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Inhofe and Crichton: Together at Last!

Filed under: — group @ 28 September 2005

Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann

Today we witnessed a rather curious event in the US Senate. Possibly for the first time ever, a chair of a Senate committee, one Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), invited a science fiction writer to advise the committee (Environment and Public Works), on science facts–in this case, the facts behind climate change. The author in question? None other than our old friend, Michael Crichton whom we’ve had reason to mention before (see here and here). The committee’s ranking member, Senator James Jeffords (I) of Vermont, was clearly not impressed. Joining Crichton on climate change issues was William Gray of hurricane forecasting fame, Richard Benedick (a negotiator on the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting chemicals), and David Sandalow (Brookings Institution). As might be expected, we paid a fair bit of attention to the scientific (and not-so-scientific) points made.

Many of the ‘usual suspects’ of half-truths and red herrings were put forth variously by Crichton, Gray, and Inhofe over the course of the hearing:

  • the claim that scientists were proclaiming an imminent ice age in the 1970s (no, they weren’t),
  • the claim that the 1940s to 1970s cooling in the northern hemisphere disproves global warming (no, it doesn’t),
  • the claim that important pieces of the science have not been independently reproduced (yes, they have),
  • the claim that global climate models can’t reproduce past climate change (yes, they can)
  • the claim that climate can’t be predicted because weather is chaotic (wrong…)

and so on.

We won’t dwell on the testimony that involved us personally since the underlying issues have been discussed and dealt with here before, though we will note that comments from both of us pointing out errors in the testimony were entered into the Senate record by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California). Instead, we will focus on the bigger picture.

First, let’s be clear where there is agreement. Climate science doesn’t deal in certainties – it deals in probablities and the balance of evidence. We agree with Crichton’s statement that ‘Prediction is not fact’. That certainly doesn’t mean, however, that projections of possible future climate changes are not meaningful or useful, as Crichton claims.

Crichton seemed to imply that “prediction” (such as that provided by weather or climate models) is useless in the decision making process. (As an aside, we wonder how Gray, who is largely known for prediction of hurricane behavior based on (statistical) modeling, felt about this?). We fundamentally disagree. All science is about observation, understanding and prediction. When those predictions work, you make new predictions. When they don’t, you revisit the observations, attempt to improve your understanding of the underlying processes, and make a new prediction. And so on. In the case of climate models, this is complicated by the fact that the time scales involved need to be long enough to average out the short-term noise, i.e. the chaotic sequences of ‘weather’ events. Luckily, we have past climate changes to test the models against. Even more to the point, successful climate predictions have actually been made in past Senate hearings. The figure at the end of this comment by Jim Hansen demonstrates that projections of global mean climate presented in a 1988 senate hearing (17 years ago) have actually been right on the money

Others panelists attempted to combat the onslaught of disinformation. Sandalow sensibly suggested that the National Academy of Sciences be used to inform the Senate on where the consensus of the science is, and Benedick made some excellent points about how legislation can be successful in the face of scientific controversy and uncertain predictions. However, none of that provided as good theater as the other witnesses.

A highlight of the session was Gray making one particular statement that he may be asked to defend (at least financially): “I’ll take on any scientist in this field …. I predict that in 5 to 8 years the globe will begin to cool” (1:10:00 on the video). This would appear to be a direct call to those “global warmers” (see also here, here and here) who are trying to get contrarians to put their money where their mouths are (with very limited success). We eagerly await developments!

Inhofe ended the hearing by declaring his desire to ‘sit back and look at [this] in a non-scientific way’. We think he already has.

280 Responses to “Inhofe and Crichton: Together at Last!”

  1. 51
    leekelso says:

    Re 49:

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

  2. 52
    Shaka says:

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

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

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

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

    What thoughtful person could not agree with that goal?

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

  3. 53
    Mark Bahner says:

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

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

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

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

  4. 54
    Outsider says:

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

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

  5. 55
    Jeff Walter says:

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

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

  6. 56
    Donald Condliffe says:

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

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

  7. 57
    Mark Frank says:

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

    Why is everyone taking such a confrontational approach?

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

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

    Or maybe this has all been tried?

  8. 58
    Stephen Berg says:

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

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

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

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

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

    Quit complaining. Americans have it easy.

  9. 59
    Gil Pearson says:

    Re 56

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

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

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

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

  10. 60
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  11. 61
    nanny_govt_sucks says:

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

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

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

  12. 62
    Stephen Berg says:

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

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

  13. 63
    Shaka says:

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

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

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

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

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

  14. 64
    Stephen Berg says:

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

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

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

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

  15. 65
    Armand MacMurray says:

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

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

  16. 66
    Almuth Ernsting says:

    Re debate about “biased methods”:

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

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

  17. 67

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  18. 68

    Re: #63 to 67

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

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

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

  19. 69
    nanny_govt_sucks says:

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

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

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

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

  20. 70
    RMS says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  21. 71
    TCO says:

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

  22. 72
    Eli Rabett says:

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

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

  23. 73

    #68:

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

    Sure. Click here. Hope that helps.

  24. 74
    RMS says:

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

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

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

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

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

  25. 75
    Mark Frank says:

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

  26. 76
    JHM says:

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

  27. 77
    Timothy says:

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

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

    Hope that helps

  28. 78
    Keith Moulton says:

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

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

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

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

  29. 79
    John Finn says:

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

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

  30. 80

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

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

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

  31. 81

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

  32. 82
    Sashka says:

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

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

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

  33. 83
    Dan Allan says:

    re #82,

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

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

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

  34. 84
    nanny_govt_sucks says:

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

    [Response: Fixed -gavin]

  35. 85
    Sashka says:

    Re: 83.

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

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

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

  36. 86
    Sashka says:

    Re: 38

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

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

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

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

  37. 87
    dan allan says:

    re 85:

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

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

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

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

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

  38. 88
    TCO says:

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

  39. 89
    Mark Bahner says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Mark Bahner (environmental engineer)

  40. 90
    Stephen Berg says:

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

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

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

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

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

  41. 91
    dan allan says:

    re 89:

    Mark,

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

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

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

  42. 92
    Dan Allan says:

    John,

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

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

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

  43. 93
    Hans Erren says:

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

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

    [Response: Re: 1. Unfortunately, ’emeritus’ is not synonymous with ‘correct’. See here and here. – gavin]

  44. 94
    Paul Emberger says:

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

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

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

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

  45. 95
    Keith Moulton says:

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

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

  46. 96
    Dan Allan says:

    re 93:

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

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

  47. 97
    Sashka says:

    Re: 87

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

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

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

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

  48. 98
    Sashka says:

    Re: 90

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

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

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

  49. 99
    Steve Bloom says:

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

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

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

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

  50. 100
    Steve Bloom says:

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