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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. 151
    David B. Benson says:

    Steve Reynolds (134) — IPCC AR4 states, in effect, that the concensus view is that the climate sensitivity is at least 2 K with 95% confidence.

  2. 152
    Guenter Hess says:

    #146 [Nick Gotts]
    Otto Hahn as a chemist discovering nuclear fission made a significant contribution outside his field because he was very proficient in his area of expertise.

  3. 153
    Steve Reynolds says:

    SecularAnimist: “The entire argument for continuing to burn fossil fuels for even one more day is based on economic denial.”

    You are entitled to your opinion, but if we define climate denial as refusing to accept the overwhelming consensus of climate experts, and economic denial as refusing to accept the overwhelming consensus of economic experts, then your statement above clearly shows economic denial.

    [Response: Either talk specifics or don’t bother. Just calling people names is pointless. If you want a start, try discussing the tragedy of the commons and Stern’s statement about the current economic framework for fossil fuels being a “colossal market failure”. Given that climate change has an impact on the global economy, how should those costs be allocated to produce a equitable outcome? – gavin]

  4. 154
    Steve Reynolds says:

    David B. Benson: “IPCC AR4 states, in effect, that the concensus view is that the climate sensitivity is at least 2 K with 95% confidence.”

    I remember that being 1.5K. Do you have a page number?

  5. 155
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B., On the subject of outsiders contributing to a field. Certainly outsiders can bring fresh insight to a field. Several physicists contributed to biology after becoming disillusioned with physics in the post-Trinity world. The key is that they did so after an extended effort to educate themselves to understand the current state of the science. Climate science has been examined repeatedly by panels of outside experts–physicists, mathematicians, etc. from the National Academies, from professional societies and so on. Without exception, these exercises have been beneficial, and increased confidence in the state of the research.
    Unfortunately, there are some outsiders who assume that everything should make sense to them without their ever having cracked a book on their new field of endeavor. And for some reason, climate science tends to attract its share of these arrogant nutjobs.
    In the dark and distant past, I used to write for a popularized physics trade publication of the American Institute for Physics. About once a month, I’d get called to the front lobby or get a phone call from somebody who was absolutely convinced they’d disproved Einstein’s relativity. I guess they’d call on me because I’ve got a quiet, soothing voice and I can usually hide the fact that I think I’m dealing with a crazy person.
    Usually, the effort was rather sad–lots of simple math errors if there were any equations at all, clumsy, ill-informed arguments, or simple assertions that it must be wrong because “it didn’t make sense”. Sometimes it would take me awhile to spot the error, and sometimes when I spotted it, the guy (and it was always a guy) would nearly get violent.
    I never understood this phenomenon. I’ve brought it up multiple times to psychologists, because it really is a type of delusion. I never saw it in conjunction with any other physicist or subject in physics , though I think a lot of opposition to Darwin has similar roots. One theory I’ve had is that people hold in their mind the equation Einstein=genius, so if they’re smarter than Einstein, they must really be smart.
    I’ve seen the same sort of mania in the opposition of many laymen to climate science–perhaps because of its prominence in the news these days. I really think this sort of delusion–and many scientists/engineers from outside fields share it–may be as important for understanding opposition to climate science as the political aspects are.

  6. 156
    John Hollenberg says:

    Re: Steve, #153:

    “The equilibrium climate sensitivity is a measure of the
    climate system response to sustained radiative forcing.
    It is not a projection but is defi ned as the global average
    surface warming following a doubling of carbon
    dioxide concentrations. It is likely to be in the range
    2°C to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C, and is
    very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C.”


    Page 12.

    PS It took all of 2 minutes to find this information. Please check
    facts before you post.

  7. 157
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Steve, you want to talk “overwhelming consensus of economic experts”? Let’s hear what the global re-insurance industry has to say:

    Munich Re signs declaration issued by Global Roundtable on Climate Change

    …In the long term, global warming will lead to a further increase in weather-related natural catastrophes, the financial impact of which will have to be borne by insurers and the public. Rapid international action is called for…

    Tell me again, Steve: who’s in economic denial?

  8. 158
    Steve Reynolds says:

    SecularAnimist: “The entire argument for continuing to burn fossil fuels for even one more day is based on economic denial.”

    Specific point for discussion: What fraction of the human race would die of starvation if the above advice was followed?

  9. 159
    Steve Reynolds says:

    John Hollenberg: “It is likely to be in the range 2°C to 4.5°C…”

    Does the IPCC define ‘likely’ as 95% confidence?

  10. 160
    John Hollenberg says:

    Steve #159:

    “Does the IPCC define ‘likely’ as 95% confidence?”

    You can read the report for yourself to see the definitions. I have already pointed you to the proper link.

  11. 161
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Steve Reynolds @158: “What fraction of the human race would die of starvation if the above advice was followed?”

    Fair enough. What fraction of the human race would die of starvation if the above advice was not followed?

    You folks need new talking points, the ones you keep using are long past worn out.

  12. 162
    Tom Dayton says:

    RE: #117, 124, 130, Mars, Jupiter, etc.:

    Kevin, the paper about Jupiter’s climate change that started the recent hubbub is available on the author’s web site:

    Note that it’s not about global Jupiter warming, it’s about changes in the distribution of cold and warm. Also note that it’s 70 year cycles, not any time change in synchrony with Earth’s warming.

    More on Mars is here on RealClimate, but a bit as well in the reference list of cce’s site.

  13. 163

    Ray 155: you also get nutters who’ve overturned the laws of thermodynamics or conservation of energy (water4gas, overunity power). These people will not listen if you just explain laws of physics, you sometimes have to let them do the “experiment” and have it fail. Another classic: the assertion that someone has discovered a perfect compression algorithm, that will reduce the size of any file. Including one it has compressed itself. Spot the experiment to test that theory.

    But the problem in climate science is hard-core self delusion. Consider someone like Bob Carter who unless he has gone prematurely senile should have the scientific nous to know that talk of warming ending in 1998 (or 2002, the date shifts as new data comes in) is nonsense. This is not hard-core climate science, it’s elementary data analysis. Even I can do this with only a PhD in computer science, no climate science, very little data analysis background. I saw the same thing with the HIV doesn’t cause AIDS thing: people with the research credentials to know what they were talking about who nonetheless made claims that I as a nonspecial[stupid spam check]ist could easily debunk.

    Maybe the right strategy here rather than focusing on these people’s lack of appropriate credentials is to take apart the things they get wrong despite their credentials.

  14. 164
    pete best says:

    On carbon emissions: As far as I can tell everyone is waiting the for the market to come up with the solutions in the form of technology as no one seems willing to change their lifestyles accordingly in order to mitigate their so called carbon footprints.

    On the one hand the powers that be talk biofuel, CCS, and renewables etc whilst the market (which everyone seems to believe in as some kind of God) is postulating digging up the Arctic, deep water, GTL/CTL, and everywhere else to keep the oil flowing.

    I see not global strategy on AGW mitigation, I see not less planes in the air, no less airports or runways, more nuclear power which is not going to reduce CO2 emissions significantly enough and the clean up costs might even stop renewables from taking hold. Ok we have some talk of CSP technology in the new mexico and sahara deserts and shipping it around the first world via HVDC cables. Nice idea and it might work but on the car front we have competing technologies rather than working on one and we await the outcome of that come 10 years time.

    Can we really leave it to the market to resolve AGW, after all, wasn’t it the market that is causing the problem?

  15. 165

    Guenter Hess writes:

    Moreover, many experienced researchers like Maxwell are needed with their expertise in their respective field.

    Guenter, my innocent and trusting friend, what makes you think “maxwell” has any expertise at all? Because he says he does? He doesn’t say what field he has expertise in, and he doesn’t even give his full name. A lot of people come onto climate blogs or message boards and say “as a scientist, I feel…” or “as a physicist, I know…” and their messages show they are very unlikely to be any kind of scientist or physicist at all. Let maxwell state his full name, his field, and where he is employed, and I might take him seriously as a “researcher.”

  16. 166
    David says:

    Ray, climate science and Einstein are big attractions for cranks, but there are plenty of them in lots of other areas. In past few years I have seen
    (1) someone who was certain that if we just separated the electrons from the protons, nuclear fusion reactors would work
    (2) someone who thought that by arranging the coils in an electric motor slightly differently, the efficiency of the motor could be doubled
    (3) a proposal for a spinning disc which will convert amb-ient heat into electrical energy in violation of the second law.

    All these people have been absolutely convinced that they are right, in spite of obviously being entirely ignorant of the huge bodies of knowledge in their chosen field.

  17. 167
    David says:

    perhaps this is a bit late for you Ray, but one way of dealing with Einstein cranks is to politely take down their details. When the next person comes in, say “Actually, I know an expert in that field that would love to discuss this with you…”. I have heard of someone actually doing this.
    Unfortunately, this is unlikely to work in climate science because the cranks have a common agenda.

  18. 168

    More… one Vincent Gray (from memory — I didn’t have anything to write with at the time, but definitely someone from New Zealand) has appeared on talk radio in South Africa with some of the usual claims (as discussed elsewhere on this site) like that he’s an “expert reviewer for IPCC” and that it stopped warming 10 years ago. But here are some that are new on me: climate models all assume a flat earth, and that there is no difference between night and day.

    I mailed the presenter, Chris Gibbons — but if anyone else who is a real climate scientist would be willing to mail him and demand right of reply, that would be interesting.

    Unfortunately I did not catch the whole thing but heard enough to wonder how they screen their interviewees (Talk Radio 702 is actually one of the better radio stations in South Africa so this was rather disappointing).

  19. 169
    Lawrence Brown says:

    Regarding #78 and #98 suggesting that there is group think or a herd mentality shows a lack of understanding
    of why proponents of global warming believe the way they do.

    There has been a fairly steep rise in average temperature in the last 3 to 4 decades. The heat content of the ocean’s upper
    layers has increased over this same time period. Mountain glaciers, nearly everywhere have been shrinking at increasing rates,and arctic sea ice is melting, also at an accelerating pace. Greenland’s ice cap is doing the same. The diurnal temperature range is decreasing due to a quicker increase in night time over day time temperatures. Hurricane intensity is increasing( see Flora and fauna have been migrating to higher latitudes and to higher elevations. The average temperature of the globe has increased about 0.7C over the last century or so. These phenomena are based on observations.

    A well established principle of physics states that climate results in a balance between incoming solar energy and the amountof heat that planet radiates away to space. An atmosphere can absorb some of that outgoing energy, altering the energy balance which would keep that planet warmer than it would otherwise be- the greenhouse effect. These gases, primarily H2Oand CO2 makes Earth about 33C warmer than if these gases weren’t present. Changes in the amounts of these gases will change this number, and carefully measured values of CO2 show that this gas has increased significantly since the dawnof
    the industrial age.

    For the last 250 years or so we’ve been burning fossil fuels which releases carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide,
    CO2. About half of that carbon remains in the atmosphere resulting in an increase of about 115 ppmv of C02 since the
    start of the industrial revolution(from 270 to 385). From an examination of ice core data, this number is higher than it has
    been in at least the last half million years.Deforestation and land use practices also affect climate. These factors have to
    be taken into account to explain the recent changes in climate, described above.

  20. 170
    kevin says:

    Philip M.–you got the name right.
    Vincent Gray
    more on Vincent Gray

  21. 171
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Jim Eager: “What fraction of the human race would die of starvation if the above advice [ending all fossil fuel use in one day] was not followed?”

    I think I am in agreement with economic experts that a moderate mitigation (and adaptation) policy will minimize economic disruption from AGW. Things like a small carbon tax now (that increases with time if temperatures continue to increase rapidly) will reduce the least efficient uses of carbon and encourage investment in alternative energy. Assistance to poor people will help them adapt to higher sea levels or changing rainfall patterns.

    There is likely no need for anyone to starve.

  22. 172
    Hank Roberts says:

    > flat Earth

    That’s flat as in billiard ball, not flat as in Discworld.

    Careful not to exaggerate what’s already a misleading statement.

    Yes, early work didn’t take terrain into account.
    No, that’s not true any longer. Models describe how the Rocky Mountains affect European climate, how the Himalayas affect the planetary circulation, how closing the Panama and Gibraltar gaps changed ocean circulation.

    In other devastating critiques of science, it’s been reported that Benjamin Franklin didn’t know all that much about lightning, and George Washington’s dentists were not all that competent at crafting false teeth.

    Captcha oracle says: as elegance

  23. 173
    Ray Ladbury says:

    David and Philip, good points. I had always thought of the anti-thermo types as just scam artists. Still, when I was in the Peace Corps, one of the first conversations I had in French with a local was explaining to him why his perpetual motion machine wouldn’t work. He accepted it with some grace, though.
    Maybe the thing relativity, thermo and climate science all have in common is they are all telling people that there are some things they just can’t do (e.g. faster than light travel, energy from nothing and endlessly spew CO2 into the air with no consequence). And I guess evolution is telling creationists: Give it up–you’re always going to be as stupid as your father.

    Wow, the CAPTCHA code on this was MARKETS Jr. Maybe Hank’s on to something with his attribution of oracular powers.

  24. 174
    SecularAnimist says:

    Steve Reynolds wrote: “What fraction of the human race would die of starvation if the above advice was followed?”

    The excess CO2 that we have already put into the atmosphere has already ensured that hundreds of millions of people will die from starvation and/or dehydration during this century, as a direct result of the warming that has already occurred and the additional warming that is now unavoidable. The Himalayan glaciers will melt, and hundreds of millions of people in Asia will lose their supplies of fresh water for drinking and irrigation. Major agricultural regions of the world will become permanently arid. Ocean acidification will destroy the oceanic food web and with it a primary source of protein for millions of people. Many millions of people will be forced to evacuate densely populated coastal regions and will become starving, homeless refugees with nowhere to go. Every day that we continue burning fossil fuels increases this inevitable global warming death toll, and pushes the planet towards global ecological collapse and the extinction of the rich, diverse, robust biosphere of the Holocene.

    Failure to recognize these realities is what I refer to as “economic denial”. (Of course, there are those who think it a small price to pay for the trillion dollar profits of the fossil fuel industry.)

    On another level, “economic denial” means the failure to recognize that within a few years, wind and solar generated electricity will be cheaper than coal generated electricity, and much cheaper than the dwindling supplies of high-quality oil or prodigiously expensive, low-grade fossil fuels like tar sands and oil shale. Those who advocate continued investment in coal or nuclear generated electricity, or who advocate expanded drilling and mining for more fossil fuels to burn, are in a state of denial about the New Industrial Revolution of the 21st century, and the transition that is already underway to an energy economy that is no longer based on limited supplies of expensive fuels, but on an unlimited supply of free, abundant solar and wind energy.

  25. 175
    Paul Middents says:

    “This American Life” on NPR had a show (July 22) devoted to people with a little bit of knowlege. One segment featured an electrician who disproved Einstein and Newton. The persistance of his delusions reminded me of some of the climate cranks. You can listen to the episode here. It’s the segment titiled “Sucker MC-squared”.

  26. 176
    Hank Roberts says:

    Just a thought. Secular and Steve, you two could go back and forth endlessly, tag-team style, with worst-case speculation about what-if-this and what-if-that.

    I really wish you wouldn’t do that here. There are plenty of places where it’s encouraged — even organized, by people who do it as partners for fun.

    Doing that here doesn’t help us amateurs understand the science. All we understand is your ping-pong matchup.

    Elsewhere, please? Pick a spot and invite everyone …

  27. 177
    Rod B says:

    Gavin (in 153), I was taken aback by what sounds like a blatantly one-sided and biased response to Steve. It seems the criteria for anyone who deviates a tad from the accepted word is more stringent by magnitudes (I would not be troubled by “some” — I accept (and agree with) that you’re not in this business simply to be fair and balanced.) from what is applied to the supporters. […though perhaps I somehow misread your response, in which case: never mind…]

  28. 178
    cat black says:

    I am increasingly of the opinion, based on repeated observations, that a lot of denialists are shadow scientists occupying a realm of expertise that works for the common man in bar room conversations, but one that does not require the effort of having to actually study the universe or have your observations reviewed by your peers. That is, they sound like they know something (rumor) and can present their facts (opinions) with enough authority (ego) to fool those who don’t know any real scientists enough to have a benchmark for comparison or validation. Further, while they are passing themselves off as “smart guys” with their buddies, they probably envy anyone who is actually doing real science and as we can all attest envy can easily become hatred, and I suppose it often does in this case. This is compounded when real scientists come up with observations and theories about the universe that don’t suit the masses nor the media, and the “smart guys” who have nothing invested in the scientific process anyway are happy to take on those “egg-headed, near-sighted girly-men who read too much and who just want to sound important” and who are the ones really stirring the pot here, because everyone knows that all it takes is a little horse sense to see how the world works, you know, and all those degrees just cloud one’s reasoning and lead one to embrace communism.

    Maybe some University should offer a degree in Bar Room Physical Sciences to get these jarheads back into the system, as it were. Perhaps they’d be a little less confrontational if they felt they had a degree and a reputation on the line.


  29. 179
    catman 306 says:

    Can we really leave it to the market to resolve AGW, after all, wasn’t it the market that is causing the problem?

    Comment by pete best

    Of course the market will work. At least until the second last human dies from the advanced effects of global climate change.

  30. 180
    Rod B says:

    Ray (155), I tend to agree with all you say here. I’ve never claimed that either all of the outsider’s suggestions will be valid, or that there are not crackpots out there. I’m just saying the allowing (if not welcoming) scientists from outside the climatology field is probably beneficial to the study, and that building up a mouth-foaming lather that NO (that’s zero) WORTH HERE! to avoid the crackpots or to avoid hearing suggestions that differ from the beliefs is detremental to the study. (Avoiding crackpots might not be detremental, but there’s no practical way to identify them a priori.)

    I just don’t understand the overreaction to many things like the above. Overreactions always imply insecure defensiveness, which in turn hurts credibility. Philip (168) gets upset because Gray accuses the models of using a flat earth and no difference between night and day. Problem is, for the most part, at the base level GCMs use exactly that, which is very sensible with virtually no adverse mathematical effect (as far as I know), except in some unusual regional assessments, when those assumptions are modified. Maybe Gray made his accusation in a misleading demeanor, I don’t know. That would be worthy of refutation, but not a major war. [sidebar: Philip’s post is really not a very good example of my point. But it’s in the ballpark and it’s timely and handy.]

    [Response: Where are you getting this stuff? You’ve been here long enough that you could hazard a question or two and be reasonably sure of a good response. The GCMs do not posit a flat earth, and do not have ‘no difference’ between night and day. If people get annoyed at that kind of characterisation, it is because it’s complete garbage. It’s on a par with people claiming that models have 1 year timesteps because all they saw were annual numbers plotted on a graph (and that’s happened…). – gavin]

  31. 181
    Steve Reynolds says:

    SecularAnimist, I’m curious how you see any consistency in your definitions of denial:

    Apparently someone who disagrees with you and climate experts on climate science is a climate denialist, and someone who disagrees with you (but agrees with economic experts) on economic issues is an economic denialist.

    The only consistency I see there is whether or not they agree with you.

    Hank, this will be my last response to SA.

  32. 182
    R Simmon says:

    re: #80

    “it seems to me it would be helpful for a clear and simple rebuttal of these kinds of ideas to be published”

    One place to get a quick overview of some of the common “skeptical” claims is “Global Warming: Questions and Answers” on the NASA Earth Observatory (a site I help develop):

  33. 183
    Guenter Hess says:

    Barton Paul Levenson (#165),
    Barton Paul, I try to be positive and listen to everyone’s opinion. There is always value. From his wording, I think Maxwell is a researcher.
    For my experience research, development or engineering needs three things: knowledge, methods and social competence. Usually specific knowledge and specific methods might only get contributions from the experts in the field; however general scientific methods or general knowledge can and should be contributed by experts from other knowledge areas. Moreover, scientific methods in problem solving, how to carry out an experiment, statistics or programming, solving differential equations … can get contributions from a lot of different fields. That is especially true for applied sciences. Social competence can and should be contributed by everybody.

  34. 184
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts wrote: “Doing that here doesn’t help us amateurs understand the science.”

    Point taken and my apologies. I suppose I have become impatient with the seemingly endless “debates” about the science with denialists who have no intention of “understanding” it, while the reality is that the science is already sufficiently well understood so as to justify urgent action to phase out all fossil fuel use, and other activities that generate global warming pollution, as rapidly as possible. (And it could be done quite rapidly, along the lines of Al Gore’s recent proposal, without causing mass starvation, given the will.)

    I would humbly suggest that you consider the assertions in the first paragraph of my comment posted at 11:46AM today (currently #174), and ask yourself whether or not you think they are correct. If on balance you think they are likely to be correct, in light of current “understanding of the science”, then how much more “understanding of the science” is really needed, in order to get us to do what is necessary?

    Having said that, I do realize that this is a forum for discussing climate science per se, rather than for discussing technological and/or economic solutions to the global warming crisis, and will comment accordingly henceforth.

  35. 185
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Knowledgeable input (critical or laudatory) is always welcome. Input from an ignorant food tube too lazy to crack a book and learn something about the subject before spouting off is not welcome–and that does not change because said ignorant food tube has a PhD. Scientific method varies slightly from discipline to discipline. Bacon and Hume stressed repeatability to establish causality. So because we cannot repeat the conditions of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) exactly, should we conclude that we can never understand it? Science has grown to be able to accommodate such subjects because its methods have grown, and it is not fruitful to have those who have never used or even heard of such methods–who don’t know the difference between a dynamical and a statistical model–declare good science invalid or to cast aspersions on the folks doing it.

  36. 186
    John Mashey says:

    Well, Monckton stays in form:

    At SPPI, see “Chuck it, Smith” (to Arthur Smith).

    Chuck it Again, Schmidt”. Gavin’s efforts in “FalseClimate” are refuted, although of course no ad hominems are used. I only get a quick mention.

    [Response: That’s hilarious. Just his definition of what is ad hom kept me amused for minutes. Here are the terms he thought were unprintable: A link to Deltoid, “amusingly”, “his main error”, “So he makes another dodgy claim”, “There are many more errors in his piece”, “Umm… “, “bizarrely”, “Needless to say, the multiple errors completely undermine the conclusions regarding climate sensitivity.”. In toto, three adjectives, a vocal affect, a hyperlink, and 3 statements declaring His Vicountness to be in error. Am I alone in finding find him rather over-sensitive to crticism of his ideas on climate sensitivity? – gavin]

  37. 187
    Hank Roberts says:

    R. Simmon, thanks for the pointer to the Earthobservatory site. One question, that site

    “… there is just as much chance that the models are underestimating the severity of future warming as they are overestimating warming.”

    That puzzled me because it sounds like a bell curve.

    Compare that to this:
    July 29, 2008, 8:22 am

    He begins:
    Away from the headlines, there’s a really important discussion going on about how to think about the economics of climate change. The key player is Marty Weitzman, who has made a simple point (albeit using very, very difficult math) that’s nicely summarized at Env-Econ:

    “Climate change is fundamentally a problem about uncertainty. We are conducting an experiment with our planet by doubling CO2 levels in the atmosphere from pre-industrial levels. Concentrations have not been this high in hundreds of thousands of years. By and large, we don’t know much about the implications. Tackling this uncertainty is crucial. Extreme outcomes — fat tails — matter and should be at the heart of much of research.”

    ——–end of excerpt———
    (There are links on the original page to the source of the Weitzmann quote)

  38. 188
    David B. Benson says:

    Hank Roberts (187) — As best we currently understand the uncertainty, the Earthobservatory site has it wrong: the heavy tail is on the side of underestimation.

    [Captcha syas “limited bounties”. Make out of that what you will.]

  39. 189

    In re: 162

    On carbon emissions: As far as I can tell everyone is waiting the for the market to come up with the solutions in the form of technology as no one seems willing to change their lifestyles accordingly in order to mitigate their so called carbon footprints.

    And we’re already there, but there’s so much noise, including “we aren’t there yet”, that people just aren’t listening.

    All of this exists now, just go out and buy some.

    In response to the claim that we have to stop coal fired power tomorrow, I must agree with the “and how many people would die if we did that?” What we should do is stop building the stuff and insist on conservation measures to increase capacity reserve.

  40. 190
    Adam says:

    Mr. Monckton was kind enough to reply to my inquiry about his statement that there is no warming and in fact a cooling trend since 2001. Odd that he mentions the fact that one should not cherry pick, but still “cherry picks” 2001???

    “One should not cherry-pick one’s years: the correct approach is to calculate the trend over a period of several years by linear regression. Linear regressions on the temperature record since late 2001 for four major datasets – GISS, UAH, RSS, and Hadley – all show a pronounced downtrend. This is uncontroversial, but not at all well known because the media find it very hard to believe that during the years of hype about “global warming” the globe has in fact been cooling. The cooling between January 2007 and January 2008 was the greatest since records began in 1880. All of this is clearly set out, with the four linear regression graphs, in my paper Clinate Sensitivity Reconsidered, published this month in Physics and Society. The year 2005, which you mention, was a more than averagely intense El Nino year, though not of the same magnitude as 1998. We are now nearing the end of a la Nina, which has a cooling effect on global temperatures; and of an unusually prolonged solar minimum (ditto); and the Pacific decadal oscillation has now moved to its cooling phase. These natural signals, between them, have proven more than enough to overcome the comparatively weak forcing from increases in anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The cooling does not prove that CO2 cannot cause warming – it is reasonably well settled science that it does. The central question (addressed in some detail in my paper) is how much warming will a given increase in CO2 concentration cause? Based on the current literature, the warming effect is likely to be small: and the significance of the seven-year cooling trend is that it points toward a far lower climate sensitivity than that imagined (on no good evidence) by the IPCC. – M of B”

  41. 191
    John Mashey says:

    re: #186
    Monckton introduces a fascinating concept:

    a) If a piece contains numerous errors and outright silliness

    b) And someone picks a few to refute

    c) Anything not mentioned must be *true* and irrefutable!

    This is in the section called
    “The Schmidt who did not bark in the night-time”.

    “The Schmidt” did not refute the idea that computer models failed to predict “global warming on Mars”, hence models clearly don’t work :-)

    [Response: And did you note that we are on a ‘lavishly funded blog’? (I hope everyone is appropriately appreciative of the gold trim and luxury facilities – the sidebar came from Harrods you know….). :-) – gavin ]

  42. 192
    Buck Smith says:

    Is Monckton correct in claiming that the GCMs sum forcings and feedbacks as in Control Systems Theory (he refers to Bode)?

    [Response: Not really. The feedback analysis is just a way to diagnose what the GCMs are doing – what they actually do is governed by the physics they contain. – gavin]

    Do Modelers believe feedbacks can cause the Earth’s climate to be unstable or to “run away”?

    [Response: Not under present conditions, no. Though it is likely that some hundreds of millions of years ago, we did enter into a ‘Snowball Earth’ condition. And in hundreds of millions of years hence, the sun will become a red giant and boil away the oceans (at which point you might get a runaway effect). But right now? Not a chance. – gavin]

    Thanks for any guidance,

  43. 193
    tamino says:

    Re: #190 (Adam)

    Monckton says:

    Linear regressions on the temperature record since late 2001 for four major datasets – GISS, UAH, RSS, and Hadley – all show a pronounced downtrend.

    Wrong. NONE of them even shows a statistically significant downtrend. For GISS and UAH, the trend isn’t even statistically significant if you model the errors as white noise — so Monckton can’t even excuse this ludicrous falsehood by claiming statistical naivete.

    Monckton says:

    The cooling between January 2007 and January 2008 was the greatest since records began in 1880.

    Only for GISS data. For HadCRU, it’s Feb. 1973 to 1974, for both UAH and RSS it’s April 1998 to 1999. I guess when Monckton said “One should not cherry-pick” he was excluding himself from that prohibition. And of course, it’s typical of the most ignorant of denialists to focus on temperature change for a single year.

    Monckton says:

    Pacific decadal oscillation has now moved to its cooling phase…

    Wrong. It’s entered it’s *cool* phase, not its *cooling* phase. This is one of the favorite memes of denialists.

    Monckton says:

    … the significance of the seven-year cooling trend is that it points toward a far lower climate sensitivity than that imagined (on no good evidence) by the IPCC.

    Wrong. The significance of the seven-year “cooling trend” is that it reveals how denialists focus on propaganda points rather than valid statistical analysis. I guess that’s all Monckton is capable of.

  44. 194
    Steve Reynolds says:

    gavin: “Am I alone in finding find him rather over-sensitive to crticism of his ideas on climate sensitivity?”

    Oversensitive? Probably, but what seems inappropriate may depend on which side you are on. I have had a number of comments rejected here that seemed to me to be pretty mild. And I see many comments that appear to me to viciously attack ‘enemies of the cause’ that are allowed to be posted.

    [Response: The issue is content. Stating the same thing again is dull if you don’t back it up with substance. Don’t get drawn into snappy back and forths (and this goes for others too). The level of conversation here is somewhat higher than elsewhere and we’d like to keep it that way. – gavin]

  45. 195
    Russell Seitz says:

    Gavin, as to the cliche-spouting about flat earth models, the deliberate confusion of 1-D models and GCM’s in the popular imagination goes back to the selling of the TTAPS ‘Nuclear Winter’ model as the macguffin in the Cold War film “Threads”

    Unlike GCM’s with nifty map animations of parameters like optical depth it only drew static XY plots of time-temperature curves , so to get ‘nuclear winter ”s optical depth 20 apocalypse ready for prime time ,the ,pardon the expression, Freeze Movement, retained the Creative Department of Porter Novelli to air-brush some 70’s Whole Earth images flat blackfrompoletoequator.

    These were bandied about in the pages of Parade, C. Sagan,Science Editor, and shown time and again on the evening news and The Tonight Show, becoming utterly famous in the process.

    None of the 3-D GCM refinements which cut the effect from the global deep freeze merchandised in 1984-6, to the pale and thoroughly defosted shadow of the effect Robock is still trying to flog benefited from adequate advertising , so the only collective memory of the meltdown relates to complaints that a flat out 1-D radiative transfer model was used to sell 40 days and 40 nights of biblical catastrophe as a policy concept without mentioning that the model had dispensed with sunrise and sunset along with the thermal mass of the ocean.

    Many in DC were not amused and said so, Al Gore included , and the bipartisan huff lives on as the critique of nuclear winter as an imposed urban myth of the cold war spills over into the current generation.

    Now as then, it isn’t enough to get the sign right. In the face of persistent hype folks will eventually get testy and start asking for two significant digits. Some may even question the authority of those unable to provide them.

  46. 196
    Rod B says:

    Gavin (180), all the analyses I’ve seen, at least at the basic level, show incoming insolation at about 340watts/square meter, not the ~1360 that it actually is. That’s because… (I can’t believe I’m explaining this) it makes no difference over long climatic periods and is easier to handle and to relate to outgoing IR radiation if one flattens the sphere (and equivalently quartering the insolation), making it, well, flat instead of spherical, and eliminating the difference between night and day. What am I missing here?

    [Response: That’s fine for back of the envelope calculations – but it’s useless for the Arctic, for diurnal temperature ranges, for tropical precipitation patterns etc. etc. GCMs need to calculate the weather otherwise their statistics for storm tracks, rainfall, winds etc would all be way off. It’s true that most GCM papers don’t show sub-monthly output, but that’s not because they don’t produce it. Quite a number of the AR4 analyses used it for instance to look for MJO patterns and the like. – gavin]

  47. 197
    Rod B says:

    Ray (185), I agree. But you gave me a good example. There are, in fact a whole lot of scientists and mathematicians outside the field of climatology who understand models forward and backward and the difference between dynamic and statistical modelling. I think they could very well question/ask about GCMs beneficially. And, as I said, if you only knew who the real crackpots are up front, it would be easy — but you don’t.

  48. 198
    David says:

    Re:#193 (tamino)

    Yes, the skeptics are always WRONG. So what type of scenario would make climate science WRONG on the global temperature issue?

  49. 199
    Buck Smith says:

    And in hundreds of millions of years hence, the sun will become a red giant and boil away the oceans (at which point you might get a runaway effect).

    I dont think that is runaway effect from feedbacks. ;) That is more like what we call servo control. I intend to be chillin’ out a safe distance past pluto when that happens ;)

  50. 200
    Rod B says:

    Adam (190), et al, is Monckton incorrect in his temperature analysis? I’m not asking if it is inappropriate, but incorrect. Nor am I asking about his opinions and assertions re interpretations or his other seemingly goofy comments — just his mathematical assessment of the temperature since 2000-1.