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Cuckoo Science

Filed under: — gavin @ 9 November 2006 - (Français) (English)

Sometimes on Realclimate we discuss important scientific uncertainties, and sometimes we try and clarify some subtle point or context, but at other times, we have a little fun in pointing out some of the absurdities that occasionally pass for serious ‘science’ on the web and in the media. These pieces look scientific to the layperson (they have equations! references to 19th Century physicists!), but like cuckoo eggs in a nest, they are only designed to look real enough to fool onlookers and crowd out the real science. A cursory glance from anyone knowledgeable is usually enough to see that concepts are being mangled, logic is being thrown to the winds, and completely unjustified conclusions are being drawn – but the tricks being used are sometimes a little subtle.

Two pieces that have recently drawn some attention fit this mold exactly. One by Christopher Monckton (a viscount, no less, with obviously too much time on his hands) which comes complete with supplementary ‘calculations’ using his own ‘M’ model of climate, and one on JunkScience.com (‘What Watt is what’). Junk Science is a front end for Steve Milloy, long time tobacco, drug and oil industry lobbyist, and who has been a reliable source for these ‘cuckoo science’ pieces for years. Curiously enough, both pieces use some of the same sleight-of-hand to fool the unwary (coincidence?).

But never fear, RealClimate is here!

The two pieces both spend a lot of time discussing climate sensitivity but since they don’t clearly say so upfront, it might not at first be obvious. (This is possibly because if you google the words ‘climate sensitivity’ you get very sensible discussions of the concept from Wikipedia, ourselves and the National Academies). We have often made the case here that equilibrium climate sensitivity is most likely to be around 0.75 +/- 0.25 C/(W/m2) (corresponding to about a 3°C rise for a doubling of CO2).

Both these pieces instead purport to show using ‘common sense’ arguments that climate sensitivity must be small (more like 0.2 °C/ W/m2, or less than 1°C for 2xCO2). Our previous posts should be enough to demonstrate that this can’t be correct, but it worth seeing how they arithimetically manage to get these answers. To save you having to wade through it all, I’ll give you the answer now: the clue is in the units of climate sensitivity – °C/(W/m2). Any temperature change (in °C) divided by any energy flux (in W/m2) will have the same unit and thus can be ‘compared’. But unless you understand how radiative forcing is defined (it’s actually quite specific), and why it’s a useful diagnostic, these similar seeming values could be confusing. Which is presumably the point.

Readers need to be aware of at least two basic things. First off, an idealised ‘black body’ (which gives of radiation in a very uniform and predictable way as a function of temperature – encapsulated in the Stefan-Boltzmann equation) has a basic sensitivity (at Earth’s radiating temperature) of about 0.27 °C/(W/m2). That is, a change in radiative forcing of about 4 W/m2 would give around 1°C warming. The second thing to know is that the Earth is not a black body! On the real planet, there are multitudes of feedbacks that affect other greenhouse components (ice alebdo, water vapour, clouds etc.) and so the true issue for climate sensitivity is what these feedbacks amount to.

So here’s the first trick. Ignore all the feedbacks – then you will obviously get to a number that is close to the ‘black body’ calculation. Duh! Any calculation that lumps together water vapour and CO2 is effectively doing this (and if anyone is any doubt about whether water vapour is forcing or a feedback, I’d refer them to this older post).

As we explain in our glossary item, climatologists use the concept of radiative forcing and climate sensitivity because it provides a very robust predictive tool for knowing what model results will be, given a change of forcing. The climate sensitivity is an output of complex models (it is not decided ahead of time) and it doesn’t help as much with the details of the response (i.e. regional patterns or changes in variance), but it’s still quite useful for many broad brush responses. Empirically, we know that for a particular model, once you know its climate sensitivity you can easily predict how much it will warm or cool if you change one of the forcings (like CO2 or solar). We also know that the best definition of the forcing is the change in flux at the tropopause, and that the most predictable diagnostic is the global mean surface temperature anomaly. Thus it is natural to look at the real world and see whether there is evidence that it behaves in the same way (and it appears to, since model hindcasts of past changes match observations very well).

So for our next trick, try dividing energy fluxes at the surface by temperature changes at the surface. As is obvious, this isn’t the same as the definition of climate sensitivity – it is in fact the same as the black body (no feedback case) discussed above – and so, again it’s no surprise when the numbers come up as similar to the black body case.

But we are still not done! The next thing to conviently forget is that climate sensitivity is an equilibrium concept. It tells you the temperature that you get to eventually. In a transient situation (such as we have at present), there is a lag related to the slow warm up of the oceans, which implies that the temperature takes a number of decades to catch up with the forcings. This lag is associated with the planetary energy imbalance and the rise in ocean heat content. If you don’t take that into account it will always make the observed ‘sensitivity’ smaller than it should be. Therefore if you take the observed warming (0.6°C) and divide by the estimated total forcings (~1.6 +/- 1W/m2) you get a number that is roughly half the one expected. You can even go one better – if you ignore the fact that there are negative forcings in the system as well (cheifly aerosols and land use changes), the forcing from all the warming effects is larger still (~2.6 W/m2), and so the implied sensitivity even smaller! Of course, you could take the imbalance (~0.33 +/- 0.23 W/m2 in a recent paper) into account and use the total net forcing, but that would give you something that includes 3°C for 2xCO2 in the error bars, and that wouldn’t be useful, would it?

And finally, you can completely contradict all your prior working by implying that all the warming is due to solar forcing. Why is this contradictory? Because all of the above tricks work for solar forcings as well as greenhouse gas forcings. Either there are important feedbacks or there aren’t. You can’t have them for solar and not for greenhouse gases. Our best estimates of solar are that it is about 10 to 15% the magnitude of the greenhouse gas forcing over the 20th Century. Even if that is wrong by a factor of 2 (which is conceivable), it’s still less than half of the GHG changes. And of course, when you look at the last 50 years, there are no trends in solar forcing at all. Maybe it’s best not to mention that.

There you have it. The cuckoo has come in and displaced the whole field of climate science. Impressive, yes? Errrr…. not really.

Update: The Guardian and Cosmic Variance pick up on this.


186 Responses to “Cuckoo Science”

  1. 51
    Grant says:

    Re: #47

    The important thing to note about Huang’s 1997 result regarding the last 1,000 years or so is that it is thoroughly contradicted — by Huang! Looking at the graph on pg. 15 of Monckton, note that the original Huang reconstruction has temperature in the year 1600 equivalent to today. This is not only completely contrary to *all* other available evidence (and thoroughly denied in the recent NAS report), it’s also completely contrary to subsequent research by Huang himself (see e.g. Huang et al. 2000, Nature 403, 756, and Huang 2004, GRL 31, L13205).

    Re: #48

    It seems to me that the attacks on Monckton’s results *on this site* were *not* “mostly ad hominem.”

    Monckton offers a lovely graph on pg. 12 showing numerous proxy reconstructions for the last 1,250 yr. He states in the caption that, “In three of the studies (Esper, Briffa and Moberg), the mediaeval warm period is shown to have been as warm as, or warmer than, the current warm period,” and his graph seems to support that conclusion. What Monckton doesn’t mention is that most of the proxy reconstructions only go as far as about 1980. Take the Moberg reconstruction (last in Monckton’s graph), probably the one most favorable to his case. Then *add the last 25 years* from actual thermometer data. It becomes absolutely evident that the medieval warm period is *nowhere near* as warm as today.

    There’s a name for Monckton’s tactic: cherry-picking. Of course we can’t expect the general reader to see the Monckton piece as anything but “perfectly reasonable.” But a lot of the regulars here have studied both proxy reconstructions and the thermometer records in detail, so we see right through this subterfuge. And it’s not the only one.

    Re: #49

    I disagree. Monckton’s lack of scientific credentials are grounds for *skepticism* but not for rejection.

  2. 52
    edward says:

    >>> As for Monckton’s credentials, they are as a journalist, period.

    More ad hominem. What is wrong with his argument? I am an ordinary member of the public who wants to hear arguments ad rem.

    >>> That a journalist with no climate science research background could attempt to seriously refute peer-reviewed research is simply ludicrous

    This not a reply to Monckton’s arguments. More ad hominem. In any case, Monckton’s article is essentially a review of papers which have gone through the peer review process, i.e. McIntyre & alia.

    >>> It is quite simple to look at http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/index/ and then view the numerous listings/discussions under “Paleo-Climate”. The numerous “flaws” in McIntyre et al are specifically discussed.

    I have looked at these archives which appear to be dated 2004, and found a paper http://www.realclimate.org/RuthetalJClim2004.pdf which is dated 2003. One of the authors is Mann. Monckton cites papers dated 2005.

    The key argument of the 2003 paper appears is here: “It should be noted that some falsely reported putative ‘errors’ in the Mann et al. (1998) proxy data claimed by McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) are an artifact of (a) the use by these latter authors of an incorrect version of the Mann et al. (1998) proxy indicator dataset, and (b) their misunderstanding of the methodology used by Mann et al. (1998) to calculate PC series of proxy networks over progressively longer time intervals. In the Mann et al. (1998) implementation, the PCs are computed over different time steps so that the maximum amount of data can be used in the reconstruction. For example, if a tree-ring network comprises 50 individual chronologies that extend back to AD 1600 and only 10 of those 50 extend to AD 1400 then calculating one set of PCs from 1400 to 1980 (the end of the Mann et al. (1998) calibration period) would require the elimination of 40 of the 50 chronologies available back to AD 1600. By calculating PCs for two different intervals in this example (1400-1980 and 1600-1980) and performing the reconstruction in a stepwise fashion, PCs of all 50 series that extend back to AD 1600 can be used in the reconstruction back to AD 1600 with PCs of the remaining 10 chronologies used to reconstruct the period from 1400-1600. The latter misunderstanding led McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) to eliminate roughly 70% of the proxy data used by Mann et al. (1998) prior to AD 1600, including 77 of the 95 proxy series used by Mann et al. (1998) prior to AD 1500. This elimination of data gave rise to spurious, anomalous warmth during the 15th century in their reconstruction, sharply at odds with virtually all other empirical and model-based estimates of hemispheric temperature trends in past centuries (see e.g. Jones and Mann, 2004).

    That is not my understanding of McIntyre and McKitrick (2003).

  3. 53
    Tom Fiddaman says:

    Re 42

    I don’t disagree with Trenberth’s figure because it’s merely a summary of the average state of today’s atmosphere; it’s neither a model nor an assertion of constant convection. Some others may disregard convection in small energy balance models as an analytic convenience, but still others treat it endogenously (GCMs).

    The answer to when is roughly now, on average. Probably some of the latent heat transport should also be attributed to convection. The average state of clouds is doubtless included in the estimate since their radiative effects are shown, but the diagram doesn’t really show feedback at all.

    You might find this paper to be of interest.

  4. 54
    Chris says:

    Re #48

    Edward, your request highlights the problem not only with Monckton’s “stuff” but the general problem with having to address wilfully misleading pseudoscience. The pseudoscience is easy to write (I imagine it takes a certain chutzpah!), and one can scatter references throughout to give it a “faux-respectable” appearance. But it’s extremely tedious to go back and hunt down that papers and see whether the particular point (of Monckton’s in this case) is properly suported by the reference Moncknton cites in support.

    However, I’ve spent two hours of my valuable time doing that for the specific point you raise (out of the 4 that I included in my original post, #30).

    I said:

    “‘Monckton makes the standard attack on the Mann “hockey stick” temeperature reconstruction and then asserts that the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was “up to 3 oC warmer than now. However the temperature reconstructions in the proper scientific literature show that the MWP was significantly cooler that now.”

    you responded with:

    “That begs the question. Monckton cites numerous papers that suggest ‘northern-hemisphere evidence’ for the mediaeval warm period, and cites a dozen studies from the southern hemisphere.”

    So let’s look at the references that Monckton cites in the sentence that jumped off the page at me and which I referred to in my post.

    Here’s what Monckton says:

    (page 5 of the supplementary ‘brief’ that Monckton url’s in his Telegraph article)

    Monckton: “According to Villalba (1990, 1994), and Soon and Baliunas (2003), the mediaeval warm period was warmer than the current warm period by up to 3C. From c1000 AD, ships were recorded as having sailed in parts of the Arctic where there is a permanent ice-pack now (Thompson et al. 2000; Briffa 2000; Lamb 1972a,b; Villalba 1990, 1994).”

    Let’s look at the papers that Monckton cites in justification of these statements:

    1. Villalba (1990) “Climate Fluctuations in Northern Patagonia During the Last 1000 Years Inferred From Tree Ring Records” Quaternary Research 34, 346-360.

    In summing up the variation in temperature during the period under study Villalba says (and this is the only point in the entire paper where Villalba discusses absolute temperature variations):

    “The temperature departure mean for the coldest interval (1520-1670) is 0.33 oC lower than for the warmer interval (1080-1260)” [see page 354, 2/5ths down second column of the page]

    2. Villalba (1994) “Tree Ring and Glacial Evidence for the Medieval Warm Epoch and the Little Ice Age in Southern South America” Climate Change 26, 183-197.

    As in his article above (1.) Villalba makes one statement about absolute temperature variations from his analysis. He says:

    “The mean temperature departure for the coldest interval (A.D. 1520-1660) is estimated to be 0.26 oC lower than the warmest interval (A.D. 1080-1250)” [see 186, 1/2 way down the page]

    Notice that these variations between the Medieval Maximum and the Little Ice Age (no more than 0.3 oC or so) are not that different to what Mann showed in his ‘hockeystick’ curve. Why Monckton cited this work in support of his assertion that the MWP was up to 3C warmer than the current warm period is extremely difficult to fathom. After all there’s no question that the N. hemisphere temperature is now at least 1 oC warmer than the Little Ice Age. That would put the MWP around 0.7 oC cooler than now using the very data that Monckton cites in support of his assertion that it was “up to 3C warmer” than now.

    3. I can’t access Soon and Baliunas’s paper. I’ll leave someone else to discuss this one. However I did read some of the papers that, themselves, cite Soon and Baliunas’s work and it it’s clear that the latter is highly flawed. [Read for example Osborne and Briffa (2006) Science 311, 841-844.]

    4. Thompson et al (2000) “A High-Resolution Millennial Record of the South Asian Monsoon from Himalayan Ice Cores” Science 289, 1916-1919.

    This paper bears no relationship to the sentence to which it is attached in Monckton’s “piece”. It’s about hydrology on the Tibetan plateau from analysis of a high-resolution ice core from Dasuopu, Tibet. It seems an odd paper for Monckton to cite in support of his “notion” that it’s not that warm now relatively speaking since the very last sentence of Thompson et al’s paper is:

    “For the 20th century, the isotopically inferred temperatures on both Dunde and Dasuopu are the warmest of the millennium, and the recent warming is most pronounced at Dasuopu, the highest elevation site.”

    Just to be absolutely clear, Monckton is using as a justification that the MWP was much warmer than now a paper that concludes that (in Tibet at least) the 20th century is “the warmest of the millennium”!

    5. Briffa (2000) [I forgot to write down the title of this review] Quaternary Science Reviews 19, 87-105.

    This is a general review of analysis of tree ring proxy data for reconstructing past climate. Again there is nothing in this review that in any way is supportive of Monckton’s statements. In describing the work in this field Briffa several times notes the unusual warmth of the 20th century inferred from the tree ring data. For example he says “The authors of this work again stress the ‘unusual’ nature of the apparent 20th century warmth.”, and there are several similar statements about the particluar warmth of the 20th century, especially that later parts.

    Briffa has prepared and shows a couple of relevant Figures. In His Figure 2 he shows a composite figure of “Southern Hemisphere Temperature Reconstructions for Tasmania and Northern Patagonia” Each of these shows that the MWP was cooler than the present day temperature by this proxy data. In his Figure 5 under a section entitled “A New Northern Hemisphere Summer Temperature Record” he shows that the mid to late 20th century temperature as determined from tree ring analysis is far warmer than any period in the past that his analysis includes (this only goes back to 1400 AD).

    I wonder if you’re beginning to get the point. At least in these two sentences Monckton is just saying “stuff” and “supporting” this with “apparent” citations to research that either has nothing to do with the point heâ??s trying to make, or which has been grossly misrepresented. Now perhaps some of the other stuff that Monckton says is better supported. But I’d rather you pointed it out to me, than that I spend hours and hours hunting down the papers, reading them, comparing what they say to what Monckton pretends that they say etc. That’s really the job of an editor. Sadly, the editorial process in the Telegraph has gone massivly awol in this case.

  5. 55
    Mark says:

    I just wanted to say that at least one good thing has come from Monckton’s article… that it has encouraged debate based in science.

    I am not a simpleton, and I know for a fact that calling official climate change data in to disrepute in the public arena, as Monckton has done, can only be bad news.

    BUT, think of it this way – it means that the rest of us have to pipe up our voices to argue that which we already know, and strive to find clearer evidence to support our predictive arguments that will silence our critics.

    Whether we like it or not, we need people like Monckton to keep fighting us – thesis v. antithesis = synthesis. Good science tells us that you can never prove good hypotheses (ones that appear to fit the data), only DISPROVE bad ones (i.e. that mankind ISN’T effecting climate).

    The debate should never be closed, no matter how infuriating it might become – for if there is no debate, we would be in danger of becoming indoctrinated in a way that could lead us to ignore contrary evidence that may arise in the future.

    Well done everyone though – it’s good to know so many people out there actually know what they are talking about!

    Cheers
    Mark

  6. 56
    chris says:

    Re #55

    I’m afraid I don’t agree with you there Mark. I agree that there should be debate in science. Of course there should be. And actually there is huge debate in science (other than politics and bickering with one’s spouse, there probably isn’t another arena in life where there is more debate!).

    But debate should be based on truth. Monckton isn’t adding to the debate by telling untruths and misrepresenting the science. The real debate has passed Monckton by and he is attempting to drag the debate back to a point that is favourable to him (for whatever his reasons).

    And it’s all very well to applaud the debaters on this comment thread. But unfortunately the debate here isn’t being engaged on the pages of the Sunday Telegraph. So, for whatever he feels it’s worth to him and his “supporters”, Mr. Monckton has scored his point. Of course the Sunday Telegraph might realize that they’ve been duped and might allow a proper debate in their pages. Then Mr. Monckton’s piece will perhaps have served a productive purpose.

    And the notion that we might be “indoctrinated in a way that could lead us to ignore contrary evidence that may arise in the future” is also, I think, misguided. It’s contrary to everything we know about modern science. There isn’t a scientist out there who doesn’t want to make his/her mark, and will be only too pleased to find strong evidence of anything, whether it’s contrary or otherwise, and write a nice plump juicy paper about it. The idea that scientists have some sort of vested interest in a false prognosis concerning the climate and our influence upon it is one that I can’t relate to. In fact I would like someone to explain this odd notion to me.

  7. 57
    Dan says:

    re 52. Gee, I provided a specific link that could have been easily found by anyone using the search feature on this page to peer-reviewed information and discussions. The scientific method is quite rigorous. A journalist without a scientific background cherry-picking information for an article to suit their beliefs is not. Pretty simple. And sadly, grossly misleading to layman readers of his article.

  8. 58
    Robert says:

    Re 17, it was stated that there was less ppm CO2, therefore lower ocean levels and (assuming) more radical temperature fluctuations. A very much higher ppm would tend to average out temps such that even if the global temp was lower, the glaciers would still melt. I like to argue this point to the non-concerned and to those who point out facts like “it was warmer then”. All of the ways humanity could reflect more (or block) sunlight is of little use after understanding this basic function of the GHG unless such changes in the albedo included massive reforestation efforts.

  9. 59
    James says:

    I have nothing to add to the discussions of the science but I thought I’d chime in to respond to the “ad hominem” posts. (48 and 52 primarily) I just wanted to point out that “ad hominem” is not a criticism of an argument, it is a description. Like any other argument, an ad hominem argument must be judged on its merits. In this care the merits are:

    1) The subject in question is complex and requires years of study and training to develop proficiency.
    2) Monckton has almost no training or experience in this field.

    Thus the conclusion that we should treat his climate science with skepticism is pretty well justified.

    “Ad hominem” is often treated on the Internet as a de facto fallacy, but it is not. Only if it is the sole response to a factual statement is it fallacious. But qualifying the source as part of (or prior to) a larger response is just good sense.

    Anyone taking logic should also consider a class in literary critical theory, where the author’s context and motives are fair game. This applies to real life because people speak not only in factual arguments (the realm of logic), but also in fictions. Distinguishing between the two is aided greatly by a critical analysis of the source. We can’t naively accept all statements as true, and we don’t all have time like chris to trace every statement back to primary sources and debunk.

  10. 60
    edward says:

    To 59.

    >>> “Ad hominem” is often treated on the Internet as a de facto fallacy

    Logically, it is a fallacy. I agree it is often useful to point out that someone has no credentials, but you still need to point out the actual fallacy in the person’s argument.

    >>> We can’t naively accept all statements as true, and we don’t all have time like chris to trace every statement back to primary sources and debunk.

    Yes you do, absolutely, at least in a case like this. Monckton’s piece has made a huge footprint. You need to deal with it better than you have done. You have halfway convinced me, at least on the points I raised, but I know 50 other educated people who were convinced by Monckton and, to quote you ‘don’t have time â?¦ to trace every statement back to primary sources and debunk’.

    >>> The subject in question is complex and requires years of study and training to develop proficiency.

    Not really. I’m capable of understanding the simple point that the references Monckton provided do not in fact support his assumptions. Why ‘years of study’ bit? As I understand, the hockey stick argument relies on PCA, which is a relatively simple concept to understand.

    Can I also say that many of the postings here make the usual confusion between arguments that are invalid, and arguments that are unsound. An invalid argument is one whose premisses do not support its conclusions. Many of Monckton’s arguments seem perfectly valid to me. However, it is clear some of his arguments are unsound, i.e depend on assumptions that are false. You damage your case when you accuse him of being illogical or confused, when any casual reader can see that the arguments are well presented and have a clear thread, unlike anything I see here.

  11. 61
    edward says:

    To Chris. First of all, thank you for taking time to address the point I raised. I have no further questions on that score. However, you talk about ‘ the general problem with having to address wilfully misleading pseudoscience’.

    You probably mean that (a) scientists have to spend hours replying to the stuff. (b) this is something probably not worth doing because the general public won’t understand the reply.

    On (a), surely it is worth spending hours on refuting the stuff? Monckton’s piece has appeared. He is a well connected person who has great influence in the British establishment, he writes eloquently, and his arguments are logically valid (i.e. premisses support conclusion) even if not logically sound (i.e. premisses true). So why isn’t it in the interests of scientists to present a carefully reasoned argument that addresses exactly the points Monckton raises. All I see here are a series of ad hominem arguments (Monckton is a journalist, he is not a scientist, he is an aristocrat blah blah), all guaranteed to confirm the suspicions of non-scientists there is a cabal or conspiracy of scientists to fool and beguile the general public.

    On (b), as an ordinary educated person, I understand your reply perfectly. You have made the simple point that the claims made by Monckton are not in fact supported by the papers he cites. Why not say all that in the first place?

    I understand all this is tedious, but in this case you (or the scientists) have to do it, in the shape of a carefully written piece that carefully addresses all the points made. I don’t see that here. Otherwise what is the point of a website intended as a public forum. Who else is it for, but people like me?

    So far, the contrarians seem to be making all the ground, because they understand elementary public relations (don’t treat members of the public as stupid or foolish, go into as much detail as necessary, but in the order of the generic followed by the particular, i.e. from the top down â?? the problem with scientific and academic literature is it persists in taking everything from the bottom upwards, and so from the most difficult to the most easy).

    Monckton’s piece nearly convinced me, and it certainly convinced many of my colleagues (all of whom hold some kind of higher degree beyond BSc). I took the trouble to do some further work, but it was difficult.

    And on the subject of ‘burden of proof’. The burden of proof is not on me to root out the facts presented in a public forum like the Telegraph. The burden (given that this has happened) is on the scientists to present their case to the public in a way that is clear and cogent, and in a way that is not condescending. I don’t see this happening here. There was a helpful FAQ on this site, but it has ‘dummy’s guide’ on it, and is presented ‘in a way even your parents can understand’. OK, so I’m a dummy, and so are my parents? THIS IS NOT GOOD PUBLIC RELATIONS.

  12. 62
    CobblyWorlds says:

    Thanks to Chris for doing the long posts (although I’ll have to read 54 before seconding it). The oft repeated 1970s ice age obfuscation seems to have been missed.

    With regards the unevidenced contention that “science” predicted an ice age in the 1970s: This has been nicely de-bunked by William Connelly – http://www.wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/

    The 1970′s Ice Age scare was yet another media circus, which was not supported by peer-reviewed science. A bit like Mr Monckton’s wrong-headed opinion piece.

    By the way,

    I am an amateur – an ex-sceptic who in Jan 2005 decided I had to sort out why I felt unease about my scepticism. So I embarked upon a programme of learning, from the physics up. My degree in electronics has been a help in some of the maths. In short, I can see no reason to doubt the role of CO2 in the last 30 years of warming.

    Mr Monckton is in no way protected by the amateur defence, he is wrong on the science to a seemingly wilful degree.

  13. 63
    Mark Walker says:

    I note no-one has commented on his new article (in response by an attempt by Monbiot to debunk his telegraph article) at the guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1947724,00.html

    Theres no point having the debate here. It needs to be through the media where the general public will read about why he is wrong. If people don’t respond then the public will conclude he is telling the truth.

  14. 64
    Steve Hemphill says:

    Re #45

    Okay Hank, one more time. First off, convection doesn’t just “stir stuff around” as you say back here:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/10/how-not-to-attribute-climate-change/

    Discounting conduction which is weak with gases, the two ways energy goes through the troposphere out of the system are radiation and convection. If you increase the lapse rate by increasing ghg’s, convection will increase. How much? Nobody seems to have that sensitivity nailed down, in w/m^2. All kinds of numbers float around out there, but nothing on this. Hmmm. With no ghg’s, there is no convection. Why would there be? LW radiation would leave as easily as visible radiation. With x ghg’s we have y convection. If we have 2x ghg’s, how much convection do we have? Certainly not 2y due to a lot of things, but could it be 1.1y? That would be 2.4 w/m^2 Maybe 1.2y? No consistent numbers from models though. Also, increasing convection increases cloud formation. How much does that increase albedo? A subsequent unknown.

    As far as your link:
    http://atoc.colorado.edu/~seand/headinacloud/?p=21

    I am surprised you would fall for that. The link is effectively saying that some models, despite the fact that white reflects light, say clouds are a positive feedback, and that this proves the original thought wrong. That is the modelers fallacy. Models do not “prove” anything, nor produce data, despite what modelers say:
    http://ipcc-ddc.cru.uea.ac.uk/ddc_visualisation.html
    Arguments abound about whether models produce predictions or projections, but sometimes they call them “data.” Where’s the Cuckoo Science here?

    As far as ad hominem attacks, I’m not sure how calling Monckton an “”Upper Class Twit of the Year” nominee” can possibly be called anything *but* an ad hominem attack.

  15. 65
    edward says:

    RE 57. >>> re 52. Gee, I provided a specific link that could have been easily found by anyone using the search feature on this page to peer-reviewed information and discussions. The scientific method is quite rigorous. A journalist without a scientific background cherry-picking information for an article to suit their beliefs is not. Pretty simple. And sadly, grossly misleading to layman readers of his article.

    1. If the points made by Chris are correct, then Monckton was not cherry picking. He was citing papers published in peer-reviewed journals as evidence for the assumptions that underlie his argument, when they don’t apparently support his argument. That is different from cherrypicking.

    2. Indeed, if he was cherrypicking, that would still help the contrarian case. Cherrypicking is only possible when there is no consensus, and one of the contrarian arguments is, of course, that there is no consensus.

    3. Again this reference to the ‘scientific method’. What is the ‘scientific method’. (My degree was in the history of science, by the way).

    4. In any case, I don’t see the key points of the Monckton debate as being about experimential science as such. Monckton has not done any experiments. He was simply reviewing the climate change literature. The question is whether the literature supports his assumptions or not. At least Chris seems to have grasped the point I am making, at any rate.

  16. 66
    Hank Roberts says:

    > With no ghg’s, there is no convection.

    Oh really. This is nonsense.

  17. 67
    Dan says:

    No, Monckton’s piece most certainly has not made a “huge footprint”. It is a simple collection of gross misinformation. It is a non-science journalist’s article/opinion, not peer-reviewed science. The simple fact that it was published in a newspaper and not in a peer-review scientific journal should speak volumes as to its credibility and validity. It is quite absurd that a layman journalist’s opinion on a scientific topic such as climate change would be “convincing” while literally thousands of peer-reviewed papers and the IPCC reports would not be.

  18. 68
    Steve Hemphill says:

    Re #66,

    I’m quite sure you understood that to mean vertical convection removing heat from the system through the troposphere. There would certainly be convection due to the coriolis effect.

  19. 69
    Dan says:

    No, “cherrypicking” is picking and choosing comments or information that are completely out of context. It is not a reflection of lack of consensus at all! Again, look at the IPCC reports on line. The scientific consensus on global warming is unwavering. Every major scientific instituion dealing with climate, meteorology or atmospheric science throughout agrees with the consensus on global warming.

    As for the “scientific method”, there is nothing more fundamental to science and to the understanding of the process involved in any scientific research! Type “scientific method” in any search engine to learn about it. One can not perform a serious scientific experiment without it. In a small nutshell, the method which every scientist follows involves a hypothesis, gathering data to test that hypothesis, running *repeatable* experiments to test that hypothesis (in other words, others can run the same experients to attain the same or similar results), drawing conclusions based upon the data and results, publishing the data in peer-reviewed journals (for critical analysis by peers), and proposing further hypothesis. If you read any scientific article in a peer-reviewed journal you will see that this is the method that is followed. It is quite rigorous.

  20. 70
    Grant says:

    Re: #61

    Edward has given us one of the best posts I’ve seen here. I don’t think the public debate is going quite as badly as he suggests — Al Gore has done at least as much for “our side” as Monckton did for the opposition — but his point is valid, that the opposition is doing a better job in the “public relations war” than we are. If it weren’t for the fact that truth is on our side, they’d be kicking our butts.

    The Monckton piece has generated a great deal of doubt, and it’s very well-crafted (not unlike Michael Crichton’s State of Fear). As to the claim in #67 that, “It is quite absurd that a layman journalist’s opinion on a scientific topic such as climate change would be “convincing” while literally thousands of peer-reviewed papers and the IPCC reports would not be,” I agree — it’s absurd. But that’s the way public opinion works. Monckton has indeed had no effect on the scientific debate, but has left a big footprint in the public mind. And those like Edward, who don’t just take a newspaper editorial at face value but are willing to expend the effort to seek out better information, are the rare exception.

    We have an opportunity to undo the damage, and perhaps even show the opposition for what it is, by an equally well-crafted (as well as honest and correct!) rebuttal. But we can’t foist the burden onto the moderators of RC; they’re busy enough!

    As I’ve said before, there are a lot of “wicked smart” people here. Most of us are not climate scientists, but a fair number of us are scientists, and almost all the regulars here are well-informed on the issue. Clearly we’re interested in the subject and most of us care a great deal.

    So, I wonder what my fellow regulars think of this idea: let’s accept the challenge ourselves. Let’s (as a group) coordinate our efforts to take the Monckton essay apart, piece by piece, not only illustrating its scientific incorrectness, but also the underhanded tactics at work. Yes, it’s a *lot* of work. But if we care so much about the future health of the planet, isn’t it worth it? Some of the work has already been done here:

    *** The original post points out his misuse of calculations of climate sensitivity.

    *** #7 points out that Huang’s borehole reconstruction showing higher temperatures 500-1000 yr ago is contradicted by Huang’s later work.

    *** #30 points out the lack of evidence for Monckton’s claim that the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was “up to 3 oC warmer than now,” that his statements about Antarctic ice mass are incorrect, that his argument about CO2 increase preceding temperature rise in ice core records is faulty and irrelevant, as is his statement about the decline in the number of weather recording stations.

    *** #51 reiterates the contradiction of Huang’s early work by Huang’s later work, and points out one of Monckton’s episodes of cherry-picking.

    *** #54 illustrates that many of Monckton’s references are irrelevant to, or directly contradict, his own claims.

    My apologies to anyone I missed.

    If we put our heads together and work in a coordinated fashion, it won’t be too great a burden for any single contributor. I would also invite Edward to participate, not as a researcher into the scientific evidence, but as supervisor of the presentation itself. Perhaps he’d be willing to begin by dissecting the Monckton piece into its various logical arguments and evaluate their persuasiveness, after which we can tackle them in sequence. He seems to have a keen awareness of effective logical arguments. I would further invite the RC moderators, not to do most of the *work*, but to edit the “final draft” to ensure that it meets the highest standard of scientific correctness, and to use their standing in the climate science community to get it published in a very high-profile forum. Perhaps we can change Monckton’s editorial from a persuasive denialist essay into a genuine embarrassment for his case.

    Opinions please?

  21. 71
    Steve Hemphill says:

    Re #68, you are correct in that there is consensus in the actual work that ghg’s contribute to gw. However, there is no consensus on other contributors or feedbacks, nor even whether or not it will be catastrophic or even a net “bad.”

  22. 72
    edward says:

    67 & 69
    >> No, Monckton’s piece most certainly has not made a “huge footprint”.
    I meant, it has made a huge impression in the lay community. You disagree?

    >> “cherrypicking” is picking and choosing comments or information that are completely out of context.

    That is not the definition of cherrypicking. It means, selecting things that are favourable to your point of view, ignoring things that are not, and does not mean “choosing comments or information that are completely out of context”.

    >>> As for the “scientific method” â?¦

    >>>> Type “scientific method” in any search engine to learn about it [scientific method].

    Sadly the first hit that comes up is Wikipedia, from which, being Wikipedia, you will learn very little. In any case, the scientific method is not relevant here, being is typically applied when attempting to make predictions, or to test or formulate scientific laws. Monckton was arguing that the available evidence from the literature does not support the conclusions, i.e. it was meant as a review of the literature.

  23. 73
    Serinde says:

    RE 67: Dan, I wish this were so, but both non-scientific people like myself as well as scientists outside climate research have been bringing these articles to my attention. Like it or not middle England reads The Telegraph and they will believe what is published there. Engaging with their readership must be a priorty to counter bad science.

    RE 59: To pick up a point. I have to take everyone at their word here, not being scientifically trained, and also reject the idea that you are all part of some grand conspiracy (yes, there are quite clever people out there who hold this position). However, you dismiss Monckton’s agenda at your peril because it is central to his stance. It has nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics, for he makes it very clear: anti UN, anti EU, nationalistic, small government conservative, with all that those positions imply.

    RE 63: Absolutely. You guys have got to stop talking amongst yourselves, and start a dialogue with all the confused people ‘out there’ or what use is your expertise to the rest of us?

  24. 74
    Dan says:

    re: 70. Okay, this discussion serves no purpose whatsoever if you truly believe that “the scientific method is not relevant here”. You are referring to a non-scientist’s (a journalist’s) collection of cherry-picked information. That is not a “review” simply because he has no basis. Stick to the peer-reviewed analysis. And I suggest you read about “cherry-picking” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry%5Fpicking, specifically the part about leaving out important information (thus information taken out of context) and that it is inappropriate for journalists.

    Yes, I disagree that Monckton has made an imprint on the layman community as well. It is a blip in the overall reporting on the issue.

  25. 75
    Chris says:

    Re “Cherrypicking”

    Monckton does a lot of cherrypicking as defined by your definition Edward.

    Just to give one example. In my post above (#54) I wondered whether Monckton had just made a mistake with his citation of Thompson et al (2000). After all his reference list contains a Thompson et al (2002) and a Thompson et al (2003), so he could have clumsily referrred to Thompson (2000) when he meant Thomoson (2003) etc..

    So I had a look at these. Neither of the other two Thompson et al papers is relevant to the point I was addressing in post #54. However a comparison of how Monckton interprets the data in Thompson et al (2003) is a classical bit of cherrypicking of the most audacious kind. For he is not merely choosing one paper that supports his point of view, out of several or many that don’t. Here he is dismantling a composite of data used by Thompson et al (2003) to make a point about warming in low latitudes, to pull out and discuss just one of the component data sets of the composite. This single data set in isolation supports Monckton’s view (the latter being completely contrary to the conclusion of Thompson et al (2003). It goes something like this:

    In the sections in which Monckton makes short precis of individual papers (see bottom of page 13 of the supplementary information that Monckton urls in his telegraph “article”), he says the following:

    Monckton: “Thompson et al, 2003: These authors analysed decadally-averaged D18O records [this is delta, superscript 18 Oxygen in ice cores] derived by them and their colleagues from 3 Andean and 3 Tibetan ice cores, demonstrating that “on centennial to millennial time scales atmospheric temperature is the principal control on the D18Oice of the snowfall that sustains these high mountain ice fields”, after which they produced “a low latitude D18O history for the last millennium” that they used as a surrogate for air temperature. For the Quelccaya Ice Cap (13.95 oS, 70.83 oW), this work revealed that peak temperatures of the mediaeval warm period were warmer than those of the last few decades of the 20th century.”

    Now look at Thompson et al 2003:

    Thompson LG, Mosley-Thompson E, Davis ME, et al.
    Tropical glacier and ice core evidence of climate change on annual to millennial time scales
    CLIMATIC CHANGE 59 (1-2): 137-155 JUL 2003

    Here’s the “conclusion” part of their abstract:

    “Decadally averaged D18Oice from three Andean and three Tibetan ice cores are composited to produce a low latitude D18Oice history for the last millennium. Comparison of this ice core composite with the Northern Hemisphere proxy record (1000-2000 AD) reconstructed by Mann et al (1999) and measured temperatures (1856-2000) reported by Jones et al. (1999) suggests the ice cores have captured the decadal scale variability in the global temperature trends. These ice cores show a 20th century isotope enrichment that suggest a large scale warming is underway at low latitudes. The rate of isotopically inferred warming is amplified at higher elevations over the Tibetan plateau while amplification in the Andes is latitude dependent with enrichment (warming) increasing equatorward. In concert with this apparent warming, in situ observations reveal that the tropical glaciers are currently disappearing….”

    In their Figure 7 Thompson et al display their overall conclusions. They compare the regional composites (Andes or Tibetan, or Andes + Tibetan as a crude low latitude history) with the Mann 1999 Northern Hemisphere reconstruction. The total composite looks rather like the Mann et al 1999 NH reconstruction – the Medieval Warm periods (MWP) and Little Ice Ages (LIA) are barely perceptible and the temperature proxy skies upwards (a bit like a “hockey stick”!) through the 20th century. They don’t directly convert their 18O enrichment data into a temperature, but instead represent is as ‘Z score’ with positive values being warmer and negative cooler than a base line. Their MWP averages around plus 0.2 on this score and the LIA around minus 0.3. The curve reaches a value of 2.3 by the year 2000. This is the “low latitude D18O history for the last millennium” of which Monckton speaks.

    So how has Monckton managed to take this straightforward data from Thompson et al (2003) whose conclusion concerning their “low latitude D18O history for the last millennium” is that in low latitudes (as judged by a composite ice core oxygen isotope enrichment analysis as a temperature proxy), the temperature has followed a pattern similar to that of the NH reconstructions with a little bit of a MWP, a small LIA and a very large late 20th century warmth…

    …and concluded (Monckton) “….peak temperatures of the mediaeval warm period were warmer than those of the last few decades of the 20th century”?

    Simple, he’s taken just one data set of the composite (the Quelccaya Ice Cap) which can justifiably support his statement….and he’s ignored all the rest.

    Notice also how Monckton has worded his short precis in such a manner that there are no absolute errors of fact. He’s just selected one out of the six data sets of the composite, and juxtaposed facts to come to a conclusion that is diametrically opposite of what Thompson et al (2003) concluded.

  26. 76
    Angi says:

    If the sun were “turned off,” the temperature of the atmosphere would be with only 28°C above absolute zero, viz.-245°C. With the sun and the “greenhouse gases”, but without water, the average temperature on earth would be of- 11°C (resulting from a daytime mean temperature of approximately +135°C and a nighttime temperature of approximately-175°C). The moon provides such conditions at night. CO2 would delay the cooling towards the absolute minimum only for a short time. Its functioning on earth is not so much different.

  27. 77
  28. 78
    Dan says:

    “Think Tank Will Promote Thinking”

    Appropos to the issue of science policy and science reporting, this is excellent news:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/14/AR2006111401176.html

  29. 79

    Concerning Dan’s comment in #67:

    It is quite absurd that a layman journalist’s opinion on a scientific topic such as climate change would be “convincing” while literally thousands of peer-reviewed papers and the IPCC reports would not be.

    I’m sure this is absurd in some circles, and probably among the friends and co-workers you hang out with. But I’m not sure it is absurd in the larger world, and probably not at all among a large percentage of the Guardian’s readers, for the simple reason that the article is readable and conveys some information about a topic of interest.

    I agree completely with Edward that scientists have a responsibility to debunk this kind of article (and over and over again, I am sorry to say), but they also have to do it in forums that people will read. Some of us non-climate types will read the literature, but not many. It is a chore and immensely time-consuming (even for those of us who don’t have real jobs). To reach us, you have to put the information in the newspapers and magazines we read, in a language we understand. Is this a chore? You better believe it! You will have to learn to write (and think) like a journalist, probably, or you are unlikely to get published. The ability to attract eye-balls is the ultimate peer-review process in the non-scientific world.

    I suggest what might be absurd is comparing the circulation figures for Climate Change verses the Guardian and then thinking that a thousand more scientific articles are going to be any more “convincing” than the last thousand.

  30. 80
    Dan says:

    re: 79. I disagree that it is not absurd in the larger world. There are many good science-writing journalists. Furthermore, any good journalist knows how to research the actual facts for a story. The lazy ones do not. As for the general public, most are smart enough to determine what is being fed to them as fodder. A little critical thinking and analysis goes a long way. Of course that does not apply to those who just want to read what they want to believe from the start. Those are the ones who simply regurgitate misinformation and have no interest in learning more.

  31. 81

    re: 80. I’m not at all certain of Lord Monckton’s motives, but I’m pretty sure he is not lazy. Lazy journalists do not cobble together 42 pages of notes and references related to their story. He can, it seems, tell a compelling story, even if it is not accurate.

    I wish I had your optimistic view of the general public. I used to. And I am thrilled my children still do. But I guess I have voted in too many elections to be much of an optimist anymore. In fact, I’m more likely to believe that the general public can be convinced to do almost anything if you promise lower taxes and a life of ease. That’s why climate change is such a struggle.

  32. 82
    Dan says:

    RE: 81. Yes, he is certainly lazy in his research with respect to thoroughness and scientific accuracy. He specifically cherry-picked his information to meet his agenda as others here have clearly shown.

    As for your second paragraph, I hear you loud and clear. :-)

  33. 83

    RE: 81. I feel like I am on the set of the Princess Bride:

    Dan (as Vizzini): “Lazy”
    Dave (as Inigo Montoya): You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    In some professions you can make a great deal of money by skillfully cherry-picking facts and making compelling arguments. If you want to argue whether Lord Monckton has motives that are not obvious in his article, then we might have something to argue about. But this is not, I’m certain, the work of a lazy man. Journalists are no different from environmentalists (or scientists, now that I think about it) in sometimes succumbing to a selection of facts that support their argument. Mis-characterizing your sources, though, is a serious problem and thanks very much to Chris for pointing that out to us. But I think even that would fall into the category of “sneaky”, not “lazy”.

  34. 84
    Ian Forrester says:

    Re #63. I tried to add a comment (twice in fact) and it wouldn’t allow me to do so. Seems like Monckton doesn’t like criticism.

    Here is the response I wanted to make:

    “So Christopher Monckton, you are correct in everything you say? Well perhaps you should read the NAS report on the Mann papers. This report, written by scientists working in the field of climate science essentially agreed with everything written by Mann et al. Instead, you chose to believe pseudo-science written by two non-scientists who are working on an agenda not undertaking research as it is supposed to be conducted. Shame on you”.

    I posted this comment on desmogblog earlier.

  35. 85
    Neal J. King says:

    re: 70

    Grant,

    I think you have it exactly right: It’s entirely appropropriate to fight the PR battle on the turf where it is happening, rather than to hide back in the “groves of academe” shaded by superior knowledge.

    I and one or two other people have been doing that at IMDb, a website devoted to discussion about movies, at the “board” on Gore’s movie, since about May 2006: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0497116/board/threads/ . The discussion doesn’t need to be as high-level as it is at RealClimate. It gets tiresome at times to keep dealing with the same questions over and over again; but every once in awhile, you actually do change someone’s mind. In any event, you prevent the skeptical view from going unchallenged, so the curious but untrained reader will not be left with the impression that Monckton has successfully photographed the emperor’s new clothes…

    I would think that it would be a really good idea to generate a team willing to work together on this topic. It would probably be overwhelming to think you could be an all-encompassing anti-disinformation team: Instead, pick one venue, such as The Telegraph, and agree to respond to all such unedifying editorials in its pages. Let someone else deal with other papers. Get one of the RealClimate members to do final-draft technical quality-control.

    It really shouldn’t be that hard: You already have enough people, talent and time to have already knocked a bunch of holes in Monckton’s articles. All you really need is an individual with writing and editorial skills to pull it into one article, and the courage to take the battle public.

  36. 86
    CobblyWorlds says:

    From page 21 of Monckton’s pdf.

    Mr Monckton uses the ACRIM composite (Willson & Mordvinov 2003) However with reference to “SOLAR IRRADIANCE VARIABILITY SINCE 1978 Revision of the PMOD Composite during Solar Cycle 21″, C. FROHLICH. Available from here ftp://ftp.pmodwrc.ch/pub/Claus/ISSI_WS2005/ISSI2005a_CF.pdf

    Frohlich (on page 10) compares PMOD, ACRIM and IRMB with the Kitt Peak Magnetogram data from Wenzler 2005. The PMOD composite explains, 83% of the variance, whereas ACRIM is 62%. Frohlich attributes the ACRIM deficiency to corrections applied during a gap in the ACRIM data.

    I quote (page 3) “The ACRIM composite neglects the corrections of the HF during the gap and this is the main reason for the claimed upward trend of TSI over the last 25 years.”

    So why does Mr Monckton prefer to use ACRIM rather than PMOD? Could this be because PMOD does not show that trend, whereas ACRIM does?

    I quote from Frohlich’s conclusions;
    “Overall, the changes are small and do not change the earlier conclusions about a non-existing long-term trend or the amplitudes of the cycles. A detailed error analysis shows that the PMOD composite has a long-term uncertainty of less than about 90 ppm per decade (Frohlich, 2004), which makes the observed difference between the minima not significantly different from zero. The close agreement with the reconstruction from Kitt-Peak magnetograms by Wenzler (2005), and with the 3-component proxy model supports the PMOD composite as the most reliable representation of the solar irradiance variability for the last 25 years.”

    In any case, with reference to page 20 of Monckton’s pdf, TSI reconstructions. If the small change since 1950 accounts for the temperature increase since then, where is the proportionate response before 1950? i.e. GISS http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2005/2005cal_fig1.gif

    Mr Monkton of course avoids such detail by focussing on the IPCC’s overall trend from their 2001 report of 0.6degC over the last century. And focussing on overall solar trends over the last century. Thus avoiding drawing too much attention to the last 30 years.

    One could of course mention hindcasts…

    But I think you can argue out the Sun without needing models (for those averse to such things) for the last 30 years.

  37. 87
    edward says:

    On the idea of a critique of Monckton, that is a very good idea. Taking the steps in order.

    1. Some very good points have already been made, but they are in this very unfriendly medium (i.e. postings in this rapidly expanding comments box, which will soon get lost. Chris made two postings, Grant made one. First step: move these to a medium where all these points can be collected together with an accompanying page where they can be discussed. I’m happy to put them on
    my website. However it is a website dedicated to the history of logic, and hitherto unsullied by scientific matters such as climate control, so I’d rather that was a last resort. Also it is not designed for shared access, though there is a comments facility. Another possibility is Wikipedia, where you can set up project pages â?? one page of the project is for the source material, the other is a discussion page. It’s easy to join Wikipedia as an editor. Not so easy to set up a project page, but I know many of the scientists here (e.g. William Connolley http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:William_M._Connolley) are involved in WP. Just leave a message on his talk page. Note the result of the project needs to be a WP article. Perhaps someone else

    2. On the logical structure of the article, the first step is just to list, as above, the main points that Monckton raises, with a point by point rebuttal. Avoid any emotive language or ad hominem. Simply take the points, one by one. If the article has to be in WP, it must address the ‘Neutral Point of View’ policy. This, in effect, means that any claim has to be referenced, and therefore verifiable. Look at any of the points that Chris makes (e.g.), and they would be OK, because I can look at the articles he cites. Note WP prefers online references, but offline will do. Many peer-reviewed publications.

    3. I’m happy to help with structure, thread, grammar, spelling, all that kind of thing. I have no view whatsoever on the outcome. I’m a sceptic about everything.

  38. 88

    I have to agree with the comments on Monckton’s paper that say it was persuasive. Scientists don’t have much of a vote on public policy; the public in general does, and an argument that convinces the public will sway policy more than an argument that convinces scientists. Like it or not, science writing for the public is absolutely necessary to counter those who would deliberately misinform the public. Carl Sagan, Steven Jay Gould, even (shudder) Richard Dawkins have done a great deal of good by explaining scientific issues clearly in a way that excites public interest. We have to counter a Monckton simply because we (not necessarily me, I’m speaking editorially here) have the knowledge to do so, and very few other people do.

  39. 89
    Charles Muller says:

    re#40
    About this discussion with Raypierre concerning Cenozoic CO2-induced climate change, I tried to get precise data on the period. But in Pearsonn and Palmer (2000) from boron isotope, there’s a big gap between 40 and 23 My BP, and no more from Zachos et al (2001), that is no alkenone evaluation before 25 My. Geocarb III is quite imprecise (“because of the nature of the input data which is added to the model as 10 my or longer averages”). Any reference of a more accurate estimation for the whole period 62-0 My BP ? Thanks.

  40. 90
    Neal J. King says:

    87: Edward,

    1) Based on what you say about Wikipedia, it sounds as though using them for this purpose would be a bit restrictive. All that is really needed is a site that allows the editor to post the current draft and receive postings on it.

    2) I agree with your points.

    3) It might make the most sense for someone with a clear point of view to be the editor, and someone like you to be the “devil’s advocate” – to make sure the article is really unimpeachable.

    88: Barton,

    I agree.

  41. 91

    ARGO is giving some interesting results. Has the ‘smoking gun’ backfired?

    Recent Cooling of the Upper Ocean
    John M. Lyman, Josh K. Willis, and Gregory C. Johnson.

    GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 33, L18604, doi:10.1029/2006GL027033, 2006

  42. 92
    chris says:

    Thanks to Edward….

    …and a question

    First, let me thank Edward for inducing me to look into Monckton’s references in more detail. On first reading Monckton’s “article” I made the sort of generalised critique (post #30 above) that most individuals that follow the literature in this area might make. These aren’t “killer” critiques, in much the same way that Monbiot’s (I think rather limited) critique in the Guardian is easily “rebutted” (as Monckton did rather successfully in the Guardian yesterday-he basically said that, no, he (Monckton) was right and that, sorry, Monbiot was wrong, and that’s that!).

    The gross misrepresentation of the scientific literature in specific terms is a far more serious matter. I really didn’t expect to discover such a craven misrepresentation of specific papers..I assumed that Monckton would be “cherrypicking” in the classical style, since there is enough marginal, dodgy and valid but non-representative, research in the scientific literature to create an “authoritative-sounding” “thesis” on just about anything, let alone climate research. It’s also possible that I’ve inadvertently stumbled across only the more disgraceful of Monckton’s misrepresentations of the scientific literature. I’m going to try to find out whether Monckton’s entire supplementary “essay” is constructed along these lines, or whether it’s mostly based on a standard “cherrypicking” of scientific “outliers” that is rather more difficult to counter.

    Here’s the question:

    I plan to spend some time over the weekend doing some further comparisons of the interpretations that Monckton gives to specific papers, with the data presented and the interpretations and conclusions the authors, themselves, make. I find this morbidly fascinating to do, and if I wasn’t so busy right now I’d probably spend all day doing it!

    My question is, how does one go about transmitting this information to, say, the editor of the Sunday Telegraph? Does one write to the editor or to the science editor? Does one prepare a covering letter and accompany this with several pages of carefully edited and organised point-by-point critique? If the Editor or Science Editor receives a multi-page critique from Joe Public (me), is he or she likely to assume that Joe Public (me) is a nutter, and bin this? On the other hand if s/he were to receive a sort of collective effort contributed on behalf of (say) RealClimate might s/he think “O.K., it’s that lot of “hockey-stick” advocates again; I’m not going to bother reading their self-justifications again”…and is there a time limit on this? Is there a point at which they won’t bother considering responses to Monckton’s “article”?

    That’s my question(s). What are the productive strategies for communicating a robust (hopefully) critique to the right quarters? Perhaps those at RealClimate with experience in the public communication of science might comment.

  43. 93
    Grant says:

    Re: #87, #92

    Gentlemen, I’ll gladly join the effort. Edward, as soon as you can enumerate the points we can begin in earnest to investigate them.

    Perhaps we can communicate more effectively by email. If you wish, you can go to my blog (via the link) and leave any comment on any post; that’ll give me your email addresses (confidentially) and I’ll send mine along.

    And Chris, I must say: outstanding work so far.

  44. 94
    Neal J. King says:

    re: 92

    chris,

    Why not contact the editor of the Telegraph and tell him/her upfront that you are preparing a careful article that responds fully to Monckton’s, and that it will be prepared in collaboration with other interested parties? and then go into the details as needed? I think that that would be much easier for the editor to deal with than an unsolicited manuscript. You might get very helpful suggestions about what they would be looking for, that could forestall heavy-handed editing later.

    I think it would be easier to negotiate this by telephone than by letter. But you may have to make an appointment for the telephone call.

  45. 95
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Argo, Robert Ellison
    Try the Search box at the top of the page; Argo found cooling surface waters along with continuing sea level rise, which agrees with the reports of faster melting of icecaps than expected. Does cold fresh water stay on the surface for a while?
    http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/ocean-20060921.html

  46. 96
    Millimeter Wave says:

    Can somebody please help me out here?

    I’ve had some discussions on climate change issues with my father, who lives in the UK and reads the Telegraph (Daily & Sunday). He recently said some things that struck me as rather strange, and I strongly suspect that they came from the various op-ed pieces from that paper (including, but not limited to, the Monckton pieces). The next time I talk to him I’d like to have some facts straigtened out, and I’m hoping that the posters here can help.

    Just one thing for now: the whole issue of climate sensitivity (ie that which Monckton refers to as “lambda”, helpfully eliminating any opportunity for readers to fact-check).

    If I understand my physics correctly, the black body emitter case (ie the idealized S-B case) would be necessarily the lower bound for climate sensitivity. Do I have that right, or is there something else to be considered?

    Many thanks in advance for any clarifications or suggestions…

  47. 97
    CobblyWorlds says:

    Just in case you all find these observations of use.

    #The Antarctic and Greenland.

    It is not correct to assert that GW means rises in temperature everywhere. GW implies a rise in the average temperature, and ‘average’ change in a data series is not the same as a change in every individual element of that series.

    Mr Monckton tries to challenge the global pattern of glacial retreat by referring to the localised exceptions of Greenland and Antarctica. This is self-evidently fatuous. Processes local to the interior of Greenland and Antarctica do not automatically challenge the otherwise widespread pattern of low latitude and tropical glacial retreat. Likewise local exceptions due to local factors do not challenge a wider trend.

    The heavier oxygen isotope ratio varies dependent upon the difference in vapour pressure due to the different atomic weights of normal and heavy oxygen based water. Therefore Mr Moncktonâ??s entire argument based on local conditions in Greenland and Antarctica undermining past temperature assessments using dO18 is wrong. It is based on the misconception that the factor preferring isotopes is at the ‘precipitation/freeze’ end of the process when it is actually at the evaporation end, i.e. not dependent on local conditions on the ice sheet. And as the measure is a ratio it should not be affected by absolute amounts of precipitation(as far as I’ve read).

    #What role has the Sun played?

    My main observation here is based on the lack of trend in TSI since at least 1978 and neutron counts since the 1950s

    Estimates of temperature cover the instrumental record, estimates of TSI are based on using sunspots as a proxy. THAT is why estimates of forcing go earlier than temperature.

    See my post above re Willson / Frohlich and the lack of trend #86. The stated 0.68 Wm^2 trend is very likely an artefact of Willson’s processing.

    If past changes, MWP / LIA are caused by variation in TSI, then that makes the recent 30 years at ~0.6degC all the more odd, because there has been no change in TSI or CRF to account for that. YET things like ice melt in the Arctic and Global average temperature seem to be continuing to increase at least at the same rate as before. Were this a ‘lag’ effect from a previous increase of TSI these effects should be reducing in intensity.

    Mr Monckton concludes that the Sun is responsible for the recent warming. Yet he singularly avoids the last 30 years because there is no evidence for a solar influence yet we have warming. Which of course proves a problem for his ‘case’.

    I don’t get involved in adding and subtracting forcings type arguments. As far as I’m concerned that sort of argument of quantity as opposed to quality is only amenable to modelled attribution studies.

    #How much will temperature rise?

    Dr Schmidt’s piece above otherwise one observation.
    If models are ‘double counting’ how do attribution studies provide agreement? The models donâ??t work simply by adding forcings. If the degree of forcing and feedbacks are wrong then the models will not be able to reproduce the global average temperature resulting from the complex interplay of factors throughout the 20th century. E.g. http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/450.htm
    Fig12.7

    I came to the conclusion a while back that our species will do nothing about this (e.g. no change of behaviours in my office or social circle â?? despite my talk about it, and a general acceptance of the reality of AGW). So I’m happy to let the contrarist’s claims be answered by the physical reality of the process, which will continue. Therefore, sorry but I don’t intend to waste any more time on Mr Monckton’s self-aggrandising claptrap. This sort of stuff will continue to come out regardless of the evidence, just look at other conspiracy stuff out there. Best of luck to anyone taking up ‘the challenge’.

    Hello Millimeter Wave,

    The Black Body case will not necessarily be the lower bound.

    Think of this planet suspended in space. The sun’s energy comes in, some of that is absorbed some reflected back into space. The Earth is not a black body, but Boltzmann’s equation is the starting point for this issue because the Earth sits in a vacuum therefore can only lose energy by radiation.

    Feedbacks that cause deviation from black/grey body behaviour can be positive (increasing the changes) or negative (making the changes smaller). And by increasing albedo (the amount reflected into space) the Earth’s temperature can go down because more energy is reflected into space.

  48. 98
    edward says:

    OK I realised my user page would be perfect for this. The address is here

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Dbuckner/climate

    You can edit directly, but beware your IP will show. I would prefer if you register as a Wikipedia user, which takes about two seconds, and also familiarise yourself with the basic editing conventions, which are not difficult. All URL’s must be enclosed by single [] brackets. I’ll clean up in any case.

    If you could also identify your credentials on your user page if you register, thanks.

    Edward

  49. 99
    edward says:

    I’ve put two of the posts by Chris into the page.
    These need copy-editing to remove irrelevant context.

    Over the weekend I will do some more editing to give thread and structure to the whole thing. Everyone is welcome to put in comments so long as they are fully referenced, i.e. the claim made by Monckton is identifed by a quote and a page number, and the critique is referenced by an appropriate citation.

    Edw.

  50. 100
    edward says:

    Note if you hit the Wikipedia link from here, you get stuck in the Realclimate box. Better to cut and paste the link into your browser, then add to your favourites


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