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Global Warming Delusions at the Wall Street Journal

Filed under: — david @ 18 October 2007

Daniel Botkin, emeritus professor of ecology at UC Santa Barbara, argues in the Wall Street Journal (Oct 17, page A19) that global warming will not have much impact on life on Earth. We’ll summarize some of his points and then take our turn:

Botkin: The warm climates in the past 2.5 million years did not lead to extinctions.

Response: For the past 2.5 million years the climate has oscillated between interglacials which were (at most) a little warmer than today and glacials which were considerably colder than today. There is no precedent in the past 2.5 million years for so much warming so fast. The ecosystem has had 2.5 million years to adapt to glacial-interglacial swings, but we are asking it to adapt to a completely new climate in just a few centuries. The past is not a very good analog for the future in this case. And anyway, the human species can suffer quite a bit before we start talking extinction.

Botkin: Tropical diseases are affected by other things besides temperature

Response: I’m personally more worried about dust bowls than malaria in the temperate latitudes. Droughts don’t lead to too many extinctions either, but they can destroy civilizations. It is true that tropical diseases are affected by many things besides temperature, but temperature is important, and the coming warming is certainly not going to make the fight against malaria any easier.

Botkin: Kilimanjaro again.

Response: Been there, done that. The article Botkin cites is from American Scientist, an unreviewed pop science magazine, and it is mainly a rehash of old arguments that have been discussed and disposed of elsewhere. And anyway, the issue is a red-herring. Even if it turned out that for some bizarre reason the Kilimanjaro glacier, which is thousands of years old, picked just this moment to melt purely by coincidence, it would not in any way affect the validity of our prediction of future warming. Glaciers are melting around the world, confirming the general warming trends that we measure. There are also many other confirmations of the physics behind the predictions. It’s a case of attacking the science by attacking an icon, rather than taking on the underlying scientific arguments directly.

Botkin: The medieval optimum was a good time

Response: Maybe it was, if you’re interested in Europe and don’t mind the droughts in the American Southwest. But the business-as-usual forecast for 2100 is an entirely different beast than the medieval climate. The Earth is already probably warmer than it was in medieval times. Beware the bait and switch!

Botkin argues for clear-thinking rationality in the discussion about anthropogenic climate change, against twisting the truth, as it were. We couldn’t agree more. Doctor, heal thyself.

For years the Wall Street Journal has been lying to you about the existence of global warming. It doesn’t exist, it’s a conspiracy, the satellites show it’s just urban heat islands, it’s not CO2, it’s all the sun, it’s water vapor, and on and on. Now that those arguments are losing traction, they have moved on from denying global warming’s existence to soothing you with reassurances that it ain’t gonna be such a bad thing.

Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me–you can’t get fooled again.

-George W. Bush

453 Responses to “Global Warming Delusions at the Wall Street Journal”

  1. 401
    J.C.H. says:

    I don’t see that they expressly predicted ACE separately from named storms. They have a range of ACE for each range of season normality, and that is what they predict. They imply something about ACE by their prediction of hurricanes and major hurricanes.

    The experts predicted 13 to 17 named storms. 14 have names. The way they treat ACE, it does not appear to be the centerpiece of their prediction.

  2. 402
    Rod B says:

    Mary C (389): You read what you wanted to in my posts. First, I haven’t provided names of credible scientists who have disagreement with parts of AGW theory (I didn’t say “disagree with [totally]/deny” — those are your words) because it is an exercise in futility. As I have said, all of those scientists will have some aspect declared by the proponents that define them as ineligible, as you do, in part, in #389. But I’ll throw out one for fun, the subject of this post: Daniel Botkin, emeritus professor of ecology at UC Santa Barbara.

    I also explicitly included scientists not directly in climatology. You admitted those, too, but you qualified them: they can’t be stupid, or “wrong”, which is a one word equivalent to your 2) and 3) statements. Which was one of my points, because underlying (defining) “stupid” is their partial AGW disagreement.

    On your other point: I explicitly said that if AGW is true as described it will create havoc, including death, for millions of people (and as a maybe successful sceptic accepted blame for that). As for plowing full speed ahead with mitigation, which inherently assumed AGW was not true, you want me to prove that not everyone will be happy living off the land in their cabin with the fishes, birds and trees, or getting rich through their investments in propellers, solar panels, hydrogen stores and CO2 closets. Well, if you wish to assume and believe that, far be it from me to dissuade you. BTW, I believe that while many (throngs) will be significantly worse off, many others will be just as well and likely better off.

  3. 403
    Majorajam says:

    Rod (382) says, “Thank goodness…”. I presume that such relief is in order because, like most ‘skeptics’, you have an uneasy relationship with reality. Under the circumstances, I worry this might only serve to exacerbate your phobia:

    Novak: There never were WMD’s
    Bush knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction
    Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq
    Downing Street Memo(s)
    U.S. Decision On Iraq Has Puzzling Past
    New Memos Detail Early Plans for Invading Iraq
    Tall tales about Uranium

    On the last point, I could also document the tall tales about aluminum tubes, terrorist links, etc. etc. etc., but u get the point- or are more likely writhing in cognitive dissonance. In any case, as is, it’s enough to convict a man of murder in the first degree, and in a real court to boot- not even one of Bush’s kangaroo jobs.

    If being a skeptic meant being gullible, you would truly be a skeptic. Here in the reality based community, however, we’ll just have to leave the scare quotes on there.

  4. 404
    Dick Veldkamp says:

    #396 Accuracy of hurricane forecasts (Barton)

    Barton, I wouldn’t mind doing the test you describe. However the only thing I can find on the NOAA website is the observed ACE over the last 50 years. Does anybody have an idea whether historic forecasts are on the web? (Hank?)

    There is an article at Slate though: I quote: “But how reliable are these hurricane forecasts? Not bad at all. In general, the predictions fall within a storm or two of the observed totals.”

  5. 405
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, Methinks you flatter me (and the other posters) way too much. My expertise is in radiation physics. This is a long way removed from atmospheric physics. So, let’s look at the tiers between me and the top tier.

    1)The best, world-class atmospheric/climate scientists
    2)The Worker-bee atmospheric/climate scientists
    3)The grad students of the above (hey, it’s fresh in their minds.)
    4)Top tier in related fields who are interested enough to follow the field closely (may include meteorologists, oceanographers, etc.)
    5)Worker bees who answer to the above criteria
    6)Top tier physicists, geophysicists, astrophysicists, chemists, etc. who are interested enough to follow the field closely
    7)Worker bees who answer to the above criteria (I am here)

    I am not being falsely modest–believe me, that’s not something I suffer from. I know I’m a reasonably good scientist with a broad understanding of basic physics and broad interests. However, without working it through, there’s no reason why I’d understand this stuff. And what is more, I want to work it through on my own, because that’s part of the fun. The contributors to this board understand this. They know I don’t want to be led by the hand step by step. So they provide thoughtful writeups and the occasional hint and let us work it through ourselves–it’s the only way we’ll really understand it.

    So, having gone through the exercise in radiative forcing, am I an expert? No way. But I understand it a whole helluva lot better than before. That’s why I’m here.

  6. 406
    dhogaza says:

    First, I haven’t provided names of credible scientists who have disagreement with parts of AGW theory … But I’ll throw out one for fun, the subject of this post: Daniel Botkin, emeritus professor of ecology at UC Santa Barbara.

    Botkin argues that we’re overreacting to global warming, not that it’s not happening or that climate scientists have it wrong.

  7. 407
    Dave Rado says:

    Re. Rod B, #402 and Daniel Botkin: in addition to dhogaza’s point, Botkin’s comments about the MWP were clearly either disingenuous or ill-informed – not because I disagree with what he wrote about it, but because I have read the relevant literature on the subject and he either hasn’t read it or has arbitrarily ignored it.

  8. 408
    Rafael Gomez-Sjoberg says:

    od B (#386) writes:

    only the professional elite know — and they aren’t telling. … None-the-less (again) whether a gas like our atmosphere radiates a continuous spectrum ala Planck function, or not, for example, should not be so mysterious and known only to a select few, at least at the system level.

    What do you mean by “they aren’t telling”?
    They are telling it all in the open. As I said, all that information is in the books and thousands of scientific articles that get published every year. They are telling it to all of those that care to go read those books and articles. What else do you want them to do? Go on TV or the radio every night and give a lecture on radiation physics to the public?

    A quick search for the terms “radiative transfer atmosphere” in Google Books show two interesting hits:

    “Radiative Transfer in the Atmosphere and Ocean” by Gary E. Thomas and Knut Stammes

    “Elementary Climate Physics” by F.W. Taylor

    Google Books ( won’t let you see the whole of the books, but you can probably ask your local library to get them for you. Or you can buy them online if you really want to study this in depth.

    Obviously, understanding the contents of these books requires a well developed background in math and pnysics, but there’s no way around this with modern science. All natural sciences, from biology to chemistry to climate, speak their own laguages (very often a highly mathematical language), which sometimes take years to learn. So, in that respect all of this knowledge is certainly “mysterious” to somebody that doesn’t speak the language of mathematics or the jargon of modern molecular biology, for example.

    You should do a little experiment about finding the scientific consensus on a topic that is not as politically charged as climate science. Go find what you call 2nd or 3rd tier knowledge about laser physics and optics and try to figure out, on the web, what the consensus is on the subject of “optical pulse propagation in dispersive media”. What is the dominant effect on light loss in a single-mode GeO-doped silica optical fiber at wavelengths below about 1.5micrometers? Is it Rayleigh scattering or something else?
    You are surely going to find some web pages that have one particular answer to this pretty simple question. But how do you know that the answer presented truly reflects the “scientific consensus”?
    Is the answer to this scientific/technical question something mysterious that only a select few know?
    The answer is pretty important to most engineerns and scientist that work with optical fibers, but how do you know what the consensus among these people is? There must be a consensus on all sorts of questions of the same kind since optical fibers form the backbone of the internet today and it wouldn’t work if all of these details weren’t sorted out.

    Or pick another example from biology: Find out what the consensus is about the possibility of having information transcribed from RNA back into DNA. What is the mechanism for that? Is it common in living organisms?

    The scientific methods used to sort these questions are exactly the same as those used to sort out the questions in climate science. Not too long ago, light propagation through a glass fiber and the details of genetic information flow, were basic scientific issues being ivestigated in exactly the same way, and by very similar people, to those now researching the earth’s climate. Now a lot of those questions about fibers and DNA are settled and the knowledge is used routinely in communications and the development of drugs or for forensic analysis of DNA. Do you doubt that the basic infrastructure of the internet or the basic techniques used by the biotechnology industry are based on some “mysterious” knowledge (somehow hidden from you) that is open to uninformed doubts?

    If we had blogs discussing many aspects of quantum mechanics as applied to semiconductor physics, the same way we have blogs about climate science, a lot of people like you would be going around doubting whether Bragg reflection of electrons in a silicon lattice was a settled matter. Bragg relfection could be as “mysterious” and known only to a “select few” as the details about how the atmosphere radiates, if we were having a web discussion about it. But not a single electronic device in the world today would work if the phenomenon of Bragg reflection wasn’t well understood.

    I don’t think you, or for that matter most people outside academia, really understand how science works. This is a serious problem in the modern world where the technology derived from science now dominates our lives, and all citizens have to make very important decisions about how we use the power of technology.

  9. 409
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B., So what has Botkin published in peer-reviewed science journals pertaining to the subject of climate change? Oops, there go the first 3 tiers. Now, do you think Botkin has ever sat down with pen and paper and tried to understand the ins and outs of radiative energy transfer as we did? Do you think an ecology professor has ever had stat mech and would understand blackbody radiation? How about something pertaining to extinctions from past climate change epochs in a peer-reviewed journal? In the past 10 years? Oops, there go the next 4 tiers. Just because somebody is a scientist does not make them qualified to comment on all areas of science. James Watson was a great biologist. He has a lousy understanding of the psychology of intelligence and race.

  10. 410
    Dave Rado says:

    James Watson was a great biologist.

    He was a great biochemist – I don’t think he was an expert on, or even especially knowledgeable about, any area of biology other than biochemistry.

  11. 411
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rod, most of us readers who comment including me are in the peanut gallery here, we’re not on any tiers at all, with a few exceptions who actually do science daily and also help try to explain this.

    Much typing here is spent sorting serious people from trolls, going over old ground repeatedly, finding words to give some feeling for subjects that aren’t understandable without serious math.

    We’re lucky to hear from working scientists in the field — I wish we heard much more.

    Notice how rare it is to hear one of the working scientists say “Good question!” to one of us readers? That’s what we need to be better at to learn much, I think. Proclamations that the scientists don’t know much isn’t the sort of thing that encourages them to participate.

  12. 412
    Timothy Chase says:

    Dave Rado (#410) wrote:

    He was a great biochemist – I don’t think he was an expert on, or even especially knowledgeable about, any area of biology other than biochemistry.

    Perhaps, but it was Rosalind Franklin who identified the traditional A and more tightly-wound B forms of DNA, how to separate them, etc. However, she left it to Watson and Crick to discover the base pairings, then to return the favor Crick downplayed her role as much as possible.

    Incidentally, Pauling was thinking triple helices at the time. Turns out that there actually are DNA-triple helices and four stranded versions, the latter of which are called G4 on account of there being 4 or more consecutive Gs to the sequence, although 3 consecutive Gs are enough – and there are actually three different variations on the G4 structure. However, both the triple and G4 are considerably less common than the two-strand A, B or Z.

  13. 413
    S. Molnar says:

    Re #408: While Google Books is an excellent resource, there’s really no need to go so far afield to learn about atmospheric radiative transfer. You can’t do better than this source (pdf), not yet hot off the presses. And everyone should run out and buy it as soon as it’s published!

  14. 414
    Rod B says:

    Majorajam (403), no, my “thank goodness” was appreciation for the statement that you were going to cease this blind revisionist drivel re Iraq’s WMDs. Guess not. It’s been pursued on this thread far too much and I’m not inclined to waste more of my (and probably others, both pro and con) time re-explaining.

  15. 415
    James says:

    Re #402: [First, I haven’t provided names of credible scientists who have disagreement with parts of AGW theory…]

    I think you’re looking for the wrong thing. It’s certainly possible to be a credible scientist in a different field (say a particle physicist, or an astronomer), know as little about the theoretical underpinnings of AGW as any member of the general public, and so disagree with it. What you need is scientists (or even non-scientists) who can make credible criticisms of the theory. Either find a flaw in it somewhere, or offer an alternative theory that works better.

  16. 416
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 410 Dave Rado

    Actually, Watson wasnt’ a biochemist at all – he is probably best described as a molecular biologist. Both his undergraduate degree and PhD at Indiana were in zoology. He was interested in birds as an undergrad, but his PhD work was with with Salvador Luria, as part of the “phage group” looking at fundamental properties of bacteriophage. Watson did start a postdoctoral fellowship in a lab studying the biochemistry of nucleic acids, but soon became more interested in DNA. So, he moved (possibly in violation of the terms of his post-doctoral fellowship) to Cambridge, where he teamed up with Crick. Watson’s and Crick’s lack of expertise in biochemistry (Crick’s background was in physics) slowed their progress in understanding base pairing in DNA. This is all explained in Watson’s “The Double Helix” and Horace Judson’s “The Eighth Day of Creation” (an outstanding book!). The Wikipedia entry on Watson is pretty good, too (

  17. 417
    Matt says:

    #396 Barton Paul Levenson: If they predict an 85% chance, that means they can be completely wrong one year out of seven. Two bad predictions in a row mean almost nothing, because a sample size of two is practically meaningless.

    Note they forecast there was only a 5% chance the ACE would be below normal. It looks like it’ll be (again) below normal. I think they had the same forecast last year. And yes, last year ACE was 78, again below median which NOAA believed would happen with only a 5% probability. You have put a bit too much lipstick on their expert prediction. Odds of them being this wrong twice is about one in 400, eh? You are right, though, it could happen. We need more data.

    I had to get 2006 data from the internet archive. I cannot find it on NOAA site. Of course, my guess is that if NOAA’s track record was worthy of horn tooting, it’d all be easy to find on NOAA’s site. Maybe I just missed it.

    Before I went to the trouble of doing this myself as you suggest, I thought it made more sense to ask if anyone else had done it already; hence my question above. Again, my guess is that if the forecasts were statistically valid over a reasonable interval, there would be a web page with the analysis in 24 point font.

  18. 418
    Majorajam says:

    Well thank goodness Rod. I was beginning to worry that some evidence was so blatant even the ‘skeptics’ couldn’t ignore it. Alas, those worries proved unfounded. Just to be on the safe side though, I suggest not clicking those links, especially the Foreign Affairs one authored by the CIA’s National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005. That region includes Iraq btw, which makes it a treasure trove of information you certainly don’t want any part of. Probably also best to avoid the one chronicling the vast divide between public statements by the administration about yellow cake stories vs. what was known and documented to be known before they were made. While you have demonstrated prodigious mastery over dissonant cognitions to date, you never know when the whole thing could go unglued on you.

  19. 419
    Majorajam says:


    You are confusing two important principals- risk and uncertainty. There is far more uncertainty in predicting hurricanes than there is in predicting climate. While uncertainty on the former is large, it is very very small for forecasts such as, “Climate sensitivity to anthropogenic GHG emissions is neither negative, zero nor very close to zero”- around the same size as the uncertainty that “HIV infection can cause AIDS”.

    The reason for that low uncertainty is the demonstrable physics and the perfect consistency between those physics and empirical observation. Citing forecast probabilities for hurricanes as reflecting doubt on the above statement on climate sensitivity is no more valid than citing the recent poor performance of forecast probabilities for hurricanes as showing that we really don’t know that HIV causes AIDS. Not a terribly valid point.

    PS As an aside, you mentioned Buffet- he is on the record as saying that pricing for hurricane risk should be higher as a result of the additional risk and uncertainty from global warming, otherwise it is business that Berkshire is willing to walk away from. Fyi.

  20. 420
    Rod B says:

    Ray, dhogaza, Rafael Gomez-Sjoberg, and Ray again (405,6,8,9): I prepared a really good reply, but it got lost somewhere amongst my trying to post or the moderators’ dislike. But, man! It was superb! You can trust me on that! [;-)

  21. 421
    Rod B says:

    Majorajam (418), consensus is never 100%, but like AGW aren’t you obligated to go with the consensus and deem the naysayers outliers even if it crosses your politics? (see 225 for admittedly a simple-minded example.)

  22. 422
    J.C.H. says:


    Rod B Says:
    27 October 2007 at 9:02 PM

    I did not respond to 225 because of lack of relevancy.

    Did an exiled nephew of some big shot at ExxMob tell NASA that everybody at ExxMob has known for years that humans are causing global warming? If so, great news.

    With additional evidence like that, this consensus of experts on AGW is going to seriously gain traction at the White House. May even sway Inhofe.

    [Response: I won’t hold my breath. -gavin]

    [Response: The assumption that Inhofe can be swayed presumes that (a) he posses some degree of intellectual honesty (he doesn’t) and that (b) he has the intellectual capacity to understand why he’s wrong (all evidence, again, to the contrary). That having been said, he has become little more than an embarassment, and his days in the senate could well be numbered. -mike]

  23. 423
    Robin Levett says:

    Rod B said:

    Majorajam (418), consensus is never 100%, but like AGW aren’t you obligated to go with the consensus and deem the naysayers outliers even if it crosses your politics?

    On AGW, it is the consensus of the evidence produced by scientific publications and the interpretation by those by those expert in the field that is the issue. The naysayers are not “outliers” because they contradict the consensus of scientists – they are denialists because their positions are not based on, and largely are contradicted by, the evidence.

  24. 424
    Matt says:

    This was either bounced or rejected the first time, so I’ll try again…

    #398 Hank Roberts: You kept asking people to explain this in words, ignoring the fact that expertise in radiation physics takes graduate level math.

    Actually, Hank, I think my question about sensitivity is something many folks on both sides are seeking an answer to. Timothy pointed out several papers that list a range of values, and one that attempts to close that range. IPCC has a 3X range of figures. And SCIENCE has just run a paper where the authors attempt to answer why the sensitivity is so unpredictable (caveat: based on reading my reading of abstract).

    Do you really believe there is consensus around this figure? There is consensus around a range, but I think it’s fair to say that if we had a 3:1 range of figures for a constant such as the speed of light or gravity that it’s fair to say we really don’t understand it. Maybe climate sensitivity doesn’t boil down to a simple number. Maybe it does within a constrained range of parameters. I just don’t think we know. And yet folks continue to chase after this constant.

    Keep in mind, too, that there isn’t a rigorous derivation of 2xCO2 that all agree upon. Much of the ranges happen to come from what a range of models spit out. I’ve been through two of the models. It’s not graduate level math. Simulating an ice berg melting in 200 lines of Fortran is fairly amaturish compared to the physics simulations in most FPS games today.

    And if we don’t understand the system, then how do we know what we don’t know? And if we don’t know what we don’t know, then how can we assign a level of confidence to our predictions? And then that takes me back to root assertion in this thread: it’s very easy for experts to fool folks into believing probability is higher than it actually is (witness hurricane predictions) and that we as a society are generally very kind to experts predicting doom and over-selling confidence intervals to the public.

    I don’t think my position is the least bit unreasonable. If I understand Ray, what he is really saying is that scientists really do understand the impact of CO2 with 85+% confidence levels. But of course, he wants everyone to understand just how hard all this is. And we are again reminded in the “The Certainty of Uncertainty” just how uncertain the climate is with only mild push-back from “the group” here towards Roe and Baker.

    The summary from the AGW side kind of feels like “We’re 85% certain that doubling CO2 will raise temperatures by at least 2.5’C…and oh yeah, there’s a 50% chance that doubling would result in a much lower increase due to mechanisms we don’t yet understand. That’s the nature of this beast name ‘climate'”

    Sounds kind of wishy washy, eh? Or is it just me?

    Anyway, I’ve tried to make my point several times, and at this stage making another run at it probably won’t change things. I’ll think some more on this and try again later. I try really hard NOT to crash into the deep discussion threads folks enjoy here, and I thought the WSJ thread looked light enough in terms of deep discussion to make another run at my root question. My apologies if it has upset folks. Thanks for the forum, and thanks for your time.

  25. 425
    Mary C says:

    Re 420. Wow, Rod, I had exactly the same problem with my brilliant (trust me) reply to your post 402 putting words in my mouth. Oh, well.

  26. 426
    Majorajam says:


    225 is a flight of neoconservative fantasy, so I’d expect nothing less than a simple-minded example. I’m all ears if you care to put forward a shred of evidence documenting those conditions. By that, I mean something concrete. Here’s an example- the French had a man in Saddam’s inner circle, Naji Sabri, Saddam’s foreign minister, who had told them there were no WMD. That intelligence was relayed to the CIA and the president was briefed. From the Salon article:

    Both the French intelligence service and the CIA paid Sabri hundreds of thousands of dollars (at least $200,000 in the case of the CIA) to give them documents on Saddam’s WMD programs. “The information detailed that Saddam may have wished to have a program, that his engineers had told him they could build a nuclear weapon within two years if they had fissile material, which they didn’t, and that they had no chemical or biological weapons,”

    Is this consistent with your consensus? How about this:

    The [intelligence] officers continued to insist on the significance of Sabri’s information, but one of Tenet’s deputies told them, “You haven’t figured this out yet. This isn’t about intelligence. It’s about regime change.”

    Methinks not. It’s worth pointing out that the intelligence community never gave its opinion on the question of WMD to the Bush administration, (which is to say summarized existing intelligence into a cogent picture of the threat), because it was never requested of them (again, see the Foreign Affairs article- it’s written by a person in the position to know). And it was never requested because “the intelligence was being fixed around the policy”, rather than informing it. Yes, I believe I read that somewhere. Clearly, the worst thing that could happen for the administration was to have the intelligence apparatus on record as saying there was no threat- so they were simply not asked. The administration was going to war- and according to documents and testimony had started plans for it right after 9/11. It needed only cherry picked and credulously embraced raw intelligence to sell the policy and created its own intelligence apparatus, “The Office of Special Plans”, to get around the CIA and DIA and to see to it that even the most dubious claims and sources could be utilized. The aluminum tubes, the Atta meeting in Prague with Iraqi intelligence, the yellow cake, the INC fictions, Curveball (an exiled taxi driver posing as a chemical engineer whom the Germans had informed the Americans was a fabricator) from which we got claims of mobile weapons labs and terrorist links- these were- and this is well documented- all known to be bunkum within the intelligence apparatus before the war, yet they formed the lion’s share of the evidence that was presented to the public.

    One wonders how your trite accounting in 225 accounts for the ominous mushroom cloud warnings when it was obvious even to a layman at the time that there was no nuclear program at all- there being no fissile material outside of that under IAEA lock and key. How much more obvious could this be? The information exists Rob- you need only to pry your mind open, with a crowbar as seems necessary, to access it.

    [Response: That’s enough on WMD, anything else gets deleted. – gavin]

  27. 427
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Matt, re 424. It would appear from your post that you assume the uncertainty is symmetric about the mode. As the post “The Certainty of Uncertainty” makes clear, this is far from the truth. Thus, what the uncertainty tells us is that while things could be much worse, they are unlikely to be better. The analyses of the IPCC are actually very conservative documents. They have to be to establish consensus, and this iw what James Hansen has been emphasizint. If you take comfort in uncertainty, it is likely you don’t understand the situation.

  28. 428
    Hank Roberts says:

    Matt, there isn’t even one single definition of “sensitivity” — it’s an outcome after a handful of things (chosen for each calculation) occur. Measure temperature of the planet. Double (for example) CO2. Stop adding CO2. Wait til the temperature rise levels off. Sensitivity is the difference.

    Define “levels off” — which generation of your descendants are you going to rely on to take the measurement?

    It’s a hypothetical. Of course there’s no single number.

    Look at the past history of climate. Everything flows. You must know this much by now. Sensitivity is an approximation, an idea of how much changes and how fast, at best, most likely, at worst, pick several and make an estimate.

    Looking at the past helps — but we still can’t explain what we actually know happened during previous fast changes, and the change we’re causing is far faster than anything but an asteroid impact event.

    You want one single number everyone agrees on before dodging an asteroid?

  29. 429
    Rod B says:

    Since I can only discuss the decision making process viz-a-viz consensus (and rightly so), I’ll just list stuff:

    The NIE of 10-02 [ ]
    A son-in-law in charge
    The nuclear project director until early 90s
    Most of the Clinton Administration
    Etc., etc., et al, et al…..

  30. 430
    John Mashey says:

    re: #422
    Inhofe: while his departure would be delightful, I wish the political prognosticators thought it likely, and I fear this is wishful thinking by Mike :-),_2008

  31. 431

    [[ I think it’s fair to say that if we had a 3:1 range of figures for a constant such as the speed of light or gravity that it’s fair to say we really don’t understand it. ]]

    Not necessarily. The Hubble constant in cosmology was uncertain to a factor of 2-3 for a long time, but scientists have known how it worked since the 1920s.

  32. 432
    Rod B says:

    Ray (427), I don’t comprehend your statement, “…what the uncertainty tells us is that while things could be much worse, they are unlikely to be better.” Why does the uncertainty significantly favor getting worse??

  33. 433
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 432–it is the what the distribution is skewed–it is not symmetric about the mode. In other words, it is more likely that the feedbacks will make things worse than make them better. That is why I say that if you are a “skeptic”, the models are your friends. Without them we’re flying blind.

  34. 434
    Rod B says:

    Ray, thanks. I take it that it is as of the chart in “Certainty of Uncertainty” where the uncertainty of temp projections has some probability that temp will be cooler, but very low all the way from mode to negative; while the probabilities of higher temp than the mode are less than the mode temp, but greater than the negative side. If this is wrong, hit me again, please!

    But, then, I didn’t catch how the models are my friends…???

  35. 435
    Majorajam says:

    Well Rod, it looks like we’re done here, and not a moment too soon. The last post approximates an argument- dangerous territory on which to encroach woefully uninformed. If you’d bothered, the first and only relevant element of your list is fully documented in links provided, and accounted for in the narrative outlined. I guess you steadfastly heeded my prior warning, (curiosity it would appear is no peril you suffer). That said, there’s a message board behind the Salon Sabri article I linked to where I’ll be happy to undress the various red herrings and non sequiturs you’ve just run up the flag pole if you wish to continue our discussion. Given your heretofore eager pursuit of information, I’ll be monitoring it as I do the sky for airborne pigs.

    Also fyi, as regards 422, the existence of uncertainty over climate sensitivity does not preclude a very very low probability that it is negative, zero or insignificantly different from zero. It is a statistical concept from which inferences can be made. This just in, a(nother) play on semantic ambiguity does not come across as intelligent.

  36. 436
    Rod B says:

    Majorajam, I would assume your fully documented links somehow support your assertion that the NIE was not an opinion of the intelligence community that was never given to the administration. Is there any hope that your (in)ability to sort chaff from wheat is any better with AGW?

    A couple more “non sequiturs” for your amusement:
    the US Congress.

  37. 437
    Dan says:

    re: 385. First of all, the ACE is an estimate of strength *and* duration of tropical systems. Secondly, named storms absolutely are what matters and they certainly are not arbitrary simply due to the fact that there are specific criteria that must be reached for a storm to be named. Duration is not one of them. Regardless of the NOAA ACE seasonal outlook, the outlook for the season was 13-17 named storms. As of today with TS Noel, I believe there have been 14 named storms. As such, this is certainly not a “major forecasting failure for a second year in a row”. In fact, it is spot on. The ACE is a separate outlook criteria.

  38. 438
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B. Essentially that is correct. Are you familiar with the moments of a distribution. The first moment is the mean–it tells where the distribution is centered. The second moment is the variance (the square of the standard deviation) and measures the width. The third moment is related to the skew–which way the distribution leans, or whether there’s more probability to the right or left of the mean. The fourth moment is related to the kurtosis, or the relative amount of probability that is in the peak and the tails of the distribution. Anyway, bottom line is that you have to look at the shape of the distribution in order to see whether you’re more likely to be above or below the mean.

    On models: The models are about the only way we LIMIT our estimates of how bad things will get. Without such limits, we have unlimited risk. Unlimited risk is when insurance companies say “Thanks, but no thanks.” It scares them even more than high risk.

  39. 439
    John Mashey says:

    re: 438 Ray
    yes, and I haven’t yet had time to study the Science article in detail, but when I looked at the curves, by eyeball, most of them look ~lognormal, with the characteristic right skew, and if such, one would expect to find a distribution generated by some multiplicative product of independent factors, whose logs were normally distributed.

    Usually, if a distribution looks lognormal, one would expect to find some real-world rationale for the multiplication, but that wasn’t obvious. Maybe there’s just something inherent in the math, or maybe I’m just seeing lognormals because I’ve found them useful elsewhere for modeling such right-skewed distributions.

    Can anyone explain this simply? (I’ll go look at the math & the SOM, but I can’t for a couple days).

  40. 440
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 439. Well, it seems to me that since most of the feedbacks will be thermally driven, a small delta in the sensitivity of the feedback will produce a larger delta in its forcing, and that could lead to the positive skew. That’s just a SWAG. In effect, I think what it’s telling us is that most of the feedbacks are positive and that the uncertainty favors increased positive feedback over negative. This is of course not what you want to see in a system you are trying to stabilize. On the other hand, it argues that additional research could pay some serious dividends in telling us how to allocate mitigation efforts.

  41. 441
    Majorajam says:

    Very amusing indeed Rod. The nie was not created for the administration, fyi, which you’d know if you had the gumption to inform yourself of the basic details, (wheat from chaff is lesson 2, btw). If you want to know who it was for, why it was created and what accounts for its content, it’s not a mystery- just click a link. Of course, informing yourself may make it difficult to rationalize closely held beliefs, which is probably what this is all about in the first place. In any case, according to the blog hosts this needs to move somewhere else, and any good vantage point for winged swine will suit me fine.

    439, I think it comes down to the fact that the initial forcing and net of feedbacks are positive. The physics supported by the paleoclimatic record do not foresee the potential for getting the sign of these wrong, which yields a bounded left hand side with the significant uncertainty and non-linearity of the feedbacks yielding a highly thickened right tail. The implication for appropriate allocation to mitigation efforts of this thickened right tail turns out to be massive, (not to mention is illuminating of asset return puzzles).

  42. 442
    Rod B says:

    NIEs are created directly and explicitly for the Administration. This is downright silly. There’s no hope. I’m tired! Aloha.

  43. 443
    Majorajam says:

    Silly is asserting something false with righteous indignation when the facts are a mouse click away. Or a highly generous term describing such. I have provided a source for my claim, (a Foreign Affairs article no less. Fyi, Foreign Affairs like Science or Econometrica is a rather high profile publication in its field). By contrast, you haven’t sourced a single silly claim. Indeed, there is no hope. Which is why pointing you to this detailed information about the nie has more to do bystanders than anything else. Bon voyage Rob.

    [Response: no more wmd stuff – it will just get deleted. -gavin]

  44. 444
    Hank Roberts says:

    From that: “Sen. Bob Graham — to his credit — wondered why no National Intelligence Estimate had been prepared. He was on the Senate [Select Committee on Intelligence], and he was told that no one asked for a National Intelligence Estimate. So Graham said, ‘Well, I will.'”

  45. 445
    David B. Benson says:

    In casse anyone doubts that it is warmer now than anytime in the past 7,000 years: Melting Glacier Reveals Ancient Tree Stumps

  46. 446
    Hank Roberts says:

    I don’t think the tree stumps being revealed now rules out the possibility of some period as warm as the present within the period the glacier existed — any intervening warm period could have melted the glacier partway back, but it took all the warming til now to melt it back.

  47. 447
    Rod B says:

    My! Oh! My! So, Hank you assert that the OCT02 (or MAR02 for that matter) NIE 1) does not exist, or 2) was not given to the Administration, or 3) both?

  48. 448
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    Rod B., Marjorajam, et al

    Can’t stop, can’t just walk away and let it go, can you?

    Ironic, if you take a moment to really think about it…

  49. 449

    Apparently my comment got deleted and I’m not sure why. This is a great resource and the world owes it’s contributers a debt of gratitude. RC’s ability to stick to the science and avoid throwing little green footballs makes this website truly unique. However, I’m still rather puzzled with the placement of the Bushism at the end of this article. Normally Bushisms are used as a quick and dirty way to bring derision to those who despise the President. And this President has surely made many enemies among scientists and environmentalists. I’m simply curious if the quote, which seems unrelated to the article, was a wanton revilement of a man with an obvious speech impediment or if there was some other purpose unbeknownst to me.

  50. 450
    Rod B says:

    J.S., fair critique. I try, but then at the last moment have an uncontrollable urge to get one last shot in. Once, I thought we were done, then Hank strolls in from nowhere to try a last second fieldgoal!

    OOPS! Now Sparrow joins with a reasonable comment. No room for that here [:-}. INCOMING!