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Once more unto the bray

Filed under: — gavin @ 23 July 2008

We are a little late to the party, but it is worth adding a few words now that our favourite amateur contrarian is at it again. As many already know, the Forum on Physics and Society (an un-peer-reviewed newsletter published by the otherwise quite sensible American Physical Society), rather surprisingly published a new paper by Monckton that tries again to show using rigorous arithmetic that IPCC is all wrong and that climate sensitivity is negligible. His latest sally, like his previous attempt, is full of the usual obfuscating sleight of hand, but to save people the time in working it out themselves, here are a few highlights.

As Deltoid quickly noticed the most egregious error is a completely arbitrary reduction (by 66%) of the radiative forcing due to CO2. He amusingly justifies this with reference to tropical troposphere temperatures – neglecting of course that temperatures change in response to forcing and are not the forcing itself. And of course, he ignores the evidence that the temperature changes are in fact rather uncertain, and may well be much more in accord with the models than he thinks.

But back to his main error: Forcing due to CO2 can be calculated very accurately using line-by-line radiative transfer codes (see Myhre et al 2001; Collins et al 2006). It is normally done for a few standard atmospheric profiles and those results weighted to produce a global mean estimate of 3.7 W/m2 – given the variations in atmospheric composition (clouds, water vapour etc.) uncertainties are about 10% (or 0.4 W/m2) (the spatial pattern can be seen here). There is no way that it is appropriate to arbitrarily divide it by three.

There is a good analogy to gas mileage. The gallon of gasoline is equivalent to the forcing, the miles you can go on a gallon is the response (i.e. temperature), and thus the miles per gallon is analogous to the climate sensitivity. Thinking that forcing should be changed because of your perception of the temperature change is equivalent to deciding after the fact that you only put in third of a gallon because you ran out of gas earlier than you expected. The appropriate response would be to think about the miles per gallon – but you’d need to be sure that you measured the miles travelled accurately (a very big issue for the tropical troposphere).

But Monckton is not satisfied with just a factor of three reduction in sensitivity. So he makes another dodgy claim. Note that Monckton starts off using the IPCC definition of climate sensitivity as the forcing associated with a concentration of 2xCO2 – this is the classical “Charney Sensitivity” and does not include feedbacks associated with carbon cycle, vegetation or ice-sheet change. Think of it this way – if humans raise CO2 levels to 560 ppm from 280 ppm through our emissions, and then as the climate warms the carbon cycle starts adding even more CO2 to the atmosphere, then the final CO2 will be higher and the temperature will end up higher than standard sensitivity would predict, but you are no longer dealing with the sensitivity to 2xCO2. Thus the classical climate sensitivity does not include any carbon cycle feedback term. But Monckton puts one in anyway.

You might ask why he would do this. Why add another positive feedback to the mix when he is aiming to minimise the climate sensitivity? The answer lies in the backwards calculations he makes to derive the feedbacks. At this point, I was going to do a full analysis of that particular calculation – but I was scooped. So instead of repeating the work, I’ll refer you there. The short answer is that by increasing the feedbacks incorrectly, he makes the ‘no-feedback’ temperature smaller (since he is deriving it from the reported climate sensitivities divided by the feedbacks). This reverses the causality since the ‘no-feedback’ value is actually independent of the feedbacks, and is much better constrained.

There are many more errors in his piece – for instance he accuses the IPCC of not defining radiative forcing in the Summary for Policy Makers and not fixing this despite requests. Umm… except that the definition is on the bottom of page 2. He bizarrely compares the net anthropogenic forcing to date with the value due to CO2 alone and then extrapolates that difference to come up with a meaningless ‘total anthropogenic forcings Del F_2xCO2’. His derivations and discussions of the no-feedback sensitivity and feedbacks is extremely opaque (a much better description is given on the first couple of pages of Hansen et al, 1984)). His discussion of the forcings in that paper are wrong (it’s 4.0 W/m2 for 2xCO2 (p135), not 4.8 W/m2), and the no-feedback temperature change is 1.2 (Hansen et al, 1988, p9360), giving k=0.30 C/(W/m2) (not his incorrect 0.260 C/(W/m2) value). Etc… Needless to say, the multiple errors completely undermine the conclusions regarding climate sensitivity.

Generally speaking, these are the kinds of issues that get spotted by peer-reviewers: are the citations correctly interpreted? is the mathematics correct? is the reasoning sound? do the conclusions follow? etc. In this case, there really wouldn’t have been much left, and so it is fair to conclude that Monckton’s piece only saw the light of day because it wasn’t peer-reviewed, not because it was. Claims that the suggested edits from the editor of the newsletter constitute ‘peer-review’ are belied by the editor’s obvious unfamiliarity with the key concepts of forcing and feedback – and the multitude of basic errors still remaining. The even more egregious claims that this paper provides “Mathematical proof that there is no ‘climate crisis’ ” or is “a major, peer-reviewed paper in Physics and Society, a learned journal of the 10,000-strong American Physical Society” are just bunk (though amusing in their chutzpah).

The rational for the FPS publication of this note was to ‘open up the debate’ on climate change. The obvious ineptitude of this contribution underlines quite effectively how little debate there is on the fundamentals if this is the best counter-argument that can be offered.

536 Responses to “Once more unto the bray”

  1. 101
    spilgard says:

    Re 98:

    Oh gawds, not that hilarious website! Something worth noting — the page for the first link was last updated in 2006, the page for the second link was last updated in 2003. You’d think they’d at least make an effort to present some fresh nonsense.

  2. 102
    maxwell says:

    It is interesting to me that some here want to claim that if a researcher does not have expertise in a particular field than his or her opinion does not have worth. One thing that all scientist share is a scientific intuition. I am not a climate scientist, but I do science research for a living. This means that I would not be able to have a detailed discussion on the current research in the field, but I would be able to spot something that didn’t quite add up with my physical intuition. I attend seminars and talks on a weekly basis and the research I hear about is rarely on the topic I study, but I know what parts of the research are worth-while and what parts are rife with problems. I am expected to be able to do this. Science as a social endeavor is built on this fact.

    I am skeptical of AGW, but it is because I have yet to see a true smoking gun on this issue. This does not make me a denier because I don’t think there is smoking gun either way. Someone else posted, I apologize for not citing exactly who the writer was, that skepticism should be even-handed and I think this is true. True skepticism means that you have not made your mind up on an issue, and I think that it is a bit unfortunate that so many people have made up their minds on something that is under the scrutiny of on-going research. Its troubling to me that as science becomes more and more specialize, along with basically everything else in society, that we are forgetting how similar all of our work is, maybe not in scope, but in practice and that these similarities give all scientists, independent of discipline, a better view of how to interpret what other fields are doing if these projects have some level of merit. I’m sure that I could give a talk on my research to a group of climatologists and there would be some questions as to what is feasible and what types of systematic errors can be introduced by the way I ask my research questions. Why would I not able to see theirs?

  3. 103
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Steve Reynolds, I agree that for annual + seasonal temperatue, the distribution is symmetric–but look where it is centered (>5)! If your goal is low sensitivity–that’s not the one you want to upweight.

  4. 104
    Ray Ladbury says:

    So, Maxwell, I am curious what branch of “science” you may be in that gives you such expertise in areas you’ve never cracked a book in. I myself had to devote months of study before I understood just some of the more subtle points about climate.
    Just curious, how do you explain simultaneous tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling if not by a greenhouse mechanism?

  5. 105
    Hank Roberts says:

    > some here want to claim … value
    > true skepticism means … an issue

    For very small local values of “issue” yes.
    Did you check Monckton’s math in the posting at the top of the page?
    Did it add up for you?

    Skepticism means being able to handle uncertainty, too.

  6. 106
    Chris Colose says:

    As a response to maxwell (102),

    I agree that people who are not experts can still be conversant in a particular area. I do find it strange that some would claim otherwise. At the same time, it does take a fair degree of arrogance to claim that the mainstream scientific community is all wrong when you yourself have not been sufficiently educated in a particular area. Asking questions or “conversing” or putting out ideas is something else entirely.

    All scientists should be trained skeptics. When new ideas come out there should be sufficient evidence, scientists should examine them very closely, be able to reproduce them, etc. At the time Wegener proposed that continents were slowly drifting around the Earth, the scientific community was right in not jumping onto the idea quickly (even though Wegener turned out to be right)…it wasn’t because they were all ignorant, but there was not yet sufficient evidence or mechanisms to warrant a paradigm shift. Some like Shaviv or Svensmark would have the whole scientific community jump onto the idea that every deep-time climate problem, as well as modern day global warming, can all be explained by cosmic rays when such an effect has not yet been sufficiently quantified. Qualitatively they cannot even tell you the sign of what more cosmic rays should do since they cannot explain why high clouds should not respond just as much (or more) than low clouds (or even if cosmic rays even have a significant impacts on clouds). Most of the time such proposals are at least reasonable, but generally there are a few deviant people who put far too much confidence in their idea and claim very dogmatically that everyone else is wrong…generally they contain what Damon and Laut call “patterns of strange errors” (which was about the nicest way to put it!).

    The reason the whole scientific community has not jumped on to the cosmic ray bandwagon is not because they’d lose funding, they are all liberals, they’re all “bias,” or what have you…it’s because the evidence is not yet there, and in fact there is sufficient counter-evidence to the idea cosmic rays are not causing modern warming. Similarily, the usuals like Bob Carter, Roy Spencer, Lindzen, Pat Michaels, Tim Ball, Anthony Watts, etc have all put out counter-arguments against AGW and not one of them has shown to be a real rebuttal to the idea. What’s more, most of the time the ideas are not even reasonable, but demonstrate such ignorance of the basics that motives need to be considered; and when you cry wolf too many times, then if you actually have a good idea the 100th time around, people are less likely to listen. The fact these scientists are still publishng their ideas in the primary literature and having lots of time devoted to addressing them shows me that the mainstream community is tolerent of ideas, and definitely not bias.

    Here we come to skepticism vs. denialism. Skepticism does not mean that we should reject every idea out there, or even that we need 100% proof of an idea (it doesn’t exist in science). There should be explanatory and predictive power, be a consistent explanation of collected data sets, and spawn a range of tests that can be borne out. For AGW, an ideal experiment would be to have a “duplicate planet” where all conditions are held constant, and we increase CO2 on one, and hold conditions constant on the other…and see the changes after decades to centuries. Obviously this is not possible. We can use our GCM’s to simulate changes with/without anthropogenic interference (See Meehl et al 2004), we can look at the paleoclimate record, climate on other planets, examine the underlying physics, examine the observed changes in the atmosphere, among other things.

    The fact is that CO2 plays as fundamental a role in planetary climate as evolution does in biology– and is probably the largest reason for climate variation over geologic timescales. From hothouses to snowballs, climate on Venus, modern change, etc there is really no plausible reason to believe that doubling CO2 in the atmosphere will not change climate. From a purely theoretical perspective, reducing the rate of energy loss to space should warm the planet. Observationally, many “fingerprints” such as stratospheric cooling, lack of trends on solar activity, decreases in the diurnal and seasonal temperature gradients, heat going on the ocean, etc allow us to say now with high confidence that humans are causing at least most of the observed rise over the 20th century.

  7. 107
    John Mashey says:

    So, what have you studied so far about climate science?
    What else? and what sources do you trust?

    It is *quite* plausible for a classic skeptic to approach a new domain by saying:

    “I don’t know, but I haven’t studied it yet, so I have yet to form a clear opinion. What should I study to get more informed?”

    If a classic skeptic knows that there is a powerful consensus (not unanimity, since that’s rare) among the real practitioners of a field about some (not all) aspects of a problem, then they might say:

    “I don’t yet understand this, but it’s a good bet that the practioners’ consensus is as good an approximation as we have, and if I care enough to express an opinion, either I’ll go with the consensus by default, or:

    a) I’ll study hard.
    b) I’ll keep a list of issues that worry me about the consensus, or that I know I don’t understand, study them, watch for new data, or errors, and see how the list evolves.

    Any reasonable skeptic who actually studies problems should have such a list. Can you provide yours? Say, the top 5-10 issues?

    [When there is a real scientific controversy, the list in b) tends to jiggle around. As a consensus evolves, the list shrinks, or the error bounds shrink, or both. For instance, it was once a rational concern to wonder why satellites and surface temperatures didn’t agree as much as expected. one could figure that 1) the ground stations were wrong, 2) the satellites were wrong, or 3) some of each. Satellite computation errors got fixed, issue came off the list.]

    c) I’ll give a fair look at those disagreeing with the consensus, and I’ll watch them over time, and see if their arguments hold up.

    BUT, if someone maintains skepticism of the consensus without seriously studying the science, another classic skeptic might just wonder why.

  8. 108
    dhogaza says:

    Well, have at it, Maxwell. Tell us all that’s wrong with climate science, based on your “physical intuition”, rather than analysis. One thing science teaches us is, of course, that “physical intuition” is often flat-out wrong, which kinda makes me dismiss your hand-waving effort here, particular the part that states “as a scientist…”

  9. 109
    RPauli says:

    George Monbiot wisdom:

    “…the problem is not that people aren’t hearing about climate change, but that they don’t want to know. The professional classes have the most freedom to lose and the least to gain from an attempt to restrain it. Those who are most responsible for carbon pollution are – being insulated by their money – the least likely to suffer its effects.

    …we all have our self-justifying myths. We tell ourselves a story of our lives in which we almost always appear as the heroes. These myths prevent us from engaging with climate change…

    …The most powerful story of all, endlessly narrated by the hired hands of the fossil fuel industry, just as it was once told by the sugar slavers, is that we are both all-important and utterly insignificant. We are too important to be denied any of the delights we crave, but too insignificant to exert any impact on planetary processes. We fill the whole frame of the story when it suits us and shrink to a dot when that scale is more convenient. We are capable of occupying both niches simultaneously.

    It is not just because The Great Global Warming Swindle is at odds with the entire body of scientific knowledge on this subject that I have bothered to contest it. It is also because it is consonant with the entire body of human self-deception. We want to be misled, we crave it; and we will bend our minds into whatever shape they need to take in order not to face our brutal truths…
    – George Monbiot 7-22-08

  10. 110
    Timo Hämeranta says:

    Re 100. Martin, please notice that I have never argued “If you don’t know everything, you know nothing”.

    Instead I have stated we don’t have an all-inclusive Theory of Climate, yet, and probably not in decades to come.

    Instead of this endless and pointless ‘mainstream’ vs. denialist debates I see the real differences between real scientists as follows:

    – certain scientists are (more) interested in probabilities, and
    – certain scientists are (more) interested in prevailing (huge) uncertainties.

    If you are interested in details please do read the over 7.000 scientific studies I have in recent years, and new ones pop up every week, e.g.

    White, Jeffrey R., R. D. Shannon, J. F. Weltzin, J. Pastor, and S. D. Bridgham, 2008. Effects of soil warming and drying on methane cycling in a northern peatland mesocosm study. J. Geophys. Res. – Biogeosciences, 113, G00A06, doi:10.1029/2007JG000609, July 26, 2008

    “…Our results illustrate the need for a more robust understanding of the multiple feedbacks between climate forcing and plant and microbial feedbacks in the response of northern peatlands to climate change.”

  11. 111
    Garry S-J says:

    #102 maxwell says “I am skeptical of AGW, but it is because I have yet to see a true smoking gun on this issue.”

    We hear comments about this all the time – no smoking gun, no proof, no evidence, blah blah blah.

    Hundreds of peer-reviewed papers, mountains of data, climate models, statistical analysis, even basic logic – none of it stacks up, apparently.

    But none of the so-called skeptics ever seem to say just what standard of proof hasn’t been satisfied.

    So, maxwell, now’s your opportunity. Just what would constitute a smoking gun for you?

    Precisely what would appeal to your “physical intuition”?

  12. 112
    pete best says:

    Re #102, What smoking gun are you needing to see. Surely the theory of GHG is good enough ti know that regardless of a warming world or melting summer Arctic sea ice levels etc that a theory is sound scientifically.

    What makes you skeptical? Is it the medias take on the subject or the real science as explained here at RC?

    Is the IPCC lying to you, is James Hansen, Is Gavin Schmidt ? What reason would they have to mess with science in such a manner. I am sure that they would be found out quite quickly as science has a habit of doing that. Scienctists are conservative and intelligent enough to check other peoples work post peer review. It is simply absurd to even state that a scientist would be a skeptic without having read around the evidence available before ocommenting surely ?

  13. 113
    GlenFergus says:

    #71 Duae Quartunciae:

    Mate, sometimes it pays to assume good faith. Try it. The figures we’re talking here have nought to do with the 26% number from 2005, which is LWR absorption remaining if all GHGs except CO2 are removed. So saying that the 18% here (just CO2 removed) falls midway between 9% reduction (just CO2 removed!) and 26% remaining (all but CO2 removed) is to completely miss the point.

    #77 Hank:

    No, I mean the 91% for “Fraction LW absorbed” in Gavin’s table, against “Removed absorbers” – “CO2”. That is, of course, where the 9% you refer to comes from.

    The forcing quoted in the 2005 table against “CO2 removed” is -23 W/m2, but that is at tropopause level, not top of atmosphere. 23/140 (total LWR absorption used there) would still be 16% not 9%, so it seems the level at which radiative forcing is defined makes a large difference. Or am I just missing something? I’m guessing the -28 W/m2 here must also be at tropopause level, hence the discrepancy.

    [This one is a denosphere favorite. I beat up of it in the national media here only last week. It would be nice to have the story completely clear and unambiguous.]


    [Response: There is a confusion here. The forcing is defined as the net change in at the tropopause, while the percentage numbers discussed are the change in LW_SURF-LW_TOA – they aren’t the same, and there is no contradiction if the percentages don’t match. The differences are related to the stratospheric response and a (small) term related to LW reflection from the surface. On the original page, the 9% change in the absence of CO2 is associated with a forcing of -23 W/m2. The number I gave earlier is a more up-to-date calculation that does a better job than the blog post, but still, forcing is not simply equal to the ‘greenhouse effect % change’. I don’t have all the numbers in front of me, but I’ll take a closer look later. – gavin]

  14. 114
    Mark says:

    Michael #95

    How do you know how many unknowns are there? How do you KNOW that these unknowns will ALWAYS cause a mitigation to our CO2 production?

    Your list of unknowns is gigantic. Reduce your list and then come back.

    maxwell #102

    You aren’t, however, skeptical of the anti-AGW position. And, since a gun is a complex piece of machinery, stochastic processes in the earths atmosphere will never create one spontaneously, never mind ensure smoke comes out of it. Ergo, unless you tell us what constitutes a “smoking gun” we are left without any ability to converse (this is one reason why you are feeling excluded: you really don’t know enough to know how little you know).

    So why are these not smoking guns?

    a) CO2 up 50% and most of this of a atomic signature irreconcilable with natural processes but easily reconciled with fossil fuel burning.

    b) volume of ice reducing globally.

    c) temperatures now significantly (in a rigorous statistical sense) higher than it has ever been when the earth has been in this particular state (orbital positions et al).

    If these are not “smoking guns” then you really do seem to need a device of high-quality steel to be spontaneously created. Or a big Voice From The Sky saying “yup, you did it”.

    Any proposition you have would have to explain AT LEAST two things and do so better than the current AGW theories:

    1) how the effects of humans on the atomsphere and biosphere are not having as big effect as simple deduction would indicate

    2) what new effect is causing the changes seen

    At the moment all you have is “you could be wrong”. And? So? The Sun could be taken out by an interstellar construction fleet looking to run a Tau Ceti bypass superhighway through our system. Show me it’s *impossible*.

    Yet we don’t argue about the possible appearance of the Vogon fleet, do we? Why’s that? Because it’s damn unlikely to be true.

    Heck, we put people to death for things we can’t PROVE 100% (because we weren’t there). Why is it that we must be 100% proven on all points here?

    That isn’t skepticism. That’s denial.

  15. 115
    Lowell says:

    Stratospheric cooling appears to be strongly correlated with significant Volcanic events rather than CO2 or global warming.

    El Chichon in spring 1982 and Pinatubo in June 1991 both increased Stratospheric temperatures by 1.0C to 1.5C which then led to cooling of 1.25C to 1.75C.

    Both events appear to have permanently adjusted the Stratospheric temperatures down by 0.25C but other than these two volcanic influences, Stratospheric temperatures show almost no trend at all.

    [Response: This is the lower stratosphere and trends there are due principally to ozone depletion (with only a small contribution from CO2). The upper stratosphere trends (even the mesosphere trends) are both larger and more tied to CO2. – gavin]

  16. 116
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Ray Ladbury: “I agree that for annual + seasonal temperatue, the distribution is symmetric–but look where it is centered (>5)! If your goal is low sensitivity–that’s not the one you want to upweight.”

    Yes, and the seasonal only is centered at about 2K.
    This appears to me to be a fairly poor model (it is rather old).

    The NASA model has sensitivity numbers from 2.4 to 2.8K.

  17. 117

    It’s too bad that TVMOB’s denialist opinions weight so heavily on Catholic TV here in the U.S. and in the Vatican. Last Oct he was interviewed as an expert “climate scientist” on EWTN’s “Rome Reports” program. Here’s part of the transcript:

    “Is Pope Benedict the First Eco-Pope?”
    October 10, 2007

    Some Catholic scholars question the theory that climate change is manmade. Nor do they believe that the Pope accepts this theory. Instead they think he agrees with the conclusions of a recent Vatican conference, that the climate is changing, but the reasons for it are unknown.

    VISCOUNT CHRISTOPHER MONCKTON (scientist and participant, Vatican Climate Change Conference, 2007): It has been noticed that on the surface of Mars warming has been going on at a rate that is very much parallel to that of what’s happening on Earth. Likewise on the surface of Jupiter. All of these planetary surfaces are exhibiting warming at the same time. Well now, is it SUVs out there in outer space or is it that large, bright, hot object bang in the center of our solar system and for which our solar system get its name. You tell me.

    I had recently started getting cable TV a couple of months earlier, partly so I could see EWTN, and thought about cancelling cable. I’m still thinking about cancelling. The program and by extention the network which aired it is quite demoralizing. We might expect the Exxon folks and those with vested interests to deny AGW and sow seeds of doubt, thereby jeopardizing human and non-human life sustainability into the far future, but why would those responsible for teaching us morals and ethics do so?

  18. 118

    GlenFergus #113 — my sincere apologies.

  19. 119
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Steve Reynolds, Sensitivity as determined by seasonal temperature does indeed favor a lower “best-fit”, but the errors at about 2 degrees become a brick wall. I’ve seen a lot of behavior like that in doing maximum likelihood fits–when you start seeing the errors pick up like that, you know you’ve pretty much reached a bound.
    Regardless of whether the models used are the best, the exercise illustrates what happens if you try to force sensitivity too low–the model becomes unphysical. A model with low sensitivity, but otherwise physically reasonable would be quite an interesting beast scientifically, not to mention its importance politically. As such, you know modellers are trying continually. The fact that nothing has been published speaks volumes about how difficult such a model would be to develop.

  20. 120
    SecularAnimist says:

    maxwell wrote: “I am not a climate scientist, but I do science research for a living. This means that I would not be able to have a detailed discussion on the current research in the field, but I would be able to spot something that didn’t quite add up with my physical intuition.”

    I have observed that some people who have genuine expertise in a particular field of knowledge imagine that this somehow bestows upon them expertise and insight regarding other fields of knowledge of which they actually know little. In some cases they imagine that they are somehow endowed with expertise and insight superior to that of others who have studied these other fields of knowledge diligently and in-depth. They seem to think a so highly of their own intelligence as to believe that they can discern the truth about other fields of knowledge simply by applying their formidable and superior powers of pure reason and intuition, unconstrained by actual knowledge of the facts. Oddly enough, more often than not, their ill-informed yet confident pronouncements regarding these other fields of knowledge are spectacularly wrong.

  21. 121

    Re: #117

    This stuff about warming on Mars and Jupiter has been circulating, of course, and I haven’t, as a complete amateur, given it much credence or concern, because:

    a) It is very tough to measure climate trends on Earth (as denialists always stress) despite many thousands of land- and sea-borne data collections annually, plus the sondes & satellites, yet we are supposed to believe that we know to comparable precision what Mars (with a couple of devices on the ground and one orbiter) and Jupiter (with only telesensing) are doing climatically.

    b) TSI measurements reveal no solar signal helpful to the Monckton case.

    But it does make me wonder: what is the state of actual data on extra-Terrestrial planetary temps? Anybody?

  22. 122
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Ray: “Sensitivity as determined by seasonal temperature does indeed favor a lower “best-fit”, but the errors at about 2 degrees become a brick wall. I’ve seen a lot of behavior like that in doing maximum likelihood fits–when you start seeing the errors pick up like that, you know you’ve pretty much reached a bound.”

    But you can only draw conclusions like that if you know the model is accurate. That model seems to ‘like’ a 5K sensitivity. With the NASA model that seems to ‘like’ a 2.5K sensitivity, maybe your brick wall would occur at 1K.

  23. 123
    Pat Cassen says:

    On “scientific intuition”: Consistently good scientific intuition is rarer than one might suppose. In those that I think have it, it consists more in knowing what is the right question, rather than in knowing what is the right answer. A belief in one’s own intuition might be responsible for more dogged adherence to wrong ideas than for new, useful ideas. (My own “scientific intuition” has been buffeted sufficiently that I’ve learned when to suspend it!)

  24. 124
    Hank Roberts says:

    Kevin, try these (search limited to 2008 articles):

    Several of those will lead to answers to date.

    From those hits, this is one to watch for new data:

  25. 125
    Steve Reynolds says:

    SecularAnimist: “I have observed that some people who have genuine expertise in a particular field of knowledge imagine that this somehow bestows upon them expertise and insight regarding other fields of knowledge of which they actually know little…”

    Kind of like some climate experts imagine they understand all the economic consequences of the mitigation requirements they propose?

    [Response: Who might they be? You should surely have noticed that RC does not stray very often into the economics or policy making arena precisely because we are not economists or policy wonks. Therefore your insinuation falls completely flat here. – gavin]

  26. 126
    Hank Roberts says:

    Glen, Duae, Gavin, thanks — picking up on areas where confusion is widely spread is a good thing, albeit exhausting.

    Locating the sources from which confusing numbers are being picked and pulled — citing them when summing up (so people find the new summary when searching on the confused claims) is as always very helpful.

  27. 127
    Martin Vermeer says:

    @110 Timo Hämeräntä:

    Re 100. Martin, please notice that I have never argued “If you don’t know everything, you know nothing”.

    Actually you did implicitly, not having the belly to flat-out say so.

    The article referred attempts to put meaningful constraints on S in the acknowledged presence of modelling imperfections, i.e., in spite of them… and it’s not good enough for you. What else were we to think?

    …and no, 7000 cherry picked articles ripped out of context like you do with this one do not an argument make. We know about the uncertainties… science isn’t science without them.

  28. 128
    Steve Reynolds says:

    gavin: “Who might they be? You should surely have noticed that RC does not stray very often into the economics or policy making arena…”

    Just because I made the comment on RC does not mean it was intended to apply to the RC professionals (although some commenters here…).

    One professional it might apply to would be James Hansen.

  29. 129
    Martin Vermeer says:

    maxwell #102:

    If you really are a practicing research scientist, reserving judgment on the matter of anhropogenic climate change is simply not good enough. Not doing your homework is acceptable for general citizens not properly backgrounded in physical science — and comes with a moral duty to keep the glove compartment shut in the presence of the innocent mistaking you for knowledgable — but for someone like you, having all the background needed to get up to snuff in half a year max… that’s downright irresponsible!

    …and consider: this is great physics, is one of the great issues affecting mankind this century, and science and scientific understanding is central in it. Science is more than just a job, it’s a calling. Folks look up to us, value our insights (ah well, some people do. Or did, once. Don’t shatter my illusions). Noblesse oblige.

    And, if you really are a scientist, where is your curiosity man! Don’t you want to know?

  30. 130

    re 117 & 124:

    Thank you, Hank, for the references. Helpful, if at times heavy going (for me.) Also, I seem as a non-subscriber to be limited to abstracts only. However, the main source seems to be Hammel and Lockwood 2007–I’m sure this will be familiar to many here!

    For those who have missed it, it’s a breathtaking example of how brazen the denialist camp can often be. This summary:

    would certainly convince the unwary layman. Yet their TSI graph bears no resemblance to that given here:

    (It also seems suspiciously weak in that famous 11-year cycle.)

    Without access to the body of HL200, I was stumped by the discrepancy, till I found a blog comment explaining that HL2007 had, strangely, chosen a reconstruction 15 years old as of their publication date.

  31. 131
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Steve Reynolds–You have to compare apples to apples (or seasonal temperature fit to seasonal temperature fit). You know as well as I do how these things typically go. An initial estimate will have a certain mean or best-fit and a rather large range of errors. Adding more data typically narrows the errors, but doesn’t shift the best fit all that much. This is due to the fact that errors on parameter estimates tend to converge pretty well (Central Limit Theorem), while the extremes of the confidence limits are more sensitive to new data.
    So, yes, you’d get a different value with another model, but you’d likely see the same behavior. Moreover, the fact that we haven’t seen such a low sensitivity despite the intense interest such a model would generate tends to make me think it’s hard to make a model work with such a low sensitivity.

  32. 132
    David B. Benson says:

    Ray Ladbury (130) — SOmewhere I picked up the supposition that the Maunder Minimum makes a good test of GCMs with low (1.9 K) sensitivity; such don’t make the temperature go down enough. Ones with high sensitivity (6.1 K?) make the temperature go down too much.

  33. 133

    Gavin – the report you wonderfully pick to bits was also being cited by one of Australia’s most popular bloggers and eco-skeptics as another reason why we’re all fine and there’s no need to worry.

    I had a bit of a go back on my blog too but if there were cigars on offer, you’d get them.


  34. 134
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Ray: “… it’s hard to make a model work with such a low sensitivity.”

    I can agree that is probably true.

    The IPCC lower limit of 1.5K seems reasonable enough, I just do not yet see it proven by models.

  35. 135
    Timo Hämeranta says:

    Re 127. Martin, I’m a bit disappointed with you when you had not the belly to flat-out say that Climatology today is still about probabilities.

    Well, not unusual in these contexts…

    I have stated that everyone, whether neutral, ‘mainstream’, alternative, critical, sceptical or denialist, who proclaims certainty only proves limited knowledge and false confidence on models, especially when you try to foresee near or far future climates.

  36. 136
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Steve #125, that’s a hilarious argument you’re developing there… “Sensitivity must be as low as 1.5 degs because we cannot afford anything higher…” I’m sure you didn’t mean that :-)

    Seriously, this intentionally cultivated misconception that mitigation is unaffordable is behind much denial in circles that never got the difference between ‘is’ and ‘oughtta’ clearly laid out in sunday school. There are affordable solutions by knowledgable people, and there is nothing wrong in pointing this out.

  37. 137

    Steve writes:

    Supporting that 95% of green house gases are from water vapor. Including CO2 (0.28%) and H2O, we contribtue no more that 5.5%.

    There are two fallacies here.

    1) Water vapor is not “95% of greenhouse gases,” even going by mass (1.27 x 1016 kg for water vapor versus e.g. 3.01 x 1015 kg for carbon dioxide). The clear-sky greenhouse effect can be attributed about 60% to water vapor and 26% to carbon dioxide.

    2) The amount humans are adding each year is small compared to the total, but it isn’t just one year we have to worry about — it’s been going on since the industrial revolution started. 27% of the carbon dioxide now in the air is artificial.

  38. 138

    mzxwell posts:

    It is interesting to me that some here want to claim that if a researcher does not have expertise in a particular field than his or her opinion does not have worth.

    That’s because if a researcher does not have expertise in a particular field, th[e]n his or her opinion does not have worth.

    The opinion of a physicist or a biologist on climatology is worth no more than the opinion of a plumber or a career armed robber. If you haven’t studied a field, you can’t speak authoritatively about it.

    On the other hand, if the physicist, biologist, plumber, or robber has taken the time and effort to study and try to understand climatology, then their opinion about that field does have worth.

    But merely being a researcher gives you no authority at all.

  39. 139
    J says:

    In #73, Chris Colose writes: “Actually there is a recent paper in GRL that argues for a climate sensitivity at the low end (or lower) of the IPCC projections; see . […] It’s an interesting technique, though it seems very dicey to me. […] Perhaps someone else has further insight here.”

    You’re right to be skeptical (ha!) about the Chylek & Lohmann paper, Chris. See this commentary by James Annan:

    Basically, it’s the most extreme example of cherry-picking I’ve seen in years. They basically looked at noisy paleoclimate data and picked the single points in each time period that would yield the lowest estimate of climate sensitivity. Annan points out that if you do the honest thing and look at longer-term averages, “the need for a strong dust forcing simply melts away, and the resulting climate sensitivity estimate of 2-3.9C is entirely unremarkable (and completely consistent with what we already know).”


  40. 140

    Clear Thinker: I’m sure there are many people who could debate Monckton though I am not sure about the fairness of engaging in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent. This is the same Monckton who would have us believe that forcings are expressed in “watts per square metre per second”. In his detailed paper (now off the Telegraph’s site, even they are capable of embarrassment?) we read “E is radiant energy in watts per square metre per second (wm-2.s-1: hereafter “wm-2”). Yikes. This is like saying we are measuring acceleration, hereafter called speed. If you are going to challenge physics PhDs, you should at least get the high-school level stuff right.

    The anti-AGW astroturfing exercise is an outgrowth of the similar movement to discredit medical science that was uncomfortable to organized tobacco. See Monbiot’s book, Heat. I have links to some of his references on my blog.

    Then there’s a thing put on 5 August by Engineers Australia as part of Australian Engineering week billed as a “Climate Change Seminar” featuring one William Kininmonth who is barely more credible than Monckton and has some loopy theories. It seems that not only the APS is willing to run trolls to get public attention. When I pointed this out to EA via the organizers ( their response was to try to encourage me to get involved with their future events. No thanks, not until they operate on a professional basis. The invitation to the talk says, “Attendance may be credited towards Engineers Australia’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points”, which is a bit sad for an event that is unlikely to contain anything scientifically valid. And if EA is going to venture into politics, perhaps they should be up front about it.

    Here are the abstracts to save you the bother of downloading the PDF:

    William Kininmonth will describe how the current warmth is not unusual and we are enjoying one of the few equable climate periods of the past several millions years. Climate varies naturally and there is no compelling evidence that industrial carbon dioxide increase has had any significant impact. Predictions of ‘dangerous global warming’ by the IPCC are based on computer models that inadequately represent important processes, especially convection and surface evaporation. As a consequence, the models exaggerate the Earth’s temperature response to carbon dioxide increase.

    George Fox will discuss how proposed national policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will deleteriously impact on energy security. Proposals to replace fossil-fired power stations, mainly with wind turbines, are not proven on a large scale and would be extremely expensive to implement. Major renewable energy projects, in combination with Carbon Emission Trading Schemes, would likely lead to conventional power station closures, less robust and more expensive electricity supplies, and a shift of industries and employment offshore.

  41. 141
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Martin, your quotes do not represent anything I wrote.

    Martin: “Seriously, this intentionally cultivated misconception that mitigation is unaffordable is behind much denial…”

    That is the kind of economic denial I was talking about in 125. Solar energy may be the solution eventually, but good luck getting China, India, and Brazil to stop building coal plants now.

  42. 142
    SecularAnimist says:

    Steve Reynolds wrote: “… some climate experts imagine they understand all the economic consequences of the mitigation requirements they propose … One professional it might apply to would be James Hansen.”

    I suggest a better example would be James Lovelock, with regard to his view that nuclear power is “the answer” to global warming. Dr. Lovelock is, in my opinion, one of the great geniuses of our time, and his deep insight into the holistic nature of the Earth’s biosphere makes his views on the consequences of unmitigated anthropogenic global warming and climate change very compelling. However, he is not an expert on energy technologies, and his views on the potential of nuclear power relative to other non-fossil-fuel energy sources such as wind and solar energy, not to mention conservation and efficiency improvements, are ill-informed and misguided. Yet, because he is perceived as an authority on climate change and has spoken out so strongly about the danger it presents, his views on nuclear power — a field where he lacks any expertise — are often cited by proponents of nuclear power as a means to combat climate change.

  43. 143
    SecularAnimist says:

    Steve Reynolds wrote: “That is the kind of economic denial I was talking about in 125. Solar energy may be the solution eventually, but good luck getting China, India, and Brazil to stop building coal plants now.”

    You are confused. The people who are building coal-fired power plants are the ones in economic denial, not the people who oppose building such plants. The most egregious form of economic denial is to imagine or pretend that the destructive effects of burning coal have no costs. The entire argument for continuing to burn fossil fuels for even one more day is based on economic denial.

  44. 144
    pete best says:

    Re #143, that may well be true but without a political or economic framework to work to in regard to carbon emissions on a global scale the people who are financing and constructing these power plants will continue to build them. Each plant last around 50 years and hence that guarantees 50 more years of signiifcant and continues carbon emissions. Whatever we build today resonates into the future hence James Hansens comment to not build any more coal fired power stations until CCS is tested and deployed in one working plant.

  45. 145
    Rod B says:

    BPL (138), et al; First a clarification: Steve states that questioning from science researchers outside the field has worth, which is different from authority — a subtle but significant distinction. “Authority” implies a different and more precise, though still highly subjective, criteria. By the accepted definition, e.g., you can (and do) claim some within the field have little authority. While questioning from inside the field is probably more credible, at least on the surface, your total rejection of worth coming from outside the field of study completely ignores scientific history and sounds more like a defensive protection of an exclusive fraternity than a scientific process. Also, some outsider fields you say can’t help is just incorrect. Are you claiming for example that a trained physicist can not question or offer help in, say, how, why and how much, and which molecules absorb, store, transfer energy, heat up, or cool down, etc?

  46. 146
    Nick Gotts says:

    #145 [Rod B].
    Rod, can you give examples, preferably from the last century or so, of criticism from outside a specific field overthrowing a scientific consensus in that field, or even making an important difference to a technical argument within it? I’m not saying there aren’t such examples, but for me none spring to mind.

    So far as the contribution of the “trained physicist” is concerned, well “physicist” is a pretty wide term; but as I understand it the physics of the greenhouse effect itself is fairly elementary, and at least a large proportion of climate scientists would know what is necessary well. The difficult science lies in areas such as calculating feedback effects, assessing the effect of complicating factors such as aerosols, and finding and integrating sources of information about past climates – and this is all fairly specific to climate science.

  47. 147
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 110 Timo Hämeranta:
    27 July 2008 at 2:21 AM

    “…Our results illustrate the need for a more robust understanding of the multiple feedbacks between climate forcing and plant and microbial feedbacks in the response of northern peatlands to climate change.”

    What exactly is your point here? It appears to me the authors are acknowledging the reality of global warming and noting that its effects on a specific ecosystem are not yet clear (and probably very complex). Highlighting some important unanswered questions is a pretty standard (and heuristically valuable) way to conclude a research paper.
    Are you suggesting this statement about boglands somehow raises uncertainties about the existence of global warming?

  48. 148
    Hank Roberts says:

    > value
    > authority

    I think it’s a nitpick.

    The definition of the words won’t affect whether someone can write up work that will go through peer review, be published in a science journal, and be found useful by other researchers.

    Remember a paper need not be _right_ to be productive of useful research. But as long as it doesn’t suggest anything anyone wants to look into, it hasn’t been valued.

    Value = leads to useful and interesting research.

    Spencer Weart comments about how many papers there are that don’t lead to anything — but that scientists look back at older work when they have a new notion to see if anything previously published has value for them going forward.

  49. 149
    Guenter Hess says:

    #138 BPL
    I think it is the other way around. In a complex field like climatology no single person alone can cover the necessary physics or chemistry. This can be clearly seen in the fallacies you often find in the basic textbooks. Moreover, many experienced researchers like Maxwell are needed with their expertise in their respective field. A experienced researcher in one field might not see the big picture, but is able to point out where a complex model explains the data, but violates the underlying physics or even the “consensus” in physics.

  50. 150
    Martin Vermeer says:

    #135 Timo:

    Re 127. Martin, I’m a bit disappointed with you when you had not
    the belly to flat-out say that Climatology today is still about

    No, I didn’t use the word ‘probability’, and that is for a reason. Not all uncertainty can be described probabilistically — of some things we just plain don’t know the odds. Think nonlinear ice sheet behaviour.
    Then there are few things again that are simply not uncertain. You have two essentially different kinds of uncertainty: (1) uncertainty that antropogenic climate change is real, and (2) uncertainty on how serious it is. You endlessly go on about the second kind of uncertainty (which is very real, and works both ways), speculating readers will take away the first kind, on which in reality, as you well know, the train left the station long ago. This is a common denialist deceit, and you seem to have the ‘belly’ for it too.