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BBC contrarian top 10

Filed under: — gavin @ 13 November 2007

There is an interesting, if predictable, piece up on the BBC website devoted to investigating whether there is any ‘consensus’ among the various contrarians on why climate change isn’t happening (or if it is, it isn’t caused by human activity or if it is why it won’t be important, or if it is important, why nothing can be done etc.). Bottom line? The only thing they appear to agree about is that nothing should be done, but they have a multitude of conflicting reasons why. Hmm…

The journalist, Richard Black, put together a top 10 list of sceptic arguments he gathered from emailing the 61 signers of a Canadian letter. While these aren’t any different in substance to the ones routinely debunked here (and here and here), this list comes with the imprimatur of Fred Singer – the godfather to the sceptic movement, and recent convert from the view that it’s been cooling since 1940 to the idea that global warming is now unstoppable. Thus these are the arguments (supposedly) that are the best that the contrarians have to put forward.

Alongside each of these talking points, is a counter-point from the mainstream (full disclosure, I helped Richard edit some of those). In truth though, I was a little disappointed at how lame their ‘top 10′ arguments were. In order, they are: false, a cherry pick, a red herring, false, false, false, a red herring, a red herring, false and a strawman. They even used the ‘grapes grew in medieval England’ meme that you’d think they’d have abandoned already given that more grapes are grown in England now than ever before (see here). Another commonplace untruth is the claim that water vapour is ’98% of the greenhouse effect’ – it’s just not.

So why do the contrarians still use arguments that are blatantly false? I think the most obvious reason is that they are simply not interested (as a whole) in providing a coherent counter story. If science has one overriding principle, it is that you should adjust your thinking in the light of new information and discoveries – the contrarians continued use of old, tired and discredited arguments demonstrates their divorce from the scientific process more clearly than any densely argued rebuttal.


397 Responses to “BBC contrarian top 10”

  1. 51

    Gavin,

    Maybe you could explain how this was calculated (from the “response” to “sceptic argument 1″:

    Globally, there is a warming trend of about 0.8C since 1900, more than half of which has occurred since 1979.

    A linear trend from 1900 through 2006 of the HadCRUT3v data (since this was the BBC, I’ll assume this was the dataset employed) indeed yields about 0.8ºC of warming (0.764, actually). Since 107 years went into the linear calculation, and since 28 of those years are from 1979 to 2006, then 28/107=0.26, or about 26% of the rise has been since 1979. If you fit a second order polynomial through the data from 1900 to 2006, you also get an overall rise (as measured as the difference between the 2006 fitted temperature and the 1990 fitted temperature of about 0.8ºC (0.766, actually), about 36% of which comes in the period 1979-2006. So where exactly does the value “more than half” come from? Surely the overall change from a linear fit from 1979-2006 (~0.49ºC) cannot be compared to the overall change from a different linear fit from 1900-2006 (~0.8ºC)—this would ignore anything that happened in the middle (think 1.5 cycles of a saw-tooth as an extreme example)!

    Also, re: your response to comment #45, the same HadCRUT3v data shows that through September, the average global temperature anomaly for 2007 ranks 6th all-time, I would hardly characterize that as “on-track to be the 2nd warmest year on record” (unless you know something that I don’t about temperature during October and November!).

    -Chip Knappenberger
    to some degree, supported by the fossil fuels industry since 1992

    [Response: I know of your penchant for linear trends, but your claim about the warming since 1979 based on a linear fit since 1900 is, umm, odd. GISTEMP will have 2007 as the second warmest year - I'd do the trends but the server seems to be down. The difference between HADCRUTv3 and GISTEMP is likely to be in their assessment of Arctic trends - included in GISTEMP but not in HADCRUTv3. - gavin]

  2. 52
    Keith says:

    Guthrie, I actually pointed out the obvious difficulties in doing the forward experiment so your point is fair. Ethically, I guess we’ll need to find a rodent populated earth AND non-rodent, non-human one. Think that might be tricky :-)

    Seriously, (sort of) my guess would be to do some kind of box experiment where we try to creat a small scale earth in a sealed environment. Obviously, this is prohibitively expensive as well as quite a challenge from an experimental design point of view but it migth be possible. In fact, if one were to be able to have two (hey what the hell!) then you could test forcings in dulpicate or with a negative control. But this is fantasy at this stage. I guess what I’m trying to say is that perhaps a more even handed view of models should be considered. Less black and white. But I understand the difficulties in doing that since the more irrational skeptics will sieze on the smallest chink in the amrour as a means of saying the whole thing is wrong. So, you are right that I’m going to have to make do with the models for now until a realistic experiment is designed.

    I’m afraid, though, that my experiences as a medicinal chemist mean that I’m quite battle scarred as far as models go and there’s not much you can do to convince me that we should soley rely on a model for our output. We’ll just have to disagree on that one.

    And in 50 years time we can see who was closest to the truth.

  3. 53
    SecularAnimist says:

    gavin wrote: “So why do the contrarians still use arguments that are blatantly false?”

    First of all, their audience is not scientists, it is the general public.

    Second, their purpose is not to establish the truth, it is to keep the public sufficiently confused about the reality and/or seriousness of anthropogenic global warming that the public will not demand urgent action from governments and corporations to address it by pursuing a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels, which would reduce the trillion-dollar profits of the fossil fuel corporations.

    For twenty years and counting they have been very successful, and continue to be successful in the USA, as demonstrated by the energy legislation now before the US Congress, where legislators are about to remove most support for efficiency and renewable energy — including the existing tax credits for solar and wind — and maintain subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

    You may be familiar with the “big lie” theory of propaganda: repeat a lie (and the bigger and more audacious the lie the better) over and over again, and people will come to believe it is true just because they have heard it so many times.

    There is an element of that in the propaganda of the climate change deniers, and it has been very effective. That’s why you repeatedly encounter the same thoroughly debunked lies over and over again, coming from “grassroots” climate change deniers like those who post comments here. What’s important is not providing a “coherent” story, but simple repetition of the same scripted talking points over and over and over again, until “everyone knows” things that aren’t true.

  4. 54
    SecularAnimist says:

    Keith wrote: “And in 50 years time we can see who was closest to the truth.”

    There is already more than enough empirical evidence from actual observations of what is actually happening to the Earth’s climate and biosphere right now as a result of anthropogenic warming to “see who is closest to the truth.” If you are uncomfortable with models, then take a look at the empirical evidence. If anything it is more alarming than the models.

  5. 55
    Carl says:

    Re:39
    It’s “lunacy” because that curve does not represent the history of the global mean temperatures to the best of our current knowledge. It’s a cartoon with a mix of correct data (probably volcanic eruptions), spurious data (global temperature) and ad hoc curve fitting.

  6. 56
    Jim says:

    Re #12

    Glen, I’ve made the same comment several times.

    The expected rapid warming in the early part of the 20th century might have been diminished by the global dimming aerosols. Only now with that problem being reduced is the true solar effect being felt.

    I’m not one to say “It’s all the sun.” I think there is still a big GHG effect. However, we can’t use GHG to explain the Medieval Warm Period (even if it wasn’t as warm as it is now) so variations in solar output is used to explain it. Yet somehow mysteriously with all of the solar proxies indicating similar solar activity now as during the MWP apparently this time the sun is declared to have almost no effect on the warming.

  7. 57
    John says:

    #45
    Gavin – thanks for the reply … but we need to get this straight … from the UK met office global surface T database you can go and read the data.

    http://hadobs.metoffice.com/hadcrut3/diagnostics/global/nh%2Bsh/index.html

    I’ll list the global surface T averages last 10 years (anomalies above the 61-90 mean) :
    1998 : 0.515
    1999 : 0.262
    2000 : 0.238
    2001 : 0.400
    2002 : 0.455
    2003 : 0.457
    2004 : 0.432
    2005 : 0.479
    2006 : 0.420
    2007 : 0.441 (thru September)

    Now given that the October 2007 global sea anomalies (from HadSST2) are the lowest since December 2000 (and for the southern hemisphere its the lowest since 1995) I think we can expect the 2007 average figure to drop lower by year end.

    So some observations on this, that anyne can see :
    - 2007 will be 4th or cooler (not second)
    - temperatures have been basically flat since the IPCC 2001 report.
    - and if you plot these numbers on the 2001 IPCC graph (which you can see on p34 of the SPM) you will see they fall below the whole range of model predictions. Why can’t we just admit it – we didn’t properly articulate the range of uncertainty in 2001.

    Now as scientists I can see why we get frustrated that we are unable to convince people more fully. I get it. For those of us that genuinely believe there is a problem we are in a terrible bind. We are caught betwen our intellectualism and our humanity. We can’t be both right AND give out good news. For the rest of the world this is all great news – its no wonder we can’t get people to sell their SUV’s and stop flying in planes. People aren’t stupid – they can read graphs too.

    And if you stand back from the details and see whats happening now – respected scientists standing up and saying “we may be wrong”. And its right to say that …but what do we is fora like this – we belittle, we condescend and we are arrogant. Is it so hard to say that we will all be much better off if we are wrong ? And say we might be.

    [Response: As I mentioned above, 2007 will #2 in the GISTEMP record - but regardless, IPCC and all climate model projections are for the long term forced trend - not the value in any one year. The std. dev. about the trend for any model run or the real world is around 0.15 deg C and thus even with the HADCRU numbers the 2007 temp is well within the expected range. IPCC has never made any statements that concern the expected annual numbers (they have always discussed long term trends), and so your comment about 'our' failure to communicate makes no sense. The rest of your comment is simply bizarre (respected scientists standing up?): I do not suppose to speak for you, and you should not suppose to speak for me (or IPCC). I, and they, can speak for ourselves. It would indeed be better if AGW was not a problem but wishing it, don't make it so. - gavin]

  8. 58
    Nick Gotts says:

    re #51 Keith “Seriously, (sort of) my guess would be to do some kind of box experiment where we try to creat a small scale earth in a sealed environment.”

    That would surely be just another kind of model, in something close to the sense that term is used in biomedical science: “an animal model of depression” or whatever. That is, your proposed “small scale earth in a sealed environment” could give useful information (whether enough to justify the effort and cost is another matter), but there could not be, any more than there is with computational models, any guarantee that the experimental system included all the important properties of the target system. Indeed, I can already almost hear the sceptics/denialists/contrarians pointing out all the ways the two differ, and why results for the experimental system tell us nothing whatever about the target system.

    The basic atmospheric physics of greenhouse gases is well-understood and experimentally validated, so if increased CO2 is not causing a rise in temperature, we need a mechanism to prevent it doing so (and no plausible mechanism has been proposed). The computational models we have can reproduce specific features of past behaviour, and have been used to make pretty good predictions years ahead. There are good criteria (see a recent inline, by Gavin I think, on the “Is the ocean carbon sink sinking?” thread) for which aspects of these model outputs we should regard as highly likely to hold, and these aspects include crucial ones such as the anthropogenic role in recent warming, and the approximate value of the sensitivity parameter (for which there is independent evidence from past climate changes). If these models are anywhere near right, action is urgent. Tell me Keith, is there any reason why anyone should give anything like as much weight to your anecdote about models in chemistry not always giving the right answer (hardly a surprise to anyone who has done computational modelling of any kind), as to the considered views of the vast majority of climate scientists, as expressed in the relevant scientific literature?

  9. 59
    John N-G says:

    #48 Keith – Many an interesting interdisciplinary discussion has foundered on the different meanings of the word “model” among the disciplines. Let’s see if we can find the analogues between your models/experiences and ours. Correct me if I mischaracterize yours.

    Your colleague’s model was fundamentally based on molecular structure and was found to be wrong because it made an invalid assumption: that the molecular structure was static. Thus it was invalid at its core.

    The core of climate models is the laws of physics governing the behavior of the atmosphere and the oceans. These aspects are “unlikely” to be invalid.
    But where the laws of physics let us down are the processes that cannot be simulated in that way with present models, because they are too small (convection, cloud microphysics, etc.) or indescribable through fundamental laws (climate-biosphere changes) or because we don’t know how to properly describe them (ice sheet dynamics). These areas (of parameterization) are the primary source of climate model uncertainty.

    Because we can’t run the experiment on a parallel Earth, we deal with the uncertainty in multiple ways. First, the models are tested to see whether they accurately describe today’s climate. Second, the models are tested to see whether they accurately describe past climate change. Third, many different research groups create their own models, using a variety of different assumptions in the parameterizations (while these don’t necessarily span the range of parameterization uncertainty, they give a sense of the sensitivity to parameterizations) and the Hadley Centre, for one, has begun running ensembles of simulations using a range of plausible parameterizations. Work on model validation and parameterization continues vigorously to this day.

    We can only check the validity of these things for present and past climate, so as CO2 kicks us into a climate situation for which there’s no prior reliable data, the uncertainty in the modeling output grows (for example, what if most of the Arctic sea ice goes away in the next decade). But the fundamental physics will not change (the CO2 molecule will not change shape and alter its radiative characteristics), so the average of the projections of the variety of climate models that have been validated against past climates is still the best guess for the future. The uncertainty is a fundamental part of that projection, and there’s no basis to think that the smaller-climate-change tail of the distribution is any more likely than the larger-climate-change tail.

  10. 60
    Rikard says:

    Gavin, thanks for your answer. I looked at Nir Shavivs webbsite and at Ahluwalias paper. First, Nir Shaviv gives other solar proxies (10Be and averaged sunspot numbers) that apperently peaks in the late 1990s just as the juxtaposed neutron count. Is he at fault?

    Secondly, while I agree there is uncertainties in the neutron count, I disagree that the Yakutsk series shows no trend. Clearly, the trend is a flat high level in the 60:s and early 70:s and down in late 70s to 90s. And the correlation in the overlapping period was striking. Is there more or other data available to refute the connection of 10 GeV cosmic rays and temperature?

    [Response: None of the continuous records of cosmic rays show a recent upward trend. 10Be doesn't either - the Dye 3 record he shows has a trend in the earlier part of the century, but the South Pole record is flat - both of them cannot be a correct representation of the 10Be production - but in neither case is there a continuing trend. The discussion about which energy cosmic rays is irrelevant since the modulation of GCR at all energies is governed by the solar magnetic field. Which is the reason why they all correlate with the sunspots of course. There is no theory that allows for one kind of GCR to increase while all the others stay flat. - gavin]

  11. 61
    cce says:

    Re: 39

    In addition to the points from #55, did you look at their graph of temperature from 1880? It’s a bit . . . strange. Where are they getting this stuff?

  12. 62
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 52

    “Seriously, (sort of) my guess would be to do some kind of box experiment where we try to creat a small scale earth in a sealed environment.”

    They tried something like that in the Arizona Desert (though it was focused on reproducing a closed biological system). The first go of it didn’t work too well, though it looks like the University of Arizona has taken it over…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2

  13. 63
    guthrie says:

    KEith, the small problem is that we can’t wait 50 years to see which is correct. If we do, we’ll run out of time to do anything about it.
    So at the very least, we can encourage efficiency measures and spend money on technological improvements, because these will be gains for us even if it turns out (somehow) that global warming is all the suns fault and starts going into reverse.

  14. 64

    re: 51

    Gavin,

    I only threw out a couple of possibilities of how one may calculate the temperature changes over different time periods. Since you helped edit the article, I am wondering what sort of analysis shows that “Globally, there is a warming trend of about 0.8C since 1900, more than half of which has occurred since 1979.” No apples-to-apples comparison that I could come up with (linear or polynomial using the HadCRUT3v data) gives that answer.

    -Chip

  15. 65

    Timo writes:

    [[The reason why I am a “sceptic” is because my gut feeling says that humans aren’t able to change course of Nature.]]

    It’s better to rely on empirical evidence than on gut feeling.

    [[Mother Nature is indifferent and will take its own course, irrespectively what humans will do trying to change that. Mother Nature is too big to fight against.]]

    “Too big” is a quantitative term. How big is Mother Nature compared to us, and what index are you using to compare them? Where global warming is concerned, here’s an interesting statistic for you — 38% of the carbon dioxide in the air has been added by artificial processes.

    [[The most disturbing thing is the secretiveness regarding data, methods, codes and other information. If scientists are reluctant or completely unwilling to share this information which others, I am becoming suspious. If I (or others) am not allowed to analyse data and methods, how should I be convinced that you are right and I am wrong.]]

    All the information you want is publicly available, but to learn it you have to put in a little study time. Nobody is trying to conceal anything. If you want raw data, try the NASA GISS or NOAA or Hadley Centre web sites.

    [[By the way: I am living in the Netherlands, close to the coast and a couple of meters below sea level. And I am not really concerned about disastrous sea level rise]]

    Maybe if you lived in Bangladesh…

  16. 66
    Keith says:

    Nick. Thanks for the eloquent reply. Yes, I think the analogy you suggest is exactly correct. I’d see the small scale earth experiment as being similar to an animal experiment. And you are right that that is also somewhat unsatisfactory. However, I believe it to be far superior to a virtual experiment. From my perspective, we simply aren’t allowed to put a drug anywhere near a human until it’s been in animals. Nobody is allowed to use a the results of a comuptational experiment as a means of justifying that a compound is dosed in man. The sequence tends to be: test compound in cells, computationally decide which ones look good according to a parameter set and then go into animals before we go to man. The computers tend to be used to reduce numbers to more manageable and cheapers levels in a “rational” fashion.

    As for whether my anecdote should carry any weight, well induced fit has been seen in other systems, particularly protein kinases. And I you’d find a number of medicinal chemists with even dimmer views on our ability to predict anything. I doubt you believe that. But it sounds like you think I am some kind of right wing crank or fake and I see no logical way of disproving that over this forum.

    For induced fit see

    http://jb.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/140/3/305

    It’s quite common and unpredictable. Protein folding is one of life’s great mysteries and has yet to reveal it’s secrets. We certainly cannot take an amino acid sequence and genuinely predict strcuture and function. You’d think that we could, the molecular forces are well understood, but we’re often wrong.

    See

    http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2007/10/29/what_we_dont_know_about_enzymes.php and follow the link to Reetz’s paper.

    Actually, Derek is well regarded and has much to say about the problem in my field with modelling. Just opinions though that come from experience. See

    http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/in_silico/

    But feel free to ignore my anecdote. It won’t get published for ages anyway. Legal departments get in the way of that sort of thing.

    John NG. Thanks. You are right that initially we did assume that the protein was static. That’s what most people had seen with this particular protein. Then, another group published a new structure 2 years ago showing a large domain movement. This new structure also failed our molecule, but it did make us look much more at protein mobility. It’s one of the big problems in this particular field but there are models available to computationally move the protein systematically. However, the calculations are substantial when you take into acount the total number of conformations for an amino acid and then try to attach them together. It HAS ben done but it’s one heel of an undertaking. And, yet again that failed. The reality was that the changes were subtle; most of the protein stayed unchanged but 3 moved and he presto, a working drug. So I’d say that the hypothesis was not invalid. We’re looking at well characterised physical processes; van der waals, hyrdrogen bonding, entropy, solvation and so on. This is hardly new.

    I’ll give you a new analogy that I mentioned earlier. What we do is very very expensive and the further you go the more expensive it gets ($1bn pre drug and counting). So what we try to do is predict what compounds are going to make it through the process. Like climate change we have a whole host of factors to consider with varying uncertainties. Some are easy to fix, like solubility or logD and others like toxicology are a bit more difficult. So again there are similarities with climate change. And to be honest, we get it wrong a great deal of the time. Drug attrition rates are pretty terrible. 1 in 10 compounds will make it through Phase III (we’re maybe 7-10 years in to the project by then!). There’s a hell of lot of chemistry and biology to consider in climate change and I doubt if anybody has much of a handle on that bit given our own experience. If you doubt this particular situation I suggest you check out Pfizer who have lost a couple of compounds late in the day and immense expense. And Pfizer love their models so you can bet that there were green lights across the board before it tanked. So experiments backed up with models failed, pretty spectacularly. Makes you think?

    We too generate models using historic datasets. We split it in two, generate the model and then see if it fits the unused dataset before going forward. We do the sensible stuff and check the r2s and everythign looks great. And more often than not these models break down very quickly. It’s worth pointing out that they very often work at the start but then start to fail as you get outside the area you started in (which is maybe where I see the issue with climate models breaking down but that’s my own view). We’re doing very similar stuff to yourselves. I could go on here about how models often don’t work very well but I’m getting tired of this to be honest.

    Perhaps I could turn to your field for a second to give another example of where things can change in unpredictable ways in science. Ozone layer depletion. Well understood right? Well, sort of. Turns out that chlorine peroxide which has long thought to be the main culprit doesn’t do what it’s supposed to according to the theory. I t should be reactive and short lived. Eh. It isn’t and it’s pretty clear now that the mechanism (not the resutl I might add!) of ozone depletion is in need of a rethink. See

    http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070924/full/449382a.html

    I actually think this is a fantastic piece of work. A really good scientific puzzle that need to be looked at. But it goes to show how even apparently well understood processes turn out to be more complicated.

    So don’t be surprised if some of the basic processes in climate change turn out to be a little more complicated than you thought. I admit I could be entirely wrong and you might be absolutely correct but it is good for the scientific community to keep testing its hypotheses.

    Now, I truly believe the work that you are all doing is top notch. Peer reviewed by the best minds out there. But please excuse me if I’m just a little skeptical of them and their accuracy.

  17. 67

    Keith writes:

    [[Let me start by saying that I’m a organic chemist working in the drug industry and work at the interface between biology and chemistry. So I have perhaps an interesting view on all this.

    Let’s start with the consensus thing since that’s easy to dismiss. Having a consensus view is not a scientific proof. A consensus opinion in science is a herd mentality. It’s poor science.]]

    It’s hard to believe you’re “a organic chemist” [sic] if you don’t know how to distinguish the scientific consensus on a subject from a “herd mentality” and think science has anything at all to do with “proof.”

    Do you also think it’s a “herd mentality” (and thus, presumably, unreliable) that scientists believe relativity is true? Or quantum mechanics? Or evolution?

    [edit - please no ad homs]

  18. 68
    Keith says:

    Guthrie. Spot on. I agree. Energy conservation and sensible use of resources is fine. I just support that because resources are finite and I hate watching the natural world being ripped down or polluted. Just because I query the models and so forth doesn’t mean that I want to drive around in SUV. So perhaps we can fianlly agree on something eh….

  19. 69

    Michael writes:

    [[Gavin, what is your response to the idea that climate science is in its infancy?]]

    Wasn’t it Louis Agassiz who confirmed that there was once an ice age, way back in the 19th century? (Now, of course, we know that there were many ice ages.) And Jean-Joseph Fourier who posited the greenhouse effect back in 1827? Quantum mechanics, by way of contrast, is a hundred years younger (to the year if you go by Werner von Heisenberg’s 1927 work). No doubt there’s a lot more to learn about climate, but the field is hardly in its “infancy.”

  20. 70
    Timo Hämeranta says:

    To 11. Keith:

    You are right, and honest modellers have now admitted that they are unable to predict anything sure for decades to come.

    Please see e.g.

    - IPCC AR4 2007 WGIII SPM, last sentence:
    ”the future is inherently uncertain”

    Cox, Peter M., and David B. Stephenson, 2007. A Changing Climate for Prediction. Science Perspective Vol. 317, No 5835, pp. 207-208, July 13, 2007

    Smith, Doug M., Stephen Cusack, Andrew W. Colman, Chris K. Folland, Glen R. Harris, and James M. Murphy, 2007. Improved Surface Temperature Prediction for the Coming Decade from a Global Climate Model. Science Vol. 317, No 5839, pp. 796-799, August 10, 2007, online

    Stainforth, David A., M.R. Allen, E.R. Tredger, and L.A. Smith, 2007. Confidence, uncertainty and decision-support relevance in climate predictions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A Vol. 365, No 1857, pp. 2145-2161, August 15, 2007

    and finally:

    Green, Kesten C., and J. Scott Armstrong, 2007. Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists versus Scientific Forecasts. Energy & Environment, draft September 8, 2007, online

    “We audited the forecasting processes described in Chapter 8 of the IPCC’s WG1 Report to assess the extent to which they complied with forecasting principles. We found enough information to make judgments on 89 out of a total of 140 forecasting principles. The forecasting procedures that were described violated 72 principles. Many of the violations were, by themselves, critical.

    The forecasts in the Report were not the outcome of scientific procedures. In effect, they were the opinions of scientists transformed by mathematics and obscured by complex writing. Research on forecasting has shown that experts’ predictions are not useful. We have been unable to identify any scientific forecasts of global warming. Claims that the Earth will get warmer have no more credence than saying that it will get colder.”

    To Gavin Schmidt: my current position is as follows:

    “So far, we have to wait at least to the 2010s to see whether the sceptics or the ‘mainstream’ scientists are right.

    The IPCC modelers are hoping to include biosphere correctly in their models only in the next report 2013, and perhaps thereafter properly the internal variations, clouds and extraterrestrial influences….

    I suspect we have to wait for definitive answers still more, obviously to the 2020s.

    It’d be honest and fair when all the debaters admit huge uncertainties still remain and concerning actions to tackle climate change it’s all about precaution only.

    I have nothing against precaution, but I call it precaution, and not a proven scientific fact.”

    Cheers

    [Response: But a decade ago, people (you?) said the same thing. Meanwhile, the planet has continued to warm at the rate predicted. And yet apparently the 'answer' is still a decade away. In fact, if you are so open-minded, what about this document you wrote only 3 years ago? In it you definitively claim that "CO2 does not drive climate", "there is no polar amplification" etc. No uncertainties there! - gavin]

  21. 71
    steven mosher says:

    he mailed out a questionaire to 61 people.

    “Fourteen of the group filled in the questionnaire”

    Milloy’s stunt was utterlyand stupendously pathetic. I was glad to see you expose it’s stupidity. Sad that you link something exclipsing Milloy’s junk.

    This is as retarded as the Milloy piece and if you recognized the stupidity of the latter it is merely craven not to recognize the stupidity of the former.
    This is worse than attacking a stupid editor in Ely for his math error while excusing Gore for his error about
    “evacuating” island nations.

    Having hung around in the halls of the sceptics for some time I can tell you there is no consensus whatsoever. NONE. Every time I listen to another sunspot nut I want to stick knitting needles in my eyeballs. Figuratively of course. At some point perhaps a taxonomy of sceptical concerns and sceptical aproaches would be helpful. Some scepticism is mere obsfucation.
    Some is methodological. Some is ignorance.

    Anyway, I’m sceptical that a poll of 61 sceptics has any value whatsoever, except as a pretext for an article. Funny, the author didnt discuss ODEs

  22. 72
    dhogaza says:

    I’m afraid, though, that my experiences as a medicinal chemist mean that I’m quite battle scarred as far as models go and there’s not much you can do to convince me that we should soley rely on a model for our output.

    Why do you think climate science relies solely on models?

  23. 73
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rikard,
    Galactic cosmic rays cause upsets in memories, etc. on satellites. Folks in my field have been following these since the ’70s–no clear trend–lots of fluctuations, but no trend. The other thing to keep in mind is that the mechanism proposed for this “forcing” is, to say the least, speculative. It effectively tries to explain the unknown in terms of the unknown–hardly scientific. Greenhouse gas forcing is well understood and well established. Indeed, if we were to find GCR forcing were important, it is unlikely that the forcing due to CO2 would be the parameter to give. Rather, you’d probably see adjustments to aerosols or some other forcer that we don’t know as well. Given this fact, I don’t understand why you would adopt the speculative over the known.

  24. 74

    #53, Contrarian audience is mainly for politicians who should rely on the best science possible before tackling any given problem. Climate science is of course marred by their contentions. The plan is plant doubt, a bad weed which slows down considerably any possible action. The vast majority of people, who actually enjoy the outside world, have noticed for themselves that something is strange with their climate, any contrarian trying to convince them otherwise looks like a snake oil salesman.

  25. 75
    John Mashey says:

    Keith:
    You are over-generalizing from experience with the limits of one kind of modeling and applying it to others where you may not have first-hand experience. Some problems in molecular biochemistry modeling are *way harder* than those involving physics & chemistry properties in bulk.
    [I used to help design and sell a lot of computers used in modeling, including mechanical, weather,climate, molecular, and medical.]

    If you turn your thermostat up, it’s fairly easy to predict that the average temperature will rise, and this doesn’t need computer models at all.
    It’s much harder work to do a fluid dynamics and radiation model of your house, and predict the exact temperature rise in each part of the house, and bound the uncertainty. That does take computer modeling.

    Nobody tries to model the future location of every O2 molecule in the house.

    1) I recommend:
    Supercomputing and the Transformation of Science (Scientific American Library)
    by Kaufmann and Smarr. (very cheap from Amazon, and a beautiful book). Even though it’s old (~1993), and there’s been a lot of progress, the models of that era were already plenty good enough for useful work.

    2) If you generally distrust computer modeling:
    a) Do not ride in a modern car.
    b) Do not fly in a modern airplane.
    c) Stay our of newer big buildings and off newer bridges.

    3) Historically, for each problem, the state of modeling evolves:
    First, no one can build a computer model that is very useful.
    Second, there is enough science and enough resolution (if a gridded problem) to start getting useful results.
    Third, as the science and/or the resolution improve, the results keep getting better.
    Fourth, at some point, the results are good enough that one has encoded all of the relevant science well enough, and has enough resolution, that one need go no further.

    But, the progress varies by discipline. Some mechanical-engineering problems were in good shape by the early 1990s. They even got inexpensive enough to get excellent results by the mid-1990s, such as crash codes for modeling automobile crashes.

    Physics modeling generally has a longer practical history than biochemical, and especially medical. Some of the latter problems are really hard.

  26. 76
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Keith,
    You appear to have some misconceptions regarding both models and the scientific method–particularly as it relates to the physical sciences. The example you quote re. H. Pylori and Ulcers is an example of a success of scientific consensus rather than a failure. The fact is that there was fairly strong evidence establishing stress as being associated with ulcers. There was little evidence to begin with establishing causation by H. Pylori. It took time to accumulate the evidence, so it took time to change the consensus. Where’s the problem.
    WRT anthropogenic causation of climate change, the situation is quite different. Here there is no other hypothesis that has any support from the available evidence. There are multiple independent lines of evidence establishing the value of CO2 forcing at ~3 K/doubling. And the greenhouse effect has been known since the mid 1800s and understood in its modern context since the 1960s. As I said above, if you were to discover a new forcing mechanism, the thing to give would probably not be the magnitude CO2 forcing, but some portion of the theory less well understood–e.g. aerosols.
    Skeptics love to quote George Box, who said, “All models are wrong.” They forget that he went on to say,”Some models are useful.”
    Climate models are useful because they can be used to bound the amount of change we can expect, and therefore the risk and the level of mitigation that is appropriate. Climate models are the only bulwark against alarmism. The fact that we are warming is indisputable. There is no credible dispute to the attribution of that warming to anthropogenic causation simply because there is no credible alternative mechanism in terms of known physics. This in no way requires any validation from models. All the models do is show that indeed anthropogenic ghg are a sufficient cause and establish a guide for what to expect in the future.

  27. 77
    Aaron Lewis says:

    Re # 11
    Scientific Proof? No such thing! Good scientific theories make predictions that can be tested; their predictions have been tested; and the theories make predictions that can be used with confidence. For example Newton’s Law of Gravitation works very well at low speeds and is easy to use. At higher speeds, predictions made by the Theory of Relativity are closer to observed results. Neither theory has been “proved” except that each has been tested many times; and, with some care, one can have confidence in each theory’s predictions. The old theory about stomach ulcers did make some useful predictions; the new bacterial theory makes more useful predictions.

    AGW has made predictions that were sufficiently close to observed conditions that many scientists feel that other predictions by the AGW theory are much better than those made by any other theory, model, astrologer, priest, or the Farmer’s Almanac! Is AGW proven? No more than the Law of Gravitation is proven! Is it the best we have? YES! Is it useful? YES! Is it going to get improved and changed so that it can make better predictions? YES!

    Can we have confidence in AGW’s current predictions? Maybe. Perhaps due to social pressures, the full impact of the AGW Theory has not been communicated. What we have here, is a failure to communicate!

    Of course there are skeptics and deniers out there. There are still people that want creationism/ intelligent design taught as science!. When a substantial part of the population reject a scientific theory as powerful and useful as Evolution, we cannot expect all of the population to accept a theory as complex as AGW. Nor, can we expect better science education as long as we have a president that accepts intelligent design as a “scientific theory” (rather than as religious teaching.)

    The full impact of AGW is not going to be communicated until we have a POTUS that takes science seriously. We are not going to have real action to combat or mitigate global warming until the full impact of AGW is communicated.

  28. 78
    Richard Ordway says:

    Keith,

    Thank you for your references and clearing up the spelling.

    Some thoughts on the global warming (climate change, climate distortion, global change) scientific consensus and opinion:

    From: Peer-reviewed Journal “Science”: “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.”

    “The scientific consensus might, of course, be wrong. If the history of science teaches anything, it is humility, and no one can be faulted for failing to act on what is not known. But our grandchildren will surely blame us if they find that we understood the reality of anthropogenic climate change and failed to do anything about it.

    Many details about climate interactions are not well understood, and there are ample grounds for continued research to provide a better basis for understanding climate dynamics. The question of what to do about climate change is also still open. But there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Climate scientists have repeatedly tried to make this clear. It is time for the rest of us to listen.”

    “The scientific consensus is clearly expressed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme…”

    “IPCC is not alone in its conclusions. In recent years, *ALL* (emphasis mine) major scientific bodies in the United States whose members’ expertise bears directly on the matter have issued similar statements.”

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686

    From Wikipedia:

    For groups endorsing the GW peer-reviewed science:

    “Contents
    1 Statements by concurring organizations
    1.1 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007
    1.2 Joint science academies’ statement 2007
    1.3 Joint science academies’ statement 2005
    1.4 Joint science academies’ statement 2001
    1.5 U.S. National Research Council, 2001
    1.6 American Meteorological Society
    1.7 American Geophysical Union
    1.8 American Institute of Physics
    1.9 American Astronomical Society
    1.10 Federal Climate Change Science Program, 2006
    1.11 American Association for the Advancement of Science
    1.12 Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London
    1.13 Geological Society of America
    1.14 American Chemical Society
    1.15 Engineers Australia (The Institution of Engineers Australia)

    2 Noncommittal statements
    2.1 American Association of State Climatologists
    2.2 American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

    3 Dissenting statements”

    Wikipedia-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

    From RealClimate.org:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=86

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=80

    My other thought on this is that, when I went to the US pubmed.gov and typed in “peptic ulcer”, there were 3683 published papers on peptic ulcers starting with the date 1904 “Peptic Ulcer of the Jejunum.” Since it was, you say, a consensus, people did not seem to be examining alternatives very much.

    In climate change, however, even before a consensus, there has been a mad scramble around the world since the 1970s at least, to disprove GW with almost unlimited funding from the oil coal, gas and transportation industry in the peer review system.

    In the peer-review literature, there is simply no contrary evidence to global warming that stands up in the literature going back to 1824 (1824 “MEMOIRE sur les temperatures du globe terrestre et des espaces planetaires” in the Annales de Chimie et de Physique) (Jean Baptiste Fourier-Academy–Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Sciences de l’Institut de France VII. 570-604
    (1827)Http://www.wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/fourier_1827/fourier_1827.html#text (Photocopies of orginal text)
    and continuing with John Tyndall (Heat as a Mode of Motion) (1863http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k559569

    MIT and the University of Virginia climate scientists (Lindzen and Michaels) have made careers of deliberately discrediting the peer review science in the peer-review process …without success…as have many others.

    In other words, GW is probably one of the most heavily researched fields in recorded peer-reviewed literature…and it stands up well.

    Perhaps the final word goes to realclimate.org on this…

    “The skeptic attitude to consensus usually starts with “there is no consensus”. That’s wrong, and they usually retreat from it to “but consensus science is meaningless”, and/or “consensus has nothing to do with science”. The latter is largely true but irrelevant. The existence of the consensus doesn’t do a lot to determine what science is done; it doesn’t prevent contrary lines being explored.
    But the consensus view does come into the tricky interface between science and policy, and science and the media.”

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=86

  29. 79
    Timo Hämeranta says:

    Gavin,

    we have discussed for years, we have debated and I have also defended a few of yr views, but don’t try to pretend otherwise:

    you do know I always refer to peer-reviewed studies, ten years ago, three years ago, and today.

    I’m middleman of knowledge: both neutral, ‘mainstream’, alternative, critical and sceptical studies and views.

    Contrary to yr assertion, when sometimes I have endeavored to present my personal views I always have stressed the huge uncertainties.

    So far, the following conclusion 12 years back is still valid:

    “…we interpret our results to mean that overall uncertainty about the geophysics of climate change is not likely to be reduced dramatically in the next few decades.”

    Ref: Morgan, M. Granger, and David W. Keith, 1995. Subjective judgements by climate experts. Environmental Science & Technology Vol. 29, No 10, pp. 468-476, October 1995

    Last Friday Peter Huybers correctly stated: “We should be humble about how much we know about the climate system”.

    You too, dear Gavin.

  30. 80
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Anyone who describes scientific consensus as a type of “majority voting” or “herd mentality” merely casts doubt on their understanding of science. Indeed, I question whether such people even know any scientists. I have always had managers describe working with me and my fellow scientists as an exercise in herding cats. If you get 5 scientists together at a conference, they won’t be able to agree on pizza vs. Chinese. I mean most of these guys think they’re smarter than all of their peers. How in the hell would you expect them to suddenly meekly say, “Oh, everybody else says so, so it must be true?” Every scientist is competing with every other scientist for funding, for attention, for prestiege… You don’t get that being part of a herd.

  31. 81
    tamino says:

    Re: #51, #64 (Chip Knappenberger)

    I am wondering what sort of analysis shows that “Globally, there is a warming trend of about 0.8C since 1900, more than half of which has occurred since 1979.”

    Either you’re really confused, or you’re being disingenuous in order to cause confusion.

    You’re quite ignoring the fact that neither a linear nor a quadratic fit to the temperature time series comes close to capturing the actual signal. Since you seem to like polynomials, I fit a 16th-degree polynomial to NASA GISS monthly temperature data from Jan. 1880 to Jul. 2007. The result: smoothed temperature anomaly at 1900.0 = -0.2104, at 1979.0 = 0.0530, at 2007.0 = 0.5663. Of the total 0.7767 change from 1900 to 2007, fully 0.5133 occurs from 1979 to 2007. That’s 66% — well over half.

  32. 82
    CobblyWorlds says:

    #39 Eric M

    Regarding the graphs at Long Range Weather, to whose defence you leap.

    Where is graph 1 (2500 – 2007) sourced from?
    i.e. http://www.longrangeweather.com/images/GTEMPS.gif
    Where comparable, it seems to me to bear no relationship to any of the 11 peer-reviewed studies that it might have drawn upon. e.g. http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:2000_Year_Temperature_Comparison_png

    Where is graph 2 “Global Mean Temperatures Graph since 1880″ sourced from?
    i.e. http://www.longrangeweather.com/images/gtemps2.gif
    It seems to me bear no relationship to either:
    CRU: http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/
    GISS: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/ (Land Ocean Index)
    GHCN: http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/trends/glob_jan-dec_pg.gif

    Are you sure you’re thinking sceptically?

    Are you sure we can adapt with >6bn people to carry with us?
    (I think it’s possible we can – but we’ll lose and impoverish many on the way)

    #34 Svet
    “An intercomparison of trends in surface air temperature analyses at the global, hemispheric, and grid-box scale” Vose et al 2005 GRL Vol32.
    They state:
    “In short, the three surface temperature analyses
    depict similar rates of warming over long time scales, and
    discrepancies in recent decades are largely consistent with
    differences in methodology.”

    Cherry Picking is when you prefer without giving good cause. If you can find good reason to prefer CRU/GHCN then you may be able to draw a defensible position. However 2 points of caution:

    1) I wasted years fobbing myself off at each apparent short term abatement of the warming trend. It never came and there is no reason to expect it as far as I can see now.

    2) Pay close attention to what is hapening in each hemisphere, there’s a lot more ocean in the Southern Hemisphere, ocean damps warming because it takes a lot of energy to warm.
    GISS hemispheric plots here: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A3.lrg.gif

  33. 83
    Timo Hämeranta says:

    When you will discuss anthrop vs natural causes of current warming, please see about the Sun:

    In summary, … it should be acknowledged that most of the Sun-climate coupling mechanisms have still not
    been incorporated into the large-scale computational climate models. Consequently, these models are incapable of handling such a complex of coupled mechanisms and are
    not able to disentangle the indirect solar contributions to climate change from each of them and might easily underestimate the Sun-induced climate change by misidentifying the primary causes of various mechanisms.”

    Ref: Scafetta, Nicola, and Bruce J. West, 2007. Phenomenological reconstructions of the solar signature in the Northern Hemisphere surface temperature records since 1600. J. Geophys. Res. – Atm., 112, D24S03, doi:10.1029/2007JD008437, November 3, 2007, online

    They conclude (contrary to the IPCC):

    “the Sun might have contributed up to approximately 50% (or more if ACRIM total solar irradiance satellite composite is implemented) of the observed global warming since 1900.”

    Further, please notice the astonishing, excellent correspondence between certain proxy temperature records and sunspot activity during the Holocene, incl. last 150 yrs thermometer data, in the new study

    Usoskin, Ilya G., Sami K. Solanki, and G.A. Kovaltsov, 2007. Grand minima and maxima of solar activity: new observational constraints. Astronomy & Astrophysics Vol. 471, No 1, pp. 303-307, August III 2007, online

    As far as I can see, climate sensitivity (i.e. 2 x CO2) is, well, still in need of more scrutiny (to put it nicely).

    [Response: None of these studies have anything to say about sensitivity - these are related to forcings, and in any case the S+W paper is methodologicially flawed (previous posts ad nauseum). -gavin]

  34. 84

    As one of the people who emailed the BBC link in, glad to see it got some airtime. Grapes: we have a vineyard in Leeds (53 deg 45 north), Yorkshire, England and it’s doing rather well. We could probably manage further north still but for a large belt of acid soiled uplands.

  35. 85
    Deech56 says:

    RE: Keith – I have read your comments with interest. I, too, have been involved in pharmaceutical research (including working in the house that Tagamet built) but in the biological realm as an investigator. The one thing I have learned is that models based on living things are shaky at best. One hears all the time that computers should be used to study living organisms (I have also been an IACUC chair), but the laws governing any given response are not well understood. I would give anything for biological models to have the predictive power of models based on physical laws like the ones Gavin works with. Throw in difference between “animal models” and the human condition and one could come away feeling that models are worthless. Unfortunately, this would be too much of an generalization.

    What one should focus on, though, is how well the models predict actual conditions. One needs only to look at the IPCC reports and the recent Hansen paper to see how well these models (some of which are decades old) done. We are living the experiment right now and we can see some of the predictions (rate of rise, stratospheric cooling, polar effects, aerosol effects). If you want to pick apart the climate models, then look at the predictions and measurements of climate, not protein folding. To infer that the climate models are incorrect because other models have failed doesn’t get us very far. But I am glad you posted. This is an excellent site with which to stay current. Maybe there can be some discussion about models in general – the good, the bad, and the ugly,

  36. 86
    Rikard says:

    Referring to my earlier question on cosmic rays, do you say that the record Nir Shaviv shows (with a clear upward trend in the 20th century) is one of two sets, and the other one shows no trend? If so, are you sure that there cannot be a difference depending on where on earth you measure; cosmic rays do have a direction? (Playing devils advocate here…I just want to get to the bottom ;-)

    Similarly there are ample opportunities for a difference in variation of energies of incoming cosmic rays and hence we could allow for the possibility that more 10 GeV rays would hit the earth regardless of what the sun does?

    [Response: Different detectors have different thresholds and due to the latitude and altitude of any station, will record different amounts of GCR. The Ahluwalia records are from Cheltenham/Fredricksburg and Yakutsk - neither of which show a trend, though over the overlap period they are correlated (as they would be to any other GCR record). They do have an offset of unknown origin (unknown to me that is). In merging the two records Ahluwalia multiplied one record by a factor to get a similar amplitude change but only over the period of overlap prior to renormalising. This makes absolutely no sense and all the trend is due only to that procedure.

    If you are discussing the 10Be records, then yes, Shaviv only shows one out of two that come up to the present day (ish). This might not be his fault since he took the figure from Wikipedia which itself does not show both, but anyone familiar with the literature would know about the South Pole record - indeed there is an exchange in QSR this month on how best to interpret the different records (Mueschler et al, Bard et al, 2007). Finally, there is no evidence that the interstellar GCR spectrum has any energy dependent decadal variations. - gavin]

  37. 87

    Gavin, re your response to Comment 12:

    Not that I am advocating a solar explanation for recent temperature trends, but isn’t it rather a bit more true to say the observed stratospheric cooling is much closer to what is predicted by ozone depletion? According to Ramaswamy et al. (Science, 2006) well-mixed GHGs don’t come anywhere close to producing the recent stratospheric temperature decline. Thus is seems that your statement that “The cooling however is exactly what is predicted by GHGs” is a bit of a reach. No?

    -Chip

    [Response: MSU4 (lower strat) is mostly driven by ozone depletion, cooling in higher levels (SSU) is dominated by CO2. - gavin]

  38. 88
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #70 (TH): Timo, as I was reading your response I was recalling that it was only recently that you had a much different position. Thanks to Gavin for saving me the trouble of finding one of the many suitable smoking guns. That series of tubes sure is convenient!

    A couple of clean-up points:

    Regarding climate model predictions (in the sense of a forecast), there has only been one so far (very recently and from the Hadley Center IIRC). We’ll know how they did in about five years. I don’t know if there’s a formal distinction between what the models do (projections) and forecasts, but as I understand it the difference is along these lines: A given model is run many times to establish what the global surface temperature increase is likely to be by 2100. While the runs all land within a reasonable range of (e.g.) 3C in 2100, looking at any individual year there’s too much variation between the runs to say anything useful. A forecast, by contrast, would be based on seeing some degree of agreement between runs.

    Regarding Green + Armstrong, it’s yet another study from libertarian economists who know nothing about climate science. IOW, it’s comfort food for denialists and is uncoincidentally published in a disreputable “journal” that specializes in such things.

  39. 89
    Keith says:

    OK. I give up. [edit] My typing may be poor but my qualifications to cal myself an synthetic organic chemist are considerable. 1st class degree in chemistry followed by a DPhil at Oxford, a post-doc at UPenn and several years in the industry (we don’t publish mate, too busy publishing patents!). I feel pretty comfortable with my abilities as do my coworkers.

    [edit - I have cleaned up some prior ad homs and in here. Leave it at home people]

    John Mashey and Ray Ladbury. Thanks. They are fair criticisms or my rationale. I would point out that planes and cars that are designed in a computer are subsequently tested in real life before being approved. So real experiments still matter. Proof is an interesting concept from a mathematical and philoshopical point of view. I think it’s important to distinguish between hypothesis, theory and so forth. You’re right that there is no such thing as absolute proof (although maths might be different!) but we need to try to get close. Models certainly do not constitute proof but they are on the way I agree. My beef is simply with the concept of being able to predict reliably what is going to happen in 50 years. I’m not scientifically convinced that the models are that great. Sorry, but that’s my view and perhaps using my own experience is not a fair comparison but it is what it is.

    Ray, about consensus views. It’s not science. Plain and simple. I’m sure that there are as many buzz topics in climate research that people follow and jump on the bandwagon as there are in my field. Man, chemistry is full of failed research areas that were the next big thing and didn’t live up to expectations. That’s a herd mentality and a consensus. Fair point to say the H pylori thing is an example of consensus working. It’s just that it was the second consensus that proved to be correct most of the time. That’s my point. We could go through several revisions of the consensus in climate change. I’m not directly criticising people who buy the consensus I just think we should recognise the dangers (and advantages) of it!)

    Deech56. Fair enough. I take your point. Ahh tagamet. Better than Zantac but marketed poorly. So they say. But all part of one big happy(?) family now. The models do do quite well, I just query whether they will fail over a longer period of data collection as my own models in my area have.

    I can see that many people here are fiercely protective of their models and views so I’m not going to post any more but I will continue to read since I have learned a great deal from many of the articles. I actually thought that was the point of the site; to educate and stimulate debate.

    I’m off to do some science.

  40. 90
    Peter Houlihan says:

    Keith,

    Consensus in science can hardly be dismissed as a type of herd mentality. Rather it is what lifts a hypothesis to the level of theory.

    In biology we have a strong consensus that evolution explains both changes in the gene pool of a population and gives rise to new species. The consensus is not based on a vote taken by biologists, but rather by multiple lines of independent evidence (genetics, paleontology, developmental biology, etc.) all converging on the same basic mechanism. What converges is the thousands of independent research programs that work on the subject.

    Something similar has happened with regards to climate science.

    Your example of peptic ulcers is good example of consensus in science operating as it should. A consensus forms based on the best available information, and then a new set of data comes along that overturns the current paradigm. All science is provisional.

  41. 91

    #66 Keith – Accepting your analogies, now what? Clearly pharmaceutical companies have not decided that their models are worthless and stopped using them; they remain one piece of the puzzle despite their uncertainties. We also don’t conclude that because consensus views of certain diseases have turned out to be wrong, we may as well ignore all other consensus treatment protocols.

    Let me suggest an important distinction: in the case of molecular models for drugs, your hard-earned experience tells you that finding a drug molecule that does the trick is very hard. Say for argument’s sake that only 1 in 100,000 molecules will be useful, and the computer model is 99.99% accurate. Then 9 out of 10 molecules predicted as useful by this highly accurate model will actually be busts. Because a successful molecule is an extremely rare event, model failures will essentially be unidirectional and the model is untrustworthy by itself.

    Climate models, on the other hand, are constrained in important ways by energy balance and other physical processes. We know they’re reasonably accurate on a global scale for small, testable, perturbations to the current climate. There will undoubtedly be surprises in the future analogous to the ozone hole surprise in the early 1980s. (For the realclimate discussion of the chlorine peroxide issue, see here.) But the reference point is not an expectation of no climate change (the drug will fail unless proven otherwise) but an expectation of climate change consistent with both observed sensitivity and sensitivity from the simplest box models.

  42. 92

    One of the factors that gives me confidence of the validity of the computer models is that when models are started from past conditions and are run to the present the models that don’t include anthropogenic actions don’t reproduce the observed climate past the middle of the 20th century, but the models that do include anthropogenic burning of fossil fuels do reproduce observed climate right thru the 20th century. (See Houghton, 3rd Editon, fig. 5.22.

    Not only do the models reproduce the observed climate, but the human element needs to be included to faithfully obtain this. Because climate scientists admittedly don’t understand evey detail related to climate doesn’t mean we should throw our hands in the air and declare them ineffective. On the contrary,there is a great deal of general agreement,from different climate models projecting a warming trend.

  43. 93
    Keith says:

    Forgot one thing Barton. I an entitled to my anonymity. That is my choice. I haven’t published since my post-doc days due to the secretive nature of pharmaceutical research. However, I AM a peer reviewer for the American Chemical Society and the RSC. So I know how it works. And I’m quite sure that in the field of climate research there’s as much crappy work that gets published as gets published in my field (Elsevier journals anybody!). So don’t hide behind the peer-review crap. Science gets published so that it can be reviewed by the wider scientific community. It’s quality is only as good as the scientist and the reviewer. It shouldn’t work that way; reviewers could be better, but that’s the sad reality of it. So, open question. What journal in climate research is the best and which journals publish stuff that make you suck air through your teeth? To be fair, I’ll say that J Organic Chem is good for us and Tetrahedron Letters is dodgy. I have papers in both. ;)

  44. 94
    Julian Flood says:

    quote Jeees, do you have any idea at all the magnitude of the forces involved that are powerful enough to have changed the Earth’s average surface temp by 1 degree F in 100 years???unquote

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 13 November 2007 @ 8:07 PM

    Oddly enough I have a rough idea. To offset AGW we need to produce 10^20 droplets per second of seawater at a micron size.

    The surface area of a 1-micron drop is 3.14 x 10-12 m2
    and the surface tension of sea water is 0.078 N/m so the very minimum energy is 2.45 x 10 -13 Joules per drop. This amounts to only 245 kW to cope with present world annual CO2 increases.
    So that’ll be 245 * whatever kW hrs.

    Next!

    (for those interested in cooling the planet, Google on Latham and Salter’s paper on using albedo increase.)

    JF
    Actually I just scrounged a section from Salter and Latham’s paper. Highly recommended.

  45. 95
    SecularAnimist says:

    Timo Hämeranta wrote: “we have to wait at least to the 2010s to see whether the sceptics or the ‘mainstream’ scientists are right”.

    You omit a third possibility, which is that by the 2010s we will see that the so-called “alarmists” are right, and by then it will be much too late to avert a global catastrophe.

  46. 96
    SecularAnimist says:

    Aaron Lewis wrote: “We are not going to have real action to combat or mitigate global warming until the full impact of AGW is communicated.”

    Which is exactly why the fossil fuel corporations spend millions of dollars paying the global warming deniers to endlessly repeat the falsehoods and distortions that are the subject of this thread: to simply make enough noise to drown out the science and ensure that the full impact of AGW is not communicated.

  47. 97
    SecularAnimist says:

    Keith wrote: “I’d see the small scale earth experiment as being similar to an animal experiment [...] From my perspective, we simply aren’t allowed to put a drug anywhere near a human until it’s been in animals.”

    And yet, we are presently conducting a full-scale earth experiment, in which we are injecting a “drug” (CO2) into the entire Earth’s biosphere, where it is affecting the biosphere’s “metabolism”, and thus every ecosystem and every living thing on Earth, in ways that we have every reason to expect will be severely harmful.

    By the drug testing standard you mention, those who propose to build an energy economy based on burning fossil fuels should be required to perform whatever “small scale earth experiments” are required to prove that CO2 emissions are safe, before they are allowed to burn the first lump of coal or gallon of gasoline in the open air.

    Unfortunately it’s too late for that. It’s as though someone was talking about performing animal safety tests on a drug that has already been given to every human being on Earth.

  48. 98
    Dave Rado says:

    Re. Sven, #30, in addition to the point CobblyWorlds made in #82, see also Tamino’s article Garbage is Forever.

  49. 99
    Dave Rado says:

    Re. Ray, #32:

    I have never understood the seeming comfort that denialists take in trying to discredit the models, as if they were somehow discrediting the hypothesis of anthropogenic causation thereby. In reality, the case for anthropogenic causation does not depend in any way on the models.

    Yes, but see here. It’s partly the fault of climate scientists communicating badly to the public, in my opinion.

  50. 100
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #83 (TH): Over at Tamino’s Open Mind blog recently, there was a lengthy discussion on the solar stuff from leading solar physicist Leif Svalgard. He made numerous comments in two threads (here and here). Among other things, he has concluded that it is unlikely that solar irradiance varies enough to be a significant influence on climate. Period. Here he details the fatal errors of S+W (2007).

    Regarding Usoskin et al (2007), I’m not sure what Timo thinks he’s reading. The main result of this paper is to show that the long-term solar cycles are unpredictable. In terms of climate, the authors make no claim, and a quick glance shows why not: Yep, we’re in a grand maximum now, and there was indeed a grand minimum sort-of around the time of the mostly-nonexistent (globally) LIA, but going a little farther back we get l) pretty low activity at the time of the alleged MWP and, most fatally to your argument, 2) no correlation at all with the Holocene Thermal Maximum. IOW, the paper says the opposite of what you would like it to. Grasping at the last 150 years in the face of all that other evidence is a little pathetic, especially given the unquestionable discorrelation of the last few decades.


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