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Peter Doran and how misleading talking points propagate

Filed under: — group @ 28 July 2006

Peter Doran, the lead author on a oft-cited, but less-often read, Nature study on Antarctic climate in 2002 had an Op-Ed in the NY Times today decrying the misuse of his team’s results in the on-going climate science ‘debate’. As we discussed a while back (Antarctic cooling, global warming?), there is a lot of interesting stuff going on in Antarctica: the complexities of different forcings (ozone in particular), the importance of dynamical as well as radiative processes, and the difficulties of dealing with very inhomogeneous and insufficiently long data series. But like so many results in this field, it has become a politicized ‘talking point’, shorn of its context, that is mis-quoted and mis-used by many who should (and often do) know better. Doran complained about the media coverage of his paper at the time, and with the passage of time, the distortion has predictably increased. Give it another few years, maybe we’ll be having congressional hearings about it…


152 Responses to “Peter Doran and how misleading talking points propagate”

  1. 1
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    It’s good to see a scientist speaking up. Scientist, especially climate scientists, should say something when their work is misrepresented.

    Maybe RealClimate is starting a trend!

  2. 2
    Wayne Byerly says:

    Last year, I spent a great amount of time, a fair amount of money, and lots of thought into the accumulation of,and the summarization of literaly millions of weather data from weather reporting locations. The majority of these locations were from the US, but I also obtained data from Canada, England, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
    In August of 2005, I put together a 2-page report which more or less summarizes this huge amount of data. I would like for REAL CLIMATE to have a copy of my summary. I will be glad to forward this summary to you via e-mail attachment, if you will provide me with the e-mail addresss to which it should be sent.
    I must point out, that many of my conclusions will not agree with what I generally read whend I click onto REAL CLIMATE. But I believe the difference is mostly because I’ve been working with genuine facts from weather which has actually happened, and been recorded, rather than some theory which remains to be proven/disproven.
    Please give me an e-mail address to which I might send this material.
    Thanks, Wayne Byerly

    [Response: Check the “about” button for our address – W]

  3. 3

    Scientists, across the spectrum, are gradually awakening to the reality of their situation. The war on science and scientists went into high gear when the Bush administration took office in 2000. These craven folks have resorted to familiar tactics: hired guns whose job it is to confuse the debate, resort to slander of decent people to taint the message, outright intimidation and attempts to muzzle those who work within the framework of government. While they have not yet put anyone under house arrest, as did the Holy Office in 1532 when Galileo Galilei thought he might publish his Two World Systems, but they have asked, in their own fashion, that they might think about recanting their findings in published research or testimony before Congress.

    The evolutionary biologists and teachers of biology in our public schools have been up against a fevered new attempt to abolish the teaching of evolution. Even the physicists have recently found themselves having to defend the idea of gravity. Climate scientists are perhaps under the most serious threat, however, because their findings carry with them grave implications for the future of our social and economic order. Climate scientists, I suspect — like Galileo — just want to do their work, publish their findings, and then sit back and let government and the public work out what they think they ought to do about it. But, of course, it doesn’t work that way.

    Scientists, like it or not, have a public role, and it goes far beyond the educational role that scientists are most comfortable in accepting. When the implications of their work are such that great upset can result from any misunderstanding of its particulars or there are attempts to misrepresent those particulars by vested interests, the scientist has no choice but to become a public voice, and even to engage in advocacy.

    As the mathematician Bronowski said, paraphrasing here, the scientist cannot dodge the implications of his or her own work. And they have to ask “Is you is, or is you ain’t my baby.”

  4. 4
    Mark A. York says:

    The new paper by Landsea is being touted as more evidence GW doesn’t exist even though he doesn’t say that.

    Lindzen has another stinker out too back in early July in the WSJ. No consensus he says.

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Grant says:

    Re: #2

    Last year, I spent a great amount of time, a fair amount of money, and lots of thought into the accumulation of,and the summarization of literaly millions of weather data from weather reporting locations.

    Me too!

    I did exactly that, because I was skeptical about global warming. I’m a professional mathematician, my specialty is the statistical analysis of time series, so I decided not to take anybody’s word for it.

    The majority of these locations were from the US, but I also obtained data from Canada, England, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

    It seems that all your data is from land stations around the North Atlantic. I have data from stations worldwide. I’ve also analyzed data (not conclusions, but raw data) relating to paleoclimate reconstructions such as tree rings, ice cores, and (my personal favorite) borehole temperature profiles.

    I must point out, that many of my conclusions will not agree with what I generally read whend I click onto REAL CLIMATE.

    That’s odd. The conclusions I came to in my analysis are:
    1. Global warming is real.
    2. It’s caused by human activity.
    3. It’s bad.

    But I believe the difference is mostly because I’ve been working with genuine facts from weather which has actually happened, and been recorded, rather than some theory which remains to be proven/disproven.

    Do you honestly believe that the moderators of RealClimate haven’t looked at “genuine facts from weather which has actually happened, and been recorded”?

  7. 7
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    I have a suggestion for RC. Add a new section in addition to rc forum. It can be for climate scientists to comment about how their work is being portrayed by the media. You can call it “What I really said was…” ;)

  8. 8
    pat neuman says:

    re 2. 6.

    100 year temperature plots for many climate stations in the US including Alaska are at the link below. The temperature plots show trends for increasing annual temperatures in recent decades, especially within the Upper Midwest and Alaska, which are indicative of polar amplification. Polar and mid-high latitude amplification is an important signature of global warming which explains why warming is not as evident at climate stations in southern regions of the U.S. as it is in the north. RC has a Jan 2, 2006 article on polar amplification.

    100 year plots temperature plots at:
    http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/patneuman2000/my_photos

  9. 9

    #6, Grant, did you analyze Upper Air temperaure trends as well? I am very cuious if you found a variance between Upper Air and Surface warming… I calculated total amospheric refraction temperatures, ie from data extracted by analyzing optical effects, some of my results show an impressive yearly warming trend, much stronger than the surface based one. It may be that the Upper Air is warming a lot more than I’ve read so far.

  10. 10
    Jeff Weffer says:

    All of the weather stations around the world can be accessed via the Goddard Institute linked below.

    Just click on the world map, and it gives you the closest 50 weather stations. Play around with it and find out how the features work.

    You can also access the temperature record for Antarctica (the actual south pole too.)

    The data shows warming on the Antarctica Penninsula and slight cooling in the interior. Alaska is warming as well but other Arctic regions are not.

    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/station_data/

  11. 11
    Grant says:

    Re: #9

    No, I haven’t looked at any upper air temperature data. Now you’ve made me curious! But I’m currently looking into diurnal temperature range and annual temperature range. When I finish with that (if ever!)…

  12. 12
    pat neuman says:

    re 9. 8.

    Wayne, if it’s true as you indicated in 9, that upper air temperatures are increasing at a much stronger rate than near the surface, it seems to me the departure would explain at least part of what seems to be a large increase in world area having minimal rainfall and drought.

    Also, in 8. I mentioned polar amplification explaining temperature warming trends being greater at higher latitudes. I should also have mentioned that Raymond Bradley, director of the Climate System Research Center at University of Massachusetts and others found that high altitude areas in tropical areas are increasing more rapidly than low altitude areas, link follows.

    Andes study shows it gets hot faster at high altitude
    26 June 2006
    http://www.scidev.net/news/index.cfm?fuseaction=printarticle&itemid=2935&language=1

  13. 13
    Chris Rijk says:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,2761-2291760,00.html
    Article in The Sunday Times about the many places having much higher than normal temperatures. (Russia and some places are getting the cool as part of the same pattern though). Also mentions that some rivers got so warm in Spain and France that the nuclear reactors using the water for cooling had to be shut down. Ooops.

    It also says:

    The phenomenon has surprised meteorologists who are used to seeing drought as a regional, not global, problem. This weekend they said early analysis of the hot weather, together with the size of the areas affected, suggested it was linked to global climate change.

  14. 14

    #11 Grant Thanks, Diurnal effects are equally interesting, but a great chunk of all this comes from up there!

  15. 15

    #12 Pat, Thanks as well, you might have a point, especially with drought striking the Amazon forest now…

  16. 16
    Wacki says:

    I have a question for the professional climate scientists. Is Lindzen respected anymore in the scientific community? His list of published papers is enormous but some of the stuff he says simply doesn’t require a degree in science to tear apart.

  17. 17
    Wacki says:

    Someone posted this article:

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110008597

    “A British social scientist, Benny Peiser, checked her procedure and found that only 913 of the 928 articles had abstracts at all, and that only 13 of the remaining 913 explicitly endorsed the so-called consensus view. Several actually opposed it.”

    Is that true? I’ve seen Peisers own work here:
    http://timlambert.org/2005/05/peiser2/
    Which is simply a joke. But I haven’t seen a rebuttal of the above quote. I tried using real climates search engine and I got 0 hits for Peiser and 3 hits for Benny. go figure. :-p Still none of those 3 hits were relevant to the above quote.

  18. 18
    PHEaston says:

    Going back to the original topic, I think this posting and the NYT article provide some misunderstandings regarding the debate.
    1. Peter Doran presents the skeptics as those who doubt warming is happening. However, while most ‘skeptics’ agree we are in a warming trend, for most, the main challenges are (i) that it is not shown to be at unprecedented levels or rates (for the last millenium or so) and (ii) that it is not shown to be principally manmade. To present all ‘skeptics’ as those who question any warming is incorrect.
    2. Anyone, from either side of the debate is entitiled to refer to his research findings if they think it supports their own argument, provided of course they don’t misrepresent or distort it.
    3. There are extremists on both sides of the debate who will cherry-pick data and information. These extremists should not be presented as typical for either side.
    4. In general, where ‘skeptics’ have referred to Antarctic cooling in their arguments, it has not been to argue that there is no global warming trend. Time and time again (I think more by journalists than scientists), we see evidence of warming at a specific location as further proof of ‘global warming’ with rarely any ‘health warning’ that this may only be a local trend. Citing the Antarctic cooling is about showing that there are local trends and that climate variability is more complex than often presented.

  19. 19
  20. 20
    Grant says:

    Re: #18

    I think your comment is very insightful. The extremists on both sides seriously detract from any productive approach to the issue.

    I do, however disagree (in part) with one of your statements:

    There are extremists on both sides of the debate who will cherry-pick data and information. These extremists should not be presented as typical for either side.

    Technically, this is true. However, the cherry-pickers on the denialist side so greatly outnumber those on the supporting side, that they have come near to being “typical” of the denialist camp. There is a qualitative difference which, in my opinion, argues very strongly for pervasive naivete and dishonesty on the denialist side.

    The *honest* denialists should be even more outraged by this than we supporters.

  21. 21
    shargash says:

    Re: 18, 20

    Are there honest denialists? Back in the 90s, to be a denialist meant denying GW. Then by this decade, when GW could no longer be denied, they changed their denialism. Now denialism means that they accept GW but deny AGW. When AGW can no longer be denied, will they move on to some other form of denialism, like “it’s too late to do anything about it?” I’d bet money they will.

    It seems to me that the minimum scientifically honest position now is that GW is real and that some of it is anthropogenic, but that the degree of anthropogenicism (sp?) is still uncertain. It seems to me that most denialists are much more denialist than that. Therefore, IMO, they aren’t honest denialists.

  22. 22
    pat neuman says:

    re: 21 … will they move on to some other form of denialism …?

    Like moving on to denying any GW link to hurricanes? It was interesting to watch CBS News this evening about hurricanes and the Northeast US, said to be result from a displacement of a high pressure area that brings the canes much quicker to the Northeast than the Gulf coast. It was also interesting to see CBS rerun the interviews with Jim Hansen and Rick Piltz interview on 60 minutes this evening. That was the first time I saw the piece – very good piece of work.

  23. 23
    Mark A. York says:

    My 90-year-old mother in Florida tipped me off to the Orsekes response to the Lindzen crapola.

    http://www.tbo.com/news/opinion/commentary/MGBKLZK57QE.html

  24. 24
    PHEaston says:

    Re: 20 (Grant). If you want to feel more at home, I suggest you spend some time in the UK. Here, the balance is reversed. The establishment and most of the media are fully on the side of AGW. That’s the government (especially Bliar), the BBC, most newspapers (especially the ‘Independent’), the Royal Society, David Attenborough, etc. The result is that there is little room for honest challenges to the theory.

  25. 25

    RE: # 18 “In general, where skeptics have referred to Antarctic cooling in their arguments, it has not been to argue that there is no global warming trend… Citing the Antarctic cooling is about showing that there are local trends and that climate variability is more complex than often presented.”

    Skeptics have long cited Doran’s research to show that global warming is a flawed theory motivated by alarmist scientists more interested in scaring up huge research grants than in pursuing the evidence with honesty and integrity.

    CO2 Science misrepresents Doran’s study as a “major blow to the CO2-induced global warming hypothesis…many a climate alarmist jumped on the global warming bandwagon…however, the bottom began to fall out of the poorly constructed bandwagon, as the evidentiary glue that held it together began to weaken.”

    Environment and Climate News reports that Doran’s study is “strong new evidence the Earth is not warming”. No mention about climate variability being more complex than generally reported.

    Fred Singer cites Doran’s research to show that climate models are flawed, not that climate variability is more complex than often presented. “Furthermore, the models predict that polar temperature trends should greatly exceed the tropical values — and they clearly don’t … In fact, the Antarctic has been cooling,” adds Singer. Uhh, no mention of Arctic warming, Antarctic ozone hole, 48% of Antarctica warming… Mr. Singer?

    Doran’s analysis of Antarctic cooling is frequently cited by skeptics to undermine the plausibility of climate models. According to one skeptic: “The greenhouse modelers have a lot of explaining to do before they can expect whole societies to undergo an economically impoverishing culture shift in deference to a theory which is so patently wrong on one of its key pillars.”

    Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute cited Doran’s study, and claimed that “The American people are being hoodwinked not just by the green activists, but by the scientists who get billions of dollars for creating global climate models that can’t even forecast backward, let alone forward.”

    Misrepresentation and distortion of the science is the very foundation of the “skeptics” arguments. The only way to claim that global warming is purely natural in origin is to cherry pick the research and argue against the validity of a mountain of scientific evidence based on observation and reason. The skeptics have proven that the most effective way to deny the “A” in AGW is to misrepresent and distort the science.

  26. 26
    Chris Rijk says:

    Re: #24

    That’s the government (especially Bliar), the BBC, most newspapers (especially the ‘Independent’), the Royal Society, David Attenborough, etc. The result is that there is little room for honest challenges to the theory.

    Apart from scientists, you mean? (Unless you think that honest challenges from scientists are so frowned upon that they’re career threatening…)

    Actually, it’s even better than you say: the main opposition party (the Conservatives, currently ahead in the opinion polls) have made a big push on “green” issues lately, with their new leader. That’s jacked up the visibility of the debate… and also moved it more towards the issue of what to do about the problem, rather than arguing whether there is a problem or not. Which is nice.

  27. 27
    Grant says:

    “… the scientists who get billions of dollars …”

    It’s a testament to the effectiveness of the denialist PR campaign that this argument doesn’t get laughed out of the room.

    Although not always stated explicitly, the implication is clear: scientists are motivated by personal greed. It gives the impression that we’re getting rich collecting grant money for climate studies (or any other research, for that matter). The truth is, if a research project gets “billions,” that money is spent on a satellite to be launched into space or a more powerful particle accelerator; researchers’ salaries are pretty low on the list of priorities. If you want to get rich, then *don’t* choose science as a career.

    I’m reminded of the episode of the Simpsons in which a chimp researcher (not-so-loosely based on Jane Goodall) is actually forcing the chimps to work in a diamond mine. At one point, Homer lies on the bed throwing diamonds over himself, saying, “Woo-hoo! Look at me! I’m a scientist!” I got a good laugh from that one. So … when do I get my diamonds?

  28. 28
    Wacki says:

    Thankyou for providing the link to this paper by oreskes.

    http://tinyurl.com/nofz5

    However, she did not address Lindzens claim that “A British social scientist, Benny Peiser, checked her procedure and found that only 913 of the 928 articles had abstracts at all, and that only 13 of the remaining 913 explicitly endorsed the so-called consensus view. Several actually opposed it.”

    So that article isn’t really relevant to my question. I still haven’t seen a rebuttal to this claim.

    [Response: Then you haven’t but looking very hard. You might start here. – mike]

  29. 29
    Dan says:

    re: 23. A great quote from that article:

    “Not a single paper in a large sample of peer-reviewed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 refuted the consensus position, summarized by the National Academy of Sciences, that “most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.””

  30. 30
    Leonard Evens says:

    “Extremists on both sides”

    The very use of this term mischaracterizes the issue. What everyone should be concentrating on first is the scientific discussion. Even calling this a debate, I think, is misleading. At present, certain things have been established beyond any plausible doubt. Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations have been rising, and, at this is essentially due almost entirely to human activities. No serious scientist doubts this. (Methane concetrations, I believe, may be more complicated, and in part an exception.) Second, average global temperatures have been increasing, and it is very likely this is due in large part to the increased greenhouse gas concentrations. The major argument for that is that physically one would expect that and detailed analysis by climate models shows it. Obervations such as ocean temperature support it. Moreover, no plausible alternatives have been suggested which can produce the same pattern of warming. It is still conceivable that some unknown mechanism—cosmic rays anyone?—might play some role, but that is sheer conjecture and then one would have to explain why all the computer models are wrong about the effect of doubling CO_2. Arguing that something else might be happening and computer models might all be systematically biased the same way amounts to unsupported conjecture. The best mind the denialists have is Lindzen, and he has tried in the scientific literature to show that greenhouse gas concentrations should have little effect, but his ideas don’t appear to have convinced anyone or to be borne out by observation. He has also made some silly statements outside the scientific literature, but those don’t count. To me the very fact that we have been inducing major changes in the concentration of greenhouse gases is alarming. It is a radical experiment in the nature of the atmosphere, the complete significance of which is hard to predict. The default position should be that those proposing to do it prove beyond any reasonable doubt that its effect will be benign.

    It is true that people differ in what they are ready to do based on their ideologies. So, in that sense, there are ‘two sides’, but once one recognizes the facts as we know them, the differences are not that great. After all, Margaret Thatcher already recognized that global warming was a problem. In the US, John McCain, who is really quite conservative, has introduced legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Not even all energy companies contest the basic scientific consensus.

    It is true that the science, so far, is not conclusive about the likely course of events in the future. There are a range of possible scenarios, which depend more on what we do with respect to forcings than to the actual physics. But, the argument that because the magnitude of the effect is uncertain we should assume it will be at the lower range, doesn’t make sense. It could just as well be at the upper range. Just what action to take will depend on one’s estimates of the relative costs of each strategy. At the very least, we should have adopted ‘no regets’ measures long ago. Increasing fuel efficiency for transportation in the US has been a no-brainer for a long time. Even ignoring the issue of global warming, we would clearly be better off today if demand for oil were much lower. Petro dollars, as Tom Friedman repeadtedly tells us, lead to corrupt societies which don’t have to meet the needs of their citizens. We wouldn’t be worrying abut a nuclear armed Iran if that country’s leaders weren’t raking in profits from high oil prices.

  31. 31
    Timothy says:

    Re: #24 – What do you mean by “an honest challenge to the theory”?

    There are a lot of unresolved issues, as with any area of Science. There may well be some shoddy research that could do with uncovering. There are many details that remain to be filled in, but the conclusion that is important for society as a whole isn’t in any doubt any longer:

    The world is warming due to the release of CO2 by fossil fuel burning This will change the climate unless we reduce CO2 emissions. We don’t know exactly what will happen, but as a minimum it will involve sea level rises and temperature increases. Large changes to the climate will have large impacts on human society and agriculture and the risks are large. We would do better to avoid/minimise these risks by reducing CO2 emissions as much as possible.

    What remains to debate is how we manage to reduce CO2 levels. Personally I’d like to see the government be proactive and start installing solar panels on every available roof in the country, but others might prefer more “market-oriented” solutions that gave everyone a “carbon allowance” and and left them to sort it out themselves.

    The skeptics are just trying to delay. Maybe if they are succesful they can manage to delay any action forever. They’ve been doing this for decades now. Kyoto was agreed in 1997, nearly 10 years ago now! The progress since then has been toruously slow, and time keeps on slipping away…

    A few years ago a climate researcher was asked whether they thought governments were going to take action to stop climate change. They replied “No, not soon enough”.

    In one sense it’s quite exciting. The prospect of the Arctic sea-ice melting completely; ice-sheets breaking off Antarctica; record temperatures – I’m a complete numbers geek. There’ll be a mass of data to test the models against – a really big signal-to-noise ratio in a few decades time.

    I do think, though, that it is a monumental failure of the interaction of science with politics.

  32. 32
    Hank Roberts says:

    Interestingly, Dr. Wegman, who was on the Star Wars project for Reagan and was a longtime Navy statistician, was particularly attentive to warming of the oceans. The Navy Grad School does modeling, and they would have access to both the declassified data made available by then Vice President Gore (the so-called “Gore Box” within which the Navy arctic ice data is available) and the rest of the Arctic from which the data is still classified.

    We can only wonder what other information is available that can’t yet be published.

    Counterproductively, insisting all data used be in public archives rules out use of information from classified sources such as the US and former USSR navy. If the data is protected, the conclusions of models based on it could still be made available for policymakers.

  33. 33
    Yong says:

    Can anyone post anynews about July 27th congress hearing? Are there any audio and video record available online? Thanks a lot.

  34. 34
  35. 35
    Wacki says:

    “[Response: Then you haven’t but looking very hard. You might start here. – mike]”

    I don’t think you understand what I’m trying to say. I’m aware of Peisers 32 abstracts and I even talk about them on my site here:

    http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptics/Lindzen.htm

    However, Lindzen makes the very specific claim that only “only 913 of the 928 articles had abstracts at all”. Neither the number 913 nor 15 (in reference to abstracts ) exist on this page in which is a rebuttal of peisers claim:

    http://timlambert.org/2005/05/peiser/

    In Naomi’s paper she says:

    “That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts”
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686

    So we seem to have a direct contradiction. Either those “missing” 15 abstracts exist, or they don’t. It’s a very simple question with a very simple answer. It doesn’t require a scientific background to figure out who is wrong on this one.

    Another point to make. Lindzen also said “only 13 of the remaining 913 explicitly endorsed the so-called consensus view.”. If someone could cut out more than 13 “explicit” quotes from those abstracts then it would prove him wrong on another point he has no business being wrong on.

    Both of these situations are situations that are simple enough an art major can understand. And if they are wrong on these two simple aspects then you have the right to say “how can you trust anything else they say”?

    Do you see what I’m getting at? Try arguing the science without even discussing science. It would also do Naomi well to list her abstracts the way Peisers are listed on tim lamberts page. Sorted in appropriate categories of course. Maybe I am blind but I can’t seem to find them.

  36. 36
    Yong says:

    Thomas Lee Elifritz,

    Thanks a lot!

  37. 37

    Re: # 17: “A British social scientist, Benny Peiser, checked her procedure and found that only 913 of the 928 articles had abstracts at all, and that only 13 of the remaining 913 explicitly endorsed the so-called consensus view. Several actually opposed it.”

    I’ve encountered Peiser in another discussion group, that one on the subject of Earth-impacting space objects. As of about two years ago he completely discounted the possibility of any climate change at all, and frequently cited Fred Singer and the Idso brothers as authorities. He gets nasty about it.

    Both he and Lomborg are sociologists. Is there something about sociology that causes climate-change skepticism?

  38. 38
    Wacki says:

    “and frequently cited Fred Singer and the Idso brothers as authorities. ”

    Please post links to some of these or e-mail me at my website.

  39. 39

    Re # 38 – “and frequently cited Fred Singer and the Idso brothers as authorities. ” ‘Please post links to some of these or e-mail me at my website.’

    The comments at issue were posted two or so years ago and there was no reason to keep them on file. Sorry. Duncan Steel, the astronomer, was a member of the group at that time, if you know him.

  40. 40
    Hank Roberts says:

    Re #38, 39: Try here:
    abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/cccmenu.html

  41. 41
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE: #35, I am getting a sense of dread that the more I visit RC lately, the more I repeatedly see contributors dancing on pin heads. Where is the relevance?

  42. 42

    Facts out of Context
    A little while ago I talked about how climate change sceptics pick isolated issues out of the wider body of climate science and then argue those points out of context as if all of climate change science depended on those single points.  (see here)
    Thi…

  43. 43

    I think the point of the post isn’t wether climate change is happening. Anybody that has objectively looked at the evidence agrees that it has. The point is that sceptics have been doing a great job of framing the debate on their terms. The inescapable fact is that CO2 levels are rising, we are causing them to rise, and when they rise the laws of physics say that the earth will warm. Instead of talking about this, we end up debating minor side issues as if they were the pillarts that all of climate change science rested upon.

    Why Climate Change Temperature Data Don’t Matter

  44. 44
    Andrew Dodds says:

    Re: 37.

    It’s not so much that ‘Sociology causes skepticism’, it’s just that standards of evidence tend, due to the nature of the subject, to be a bit lower than in the harder sciences. Which, in turn, leads to the all-too-human tendancy to form a theory first and then pick some data to fit it..

  45. 45

    How do I get to RC Forum? There doesn’t seem to be a link for it on the right.

    -BPL

  46. 46
  47. 47
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Change my screen name, sorry to other Erics for any confusion. The differences, Leonard, are indeed not all that great and the real differences turn on politics. But one scientific dispute with a political component is feedback from CO2 warming. The feeback from water vapor is not simple due to its uneven distribution in the atmosphere and the role of weather distributing it. A related question for anybody, why is CO2 evenly distributed while water vapor and methane are not? Does it have something to do with mixing? As an aside the oceanic CO2 seems to be very uneven.

    Anyway, because of the uneveness of water vapor and the uncertainty of weather feedbacks, there seems to a large dispute over tipping points, mostly whether the CO2 warming can cause enough positive feedback to tip the earth into runaway warming. But removing the alarmist element, it could be an argument over goal posts.

    [Response: Water vapour is differently distributed than CO2 (and all other ‘well-mixed’ gases) because it has sinks in the atmosphere (i.e. clouds and rain). CO2 has no such sink (except maybe in the mesosphere?) and so the mixing in the atmosphere smoothes out the variations. Nobody is talking about ‘runaway’ greenhouse effects (despite its frequent appearance in discussions) – see here for more discussion. -gavin]

  48. 48

    A heads-up — I submitted a paper to JGR Atmospheres, and since they required me to name four potential reviewers, I put in Ray & Gavin, plus 2 other folks from other venues. I apologize if I’m making more work for you guys.

  49. 49
    Dean Myerson says:

    Underlying the issue of an anthropogenic cause for GW is the issue of the level of proof. What is required and what exists, for those climatologists in the consensus? Preponderence of evidence? Beyond a reasonable doubt? What is it that the consensus consists of? Skeptics like to invoke incontrovertable evidence, but we execute convicted criminals with a lower burden of proof than that.

    With this in mind, and guessing that scientsts might be uncomfortable with these kinds of analogies as gross simplifications, I still can’t resist offering one.

    Person A stands in the street. Person B raises gun, points at person A, pulls trigger and gun fires. Presons A falls down bleeding. Cop C moves to arrest person B. Observer D steps up and says that we lack incontrovertable proof that person B shot person A. Cop C says he saw it happen. Observer D says that the gun might have blanks in it, and that maybe somebody in that tall building down the street might have actually shot person A.

    Cop arrests person B nonetheless. How many police agencies would even bother to do a ballistics test on the bullet and gun?

    And a PS – What burden of proof does the average person require to purchase insurance for their house, even if their mortgage company does not require it?

    So how do the remaining uncertainties regarding the human contribution to GW, and that the impacts will be serious compare to those above? Is the level of uncertainly in the guilt of person B analogous to the cause-and-effect of human activity?

    And a related issue: is the level of evidence needed for a scientist different than that for a policy-maker?

  50. 50
    Wacki says:

    Re: #41

    Either he is right or he is wrong. I really don’t see how that can possibly be never relevant. Peiser did such a crappy job on his 32 abstracts that I have to wonder if he did the same with his numbers. That being said I’ve shown several businessmen and lawyers this link:

    http://timlambert.org/2005/05/peiser/

    And the only way they could tell what was going on is by reading the responses. The abstracts were simply over their head and they lost interest. These people aren’t dumb. Even though they graduated with a magna cum laude from a very good lawschool its still very difficult to explain scienctific concepts to them if they don’t understand basic conceipts like the difference between alkalinity and acidity. Realclimate does an excellent job explaining things to scientists but that isn’t going to help when it takes hours to read this material and you are going to lose the average person’s attention span in less than 5 minutes.


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