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  1. The picture of the bird who thinks gravity is nonsense reminds me of one of my favorite sayings:

    Observing a bird in the sky doesn’t disprove gravity

    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/a-quick-n-dirty-guide-to-falsifying-agw/

    As you so rightfully say, “After the discovery, findings are interpreted, and the new knowledge must find a place in the framework based on all other knowledge since we like to think that our universe is self-consistent.”

    Good essay.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 28 Jan 2011 @ 4:00 AM

  2. The Climate Code Foundation view is that all climate scientists should release all of the code underpinning their publications, and absolutely this should apply at least as much to those – such as Scafetta – making claims outside the mainstream. On several notable occasions (e.g. Essex & McKitrick, McKitrick & Michaels), code release has allowed the rapid and utter refutation of the work. Without release of the code, such a refutation would be considerably harder, resembling your fruitless exchange with Scafetta.

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 28 Jan 2011 @ 4:25 AM

  3. Nice article. I’d like to hope that the people responsible will get their comeuppance, but I’m not holding my breath; many of the arguments of the more prominent deniers have been shown time and time again to be intellectually bankrupt even without the full disclosure of their methods and data, and yet still the press keep going back to them when they want a counterpoint. The biggest problem is the fact that what the press cares about is stories, not facts, and the deniers know how to tend to that particular fire such that the general public doesn’t know who to believe.

    Comment by James Allan — 28 Jan 2011 @ 4:27 AM

  4. So far, the ONLY crime that has ever come out of “Climategate” is the hacking of the CRU emails, and there has been little interest by the media as to who did it and why. I guess that there are so many plausible answers to that question that it has become disinteresting.

    I also think that, since the dawn of the age of the Internet, the media has decided that because so much more information is available, the quality or bias of that information has become less of a responsiblity of the purveyor and more of the responsibility of the reader. This has a lot to do with the new competition for attention. Let the reader beware!

    Successfully negotiating the media maze now requires even more education, so thanks, RealClimate, for your continued excellent web site.

    Comment by Craig Nazor — 28 Jan 2011 @ 4:32 AM

  5. “Furthermore, journalism is supposed to unveil questionable practices, but apparently the media itself does not practice openness and transparency.”

    Journalism may well be supposed to unveil questionable practices, but they are employed to produce copy that sells. Being controversial sells more than “Climate change still going on as predicted”. See which articles get the most comments.

    This is perhaps a little simplistic, but only a little,

    Comment by Jaydee — 28 Jan 2011 @ 5:03 AM

  6. I think this article also highlights the myth that science is some sort of democracy, that the reality around us can be chosen, based on personal beliefs.

    I think there is a touch of a clash of cultures in this maturing ‘war’ of words. It is clear in some discussions that those opposed to science are basically from a humanities or pseudo-science background. I wonder if C.P.Snows observations of UK culture after the war is resurfacing. I think when combined with ranting political ideology from the likes of James Delingpole, one gets a heady mix of childish anti-science and attempts at re-inventing scientific processes in the name of politics, rather than science.

    Probably a good opportunity to mention the BBC Horizon programme broadcast this week in the UK called ‘Science Under Attack’. It is unsurprisingly primarily about climate science and is presented by Paul Nurse, Nobel prizewinning biologist. He interviews Fred Singer and James Delingpole.

    Hopefully it will be broadcast elsewhere.

    Comment by Warmcast — 28 Jan 2011 @ 5:17 AM

  7. Skimmed it.

    A methodological concern first: Ryghaug and Skjølsvold (R&S) discuss the ethical problem of using stolen mail, and raise the question whether all the material is authentic, but they fail to discuss the biased sampling, which to my mind is a bigger potential issue. The hackers claimed to have released only a portion of the mails in their possession, and since their aim in releasing them was to highlight what they could spin as reprehensible practices, they may to some extent have filtered the emails based on content. Arguably, with the approach R&S take, this is not a problem (they might have made largely the same selection anyway). Still, the first question researchers should ask of a pile of sensitive data that some shadowy player dumps in their lap is, What are they not showing us?

    Two distinctions might perhaps have been usefully drawn. First, between areas of research that are more or less the subject of political controversy. Climate science falls into the more controversial category, mainly because a political fight against carbon controls is being waged by proxy as a manufactured controversy over the science, by people who will stoop to personal smear campaigns against individual scientists, some of whom were among the CRU correspondents. Second, between scientific research (including writing of review articles for other scientists), and writing super-reviews aimed at policy-makers, which is what some of the emails cited was about.

    As Rasmus summarizes, the paper seems to be saying that the scientists practiced scientific business-as-usual. And in many emails this is indeed the case. I’m not sure, though, that this is “the obvious answer” where the discussion concerns how to present science that is under fierce political attack in assessments for policy-makers. Isn’t it surprising if scientists are so unruffled that their exchanges are indistinguishable from BAU? If their remarks on contrarian papers — with obvious flaws, planted in the peer-reviewed press for political purposes, sometimes by amateurs — are indistinguishable from the ordinary “negotiation” of methodologies among scientists?

    R&S end up focusing on the vigorous methodological debate in the emails over proxy-based reconstructions, between highly credentialed workers in the field. Given this focus, it is perhaps natural that they find scientific BAU. This leaves open what they would have found e.g. if they had not chosen to leave out the “politics of publishing”.

    But if the emails, on the whole, represent ordinary scientific informal practice, does it just tell us that scientists will be scientists, no matter the political provocations that surround them? Or does it speak to the robust nature of informal scientific discussion in general? Or does it suggest that that Science and Technology Studies (STS) has blown up the “political” aspects of ordinary scientific work to the point that its practitioners cannot tell the difference between an academic seminar and a Congressional hearing?

    PS. Speaking of social science jargon, ReCaptcha offers “ismic”.

    Comment by CM — 28 Jan 2011 @ 6:02 AM

  8. We live in a time of pervasive ‘fact’ manipulation for profit. The kind of inspection and reporting you are hoping for will not be forthcoming (or have any impact) as long as the fallacy that – long term compound growth is good and harnessing it is a sign of success – remains uppermost in the public agenda. It is telling that the State of the Union address did not reflect any of the recent reality of the dire situation we may soon face due to storm intensity, drought, sea level rise… just more business as usual.

    A functional part of the natural sciences, forest culture and the supply of renewable products, has been under very successful assault for the fifty years of my professional career. The assault has been conducted by those who profit from substitution of non-renewable materials and energy allied with other parts of society that benefit from ‘efficient‘ use of human labor – as opposed to normal rural life which occurs at a slower, less efficient pace. Of course, this trend has now turned from employing these displaced rural populations in the USA to doing the same in other countries where wages and controls were lower. In MA we have seen the rewriting of ‘fact’ about functional temporary carbon uptake by forests. The media has not been willing to expose the lack of a logical basis in the document that contains this misinformation. It is now coming out that there may have been a major power play underway by groups around the political arena who had linkages to the governor and the contracted entity that prepared the study. I suggest that the similarities between ‘climate gate’ and the ‘MA renewable materials gate’ (yet to be fully exposed) come from this money driven fixation of the powerful and that the root of the problem is the desire for exponential growth of power. This inappropriate drive is now being expressed in the manipulation of basic facts. I do not have any suggestions for immediate modification of the situation because we have not yet emerged from a time when it was appropriate for anyone to have as many children as possible. The American ethos that life will be better the next generation for more people than were supported in the previous generation is just another example of denial of where we are. The ERRORS in the public response to the Meadows and company publication of the “Limits of Growth” has still not been adequately addressed. Similarly, the response of the Federal Reserve to the economic crisis has not reflected an appropriate public purpose – not the protection of the most influential bankers for instance. So the call for a clarification of who is at the bottom of the misinformation in the climate portion of society will only be possible when and only when the rest of these problems are also able to be exposed. They all come from the same source.

    Comment by Alan Page — 28 Jan 2011 @ 6:13 AM

  9. It’s worth remembering that the original -gate scandal was about political operatives illegally stealing documents, not the contents of those documents.

    Comment by Joel — 28 Jan 2011 @ 7:27 AM

  10. You’re amplifying a point made by Naomi Oreskes. The STS types and some philosophers of science have been preoccupied with the constructed aspect of scientific knowledge and its potential for abuse by the powerful. Here we’re seeing the opposite. Scientific knowledge about the negative consequences of our industrial civilization is a real threat to powerful vested interests and to a very popular ideology. The powerful and their ideological allies react by producing what really is socially constructed “knowledge” that is a parody of actual science.

    Comment by Roger Albin — 28 Jan 2011 @ 8:59 AM

  11. Thanks for another great post. It touches on some deep issues, as well as some that may not be so deep, but which are quite urgent.

    On the “deep” front, there’s the epistemological question: is scientific knowledge ‘discovery’ or ‘construction?’ For what it’s worth, I’d agree with Ryghaug and Skjølsvold that it is ‘construction.’ Not because the universe–and more specifically, the phenomena subjected to scientific study–isn’t real, but because at the end of the day the knowledge is NOT the reality it describes, even in cases where the description is accurate, robust, and complete. The ‘knowledge,’ in se, is the description we have formulated–otherwise, the whole idea of an ‘unknown reality’ becomes a contradiction.

    I think this notion actually can be of practical help at times. For example, take the question of the physical mechanism by which the greenhouse effect actually works: is it the increasing altitude of the effective radiating layer? Or is it (as you would think if you read Callendar ’38) back-radiation to the surface from the warmed atmosphere? This question has been bruited online, with skeptics pointing to these models as incompatible or contradictory. My take on it is that this is a double error: first, it conflates the knowledge with the underlying reality, and second, it misidentifies the main locus of the knowledge. (Here I’m venturing into my epistemological understanding; corrections and comments are invited.)

    The main locus of the knowledge isn’t the verbally-based descriptions just outlined: it’s the mathematically-based description which more fully model the interactions of the parameters involved and which allow computation of (falsifiable) predictions. Viewed this way, the verbal descriptions come into focus as different consequences of the model: as optical depth at the relevant IR frequencies increases, the effective radiating layer’s altitude increases as a consequence, and so does back-radiation at the surface. (Is that correct, to a reasonable approximation?)

    Then there’s the urgent question of transparency/communication. About that I have less to say, because what I might say is probably pretty obvious (and by now, repetitive as well.)

    But:

    –Transparency is not in the interest of those who perceive uncertainty as desirable.
    –I’m struck by the observation that Scafetta & West, etc., etc., haven’t released their data and/or software. I’d actually forgotten the Scafetta brouhaha. It’s still the only such I’ve heard about, as far as I can recall–have there been others?
    Certainly the denialist blogosphere will never ask for the release of such details; in their view it’s unnecessary because opposition to some conclusion or facet of the mainstream science on AGW is the only meaningful criterion for validity.
    –”Media” is a very wide term–and in this context, so is “reporter.” Andy Revkin takes some criticism here for (basically) exhibiting too much patience with contrarians, but I haven’t heard anyone question his seriousness and commitment to accuracy. (And my perception is that he does very well in this regard; he really, really wants to get it right.)

    Compare and contrast James Dellingpole, another reporter to be sure, but one whose commitment to actually getting it right appears to be absolutely non-existent.

    See, for example, the interview with Sir Paul Nurse, available on Youtube. Note before you click that this video is an hour-long BBC program! (H/t to Tamino.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miwJxFBOlX8

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 28 Jan 2011 @ 9:09 AM

  12. Warmcast, science is not a democracy. It’s about as close to a functioning anarchy as you can find. It works because those involved are motivated primarily by a drive to understand what they are studying–by curiosity. Those centripetal forces are sufficient to overcome the centrifugal forces that would otherwise cause the community to fragment

    Warmcast: ” It is clear in some discussions that those opposed to science are basically from a humanities or pseudo-science background.”

    Not so much. Singer was at one point a scientist. In fact some of the dumbest denialists on the Intertubes have a background in science, engineering or computers. Some denialists are even fairly prominent scientists in their own discipline. All it shows is that scientific training–and even intelligence–do not necessarily provide immunity to human stupidity.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 28 Jan 2011 @ 9:17 AM

  13. Warmcast (#6) said: “those opposed to science are basically from a humanities or pseudo-science background”

    Warmcast, we’ve met the enemy and he ain’t the Faculty of Arts. Try harder.

    Comment by CM — 28 Jan 2011 @ 9:27 AM

  14. Climate science is just other science of course. Climate change denial is like generic denial except that climate denial is the most most organized, funded and vicious instance. “In order to be taken seriously, they (think tanks) need to be open too….” No, it works the other way for them. They depend on talking a good game an putting up a public front with nothing laudable behind it.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 28 Jan 2011 @ 9:38 AM

  15. \One real difference between the ‘tribes’ of natural scientists and STS scholars may be the perception of ‘facts’: Ryghaug and Skjølsvold conclude that “scientific facts are made and not just discovered”. In contrast, I think most natural scientists feel that facts are facts, whether we know about them or not.\

    I would interprete the meaning of \facts\ used by the authors in a different way. Not fact in the meaning of elektron mass, c, h etc., but in the meaning, when a theory is accepted as a \fact\ by scientific community.

    For example Einsteins theory of relativity was not at all accepted as a fact at once, there was instead a period of discussions and measurements.

    Nevertheless I’m not sure, if the authors were aware, that convincing in scientific community means convincing by measurements, not convincing by brilliant speeches.

    Comment by andreas — 28 Jan 2011 @ 10:22 AM

  16. The source of most of the problems with the acceptance of AGW lie in politics not science. A man can’t be reasoned out of a belief he hasn’t reasoned himself into.

    The reality is that there won’t be change until the status quo becomes too painful, and by that point, the options for mitigation could fit into a matchbox.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 28 Jan 2011 @ 10:53 AM

  17. re: number 12 and 13.

    I seem to be misunderstood!
    There is a reason why I started the sentence with:

    ‘It is clear in some discussions…’.

    What I was referring to were ‘journalists’ and other commentators that combine political ideology with a possible historical and personal lack of affinity with science. Of course it doesn’t apply to many people, but it probably enhances many ‘characters’ attitudes and views.

    Delingpole in particular maybe an example (maybe not, I only know that he rants a lot).

    Having been a masters degree student at an art college with an engineering degree and career under my belt, I have some personal experience of a lack of understanding between the two cultures. I even joined in with the mocking of a scientist who was convinced Mathematica was better than Macromedia Director/Flash for producing multimedia (I think he deserved it, he was pretty arrogant coming to an art college and doing that).

    The point I make is that one can immerse one self in a culture so much that you see another culture as ‘the problem’. Maybe Delingpole needs to be taken on a tour of science institutes and an intense course in basic science?

    [Response: You can take a source to science, but you cannot make him think. - gavin]

    Comment by Warmcast — 28 Jan 2011 @ 11:06 AM

  18. What the article proves to me is that the social sciences need the modifier “social” because they are not sciences. Saying that facts are constructed rather than discovered is simply nonsense. It says a great deal about the social “scientists” who come up with such nonsense.

    Of course physicists should try to find easier ways of doing things like quantum mechanics. The “old” formulation is much too hard to learn. If an easier mathematics can be found, it is well worth the effort. But don’t hold your breath.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 28 Jan 2011 @ 11:14 AM

  19. I posted a piece recently on climate science not being fundamentally different to other science, with the somewhat provocative title “tectonicists, warmists, evolutionists” – a “tectonicist” being someone who believes in plate tectonics.

    Comment by Danny Yee — 28 Jan 2011 @ 11:36 AM

  20. Plato’s allegory of the cave is still an insightful way to correlate human understanding with “reality”. Our understanding will never be complete or perfect because, if Heisenberg was right, it cannot be. The models, constructions, theories, equations, etc. that we use may be useful for making predictions about future events and having some understanding about how our universe operates, but they will always contain some uncertainty.

    Most folks, some who are even scientists and engineers, fail to understand this.

    Comment by Geno Canto del Halcon — 28 Jan 2011 @ 11:42 AM

  21. Roger Albin @ 10
    Excellent point and well stated.

    Ray @ 12
    Hmm. True enough, but Warmcast has a point. There are elements within art culture which are specifically anti-science, and I can attest that artists can be unusually creative when it comes to devising challenges to your patience.

    Generally regarding transparency in the media: After watching way too much TV, I can’t help thinking that most broadcast journalists are unaware of their biases and are incapable of examining them, as the primary tools of their trade are designed for taking the audience on a dramatic journey and then stroking herd sentiments into middlebrow passivity afterwards.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 28 Jan 2011 @ 11:47 AM

  22. The trouble is, Rasmus, that the history of science shows that, unfortunately, “facts” are not immutable facts. The Sun doesn’t go round the Earth even though for centuries this was believed to be the case.

    Concepts are even more slippery than facts. They make sense only within a particular belief system. The words might be retained, but the meaning may be quite different. The modern “atom” for example, is very different from its antecedents.

    Which brings us to scientific paradigms or belief systems. As Thomas Kuhn observed, when a scientific discipline undergoes a paradigm-shift, the whole conceptual framework necessarily changes. Statements made from within different paradigms are incommensurate.

    Though there’s a lot to be learnt from the history and philosophy of science, some social scientists conclude that science is just another belief system. But this ignores the fact that scientific theories are tested against the real world. The relativist proposition must therefore be rejected.

    In fact, supplanted theories – such as Newtonian physics – are usually shown to have been imperfect approximations to the new theories – in this case relativity and quantum mechanics. So new theories are closer to the ultimate truth. This occurs, of course, because our set of observations of the real world is continually growing or at least becoming broader in the sense of encompassing a greater range of conditions.

    Why, then, do imperfect theories persist for as long as they do?

    In part, because no-one comes up with a better alternative, but mainly because theories are socially useful, so there is no need for a better alternative. Imperfect theories – even theories with known problems – can persist for a long time because they make socially useful predictions.

    The point of this discussion is not to suggest climate science is imperfect, but to make the point that the game is not, as you suggest, about absolute truth, but addressing social concerns.

    This suggests a couple of points about climate change:

    1. Clearly a lot of people don’t see the theory as socially useful, perhaps because it seems to challenge existing lifestyles and future goals. Hence resistance.

    2. Could the theory of climate change be made more socially useful (to overcome point 1)? Yes, I believe it could. What we have to do is focus on near-term climate predictions – that is, the impact of climate change on patterns of natural variability. The mistake that’s being made repeatedly, IMHO, is to say “well, that record snowfall (or whatever) is all very interesting, but it doesn’t alter the long-term trend”. This may well be true (or “true” as the social scientists would put it!), but simply distances climate science from people’s everyday concerns, or at least divides climate science artificially into “climate change science” on the one hand and meteorology on the other. What’s needed is for the same community as that which highlights climate change to be seen to be making accurate predictions over timescales of months to decades. What you want to be able to say is “that record snowfall – told you so”. That’s the challenge.

    Btw, Mike Hulme’s book, Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity, seems to me to be a good starting point for discussing why scientific objectivity doesn’t automatically translate into political action.

    Comment by Tim Joslin — 28 Jan 2011 @ 11:59 AM

  23. Edward Greisch @18:
    “What the article proves to me is that the social sciences need the modifier “social” because they are not sciences. Saying that facts are constructed rather than discovered is simply nonsense.”

    I’ll put in a kind word for social scientists, not all of whom take a social-constructionist perspective. Many others emphasize discovery, hypothesis testing, and replication in a spirit that most natural scientists could recognize. Albeit, using different kinds of data.

    Comment by gneiss — 28 Jan 2011 @ 12:16 PM

  24. Tim Joslin,
    Your post doesn’t make sense. First, a scientific theory is not so much a social construct as an explanatory tool and guide to direct future research. Second, the reason “incorrect” theories persist is more because measurements are not sufficiently precise to highlight the incorrectness. Once the incorrectness of a theory is manifest, work will begin immediately on its replacement. That is how you make a name for yourself in science. Indeed, the Michelson-Morley experiment was performed in 1887, and by 1900, most of the math to explain it had been worked out. It remained for Einsten to put it into a coherent framework. This is astoundingly rapid progress for a complete revolution in human thought! Now quantum mechanics, I will grant you took awhile to develop after the Ultraviolet catastrophe was discovered. Here, too, though, work on new understandings was ongoing.

    However, my real qualms are with your insistence that climate scientists should predict weather. They should not. Climate and weather are distinct. Climate manifests on timescales of decades, weather on scales of minutes to years. “That record snowfall” ain’t climate. It’s weather. That increasing trend of record precipitation events over the past 20 years is climate.

    The reason we disagree about climate change is the same reason we disagree about evolution–some of the human population is so ideologically blinkered that they refuse to recognize reality. An improved 10 day forcast ain’t gonna change that.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 28 Jan 2011 @ 12:39 PM

  25. Tim Joslin:

    I’m going to ignore your discussion about “facts”, since you have spectacularly missed the point of the original post.

    However, you demand that science improve long-range weather forecasting is all very well, but your idea that it will change anything to do with climate is just wrong. Without making unjustified suppositions about your own position, I have to point out that we are seeing this fallacy more and more from deniers recently. Where is it coming from?

    The meteorologists are working on the long-range forecasting. Go and annoy them if you want, I don’t care.

    What I do care about is that no matter how good we make weather forecasts, they will inevitably diverge from reality at some point. And climate science doesn’t care about this. It works despite it. It works because of it. That’s the truth we need to convey, not muddy the waters by calling for better weather forecasts.

    Comment by Didactylos — 28 Jan 2011 @ 1:00 PM

  26. Edward Greisch: What drives me nuts about the language used by Ryghaug and Skjølsvold (and other people in various other contexts) is that everything they say is absolutely fine, so long as you use a particular and not very usual definition for the words they are using.

    First there’s the talking at cross-purposes, then there’s the tedious definition of terms, then finally there’s the realisation that absolutely nothing new or insightful has been said, and there isn’t even any conflict.

    It’s all a bit of a let-down. I can get a little hung-up about definitions, so I have had conversations along these lines before. Usually, but not always with people who have English as a second language.

    Comment by Didactylos — 28 Jan 2011 @ 1:08 PM

  27. When people who are not philosophers resort to philosophy (or to informing others at length that no one knows everything or you will never get the last decimal point of data) it is usually because the don’t like the answer from systematic investigation of nature and are looking for a way out. Or they just like to argue.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 28 Jan 2011 @ 1:25 PM

  28. [edit - sorry, but religion is always OT]

    In the long run, “truth” will always win, but, as Keynes reputedly said, in the long run, we’re all dead.

    Comment by Geno Canto del Halcon — 28 Jan 2011 @ 1:36 PM

  29. Is there anyone who thinks that climate science would be better off if all data and methods were kept private? Of course not.

    The only real question in Climategate was if Phil Jones’ FOI dodging was reasonable or not.

    On the issue of philosophy of science, climate science is akin to geology or astronomy, in that it doesn’t have spare Earths lying around to conduct controlled experiments with, but empirical observations, modeling, and predictions are still possible.

    So not as scientifically rigorous as physics, but more rigorous than social science.

    I think our society needs more categories than just “science” and “not-science”.

    Comment by Foobear — 28 Jan 2011 @ 1:44 PM

  30. Um, folks:

    It’s not social scientists, and it’s not arts and humanities majors, and it’s not “postmodernist” philosophers who are driving the hostility towards climate scientists and denial of climate science.

    It’s billionaire fossil fuel corporation executives.

    And it has exactly NOTHING to do with C. P. Snow’s “two cultures” and everything to do with a culture of ruthless, rapacious, relentless, reactionary corporate greed.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 28 Jan 2011 @ 1:57 PM

  31. Foobear:

    “Is there anyone who thinks that climate science would be better off if all data and methods were kept private?”

    That would be very silly foobear. Happily the methods and data are published in the scientific literature and deposited in databases. What were you thinking of??

    “The only real question in Climategate was if Phil Jones’ FOI dodging was reasonable or not.”

    That’s a pretty minor point I would have thought. It’s obvious (a) that the FOI onslaught was a contrived harrassment..and (b) that whether or not FOI requests existed or didn’t or were responded to or not, is immaterial to the science. I assume you’d agree that the science is the ultimate importance here…

    Comment by chris — 28 Jan 2011 @ 2:33 PM

  32. I prefer to discuss the science rather than the politics. But perhaps we need to discuss the politics more than the science.

    And I agree with #30 (SecularAnimist)

    Comment by tamino — 28 Jan 2011 @ 2:35 PM

  33. SecularAnimist, I don’t blame you for wanting to save the earth – more power to you. But until the people who want immediate climate action start taking the average person seriously, and stop with the childish blaming “executives”, very few minds will be changed.I have reasons I will not support climate legislation (and reasons why I give ear to skepticals). These reasons are not greatly leveraged by institutional powers. They are common sense reasons such as:
    1. Climate science is in its infancy.
    2. There are more important things to waste my worries on.
    3. I have absolutely no faith in the knee-jerk climate solution of the week.

    [Response: 1) is wrong for the principle problem that is being dealt with. The role of human-produced CO2 in affecting climate is well-understood. 2) is irrelevant - why you need to personally spend time worrying about legislation is a mystery to me. If you want to think about things that more important to you, go ahead (but why you are commenting here?). 3) is a strawman. While an industrial policy of picking clean energy winners might be something you would not support, a carbon pricing mechanism that adjusts the playing field so that any solution that actually works becomes favored in the market place avoids that entirely. I'm happy to take you seriously, but none of your reasons for inaction are convincing. - gavin]

    Comment by Michael W — 28 Jan 2011 @ 2:43 PM

  34. I prefer to call it \deniergate\. After all, it was the deniers who acted deceitfully.

    Comment by M. Joyce — 28 Jan 2011 @ 3:28 PM

  35. “…climate is well-understood”
    150 years of direct climate observation can be a tiny blip depending on your time frame perspective. Whether I think we have enough of a climate sample for me to put any importance in climate mitigation/adaptation is a personal decision. My thinking may be wrong, but its not ridiculous. I can see these 3 signals in a lot of peoples thinking. My point is, it has little to do with “executives”.

    Point number two is very relevant. There are many crises in the world right now now and I don’t blame anyone for putting “carbon pricing mechanisms” at the bottom of their list.

    [Response: But the idea that new legislation only happens when it is at the top of everyone's list is just odd. That isn't the way anything gets done - not even in Switzerland. - gavin]

    Comment by Michael W — 28 Jan 2011 @ 3:41 PM

  36. Michael W wrote: “taking the average person seriously … stop with the childish blaming ‘executives’ …”

    The founding, funding and direction of the propaganda machine that has conducted a generation-long campaign of deceit and denial by fossil fuel corporations, e.g. ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, is a well-documented fact, and is THE reason that “average persons” such as yourself have been systematically disinformed about both climate science and the solutions to the problem of anthropogenic global warming.

    It is no more “childish” to discuss this reality than it is “childish” to discuss the equally-well documented reality of the similar (though far smaller) campaign by the tobacco corporations to mislead the public about the carcinogenicity of cigarettes.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 28 Jan 2011 @ 3:53 PM

  37. Michael W:

    1) The fundamental principles of climate science pre-date the discovery of DNA, pre-date relativity, pre-date plate tectonics. Over the many decades since, great advances have been made. Just how old must climate science be to emerge from “infancy”?

    2) Climate change is largely a problem because it makes other problems worse. Many, many other problems. Some will affect you directly, some won’t. Whether you care about food security, political stability, foreign aid, the likelihood of extreme events – all these situations are expected to worsen due to climate change.

    3) There is one climate solution. Reduce emissions. Don’t get confused by the media’s need to spin a new story every day. One solution, and that solution hasn’t changed in decades.

    Comment by Didactylos — 28 Jan 2011 @ 4:08 PM

  38. Here in Finland one of the political parties is gaining momentum by saying that we need to abandon EC’s emission trading system since the cost will be too high on the low-income families (due to lost jobs I assume).

    Of course we are a small country… insignificant when the big boys play… but I think that in many European countries the political elite is backing up the idea of climate change while ordinary people are indifferent and might sway any which way

    Comment by joe — 28 Jan 2011 @ 4:40 PM

  39. ‘‘It is also a mystery to me why the mainstream media has not seen the real situation concerning who played the different roles and what was actually hidden.’’

    Well, I think that this question is rather naïve. Why? It must be understood and said, that behind this confusion, there is a political agenda. How old are our leaders in press, economy and politic? 50, 60, 70. They have born in the 1940’s, the 1950’s or the 1960’s. They lived in a world where no restrictions were necessary and they profited from it and they are often proud of their apparent success.(*) When they are part of the lunatic political fringe (I mean mainly many among the conservatives in USA and rather less in other foreign conservatives), they don’t accept the existence and the responsibility (the younger are also responsible, of course) for the climatic mess. First, they don’t accept the idea of the states interventions and then the wrongness of a lot of their economical conceptions.
    By greediness, intellectual laziness and narrow-mindedness, they don’t accept to give up the old and outdated facilities and ways to produce energy, to transport people or merchandises because of new rules. Personally, I don’t deny the fact that there are some corporations, some businessmen which are proposing and marketing some new equipments which are more energetically effective but these last ones are generally younger and perhaps a bit more concerned about their own fate and the fate of their children than the first ones
    In current life, it is so comfortable to deny the reality of a remote, abstracted problem (at least, for them) for going on putting oil in their powerful cars. Do you imagine the sensation of power which can come from the vision of huge (energetically inefficient) buildings, big (energy wasting) light signs, big (polluting) industrial fuming facilities? Do you imagine the downfall for this kind of sensations with the meanness of the rubbish sorting for the reprocessing when you had only to pill up everything you had to throw in a bag and to put the bag outside? Do you imagine the torture of someone who felt so powerful alone at the steering wheel of his (her) car and who is now forced to share his (her) car with other people, to take busses, trains or to ride a bike or, unconceivable, to walk?
    Beyond the gross incompetence of many journalists and their childish research of debates, I think that behind the lack of eagerness toward the necessary information cross checking there is the secret hope that after all of this could be wrong and that everything could go one as usual.
    And I don’t think that the scientists must torture themselves if they are speaking correctly of science or not. You don’t need to serve jam to these people.

    (*) : in France, e.g., the climato-pseudo-sceptical (yes, yes, ‘‘pseudo’’ because scepticism supposes rational grounds) are found mainly among the people who are more than 60 years old and are (French) conservatives.

    Comment by Jean-François F — 28 Jan 2011 @ 4:42 PM

  40. It’s the universe of greed that matters, not merely that represented in the executive wash rooms of the multi-trillion dollar global fossil fuel industry (not to diminish the role of the autocrats and other ownership interests ostensibly occupying of political office of course).

    The universe of greed importantly includes that which causes peoples ears to seal as soon as they hear words ‘gas tax’ or ‘higher electric bills’. It’s this type of nimbyism, myopia, hoarding, etc. that leaves us yet, nearly 15 years removed from Kyoto, so absurdly far from action. The doubt happily furnished by the former merely provides a handy legitimation for the latter. But if you take John Updike at his word, the bar on requisite credibility there is going to be difficult to slide a sheet of paper under (thank God, right Bob Carter?).

    As long as we’re naming names, we’d also have to call out whatever it is that makes so many people on the political right incapable of seeing through the smokescreen. As perfectly illustrated by Michael W above, they are profoundly unwilling to attach any weight or credibility to the work of so many deeply qualified people. I understand of course that this is a well established empirical fact of the world. Just saying it’s a curious one still wanting for sensible explanation.

    Perhaps the social sciences could help there? Maybe it’s best not to hold my breath.

    Comment by Majorajam — 28 Jan 2011 @ 4:51 PM

  41. Michael W wrote: “My thinking may be wrong … it has little to do with ‘executives’.

    Actually the fact that your thinking is wrong has EVERYTHING to do with the generation-long, fossil fuel industry-funded campaign of deceit, denial, delay and obstruction to which you and every one else has been subjected.

    It can be difficult to admit that one’s thinking has been heavily influenced by deliberate lies. But beyond a certain point, one must recognize that reality, or become complicit in self-deceit.

    Michael W wrote: “There are many crises in the world right now now …”

    There are indeed, and every single one of them will be made far, far worse by unmitigated anthropogenic global warming.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 28 Jan 2011 @ 4:53 PM

  42. SecularAnimist #36,
    Disinformed? I’m well informed as are you. We both have full access to websites like RC. Furthermore its not too difficult to spotting and dismissing a company like Koch Ind and their propaganda. You give these execs way too much credit.

    Corruption is everywhere, and always needs good people to confront it. But once you win and expose Koch Ind, you still have many people like myself to convince before you can transform 21st century lifestyle. I’m just saying you may be wasting your time lamenting Koch Ind.

    Comment by Michael W — 28 Jan 2011 @ 4:55 PM

  43. #39

    commenting on rasmus:

    ‘‘It is also a mystery to me why the mainstream media has not seen the real situation concerning who played the different roles and what was actually hidden.’’

    I agree that it is not such a mystery, but my explanation would be somewhat different from J-F’s. Depending on which specific outlets one is speaking of, there is either culpability, gullibility or reticence (sometimes combined in various measures).

    Prime examples of culpability, of course, are such U.S. outlets as the Wall Street Journal and Fox News. They have played a “hidden” role themselves (not so well hidden actually).

    In a lot of cases the more responsible mainstream media have attempted to achieve a misguided balance, which is largely traced to gullibility and ignorance.

    But there is also reticence. Has Andrew Revkin, for example, even once pointed out the role of media outlets in promoting climate disinformation? And yet he can hardly be unaware of the problem. And he continues to impute legitimacy to scientists, like Pat Michaels, who long ago sacrificed any claim on credibility.

    Comment by Deep Climate — 28 Jan 2011 @ 5:06 PM

  44. Michael W and those who have responded to him:

    While I disagree with MW’s conclusions, he makes an important point. The vast majority of those who refuse to accept the human role in climate change are NOT paid by others. It may be true that climate denial is sparked and supported by “billionaire fossil fuel corporation executives;” but most deniers don’t see it that way. And you can’t make them see it that way.

    What you can do is to say that deniers and “skeptics” have their own bias in this argument: the fear of costs of mitigation. That point is especially important for the “scientists say whatever is needed to get funding” crowd.

    Comment by JeffT — 28 Jan 2011 @ 5:28 PM

  45. 33

    Gavin “…a carbon pricing mechanism that adjusts the playing field so that any solution that actually works becomes favored in the market place avoids that entirely…”

    I think even Noam Chomsky has noted that an incentive such as a price on carbon does not necessarily guarantee a clean energy breakthrough. After all, the billion dollar fossil fuel industry is there for anybody to take, what could be more of an incentive than billions and billions of dollars?

    Comment by Isotopious — 28 Jan 2011 @ 5:29 PM

  46. Michael W., if you care to study the history of climate science in reference to its ‘maturity’, you can begin here:

    http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Science-Of-Global-Warming-In-The-Age-Of-Napoleon

    Or just click on “AIP. . .”, the first link under “Science Links” in the RC sidebar. It would flesh out Gavin’s and Didactylos’ responses some for you.

    As to your original point #2, it’s difficult to imagine a more important problem than climate change: I don’t know of anything else as potentially destructive, barring full-scale nuclear exchange or some of the ‘cosmological accident’ scenarios–which last we REALLY can’t do anything about at this point.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 28 Jan 2011 @ 5:39 PM

  47. Of course it’s not part of the scientific literature, but the truth about the Wegman Report’s “analysis” has only emerged recently, more than four years after the fact. David Ritson’s criticism, for example, could have been confirmed and vindicated much earlier if Wegman et al had released their code as promised (which they still hasn’t done).

    The Wegman Report sees Red Noise.

    Replication and Due Diligence Wegman style

    Comment by Deep Climate — 28 Jan 2011 @ 5:55 PM

  48. So, I’m to believe that a geologist that spent years matching strata from either side of the Atlantic would stonewall requests for his data for verification purposes? Admittedly, I’m not a geologist or a climatologist, but if someone requests raw data from my lab (process chemical / environmental); I’d better produce it PDQ or be updating my resume’. BAU? Not in my business, I guess research science is just different from applied science.

    IMHO, its people like me that you’ll have to convince for popular support for action on AGW and obvious zohnerism won’t fly. For every one like me in this country there are a couple hundred ordinary people who’ll believe those like me over anything in the media simply because they know us personally. I’m as open minded as the next person, but presentations that are obviously slanted to lead me to a conclusion tend to have the opposite effect, like when you’re talking to a used car salesman, you can’t help but be hyper-skeptical. I remain unconvinced (albeit precariously) that the warming that is essentially occurring due to man’s activities is enough to worry about, and less convinced that emissions reduction would be the best way to deal with it if it is a problem, and I’m completely repulsed by assertions of imminent doom and a need for immediate action (like with “the deal won’t last” high pressure sales technique). I realize that the original research scientists (such as those here) are not necessarily responsible for those presentations and in an attempt to offer a more constructive criticism as apposed to just whining: I’d suggest you continue actively setting the record straight (like the recent debunking of the food scarcity article, kudos) and (as I’ve suggested before) a page dedicated to what GW is not. Also, explore some evidence that doesn’t necessarily fit the theory, nothing “proves” a rule better than a good exception; and bring up something that y’all disagree over and debate it, it’s unfathomable to me that y’all agree on every aspect of AGW theory when a question about the tiniest minutia of a reaction can start an argument (I mean debate) between me, a Chemist, and a Chemical Engineer here even though the differences come to naught at the end of the day (reaction). [Admittedly, I haven’t “made the time” to read everything here, I have read most of the reference materials, new articles when I can, and I use the search function to research particular issues. If I have missed some of the above I apologize for my slackness.] [PS: one more thing; insulting and ignoring those that don’t agree with you doesn’t win people over very often, probably never. Those of us in applied science deal with the scientifically illiterate every day for the most part without insulting or ignoring them, like post #33 in the bore hole, that is a missed teaching opportunity. If I could post to the bore hole I would gladly take the time to explain why his day/night experiment is flawed and why Gavin and the IPCC are correct. Yes I realize that the IPCC is technically correct (mostly)! However, technically correct doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the whole story or “truth”; for example the term ocean acidification is technically correct in that the pH is going down, but it’s hardly acidic or likely to be much lower than it is considering how buffered it is.]

    Comment by John W — 28 Jan 2011 @ 5:58 PM

  49. Michael W:

    The success of the denial campaign is evident in your refusal to believe that your opinions have been shaped by it.

    But shaped they were. Or is it coincidence that you arrive here reproducing old and tired pre-packaged misinformation that you somehow arrived at completely independently?

    It’s surprisingly easy to make someone think that an idea is their own.

    Every single one of your “common sense reasons” are common denier talking-points. Obviously, you didn’t get them directly from a coal industry executive! No. The path is long, and was laid a long time ago. The coal industry lined up a few scientists they had in their pocket, created various front organisations, got various media groups on their side, and above all, created an environment of doubt, where it is easy for the “average guy” to say “there’s a lot of uncertainty, this doesn’t affect me, I don’t need to do anything”.

    Think this is fantasy? Do a little research.

    Comment by Didactylos — 28 Jan 2011 @ 6:09 PM

  50. John W:

    So, I’m to believe that a geologist that spent years matching strata from either side of the Atlantic would stonewall requests for his data for verification purposes? Admittedly, I’m not a geologist or a climatologist, but if someone requests raw data from my lab (process chemical / environmental); I’d better produce it PDQ or be updating my resume’. BAU? Not in my business, I guess research science is just different from applied science.

    Oh, it’s much worse in many practicing applied science. Try getting seismic and other data from oil exploration companies, for instance, without paying for it …

    Comment by dhogaza — 28 Jan 2011 @ 6:22 PM

  51. John W:

    People love to drag in Wegener. Usually when they realise that comparisons to Galileo would look ridiculous.

    But Wegener could not propose a mechanism for continental drift, or rather, proposed several mechanisms but could prove none of them. So, at the time, the theory was not taken seriously. It was only when more evidence became available, and the mechanism became clear, that plate tectonics took off.

    Climate science is exactly the opposite. The mechanism came first, the predictions were made a long time ago. The observation of warming came later.


    You should also be aware that FOI requests must be complied with, but compliance does not always involve handing over the data. If the data is not yours, or the requests are vexatious, for example – both applied in the CRU case.

    Comment by Didactylos — 28 Jan 2011 @ 6:25 PM

  52. Tim Joslin @22:

    “As Thomas Kuhn observed, when a scientific discipline undergoes a paradigm-shift, the whole conceptual framework necessarily changes. Statements made from within different paradigms are incommensurate.”

    You’ve chosen to highlight the most some of the most demonstrably insupportable parts of Kuhn’s thesis. In particular, Kuhn’s “incommensurable” meme (NOT “incommensurate,” by the way) is simply nonsense on stilts. Even the most casual examination of history of science conclusively shows that results are cummulative, which they could not possibly be if that “incommensurable” stuff was even remotely correct. Kuhn himself spent the remainder of his life backing away from these egregiously silly, relativistic claims.

    Comment by Gary Herstein — 28 Jan 2011 @ 6:32 PM

  53. John W wrote: “I’m completely repulsed by assertions of imminent doom and a need for immediate action …”

    Why?

    Seriously, why are you “repulsed” by such assertions?

    Do you have an a priori belief, or instinct, that such things simply “cannot be true”?

    Because the evidence that “immediate action” is not only urgently needed, but long overdue, if we are to have any hope of avoiding truly catastrophic consequences of AGW, is overwhelming.

    That’s why pretty much every major scientific organization in the world that has anything to do with climate has called for urgent, immediate action to reduce the emissions that are driving global warming.

    The notion that urgent calls for immediate action to avert catastrophe are only coming from some lunatic fringe, or from “politically-motivated radical environmentalists”, is just plain false — and is a key component of the fossil fuel industry’s campaign of deceit.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 28 Jan 2011 @ 6:36 PM

  54. Didactylos #49, pick any major issue, and you will find a plethora of players with bills of goods to sell with experts in their pockets, vested interests trying to hold on to market share, etc. Most of us learned how to not be played for a fool back in grade school.

    As for the current climate crisis, no need for a long path. My opinions were conceived when an organization claimed “the world is ending”.

    [Response: Which organisation would that be? - gavin]

    Comment by Michael W — 28 Jan 2011 @ 6:52 PM

  55. > ocean acidification … considering how buffered it is
    The buffering has worked at geological rates, not at the current rate of change. Look it up, eh?

    > borehole … education
    Look up past attempts; look for repetition or evidence of change over time. Some are buffered to the point there’s little likelihood of edification.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Jan 2011 @ 7:16 PM

  56. Michael W:

    Although I disagree with your conclusions about the science, I admire that you’re willing to come here to discuss them (apparently, open-mindedly). And I agree with some of your statements about communication, and the target audience for enlightenment on this issue.

    But I think you underestimate the influence of the denial campaign. Your analogy of a used-car salesman (whom we all mistrust) may be revealing; rather than look on the vast majority of the climate science community as trusted seekers of truth (a common perception of scientists, and deservedly so) you may have turned a jaundiced eye to climate science. And frankly, those who suggest that some of your claims are straight out of the long-debunked denial playbook, are right on target.

    I suggest you keep studying the science, and be far more skeptical of the so-called “skeptics.”

    For all readers: I’d also like to relay an analogy I saw on a blog today:

    You are in a theatre and a fire inspector shouts “Fire.”

    The guy at the concession stand and the theatre owner say, “Hey, no problem.”

    Fortunately, that very day there are forty fire inspectors in the building to help you make up your mind.

    Thirty-nine say “Run.”

    One –- coincidentally the cousin of the theatre owner -– says, “Hey, the problem is exaggerated. Stick around. Spend some money. Maybe we’ll buy a new extinguisher.”

    Comment by tamino — 28 Jan 2011 @ 7:22 PM

  57. Michael W. and John W.,
    You guys related? Because you seem to be getting your information on the science–or lack thereof–from the same sources. It certainly is not from the scientists or the scientific journals. When you have 97.5% of the experts in agreement; when there is not a single professional or honorific society in related fields that dissents from the consensus; when the few denialist scientists have so utterly failed to propose an alternative theory/model/mechanism that accounts for even a tiny fraction of the evidence; when the evidence becomes unequivocal, then the only way to justify inaction is to base one’s opinion on ignorance.

    So you have a choice. You can start learning the science. Start With Spencer Weart’s history:
    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.htm

    Ask questions. I’m about as big a hardass as there is on denialists as there is, but I and most others here a re pretty good about answering sincere questions.

    Learn what the evidence is and what it means. Learn why the experts are concerned. Realize that we are not talking about half a dozen guys who got together and decided to do climate science, but thousands of scientists–some very, very smart–doing the work.

    You don’t want to take someone’s word for it. That’s fine and potentially admirable. So, either learn enough about the science to form an intelligent opinion or stay ignorant. Your choice. Frankly I don’t have a dog in this fight. I don’t have kids, so it won’t be my progeny suffering if we do nothing.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 28 Jan 2011 @ 8:00 PM

  58. Ray Ladbury @56 — But I have children and grandchildren. In fact, maybe not so many years before a great-grandchild.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Jan 2011 @ 8:24 PM

  59. John W., so you’re a chemist, huh? Your ocean acidification comment makes me wonder if you shouldn’t have a spin through the biochem world. For example, would you consider a pH drop from 7.40 to 7.25 to be acidification worthy of comment? How about if it’s your blood pH we’re discussing? Have a squint at what happens to you with a blood pH change of +/- 0.20. Then consider whether you want to bet that buffering in the most bio-rich strata will be adequate to avoid bio-hazardous marine acidification, bearing in mind that we depend on stability in those strata for a huge amount of our food. If you truly are a scientist acting objectively, then I must infer from your post that you haven’t engaged this field fully. Regardless, you’ve come to the right place for the physics; the biology might take you elsewhere. :)

    Comment by ghost — 28 Jan 2011 @ 8:35 PM

  60. RE #53

    Seriously, why are you “repulsed” by such assertions?

    Ok, just look at the track record of such ASSERTIONS.
    Tell me what you do when a salesman tells you “buy it now or you’ll miss out”?
    Assertions, no matter how loud aren’t convincing to me, sorry. High pressure sales tactics don’t work on me either, well at least not anymore, I can’t say I haven’t fell for a high pressure sales tactic in the distant past. Again, I’m sorry if that’s bothersome, but I’ve been around the block a few times and I’ve seen emergencies and deals that won’t last come and go. I’m not worried.

    Comment by John W — 28 Jan 2011 @ 11:41 PM

  61. RE #54 Hank Roberts

    The buffering has worked at geological rates, not at the current rate of change. Look it up, eh?

    The buffering works right now and on geologic time scales. There are layers of buffering mechanisms that come into play at different rates. Some are nearly instantaneous for all practical purposes. I don’t have to look it up, aqueous solutions is my field. If the oceans were DI water it would take relatively little to move the pH a great deal, but alas they are not. It would take a concerted effort on humanity’s part to neutralize the ocean and it would be at great expense.

    [Response: We are indeed making a great effort - and we are not yet sure how expensive it will turn out to be. - gavin]

    > borehole … education
    Look up past attempts; look for repetition or evidence of change over time. Some are buffered to the point there’s little likelihood of edification.

    OK, I’ll take your word for it. I guess sometimes one has to give up on a lost cause. I wonder if he’d trust a “fellow skeptic” even if I’m not so skeptical of the science per se. Would a reply by me in “unforced variations” make any difference? I’d be willing to try if anyone thinks its worth a shot. (I think we all can agree that educating everyone to the point where they are questioning “how much warming”; “what effects will there be”; and “what do we do about it” is preferable to “whether CO2 is a GHG or not”. If everyone understood what we’re talking about it would come down to risk tolerance as the deciding factor which, IMHO, where it belongs.) Now that I think about it, I have to admit I have a high risk tolerance; perhaps that’s the root of my skepticism. Hmmmmm, something to think about.

    Comment by John W — 28 Jan 2011 @ 11:53 PM

  62. RE #56 Ray Ladbury

    I have read the history of GW and most everything else in the “start here” tab. Actually, a lot of that information is not very convincing. (more on that later)

    I do understand why the scientists are concerned and the evidence behind it. I suspect(that means I don’t know and haven’t made up my mind at all) there’s a force at work that occurs a lot in my profession as well, I’ve dubbed it “mountain from mole hill syndrome”, once someone is very knowledgeable about a particular subject a lot of potential events, consequences, feedbacks, etc. are known and understood, these potentials seem to from my observations become familiar and the likelihood of occurrence seems to in the expert’s mind increase even though in reality the likelihood is quite small. We can talk more about this later, I have literally hundreds of examples that I have documented. (Maybe I’ll give it to a physiologist one day.)

    I appreciate your offer for Q&A. Shall we start now?
    Ok so, the link you provided, it’s been a while since I read it but I remember while reading it, it occurred to me that within the modeling of climate, that chaotic behavior is accepted as the behavior of the actual climate. I have yet to see any observational/measurable evidence for climate to behave chaotically, but I can absolutely see where a climate model would be replete with it. Is this perception of a difference between model climate behavior vs. actual climate behavior reasonable? If not, why not? Have I missed some evidence?

    Oh, one more thing about the Q&A that I do appreciate, I do have children and grand children and a fairly demanding job, so please forgive me if my posts are few and far between. I mean no disrespect!

    Comment by John W — 28 Jan 2011 @ 11:57 PM

  63. Thomas Kuhn did a great dis-service to science and to civilization as do Ryghaug and Skjølsvold. But Thomas Kuhn started the nonsense. Since Thomas Kuhn was supposedly a physicist, it is hard to understand why he failed to understand general relativity and quantum mechanics as extensions of classical physics.

    The harm is that non-scientists lost respect for science in general. Thomas Kuhn made science out to be just another humanities. It isn’t so. The invention of science is the greatest invention ever made.

    Thomas Kuhn turned scientists, especially climate scientists, into Cassandras. Recall that Cassandra was able to predict the future but nobody believed her. If civilization is to be saved, people must believe what scientists tell them.

    Of course the Koch brothers are more to blame than Thomas Kuhn. And Thomas Kuhn is ancient history. I’m not assigning percentages.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 29 Jan 2011 @ 2:07 AM

  64. John W – “The buffering works right now and on geologic time scales

    And yet the pH of the oceans has dropped 0.1 units (close to 30%) in the last couple of hundred years.

    It would take a concerted effort on humanity’s part to neutralize the ocean

    Neutralizing the oceans?. What does such a ludicrous assertion have to do with concern over ocean acidification?. Sounds very much like trolling to me. Not Pat Frank are you?.

    Comment by Dappledwater — 29 Jan 2011 @ 2:35 AM

  65. John W (#42, on the chaotic climate)

    A key issue related to your question is whether there is a possible sensitive dependence to initial conditions, internal to the climate system, which is sufficient to swamp the forcing provided by large increases in CO2 on decadal to millennial timescales. By “large increases” I refer to the order doubling or more of CO2 expected over the coming century and beyond. Similarly, what can observations (or proxy reconstructions) tell us about the “chaotic” nature of the climate system?

    When you include the fully coupled climate system, with an atmosphere, mixed layer and deep ocean I see no a priori theoretical reason why the climate should not exhibit some sort of chaotic behavior. We do in fact see predictability loss on timescales of years with ENSO for example, although how an El Nino or La Nina evolves and decays is fairly well known once it gets going. While this can affect how individual years rank on a top 10 list (by altering the tropical/global mean temperature) it is not going to fundamentally change the temperature increase due to some persistent external forcing. The general working hypothesis is that climate change can be largely thought of as a function of related forcings on the system and associated feedbacks, and it’s these parameters which conspire to create the characteristics of the new climate regime. In this respect, no evidence exists to suggest that any initial-condition sensitivity is present which is important enough to compromise projections of statistical changes due to large rises in anthropogenic GHG’s in the near future. This might be a bit different in past climates (especially those with lots of ice, although I’m still very skeptical of this), but no model rapidly produces climate changes comparable to that seen by a doubling of CO2 with Holocene-like boundary conditions.

    Observationally, the Holocene provides rather good evidence of stability. It might be interesting to see how things may have changed if civilization started a bit earlier or something, but it’s hard to see how the stability property associated with the post-glacial climate would change. The past climate record in turn is filled with instances where we can turn to fairly well understood physical causes (usually CO2 being involved) to explain a climate anomaly…glacial-interglacial cycles being paced by orbital variations for instance, or the PETM forced by CO2 rise. I have not seen much evidence to require invoking chaotic behavior to explain these things.

    Climate projections in turn involve many runs with slightly different initial conditions, and the ensemble runs do fluctuate about the mean, but the trend is a robust feature of a CO2 rise (and the difference between the ensemble members relative to the trend is quite small). Any good model has weather in it, and indeed the problem of weather prediction is largely about the assimilation of data to best initialize a model to see how the atmosphere evolves over the course of a week. Climate predictability however concerns the statistical features of the system and how they evolve in time. For example, the projections for a ~2-5 deg C/2xCO2 have not not significantly changes in many decades. In that regard, I see no fundamental disagreement between models or obs as your question implies.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 29 Jan 2011 @ 2:54 AM

  66. John W, is this all familiar?
    http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/oa/description/oaps_intro_oa.html

    All: this animation from that page is worth passing around:
    http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/oa/description/figures/PAGE_3_CO2pH_animation_small.gif

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Jan 2011 @ 6:01 AM

  67. Michael W:

    If you can’t accept the possibility that you are wrong, or that you have been misled, then you are beyond hope. You have set your opinions in stone and you don’t care that the foundations are a pack of lies.

    That’s not a situation any reasonable person wants to be in, which is why we always question everything – particularly our own opinions and beliefs. Why do we think what we do? Are our assumptions correct? Or are we just using a statement by “some organisation” as an excuse to believe what we prefer to believe?

    I know it’s not a nice thought to consider that our opinions have been twisted without our knowledge or consent. But shying away from it and pretending it didn’t happen is no answer at all.

    And please make no mistake: from everything you have said here, we know beyond doubt that you have been misled on many important details. Whatever authorities or media sources you are getting your information from, some of them are lying to you, and you are choosing to believe the lies rather than deal with science.

    As someone who repeatedly calls out the “warmists” when they loudly make silly claims that the science does not support, or twist the probabilities of future events, you won’t get any traction with me by making vague claims of alarmism. RealClimate are just as vigorous in their defence of science against exaggeration, as recent posts can prove.

    Try to deal with the scientific reality, not some constructed version of what you think climate change is because you dislike the idea of climate change so it must be a preposterous thing. That’s no logic at all.

    Comment by Didactylos — 29 Jan 2011 @ 6:45 AM

  68. John W:

    False analogy. When someone tells you the building is on fire, you GET OUT. No matter how loudly you are told. You don’t say “Hey, stop using high pressure tactics, I’ll get out of the building when I have decided for myself. Now excuse me while I go and play with matches.”

    Also, have you ever considered some of the genuine past global alarms? What happened to that ozone hole? Oh yes! We banned CFCs, now the hole isn’t a scary problem any more.

    No doubt you will counter with some flaky false alarm, and try to compare it to climate change. But you know that won’t fly – climate change isn’t a storm in a teacup.

    Comment by Didactylos — 29 Jan 2011 @ 6:53 AM

  69. A ‘media person’ for many years, I agree with much of your comment on the media, especially the claim that \the media itself does not practice openness and transparency\.

    Then again, how open is the research community if I have to pay US$34.00 to read the paper by Marianne Ryghaug and Tomas Moe Skjoslashlsvold?

    Comment by Michael Kenward — 29 Jan 2011 @ 7:18 AM

  70. Re: #62 (John W)

    I think you’ve got it backwards. We all accept that weather is chaotic. But not climate.

    [Response: It's worth pointing out that whether climate is chaotic (perhaps as a function of the base state) is very much an open question. Climate models as currently configured are not chaotic in their climate properties - neither the mean global temperature, nor the climate sensitivity etc. exhibit a sensitive dependence on the initial conditions, neither am I aware of more than a couple of cases where there are real multiple equilibria. However, as we add feedbacks to the system (in particular dynamic ice sheets and isostatic rebound), it is not clear that this will remain the case for long timescales. From the real world, people have argued that the Stage 3 glacial period (from ~100,000 years ago to 20,000 yrs ago) appears to have chaotic elements (i.e. the D/O events), but it's very hard to tell. For short time periods (say, centennial), these issues aren't particularly relevant. - gavin]

    Comment by tamino — 29 Jan 2011 @ 7:27 AM

  71. John W – “I’m not a geologist or a climatologist, but if someone requests raw data from my lab (process chemical / environmental); I’d better produce it PDQ or be updating my resume’.?”

    Has your lab been subjected to a coordinated FOI attack where 60 FOI requests were received on one weekend?

    Comment by Alan of Oz — 29 Jan 2011 @ 7:59 AM

  72. John W,

    I’ll let others tackle the science. But this particular statement of yours really bothered me:

    IMHO, its people like me that you’ll have to convince for popular support for action on AGW and obvious zohnerism won’t fly. For every one like me in this country there are a couple hundred ordinary people who’ll believe those like me over anything in the media simply because they know us personally.

    If you honestly believe this to be true (and it well could be), then you have taken on a huge, huge responsibility. Those hundred people will talk to another hundred people or more. Your own position will sway many, many people, and it could be the people like you that ultimately make the difference in getting this right and getting things done.

    So, you go on to say:

    I’m as open minded as the next person…

    You damned well better be more open minded than “the next person,” because people are habitually closed minded. They have to be, to handle the plethora of problems and information and decisions that come at them daily. People need to be fairly selective about when and where they “open” their minds, in order to avoid overload.

    So if you think you have all of this power, you also have a huge, huge responsibility. You need to get this right, and you can’t react emotionally with attitudes like treating scientists as if they are salesmen trying to pressure you into making a deal (and what, by the way, do they make in the way of commission?).

    You also can’t afford to misunderstand basic issues such as the acidification of the ocean, or how climate models work.

    You damned well better truly accept your responsibility and do a considerably better job at learning and understanding than you’re doing now. You hold a vast amount of power, and you can’t afford the level of hubris and “educated ignorance” that you’ve demonstrated so far.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 29 Jan 2011 @ 10:27 AM

  73. John W.,
    Wow, a strongly stated position…and 100% evidence free. All you have done is construct a Just-So Story for how you think climate science could have gone wrong without even bothering to verify that what you think bears any relationship to reality. I am curious as to how your allegation of groupthink would manifest itself across thousands of scientists in hundreds of institutions and across 7 continents. Neat trick that. It is particularly interesting that you think this despite the fact that all of these institutions and scientists are in competition with each other to understand the climate, and indeed, that they have been very successful in doing so. In particular, they have been MUCH more successful than the few scientists reamining in the denialist camp.

    As to your suggestion that climate behaves chaotically, I am wondering where you got that–certainly not from Weart. Certainly there is no evidence that climate exhibits chaotic behavior about its current state subject to small perturbations. I appreciate that you are busy, but perhaps it would be a good idea to re-read Weart, this time with an eye toward comprehension.

    I would also urge you to look at evidence relating to climate rather than attempt sociological analysis of scientists. The utter failure of many professionals in STS to comprehend how scientific cultures function ought to serve as a caution to amateurs in doing so.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Jan 2011 @ 10:58 AM

  74. John W,

    This made it into the Bore Hole (with the rest of a comment). It’s OT, but I thought it worth addressing:

    A hint about ocean acidification: alkalinity not pH. (No, they’re not the same thing.)

    The addition of CO2 to the ocean does not change alkalinity. It only changes pH.

    The addition of CaCO3 (through geologic changes) does change alkalinity.

    But the two mechanisms are very different, and we’re engaged in the former, not the latter.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 29 Jan 2011 @ 11:40 AM

  75. Michael W. wrote: “My opinions were conceived when an organization claimed ‘the world is ending’.”

    If by “the world” you mean the rich, diverse, thriving, relatively stable biosphere and climate system within which the human species, and in particular human civilization, evolved and upon which we are utterly dependent, that world has already ended.

    We are living in a different world NOW — a globally warmed world, in which the consequences of the warming we have already caused are rapidly emerging, and in which rapid and extreme warming continues as our CO2 emissions increase year after year. And the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence tells us that this new and different world will be far, far less hospitable to human civilization, to the human species, and indeed to the entire biosphere.

    I understand that it is easier to “conceive the opinion” that this cannot be true, than to deal with it.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 29 Jan 2011 @ 11:57 AM

  76. RE: #65 Chris Colose
    Thank you, that’s exactly what I needed to know.

    Comment by John W — 29 Jan 2011 @ 12:18 PM

  77. RE: #66 Hank Roberts

    You are in an echo chamber, take a chemistry class.

    RE: 68 Didactylos

    False Reality! OK, using your analogy: 1988 Hansen says the theater is on fire if we do nothing then “A” the theater will burn down; if use fire extinguishers then “B” the theater will not be completely burned but will be irreparably damaged; or turn on the sprinkler system and then “C” the theater will be saved.

    Yet, we did nothing and the theater didn’t burn down, so was Hansen’s 1988 shouting about saving the people in the theater or selling some popcorn?

    [Response: Look, this kind of made-up hand-waving just doesn't cut it here. The scientific papers are all online and can be checked by anyone - and nothing in them corresponds to your strawman caricature. Either ground your comments in reality or go elsewhere. - gavin]

    Ok on to another disaster track record. BP oil spill. From day one I was fielding outrages concerns people had heard in the media (admittedly I don’t know whether they came from scientists or not). I told people the microorganisms would take care of it and it would not reach NC coast; and the “worst disaster ever” whimpered away.

    Comment by John W — 29 Jan 2011 @ 12:37 PM

  78. Kevin McKinney (#11):

    –I’m struck by the observation that Scafetta & West, etc., etc., haven’t released their data and/or software. I’d actually forgotten the Scafetta brouhaha. It’s still the only such I’ve heard about, as far as I can recall–have there been others?
    Certainly the denialist blogosphere will never ask for the release of such details; in their view it’s unnecessary because opposition to some conclusion or facet of the mainstream science on AGW is the only meaningful criterion for validity.

    Indeed. One wonders what will happen when it becomes common knowledge in the blogosphere that the ‘statistics’ in the Wegman Report were about as accurate and original as the plagiarised text. I suspect the deniers will just ignore the facts, as usual, because they are inconvenient. Deep Climate has a thorough analysis here:

    Replication and due diligence, Wegman style

    It turns out that McIntyre overcooked the persistence in his ‘trendless red noise’ by using ARFIMA rather than “AR(1) with parameter = 0.2″ as Wegman assumed. Then McIntyre cherry-picked a sample consisting of the 100 most upturning hockey sticks out of a run of 10000 and archived them. It was 12 of these that Wegman chose to show in his report. So he didn’t even check McIntyre’s work. And how was this discovered? McIntyre archived (some of) his code from M&M05 right here:

    ftp://ftp.agu.org/apend/gl/2004GL021750/

    The Auditor gets audited and pwned. How fitting. I suppose it was only a matter of time. Of course, McIntyre is swearing that he used AR(1) to generate the red noise. But then where did Wegman get all those hockey sticks that are pixel-perfect identical to McIntyre’s from, hmm? Because Deep Climate shows that if you use AR1(.2), you sure don’t get hockey sticked shaped PC1s like Wegman is showing.

    I tried pointing this out on WUWT when it first came to light a few months ago. Silly me for even trying :-(

    Comment by Steve Metzler — 29 Jan 2011 @ 12:39 PM

  79. John W:

    That’s called stretching an analogy until it breaks. You can do it with any analogy. The point is to illustrate some fact or point. If the analogy matched exactly, then the analogy wouldn’t be an analogy any more.

    But as for the bits of your comment that could be imagined to be fact – well, you’re just wrong. Hansen never said that it would be “game over” by 2011. No. His actual forecasts were very close to the reality that followed.

    But thank you for attacking Hansen like that. It made it clear that you are a know-nothing denier, here to annoy people, rather than here to learn or debate.

    Comment by Didactylos — 29 Jan 2011 @ 2:42 PM

  80. Re: facts and constructs

    Keep in mind that the “facts” under “construction” here are not settled physical laws, like gravity, nor discoveries on a par with penicillin or the PV effect. At issue in the email exchanges R&S studied was what various proxies tell us about the climate of the past. The proxies, laboriously assembled, were of various kinds, with different strengths and weaknesses; there were various corrections that had to be applied, and different ways of processing the data statistically. The field was in rapid development, the correspondents were among the principals in that field, and they championed different approaches; in short, these were “facts in the making”.

    There are so many different sources of data and so many ways of interpreting them, that there is much space for disagreements and no single set of logical criteria that allows for easy closure of the controversy. In this situation, whether a finding is convincing seems to depend just as much on ‘wise use’ of the data as on the data themselves and the tools that are mobilized to interpret them. (Ryghaug and Skjølsvold, p. 297)

    Moreover, there was a pressing social demand for clear-cut scientific advice forcing the point. So there was vigorous debate over what findings to present, how to present them and how to deal with the uncertainties.

    To speak of the “construction” of facts through “persuasion” here is hardly to deny independent physical reality or to raise any deep epistemological challenge to the truth claims of science. “Construction” here goes on in constant dialog with the data and allows for successive approximation of scientific knowledge to a reality “out there” — at least that’s how I choose to construct (!) R&S’ subheading, “Working to Improve the Construction of Climate Science Facts”.

    Comment by CM — 29 Jan 2011 @ 3:27 PM

  81. Warmcast,

    Glad to hear that I misunderstood you. (I don’t think the misunderstanding was one between two cultures, though!) Anyway, that’s a cool greenhouse effect simulator on your site.

    Edward (#18, 63),

    Before you grandly denounce someone for doing civilization a disservice, don’t you think you should at least read what they actually say, in context? (That’s what we do in the humanities, you know. Look up sources and work to understand them, then draw conclusions.)

    Gneiss (#23),

    Uh, nice of you to stick up for the social sciences. But there is no conflict between a social-constructionist perspective and “discovery, hypothesis testing, and replication” in social science research in general. The original theoretical framework (Berger and Luckmann) was about the social construction of social reality — institutions, roles, and the knowledge about them. I submit that we can study social phenomena in this framework without subscribing to the idea that physical reality is a social construction, and without necessarily granting social factors a significant influence on the construction of most scientific knowledge about physical reality.

    Comment by CM — 29 Jan 2011 @ 3:41 PM

  82. Rasmus writes:

    “One real difference between the ‘tribes’ of natural scientists and STS scholars may be the perception of ‘facts’: Ryghaug and Skjølsvold conclude that “scientific facts are made and not just discovered”. In contrast, I think most natural scientists feel that facts are facts, whether we know about them or not.”

    If the natural scientists really think this, then they are wrong, and I’m not sure they do really think it.

    For example, lets take a global average annual temperature for year X. This figure seems to me to be massively “constructed”. Nobody has a single thermometer that gives you it. Instead, a thousand point measurements are adjusted, massaged, and otherwised fiddled with so that the one figure can be produced. Yet I would say it is nevertheless a fact.

    [Response: I'm not quite sure what you're saying here. The point is that whatever number we come up with for the global mean temperature, is not the "fact" we are referring to. That's simply an estimate of some unknown value which we know, conceptually, must exist--and which if we define it precisely and can carry out the necessary measurements that derive from that definition--we can discover, to some stated degree of accuracy and precision. That is the "fact" that scientists are after. To come up with a single value from a number of other values is not the "construction" to which these authors (apparently), and the postmodernists in general, are referring. The latter are alluding to something entirely more radical--essentially that there are nothing but opinions, which we construct from our thoughts and language, which in turn are the products of our culture. Everything essentially spins out of our heads and mouths. Most physical and biological scientists reject this idea as utter nonsense.--Jim]

    That’s all that saying that facts are in some sense “made” need necessarily imply. There are some sociologists who write as though there is something more sinister at stake–that our broader political ideology drives the way we “make” the facts. Someone like S. Fuller comes to mind. But it needn’t be taken to imply that; these words are meant to suggest the idea of LABOUR as much as INVENTION.

    This might be of some importance, given the misunderstandings of a few science journalists like Fred Pearce, who thought that the fact that nobody ever asked Phil Jones for his “raw data” signified a breakdown in peer review. But why would anybody want to re-do the work Jones already put into his data set? This would only be useful if Jones had been incompetent or a member of some kind of worldwide Marxist conspiracy. Which of course he wasn’t, so why bother?

    [Response: There's nothing wrong with asking for data, raw or otherwise. Data should be as freely available as possible for science to advance. The problem is how it gone about with respect to the various restrictions, publication rights, time and money constraints and other particularities that the requester needs to understand before going off in a self-absorbed tizzy.--Jim]

    PS. Are you supposed to need a PHD to enter the correct Captcha code? Yours are HARD.

    Comment by bigcitylib — 29 Jan 2011 @ 3:48 PM

  83. Hank Roberts:

    All: this animation from that page is worth passing around:
    http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/oa/description/figures/PAGE_3_CO2pH_animation_small.gif

    Or there’s the larger version.

    Comment by Greg Simpson — 29 Jan 2011 @ 3:56 PM

  84. John W.
    I am curious. If the fire alarm did actually go off in a theatre, would you insist on staying until you could actually see the flames and smoke and it is possibly too late to get out.
    I know that isn’t the recommended procedure, but I suspect you would be in the running to win a Darwin award for that approach.

    Andrew

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 30 Jan 2011 @ 5:54 AM

  85. Re. 49 Didactylos.

    Frank, of Decoding Swifthack, came across a graphic by Heartland of how they operate. Very instructive as a concise summary.

    http://ijish.livejournal.com/29235.html

    Comment by J Bowers — 30 Jan 2011 @ 6:37 AM

  86. John W wrote: “Ok, just look at the track record of such ASSERTIONS.”

    What “track record” of what “ASSERTIONS”? It’s difficult to “look at” it if you don’t specify what you are talking about.

    The “assertion” that comes to my mind as in some ways closest to AGW, is the anthropogenic deterioration of the ozone layer. And the “track record” in that case is that the warnings were heeded, and appropriate action was taken, and a global catastrophe was averted.

    So what, specifically, are you talking about?

    John W wrote: “Tell me what you do when a salesman tells you ‘buy it now or you’ll miss out’?”

    It is interesting, and I think revealing, that you frame this in terms of a “salesman” trying to get you to “buy” something.

    Who is it that you think is trying to “sell” you something?

    Climate scientists are not trying to “sell” you anything.

    Climate scientists are not analogous to salesmen, they are analogous to doctors, telling you that you have early signs of lung cancer and you really must quit smoking cigarettes or you will soon develop irreversible, untreatable cancer and die a horrible, premature death.

    And at this point, you’ve gotten a lot of opinions from a lot of doctors, and 97 percent of them are telling you the same thing.

    Meanwhile, the tobacco companies are telling you there’s no problem, your hacking cough is just the result of “natural causes”, there’s no need to be hasty about giving up your smokes, and by the way, all of the doctors you’ve consulted are no more to be trusted than used car salesmen.

    And you believe the tobacco companies — because you are a “skeptic”.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Jan 2011 @ 10:56 AM

  87. Re: fact and social construction

    Spencer Weart said in the section of “Reflections” in the book “The Discovery of Global Warming” (2003):
    “Certainly, in a restricted sense, one could call the … understanding of climate change a product of human society. We should not call it nothing but a social product.”

    I think that this view resonates with the view of Thomas Kuhn as I learned from the posthumous collection of his philosophical essays “The Road since Structure” published in 2000. I think that his description of science conforms what scientists conceive science themselves.

    Epistemology of Kuhn is basically Kantian. The world as “thing-in-itself” is real, but we cannot directly describe it. What we can recognize are phenomena, which result from interactions between the world and ourselves. In a sense, facts are constructed by us, but then we face resistance by thing-in-itself so that we cannot arbitrarily construct them.

    Among human efforts to recognize the world, science is special in the methodology that a group of people share their way of recognition, i.e. share so-called their paradigm. The paradigm of a group may not be easily translated to the paradigm of another, here arises the issue of incommensurability.

    I disagree with Gary Hastein’s and Edward Gleisch’s understanding of Kuhn’s thoughts, though I admit that Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolution” is an ambiguous book which may be interpreted in their ways.

    By the way …

    I have found a sad fact that a Japanese environmentalist read the Japanese edition of Mosher and Fuller’s book, and wrote “It was revealed … that IPCC … had systematically hid the fact … that global mean temperature had not risen since 1998″ in an otherwise respectable book on the history of interaction between nature and mankind in Japan just published. This seems to be an example of “nothing but a social constraction of ‘fact’” which became considered as real fact by some.

    Comment by Kooiti Masuda — 30 Jan 2011 @ 11:21 AM

  88. > salesman
    There’s your mistake: listening to salesmen.
    Listen to scientists.
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=crutzen+ozone+lucky

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Jan 2011 @ 11:37 AM

  89. 24, Ray Ladbury: First, a scientific theory is not so much a social construct as an explanatory tool and guide to direct future research. Second, the reason “incorrect” theories persist is more because measurements are not sufficiently precise to highlight the incorrectness.

    Scientific knowledge is both an explanatory tool (“accurate”, “useful”, “true” in the sense of accuracy as in a “true” plumb line), and socially constructed. Social scientists who study the social construction of science (who like to emphasize things like the Einstein-Bohr debates and the communications among members of the “invisible” colleges), merely focus on the social interactions. Like other scientists, they start (as here) with fragmentary and biased evidence, and formulate ideas that they share with other sociologists of science, and socially construct a knowledge of the processes in a particular discipline at a particular time.

    Even the most self-sufficient or solitary of scientists, like Newton and Einstein, have been fully aware of the other scientists of their time (“shoulders of giants” for Newton, patent examinations and collegial discussions for Einstein — to select just a few.)

    The article highlighted in this thread is not the last word, merely the first, or among the first. I am sure that it will be followed by many more examinations of the social interactions of climate scientists.

    Of all the socially constructed belief systems, “science” is the best for understanding nature. But it is certainly socially constructed.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 30 Jan 2011 @ 12:24 PM

  90. Ok; so science needs selling. But don’t get too embroiled in the \climategate\ thing, please. Remember the ride we’re all on: the rollercoaster to Armageddon!

    Comment by dougdevos — 30 Jan 2011 @ 12:33 PM

  91. Call it second rate postmodernism, fear-based tribalism or whatever you want, thinking you can magically make up reality and force it on the world is bogus whether you’re into bad philosophy, Carlos Castañeda, or narcissistic oligarchy. It infects our society top to bottom, and that’s a big problem IMO.

    Speaking of opining, here’s something in the Guardian:

    Reheating the climate change story
    “The media have dropped climate change, with its tricky science. But cast in economic terms, it could recapture public interest”

    “…As a revealing snapshot, 5,000 journalists attended the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit, whereas only 2,000 accredited journalists attended last month’s COP 16 climate-change summit in Cancún. But beyond the number of gumshoe journalists patrolling the climate change beat, the plummet in coverage also came about because global warming is no longer perceived as novel and dramatic. Climate change is a slow-burning tick-tocker of an issue marked by incrementalism, slathered in arcane science, and often lacking whipsaw political theatre. The “hottest-year-on-record” media morsel hasn’t held its fresh taste…

    “…The downturn in the quantity of climate change media coverage is no small matter, since it affects public perceptions about the seriousness of climate change: if an issue does not remain on the public’s mental fingertips, concern dwindles and urgency becomes overkill. Plus, it allows our elected leaders to squirm off the political hotseat. But as the world burns, quality matters, too, and journalists have – right there, in front of them – a short-term solution to the quandary of covering climate change: economists who can lend climate disruption the gravitas and drama it deserves.”

    “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
    Philip K. Dick

    Comment by Radge Havers — 30 Jan 2011 @ 1:37 PM

  92. > socially constructed

    But do you listen to the people around you when the little voices in your head are telling you otherwise? There’s a judgment call involved here.

    “As astronomer Carl Sagan and his wife and co-author Ann Druyan noted, science is like a little voice in our heads that says, You might be mistaken. You’ve been wrong before.”

    The context in which Philip Dick wrote that memorable sentence quoted above is at least cautionary: How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Jan 2011 @ 4:11 PM

  93. Bigcitylib,
    Conventions and metrics are constructs. They are standards, and as a very wise woman (my wife) once said, “A standard need not be ‘the best’. It need only be repeatable.”

    So, the temperature of a geographic region or even of the planet is a construct–a standard. The time series of that standard is a fact, just as assuredly as the pencil marks recording the height of your child as she grows up are facts, but the units in which you record the measures are constructs.

    So, if we are to say that scientific facts are constructs, we are not fully conveying that those constructs convey information that constrains our models and allows us to understand mechanisms. It is true, we could be using other constructs, but the time series constructed from the same simple measurements must contain the same information or one of us is wrong. The fact that there is a right way and a wrong way to develop a statistic is what makes scientific facts–even complicated ones–more than mere social constructs. This is what many STS types do not understand, and it is the fallacious basis from which beret-wearing wankers potificate about science being just “another way of knowing.”

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Jan 2011 @ 4:37 PM

  94. #86
    I think the cigarette analogy is slightly off. What climate scientists are telling people is that if they don’t taper off smoking as fast as they can, their next few generations of descendants will be born:

    a) Already addicted to nicotine.
    b) At birth, suffering the same level of effects as their parents at that time, i.e., each successive generation will be worse for a while.

    I.e. think of secondhand smoke building up in the atmosphere rather than dissipating.

    Comment by John Mashey — 30 Jan 2011 @ 7:01 PM

  95. “I told people the microorganisms would take care of it and it would not reach NC coast; and the “worst disaster ever” whimpered away.” John W — 29 Jan 2011 @ 12:37 PM

    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es103838p?journalCode=esthag
    “Here we show that DOSS was sequestered in deepwater hydrocarbon plumes at 1000−1200 m water depth and did not intermingle with surface dispersant applications. Further, its concentration distribution was consistent with conservative transport and dilution at depth and it persisted up to 300 km from the well, 64 days after deepwater dispersant applications ceased. We conclude that DOSS was selectively associated with the oil and gas phases in the deepwater plume, yet underwent negligible, or slow, rates of biodegradation in the affected waters.”

    http://www.thenation.com/article/157723/search-bps-oil (a report on a science cruise to see what’s happening with oil and the environment in the Gulf of Mexico)
    “In November Penn State biologist Charles Fisher led a NOAA-sponsored expedition that found colonies of ancient sea fans and other coral coated in brown sludge, 1,400 meters down. Nearly all the coral in the area was “dead or in the process of dying,” Fisher told me. And he echoed something I heard from many other scientists: in a career of studying these creatures, he has never seen anything like this.”
    “Sure enough, after the sediment is put through a battery of chemical tests, Hollander has his results. “Without question, it’s petroleum hydrocarbons.” The thick black layers are, he says, “rich in hydrocarbons,” with the remains of plants and bacteria mixed in. The fluffy brown top layer has less oil and more plant particles, but the oil is definitely there. It will be weeks or even months before Hollander can trace the oil to BP’s well, but since he has found BP’s oil at this location in the DeSoto Canyon before, that confirmation is likely. If we are fishing for oil, as Hollander had joked, this is definitely a big one.”

    It took 4 years after the Exxon Valdez spill for the herring stocks to collapse, and they still haven’t recovered because of the long term changes in the ecosystem.

    http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_072710/content/01125109.guest.html “See, I Told You So: Oil Disappears”
    Not your best source of scientific information.

    *****************
    “For example, lets take a global average annual temperature for year X. This figure seems to me to be massively “constructed”. Nobody has a single thermometer that gives you it. Instead, a thousand point measurements are adjusted, massaged, and otherwised fiddled with so that the one figure can be produced.” bigcitylib — 29 Jan 2011 @ 3:48 PM

    The figure scientists produce from all those measurements isn’t reality. There is a reality that is the global average temperature for the year. The figure scientists come up with is a measurement that is the best estimate of what the real average temperature was, with a certain number of decimal places, but reality operates with many orders of magnitude more decimal places. Our “constructed” measurements of reality will always have errors – that is the fundamental difference between measuring and counting. Some things that theoretically could be counted, like the number of molecules in a mole of water, are measured instead, by weighing, to a usually known accuracy. Others, like the number of molecules in the earth’s atmosphere, have to be estimated by combining a series of measurements; average sea level pressure, area of the earth’s surface, average composition and molecular weight of the atmosphere. All those measurements have errors, so the final estimate of the number is inaccurate, but it’s about 10^44 molecules. But we don’t need to measure the energy of each of those molecules to see how much warming CO2 is causing. With just ~10^4 thermometers, or ~40,000 individual 1.1 degree FOV satellite radiometer measurements, and enough adjusting, massaging, and heavy duty mathematical fiddling, the global average temperature can be approximated. The agreement between the two methods is pretty remarkable proof that we are measuring rising global average temperature.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 30 Jan 2011 @ 10:18 PM

  96. Ray Ladbury #93
    Thanks(to you and your wife) for hitting the nail squarely on the head and driving it flush with the board in a few perfectly chosen words. Really enjoy all your comments, but this one deserves a public thanks.

    Comment by Rich Creager — 31 Jan 2011 @ 7:41 AM

  97. Septic Matthew wrote: “Social scientists who study the social construction of science … who like to emphasize things like the Einstein-Bohr debates …”

    The Einstein-Bohr debates go much deeper than the “social construction of science”. They address fundamental questions about the nature of physical reality, and were really driven by Einstein’s reluctance to accept facts that were not in accord with his concepts about how reality “should” be.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 31 Jan 2011 @ 11:15 AM

  98. Uh-oh, cultural deconstructivism. A few months ago some denialists, when I asked for peer-reviewed proof against AGW, included such a study on their list: Myanna Lahsen (not a climate scientist). 2005. “Seductive Simulations? Uncertainty Distribution around Climate Models,” Social Studies of Science 35(6):895-922, 2005 (see http://sss.sagepub.com/content/35/6/895.abstract ). To which friends here at RC pointed to another article by Lahsen that deconstructed denialists: 2008. “Experiences of modernity in the greenhouse: A cultural analysis of a physicist ‘trio’ supporting the backlash against global warming.” Global Environmental Change 18:204-219 (see. So at least she is “balanced.”
    Social scientists follow different assumptions.

    Without taking the time to read their work, it seems to me that Ryghaug and Skjolsvold are ideological determinists — they think human behavior is determined by culture & ideology. There are also material determinists — the Marxists & neoclassical (capitalist) economists who think all is determined by economics (which is actually social determinism), and those who think all is determined by the environment and/or technological level (technology actually being more of the cultural realm). The ideological determinists seem to be winning the day, maybe because they have the most fancy and contorted language and can claim all knowledge is a sociocultural construction (what about theirs ???).

    So now the American Anthropological Association is even changing their mission statement to delete the word “science” and replace it with “study.” We environmental anthropologists were fiercely discussing this on our listserve, because at least we rely on science to tell us what happening out there in the material world.

    My own social science assumption is a multidimensional framework of analytically (not concretely) distinct dimensions. I see the human condition as impacted by the environmental, biological, psychological, social, and cultural dimensions, with each interpenetrating the others and the whole, and none being a sole determinant. Because of this interpenetration of dimensions it only seems, I suggest, that any one of these dimensions is sole determinant of the others & the whole, depending on the researchers biases. Often two dimensions are conflated for explanatory power, as in Foucault’s conflation of power (social) and knowledge (cultural) in his famous dictum: “Power is knowledge” (how about what’s out there, like the environment, as an additional, if not sole basis for knowledge???). Of course, even with this multidimensional approach a particular study to be logistically feasible would have to hold most dimensions and variables within them constant, so psychologists might talk about “the reality principle” — which is all the other non-psychological dimensions and variables.

    What we really need are many more sociocultural deconstructions of the denialists, in addition to Lahsen’s, and include other dimensions – like power, economic, ideological, and psychological factors.

    Anyway, don’t be too bothered by qualitative hermeneutic interpretive studies, which cannot in any way establish proof the way quantitative studies can, but only offer well and poorly thought out hypotheses and wild guesses. Ryghaug and Skjolsvold have proved nothing, except that they forgot to look at what scientists do on the job, aside from emailing each other.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnatnathan — 31 Jan 2011 @ 12:49 PM

  99. 97, SecularAnimist: The Einstein-Bohr debates go much deeper than the “social construction of science”.

    That is true but it doesn’t contradict what I wrote. The science that Einstein was disputing was itself socially constructed, much of it in interactions at Bohr’s institute in Copenhagen, and much of it through letters, publications, reviews of publications, and so on.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 31 Jan 2011 @ 12:54 PM

  100. Course Einstein’s reluctance to accept things his perspicacious scientific intuition struggled with also included Newtonian mechanics. To imply other than a dearth of omniscience and capacity for error is to distort history and one person’s place in it. Not to mention, who knows what will come of string theory- he could yet prove the prescient.

    Anyway. This whole thing is just opportunism dressed up as academic inquiry. As if it were even possible for any academic not to understand that the hacked emails ‘meant’ little more than that what happens in our field writ large is a lot like what happens in theirs (minus, or course, the profound smear & sow doubt & disbelief campaign devised and bankrolled by a good cross-section of the most powerful and corrupt special interests on this earth).

    Comment by Majorajam — 31 Jan 2011 @ 2:15 PM

  101. Another thought. What we also need — in addition to deconstruction of denialist and social deconstructionist arguments and claims — is deconstruction of climate science in the opposite direction (on the other side of denialism).

    For instance, what is this 95% confidence, the old golden .05 p-value of significance (on the null)? What is this null business anyway? For one thing my methods/stats students find it very difficult to learn and absorb, and some think I’m fooling them that it’s a standard way of doing science, whether physical or social; some even get mad at me.

    Even if there is “only” 10% confidence (the old .90 prob on the null) that AGW is real and dangerous to life on planet earth, we should have long ago been hopping to it and mitigating it….assuming anyone out there values life on planet earth, their progeny, and their own fate. We buy home insurance on far less probability of our homes burning down to a crisp.

    See, I even fall victim to this ridiculous framing that the argument is between the scientists and denialists. How about the concerned & conscientious people, and the victims and potential victims of AGW? Their voices never seem to be heard.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnatnathan — 31 Jan 2011 @ 2:41 PM

  102. And BTW, “tribe” is actually a compliment in my books. It’s the sociopolitical level of society in which members are roughly equal regarding access to power, wealth, and prestige; and if they have leaders, these leaders do not have real power, only influence; they are persons that are considered wise, good, and respected by the people; and if they violate that trust and respect, they are replaced by other leaders.

    I’d think it would be more of an insult to say a group of people is a chiefdom or state — which are hierarchical, unequal (some might say oppressive, esp true of states), with leaders that have life & death power over the people.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnatnathan — 31 Jan 2011 @ 2:51 PM

  103. Septic Matthew, The Bohr-Einstein debates were more a mater of philosophy of science than physics. The formalism of quantum theory was pretty well determined. The question was whether it represented a complete description and what the probabilistic nature of the theory meant. They really didn’t change one thing about the science. The one exception may have been the Einstin-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox, which explicitly made the weirdness of quantum entanglement manifest.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 Jan 2011 @ 3:22 PM

  104. 102, Ray Ladbury: The Bohr-Einstein debates were more a mater of philosophy of science than physics.

    I wrote that scientific knowledge is both socially constructed and accurate. An episode in the social construction includes Bohr’s counter arguments to Einstein’s criticisms, and the intense interest paid to those arguments by the other scientists. Among the debate points, asserted by Einstein and refuted by Bohr, was the possibility that Bohr’s interpretation was inconsistent with general relativity. You are not saying, I hope, that the content of their debate disputes either the social construction of scientific knowledge or its accuracy.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 31 Jan 2011 @ 8:37 PM

  105. Michael W:

    Point 1 is nonsense. A young science does not mean a wrong science.

    Points2 & 3 could have been worded better, but I do sympathise with what I think you are trying to say.

    We have serious problems now, concentrating on something that will happen at some point down the line can seem trivial compared to the daily grind.

    I seem to remember hearing that last year was the highest year for emissions on record while I was under the impression we had been reducing them like crazy. (Doesn’t instil much faith in those who do make the decisions, eh Gavin?)

    What’s the man on the street supposed to do?

    Comment by Barry — 1 Feb 2011 @ 8:57 AM

  106. Septic Matthew,
    First, quantum mechanics is a nonlocal theory, while GR is inherently local, so there is a tension. Second,the question of whether two theories are consistent is more philosophical than scientific–unless the debate proposes tests to determine which one is correct. Indeed, you need to remember that Mach cast a much longer shadow than he does today, so it was not even clear whether two theories that applied in different regimes needed to be consistent. The fact is that the formalism of quantum theory was fully mature by the time Einstein and Bohr squared off. Indeed there was even a relativistic version due to Dirac.

    In quantum mechanics, one could contend that the wave function is a construct, as it is not directly measurable. However, the wave function is a reasonable interpretation of the observable behavior of light and particles.

    Kurt Godel even thought mathematics was an empirical science that discovered rather than constructed its structure.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Feb 2011 @ 11:24 AM

  107. 106, Ray Ladbury,

    I gather that you are committed to the idea that scientific knowledge is not socially constructed.

    For an account of the Solvay Conferences, I recommend “Einstein: His Life and Universe”, by Walter Isaacson. Not to be missed are two books by Abraham Pais: “Niel’s Bohr’s Life and Times”, and “Subtle is the Lord”. Also excellent but broader in focus is “The Philosophy of Physics” by Roberto Torretti (matrix algebra and calculus required.) About statistical thermodynamics, “Physics and Chance” by Lawrence Sklar. Less demanding is “The Social Construction of What?” by Ian Hacking.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 1 Feb 2011 @ 12:12 PM

  108. Jim wrote at #82:

    [Response: I'm not quite sure what you're saying here. The point is that whatever number we come up with for the global mean temperature, is not the "fact" we are referring to.]

    Me:

    A bit of an unclarity in what I wrote. If I were to say it again, I would put it: “Yet I would say it is nevertheless a fact THAT the annual average temperature for year X was y.”

    Jim again:

    To come up with a single value from a number of other values is not the “construction” to which these authors (apparently), and the postmodernists in general, are referring. The latter are alluding to something entirely more radical–essentially that there are nothing but opinions, which we construct from our thoughts and language, which in turn are the products of our culture. Everything essentially spins out of our heads and mouths. Most physical and biological scientists reject this idea as utter nonsense.–Jim]

    Me again:

    Well, I’ve only read the abstract to Ryghaug and Skjølsvold, so I would not want to speculate too much as to what they are saying. However there are lots of ways to make constructivism sound less silly than your acount. For example, and as some have pointed out down-thread, there are a number of constructivists who would hold that scientific facts are both socially constructed and objectively true.

    Jim again:

    [Response: There's nothing wrong with asking for data, raw or otherwise. Data should be as freely available as possible for science to advance. The problem is how it gone about with respect to the various restrictions, publication rights, time and money constraints and other particularities that the requester needs to understand before going off in a self-absorbed tizzy.--Jim]

    I think Pearce’s contention is that other researchers should have PREFERRED Jone’s raw data, indeed DEMANDED it of him. And I speculate that this contention stems from the idea that raw data is “pure” and “adjusted” data somehow tampered with, where in fact its more accurate to call it “value added”.

    Comment by bigcitylib — 1 Feb 2011 @ 1:42 PM

  109. Rush Limbaugh

    - On the CRU hack
    “The reason there was outrage over the stuff from the climate research center at Hadley is the fraud was exposed, and everybody participating in the fraud for the media and everybody else was ticked off that their participation in a fraud had been exposed.”
    “They’ve hacked into some major global warming scientist’s computer and they’ve found e-mail evidence — over a thousand e-mails — that the science is ginned up”
    “I don’t care how it happened, whistle-blower or a hacker.”
    “The New York Times and Washington Post are more interested in tracking down and punishing the whistle-blower than they are in publishing the now-confirmed-as-authentic e-mails and documents. ”

    - On Assange/Wikileaks
    “This little gutless wonder hates this country and he’s doing his best to harm, damage, embarrass, and impugn the country….”
    “…Greg Palkot of Fox News interviewed Assange, which means that Roger Ailes knows where he is. Ailes knows where Assange is. Give Ailes the order and there is no Assange, I’ll guarantee you, and there will be no fingerprints on it.”
    “The New York Times is among the several newspapers selected by the criminals at WikiLeaks to publish their anti-American poison.”

    A little cognitive dissonance going on there? Remind you of anything? Like some of the skeptic arguments against AGW?

    - CO2 is saturated, so adding more won’t make any difference; (1) it’s the water vapor, a stronger GHG(even more saturated?) which controls the Greenhouse effect, or (2) CO2 is such a miniscule part(miniscule saturation, military intelligence, government help, free market tax policy?) of the atmosphere that it can’t have any significant effect.

    - Warming will produce higher humidity which will produce more clouds and higher albedo; higher humidity produces larger cloud droplets, darker clouds, lower albedo.

    - Warming causes CO2 to increase (exsolve from the ocean), increase in CO2 doesn’t cause warming; there was no increase in CO2 during the Medieval Warm Period, therefore CO2 doesn’t cause warming.

    - “It is getting warmer, but it is not warmer than it was in the Middle Ages…”; “Globally, temperature is not rising at all, and sea level is not rising anything like as fast as had been forecast. Concentrations of methane in the air are actually falling.” (Monckton quotes)

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 1 Feb 2011 @ 1:55 PM

  110. Jim wrote (in reply to comment #82): “… postmodernists in general, are … alluding to something entirely more radical — essentially that there are nothing but opinions, which we construct from our thoughts and language, which in turn are the products of our culture. Everything essentially spins out of our heads and mouths. Most physical and biological scientists reject this idea as utter nonsense.”

    With all due respect, I think most students of postmodernism would also reject that characterization — or perhaps I should say caricature — of postmodernism as “utter nonsense”.

    I wonder how many physical and biological scientists are sufficiently knowledgeable about literature, aesthetics, drama, architecture, cinema, journalism, politics, law, culture, and religion — i.e. the domains of human thought to which postmodernism applies — to be able to intelligently compare and contrast postmodernism with other critical approaches to those fields?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 Feb 2011 @ 2:55 PM

  111. Septic Matthew,
    I don’t dispute that elements of scientific inquiry are socially constructed–hence the emphasis on consensus. This is pretty much inevitable given that H. Sapiens is a social animal. What I dispute is that it is purely a social construct. It is strongly constrained by an objective reality that tends to give very consistent answers when asked questions the right way.
    Everything humans do is a social construct–so much so, that it is essentially a tautology. The scientific method is a social construct. Markets are a social construct. Democracy is a social construct. In a real sense, all of these are also discoveries–about how to construct institutions that perform reliably despite, or even because of, human weaknesses.

    And as to your references, read all of ‘em. I would describe scientific knowledge as the reliable (to varying extents) understanding of the physical world derived via the scientific method. Is that a social construct–yes, because it is a collective, human understanding. However, it is not an arbitrary construct.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Feb 2011 @ 2:56 PM

  112. 111, Ray Ladbury:
    I would describe scientific knowledge as the reliable (to varying extents) understanding of the physical world derived via the scientific method. Is that a social construct–yes, because it is a collective, human understanding.

    What I wrote was that scientific knowledge is both socially constructed and accurate.

    “Purely social” and “arbitrary” came from someone else.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 1 Feb 2011 @ 4:05 PM

  113. Didactylos says:

    “The success of the denial campaign is evident in your refusal to believe that your opinions have been shaped by it.”

    I agree with this statement, but a word of caution, its actually (without contextual supporting evidence) a circular argument.

    The evidence that leads me to agree with Dida’s assessment is not pulled together in a referenced and articulate way. Would be valuable if it were. And highly relevant to this field of social science.

    Examples sources would be psychological studies into the power of advertising and propaganda. Studies on media consolidation and media bias. Studies of election spending, and the media congressional profit complex associate with election spending.

    Someone has already cited Noam Chomsky who addresses media and propaganda issues. But a broader input would be more comprehensive. What are Ryghaug and Skjølsvold planning for their next paper?

    Comment by jakerman — 2 Feb 2011 @ 10:15 PM

  114. “Since there wasn’t any improper manipulation of scientific data, the ‘manipulation’ in this story involved taking the contents in the e-mails out of context and the generation of wild accusations devoid of any real evidence. ”

    Umm, but what about the “HARRY-READ-ME.TXT” file and all the amazingingly poorly written software? I am a professional software engineer and I had a good look at the source code and it was simply appalling. There’s your data manipulation right there, poorly designed code that can’t be proven to work correctly. But, I guess that’s not important, because their hearts were in the right place, even if they couldn’t do the actual software correctly.

    [Response: Umm, well "Surfer Dave", what about the fact that the software does in fact do what it's supposed to do, that efficiency improvements already completed in certain global temp reconstruction algorithms give essentially the same answer as the old code, and that several different temperature reconstructions from different organizations give substantially the same trends and variances. But you know, you are right about their hearts being in the right place, which is a helluva lot more than I can say for the people who stole the CRU's emails and the climate change denial community in general! And by the way Dave, badly written code = data manipulation in your book does it? Thanks for the insight into the paranoid mind of the denialist--Jim]

    Side note: there appears to be absolutely no attempt to manage the inherent inaccuracies of standard Floating Point arithmetic in the software. Anyone interested should reference Knuth’s “The Art of Computer Programming” 2nd ed, Vol 2, section 4.2.2 “Accuracy of Floating Point Arithmetic”. Essentially, A + (B + C) does not always equal (A + B) + C in FP arithmetic.

    [Response: We'll get right on that.--Jim]

    Comment by Surfer Dave — 8 Feb 2011 @ 9:35 PM

  115. Surfer Dave, can you tell us which operation in generating a global temperature product is reliant on perfectly accurate floating point numbers or appropriate tolerances?

    The thing about global temperature is it’s surprisingly simple. Maybe beyond the skills of the less competent undergrad, but still very straightforward.

    It’s not enough to smugly say “I know about floating point. See, I read Knuth!” You have to know when it’s appropriate.

    Oh, and the term from high-school mathematics that seems to elude you is associativity.

    So come on, then: why do we care about machine roundoff? Don’t you think it would be incredibly useless science if you got a different result because of something like that?

    Think. I know you can.

    Comment by Didactylos — 9 Feb 2011 @ 11:00 AM

  116. Surfer Dave, #114.

    I also am a professional software engineer, with an advanced degree from a well-known institution and decades of service, in case that matters to anybody.

    Your narrow point well-known to Knuth readers is perfectly valid. The context pointed out by Jim and Didactylos is the key part. Your outlook is about like proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Axis won WW2, because it’s well-known that the Allied armies perpetrated some bad decisions and forehead-smacking inefficiencies. Sorry, doesn’t work that way. Come back when you have a real point.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 9 Feb 2011 @ 12:38 PM

  117. > what about … Harry …

    Dave, that was a list of problems, found and to be fixed.
    People make lists of problems.
    People get wrought up about problems.
    People fix problems.
    That was notes during a transition from one model to another.
    You could have looked it up.
    But you fell for the people misrepresenting it.
    Don’t be fooled again.

    Try Stoat, around this post for example: http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2009/11/those_cru_emails_in_full.php#comment-2102214

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Feb 2011 @ 1:06 PM

  118. Brian Dodge #109 The really funny part about the Fox attack on Assange is he’s not even a US citizen. He’s an Australian. I know some of our politicians behave as if we’re the 51st state but we are actually another country. It’s also kind of incongruous after all the islamophobia on Fox that they’ve started issuing fatwas.

    Dave #114, if you really are a professional software engineer you’ll know the difference between a log and formal documentation. Managing associativity to minimise roundoff is a useful technique but what’s your evidence of a failure that invalidated any results?

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 10 Feb 2011 @ 12:45 AM

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