### 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. 301
Rod B says:

Hank (297), that is good!

2. 302
John Hollenberg says:

This is a simple yes/no question: has Rod B. posted more than 20 responses trying to beat to death a question the answer to which is meaningless?

Bonus question (also yes/no): has he managed to waste an inordinate amount of time of people who have a lot to contribute on the actual topic of this web site, climate change?

PLEASE do not give a reason why this question is or is not relevant. I just want a simple yes or no!

3. 303
Timothy Chase says:

SecularAnimist wrote in 292:

An extended discussion of parapsychology would be wildy off-topic and inappropriate for this forum…

I certainly think so. However, a demonstration would be handsomely rewarded here:

One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge
James Randi Educational Foundation
http://www.randi.org/joom/challenge-info.html

4. 304
Hank Roberts says:

I just did what I do whenever there’s a good opportunity — watching Alpha / Zarya / the ISS cross my nighttime sky.

http://www.n2yo.com/ pick your location, check ‘5 day prediction’

Can’t miss recognizing the Station, if you can see even the brightest few stars behind the skyglow. Any pass showing a local magnitude near 0 or negative — basically any more than 20 or 25 degrees above your local horizon — will be unmistakable.

Don’t miss seeing it. It’s the only one we’ve got.

5. 305

Rob B.’s question about recent temperature trends is a valid one. I realize that some here are apprehensive about his motives – understandable, given how many “skeptics” bend and misquote the facts – but if we are to retain the scientific high ground here, we must look at the facts themselves and build our argument on them. How else can we convince others that we are right (well, through propaganda, but I prefer not to go down that road…)?

According to the data I crunched, there has been a downward trend in recent years. We must acknowledge that before we present our larger arguments – that this isn’t sufficient to represent a reversal of the trend – because climate skeptics are using that to present the whole theories surrounding global warming as wrong. I’ve seen it numerous times on their website, and those who buy into their propaganda frequently link to them. This is the “hottest” issue among global warming skeptics right now (if you forgive the pun).

I would like to see a post by RealClimate on the recent short-term cooling, and its significance on Global Warming (or rather, it’s lack of it), since that would allow me to have something I could link to in return.

[Response: We’ve addressed this previously here and here. – mike]

6. 306
Martin Vermeer says:

#302 John Hollenberg:

This is a simple yes/no question: has Rod B. posted more than 20 responses trying to beat to death a question the answer to which is meaningless?

Yes.

Bonus question (also yes/no): has he managed to waste an inordinate amount of time of people who have a lot to contribute on the actual topic of this web site, climate change?

No. [Hint: waste != expend. Many, many readers honestly don’t “get” statistical significance. But I would agree that the explanations could have been tailored for those readers, rather than for the intentionally dense original questioner. Heck, now I answered more than 1/0 — no apology forthcoming :-) ]

7. 307
Martin Vermeer says:

SecularAnimist #292, very true, very observant, and very necessary — in spite of being nominally OT.

Thank you, and thanks to the moderators!

Timothy (#303): it all depends on the rules, doesn’t it?

8. 308

John Mathon, With your post, I believe we have very nearly completed the map of the Denialist Memome. In your single, we have one-stop shopping for ignorant denialist talking points
1)the warming is insignificant and short-term (wrong–it is part of a trend thatgoes back to the onset of the industrial age)
2)It has stopped warming (wrong)
3)models are unreliable and tuned (wrong–why don’t you learn the difference between a statistical and a dynamical model)
4)It’s all natural
5)CO2 is only a minor greenhouse gas
6)all the feedbacks are negative

If you’d only thrown in cosmic rays, and the meme about CO2 and a warmer world being good for us, you’d have exhausted them all. I suggest that you contact the denialist mother ship for information on these.

9. 309
Martin Vermeer says:

But Juergen (305), you use the term “trend” contrary to the usage by the rest of the scientific community… surely a fruitful debate requires use of accepted terminology? Please use “regression coefficient” or whatever. It doesn’t become a trend until it reaches significance.

10. 310
dhogaza says:

We must acknowledge that before we present our larger arguments – that this isn’t sufficient to represent a reversal of the trend – because climate skeptics are using that to present the whole theories surrounding global warming as wrong. I’ve seen it numerous times on their website, and those who buy into their propaganda frequently link to them. This is the “hottest” issue among global warming skeptics right now (if you forgive the pun).

Let them dig that hole as deep as they want (but as martin say, please don’t misuse the word “trend”).

Because when the next El Niño hits, this whole line of argument’s going to bite them in the ass, and there’s been so much posted so widely over the “significance” of short-term variation that they’ll never be able to disown it.

11. 311

Johann Hari of The Independent (U.K.), who spent a month travelling on the delta of Bangladesh, wrote an extensive, poignant and very graphic article on the effects of the sea level rise that has already occurred there:

12. 312

Re: #309

OK, “regression coefficient” – sorry about that. English is not my native language, and while I do work in a scientific field, I don’t use all that much statistics in it and so wasn’t sure of the precise word.

But this raises another important point: How to explain scientific jargon to laypeople. I understand why my use of “trend” in that instance was wrong, but how can you explain that to someone without scientific training? To give another example, I still wince when I remember the numerous times I read someone posting on other forums: “Evolution hasn’t been proved, it’s just a theory.” Having to explain what a “theory” means in the sciences over and over again is extremely frustrating – and that’s part of the dilemma.

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote: “Any scientist who can’t explain to an eight-year-old what he is doing is a charlatan.” While our target audience is not eight-year-olds, the average member of the public still only has a limited amount of attention to spare. And if we need to explain the jargon before we start explaining the facts while the “skeptics” can immediately start their easily digestible propaganda, we will have already lost.

13. 313
Hank Roberts says:

> OK, “regression coefficient” … “trend” in that instance was wrong,

This is where editing the thread is about the only answer. It’d mean getting you, and Rod, both to agree where to go back and strike out one word, insert the other in square brackets, and add a footnote marker to the explanation.

I think if the two of you could, it would show where early on in the exchange the misunderstanding occurred and why it lasted til now.

14. 314

SecularAnimist writes:

And yet, I would not be surprised if the majority of the scientists and science-minded laypersons who participate in this site, would react to the mention of parapsychology much as Mr. Levenson has with his quite incorrect characterization of the state of that science — with an a priori rejection of the reality of phenomena that challenge their world view, an inclination to reject the results of decades of scientific research with which they are actually unfamiliar, and a suspicion that the whole subject is the work of frauds or incompetents or “spiritualists” or Uri Geller or the “X-Files” or whatever. If this is your reaction, you might ask yourself honestly whether you would be easily able to undertake a dispassionate, impartial, open-minded examination of the subject.

I can, but you apparently can’t. Your whole approach has been one big ad hominem argument — scientists reject ESP because it threatens their worldview. You know what? That’s especially untrue for me, because I happen to believe in ESP! I’ve had psychic experiences myself.

What I do NOT have is reproducible evidence that such experiences exist. Nor do you. Nor does Jessica Utts. All the statements that ESP has been “scientifically proved” comes from ESP researchers with an axe to grind. Any other scientist examining the field seems to disagree. There was a reason the parapsychologists got kicked out of the AAAS, and it wasn’t closed-mindedness on the part of the other scientists.

I haven’t mischaracterized the state of the science at all. You have. There simply isn’t any good evidence of ESP. There are tons of anecdotal evidence and lots of experiments with crummy controls, like Rhine’s stuff from the ’30s that so impressed Robert Heinlein and others. And as I said, every time controls are tightened, the effect disappears.

15. 315
Timothy Chase says:

Martin Vermeer wrote in 306:

Timothy (#303): it all depends on the rules, doesn’t it?

Let’s see…

From the James (and truly “Amazing”) Randi challenge for demonstrating the existence of psychic ability:

1. This is the primary and most important of these rules: Applicant must state clearly in advance, and applicant and JREF will agree upon, what powers and/or abilities will be demonstrated, the limits of the proposed demonstration (so far as time, location and other variables are concerned) and what will constitute both a positive and a negative result.

2. Only an actual performance of the stated nature and scope, within the agreed-upon limits, will be accepted. Anecdotal accounts or records of previous events are not accepted nor considered.

Application for Status of Claimant
The Sixteen Official Rules Governming the JREF Challenge
http://www.randi.org/joom/challenge-application.html

From the Junk Science challenge for demonstrating the existence global warming:

2. Entrants acknowledge that the concepts and terms mentioned and referred to in the UGWC hypotheses are inherently and necessarily vague, and involve subjective judgment. JunkScience.com reserves the exclusive right to determine the meaning and application of such concepts and terms in order to facilitate the purpose of the contest.

3. JunkScience.com, in its sole discretion, will determine the winner, if any, from UGWC entries. All determinations made by JunkScience.com are final.

http : //ww w.ultimateglobalwarmingchallenge.com/

Yes, I believe it does.

The challenge given by the James Randi Educational Foundation is one of objectivity and testability, whereas the Junk Science challenge is involking rules defined by means of concepts and terms which are self-admittedly “inherently and necessarily vague, and involve subjective judgment” and where Junk Science “reserves the exclusive right to determine the meaning and application of such concepts and terms.”

*

SecularAnimist appealed to the authority of statician Jessica Utts who argued for the existence of small to medium remote viewing ability during the Stargate Project funded by the CIA and DIA. Her findings were opposed by fellow evaluator Dr. Ray Hyman. Funding for the project was discontinued after both findings were issued.

*

Our understanding of global warming is supported by a wealth of data. Climatology is roughly on par with evolutionary biology. Both are well-integrated with our scientific understanding of the world. No such claim can be made of psychic phenomena. Now if someone is ignorant of the science — your regular off-the-street Joe Blow — his dismissal of global warming may be roughly comparable to his dismissal of psychic phenomena, and may perhaps be partly reinforced by his politics — with some vague “us vs. them” view of the world that influences his take on some issues in science.

Likewise, for a while, prior to looking into the science, I had ideological reasons for dismissing global warming as an Objectivist, “despite” the fact that I hadn’t really looked into it. Objectivists “pride” themselves on their “objectivity,” but they tend to dismiss science which think incompatible with their philosophy (usually their a prioristically understood metaphysics), e.g., quantum mechanics, special relativity and general relativity. But I accepted all three — and had actually picked up and read textbooks on these subjects prior to becoming interested in Objectivism.

However, there are many Joe Blow Objectivists who don’t take the time to learn any of the science and they end up supporting to some extent psuedo-scientists who argue for some alternative to mainstream science in those areas. At this point we are talking about ideological blinders similar to what SecularAnimist was proposing.

*

But I would argue that in the give-and-take of internet debate where people are repeatedly exposed to a vast array of evidence, particularly in the the context of climatology and evolutionary biology, mere ignorance soon gives way to willful ignorance. We’ve seen the fallacies, the repetition of failed arguments, the willingness to buy into anything which might seem to support their views and the willingness to dismiss everything else.

We have seen that those who are active in the debate for a while become invested in the denial of the science. The creationists who actively debate and are invested in the denial of evolutionary biology, the denialists who deny the connection between AIDS and HIV, and even those who were active in denying the connection between secondhand smoking and its health effects. And there is also the overlap between these different categories. An individual who is inclined to deny well-established science in one area is often inclined to deny it in others.

For example, Phil(l)ip E. Johnson – an old earth creationist who fathered the intelligent design movement – is also an HIV causes AIDS denier who apparently entertains quasi-conspiratorial notions as to why mainstream medicine (“the medical establishment”) embraces the view that HIV causes AIDS. He has signed his name to a list that now includes over 11,000 signatories denying the well-established scientific link between HIV and AIDS.

Roy Spencer is an AGW denialist, but he is also a proponent of Philip E. Johnson’s intelligent design — and thus an evolutionary biology denialist. The Heartland Institute is a “secondhand smoke” denialist organization that later became AGW-denialist as well.

Such individuals give their allegiance to some value, tribe, authority or rebellion against an authority precedence over their adherence to reality. Once they have done this, they find it far easier to subvert their objectivity in other areas by placing evaluation before identification.

Now you may ask whether I am entirely closed to the possibility that some sort of psychic phenomena might exist. No, I am not. But currently I believe there is no scientific support for the phenomena. And if it existed, there would have to be a causal, scientific explanation for its existence, integrable with the rest of our scientific understanding. Science is a unity because reality is a unity. As I see things at present, it is not the belief in anthropogenic global warming which is equivalent to the belief in psychic phenomena, but the belief in an alternative to anthropogenic global warming which is equivalent to the belief in psychic phenomena, e.g., the sun is doing it — even though evidence and even the principles of physics points to the contrary.

16. 316
Timothy Chase says:

PS to my post 315 above

A quick aside regarding objectivity and psychic phenomena. I obviously do not believe in the existence of psychic phenomena. However, I believe that even given the current state of science, on the basis of one’s own personal experience, one could believe in the existence of psychic phenomena and still be objective.

Objectivity consists first and foremost of the relationship between the individual and reality where the individual chooses to place nothing above their adherence to reality, that is, the process of identification itself. The objectivity institutionalized by science is a derivative, social application of this.

Of course, if someone fingering the sun as culprit for late twentieth century warming chose to do so on the basis of their psychic ability, I don’t think they should expect anyone else to take their claims seriously.

17. 317
David B. Benson says:

Could we take ESP elsewhere?

Save this site for climatology?

Thank you.

18. 318
Mark says:

Rod B, I’ve taken daily average temp from 2002 and another from 2008 and the 2008 temperature is about 8 degrees higher.

I will leave it to you to prove it wrong. Hint: find out which day I used in 2002.

Jurgen, #312: Well, how do you explain the atomic excitation of lasers to someone who doesn’t know even junior school physics?

Monkton isn’t a neophyte at statistics. RodB says he did the work so must not be ignorant of statistics. And your Kurt quote is irrelevant: we don’t HAVE 8 year olds to explain to: we have completely grown up adults. Telling kids what we do is REALLY simple:

1) We burn the oil
2) The oil when burned makes a blanket around the earth
3) The earth warms up
4) People will die or have to move

Telling people like RobB and Monkton is more difficult because they demand more detail. Detail an 8-year-old would not know how to ask.

In short, the GW arguments are very easy to explain to kids. The denialists arguments are all on elements far too complicated to explain to a kid.

Who do you think is the charlatan?

19. 319
Timothy Chase says:

David B. Benson wrote in 317:

Could we take ESP elsewhere?

Save this site for climatology?

Thank you.

Works for me…

20. 320

Who do you think is the charlatan?

Monckton, of course. As I have shown.

But that’s beside the point – I think the scientific jargon hinders us in the debate to some degree. After all, our goal is not to convince Monckton, who is likely beyond convincing. Our goal is to convince the public that Monckton is wrong – but to do this, we first have to explain all sorts of basic information about statistics in general. And how can we do that without either boring or overwhelming them with technical details – and thus losing them to the other side?

That’s what I am wondering about…

21. 321
Hank Roberts says:

Rod, want to be our test pilot for this effort? We’re sincere.
Both those who really understand statistics, and bystanders like me.
Aiming for interaction, not mere collision and rebound.
This likely isn’t the place. Someone will offer to host the effort.

22. 322

315. Surely science is not a unity. If one goes to the heart of current physics, for example, one finds that the basic orders implied in relativity theory and in quantum theory are qualitatively in complete contradiction. Relativity requires strict continuity, strict causality and strict locality in the order of the movement of particles and fields. In essence, quantum mechanics implies the opposite. However, what they have in common is an unbroken wholeness. According to Bohm (in the Undivided Universe), for example, the principal difficulty in the attempt to make theoretical physics coherent is the mathematical notion of a point in space-time without extension or duration. This notion has reached its limits of usefulness and validity.

Given the inherent pathology at the heart of what some may regard as one of the more rigorous sciences, and the impasse currently being faced in taking that particular discipline forward, is it not premature to suggest a broader unity across science?

23. 323
Timothy Chase says:

315. Surely science is not a unity. If one goes to the heart of current physics, for example, one finds that the basic orders implied in relativity theory and in quantum theory are qualitatively in complete contradiction.

What then is relativistic quantum mechanics?

Relativity requires strict continuity, strict causality and strict locality in the order of the movement of particles and fields. In essence, quantum mechanics implies the opposite.

As it was formulated as a semi-classical theory, yes, it required continuity and determinism. Relativistic quantum mechanics and relativistic quantum field theory do not. Quantum mechanics demonstrated the complementarity of particle and wave interpretations of both energy and matter, but this required bringing in a probablistic understanding of causality.

Now with regard to strict localism, quantum mechanics does not violate the causal relationship in which a cause must precede its effect. It does however appear to introduce non-local coherences that cannot be explained by means of a hidden variable theory — as suggested by Bell’s Theorem. But such coherences do not permit useful information to travel faster than the speed of light — as would be required for the creation of a grandfather paradox. They would simply demonstrate that a metaphysics based upon strict localism do not apply to our universe. Counterintuitive? Undoubtedly.

Bell showed that under quantum mechanics, which lacks local hidden variables, the inequalities (the correlation limit) may be violated. Instead, properties of a particle are not clear to verify in quantum mechanics but may be correlated with those of another particle due to quantum entanglement, allowing their state to be well defined only after a measurement is made on either particle. That restriction agrees with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, a fundamental and inescapable concept in quantum mechanics….

Bell test experiments to date overwhelmingly show that Bell inequalities are violated. These results provide empirical evidence against local realism and in favor of QM. The no-communication theorem proves that the observers cannot use the inequality violations to communicate information to each other faster than the speed of light.

Wikipedia: Bell’s Theorem

*

With respect to the advanced theories of physics, e.g., general relativity and quantum mechanics, it is worthwhile keeping in mind that while they are certainly represent advances in our scientific knowledge, their ascendance does not mean the complete invalidation of the theories which came before them. The body of knowledge represented by newton’s gravitational theory is still knowledge, but as an approximation of general relativity which holds for smaller masses over larger distances. In fact, in the construction of general relativity (for example, Schwartzchild’s solution — the simplest solution to Einstein’s field equations), one must appeal to a correspondence principle in order to solve for one last constant. In this sense, the “replacement” of newton’s gravitational theory by general relativity did not mean that everything we once knew is no longer true, but only that it is an approximation which is applicable within certain domains but not in others. General relativity is an advance and involves the accumulation of more knowledge, not the invalidation of everything we claimed to know by means of newton’s gravitational theory. Moreover, similar principles of correspondence exist between quantum mechanics and classical mechanics and between special relativity and classical mechanics.

Scientific theories are a form of knowledge, but they are a form of corrigible knowledge — and science itself is a falliblistic, self-correcting endeavor — in which progress is real, and knowledge is cummulative despite the errors which may be made along the way.

So as not to repeat myself, I will refer you back to an earlier comment of mine here regarding the argument that scientific theories receive justification and are consequently a form of knowledge:

Do Scientific Theories Ever Receive Justification?
A Critique of the Principle of Falsifiability
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/11/bbc-contrarian-top-10/#comment-68052

*

One of the points which is also worth keeping in mind at this point that properly there is a distinction which needs to be made between the form and the material of knowledge. For example, the language in which Newton’s gravitational theory was expressed was that of a flat space with absolute time – and gravitational forces. However, it is possible to express the theory in terms of a curved spacetime – in which the curvature exists only between the the dimensions of space and the dimension of time, but not between different dimensions of space where gravitational forces are no longer necessary. Similarly, I understand that general relativity may be expressed in terms of a flat spacetime with gravitational forces. Shifting between these two languages is much like a shift between polar and Cartesian coordinate systems.

But why do we use one language in the case of one theory and a different one in case of the other? Because the equations would become unwieldy and calculations would become extremely difficult – that is, for the same reason that one might use Cartesian coordinates for one problem, but polar coordinates for another. The language in which each theory is expressed is the language which is appropriate to that theory. Moreover, given the language in which general relativity is expressed, it is the simplest theory which fits all of the available, relevant evidence.

When a given theory (such as Newton’s gravitational theory or classical mechanics) has stood test of a great deal of time and a great many experiments, it qualifies as a form of knowledge. Moreover, we have every reason to believe that if and when it is superseded by some later theory, much of the content of the original theory will be preserved in the more advanced one, although the form in which it is expressed may be quite different. Such is the meaning of the correspondence principles relating special relativity to classical mechanics, general relativity to Newton’s gravitational theory, and quantum mechanics to classical mechanics.

*

According to Bohm (in the Undivided Universe), for example, the principal difficulty in the attempt to make theoretical physics coherent is the mathematical notion of a point in space-time without extension or duration. This notion has reached its limits of usefulness and validity.

Perhaps at some level of description (e.g., the Planck-Wheeler scale) it will be necessary for a theory to abandon it — strictly speaking. But if so, the theory will have to such that the classical description of our world is nevertheless recoverable by means of a correspondence principle, otherwise there will be no meaningful way in which such a theory can be related to our world where we perform science, and build and use instruments to discover what it is that that theory describes.

*

Given the inherent pathology at the heart of what some may regard as one of the more rigorous sciences, and the impasse currently being faced in taking that particular discipline forward, is it not premature to suggest a broader unity across science?

Just because we do not know everything does not mean that we know nothing. Just because we may be in error sometimes does not mean that we may be in error all the time. All science is related inasmuch as it is knowledge concerning the world in which we live and which we must be able relate back to our level of existence if it is to be regarded as meaningful. To suggest otherwise is indicative of either a self-referentially incoherent pathology known as radical skepticism, or what is more likely, sophistry.

*

24. 324
Rod B says:

Hank (321), I don’t know what effort you mean…

25. 325
John Mathon says:

John Mathon: That is unprecedented and it would mean the NAO/AMO, PDO phenomenon would magically just disappear, that we would have no more unexplained pauses in temperature for the next 90 years as temperatures soared unlike ever before in recorded history.

Gavin: [Response: There’s no reason to think natural variability disappears – but yes, such a temperature change would clearly be unprecedented. Possibly that’s why people want to avoid it? – gavin]

Gavin, the reason people don’t believe such apocalyptic predictions and bizarre changes in behavior is partly because such predictions in the past have been so wrong. Malthus, Ehrlich, Club of Rome, anti-nuclear power wackos, pop up in my mind. These people and many others in history have predicted doom time and time again. Even religious leaders saying the world was going to end in 2000 or 2012 or whatever. We’ve had so much of this doomsaying and it is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS WRONG. Amazingly wrong. Every 10 or so years Ehrlich predicts 50% of the worlds species will be extinct and every 10 years he reissues the threat only to find that there is no apparent decrease in species every time. The anti-nuclear power folks told us that nuclear power was dangerous and yet its proven to be the safest form of energy ever invented. The club of rome told us we’d be out of oil by now or dead from pollution or living in poverty. None of that happened even though they were from MIT and used the most sophisticated computer models of the time. These people are ALWAYS WRONG. Instead of apocalypse the world is better off than ever. I know there is a large segment of the population (not a majority but a significant number of people) who want to believe in apocalypse and that everything is going to a handbasket but the FACT is that it isn’t. The world is demonstrably richer in every conceivable way. A recent satellite survey showed that life on the planet earth has increased 20% in the last 40 years. An astonishing result considering all we hear from the environmental extremists and our press is that life is dying everywhere. The disconnect of reality and these predictions of doom is just mind boggling. Many people are just obsessed with thinking things are going to H***. However, every statistic and fact belies that this is false. We are richer, fewer starving people, more food, more everything. Something like 20 million people have been coming out of poverty yearly for decades. The death rate from natural disasters has fallen 99+% in the last 100 years. If you ask most people they think natural disasters are worse and more deadly. The fact is exactly the opposite in a phenomenal way. The facts are that deaths from natural disasters are the single thing we as humans have been best as solving more than ANYTHING else and yet this is the thing eco-wackos tell us is going to kill us. The very thing we are best at and that we are most capable of reducing is the thing that is claimed is going to kill us and the amazing thing is people believe it!

The world isn’t dying and the temperatures aren’t soaring out of control, they are actually declining for the last 10 years! CO2 is a plant nutrient and everything we look at says that the increasing CO2 in the atmosphere has been a net positive for life on the planet earth. The moderate and more or less continuous temperature increases since 1750 been good for humanity and every living thing on the planet.

I am sorry Gavin but these apocalyptic visions are false just as Malthus and just as Club of Rome and just as Ehrlich. Stopping building nuclear reactors because people told us it was too dangerous is ironic because it is the same people who are telling us that the resultant CO2 (from not building nuclear reactors) is going to kill us. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. We have now started burning our food supply to prevent global warming only to erase 30 years of poverty improvement. People told us preventing global warming would save lives but the very first thing we do to stop global warming puts 1 BILLION people’s lives at risk for starvation and plunges millions of people into poverty! Yet we are told by people who project unmitigated and unprecedented temperature increases for 90 years that we need to reduce CO2 (a plant food) to save the planet from starvation. The irony couldn’t be more extreme. Also, Ironically it is the people who were trying to save us from nuclear power that put us in this situation where we had to burn so much fossil fuel.

I want to make clear I have absolutely NO objection to the theory of global warming. I am perfectly happy to accept AGW or any warming if it is proved. It obviously can’t be proved or you or somebody from the pro-AGW position would have put a paper in the newsletter of the APS demonstrating such a proof. The mere fact that such a paper has not been produced and can’t be produced is irrefutable evidence that such a proof is impossible therefore the science of AGW and sensitivity of 2-4C/doubling of CO2 is simply a theory. It is a theory in trouble because the data is all going in the opposite direction. Temperatures are spiking downward on the land, in the ocean, in the troposphere. Heat is escaping the system somehow or being stored someplace we don’t know about. Phenomenon like the PDO and NAO cannot be explained by the theory even though they are clearly real phenomenon. The GCMs have been unable to explain the lack of heat in the antarctic for 50 years, the destruction of ozone which seems to be related to the destruction of methane and other GHGs. The recent article in a Hydrology publication shows the models are less efficient at predicting than a simple arithmetic average.

I’m saying you people are in denial. It is NOT 8 years of static temperatures that is the problem. If that were the only thing people (including me) might still be believing this theory of massive positive feedbacks. The problem is much more severe for the AGW crowd.

1) lack of warming in the antarctic
50 years of lack of heating even though every model predicts the poles will heat equally. Instead what we’ve gotten is lots of heating at the north pole which conforms much more to the NAO phenomenons predictions than any GCM.

2) lack of ocean warming
Unexplained ocean temperatures are impossible to understand and unpredicted. They caused a German science team to publish a peer-reviewed article in Nature magazine predicting 10 more years of flat temperatures.

3) lack of tropospheric warming
30 years of balloon and satellite measurements showing insufficient heat in the troposphere. Recent papers showing “implied” heat in the troposphere not completely convincing leaving grave doubts if GHGs were causing much if any of the warming we saw in the 1977-1997 period.

4) increased rain beyond model predictions
Raising severe doubts about the supposed linkage between clouds, rain and temperature and therefore making the feedback assumptions in the GCMs destroyed.

5) lack of land temperature increases for 10 years
The problem here is less that we have 10 years of lack of temperature increase than it is unexplained. During the 90s there were several much shorter down periods but these were explained sufficiently with volcanoes. We haven’t had any volcanoes of merit in the last 10 years therefore this recent cooling is unexplained.

6) ozone depletion not predicted
This means there was a negative feedback not anticipated which also seems to be related to destruction of methane and other GHGs in the pacific ocean. Is this the reason for 5)?

7) GCM model prediction failures.
2 studies in the last 7 months published and peer-reviewed have concluded that GCM models are lousy at predicting temperatures, rainfall at any level of the atmosphere or for any time period tested.

The reason that I and many people have become skeptics and that you are getting flak in the press and now even in scientific publications is not that dweebs from the enemy are outflanking you politically or something. It is that the data is contradicting the theory and there are no convincing arguments to explain any of these phenomenon.

Since the lack of warming in almost all of the world has become apparent severe AGW enthusiasts have turned to the arctic as the last place that there is evidence their theories are working but at least 2 papers have come out in the last 6 months which demolish this argument.

1) The NAO phenomenon explains at least 50-80% of the arctic warming over the last 30 years and also explains better than GCMs the recent cooling.

2) Black carbon pollution from diesel vehicles primarily but also from all carbon sources is causing another 20%-50% of the warming in the arctic.

This is therefore another reason that the feedback sensitivity of 2-4 degrees is unsustainable.

3 August 2008 at 7:29 AM
> John Mathon, With your post, I believe we have very nearly completed the map of the Denialist > Memome. In your single, we have one-stop shopping for ignorant denialist talking points
> 1)the warming is insignificant and short-term (wrong–it is part of a trend thatgoes back to the onset of the industrial age)

Coincidentally also happens to go back to the last ice age ending (the little ice age). Were you expecting the little ice age to go on forever? Why did the little ice age happen and do the models predict it? What stopped it? Some CO2 from coal stopped the little ice age? What stopped or started other weather phenomenon over the last 20,000 years?

> 2)It has stopped warming (wrong)

Yes it has. I say this because the oceans have 300 times the heat capacity of the entire atmosphere and the ocean has cooled over the last 5 years. That means that the heat is gone.

> 3)models are unreliable and tuned (wrong–why don’t you learn the difference between a statistical and a dynamical model)

I know a lot about models and you don’t want to defend these models. It would be astonishing if these models didn’t have hundreds of wrong assumptions, wrong physics, missing or incomplete descriptions and even bad coding. Admit it, it would be astounding if the models worked. They don’t. I am not taken in by these “oh and these are our sophisticated computer models” trying to impress me with big words and complicated math. They did models at the Club of Rome and they failed just as spectacularly.

> 4)It’s all natural

I never said that. I believe in GHG warming. I just don’t believe it is 2-4K/doubling of CO2. I have no reason not to believe 2-4K/doubling except that I don’t see any proof or evidence of such a number. If the data or science was there I have no reason to argue against it. I actually did believe there was going to be significant warming. I have been converted by evidence and by looking at the science.

> 5)CO2 is only a minor greenhouse gas

It is minor. H2O is the major GHG and we don’t understand the physics of all these chemicals operating in a chaotic system and the inputs which drive their interactions. We may eventually understand more of it and be able to prove the interactions but we are not there yet so I believe that it is “theory” in need of verification not proven fact. The only thing that is proven is that GHGs do create some forcing, however the sensitivity of the temperature to such forcing is unknown especially the feedback component.

If you could prove the sensitivity such a paper would be produced and delivered to the APS. The fact that the APS could not procure such a paper is the strongest proof that such an argument doesn’t exist. The sensitivity of 2-4K/doubling is theory not scientific fact. Stop saying it is fact and arguing it is fact and you will get a more responsive audience.

> 6)all the feedbacks are negative

I have no idea what the feedbacks are but I suspect that the failures of the models are largely due to massive overstatement of the positive feedbacks.

26. 326
Mark says:

Jurgen, #320.

Epic miss.

How can we be expected to explain ourselves in a way that the public understands when we are having to counter arguments either irrelevant or so obscure the public doesn’t understand either?

Irrelevant: “Science is not consensus”. How CAN that be countered in a way the public will understand? It’s true, but not a lot of help and countering it either requires us to answer with a half-truth which is picked up or by telling them about the thousands of scientific reports which they’ll NEVER find or understand. On a hiding to nothing here.

Obscure: “Middle Ages warming”. Apart from saying “that was cooler” which isn’t being taken as a rebuttal, what can be said here? You need to show the raw data and how the data shows this wasn’t a globally warmer period than today. Lots of maths, physics and so on.

We can counter these sufficient for “the public” but the denialists will use the necessary simplifications to make more noise and confuse the public.

27. 327
Martin Vermeer says:

Timothy Chase #315:

The Sixteen Official Rules Governming the JREF Challenge
http://www.randi.org/joom/challenge-application.html

Did you read as far as this?

12. This offer is not open to any and all persons. [and the rest]

This challenge is designed for Uri Geller and his ilk, not for the reality of parapsychological research (what little there is left in the world). Good luck trying to shoehorn the ganzfeld experiments — the most successful quantitative experiments of the modern era — into this (I know there has been some Internet discussion on this).

But I have outstayed my welcome.

BTW I had forgotten how slimey the Milloy challenge really is… the main difference between Milloy and Randi is not in the rules ;-)

28. 328
Martin Vermeer says:

Timothy Chase #323:

quantum mechanics does not violate the causal relationship in which a cause must precede its effect.

Hmmm, as I understand it, quantum mechanics is invariant for time inversion (perhaps together with parity and matter-antimatter conjugation, CPT). The “arrow of time” comes from thermodynamics (entropy).

Both quantum theory and thermodynamics involve probability, but in subtly different ways.

29. 329

323. ‘Perhaps at some level of description (e.g. the Planck-Wheeler scale) it will be necessary to abandon it’. That is all that post 322 was pointing to.

30. 330

Timothy, I think that what Captcha is referring to is the nonlocality of quantum theory vs the locality of general relativity. Indeed, this is a funcamental issue. However, there are various movements to bridge the gap–string theory among them. None of this has any relevance to climate science, economics, paleoclimate or the intersection thereof. As you pointed out, relativistic quantum mechanics (really an application of special relativity to quantum theory) shows that there is fruitful ground even when there are deep divides at the fundamental level. General relativity is a very different beast than the special theory.

31. 331

Mark, Communicating science to the public is difficult. Sometimes anecdotes help. In explaining the importance of consensus, I’ve found that the story of the N-ray affair is illustrative:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N-ray

And of course, there is Einstein’s rejection of quantum mechanics, which went ahead and progressed around him despite his opposition. I find that this episode is particularly important, as it shows that despite the tremendous respect physicists had for Einstein, ultimately they opted for the approach that maintained maximum progress. Einstein had valid grounds for concern about quantum mechanics, but he offerd no fruitful alternatives, so his attempts to undermine the foundations of quantum mechanics were stillborn. This is very like the situation in climate science (or for that matter wrt evolution), where so-called skeptics offer blistering critiques of the research, but no positive alternatives.

As to the MWP and other obscurities, that’s more difficult. The stories of “Greenland” and vineyards in Britain are more compelling than paleoclimatic reconstructions. Here, I think it is relevant to point out that much of Europe’s heat comes from the Gulf Stream (Rome is at the same latitude as Denver, after all), and that the best science says we are warming VERY rapidly.

32. 332

Martin and Tim,
We’re verging on digression here, but if the moderators will permit, a bit on quantum mechanics, thermo, causality and the arrow of time. First, quantum entanglement, as exemplified for the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen experiment does pose some significant challenges for conventional ideas of causality, physical reality and even free will. If you veiw measurement by observer A as the cause of the wave function collapse of the entangled distant object, it would seem that this requires a spacelike signal, although it can be shown that this signal carries no actual information.
As to the arror of time, there is indeed a thermodynamic arrow of time, which is generally equated with the direction in which Entropy increases. Note, however, that this only applies to macroscopic ensembles of particles, since reversibility applies at the level of the fundamental interactions.
There is also a comsomological arrow of time–the direction in which the Universe expands.
Finally there is an arrow of time associated with the Weak Nuclear force and the decasys of K and B mesons, where both CP and T invariance are violated, but CPT is preserved. This is, to my knowledge the only place we know of where an arrow of time exists on a point-like scale.

33. 333
Timothy Chase says:

Martin Vermeer wrote in 326:

Hmmm, as I understand it, quantum mechanics is invariant for time inversion (perhaps together with parity and matter-antimatter conjugation, CPT). The “arrow of time” comes from thermodynamics (entropy).

Classical mechanics is also invaraint with respect to time inversion. Not quite the same thing as being able to introduce a grandfather paradox — which presumably you could do if you could travel faster than the speed of light, or alternatively send a message that you received before you sent it telling you not to send the the message.

However, there is another level besides thermodynamics where time symmetry is evidently broken:

Experiment sees the arrow of time – at last!

The classical laws of physics cannot distinguish between the past and the future, but now experiments at CERN have confirmed that time-reversal symmetry is broken in neutral kaons.

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/1327

Martin Vermeer wrote in 326:

Both quantum theory and thermodynamics involve probability, but in subtly different ways.

I will grant you that.

Interestingly, one can interpret the values of the probability density matrix as complex number truth values of statements, then treat the operators which act on the probability density operator as logical operations which transform one set of statements (e.g., involving position) into another set (e.g., involving momentum), in which case the whole of quantum mechanics could be viewed as a form of alternate logic.

Anyway, I got to get to work.

34. 334
dhogaza says:

John Mathon repeats one oh-so-common science denialist claim that always raises my “iiar!” red flag …

I actually did believe there was going to be significant warming. I have been converted by evidence and by looking at the science.

“I used to believe in Evolution but then I looked at the evidence and the science”

“I used to believe that HIV causes AIDS but then I looked at the evidence and the science”

“I used to believe that second-hand cigarette smoke might be harmful but then I looked at the evidence and the science”

“I used to believe that DDT caused raptor population declines, but then I looked at the evidence and the science”.

It doesn’t matter which genre of science denialism is being discussed, they always come out with a variation on this theme. Which is meant to imply, of course, that the only reason the rest of us haven’t changed our minds is because we don’t study the evidence or the science, or aren’t bright enough to see how the Evil Science Conspiracy is fraudulently misleading the rest of us.

35. 335
Martin Vermeer says:

Yes, weak interactions do that — CPT is conserved but the individual T may be broken. Or P, which got Lee and Yang their 1957 Nobel…

. Not quite the same thing as being able to introduce a grandfather paradox — which presumably you could do if you could travel faster than the speed of light, …

Well, that is again a slightly different issue, that of not being able to Lorentz transform the arrow of time into a retrograde direction, i.e., it lies inside the light cone.

Is that (non-existence of information carrying tachyons) quantum theory or relativity? Is it even theoretically proven? Clearly it is a requirement for a well defined information/entropy arrow of time to even exist.

36. 336
dhogaza says:

Yes it has. I say this because the oceans have 300 times the heat capacity of the entire atmosphere and the ocean has cooled over the last 5 years. That means that the heat is gone.

Actually, I’m curious about one thing, though:

Where did it go? Please, John, please tell us … where did it go?

reCaptcha says “literature in”, which I guess is a hint as to where John wants to find an answer that will impress us.

37. 337
Chris Colose says:

331

As I understand, atmospheric circulation is primarily what causes the warmer temperatures in Europe, as opposed to say, North America. The THC keeping the North Atlantic warmer than the northern pacific. A shutdown of the THC should cool Europe but also cool on the western side of the Atlantic.

38. 338
Hank Roberts says:

Is there any relationship between the new userid “Captcha” and the many quotations we’ve been making to Captcha words in the past few weeks? Or is this just coincidental?

39. 339
CL says:

John Mathon, 325, wrote :

“A recent satellite survey showed that life on the planet earth has increased 20% in the last 40 years.”

Um, would you care to provide a cite or source for that strange statement ?

40. 340
kevin says:

@ John Mathon:
You say “the ocean has cooled over the last 5 years. That means that the heat is gone.”

Leaving aside the whole issue of generalizing about climate with 5 years of data–what exactly are you looking at that leads you to believe that the ocean has cooled over the last five years? And, for extra clarity, are you contending that the **heat content of the oceans as a whole** has declined over the past five years?

41. 341
kevin says:

@ Rod B: FWIW I see what you’re saying. But I still think you generated the resistance you cheekily observe by the way you phrased things. For example, I believe this was your first instance of asking:

“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.”

And this is from your recent response, the part directed at me:

“I wanted only to simply ask if Monckton seemed to know how to calculate a least squares (or similar) linear regression.”

I think if you had started with the latter phrasing you would have had a different set of responses. I can see how you maybe meant the same thing both times, but “is Monckton incorrect in his temperature analysis?” generates a “no” response for standard RC usage of the words “temperature analysis.” Also, in “his mathematical assessment of the temperature since 2000-1,” I think it was predictable that “mathematical assessment” would be read by posters here to be inclusive of valid statistical practice and whatnot. By contrast, something like “given the numbers he used, did he do the regression equation right?” is a much more specific, well-constrained question. I imagine you probably still would have gotten some resistance, and most people (like me) would not have bothered to try to check the math, but I think it’s fairly likely that someone would have said “it looks like it, but that’s not the point” or something.

Of course you could have further boosted the odds of getting the obvious (per you)response by phrasing it as “given the stupid, silly numbers he used, did he *EVEN* do the regression equation right, the jackass?” (“well, he’s stupid alright, but it looks like he may have gotten lucky and got THAT much right, heh heh”)

But then I suppose I’m straying back into your point :)

42. 342
CL says:

“it would seem that this requires a spacelike signal”

Well, for me, (no physicist), that’s the most interesting area in the whole of science. My wild hunch, it might explain much that is presently inexplicable, (re the earlier ESP comments), possibly via Penrose-Hameroff microtubules. I may easily be wrong, but I have read that quantum effects may be expected up to (almost) macroscopic scale, e.g. amoeba size, just on the boundary of human vision…
(Sorry, this is off topic, but my enthusiasm is hungry for info…)

43. 343
Jim Galasyn says:

John Mathon makes the following extraordinary claim:

…there is no apparent decrease in species…A recent satellite survey showed that life on the planet earth has increased 20% in the last 40 years. An astonishing result considering all we hear from the environmental extremists and our press is that life is dying everywhere.

This claim is false; you are not following the science. Please see the following graphs. They shows alarming declines in populations of various ocean species.

Biomass Decline at the Southern Grand Bank

North Atlantic Biomass Trends

North Carolina Shark Population Extinction

Sequential Collapse of Pacific Marine Mammal Populations

I’ve collected these and more data, with full citations, in a handy slide deck:

State of the World’s Oceans (12MB pptx)

John, you may tell yourself that there’s no human-caused mass extinction occurring, but you’re whistling past the graveyard.

44. 344

John Mathon, Should you ever tire of demolishing straw men of your own construction, this site would be an excellent place for you to START learning about Earth’s climate. There are several posts on this site that demonstrate the fallacy your argument. I can direct you should you care to read them. Otherwise, you are welcome to your ignorance. If you don’t mind, the rest of us are going to learn about the climate and the crisis we face.

45. 345
Martin Vermeer says:

#325 John Mathon:

Here are the graphs of the original 1972 “Limits of Growth” report to the Club of Rome. Ugly lineprinter graphics. Study them. What you should especially do, is cover with your right hand the part past 2008. First graph, 1972 known resources; second, doubled resources (more realistic).

You see what I see? I know you do. The report hasn’t even had the opportunity yet to be wrong. Even for 1972-known resources, everything looks hunky-dory, all the good curves going up. The collapse is still in the future.

The club of rome told us we’d be out of oil by now or dead from pollution or living in poverty. None of that happened even though they were from MIT and used the most sophisticated computer models of the time. These people are ALWAYS WRONG. Instead of apocalypse the world is better off than ever. I know there is a large segment of the population (not a majority but a significant number of people) who want to believe in apocalypse and that everything is going to a handbasket but the FACT is that it isn’t. The world is demonstrably richer in every conceivable way.

Yes… that’s called “overshoot”.

You know the corny joke about the guy falling from a skyscraper, who was overheard saying when passing the third floor: “So far so good…”?

That guy is you.

46. 346
dhogaza says:

I think the satellite must be recording the average obesity of the US populace, not “life” per se.

47. 347
SecularAnimist says:

I differ with Barton Paul Levenson and Timothy Chase on the state of the evidence for the existence of so-called “psychic” phenomena that has been produced by modern parapsychological research. But my point is not to engage in an off-topic discussion about psi research. Rather I am trying to make a point about skepticism.

Consider how you would react to a self-described AGW “skeptic” who denies that any warming exists, who exhibits an a priori hostility to the very idea, and who gets all of his information about climate research from organized “skeptical” sources, e.g. various “think tanks”, so-called “conservative” media, and people like Monckton and Singer who are not climate scientists but are making a career of discouraging public acceptance of the idea of anthropogenic warming — but who is unfamiliar with the actual research itself, particularly the most recent research, and who is dismissive of the value of studying the actual science because he already knows that it doesn’t amount to anything.

Now, if you count yourself as a “skeptic” of psi research, ask yourself to what extent your views are based on a a priori hostility to the very idea of psychic phenomena, on information that you receive from organized “skeptical” sources such as CSICOP, stage “magician” James Randi’s group, and others who are not parapsychologists but have made a career of discouraging public acceptance of and scientific research into the reality of “pyschic” phenomena, vs. how familiar you are with the actual research itself, particularly the most recent research, and whether you are inclined to be dismissive of the value of studying the actual science because you already know that it doesn’t amount to anything.

As a final comment, I offer this excerpt from the “lost chapter” of Alice In Wonderland:

“You are a strange creature,” said The Skeptic to Alice. “Where did you come from?”

“I fell down a rabbit hole and found myself here,” replied Alice.

“That’s not possible,” replied The Skeptic, raising his eyebrows. “Only rabbits come here through rabbit holes, not creatures like yourself.”

“Well,” replied Alice, “nevertheless that’s the truth.”

“Hmph,” said The Skeptic, rolling his eyes. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”

“And what exactly,” asked Alice, “makes a claim extraordinary?”

The Skeptic replied, “A claim is extraordinary if I say it is.”

“I see,” said Alice. “And what would constitute extraordinary proof?”

The Skeptic shook his head and smiled condescendingly. “No proof is sufficiently extraordinary as to prove what we already know to be impossible.”

48. 348

In re: 331

As to the MWP and other obscurities, that’s more difficult. The stories of “Greenland” and vineyards in Britain are more compelling than paleoclimatic reconstructions. Here, I think it is relevant to point out that much of Europe’s heat comes from the Gulf Stream (Rome is at the same latitude as Denver, after all), and that the best science says we are warming VERY rapidly.

I think a large part of why “Greenland” and “vineyards in Great Britain” get so much press, along with “But it was an ice age in the 1970’s” is the way “we are warming VERY rapidly” is presented. Because people do look at global temperature charts and the “we are warming VERY rapidly” stops, and now “we are going sideways”, and if the last time “we are going sideways” goes the same way, it’ll be “we are going down.” Right? Forget the science for a moment — that’s what the charts did the last time. Global temps went up, then sideways, then down, then “The Ice Age Is Coming!”, then up.

So, in an effort to call attention to the problem, there’s a lot of ignoring what people know to be the truth. I really did read about that “coming Ice Age” when it was in the popular press.

Other aspects of the science — how GCMs actually work, for example — make the science suspect to the lay reader. The first GCM I ran, after I downloaded one courtesy of reading this blog, raised red flags. If we can’t predict the weather a week in advance, how the heck is “weather” a useful part of a GCM? We don’t know where Eduordo is going to go, but someone has a GCM that says rainfall in the American Southeast is going to below average? It only takes a few hurricanes spinning up out of the Straights of Florida for the American Southeast to get a TON more rain.

So the science has to be presented in a way that people can look at what’s out there for the lay public and understand how that doesn’t invalidate the big messages being given. If you told me “we are warming VERY rapidly”, and I look at 8 years of temperature data, I’m going to disagree. And if you tell me “lots more hurricanes”, and I look at the cyclical nature of Atlantic basin tropical storms, I’m going to disagree. There’s a lot of information being presented that’s not being presented in a way that’s consistent with what the public is seeing, and that has to be fixed, and “we are warming VERY rapidly” needs to be stated in terms that are more consistent with whatever “pause” we’ve been taking for the past few years.

(reCaptcha — “Al impassable”. Who is this Al person?)

49. 349
SecularAnimist says:

I would just like to correct one error of fact:

Barton Paul Levenson wrote: “There was a reason the parapsychologists got kicked out of the AAAS”

“The parapsychologists” have not been “kicked out” of the AAAS, in spite of the efforts of “skeptics” who campaign to discredit and discourage research in the field. As of today, the AAAS website still lists the Parapsychological Association as an affiliated organization.

50. 350
Hank Roberts says:

He’s probably misunderstanding:
wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/2008/06/08/surprise-earths-biosphere-is-booming-co2-the-cause/
which misstates Solomon,
who misunderstands NASA’s press release
which didn’t explain why more pond scum isn’t better.