vested interests, and who have controlled your media much more effectively than the true science community.

    To me, these are fundamental conclusions in the books I recommended earlier.

    I have also been a regular visitor to RealClimate for several years,and I consider it to be the creme-de-la-creme of fact-based science websites related to Climate Change.
    So,extrapolating my opinions, why don’t your major Climate scientists co-operate with a suitable media group, say a TV documentary maker, and make a hard-hitting expose of the corruption of, say, Climate science by right wing ‘Institutes’?

    Would Fox news’ competitor CNN play this widely?

    Comment by Clippo (UK) — 7 Jan 2011 @ 4:35 AM

  197. Hank 188.

    I coined the term “Trillion Tonne Scenario” meaning Allen et al.“Warming caused by cumulative carbon emissions towards the trillionth tonne”.
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v458/n7242/full/nature08019.html

    You say “the trillion ton paper says the short term rates of change don’t matter”. You imply I should accept that. I don’t.

    I think the Trillion Tonne Scenario has serious unanswered questions.

    Answers don’t seem to be forthcoming.

    I think that may not be because of my lack of charm.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 7 Jan 2011 @ 6:16 AM

  198. Hank 188

    I have looked at trilliontonne.org again. It puts the Trillion Tonne Scenario clearly.

    Estimated cumulative emissions from fossil fuel use, cement production and land-use change since industrialization began are 543,933,748,548 tonnes of carbon.

    To keep the most likely global warming caused by these sources of carbon dioxide to about 2°C, we need to keep the total emissions over time below about 1,000,000,000,000 tonnes of carbon.

    Based on the emission trends over the past 20 years, we predict the trillionth tonne will be emitted on Mon, 11 Jul 2044 20:25:44 GMT

    We would not release the trillionth tonne if emissions were to start falling now at 2.2959482694
    % per year.

    In this explanation they make no reference to CO2 from temperature induced feedbacks. Any underestimate of these feedbacks leads to a reduction in the (1,000,000,000-543,933,748,548) tonnes left for emissions from “ fossil fuel use, cement production and land-use change” and brings forward their date/time Mon, 11 Jul 2044 20:25:44 GMT.

    As a thought experiment, image that temperature induced feedbacks were large enough to bring forward this date to Sun, 12 Jul 2010 20:25:44 GMT (i.e. last year). I would argue that those that support the Trillion Tonne Scenario would have to accept that carbon must be extracted from the atmosphere. (Does James Hansen say we’re over the limit already and advocate carbon sequestration with biochar?)

    Raypierre said in “Losing time, not buying time”, (Real climate, 6 December 2010)

    The problem is that, once you hit that threshold with CO2, you are stuck there essentially forever, since you can’t “unemit” the CO2 with any known scalable economically feasible technology.

    While we are “buying” (or frittering away) time dealing with methane, fossil-fuel CO2 emission rate, and hence cumulative emissions, continue rising at the rate of 3% per year, as they have done since 1900. By 2040, we have put another 573 gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, bringing the cumulative fossil fuel total up to 965 gigatonnes. By controlling methane you have indeed kept the warming in 2040 from broaching the 2C limit, but what happens then? In order to keep the cumulative emissions below the 1 trillion tonne limit, you are faced with the daunting task of bringing the emissions rate (which by 2040 has grown to 22 gigatonnes per year) all the way to zero almost immediately.

    My judgement is that this strays into the politics of climate change. It is not pure climate science. I understand a political judgement that cutting the emissions of CO2 is so important that any mention of other options will distract the world from addressing this problem but I don’t agree with it. I believe we need to slow global warming by all means possible to stop us triggering any more tipping points. My worry about the political impact of the Trillion Tonne Scenario is that it engenders in policy advisers views like this one I have in my notes.

    1) Controlling methane emissions is of much lesser importance than controlling carbon dioxide. Methane should not have its current rating increased.

    2) The peak level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is much more important in keeping global temperature rise below the target (2 degrees Celsius) than the precise time at which the peak occurs. I took your mention of 2050 as a reference to the target date for the global temperature maximum.

    3) By the time peak temperature occurs any methane released now will have been removed from the atmosphere by natural processes so it will not affect global warming at the all-important peak.

    To me this suggests the politically easy option of deferring hard choices for a decade. After all, we do have 40 years left. This may not be what is meant but it will be how it comes across.

    Hard choices? No beef or lamb, no bottles, no planes, no cars, no high buildings, no heating gas, an climate military police force and lots more.

    Would you sign up for any of these?

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 7 Jan 2011 @ 7:48 AM

  199. Kevin, well, other than… uh… maybe Nixon… uh… started the EPA???, and it was his administrator (Rickle…..) who instituted the ban. What the hell does someone studying DDT in the 40s have to do with anything??? Your refutation contortions are amusing.

    Comment by Rod B — 7 Jan 2011 @ 4:50 PM

  200. Geoff, I dunno about the “climate … police … and a lot more” — where do I sign up? I want to read the fine print to make sure it’s not just rearranging the deck chairs.

    > any methane released now will have been removed
    > from the atmosphere by natural processes

    “removed” by natural oxidation –> to CO2 and H2O

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Jan 2011 @ 5:21 PM

  201. “Any comments on “the decline effect” as described in this recent New Yorker article?

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/12/13/101213fa_fact_lehrer?currentPage=all

    Interesting that most of the examples were from the field of neuroscience.”

    There’s a lot of obvious causes, and they’re all in the article. It’s a great lesson in the problems of probability and statistics. When you have any sort of pervasive bias, they become very hard to use. And we have known psychological biases, which create publication bias, selective reporting, and other biases, preventing random sampling. Even then, chance generates lots of noise — using the 95% confidence interval, 1/20 study results will be nonsense, even *with* a truly random sample.

    It’s a good article and Ionallis gives good advice at how to fight the biases. The Journal of Negative Results is also an excellent project.

    But this leads me to another point.

    Because of the extreme political hostility to the results of real climate science, it is one of the few subjects which is *not* going to be subject to such publication bias. Any solid negative result *will* get publicity. Anyone who designs a study well, trying to get a negative result, *knows* they can get funded for it. Every climate scientist *wants* to get results which show that global warming isn’t as bad as we thought, because if it is this bad, all our kids will be in for a nightmarish future.

    The biases are *against* finding evidence of severe manmade global warming, which is probably why even though the principles have been known since the 1970s, and there was evidence already at that time, nobody really sounded the alarm until the 1990s, and to the general public not until the 2000s.

    Comment by Nathanael — 20 Jan 2011 @ 4:01 PM

  202. “There are lots of cases where guidance to policy is needed”

    Well, really, the climate science tells us, if we want a better life for our kids, basically, we (the whole world) should go on a wartime austerity footing regarding fossil fuels, and start a massive crash program to build a carbon-negative economy as fast as possible. Draft everyone into the solar panel and wind farm and electric car and train factories, build any hydro which is still buildable, and wave farms, and geothermal, insulate everything, plant massive numbers of trees, fund every form of artificial carbon fixation research, etc.

    But it’s politically “impossible”. Unfortunately the science of psychology is in its infancy and nobody knows how to change the minds of the people who could make it happen. Heck, our governments are still fighting utterly pointless wars which are also deeply unpopular. Getting them to actually pay attention to real national (and world) security threats? I don’t have the slightest idea how to do it, as there isn’t a realpsychology.org….

    Comment by Nathanael — 20 Jan 2011 @ 4:10 PM

  203. Septic wrote at 149: “I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but you seem to be asserting that Cargill, ADM, GE, Siemens, former V.P. Al Gore, Sharp and others all have been silent these last 5 – 10 years.”

    The problem is that they are outfunded by first, the oil industry and second, a much worse group.

    I’m having trouble describing the much worse group. [edit – please dial it down. This is a forum for discussing climate science, not your theories about the presumed pathologies of company directors]

    Comment by Nathanael — 20 Jan 2011 @ 4:24 PM

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