While scientists strive to be neutral, complete neutrality is probably impossible, especially for issue that have deep implications for society. I suspect even the best scientists occasionally succumb to cultural cognition: filtering the evidence to fit a pre-existing worldview (see: http://www.easterbrook.ca/steve/?p=730). I find the concept of cultural cognition very useful to get inside the heads of the denialists (especially because for those of use with strong scientific training, it’s hard to understand why they behave like they do).
To me, the interesting question is how much can scientific training really overcome cognitive biases, and what do we do about cases where it fails? It helps if we readily admit our biases, but puts us at a disadvantage in discourses where others are unwilling to do the same.
“McCulloch’s comment on the paper were perfectly valid, but he chose to avoid the context of normal scientific exchange — instead posting his comments on ClimateAudit.org — and then playing a game of ‘gotcha’ by claiming plagiarism when he wasn’t cited.”
Is is not the case that McCulloch emailed Steig and his co-authors making them aware of the error?
[Response: McCulloch’s email, which provided no details but pointed me to his post, was sent while I was in the field in Antarctica, and would have received notification that I was in gone, and not receiving email for the next month. McCulloch states very clearly in his letter that he didn’t think his work was important enough to warrant a letter to Nature, and he would have been well aware that I don’t read ClimateAudit. In any case, I had already recognized the error in our paper before I heard anything about McCulloch. –eric]
Comment by Richard Steckis — 14 Aug 2009 @ 9:18 AM
Eric Steig says:
“In any case, I had already recognized the error in our paper. –eric”
Thanks for your prompt response. I guess that the fact you recognised the error at the same time or earlier is all McCulloch had to be told.
Comment by Richard Steckis — 14 Aug 2009 @ 10:07 AM
, the outcome is a series of misleading critiques, regardless of whether any of these criticisms are in fact even valid or salient, that give the impression that every one of these papers is worthless and that all their authors incompetent at best and dishonest at worst.
An example of an article like this at ClimateAudit.org would be helpful in making your point.
I recall McCulloch saying — in the CA thread later on — both that he knew Eric had left for that Antarctic trip (Eric’s departure was explicit in the original thread at RC). I also recall McCulloch acknowledging that he later — when he looked back in his email, found that he had indeed received an automated reply, saying mail wouldn’t be read due to extended absence and should be sent again after some date.
Moral — read automated email replies promptly when you get them.
Clearly, blogging, has taken informal scientific discussion to another level, whether it be at RealClimate, ClimateAudit, or anywhere else that the science is discussed. Which blog you frequent is sort of akin to choosing who you are going to have a beer with after a day at a conference. And sometimes, ideas introduced over a beer eventually work their way into a scientific paper, but most of the time, while they may have been interesting and insightful, don’t lead to anything further.
Certainly, over the course of scientific events, there have been many ideas and results that have made a significant contribution to our knowledgebase that have not been formally laid-out in peer-reviewed publications. But, preferably, they would be—at the very least, scientific publications serve as storehouse of concepts and findings and a historical guide to the evolution of our knowledge.
To me, blogs can provide better access and centralized discussions on topics that previously were held by only a disjoined few. Sadly, their utility is greatly diminished by the far too many comments that are not aimed at furthering the discussion, but I suppose that is a different issue.
In my opinion, if the concept being addressed at a blog is thought significant enough to change the scientific knowledge base on a particular topic, it should be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Otherwise, it is just conversation—interesting and insightful perhaps—but still just conversation. If you want “credit” for a particular finding, write it up and publish it. Lacking that, if someone else writes it up and publishes it, you are at the mercy of whether they cared to include (or acknowledge) you on the effort. And there are many factors that go into that choice—scientific scruples is not the only one.
Most scientists will agree that the present peer review system is not working very well. However, I hear very little discussion on how it may be improved or reformed. Such a discussion would be much more useful. Science/research funding is another dysfunction, which needs addressing.
[Response: I’m not at all sure that most scientists would agree with that statement. To paraphrase Churchill, the current system may be the worst possible system, except for all the others … –eric]
The difference, though, between people who want to find out something about the real world and people who just want to score political points, is what is made of those errors. That is the test of constructive scientific dialog.
INDEED! Unfortunately, negativity sells, and ignorant people love it.
I think detection of error is part of the referee’s job. A knowledgeable and willing referee is not easy to come by.
[Response: I disagree. Most reviewers do thorough and constructive work, most of the time. Things slip through. That’s why there is a process for correcting errors.–eric]
Hank #6: the automated response came from Mike’s computer and looks authentic. My guess is that Eric became aware of having received this letter much later, perhaps as late as when the brouhaha broke at CA and he was tipped off — if his email handling is as well organized as mine :-(
Comment by Martin Vermeer — 14 Aug 2009 @ 11:37 AM
Your (Churchill) response may be exactly correct. It reflects a certain reality. I do not agree that this possibility should exclude discussion. All protocol should be periodically examined to ensure it meets modern/current realities. The last thing anyone wants is an “improved” system that is worse or completely non functioning. We need to know what “all the others” is.
The warming of an Arctic current over the last 30 years has triggered the
release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from methane hydrate stored in the sediment beneath the seabed.
Scientists at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton working in collaboration with researchers from the University of Birmingham, Royal Holloway London and IFM-Geomar in Germany have found that more than 250 plumes of bubbles of methane gas are rising from the seabed of the West Spitsbergen continental margin in the Arctic, in a depth range of 150 to 400 metres. …
McCulloch’s email, which provided no details but pointed me to his post, was sent while I was in the field in Antarctica, and would have received notification that I was in gone, and not receiving email for the next month. McCulloch states very clearly in his letter that he didn’t think his work was important enough to warrant a letter to Nature, and he would have been well aware that I don’t read ClimateAudit. In any case, I had already recognized the error in our paper before I heard anything about McCulloch. –eric
See, this is the difference between real scientists and rabble-rousing scientists — the real ones are busy doing science.
I don’t even go to ClimateAudit. I went there once and saw how fraudulent & politicized they were. I trust RealClimate.
The last sentence of the post is poignant – “Specious accusations of fraud, plagiarism and the like don’t pass such a test; instead they simply poison the atmosphere to everyone’s loss.”
And Chris Mooney perhaps should have titled his book, ANTI-SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: How Anti-Science Thinking Threatens Life on Planet Earth.
Before AGW became a big scientific and public issue, people tended to criticize science for its false-positive avoiding reticence, not to mention the many fraudulent studies by industry scientists to disprove harms. And it’s sad now that the science has been in since 1995 at .05 significance (95% confidence) re AGW, and the public is trailing far behind the scientists on this issue.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 14 Aug 2009 @ 12:09 PM
The difficulty here is that real change in domestic policies can only be accomplished by non-experts: elected officials. With this in mind, scientists must always do a little “selling” on issues that have so much impact on our collective future. While it’s correct to say that science by itself should always be conducted in a responsible professional manner (the Scientific Method), I believe that the communication of findings should always tell a compelling (and truthful) story. In the same way, rebutting findings that seem erroneous should be done in an equally compelling manner, because the world is watching.
your 95% is way too pessimistic. It is just our confidence that we can actually see today what we have known is there since, well, around 1859.
All climate science has done since on this matter is just, painfully slowly, putting better numbers on this old knowledge.
Comment by Martin Vermeer — 14 Aug 2009 @ 12:45 PM
The latest findings from the cognitive science world show that humans are incapable of taking actions that involve risk without first processing those actions through the emotional center of the brain. Publishing a paper in a journal involves risk. Scientists are more likely to ‘feel’ (yes I meant ‘feel’) safer publishing less controversial finding rather than more controversial findings. This is the reason that complete scientific neutrality is impossible. To suggest otherwise would require one to ignore all scientific evidence.
Both the pro- and con- side of this argument are displaying emotional behavior patterns. I think that trying to place a hermetic seal around the peer review process does not always result in the best outcomes. “Squabbles” are part of being human and are good for science.
The political crowd is already spinning it to say “see – debunked hockey stick Mann finally admits the MWP was warmer than today!” (wrong on so many levels). Inane denier noise aside, I think a discussion on some of the details and contentions would be useful. I see some arguments from Landsea and a very recent response from the authors to various criticisms.
Thank you Eric,as I was waiting for commentary on this paper; it is good to see you bring clarification and that, in fact, the trend and main points of the paper remain intact; hopefully now there will be less spin put on this paper, both at ClimateAudit and Watts’ site.
Sigh. McI, not McC, is the one who started the really caustic topic
that’s exciting the usual angry crowd. I’m sure he is tsk appalled to see how he’s riled people up over a known miscommunication. Not.
Does McC also somewhere acknowlede that his email couldn’t possibly have reached Eric Steig either? He must have known that —
Steig’s last post came just before flying off to meet an icebreaker, for transportation to a remote site.
Remember, kids, email is not close to 100% reliable.
If you want to make sure you have reached the party with whom you believe you are communicating, pick up the telephone and dial.
Good on you for finding the bad math shortly after publication and for getting the corrigendum in Nature barely half a year later. You may want to revisit the Harry splicing as opposed to the “mislabeling” statement (not that it affects the conclusion), but I’m sure that has been in the works and you knew that the corrigendum needed a corrigendum weeks ago.
[Response: Huh? The “harry splicing” issue was totally, completely, and utterly irrelevant, as any fool could have figured out, and as we pointed out immediately when it was highlighted at ClimateAudit. This is a perfect example of what we’re talking about when we say that what is typical of such sites is “a series of misleading critiques, regardless of whether any of these criticisms are in fact even valid or salient”. –eric]
We also note that there is a typographical error in Supplementary Table 1: the correct location of Automatic Weather Station ‘Harry’ is 83.0° S, 238.6° E. The position of this station on the maps in the paper is correct.
Isn’t the topic about the relative weight we should place on blog postings vs. published letters and papers?
I’m pleased that we are finally getting to hear Eric’s side of the story. However, could someone please explain the following statement in the paper. ” While the published version of the paper didn’t include such a correction, it is obvious that the authors were aware of the need to do so, since in the text of the paper it is stated that this correction was made”
This sentence seems to contain contradicting statements regarding the”correction” . Did you mean to say that “..it is stated that this correction needed to be made in the future”?
[Response: The point is that the idea that one needs to account for autocorrelation is well known; we neglected to do so, but there was nothing original in telling us we needed to do so (nor how to do it).–eric]
Eric also stated that ” In any case, I had already recognized the error in our paper before I heard anything about McCulloch.” It would be really nice if Eric could quantify this statement.
The guys at Climate Audit are clearly on a witch hunt. They tear apart and nit pick any paper which does not support their agenda. Often times the errors in data and or methodology do not change the outcome, but they then use those errors to discredit the authors and try and refute the science behind AGW. A clever, but transparent strategy to anyone in the know. I wonder if they do the same with papers that support their ideology? I do agree that skeptics have a valid point with regards to homogenization issues in the CRU and other SAT records. It would be nice if RealClimate would speak to the homogenization issues surrounding the instrumented SAT record to clarify things for us mortals. Thanks.
I think that, absent any surrounding context, when a scientist insists that they have done something independently, they should be believed.
Sending Professor McCulloch a note saying: “Thank you for pointing this out. Serveral others have observed the same, and we intend to publish a Corrigendum in Nature to remedy this”, would clearly have been a good idea, especially in hindsight.
The error in Steig is sufficiently obvious (having been observed in several other papers over a relatively short preceding period) that it requires no leap of the imagination to believe that numerous individuals noticed its presence in an article that received so much attention.
I also don’t think it is unreasonable to ask the following: Are there any other corrigenda to Steig et al (concerning other issues that have been noticed including the curious autocorrelation calculation in the corrigenda itself) in the pipeline?
[Response: No, there are not. I stand by the results as they are. And I would have thanked McCulloch had I read his email.–eric]
This is the email I received as an automated response Feb 6 which seems to indicate email access. Was there some other reason Dr. McCulloch’s email didn’t get received?
I am in Antarctica until the middle of March. I will have email access via satellite, but text only is permitted, and 30 kB maximum file size. Please do not write except for essential matters. The email address is posted on my website at the University of Washington.
[Response: Exactly. That’s the autoreply McCulloch would have received.–eric]
it is obvious that the authors were aware of the need to do so, since in the text of the paper it is stated that this correction was made
More on this point would clear up the confusion. If this is “obvious” then surely McCulloch, Pielke, and others would not be so boldly claiming plagiarism.
[Response: Unless they had another agenda of course. For his part, McCulloch has acted very professionally and, in response to my letter to him explaining the actual sequence of events, has withdrawn his accusation.–eric]
[Response: Unless they had another agenda of course. For his part, McCulloch has acted very professionally and, in response to my letter to him explaining the actual sequence of events, has withdrawn his accusation.–eric]
Hu is a good guy all the time. You’ll note tAV did not claim plagiarism.
In my view, the accusation of plagiarism was clearly a crock, and the only possible issue was one of acknowledgment.
I also compare the treatment of this case with its rush to judgment on flimsy evidence, at best, and the Alan Carlin case. Not one of the contrarians who “dropped the P-Bomb” on various climate scientists, has forthrightly acknowledged the Carlin report (or should that be Michaels, Carlin et al?) for what it really is: a plagiarized pastiche of contrarian talking points. Yet the evidence in the Carlin case is incontrovertible. “Another agenda”, indeed.
Eric, I think you’ve been more than gracious in dealing with the issue. I have to say, though, I find McCulloch’s withdrawal of the accusation half-hearted (as discussed at my post).
OT, but if possible, I would like to see some discussion from Mann, on his latest research regarding hurricanes; there have been some accusations made by others that the second paper relies upon the first and that the sediment method used now contradicts a smoothing out of the Medieval Warming period findings previously. Undertsand, I am certainly not making any accusations, but I would like to see more explanation/data from Professor Mann, himself, if possible; thanks.
[Response: Thanks for your interest in the paper. As this is off topic, I’ll allow one comment on this (yours), but otherwise don’t want to see the thread hijacked by coverage of this topic. At some point in the near future, we’ll probably have an article at RC reviewing the various recent developments in our understanding of the linkages between climate and Atlantic tropical cyclone behavior. The criticisms you cite are at best willfully naive. I’m not sure which ‘second’ or ‘first’ paper you’re referring to, but our recent Nature article on past Atlantic tropical cyclone (TC)/hurricane activity certainly doesn’t rely on any other past paper under discussion in this thread. It uses two different methods, one of which uses regional climate reconstructions, another which uses so-called ‘overwash deposit’ sediment records (these are by the way not records I’ve used in any other study. they aren’t proxies per se of climate, but rather of past hurricane behavior). As for the putative inconsistency with other work, that’s a bit of a silly claim since this is the first paper to reconstruct basin-wind tropical cyclone activity (so frankly, there is nothing for it to be either consistent or inconsistent with at the present time). We can see from one of the two approaches used in the study (the statistical modeling approach driven with climate reconstructions) that the peak in activity 1000 years ago arises from a combination of factors. Those factors are La Nina like conditions that appear to have prevailed at the time, and relatively warm tropical Atlantic SSTs. The tropical Atlantic SST pattern closely follows the pattern seen in previously published Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstructions, with the Medieval peak of roughly similar prominence to that described in previous work. The tropical Atlantic SSTs are not as warm as today. It is only the combination of relatively warm tropical Atlantic SSTs and La Nina-like conditions in the tropical Pacific that work together to give a medieval peak in Atlantic hurricane activity that rivals that of today. So any ‘inconsistencies’ claimed by detractors are either imagined, or manufactured in an intentional effort to deceive readers about what the study actually shows and claims. I would encourage any readers to get their information from the paper (and supplementary information), the various press releases, interviews (including ones I did for NPR and PRI), and a video conference I did for NSF. That can all be found here. In addition, corrections of specific misconceptions about the study (such as some of those described above) are available here. -mike]
[Response: Unless they had another agenda of course. For his part, McCulloch has acted very professionally and, in response to my letter to him explaining the actual sequence of events, has withdrawn his accusation.–eric]
I wonder, does Climate Audit have a similarly robust debate going on about the McLean, de Freitas and Carter paper with its manifestly flawed analysis (delete any linear trend by analysing the first derivative of the data, then say, hey, no trend)?
How about this as an idea? Set up a wiki along with a published paper. The original text stays unchanged as a record of publication, but corrections etc. can be applied to a copy, along with a comment forum. This will work best with papers that aren’t paywalled. Any substantial changes should result in either a separate correction comment that itself is subject to wiki editing, or a totally new article.
Now I think about it further, something more like a wiki as a way of moving from pre-published to published would be an interesting model. The sort of gratuitously egregious error in the McLean et al. paper can slip through if a select group of referees all happen to have a bad day (or the editor was unlucky enough to choose a group who’d all dozed off in the first week of Calculus 101) when they read the paper but exposure to the wider world would reduce the chances of that happening. 2 obstacles to this idea:
1. the tradition of publishing in peer-reviewed journals is very strong and would be hard to change
2. many researchers do not want their work exposed until it’s had reasonably robust independent review
On the other hand there are some advantages:
1. you can get your ideas out fast to avoid being scooped
2. you can get robust feedback without having to wait weeks or months for the editor to collate reviews
If anyone would like to develop this idea further, feel free to email me at philip.machanick A-no-spam-T gmail.com
Actually, I wrote “decidedly half-hearted” in my actual post (which does quote from McCulloch’s CA post). But I take your point: In this case, the estimates of “heartedness” should reflect the trend of past accusations of plagiarism.
Dr. Steig said (#2): In any case, I had already recognized the error in our paper before I heard anything about McCulloch. –eric]
With all respect, despite my belief Dr. Steig’s statement above is completely true, I wonder if it still would not proper to at least note, if not credit, the first person to make something public as Mr. McCullough did, especially when they did make an attempt to contact.
Otherwise, it’s just hard for me to understand how “I thought of it first” couldn’t be used by others as an excuse for a large percentage of the real plagiarism that happens.
[Response: I was unaware of McCullough’s post until after he wrote to Nature and put up accusations of plagiarism all over the blogosphere. Writing in a fringe web site (and yes, it is a fringe web site) — and, what’s more, one that I have publicly stated I will not read (something which McCullough cannot possibly have been unaware of, unless he is willing to concede that even he doesn’t read ClimateAudit) — and then expecting to get ‘noticed’ is the height of self-aggrandizing arrogance. Grow up.–eric]
(16) Yes, the imperfections in our thinking processes are important, and should be an area of required study. If I had my way, their study would be a requirement of citizenship at least as far as it is associated with the ability to affect the policymaking process. Scientists at least strive to get above their imperfections, although I think formal training is usually lacking.
But, once we get into the wider public arena attention to good epistemology is drowned out by those who consider their agendas more important than improving the process of searching for truth. That is where the problem comes in. A lot of resources have been commited by various think tanks, and media groups whose conservative agendas are considered by themselves to be of overwhelming importance. Pushing the discussion into the emotional part of the brain seems to be a first resort with these people. Not only are they providing a lot of noise and disinformation, but they are eroding the ability of a large part of the public to think clearly about even unrelated issues.
Essentially, the PR technique that climateaudit uses is to question the statistics while ignoring the dynamics, i.e. the specific causality.
This can be most easily shown using the tobacco example. The statistical relationships between smoking and cancer/heart disease were open to the same kind of detailed nitpicking over obscure statistical methods – and this was done only to inject doubt into the discussion, because everyone knows that statistics can be manipulated – “How to lie with statistics” is a book that most have at least heard of.
However, a dynamic explanation is something different, because the audience can follow along. In the case of tobacco, when you inhale cigarette smoke, you also inhale active carcinogenic compounds like benzo(a)pyrene. This compound, via enzymatic action, is converted to a powerful DNA-binding adduct, leading to gene disruption and cancer. Once it is spelled out like that, it is hard to nitpick – other than to note that someone who smokes one cigarette a month is probably better off than the pack-a-day smoker.
Likewise, a mechanistic explanation of global warming (backed up by data, etc.) is a far more powerful argument than any statistical correlation between increasing fossil fuel consumption and deforestation, atmospheric CO2 levels, and surface temperatures.
http://DeepClimate.org/ does not work correctly on my computer. I see dark text on a black page. I can read the text by selecting everything. Nothing else there works for my Mac OS9.1, ie5.1.
I just started reading “Unscientific America, how scientific illiteracy threatens our future” by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum. Does it ever! Since I am only on page 19, I don’t know their solution to the problem yet, if any. What was clear before I saw this book is that most people think scientific debate is just another political debate. Of course it is not. Science actually works, which is why we are able to have this conversation with computers over the internet. All of the prior methods of deciding have the defect of failing to work. Science is the only way to get to computers and the rest of 21st Century civilization. Let’s stick with the one that works. We are diverted from climate science to explaining science to the world. Let’s hope that this diversion can be accomplished soon enough to save the world. As usual, RealClimate has made a great contribution to explaining science, if only the world would read it and learn it rather than fight it. In science, there are indeed right answers and wrong answers. Only Nature decides, not people. Scientists are the people who figure out Nature.
AGW denial is “just” a symptom of a much larger disease, a disease that can kill everybody by causing nothing to be done about the climate. What that disease is exactly, is hard to say. It might take centuries or millennia to cure, and that would be rapid for social evolution. But that would be much too slow to save us from a climate catastrophe.
How can we get the voice of RealClimate amplified another million times?
Folks: Having been appraised of the facts of the matter, McCulloch has withdrawn his claim, which was very professional of him. I’m off on vacation, but will leave comments open for those who want to discuss general issues. Since the specific question of unsubstantiated accusations of plagiarism has been resolved, further comments insinuating of the he said/she said variety will be deleted. –eric]
OK, rather than engage in “he said/she said” I’ll just quote McCulloch’s post at CA.
If you want to delete my quote of his word, fine.
But at least leave the reference to CA so people can read it there, themselves.
Here it is:
However, while ignorance may be an iron-clad defense against plagiarism, it is a rather dicey position academically speaking. Surely Steig and co-authors would at least read the vigorous and serious discussion of their paper on Climate Audit, the Air Vent, and other blogs, even if they do not deign to participate.
Compare this to your statement:
Writing in a fringe web site (and yes, it [Climate Audit] is a fringe web site) — and, what’s more, one that I have publicly stated I will not read (something which McCullough cannot possibly have been unaware of, unless he is willing to concede that even he doesn’t read ClimateAudit)
Apparently he concedes … or something. He insists you read CA.
If Steig doesn’t follow CA, he must be the only person in all of climate science.
Raising the bar …
Steig maintains that he did not receive my Feb. 28 e-mail to him, as he was in Antarctica, and that I should have received an automatic reply to that effect. While it is possible I did receive such an automatic reply from him, I can’t find it in my in box, spam box, or even trash box.
Eric, you’re being had. His conciliatory withdrawal of his claim to “Nature” is professional cover, leaving him free to continue making accusations against you in politically-oriented fora like CA. The quotes above are from his post, today, at CA.
Go ahead and delete this post, but please keep in mind you’re being played a bit for the … well not “fool” exactly, but they’re relying on your professionalism and sense of fair play, and using it as a weapon against you.
Re #40 I have not read “Unscientific America” but it seems that the same question is answered by Naomi Oreskes’s talk “The American Denial of Global Warming” which can be seen here. The talk is rather long at almost one hour, but it is well worth watching to the end, because it is only in the second half where she deals with matters with which most here will be unfamiliar and gets around to explaining just how America became unscientific.
Dr Naomi Oreskes wrote an essay on science and society Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change in the journal Science in December 2004, which first brought her to notice in the climate change debate. In the essay she reports on an analysis of “928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 and published in the ISI database with the keywords ‘global climate change’”.[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naomi_Oreskes ]
In her 2007 talk she goes deeper into the causes of the debate. “Polls show that between one-third and one-half of Americans still believe that there is “no solid” evidence of global warming, or that if warming is happening it can be attributed to natural variability. Others believe that scientists are still debating the point. Join scientist and renowned historian Naomi Oreskes as she describes her investigation into the reasons for such widespread mistrust and misunderstanding of scientific consensus and probes the history of organized campaigns designed to create public doubt and confusion about science.”
And let me acknowledge that the reason I am posting this link again is because of the encouragement I received from Jacob Mack who said in #34:
Re #41 – re your last comments Eric – well done! While this issue is resolved, lets keep the comments flowing in regards to the general issue. But re #35 – touche! Why didn’t CA have a post on the Carter et al paper that Real Climate dissected well and truly as a shonk?
I would like to add that it was clearly reasonable for Dr. McCulloch to believe some of his 6 emails were received in a timely manner. He has accepted as I have explanations for why this was not the case.
Since Dr. McCulloch was apparently fast and professional in retracting his letter to the editor, perhaps the authors should consider a mention of his contribution after the fact at Nature.
Email from American Petroleum Institute outlines plan to create appearance of public opposition to Obama’s climate and energy reform.
“The US oil and gas lobby are planning to stage public events to give the appearance of a groundswell of public opinion against legislation that is key to Barack Obama’s climate change strategy, according to campaigners.”
The American Petroleum Institute has in the past delivered huge PR contracts to the Edelman PR firm, well known for their extensive work with the tobacco lobby:
According to a marketing executive, an Edelman executive providing media training to his firm said: “Sometimes, you just have to stand up there and lie. Make the audience or the reporter believe that everything is ok.”
That’s the American Petroleum Institute for you – just like the Americans for Clean Coal Electricity, who hired a lobbying firm to forge letters from charities and civil rights groups claiming they opposed the climate bill.
They’re probably not very interested in rational scientific discussion, or in anything other than getting their dishonest message out to as many people as possible.
P.S. For a mechanistic description of global warming, with solutions:
We know that planetary surface temperatures are a function of their atmospheric composition (among other factors), and we know that adding IR-absorbing gases like CO2 and CH4 to the atmosphere increases the atmospheric absorption and reduces the outgoing radiative energy. Conservation of energy tells us that this must result in warming of the planet surface, and the absorption and re-radiation of infrared radiation by CO2 molecules is the specific mechanism responsible.
We can measure the increase in atmospheric CO2 from pre-industrial times by various means, trapped air in ice being the main one. The key factor in the overall atmospheric CO2 increase is the net amount of fossil fuel burned; a secondary factor is the permanent conversion of high-carbon wetlands and forests to low-carbon agricultural soils.
We know that the CO2 came mostly from fossil sources because we can measure the current abundance of carbon isotopes, and we observe that there is a great increase in 12C and 13C relative to the radioactive 14C species. That’s because 14C is formed by cosmic rays, and it decays away in the ground – you’ll find no 14C in your unleaded gasoline, so when you burn fossil fuels the CO2 dilutes the 14CO2 to lower levels.
Notice that in the case of biomass removal (forest & wetland destruction), there is an increase in the total atmospheric CO2 due to biomass-to-CO2 conversion, but there is no change in the overall 14C ratio, as trees do not sequester carbon for millions of years. This allows us to estimate the fraction of the atmospheric CO2 increase that comes from fossil fuels – about 3/4, so far.
We can get rough estimates of the magnitude and timescale of the resulting forced-warming effect using numerical physical models, and we can estimate the accuracy of models by comparing the results to observations over the relevant time scales. Here, we include CO2 as well as other radiative forcing components like aerosols, CH4, ozone, N2O, CFCs – and we see what the model does, and if it is similar to real-world observations.
So, what are the effects of a warming atmosphere? A heated fluid in contact with another fluid or a solid transfers heat to it, so we can expect the ocean to warm up as well as the land surfaces, with natural variability imposed on such trends. The result is melting glaciers, shifts in precipitation patterns leading to droughts and floods in various regions, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, more extreme weather events – all part of a gradual but persistent and not-very-reversible trend, driven largely now by our continued reliance on fossil fuel combustion for energy production, which is starting to look kind of suicidal on several different levels.
Of course, the technical fact of interest here is that you can produce energy in the absence of fossil fuels using a wide variety of techniques that don’t involve pumping any multi-million-year-old carbon out of the ground and releasing it into the atmosphere as CO2 – or converting standing forests into CO2.
It’s just that vested interests in fossil fuel production own entire governments and global media institutions, more or less, and a good chunk of them are either deep in denial, terrified of change, indifferent to the long-term picture, or some combination thereof. It’s obviously a situation that calls for international cooperation and serious government intervention in the behavior of the large energy cartels and their associated shareholders, isn’t it? At the very least, if they’re going to be handed $700 billion bailout packages, we could at minimum stipulate that it has to be invested in renewable energy.
Since Dr. McCulloch was apparently fast and professional in retracting his letter to the editor, perhaps the authors should consider a mention of his contribution after the fact at Nature.
Why? And what has it got to do with you, Jeff? Some scientists do some research and publish a paper. A correction is made. In the meantime various wannabe’s, armchair numerologists and self-important grandstanders pick and hack at the work, insult the scientists at a distance and play second-guessing games about their motives.[*] You seem to have the notion that you can wheedle into the scientific process, bestow upon yourself the role of arbiter of scientific niceties and give “holier than thou” advice about what the scientists should or shouldn’t do in their correspondence with other scientists and journal editors. Astonishing!
[*] I hope it’s obvious that I’m not speaking about Dr. McCullough here.
I’m not talking about release of the code, Jeff and Ryan.
I’m talking about this, by Jeff:
I have seen many papers discredited and falsified in the past year in blogland and can’t for the life of me understand why alleged scientists would still claim with straight faces the hockey sticks are real. This point by itself calls into question the genuineness of the authors but we’re all familiar with that.
“questioning the genuineness of the authors” is simply a polite way of suggesting they’re lying.
So we need peer reveiw by others with greater authority now to see when plagiarism happens. Perhaps we need police to see a car accident, or a fireman to see a fire?
In other words, it is plagiarism. Unless you really believe that there are no fires without firemen or accidents without policemen, which I seriously doubt.
As pointed out in the intro materials, many scientific journals have a comments and reply section in which readers can critically comment on articles and the authors reply is generally published in the same issue. I once served as an editor for such an exchange and had to do some research to find the best procedures for acting as editor and mediator. One interesing poinnt that I would have not considered without research is that both the comment and the reply should be peer-reviewed by opposing side as well as by reviewers without conflicts of interest. This worked well, as it helped insure that the commenters were not misrepresenting the position of the original article and the replying authors were not misrepresenting the position of the commenters.
Many bloggers seem to think that peer-reviewers are likely to support (rubber stamp)just about any paper that supports earlier publications by reviewer or the reviewer’s broader “agenda.” This is often not the case. Often a reviewer will say: this only repeats older work by John Smith and me and is not worth publishing. Reviewers that support a particular hypothesis are also likely to recommend rejection of papers that support the same hypothesis but are scientifically weak or flawed. Of course, reviewers are often favorable when an author gratiously acknowledges the reviewer’s earlier contributions. It’s not a bad idea to anticipate who might be chosen to review your manuscript.
There seems to be confusion among the contrarians about what constitutes plagiarism. Obviously lack of proper acknowledgment is a key element; this is, however, not a sufficient condition for a finding of plagiarism. Rather the essence of plagiarism is the appropriation as one’s own, without acknowledgment, of another’s original idea, or expression of that idea.
Identification of an error in calculation, or in the mundane execution of the explicit methodology, within another’s work can never rise to the level of originality required for such a finding.
To me that is a guiding principle that should be recognized on all sides. Yes? No? Maybe? It depends?
I understand that most of the current climate models in use take into the account the effects of the sunspot cycle on climate.
I understand (but am not absolutely sure, correct me if I’m wrong) that while these corrections are smaller than those demanded by the deniers, they are larger than would be expected due to the fact that Solar radiation is reduced by about a tenth of a percent during certain periods.
Has any research been done on WHY the change in radiation frequency and variation accompanying the solar cycle has a disproportionate effect?
I think that RC here portrays an overly positive view of the scientific method and peer review. If the question is about climate 100 years on from now, the scientific method will not provide that correct answer before the 100 years have passed.
Indulgence, I say.
[Response: Not at all. You won’t know the right answer before then, but the correct projection may well have already been made. If science meant just waiting for something to happen, it would hardly have had the success it has. – gavin]
“Rather the essence of plagiarism is the appropriation as one’s own, without acknowledgment, of another’s original idea, or expression of that idea.”
Plagiarism is just a form of deception – but for the really outrageous behavior, take a look at the recent American Petroleum Institute memo put up on the Financial Times website, regarding plans to stage extensive ‘grassroots rallies’ at several dozen locations across the U.S.:
At the rallies, we will focus our message on two points: the
adverse impacts of unsound energy policy (e.g., Waxman-Markey-like legislation, tax increases, and access limitations) on jobs and on consumers’ energy costs. And we will call on the Senate to oppose unsound energy policy and “get it right.”
Recent opinion research that Harris Interactive conducted for API demonstrates that our messages on Waxman-Markey-like legislation work extremely well and are very persuasive with the general public and policy influentials.”
Really, such ‘astroturf’ groups should be forced to register as lobbyists and clearly acknowledge their financial support. For example, you can see A list of lobbying firms hired by API to go to work on Congress – but where is their list of astroturf lobbyists for this kind of activity:
We have identified 11 states with a significant industry presence and 10 other states where we have assets on the ground. We also have attracted allies from a broad range of interests: the Chamber of Commerce and NAM , the trucking industry, the agricultural sector, small business, and many others, including a significant number of consumer groups
What ‘assets’ are they talking about? How about this:
To be clear, API will provide the up-front resources to ensure logistical issues do not become a problem. This includes contracting with a highly experienced events management company that has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns, corporations and interest groups.
If anyone had claimed that an operation of this scale was being conducted without access to this memo, they’d be ridiculed as ‘conspiracy theorists’ by the API, wouldn’t they? In any case, the API CEO is open to questions:
Don’t hesitate to call me with questions.
All the best,
Jack N. Gerard
President & CEO
For that contact info:
Our “must-answer” line during normal business hours is 1.202.682.8114. On weekday evenings, weekends and holidays,
please call 1.202.682.8038 for the media relations duty officer.
David– yes. Put “solar” in the Search box at the top of the page.
Put any of the papers discussed into Google Scholar to update it.
Short answer: small effect, rainfall changes, show up.
You’ll find a vast amount of stuff ranging from speculative to wacko out there.
If you use Scholar, it will help you filter the needles from the haystacks.
Look for papers that have been cited by more recent papers.
Comment by David B. Benson — 15 Aug 2009 @ 6:25 PM
Every generation of science has its own culture. Five years ago, the culture of climatology said that “big ice” changed slowly. In those days, one could not publish a paper that said, “the Arctic sea ice is about to collapse” or “the Pine Island Glacier is about to thin rapidly”, or “methane is about to bubble up out of the sea” because anybody that put forth such a model would be considered a “silly alarmist”. And, in that climate community of 5-years ago, “alarmist” was the worst epithet spoken. Now, we need some of those alarmists, and here is why.
Forget all the IPCC sunshine, let’s throw something at the denialists that they can get really worked-up over. If we had a few alarmist physicists forging out ahead, crying “doom and destruction”, the denialists would be chasing them, and thereby leave the IPCC to do its work.
The truth of the matter is that the loss of the Arctic sea ice was the result of warming ocean waters. The methane bubbling up is the result of a warming ocean current. The Larson breakup was the result of a warming ocean current. The thinning of the Pine Island Glacier is the result of a warming ocean current. (warming ocean currents on either side of the WAIS). We have just reported record warm oceans, as an El Nino starts.
Here is the plan: Let’s tell the denialists that in five years they will be able to see the effects of warm ocean currents melting the bottom of the WAIS! If they don’t turn pale and start sweating then we have not told enough of a story. The denialists will start chasing whoever says that, and leave the climatologists alone.
While your post might be news to some people, I still do not think that the accusation was worth the dignity of a response. I can tell you from experience that the hardest thing to do when someone makes false or misleading accusations, is to stay silent.
That said, it’s usually the smartest thing to do.
Eventually your accusers will do nothing but dig a deeper hole, make even wilder accusations, and look silly. (Not that “silly” would be easy to spot in the mountain of junk science on some of these per D. Archer: “politics dressed up as science” sights.)
What should scientists do? Wait for Fox News or the Wall Street Journal to publicize the accusations, or for some Republican congressman to call for an investigation? You should not underestimate the skill of those making wild accusations or “silly” arguments for political ends, especially when they hire the most effective unethical PR talent money can buy to do it. (See Ike’s post above, for example).
Enough is enough. As I already observed, Eric Steig’s response was gracious and mild, but some response was certainly necessary.
He does get attacked by some quite a bit and he himself may turn out to have been too reticent, but we are getting some of what you are asking for. But, I think it does take the kind of careful work that Hansen puts in to attract the attention of his attackers. Having someone just say a similar thing without intellectual support would not attract attention because it really would be alarmist in the way they try to tar Hansen; that is: crying wolf rather than responsibly informing us what the risk is.
We are in situation where there are very immediate consequences for some very wealthy and powerful people if we attempt to avert disaster to occur later for very many more people. These people are the origin of the time wasting. They think in terms of power and thus attack where they think they can inflict the most damage to the threat to their power. It would be very difficult to distract them with strong claims that have little support. Their minions, perhaps, might be distracted for a bit but not long enough to make a difference of do anything serious to drain their resources.
Geoengineering is a method of launching giant (Empire State Building size) rockets carrying megaton payloads of reactive light blocking agents, and it could easily initiate Carl Sagan’s “nuclear winter” scenario, as described very vividly in his book “A Path Where No Man Thought.” In fact that’s what it is. Fighting the worsening effects of pollution by creating even more pollution is like an arms race with the elements.
I’m coming very late to the discussion here, henceforth my contribution is likely to be relatively unnoticed, but I feel I have to point something out. One of the issues here is that there was actually an error in an IMPORTANT paper that required correction. Even though the authors discovered the error — and corrected it — using proper scientific procedure and channels, the error was found, discussed, publicized, amplified, promulgated, twisted, abused: to ultimately became another arrow in the quiver of those (MM) who are seeking to bring down the scientific edifice of our understanding of global climate change and its driving factors, mainly to service their political ends. By the time the correction hit the presses — by the time the statement was made that the basic findings in the original paper were correct and unaffected — this process of promulgation basically resulted of the online populace (who are unfortunately easily convinced of such things if they are aligned with their inherent cognitive structures) into dismissing the entire conclusions of the paper because someone found a mistake in it.
Yes, you commented on this: “… that give the impression that every one of these papers is worthless and that all their authors incompetent at best and dishonest at worst.”
That’s the impression they want to convey. That’s the impression that they want to convince their public is correct. We’ve seen these tactics before — but at the speed of blog, they are very effective. What I don’t know is what counter-strategy could be devised to counter these misinformation tactics. The Obama administration is suffering such problems on health care reform and is setting up a Web site to counter the egregious misstatements (and beyond). The same thing is going to happen with the energy bill, and there are going to be agenda-driven town halls on that, too (Matt Nisbet has recently commented on this, and Al Gore will be leading some, apparently).
There are many good Web sites that refute the repeated legends of climate change erroneousness and misunderstanding — but the people that need to read them and understand them don’t and can’t. These same people think that Ian Plimer’s recent book and “The Great Global Warming Swindle” are accurate. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
So here’s a modest proposal (and I’m not Jonathan Swift). A reality-based TV show (or Webcast) where a group of actual climate skeptics come to real science class about climate. In each episode, one or two or three of the most popular circulating misconceptions is presented by one of the skeptics to the instructors of the class. The instructors calmly, methodically, and systemically deconstruct the misconception, explain why its wrong, and then explain the proper and correct scientific understanding of that particular topic. After the whole class (8-10 episodes), the skeptics are then asked to honestly assess what they think about climate change now. (Kinda like “The Biggest Loser” — which one of the skeptics attending the class would end up being the “biggest loser” of their host of climate change misconceptions? Of course, there would have to be an emotional angle, but I can leave that to the producers.)
I’m really not kidding. I think this would help. And you could start with Clark et al. “The Last Glacial Maximum”, Science, Science 7 August 2009: Vol. 325. no. 5941, pp. 710 – 714, and why it DOESN’T refute that CO2 was the main global temperature driver of glacial and interglacial transitions. I.e., kill the “CO2 lags, not leads” meme once and for all, willya?
In order to really change the way information is flowing, there has to be a serious change in tactics. My suggestion is just an idea; but there need to be some serious, useful, workable ideas out there. Time’s wasting.
We aren’t going to get the public to accept the need for an alternate energy future without some tactics that have impact.
Is anyone or has anyone computer modelled the climate effect of a melted Arctic Ocean next decade? The Canadian Prairies produce a great deal of grain. At a 2007 agri-policy meeting, one farmer told me I was nuts to worry about this as it wouldn’t melt for 100 years; they aren’t prepared for any potential climate and weather alterations.
IDK if Arctic Ocean is big or warm or “rotates on axis” enough to regularly spawn new weather systems, but at the very least I’d expect alterations in existing summer weather patterns, maybe even south of 49th.
Same for Eurasia. Because of rich people and Neocons we may not even get the chance to begin storing wheat…
(16) Yes, the imperfections in our thinking processes are important, and should be an area of required study. If I had my way, their study would be a requirement of citizenship at least as far as it is associated with the ability to affect the policymaking process.
Perhaps it should more importantly be a requirement for anyone intending to become a policymaker… though it would probably eliminate about 95% of the current crop.
Actually seems like good, wide-ranging coverage of a complex topic:
Mann and his coauthors from the University of Massachusetts and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution studied eight coastal locations where hurricanes make frequent landfall — seven in the U.S. and one in Puerto Rico. From these samples, they extrapolated the frequency of ancient storms. The North Atlantic has produced an average of 17 storms a year during the past decade — twice the number from most years in the last millennium, according to the study.
The proxy used is more reliable than the tree-ring isotope approach, and using mulitple sites is always better than relying on a single location. They also get a match between their proxy and their model, always encouraging.
Currently, sea surface temperatures globally are peaking at record levels, with the Gulf of Mexico among the warmest, and perhaps a developing subsurface warm pool as well. However, El Ninos are supposed to increase wind shear across the region – but anomalous ENSO behavior is becoming more common (i.e. Australian droughts during La Nina?). Here are the ssts and ohcs:
Each hemisphere broke its June record for warmest ocean surface temperature. In the Northern Hemisphere, the warm anomaly of 1.17 degrees F (0.65 degree C) surpassed the previous record of 1.12 degrees F (0.62 degree C), set in 2005. The Southern Hemisphere’s increase of 0.99 degree F (0.55 degree C) exceeded the old record of 0.92 degree F (0.51 degree C), set in 1998.
The global land surface temperature for June 2009 was 1.26 degrees F (0.70 degree C) above the 20th century average of 55.9 degrees F (13.3 degrees C), and ranked as the sixth-warmest June on record.
Your post on The Air Vent is pretty shameful. All sorts of wild speculation and questioning of motives. You keep presenting different ways that Eric and Real Climate could still be lying. If the facts don’t fit your accusations, you mold your accusations to fit the new facts. Since actual discrediting won’t due, you’ve resorted to insinuations and soap opera theorizing.
This is the “skeptics” A game? This is the best you guys have got?
[Response: Thanks for the support, but that’s enough on this. Some people might enjoy blogo-a-blogo p***ing matches but they can indulge in that elsewhere. – gavin]
The planet’s ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for July, breaking the previous high mark established in 1998 according to an analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for July 2009 ranked fifth-warmest since world-wide records began in 1880. …
It really shouldn’t need saying, but evidently it does: You don’t do science on blogs. At their worst, they provide an echo chamber for reinforcing misinformation. However, even at their best, blogs serve to educate those who frequent them. They may add to the knowledge of individuals, but they do not increase the sum total of human knowledge as science must do. Unfortunately, it is the misinformation echo chambers who have the least recognition for this fundamental fact.
While your post might be news to some people, I still do not think that the accusation was worth the dignity of a response. I can tell you from experience that the hardest thing to do when someone makes false or misleading accusations, is to stay silent.
That said, it’s usually the smartest thing to do.
Dan, I can hear what you are saying, but that was precisely the sort of advice a certain presidential contender took when people successfully tarred his reputation with the swiftboat attacks. 
True but I think unfortunate. At their best, blogs like RC become research “water coolers” where informal yet productive discussions can clarify and enhance complex topics, even for experts but mostly for those of us eager to understand why well-informed experts sometimes disagree.
Unfortunately the mutual disrespect of CA and RC posters and commenters diminishes that potential and I don’t see a solution.
As I understand this tempest in a teapot, there was a failure to understand that
the Internet is best effort and there are no guarantees of delivery.
While usually the internet informs one if e-mail delivery is postponed or impossible, this is not always the case. Furthermore, as various firealls and so on go into place, there is increased possiblity of internal nondelivery (without notification) or a similar problem at the receiving end.
Ergo, don’t attempt to send the same e-mail 6 times. If no response after 2 attempts, use the postal service or the telephone.
Comment by David B. Benson — 16 Aug 2009 @ 7:40 PM
I’m in the process of reading Unscientific American. It is clear that the normal channels of communicatio between science and the public are not working well, and the destruction of the old publishing business model is rapidly destroying some of the few remaining ones. It is clear we need to create new ones. Any suggestions other than blogs?
The ideas of “a neutral journal editor” and “independent reviewers” are nice ideas – but they don’t exist in reality. Even the best editors and reviewers will not claim to be truly “neutral” or “independent”, though the worst probably would claim this.
The reason this needs mentioned, is not to discard the process, but to highlight that the process must be considered in this light, if it is to be useful. Science is only as good (unbiased) as the scientists, sadly.
Comment by Samuel Watterson — 17 Aug 2009 @ 3:58 AM
RE: Oakden Wolf’s modest proposal.
This should not be lost in the normal shuffle!
“So here’s a modest proposal (and I’m not Jonathan Swift). A reality-based TV show (or Webcast) where a group of actual climate skeptics come to real science class about climate. In each episode, one or two or three of the most popular circulating misconceptions is presented by one of the skeptics to the instructors of the class. The instructors calmly, methodically, and systemically deconstruct the misconception, explain why its wrong, and then explain the proper and correct scientific understanding of that particular topic. After the whole class (8-10 episodes), the skeptics are then asked to honestly assess what they think about climate change now. (Kinda like “The Biggest Loser” — which one of the skeptics attending the class would end up being the “biggest loser” of their host of climate change misconceptions? Of course, there would have to be an emotional angle, but I can leave that to the producers.)”
This is the kind of idea that has a chance of actually working.
What if (to encourage audience participation) the theme was changed to allow an audience “vote” (like American Idol?) on what which ‘student’ seems to grasp the ideas presented best in their summary at the end of the show?
They could gain points or ranking as the show went on, with those not learning well enough being voted off the show (last place drops off every show, leaving the last ‘man’ or woman, but most of the really loud climate denial people seem to be men for some reason, standing and winning the prize?)
There should be some prize worth having…
Just throwing ideas out.
Any climate scientists willing to play teacher for such a project?
Whatever is done, it has to happen soon, and it is the social responsibility of every single person to do everything we can! If the people that know wont take some small risks to inform the masses, then we have already lost.
*I would like to fully credit Oakden wolf with this idea and hope to fully deflect any later charges of plagiarism.
Samuel Watterson says, “Science is only as good (unbiased) as the scientists, sadly.”
Ah, but the plural in “scientists” is important, because the biases of individual scientists tend to be diluted by requiring consensus. Moreover, science tends to reward those scientists who can put aside their personal agendas and make decisions based on evidence. Put another way, science is the best remedy we have for the human illness of telling ourselves comforting lies.
Terrific discussion. Returning from life’s complexities to RC, I read with interest the attempt to address questions posed by those eels the pseudo-skeptics.
41. Greisch – very well put (also Chris and many others);
I’m a fan of Chris Mooney, but his most recent book, to my eye a natural progression to a call to action, was not as rich. It is short and sweet and affirms what we’ve all experienced. I missed the thorough detail in his two earlier (Republican War on Science and the less polemical detailed and thorough history of hurricanes and hurricane research, Storm World, which is a great read). Those interested might like to follow his blog: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/
He appears to be having a debate about approach which has drawn the fire of some rigid opponents to religion who seem to miss the point that their anger about the issue is fueling the ignorance of others.
On trolls, two observations:
(1) among the excruciatingly boring expose of repetitive ignorance posing as plausible knowledge are kernels of knowledge; I found my thick skull beginning to thin a bit as the explanations multiplied, so I began to understand a bit about the fluctuations and mechanics of water vapor.
(2) One should be wary of providing practice to political opponents of reality-based science on creating the appearance of plausibility. It struck me that the arguments began to appear more reasonable though they did not become so. It’s a tricky business, but all over the web on multiple issues there is an increase in literacy and courtesy among the deniers, as they’ve realized illiteracy and hate speech only preach to the converted.
Try parking a car or typing by the gestalt method, doing it until it feels right. It doesn’t work on real things!
I’m not sure anymore which thread had the discussion on humidity in a warming world, but for those who haven’t seen it yet, there’s a report out on a new study (Santer is an author) showing that models robustly capture an anthropogenic increase in water vapor content. Report at:
Ray, you state without argument that “the biases of individual scientists tend to be diluted by requiring consensus”. That is a pretty spectacular generalization, and one which could easily be misinterpreted. In particular, a scientist with a healthy bias, i.e. one informed by the facts as she understands them, is not going to fare well against the consensus. Surely you would acknowledge that the urge to scientific consensus is not without its downside, and perhaps you would care to be more specific in your support of it. — Walter
“the scientists first took each [of the 22] model[s] and tested it individually, calculating 70 different measures of model performance. These “metrics” provided insights into how well the models simulated today’s average climate and its seasonal changes, as well as on the size and geographical patterns of climate variability.”
Hopefully this will be presented somewhere accessible.
From Susan Anderson’s two excellent points on trolls, just above:
> the arguments began to appear more reasonable though they did not become so.
From Walter Manny:
> a scientist with a healthy bias, i.e. one informed by the facts …
From Michael Tobis, at his blog, on Pielke Sr.
> It still isn’t clear … what the word “bias” means in the recent work.
From James Annan, replying to Michael there:
> “bias” is a key concept to the series of papers.
> It’s pea-under-the-thimble stuff.
Watch this stuff.
Michael Tobis warned clearly some years ago on his blog about the tactic of persisting with inapt and innumerate questions with the intention of exhausting the scientist’s patience and drawing a sharp putdown that could be hung up as a trophy.
(That’s why many of us ordinary readers try to step in and catch some of the dum-dum stuff, to spare the scientists’ time for actual questions meriting a thoughtful answer rather than a pointer to the FAQ)
The tactic only gets more effective with the kind of help that trolls are getting, as Susan observes — better bait, better trolled, more effective.
Another reason blogging may be getting used up.
Another argument for finding a programmer who can write a blog tool that allows easily dividing posts in response threads into what John Mashey has called “shadow threads” — a strand for serious thought, and a strand for the stuff not worth attention that distracts from cooperative thinking.
Without some improvement like that, blogging won’t do the job going forward, and the alternative, improving the journals, will take similar work.
For instance, I’ve been reading about the history of chemistry. There was bias against Lavoisier’s rejection of the theory of phlogiston, Dalton thought Berzelius’ system of chemical notation–basically, what we use today–barbarous, and Dalton’s own atomic theory took about 50 years to become thoroughly accepted. Time and again, the truth has prevailed against the biases even of great scientists.
IMO, it’s happening again in climate science, as objection after misconception after alternate explanation to AGW fails. (Of course, the blogosphere reanimates them as zombie science, but that’s a sideshow in the end, scientifically speaking. It’s not so clear that that’s true in the policy realm, unfortunately, though I’m guardedly optimistic.)
(Besides, the whole point of scientific culture is to exalt what you call “healthy bias”–ie., utmost respect for the facts–as the normative ideal. To the extent to which that ideal is realized, “biased in favor of the facts” is a nonsensical phrase, since “bias” should describe a departure from the norm, not the norm itself.
(Why you would call this “bias” at all is an interesting question. Is your prime axiom “AGW is false,” with the corollary being “Ergo, the consensus is (“unhealthily”) biased?”
(Don’t forget that the GHG hypothesis had to make its way against the current of bias for a full century, if you start with Tyndall–a half century or so if you start with Arrhenius.)
Thomas and Joe,
The whole subject of how to facilitate public science literacy in a country where more people believe in angels than evolution is quite frankly depressing. This goes well beyond any mutual contempt between any two websites. It goes to the very heart of whether policy can be science based. Unless you believe that everything we understand about climate is wrong–not uncertain, but wrong–then the evidence that we face a credible and severe threat is certainly sufficient to argue for extreme caution. Indeed, the calculus of the uncertainty even argues for more extreme caution.
Personally, I think what is needed is another model for writing about science–something where they don’t just sell controversy, but rather emphasize the process of discovery. Will that hold the attention of the average reader? I don’t know, but if we can’t figure out a way to make the avarage citizen sufficiently science literate to vote the interests of him and his progeny, that doesn’t bode well for democracy or civilization.
Walter, since scientific consensus must of necessity be evidence-based, I’m not sure how a scientist who forms his or her understanding based on the facts and the underlying science can come into conflict with scientific consensus. The only ways I can see are:
1)Said scientist doesn’t have a firm grasp of the science and is trying to fit an incomplete set of facts into that flawed understanding.
2) The thousands of scientists independently assessing the facts all come to THE SAME flawed understanding of the system.
While I understand that climate science is the subject here, I am speaking more to the more general notion of individual scientists who must buck the establishment to get something new in there — Kevin uses examples of scientists challenging other individual scientists, I have used Darwin against Thomson as an example here before. Thomson, surely, was the holder of the consensus at the time. Perhaps not. The challenging of consensus is easy to see in hindsight, though, and not easy at all to see in the moment. One way or the other, scientists will chuckle at our misconceptions decades from now — an interesting question to me is: what exactly will they have been impressed by and what will they laughingly find to be history repeating itself? Otherwise stated, and back to the topic a bit, I would hope the modelers keep doing their thing, and that the skeptics keep doing theirs, without so much of the name-calling on both sides, which misbehavior I also acknowledge might be a necessary part of the whole deal.
Somewhat tangentially, you like to point to the unlikelihood of any new factors upsetting the AGW applecart, that what we know now is good enough or “the best science available” I think you once put it. I have a harder time believing predictions about the impact of things we do not yet understand. To your question, though, if it’s leaning towards climate science, 1) is bit of a set-up, since there is more than one challenger but 2) is obviously “more likely”, though I do not use the two words in the IPCC sense :) -Walter
Hank Roberts wrote: “Another argument for finding a programmer who can write a blog tool that allows easily dividing posts in response threads into what John Mashey has called ‘shadow threads’ — a strand for serious thought, and a strand for the stuff not worth attention that distracts from cooperative thinking.”
I guess it would be a sort of progress for blogs to have the kind of tools that USENET had years ago.
And “trolling” was old when USENET was young.
I suppose it goes back to Ogg the caveman heading down to the watering hole to pick a fight and grunting the equivalent of “yo mama” until he found one.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 17 Aug 2009 @ 12:51 PM
Walter, I love your response to Ray’s comment since it illustrates the wonderfully different conclusions that arise from differing semantic interpretations.
Arguing against Ray’s point that “the biases of individual scientists tend to be diluted by requiring consensus” ….
….you say: “In particular, a scientist with a healthy bias, i.e. one informed by the facts as she understands them, is not going to fare well against the consensus.”
This bears directly upon the meaning of “consensus” and “bias”! I (and I suspect Ray, but he can correct me if I’m wrong) considers “consensus” to mean something like “prevailing viewpoint arising from an informed assessment of increasingly strong evidence”. Thus a consensus arises when the evidence becomes strongly supportive of a particular interpretation. Your use of “consensus” suggests (to me anyhow), some sort of uninformed collective viewpoint.
And on Ray’s use of “bias”. I would consider that “bias” in Ray’s context, is bias resulting from pre-conceptions, confirmation bias, poor choice of experiment, etc., and might even include subtle and not so subtle data manipulation/selection.
So if I were to paraphrase Ray’s argument it would be something like: “The physical world has an extant reality. Any element of this may be misinterpreted by individual scientists as a result of various bias, but reality will “out” as more studies bear on the problem. As the combination of these studies uncover the reality, this becomes the consensus.” In general the consensus (in this definition) is likely to be correct.
Incidentally, the manner in which scientific consensus develops underlies to me the rather tedious nature of nonsense under discussion on this thread. The study by Steig et al is (in my opinion) nothing like the last word on this subject. It is a so-far small piece of evidence in the entire edifice of our understanding of natural/forced climate responses. We don’t really know conclusively the temperature history of the Antarctic of the last 50 years. Steig et al provides one piece of evidence; in particular it suggests that the Antarctic is unlikely to have cooled over this time – more likely it’s warmed somewhat. No doubt this study will stimulate further work and in time we’ll be sufficiently informed that a consensus will form on this little piece of science. It seems totally unnecessary for groups of wildebeeste to wait for every study that comes out and attempt to trample this under a barrage of numerological nit-picking, misrepresentation and insult.
Ike, Fred M: One could argue it could always be more I suppose, but the portion of the $700-800 stimulus package directed toward climate mitigation (directly or indirectly) looks like it’s approaching 15% — not much to sneeze at. From my scan I saw nothing going directly to the big bad oil companies (except possibly for those that are getting into renewable energy and such.)
I don’t think that this is said very often, but with all of the inordinate time and attention given to the “concerns” of the phony “skeptics”, there seems to be far less time and attention given to those of us who are truly alarmed.
I am one of those people. I find the real-time, observational climate science that is coming out every day — let alone the projections from new and improved models — to be, in a word, terrifying.
My understanding of the science is basically that:
1. Anthropogenic GHG emissions have increased and are increasing much faster than expected, at or above the IPCC worst-case scenarios.
2. It appears that the warming that results directly from GHG forcing is greater than expected.
3. It appears that the effect of a given amount of warming on the climate, hydrosphere, cryosphere and biosphere is greater than expected.
4. It appears that carbon sinks are becoming saturated and feedbacks are being triggered portending a rapid acceleration of warming.
5. It appears that the warming that is already “locked in” due to the longevity of excess CO2 is already enough to cause truly catastrophic effects.
6. It appears extremely unlikely that humanity as a whole will do what is well understood to be needed to phase out our GHG emissions rapidly enough to avoid much, much greater warming that what is already locked in.
In short, when I look at the science I see unmitigated, unthinkable global catastrophe, not only for human civilization but for the Earth’s biosphere itself, barreling down on us with no plausible way of averting it. Sure, we could “theoretically” stop all emissions within 5-10 years, and simultaneously launch a world-wide program of reforestation and conversion to organic agriculture to draw down the already dangerous excess CO2 and sequester it in soils and biomass, and maybe the glaciers would stop melting and the seas would stop rising and the deserts would stop spreading and the forests would stop dying. But I just don’t see any plausible chance that we will do that.
When I look at the science, what I see is: there is no hope.
So, forget the deniers and the delayers for a little while. Speak to the folks who are scared to death. Tell ME that I’m “cherry picking” and it isn’t all that bad. PLEASE.
Mark, I don’t intend to launch an off-topic discussion, but you are mistaken to refer to “psychic studies” as “not science”.
The Parapsychological Association is an affiliate of the AAAS. There are endowed chairs and departments of parapsychology at major universities. Modern parapsychology has progressively built on a century-long history of experimental science, is conducted according to the highest standards of scientific inquiry, and is often highly technical in nature and subjected to rigorous controls. Prominent scientists have affirmed that the existence of various ‘psi’ phenomena have been successfully, and repeatedly, demonstrated in stringently controlled laboratory conditions. Whether you agree with that assessment or not, there is no question that parapsychology is a legitimate field of scientific inquiry. Even famous skeptic Carl Sagan, in his book The Demon-Haunted World in which he railed against superstition of all sorts, allowed that the evidence for certain psi phenomena was sufficiently strong to warrant further study.
Unfortunately, parapsychology has been subjected to a campaign of hostile, ideologically-motivated pseudo-skepticism (sound familiar?) founded in the a priori belief of some people that the phenomena it seeks to study are “supernatural” or “religious” in nature, and therefore by definition cannot be real, and certainly are not something that scientists should study.
In my experience, most people who glibly categorize parapsychology as pseudoscience, superstition or fakery, know very little about it, and most of what they think they know about it comes from ideologues like CSICOP.
I have suggested here before that scientific-minded folks who defend climate science against its pseudo-skeptical critics can learn something about the motivations and thinking of those critics by examining their own attitudes towards parapsychology: are those attitudes based on careful, open-minded, impartial study of the subject? Or are they based on a refusal to countenance that which we already know cannot possibly be true?
[Response: There’s a huge difference between exploring reported phenomena using the tools of science, and continuing to believe that these things exist despite no supporting evidence. It is not that everyone is ‘a priori’ hostile to para-psychology, but rather that despite it’s existence as a field of academic study for decades, it has produced no convincing evidence that that the phenomena it purports to study actually exist. At what point to you move on to more fruitful endeavours? – gavin]
If anyoneone wants to see the climate debate (between deniers,lukewarmers,AGW mainstream and alarmists) in perspective Kuhn’s 1962 work on revolutions in Science is a must read. The idea that Science evolves through consensus is not correct. A mainstream view emerges, it is elaborated and refined by its proponents seeking to correct data that doesn’t fit the theory. Eventually the inconsistencies become too difficult to manage and the theory is discarded for another which better fits the expeimental data. In another 100 years the evolution of the theories around cliamte change will make a fascinating case study. My guess is that the—- its all CO2 and the rest is natural variability— will become untenable within 5 years or so to be replaced with more sophisticated models with C02 as a major component. Till then expect the normal bad mouthing between rival camps which is not unusual in Science. There is however some progress… we don’t put deniers or alarmists on the rack like Gallileo!! ( actually he was just shown the instruments now I think about it)
[Response: But your opinion about the current ‘paradigm’ is completely wrong. No one currently thinks that ‘its all CO2 and the rest is natural variability’. That’s just a strawman argument, easily disposed off. Where did you get this idea? – gavin]
John Brockman’s new book, “What Have You Changed Your Mind About?” is a very good collection of short essays by scientists. The last is by W. Daniel Hillis, who had believed that Aristotle (Meteorologica) was wrong in his assertion that hot water freezes faster than cold water. Any chance that rising ocean temperatures may aid icecap recovery?
Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 17 Aug 2009 @ 3:07 PM
Richard S. Lindzen has popped up again:
“Such hysteria simply represents the scientific illiteracy of much of the public, the susceptibility of the public to the substitution of repetition for truth, and the exploitation of these weaknesses…”
His main point is the tropical temperature trend – but he ignores all recent work:
Supporting the notion that man has not been the cause of this unexceptional change in temperature is the fact that there is a distinct signature to greenhouse warming: surface warming should be accompanied by warming in the tropics around an altitude of about 9km that is about 2.5 times greater than at the surface. Measurements show that warming at these levels is only about 3/4 of what is seen at the surface, implying that only about a third of the surface warming is associated with the greenhouse effect..
The more recent work he needs to address includes:
We are not a corporate media monster with billions of dollars at our disposal and special interests to serve. We are at the opposite end of the financial and moral spectrum where the majority of people are.”
My guess is that the – its all CO2 and the rest is natural variability — will become untenable within 5 years or so to be replaced with more sophisticated models with C02 as a major component.
You chose the first clause to criticise but the second clause was apposite. In five years time CO2 will be shown as the major component, setting the snow-line, and so controlling the climate via albedo. The albedo has a linear effect on climate, unlike back radiation which is only logarithmic.
Any scientist seeking to advance a revolutionary new idea against the consensus need do only one thing: Get evidence. So-called skeptics love to cite Wegner’s struggle to introduce plate tectonics against a skeptical geological establishment. They ignore the fact that Wegner was wrong. His ideas about how plates moved made no sense. Instead, we had to wait for evidence and our understanding of geology, material science and geophysics all advanced. H. Pylori is another favorite–a heroic struggle against a skeptical scientific community. However, it wasn’t persistence that carried the argument, but evidence.
Science requires that we take what evidence we have and form our best understanding of the system. We can’t simply say, “Oh, I don’t like that theory. I’m going to wait until we have evidence against it.” That’s not science. Now when evidence is weak, scientists don’t take the theory seriously–that’s when you get “quarks” in “flavors” of strange, charm, truth and beauty. Ninety percent confidence gets kind of hard to argue with, though. That’s when the evidence becomes sufficiently strong that they change truth and beauty to top and bottom.
Ike (107), a little razzle-dazzle with statistical math and assessing (implied highly reliable…??) wind measurements back 30 years instead of “problematic” temp measurements, I think is interesting (seriously), but a long way from putting the tropic so-called “hot spot” dilemma to rest.
I just would like to thank Dale Power for his vote of confidence. It emboldened me to post the idea elsewhere on blogs (Only In It for the Gold, Big City Liberal) where there are current discussions along the theme of “what to do about Morano”. Morano is only part of the problem. The problem is that normal skeptical people read Morano, grab his stuff, and it gets circulated over and over and over again in forums, in water cooler conversations, in church, on the street with your neighbors, etc. People take what they see and use it to reinforce their cognitive belief structures. No amount of reasoning presented reasonably will make a significant difference or inroad.
That’s why the idea (which actually sounded better when I woke up the next morning than when I first came up with it) tries to attack this cyclical misconception circulation, and it would do two things: one, it would disable some of the favorite arguments of the skeptics, publically and obviously (and courteously!); two, it might make the skeptics begin to question all of their assumptions when they start to see demonstrated repeatedly how unfounded their cherished “climate tall tales” actually are. Virtually all of the commonly-seen skeptical arguments are effectively refuted in a number of places on the Web. But those refutations do not reach the masses. We are in dire need of strategies that reach, and persuade, the masses. The skeptics and especially the funding organizations behind them are using conventional tactics; the similarities between what the tobacco companies did about the smoking-cancer link and what the status quo valiants are doing about the climate-greenhouse gas link are striking.
We need to fake them, outflank them, and hit them hard, like Lee did to Hooker at Chancellorsville. A superior force can be defeated with unconventional tactics effectively employed.
Is this off-topic, RC? My original point was basically that these people don’t play fair. We need to play fair (which was done in the case of the Corrigendum), but we also need to defeat them. Soundly.
Paging Leonardo diCaprio… time to get off the Ibiza beaches and back to work, Leo!
RealClimate: The post left me curious how you proceed when you (or your guests) do a critical review of someone’s paper. I assume you set your fairness standards higher than CA, but that, being a blog, you don’t feel obliged to follow the full journal procedures you describe?
[Response: I think the key thing is to focus on the science. We generally review each other’s posts as we would a submitted paper to make sure that we (mostly) don’t make unjustified statements. We don’t make up cute names to belittle scientists and we don’t make unsupported allegations of misconduct. We also try and focus strongly on the bigger picture – how does a new paper really fit in with the rest of the science? This is where a lot of the contrarian blogs get it completely wrong because they are looking for anything that appears to go against the mainstream, regardless of its credibility or coherence with their post the week before. So our criticisms usually revolve around the lack of context, and if we can see what the problem is (for instance in a statistical test as in Douglass et al), we’ll talk about that. But we try and focus on issues that matter, something else the greek chorus seems to have problems with. When we do see a real problem with a paper, we have often been instigators on submitting a fuller comment or proper paper and that ends up being the ‘criticism of record’ (Santer et al (2008), Foster et al (2008), Schmidt (2009) etc.). That is a much more effective and concise permanent record than the rather ephemeral and sprawling nature of blogs. – gavin]
Folks, would this not be an answer to the title of this article which is Resolving technical issues in science? In my small view, congratulations to Gavin and the others. Sorry, do not know how to do links
“Because the analysis that you have provided represents a useful extension of our original analysis, and strongly shows that it is robust to large model uncertainties, we invite you to join us as a co-author” on a short piece along the lines of this response that integrates your initial comments with the additional material presented here.
110 Thanks, Ray, and helpful clarity. The following is putting words in your mouth, but I intend no sarcastic tone even it may read that way: I take it you believe that climate theory has progressed to the “top and bottom quark” state. To its most important aspect, its predictive (projective?) ability, you believe that the theory is reliable enough, based on its predictive accuracy to date, I assume, to drive necessarily radical and international societal change. It follows that the skeptics, “so-called” or otherwise, have no evidence to offer and are mere opinion-mongers with no other goal than to obstruct and delay. As such, they deserve our mockery, and they should stop trying to poke holes in the theory, as the consensus holders are perfectly capable and desirous of refinements. It would be better, actually, if the skeptical climate scientists, as opposed to skeptics in general, would join in the consensus rather than fight it.
If this overstates the case, let me know if you feel like it. — Walter
Walter, you didn’t ask me, but I’ll chime in anyway. I’d agree with your summary, up to “it follows. . .”
From there I’d say: “The observed behavior of most so-called skeptics shows them to have no other goal than to obstruct and delay.” (Those who are skeptical–no quotes needed–but do engage meaningfully and constructively on the evidence are a distinct (but very small) group.) “As such they deserve our mockery.” (As Voltaire said, more or less, “I prayed that my enemies would be ridiculous, and my prayer was answered.”)
“Skeptical scientists” I take to denote the second group described above. If they engage meaningfully, then they are testing and/or refining the consensus via their skepticism–no need to “join,” they are already doing what they should do. (“Meaningfully” would include publication in the appropriate venues, BTW. It arguably should also imply some attention to the big picture, as described in the inline response to #121–papers that don’t address that bigger picture in some way will tend to be largely ignored by subsequent researchers.)
I note that Gavin has asked for an end to the comments on parapsychology, but hope I will be allowed a short comment to those who replied to my original post.
As I said, I did not intend to launch an off-topic discussion of parapsychology. My point was only that it is incorrect to say that it is “not science” — that regardless of your assessment of the results it has obtained, it is a legitimate field of scientific inquiry, conducted according to the accepted standards of science. It seems that most here generally agree, even those who feel strongly that psi research has not been fruitful.
As to the status of the evidence for the existence of so-called “psi phenomena”, I would refer interested readers to two books by engineer & psychologist Dean Radin, PhD: The Conscious Universe (1997) and Entangled Minds (2006), which provide an excellent overview of modern parapsychology and the results that it has obtained. (Gavin, I’ll see your Susan Blackmore and raise you a Jessica Utts.)
Now, I will say no more about this.
I am in fact much more interested in any replies to my comment currently numbered 101, in which I pleaded for someone to tell that my very gloomy view of what AGW has in store is as much the result of cherry-picking or misunderstanding as the attitudes of the so-called “skeptics”.
By the way, I really miss the Preview button. I hope my links above are correct.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 18 Aug 2009 @ 10:34 AM
Gavin (inline at #121),
I was thinking along the lines of “do you look up the authors, give them a heads-up before the review is published, invite them to respond, etc.”, but the points you brought up were rather more interesting, anyway. Thanks.
[Response: Sometimes. We did with Zeebe, Zachos and Dickens for instance. Depends on whether there is likely to be a constructive dialog or not. – gavin]
You queried folks with some expertise, IIRC, not those who, like me, are more here to educate themselves.
But for what it’s worth, I find your points 1-3 “right on,” and points 4-6 over-weighted to the negative. That is, it seems to me that you may have “could happen” and “will happen” identified a bit too closely.
Not that unbounded risk is any cause for complacency!
” Email from American Petroleum Institute outlines plan to create appearance of public opposition to Obama’s climate and energy reform.
“The US oil and gas lobby are planning to stage public events to give the appearance of a groundswell of public opinion against legislation that is key to Barack Obama’s climate change strategy, according to campaigners.”
Yesterday I listened to an extremely cogent argument from a political scientist describing the administration’s abject failure to anticipate the campaign of deception they would face regarding health care and their foolish failure to aggressively inoculate the public against the entirely predictable main talking points deployed by the insurance industry PR army.
The administration is at risk of repeating the same mistake. They seem to have a misplaced faith in the publics’ critical thinking skills. Conversely, in the health care “debate” API and their subsidiary constituents now have a very tempting example and play book to work from. This bodes of becoming another shameful episode.
Walter, First, radical change must happen, regardless of climate issues. Our current path is simply not sustainable. Given that, we can use science to guide that change or we can ignore science. I don’t see a middle ground here. Science–Anti-Science. Choose.
As to the denialists, I think Napoleon gives good advice: “Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity.” And in this case stupidity consists of rejecting the science based on what it requires of us rather than on the strength of the evidence. Our current model of Earth’s climate explains an amazing amount of evidence. The denialists have nothing even remotely resembling an alternative theory. So we have a scientific theory versus… doubts that do not seem to be based on science, but rather on the difficulty of the task before us. The choice is not between radical change or the continuation of business as usual. The latter is not an option. It’s only a question of whether we let science guide us or act against science.
It occurs to me that in my list of six reasons why I am alarmed by the findings of climate science (comment #101) and the inadequate response of human society, I neglected to mention ocean acidification.
Also, I see that I posted an incorrect link to one of Dean Radin’s books in my previous comment. Interested readers can find the book, so I won’t post an updated link. But I sure do miss that preview button.
Barton Paul Levenson (119), you say albedo has a one-fourth power law effect on climate. I don’t understand this. Doesn’t the forcing change lineraly with albedo? Or is it the surface temp that is not linear with insolation forcing? Can you explain? [If already answered later in this thread, never mind.]
I’m sure most adhherents and perhaps even most proponents of the contrarian position sincerely hold (in the face of all the scientific evidence) that anthropogenic climate change is not an urgent problem.
But to what, other than malice, can we ascribe the reprehensible dishonest PR and political campaign against the science, a campaign surreptitiously funded by fossil fuel and other interests and aided by complaisant media outlets.
The behaviour of ExxonMobil, Competitive Enterprise Intitute, the Heartland Institute and FoxNews, to name a very few obvious examples, is not merely stupid.
It’s utterly despicable.
And I don’t want to leave out Canada, so I’ll name some less familiar names: Imperial Oil, Encana, Fraser Institute, Tom Harris and the National Post – all actively involved in various insidious PR campaigns to forestall meaningful action on climate change.
So my message to SecularAnimist (back at 101) is this:
It’s time to call a spade and spade and expose this malicious behaviour for what it is – a deceitful propaganda campaign. In my opinion, that’s the the only way of overcoming this stalemate, and have any hope for the best possible outcome.
Ray Ladbury #110, 133: Thanks for your illuminating comments.
Stupidity may indeed be the cause of denialism, and not malice. Just a lack of education and cognitive capacity, some parroting of received opinions as facts. Malice involves what lawyers call mens rea (criminal intent). To make out a case of fraud you have to show that the accused knew that what he said was false, but he said it anyway, hoping to deceive someone else. Mens rea is in the knowledge of falsity (scienter).
Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 18 Aug 2009 @ 3:56 PM
I suspect some honest information exchange would go a very long way here. Information meaning raw data, massaged data, methodology, software and underlying assumptions.
When the objective is true, honest science there cannot be too much sunshine, too many ideas, possibilities examined (accepted or rejected, but honestly exchanged). It “feels” to a lay person like there is too much hidden at RC, an unwillingness to engage.
Even if your assumptions about the “deniers” are correct, surely you will be better researchers yourselves having been forged to most brilliant, sharp, and challenged minds by engaging them vigorously, but with intellectual honesty.
There is politics on “your” side and you know that. Cap and trade is little more than a political football to “buy” and “give away” chits to the politically-connected. I have just read about banning private jet transport as a good, strong, practical first step. Sounds reasonable to me. If not an out-and-out ban, would those in support of cap and trade legislation, personally eliminate personal private jet travel, in the interim, as a statement of commitment?
Your science is not about counting marbles; it is an art form, rife with potential for honest error. But if you insist upon hiding your thinking, assumptions, data, etc. it is quite reasonable to assume someone is “cooking” the globe, starting with an objective and backing the data and the math into the intended result.
I suspect there is truly enough money to keep you guys gainfully employed even if you open the doors and your minds to all the possibilities, criticisms, and ideas.
Comment by Esmeralda Dangerfield — 18 Aug 2009 @ 4:15 PM
Rod B 18 August 2009 at 2:21 PM
Yeah, really -great- critical thinking. “Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare”, “Death Panels” turning off grandpa. Here’s another depressing variant of a gullible public falling for specious hyperbole offered as a substitute for reality. Same deal as the “debate” over climate change policy, just with different nouns.
Swerving back to the general topic of climate change, confirmed cases of forged letters regarding Waxman-Markey sent to Congress now at 13:
Esmeralda Dangerfield wrote: “It ‘feels’ to a lay person like there is too much hidden at RC, an unwillingness to engage.”
As a layperson who frequents this site to keep up with the latest climate science, with all due respect, that’s rubbish. The scientists who run this site are very busy people, yet they consistently and generously donate their time, pro bono, to engage with and educate the commenters here. I have been impressed, and even moved, again and again at their thoughtful, careful, respectful answers to even the most basic or misguided questions.
As to things being “hidden” I have no idea what you are talking about. There is a wealth of information readily available here if you care to look at it.
Esmeralda Dangerfield wrote: “But if you insist upon hiding your thinking, assumptions, data, etc. it is quite reasonable to assume someone is ‘cooking’ the globe, starting with an objective and backing the data and the math into the intended result.”
You have offered no evidence that anyone here is doing any such thing or “hiding” anything. You are making vague and baseless accusations of fraud. You give no indication that you have the slightest idea what you are talking about and appear to be simply regurgitating boilerplate denialist slander.
An oceanographic survey has discovered a 1,400-meter-tall plume rising from the seafloor off the coast of California. Water samples taken at the site, about 32 kilometers northwest of Cape Mendocino, indicate that the feature isn’t mineral-rich water spewing from a hydrothermal vent, but researchers aren’t yet sure exactly what the feature is made of.
The mystery plume was first spotted on sonar in the dark hours of May 17, says James V. Gardner, a marine geologist at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. …
Esmeralda Dangerfield (141) — “It is good to have a open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.”
The actual science has been worked out over the last 150+ years. You can read about this history in “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart; first link in the Science section of the sidebar.
Comment by David B. Benson — 18 Aug 2009 @ 7:14 PM
If not an out-and-out ban, would those in
support of cap and trade legislation, personally eliminate personal
private jet travel, in the interim, as a statement of commitment?
(Cherishing the mental image of Gavin, Mike, Eric and the other usual suspects dashing about in their private jets from scientific meeting to scientific meeting. Who needs NSF grants anyway?)
you say albedo has a one-fourth power law effect on climate. I don’t understand this.
There is more in that category. Perhaps someone not recognizing Stefan-Boltzmann when it bites him in the butt, should not pontificate on the correctness of century-old physics?
Comment by Martin Vermeer — 19 Aug 2009 @ 12:31 AM
This is of topic so perhaps it needs to be moved somewhere else…
I would like to raise two points/questions. These might be suitable topics for another thread
Having read in recent years ( in New Scientist etc)
A. About speculations that El Nino events could become more frequent as AGW progresses, withe the ENSO process acting as a sort of pump, moving energy around the earths climate systems
B. That extreme El Nino events may have a carry over effect on the worlds climate for several years (not necesarily a warming effect)
I have an informed laymans speculation. Could the ‘cooling since 1998’ that the Denialosphere is all a lather about actually be an indication of how AGW might proceed. Stepwise changes caused by a major El Nino every decade or so, followed by a relative plateau in between. Is there currently any work on ENSO effects that might indicate this possibility?
What modelling has currently been done on the impact of large (1-2GTn per year) sustained Methane emissions on AGW forecasts? What triggers this question is events across the Arctic. Not Sea Ice retreat or Glaciers. Permafrost melt and Methane emissions from both defrosted organic matter and release from Methane Clathrates/Hydrates on the sea floor. Images of flames leaping out from frozen lakes in winter as methane ignites, early reports of methane discharge from the sea floor around Svarlbad and the Siberian coast, recent reports of assessments of the total carbon locked away up there at 2-3 times total levels currently in the atmosphere, and methane volumes in the worlds clatrates of 3-4 TeraTonnes are not comfortable night time reading.
Obviously the state of our knowledge on the likely future rates of release of Methane is very sketchy, but I was wondering what sort of what-if modelling has been done into the consequences if such emissions started to occur? More broadly, a really useful addition to your sight might be a discussion area on the various ‘tipping points’ the world is hearing about. Obviously more speculative, but really scary if they happen.
From my informed laymans perspective, the two threats that seem most likely to tip the threat from AGW from ‘Houston, we have a problem’ to ‘OH MY GOD. WERE F***ED’ would be that Climate Sensitivity is significantly higher than previously thought, and that Methane Release is the first Tipping Point, its already tipped and it could escalate fast. Nightmare stuff. I hope someone can demonstrate I am wrong.
Esmeralda Dangerfield (141) –
You appear to be under the illusion that the real science is happening on the blogs – the denialist blogs.
If you are a scientist (with some peer reviewed publications in credible journals) you should be in a position to research the extensive climate science literature for yourself (as pointed out by Benson (145).
My guess is that you are one of the scientifcally illiterate (unable to discriminate between good and bad science)that has become caught up in the web of dishonest pseudo-science spin that flatters the gullible into feeling that they are part of some grand scheme exposing a massive hoax.
My own experience with one particular denialist is that it is not malice that is driving her denial but a refusal to accept that she is scientifically illiterate and she really thinks the denialist blogs from which she gets her info is where the real science is happening. It’s a psychological problem – once you invest your ego in such a position it’s like getting caught up in a cult – difficult to escape from. It’s a really sad waste of energy.
Secular animist (128) – Yes. I like your wise posts.
“Malice involves what lawyers call mens rea (criminal intent).”
Or they just don’t care.
It’s as simple as someone barging out in front of traffic when driving: there’s a risk of killing people or at least crashing in, but at that moment, they consider their needs far more important than the risk. Especially if it’s a risk to others.
RC is just the best site to LEARN something about climate science. I feel absolutely reflected in SecularAnimist’s comment #143. I have learnt things here I had always thought you would need to be a real scientist to know. I’ve been fond of other technical areas and I have never found such a rich information source as I find in RC. Saying that your professor is hidding somenthing… that you don’t even know what might be, appart from being paranoid, just shows how much imagination conspiracy theorists like you are willing to waste.
Your science is not about counting marbles; it is an art form, rife with potential for honest error. But if you insist upon hiding your thinking, assumptions, data, etc. it is quite reasonable to assume someone is “cooking” the globe, starting with an objective and backing the data and the math into the intended result.
No one is hiding anything. All the data and methods are widely available. If you want some essays on the subject which explicitly list the time series data and explain the statistical methods involved, try here:
I can only assume that since you don’t know that the raw data and most of the analyses are all publicly available that you are either new to our planet or you haven’t looked very hard.
Is it seriously your contention that the globe is not warming? Do you really think CO2 is not a greenhouse gas? Or do you think that it somehow magically stops being a greenhouse gas above pre-industrial levels?
Please, educate yourself. Go the the “Start Here” tab and start there.
Malice vs. stupidity. Note that there’s is plenty of evidence of disinformation and even deliberate disinformation. That is not proof of malice. We have to realize that most people do not think scientifically: They do not gather and look at the evidence in aggregate and draw conclusions based on that. If they did, Vegas wouldn’t exist! People have an amazing ability to tell themselves comforting lies:
1)If i just pull the handle one more time, I’ll win my money back.
2)God wouldn’t let me really lose my house, would he?
3)How can a gas I can’t even see change the whole world?
Still others reason based on their perceptions of necessity:
1)There’s no way I can pay off this debt unless I hit the jackpot…
2)Surely GM will come back. I’d better buy more shares while they’re cheap.
3)Even if climate change is real, we’ll come up with a solution…
This is precisely why scientific thinking is so important. It provides us with an alternative to lying to ourselves. However, as such, it is foreigh to most peoples’ ways of thinking–and indeed generates no small amount of hostility. So when the few who are truly malicious provide lies masquerading as science, many people will seize on it. Even smart people can be really stupid when they don’t understand the real science.
Martin Vermeer (151), I’ve seen the relation between Temperature and Forcing shown as 1/4 power, 1/3 power, and linear. The latter is the most prevalent in papers, with alpha as the coefficient (and about 30 yrs old, not 100+) which has some numerical variance. Some of these relationships are derived from physics, some from observations, even some from personal knowledgeable speculation, so far as I can discern. I was just asking. Sorry I offended you.
Was Esmeralda Dangerfield a drive-by? I’m waiting to hear some evidence of scientific misconduct but so far nothing.
For that matter, why is it that specimens such as Esmeralda are repeatedly allowed to postulate here about researchers’ corruption without ever offering any supporting data? What do such comments offer in the way of enlightenment or better understanding? This scenario happens over and over again; Esmeralda’s post was artfully written but as usual was 100% redundant in both its lack of veracity and utter vacuity. Is it unreasonable censorship to avoid having a discussion thread degraded by empty posts such as Esmeralda’s?
“How to Publish a Scientific Comment in 1 2 3 Easy Steps”
Dynamics of Cats
August 17, 2009
There are 123 steps. But be sure to read the Addendum. After all, I wouldn’t want to discourage you from submitting a Comment.
The saga of the journal comment.
Adventures in Ethics and Science
August 18, 2009
this chronology of exasperation raises some questions about just what interests journal editors are actually working towards, and about how as a result journals may be failing to play the role that the scientific community has expected them to play.
Not-so-self-correcting science: the hard way, the easy way, and the easiest way
A Blog Around the Clock
August 19, 2009
Two recent events put in stark relief the differences between the old way of doing things and the new way of doing things. What am I talking about? The changing world of science publishing, of course.
This will be an astute grasp of the obvious to some, but I think it’s an important one that deserves repeating. Hope I’m not repeating someone.
Eric et al. have shown that the change in the effective number of degrees of freedom (i.e. sample size) due to temporal autocorrelation of residuals does not alter the statistical significance of the observed trend, and therefore the overall conclusions of the study. RIGHT! (and all caps because that’s the bottom line in any study–is the result robust to these kind of things). However, there’s more that can be said on the issue. Suppose that dropping n from 600 to 345 DID change the significance to some p > .05? What then? Aside from certain individuals going ballistic in the library, what would a lack of statistical significance have meant?
Starting with the most basic first, it most definitely would NOT have meant that there was no trend in temperature over the 50 years, only that the probability of a non-zero trend was somewhat less than the traditionally–and arbitrarily–defined benchmark of 95%, corresponding to somewhat less than a 19:1 (real trend:spurious trend) odds ratio. What if p was = 0.10. That still represents a 9:1 odds ratio in favor of a non-zero trend. How about p = 0.25? Still gives a 3:1 odds ratio. p = 0.5? Still have even odds that the trend is non-zero. Elementary, but worth remembering.
But there’s more to it. The p value gives the probability of an observed result arising due entirely to sampling variation (“chance”; very poorly named as sampling “error”) alone, if some null hypothesis–some actual state–is in fact the reality of things. The null hypothesis is a benchmark, and in most cases, that benchmark is “no trend” or “no difference”. There’s a whole suite of issues associated with this philosophy, which have been fairly beaten to death, not the least of which is: “on what basis is ‘no trend’ or ‘no difference’ an appropriate null reference point”. Evaluating the probability of an observed result against a particular null hypothesis is only the test of one hypothesis, one which may not even be the most helpful to address. In fact, it likely is not in many cases.
In any complex system (I believe climate science qualifies), what is typically MUCH more important, is getting an error-bounded estimate of a parameter, not an evaluation of how likely that parameter is to be equal to zero (or any other particular value). Of course the two concepts are related, because for a given sample size, a parameter estimated to be far from zero is much less likely to actually be zero, than one that is estimated as close to zero. Which leads directly to the very intuitive principle that the estimated value of a parameter is in fact the most likely value in the real world, given the constraints of the data available at the moment. And it is this “most likely value” that is the much more important piece of information.
So what if the West Antarctic temperature trend’s p value had risen to p = 0.3 from p $lt; .01 because the sample size was greatly lowered by extremely high autocorrelation
of regression residuals. Denialosphere goes into a feeding frenzy right? Right. No evidence of a trend right? Wrong. There would still be a linear regression slope equivalent to 0.18 deg/decade. Leaving aside the issues of fitting some other type of (non-linear) model to reduce the autocorrelation, the maximum likelihood estimate of a linear trend is just that, 0.18 deg/decade, a probability which will necessarily be higher–and in this case much higher–than the probability that the slope is zero (no trend).
But they’re still going apeshit anyway I’m guessing.
Gentlepersons….. I am *very* sorry! I did not mean to imply that warming was not – or was – happening. I am new to this, but have spent many hours in the past week or so, tumbling through the rabbit hole of various web sites.
I *was* referring to the need for doing good, quality science, with openness. Where, oh where, did I write something about “scientific misconduct,” “fraud,” “corruption,” something of which so many would take offense? A lack of openness was the worst of my recent observations. Has anyone read this thread?
[edit of cut-and-paste contrarian talking points]
[Response: On the off-chance that you are indeed new to this – you need to know that your sources are not telling you the truth. You quote people like John Theon as if they knew what they were talking about. How do you know that? Where did you come across his name in this context? Who told you he was a valid authority? He isn’t, and he wasn’t. Instead he is a retired administrator (since at least the mid-1990s) who has no publication history or expertise on the matter. As for Joanne Simpson, her comments – pushed around the denialosphere by people like you innocently or not – are taken out of context and a complete distortion of her opinions on the subject.
As for the harassment of researchers by ‘people only seeking the truth’, the evidence is all around that this is a political tactic rather than it being due to any desire to use the information to further science. What did they do with the GISTEMP data, programs and instructions that was put on line after a similarly generated outcry? Nothing. Why don’t they demand the same transparency from the producers of the satellite temperature data? Obvious – they see no political point in doing so, yet the scientific point is just as valid. These people see very clearly that since short of continuously web-streaming the work of each individual scientist, there will always be more that can be asked for regardless of what is currently available. Thus it is like a perpetual outrage-generating machine that just keeps on chugging along, like the Moloch, never satisfied with what it has. Meanwhile, what matters is forgotten (or was never acknowledged in the first place). Which is of course the point.
The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of scientists are extremely flattered to have people genuinely interested in their research and are more than willing to go out of there way to help people further the science. However, they generally don’t take kindly to be accused of misconduct and then being asked by the same people to take time out of their day to help them understand something. Respect needs to go both ways – scientists will have respect and time for people wanting to know more or check things independently when the same people doesn’t automatically assume that any decision made in the analysis or mistake in a description is proof of some nefarious agenda. – gavin]
There have been nothing but dismissive taunts directed at me in response to my posting, many asking if I “believe” in global warming, and, well, I’m taken aback. I would not have thought that would be a question asked by a scientist — ever. I thought science was “just the facts,” the results….but…?
My post was an attempt to “cool” the tempers of recent. I made no charges, only an observation of dismissive discourteous secretiveness, in only a short time — and which Dr. Theon writes about, I might add, again. I might be new to this, but I’m not uneducated or stupid or undiscerning.
I am easy to get rid of. …smile. I didn’t realize “you” had decided: we know there’s warming; it’s getting worse and worse… Given how bad “you” know it is, what’s the point to further study?
As a taxpayer, it would be much cheaper to stop the research now, issue all of “you” baseball bats and let you break the knees of anyone who doesn’t say the right thing.
I am chagrined, embarrassed, and will, most certainly — having been properly chastised — disappear. Consider me a “fly-by.” But, I will certainly talk about this experience with you, believe me!
I still believe you would have a lot to gain by working with, not against, these very smart, talented, experience, energetic and caring rag-tags.
Comment by Esmeralda Dangerfield — 19 Aug 2009 @ 6:03 PM
Jim: “Dunning-Kruger is not only in the house but has built additions and installed hardwood floors.”
That’s right. They’re there to support the wall-to-wall mirror therapy you need here. GTF.
Since this post was set up to discuss how to critique a scientific paper, I wonder whether an example from a paper currently in publication might be interesting. The paper accepted by Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society is “Impacts of Land Use Land Cover Change on Climate and Future Research Priorities” by Rezaul Mahmood, Roger Pielke Sr., et. al. A copy of the paper is here: http://www.climatesci.org/publications/pdf/R-323.pdf
One of the key findings seems to summarized in this passage:
“The stable nocturnal boundary layer does not measure the heat content in a large part of the atmosphere where the greenhouse signal should be the largest (Lin et al. 2007; Pielke et al. 2007a). Because of nonlinearities in some parameters of the stable boundary layer (McNider et al. 1995), minimum temperature is highly sensitive to slight changes in cloud cover, greenhouse gases, and other radiative forcings. However, this sensitivity is reflective of a change in the turbulent state of the atmosphere and a redistribution of heat not a change in the heat content of the atmosphere (Walters et al. 2007). Using the Lin et al. (2007) observational results, a conservative estimate of the warm bias resulting from measuring the temperature from a single level near the ground is around 0.21°C per decade (with the nighttime minimum temperature contributing a large part of this bias). Since land covers about 29% of the Earth’s surface, extrapolating this warm bias could explain about 30% of the IPCC estimate of global warming. In other words, consideration of the bias in temperature could reduce the IPCC trend to about 0.14°C per decade; still a warming, but not as large as indicated by the IPCC. ”
A couple of quick questions on this result:
1. Is it fair to conclude that every one of the very large number of temperature measurements made on the land would be impacted by a surface boundary layer? Can a direct linear extrapolation be used to estimate the warming bias, as was done in this paper?
[Response: As is being discussed in a number of places, there is a strong possibility of misunderstanding these statements. Changes in the BL structure for whatever reason do not cause the surface temperature trend to be wrong in any respect. If however you wanted to calculate the total heat content trend of the atmosphere (something which has not heretofore been a big requirement), then you would want to take the vertical profile changes into account (and not just in the boundary layer). If however, you are trying to compare observed surface trends to a model then you’d not have to make any corrections since a perfect model would have exactly this same behaviour. – gavin]
2. It appears that correcting the land reading by the large warm bias in this report would wipe out almost all of the land warming trend. If so, is a stable or cooling land surface trend consistent with satellite measurements over the continents showing warming of the lower and mid-level troposphere?
[Response: This is not evidence that the land surface trend needs to be adjusted if you are comparing like with like. There is plenty of reasons to expect the land surface trend to be faster than the ocean trends – just as is observed. – gavin]
3. The paper seems to conclude that much of the warming bias is due to heat generated from man’s activities other than the GHG forcing. Is the heat released from mankind’s activities enough to explain the warming bias of 0.21 K per decade?
[Response: Really? First off, this isn’t evidence that there is a bias in the surface temperature trends. Secondly, I don’t think this is related to the direct output of waste heat into the atmosphere. This might be locally important in some regions, but as a global effect (or even just a land effect) it is a couple of orders magnitude smaller than the impact of increased CO2 on the forcing. – gavin]
If you would prefer to defer addressing this issue and answering these questions at this time, I will understand.
Comment by Paul Klemencic — 20 Aug 2009 @ 12:40 AM
Hank, those links are funny and maddening, and my blood pressure rose as I read them. However in my opinion one needs to be careful with stuff like this.
….we all have experiences of this sort (perhaps not so bad as Trebino’s!)….you can succumb to screaming indignation for a little while but at some point you have to knuckle down and just deal with it. Do the unreasonable experiments demanded by the reviewers, make the silly amendments they specify…or argue against these, hoping that the editor is a reasonable and scientifically literate individual…or send the paper elsewhere (never a good option in my opinion since you just start the process over again with a different set of unreasonable editors/reviewers).
However “funny”, these stories do glorify unhelpful feelings of righteous indignation (I certainly felt increasingly like punching someone as I read Trebino’s pdf!), and pander to conspiracy theory. One or two of the “science” blogs have righteous indignation and conspiracy theory as their underlying theme (witness the totally dreary and non-constructive anti-Steig stuff that’s the original subject of this thread).
I think that the scientific publishing process is a pretty good “best of a bad set of alternatives” process. Despite the personal angst that often accompanies submission of papers and the review/journal response, the process works, if messily, just like most good/acceptable things in life. It’s obvious that scientific fields move forwards productively. If scientific publishing is changing, we have to be careful not to throw out the “good” in pursuit of the idealistic “perfect”.
What I consider real problems:
1. the continuing expansion of journals. There are simply too many journals. They have to be filled with “stuff” and so quite a lot of dismal and unnecesary stuff is published (taking up editoral and reviewers time of course). This practice is promoted by the increasing “metrification” of scientific esteem (impact factors, UK-style research assessment exercises that “grade” scientists and their institutions by – amongst other things – numbers of papers and their journal impact factors), and also by the fact that major publishers now “bundle” journal titles into packages for institutional subscription – we end up being forced to “buy” subscriptions to journals that we don’t want, giving the appearance that these journals are useful, when a realistic assessment might be that they should be allowed to “die”.
The consequences – an increasing amount of bad science is published. Charlatans can get nonsense published in virtually unheard of minor journals and an “alternative” field created in the blogosphere with an apparent “science” base of peer-reviewed papers. Good journals have difficulty in keeping pace with the amount of stuff that is thrown at them so that occasionally an obviously poor paper gets through. Of course these don’t matter in terms of the progression of scientific knowledge, since the scientific process weeds out rubbish – however mischief-makers and misrepresenters can build edifices of deceit based on a selective citing of the smattering of dodgy papers.
2. The transition to open access and fully web-based publishing. These are not so much problems as a problematic opportunities! I don’t want to write an essay so I won’t continue…however these are interesing discussion points IMO..
Esmeralda, You say you made no charges, only observations. No you didn’t. You made insinuations without any specific observations whatsoever. You say many people here have asked if you “believe” in global warming. No they haven’t. So much for making observations.
“The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of scientists are extremely flattered to have people genuinely interested in their research and are more than willing to go out of there way to help people further the science. However, they generally don’t take kindly to be accused of misconduct and then being asked by the same people to take time out of their day to help them understand something.”
Absolutely dead on. You got genuine questions, you’ll get genuine answers.
Esmeralda, you claim that “…you would have a lot to gain by working with, not against, these very smart, talented, experience, energetic and caring rag-tags.”
Great, we’d love to work WITH them. So why don’t they publish anything. That’s how science gets done–not by publishing blog posts to be read by ignorant food tubes with ideological blinders. Here’s an exercise for you Esme. Go to this site:
These are the authors whose work is most cited in climate related publications–a very reliable measure of the value of the work in understanding the climate. Now look for your favorite denialist scientist. Here’s a hint: look way, way, way down the list.
59. Also, replace extravagant words containing wastefully wide
letters, such as “m” and “w”, with efficient, space-saving words
containing efficient, lean letters, like “i”, “j”, “t”, and “l”. So
what if “global warming” has become “global tilting.”
I wasn’t offended, just sadly amused. If you really want to change the direction of your learning curve, you should be able to find textbook knowledge for yourself. So, the 1/4 is from Stefan-Bolzmann and is exact for a black (or grey) body, linear is the approximation for small variations, and 1/3 is… nonsense. A mistake, probably.
Chris 176: “Do the unreasonable experiments demanded by the reviewers, make the silly amendments they specify…or argue against these,”
That is a REAL Sisyphean task.
You’ll do the work say what they say and they’ll be replaced with someone else who says THE EXACT SAME THING. And/or they’ll disappear or ignore your work then, when they figure people won’t be able to find the original response, ask it AGAIN.
See, for example, “Volcanoes do more than humans in CO2”.
81. Have numerous telephone conversations with the senior editor,
in which you overwhelm him with the numerous other issues
you have had to deal with during the Comment evaluation
process until he forgets about your Comment’s tone. Indeed,
compared to your verbal tone during these telephone calls, the
paper’s tone seems downright friendly.
82. Celebrate this minor victory by deciding not to include in the
final draft of the Comment’s Acknowledgments section a
description of certain individuals you’ve encountered during this
process—a description that would have involved such colorful
terms as “bonehead” and “cheese-weenie.”
Re #172: these very smart, talented, experience, energetic and caring rag-tags
And therein lies the appeal of the denialosphere to the lay person. RC is the gang of snooty rich kids from the camp on the other side of the lake, and CA is the loveable bunch of spunky misfits, led by Bill Murray, who will metaphorically triumph in the upcoming canoe race.
Ray, thanks. I’m having trouble with the math (I got 2 watts/m2 results in +77 degrees) but that’s probably my erring, but it does seem logical. I’m also having trouble with the linear relationship (deltaT = aF). Has this been shown to be close enough at the values being looked at?
Esmeralda Dangerfield, your comments posted here are transparently, blatantly and very clumsily dishonest. I have no doubt that you will indeed go forth and lie about your “experience” here, since your second comment already contains blatant lies about the responses you received to your first comment on this thread, and indeed about the content of your own first comment. You exemplify the tawdry and tiresome phoniness of the fake “skeptics”. You can no doubt find audiences of Ditto-Heads who will applaud your whining about the meanies at RealClimate. I can’t speak for other readers here, but I find your comments not so much offensive as boring. What you are doing is an old shtick that we’ve all seen many times before.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 20 Aug 2009 @ 10:13 AM
Mark, you might have misunderstood my post! I was speaking personally about my experience of publishing. It’s rare upon submitting a paper that this is accepted as is. In general reviewers/referees ask for changes. Sometimes they consider further experiments/analyses should be done. Occasionally the reviewers requests seem dumb.
In general you can (i) argue against these and hope that the editor considers your position acceptable (this often works in my experience since IMHO we tend to submit decent quality work!)…(ii) get over your annoyance, relax a bit and knuckle down and do some of what the reviewers request, or at least an appropriate series of analyses/experiments that you consider useful, or (iii) send the paper elsewhere.
My point is that one shouldn’t get too caught up in the emotions of righteous indignation (‘though Ray’s Trebino example was hilarious). Things do need to move forward, and one want’s to get one’s paper published and get on with the next thing.
What happens, sadly, on a few dubious websites is that the whole thing is about righteous indignation. At the end of the day, however (getting back to the specific point of this thread), a paper was submitted and published and a correction made…a tiny subsection of the blogosphere is seething with indignation about all sorts of possibly real, but otherwise mysterious and imagined slights. But that’s life…things can be messy and if one was to intrude into every specific scientist-editor-reviewer-(other scientist) fracas, one could easily spend one’s entire life consumed by the apparent injustices of the scientific process at the coalface…particularly if one was inclined constantly to take sides.
…but one might wake up one day and discover one has wasted a huge amount of time and emotional energy. Why not just let the scientific process look after things? If one isn’t directly involved in the specific process, why not relax and let the participants sort it out…
Ray Ladbury wrote: I think what is needed is another model for writing about science–something where they don’t just sell controversy, but rather emphasize the process of discovery
This is an excellent insight and blog enthusiasts should be thinking of ways to make it happen.
Of course one *advantage* of all the contentiousness is that it can act as a motivator to work harder to identify problems and refine our understanding of the complex natural world. But the anger also prevents more face to face discussions and point by point online discussions that would be much more interesting to readers than bouncing back and forth between blogs covering the same item in different ways, trying to understand what the fuss is about.
Thanks for the link to tamino’s post and thanks to tamino for a great explication of what the terms mean and what their significance is. Many of the conclusions have been expressed herer (like the fact that without GHGs there’s no way to explain the observed warming), but tamino’s post is a great explanation and demonstration of why they’re true.
I am a fairly long-term reader of RC and appreciate the dedication of Gavin, and the other scientists and posters, to this work. It has to be incredibly time-intensive to “weed the garden.” I have to say my suspicion is that Esmeralda Dangerfield is just trying to find ammunition to use in the denialosphere. Reading her is a little like watching a very bad sit-com or drama – sort of the Larry David approach to a discussion of science…cringe-inducing.
Joe Hunkins says “Of course one *advantage* of all the contentiousness is that it can act as a motivator to work harder to identify problems and refine our understanding of the complex natural world.”
Actually, for curiosity driven research, additional motivation is not needed. I’ve been known to go without sleep or food for up to 3 days when I get hooked on a problem. Now granted, that was in my long gone youth, but even in my dotage, I still often find myself working past midnight to solve a problem–and I get up at 4:30!
I think a new milestone has been reached, Hudson bay canada is now ice free, and the NW and NE passage are almost open..again! By what I can see there seems to be greater ice loss this arctic summer than last year. Us in SE Queensland Australia have had an extremely mild winter and are expecting a new temp record set this mon of 33C in Brisbane and an exceptially hot week to come. Spring is still another week away and it’s jumped straight into summer.
To see how australia’s mean temp has increased over the last 100 years go to http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/silo/reg/cli_chg/timeseries.cgi?variable=tmean®ion=aus&season=0112
I would imagine a similar trend is reflected where ever realclimate contributers live as well.
Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 21 Aug 2009 @ 3:30 AM
Whether the sceptics and denyalist ostriches out there like it or not we are now living with anthropogenic climate change.
Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 21 Aug 2009 @ 3:35 AM
“Mark, you might have misunderstood my post! I was speaking personally about my experience of publishing.”
I think you’re misreading mine, chris.
Debunking the denialists grunted out “theories” is an endless task. Debunking them (as can be seen from Burgy’s “friend” who still seems unable to think in ways that do not mimic Watts’ “thought” processes) will not cause them to change.
Debunking them is required not for elucidation so much as countering the Great Lie.
If “Volcanoes produce more in one day than the entire human CO2 output over their entire history” isn’t debunked, after a while waverers will start to believe it because they never hear why it’s wrong. Then those who thought maybe there was something to AGW will see more people thinking the Big Lie is true and conform or at least not counter it because they no longer hear why it’s wrong.
But the debunking is an endless task.
And therefore saying “you must, however, work to answer them” is a complete waste of time.
So there *is no must* to the debunking.
Just “should”. And then only when time allows and you don’t have anything better to do than to ensure the Big Lie doesn’t gain ground.
I have a question which has probably been answered before but I’d like to ask anyway. It’s purely anecdotal. I live in California, inland. I’ve not followed climate issues for awhile. Anyway, generally summers have been quite hot around here. Now I realize that summer is not over however I’ve noticed that this summer is not as hot as previous summers. In fact we’ve been having some positively cool weather in the mornings and evenings. We all know that glaciers and ice near the poles are melting. Could the low temps be due to evaporative cooling? IOW, artificial cooling such that once the ice is gone, which we hear is not too far away, we will find ourselves positively roasting?
Zephyr, I don’t think it’s likely. I looked at the energy needed to melt the couple of trillion tonnes of ice we’ve lost globally in the last few years, and it’s a small percentage of incident energy. We’ve just had a rather protracted solar minimum and 1998 was a fairly deep La Nina. OTOH, Australia and the oceans are hotter ‘n hades. It’s weather. If you see things lasting 30 years, maybe it’s climate.
What the hell? As Chris and Dhogaza have pointed out, Chris’ original post was–inspired by the links Hank had posted–related to getting a Comment (or Letter to the Editor) published in a journal. He’s not talking about the propaganda war of the deniers, or our response to it, OK? He’s talking about what approach we scientists should take when journal Editors in Chief, and/or reviewers, make difficult, confusing, and/or contradictory requests to those submitting such Comments. You might find that you’ll learn something about some issues scientists deal with if you read Hank’s links and Chris’ comments. Now excuse me while I get back to responding to the latest round of reviewers’ comments to my GRL Comment originally submitted about a year ago now.
Here’s a question: Why does the government finance scientific study of weather and climate in the first place? What does the public and the government expect from climate and weather studies?
The answer is obvious, but often ignored – namely, the goal is to provide quality information that people can base their decisions on.
Now, we’ve discovered that pumping carbon out of the ground and into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide warms the atmosphere, which warms the land and ocean, which results in more water vapor in the atmosphere, melting ice, rising sea levels, and shifts in local precipitation/evaporation ratios – meaning some people get flooded, some get hit with drought, as per Brazil and India, for example. The ever-more-tedious efforts to discredit these scientific results have all failed to alter the basic conclusions: fossil CO2 is warming the planet.
If the government was listening to the scientists, would they keep dumping billions into new fossil fuel production schemes, while at the same time pushing a regulatory framework that increases fossil CO2 emissions? No, they wouldn’t – but that’s what is going on.
The decision sat on Clinton’s desk for months, and with a stroke of the pen, she could have denied this expansion of dirty energy infrastructure. But today, the State Department issued the permit, committing the US to more CO2 emissions from oil, and committing Canada to more destruction of indigenous lands and Boreal forest. We brought the Tar Sands Monster to Clinton’s doorstep, generated thousands of phone calls and emails, but Clinton failed to make the right decision.
Now, the government is claiming to be taking science into account on this decision:
The State Department said it took greenhouse gas emissions into account when deciding to issue the permit, saying that the issue is best addressed through the domestic policies of the United States and Canada and through international agreements.
Obviously, it is not. Tar sand is bitumen-rich mixture of sand, clay and heavy tar. To process, it is first heated with natural gas (fossil CO2 emissions) and then hydrogenated (even more fossil CO2 emissions) to produce a synthetic crude oil, which is then shipped to refineries that are set up to handle it. Tar sand consumes massive amounts of natural gas, and expansion requires an new gas pipeline – the Alaskan “Pipeline to the Tar Sands” backed by both Sarah Palin and Obama and Bush ($500 million from the state of Alaska plus and $18 billion guarantee from Congress).
Put this next to the current administration’s continued promotion of previously initiated and scientifically bogus ‘clean coal projects’, and it is pretty clear that the rhetoric on energy independence and action on climate doesn’t match the reality of massive government subsidies for fossil fuel projects. The complete list of subsidies for renewable energy is still a tiny fraction of those for fossil fuels.
If we move our gaze to the global scale, then it becomes clear that outside of obligate oil states like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, the U.S. has the worst climate policies on the planet, driven by a rather corrupt and dishonest governmental system that refuses to even look at the science generated by its own scientists.
It defies logic – how does the State Department justify promoting fossil fuel project after fossil fuel project, all over the world, while at the same time the President is running around making speeches about the need to “roll back global warming” and “promote American energy independence?” Does the DOE agree with the State Department approach on energy policy, for example?
Even more surprising is the fact that the Obama Administration refuses to consider allowing local communities to vote down tar sands refineries in their communities, because that would be in violation of NAFTA rules on international trade – which Obama promised to re-negotiate.
Other than a slight increase in renewable energy R&D, there’s been almost zero change in U.S. energy policy since the last election. Curious indeed, isn’t it? Maybe a more focused political effort is needed to force government bureaucrats and politicians to listen to, and act on, the scientific results.
“Chris’s two posts were in regard to the process of publishing scientific work, and of course, if you want your work published, you’re going to have to work to answer questions put forth by reviewers.”
Well, that’s true.
It isn’t true that it applies here on a blog, a blog not being a published scientific work.
Zephyr, further to Ray’s point, you’re correct about the cool summer–though more generally correct for the East than for your area. However, most of the world has been pretty warm–cooler temperatures have been seen over much of Eastern North America, but not in the Arctic, where the ice has actually been melting.
Re 66: Comment 66 invokes the “philosophy” of the climate science community. I am going to take some space and address the problems with that philosophy. My case in point is the IPCC documents that are peer reviewed as science documents and then become a basis for public policy – a purpose the peer review did not contemplate.
The IPCC missed (or worse did not report) the signs that the Arctic Sea Ice was about to decline, with all of the attendant follow-on feedbacks. We are at the edge of the error bars on most of the projections of global warming done by the IPCC after only a very short period. Thus, the IPCC broadly understated global warming and its immediate impacts. That is just as wrong as overstating the problem. This is serious because those IPCC projections are being used as long-term risk management baselines for public policy decisions, and the values of the numbers are incorrect. As a result society is under-estimating the risks, and under allocating resources.
My comments to http://www.climatechange.ca.gov/adaptation/ are really worth nothing against “the word” of the IPCC. When there is a consensus among the climate professionals that Arctic Sea Ice is not about to melt, then the warning of one amateur that the sea ice will melt soon is accorded the status of a New Yorker cartoon. California is not going to change the baseline for its Adaption Plan until a couple of years after another IPCC report is issued. Today, the loss of Arctic ice is reality. And, yet the IPCC 2007 numbers remain the basis of a major policy document.
The warmest ocean in history is reality. We have an El Nino coming, so that means a warmer ocean in the near future. Both human infrastructure and the WAIS sit next to that warmer ocean. That means damage from storms driven by the latent heat and damage from rising sea level as the warmer water destabilizes the WAIS. Last summer, walrus died for lack of haul out ice. This time frame was not anticipated by the IPCC. We have sea bed methane clathrates decomposing as a result of warmer ocean waters. That timeframe was not anticipated by the IPCC. We have forests dying as a result of climate change. This time frame was not anticipated by the IPCC. ( http://climateprogress.org/2009/08/20/bark-beetle-wildfire-climate-change/ )
The failure of the IPCC to identify the proper timeframe for these climate effects does not give me any confidence what-so-ever that the climate science community will be able sound an appropriate alarm of the WAIS collapse prior to the event. I think the first warning of dramatic sea level rise will be a cascade of expletives as folks look at satellite images some morning, and see that parts of WAIS have already fallen into the sea.
Hansen’s speculation of 5-meter per century sea level rise should have been backed up by geological observations of rapid sea level rise WITH comparisons of the climate forcings in those geologic periods with current and expected future climate forcings. This is a pointer to good science that nobody wants to follow. What does the rate of thinning of the Pine Island Glacier say about Hansen’s speculation? (Ten years ago, the Pine Island Glacier was supposed to last 600 years, now the estimate is 100 years.) The Larsen breakups were the same physics. Together, they say Hansen’s curves are the right shape! (Shallow, but the right shape.) This is another pointer to good science that nobody wants to follow. (It would be alarmist.)
Who could have guessed that sea bed clathrates could decompose in 2008? Anybody that was watching the temperature of the oceans and thinking about the stability curves of clathrates. It was in the literature, but I do not see anything in the IPCC that says, “Stop warming the oceans before you melt the clathrates! And, by the way, you are basically out of time!” That should have been in big red letters on the cover of the last IPCC Summary for Policy Makers! (That would have been alarmist! Honest! but alarmist!) So much for NCAR as “Climate Watchman of the World”!
So again and again, everybody is surprised at the speed of the effects of global warming because they did not believe the physics. Either that, or reticence is rampant. If you are reticent and do not tell the full truth to policy makers and the public, then you cannot blame them for not acting. Moreover, if you have played loose with the facts (over or under), you cannot blame anyone else for doing the same. Have you ever “tweaked” a model so the result was not so “alarmist”? Did you ever not publish the results of model runs because they were “alarmist”? Reticence is a form of denial. If you have indulged, then your hands are dirty.
I am stating an issue of risk management. We have a risk issues that we are not monitoring and not addressing. It is a matter of policy makers understanding the issue and allocating resources.
You can seriously expect that the changes in our ice over the next 5-years will be far greater than the changes we have seen over the last 5-years. Then, the changes in the next 5-years will be still greater. This is based on the observations that there is more heat in the oceans to transfer to the ice, there is more ice approaching its melting point, and ice near its melting point behaves in a nonlinear fashion as it absorbs additional heat. This is physics, but this is honest physics. This is physics in the category of, “4,000 walrus died this summer because they did not have Arctic ice to haul out on.”
These effects are not out in some “Al Gore future”, where some economist can discount the cost to nothing. This is in the time frame of current contracts and leases. This is within the engineering life span of existing public infrastructure. This is a time frame that wealth and power is very interested in.
If you (plural) explain the system, its honest physics, and effects clearly and slowly, everyone in the world will turn pale and sweat. Anybody that does not start sweating should recruited to fight forest fires, coming in the next few years to the US, Canada, and Siberia. These are not going to ordinary forest fires, they are going to be huge fires of dead wood that bake the soil, and inhibit forest regeneration. All the carbon in those lands will be released as CO2. We have not really seen such fires in our history.
It is time for the Watchman to shake off his slumber and raise “The Alarm”.
#175, Gavin, It seems ironic that there is not one DWT chart out there, surface temperatures are but a minuscule component at the very bottom of the entire atmosphere. If I just had access to a high speed computer and world wide data set from Upper Air stations, I would have the average temperature of the entire troposphere vs time, a handy simple graph, certainly leaving surface sensitivity for further interesting studies. But no effort in publishing DWT’s is a bit of a puzzle?
The incoherence you describe in your post suggests to me that our civil society is following a well-worn path, repeated through history many times, an evolution leading to nearly hermetic compartmentalization of governmental units acting at cross-purposes and in many cases in competition with one another. What seems new in our segment of history is the addition of another set of entities quasi-governmental in their influence, those being large businesses and their associations such as (sorry to say again) ExxonMobil, Lockheed-Martin et al, working in harmony with some governmental departments and at odds with others. The net result seems post-Byzantine in its level of dysfunction.
#209 Aoron I’m with you all the way. But I think your anger is directed at the wrong target. You say “As a result society is under-estimating the risks” but this is to completely reverse the reality of what is going on, has been going on for years. It is BECAUSE “society is under-estimating the risks” that the IPCC is constantly restrained into the lowest possible projections. The governments of the world that do not want serious action taken (a phrase that is essentially a tautology) have ensured that the IPCC (rather like Security Council resolutions) restricts itself to the minimal warning that the models predict, rather than to the mean, or, heaven forbid, the upper level. I mean if they started publicising what the science is really saying, the grim prognostications for this century that any of us with half a brain and a little scientific knowledge accept fully, then the average punter, might start demanding that their government’s act, seriously act to reduce GHG emissions. And then where would the corporations be?
#175, My second try , somehow first message didn’t get through. I strongly believe that Density Weighted Temperature graphs of the entire world troposphere, whenever they may be available, will resolve the surface temperature sensitivity argument back to academic, rather than a political circles. May be requesting out of nowhere that someone creates a DWT map is too much wishing (I have to try harder), but vertical sun disk dimensions are formal, the atmosphere as a whole is warming at an uncalculated rate, I rather somehow that we pull some resources to make a formal DWGT graph, and break the back of those who believe that surface temperatures sensitivities are trivial, or are within range of what is normal. If any one out there has a High speed computer with access to the entire worldwide Upper Air data base, time to crunch some numbers…
the IPCC is constantly restrained into the lowest possible projections
I’m sorry but this is a preposterous notion and patently false. In fact comparing early IPCC with actual observations would tend to lead one to the opposite conclusion.
The IPCC work is to be commended – especially in the initial reports – for working hard to keep politics out of the science. No informed party should be rejecting the IPCC numbers – the projections and data represent the key objective data analysis around which the real debates should take place. e.g. “what should we do?” and “will this create inconvenience or catastrophe?”
Joseph Hunkins (215), a not terribly significant observation, but my view was that the IPCC has gotten better at minimizing political influence, and the early reports, especially the 1st, was accurately criticized for its politics inclusion. Am I wrong?
This and other forums have devoted countless hours to debate over the quality of various weather data. Frankly, the heat in atmosphere over those disputed weather stations or the difference between data streams is a miniscule fraction of the total heat in the Earth’s system. The fact is, there is some kind of data for the energy flux at that location. Climate Audit rants about issues totaling a few joules, while there are gigajoule holes in our data collection system. Why don’t Climate Audit propose solutions for the places where there is just no data? By distracting in this way, they detract from the whole system of climate science.