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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. 401
    Hank Roberts says:

    Could you provide cites for any of those claims?
    I can probably cite sources to the contrary, but I’d really like to know where you’re getting your beliefs.

  2. 402
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oh, for the record, award Mr. Mathon:

    10 points for arguing that a current well-established theory is “only a theory”, as if this were somehow a point against it.

  3. 403
    SecularAnimist says:

    John Mathon wrote: “I maintain that it is not neccessary for me to prove that AGW is false. That is manifest in the data that is coming out.”

    That is simply false, no matter how many times you repeat it. There is no such “data that is coming out”. When you say it is “not necessary for me to prove that AGW is false” what you really mean is that you can’t prove it, and you know you can’t prove it, so you are not even going to try. That’s why you have not responded to numerous requests from other commenters to cite your sources. With all due respect you are insulting everyone’s intelligence with this nonsense.

  4. 404
    dhogaza says:

    I maintain that it is not neccessary for me to prove that AGW is false. That is manifest in the data that is coming out.

    Uh, Mr. Mathon does not appear to live on planet earth, and it’s probably not worth bothering to answer him in detail.

  5. 405
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John Mathon, It is apparent that you have a lot of misunderstandings not only of the physics, but of how it is done. Rather than argue against straw men of your own devising, perhaps it would profit you more to spend a little time perusing through past posts and learning a bit about climate science as it really is–not as you imagine it. See, here’s the funny thing about feedbacks–they’re the same regardless of the warming mechanism. This makes it really, really hard to reproduce the sensitivities we see in paleoclimate, in responses to volcanic eruptions, etc. if the feedbacks are too feeble. It’s even hard to explain why we wouldn’t have a snowball Earth if you claim the feedbacks are too low.
    Climate models are dynamical models–the parameters are fixed to the greatest degree possible with independent data, and then the model is validated with additional independent data. Because the climate is noisy, the climate signal emerges better as the time series get longer. You are obviously not an idiot. Why not at least learn what you are arguing against so that you don’t appear to be one.

  6. 406
    Paul Middents says:

    Re #394 and #399:

    This the bio note on an editorial in the Durango Herald:

    “Roger W. Cohen holds a Ph.D. in physics and is the former manager of strategic planning and programs for ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co. He retired in 2003 and lives in Durango with his wife, Lorraine.”

    The editorial (not recommended but will give you a pretty good idea of Dr. Cohen’s point of view)

  7. 407
    Mark says:

    Re: #400

    John: I maintain that it is not neccessary for me to prove that AGW is false. That is manifest in the data that is coming out.

    Me: I maintain that it IS necessary for you to prove AGW is false. This is manifest both in your lack of data and in the vast amount of correct data coming out of climate models.

    John: I believe there is a “theory” that this could happen but currently this “theory” is just a theory and is not proved.

    Me: There is a “theory” that I am mortal but currently this “theory” is just a theory and is not proved.

    John: The current haitus in temperature requires explanation not from me but from the AGW high sensitivity enthusiasts such as Gavin who need to explain how it is remotely possible to get 0.32 or 0.4 or whatever continuous decade after decade heating of the atmosphere when it is apparent that all heat in the system accumulated over the last 30 years is slipping away as fast as it is.

    Me: The current haitus is not yet statistically proven and so requires no explanation. Whereas you need to explain where all the heat the system has accumulated over the last 30 years has slipped off to.

    John: What I’m saying is that you cannot then use that past data to prove your models.

    Me: And I fail to see where it is maintained that using past data proves the models. What is used is past data from one point and continuing along to see if the model exhibits the same sort of emergent effect as it really does. And then some years later, the forecasts are compared to new data that was never used to prove the models.

    John: Therefore the only thing that really would “prove” the models would be for new data, data that has never before been seen by the models to match.

    Me: Which would be the last fifteen years record when compared with the fifteen year old models results on forcasting the future of that fifteen-year-old model run. This does not seem to have proven it for you, however, so this statement is evidently wrong.

    John: I think the principle weakness at this point in the high sensitiivty thesis is that H2O in the atmosphere is not experiencing the kind of feedback put into all the models.

    Me: I refer the right horrible gentleman to his previous words: “I’m not a model designer”.

    John: think it is deceptive of the scientists who proclaim that the science is “proven” when actually very little is proved

    Me: see my response two and three earlier.

  8. 408
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Okay, John Mathon, I’ll admit that I was hoping you’d answer my question to you: Do you still maintain that there is no biodiversity crisis? Do you still assert, against all the evidence, that we are not in the midst of a human-caused mass extinction?

  9. 409
    CobblyWorlds says:

    #392, John Mathon,

    The damage to capability lies not in the destination and the equilibrium human accomodation to that destination state, e.g. the global pattern of climate implied by a global average temperature 3degC greater than present.

    It lies in the environmental changes and the human response (strategic, economic, humanitarian) to those changes, as we proceed to that climate state.

    I suggest it is best to rephrase your question:

    Is it reasonable to suggest that Climate Change will not impact our capability?

    I consider that the answer to that is a robust “No”.

    If you disagree with that answer then I am sorry but I do not think you are thinking clearly. To spare my time I refer you to the 2007 report from “Center for Strategic and International Studies”: “The Age of Consequences.” And the words of Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, at a 2007 conference hosted by The Royal Institute of International Affairs about Climate Change in the current strategic context who said (with regard Climate Change): “It seems to me rather like pouring petrol onto a burning fire.”

  10. 410

    In re: 400

    I maintain that it is not neccessary for me to prove that AGW is false. That is manifest in the data that is coming out. In order to prove the theory of high sensitivity to CO2 it is neccessary for Gavin or someone to produce a paper deliver it to the APS and show how one can show without doubt that we will get 2-4C / doubling of CO2. I believe there is a “theory” that this could happen but currently this “theory” is just a theory and is not proved. I therefore consider it unscientific and demeaning for Gavin or other pseudo-political-scientific people to claim that high sensitivity is “proved.” It clearly is not.

    Yes, and in science “theory” is pretty close to meaning “fact”. It might not mean that in the lay universe, but in the scientific universe a “theory” is actually, well, it’s a fact.

    Here some stuff from Wikipedia on what a scientific theory is —

    In science a theory is a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise verified through empirical observation. For the scientist, “theory” is not in any way an antonym of “fact”. For example, it is a fact that an apple dropped on earth has been observed to fall towards the center of the planet, and the theories commonly used to describe and explain this behavior are Newton’s theory of universal gravitation (see also gravitation), and the general theory of relativity.

    So, being a “theory” isn’t a bad thing — it puts it in the same category as Gravity and General Relativity. And Evolution, but I have a hunch you don’t believe in Evolution either.

    (reCaptch sez: mis BOOMER. Uh, talkin’ bout my age ain’t funny.)

  11. 411
    Jaye says:

    Consider the real gold standard in the scientific world is not publication, but replication. There are some two dozen GCMs in the world that all confirm that the anthropogenic greenhouse gases are heating the world, and that current warming cannot be explained without AGW.

    You are kidding me right? Simulations that agree with each other as scientific replication? Suppose you have the IV&V documents handy.

    [Response: If independent groups with independent methodologies with models that range from the 1-layer energy balance, to line-by-line radiative transfer to full blown GCMs all agree on something, then yes, that counts as scientific replication. There is zero chance that this result is not a consequence of the physics being built into the models, therefore all the IV&V documents in the world aren’t going to make the blindest bit of difference except for those people who want to delay recognition of the situation. – gavin]

  12. 412
    4 Degrees says:

    The following article which indicates an important change here in the UK is from

    Climate change: Prepare for global temperature rise of 4C, warns top scientist. Defra’s chief adviser says we need strategy to adapt to potential catastrophic increase.

    The UK should take active steps to prepare for dangerous climate change of perhaps 4C according to one of the government’s chief scientific advisers.

    In policy areas such as flood protection, agriculture and coastal erosion Professor Bob Watson said the country should plan for the effects of a 4C global average rise on pre-industrial levels. The EU is committed to limiting emissions globally so that temperatures do not rise more than 2C.

    “There is no doubt that we should aim to limit changes in the global mean surface temperature to 2C above pre-industrial,” Watson, the chief scientific adviser to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, told the Guardian. “But given this is an ambitious target, and we don’t know in detail how to limit greenhouse gas emissions to realise a 2 degree target, we should be prepared to adapt to 4C.”
    Globally, a 4C temperature rise would have a catastrophic impact.

    According to the government’s 2006 Stern review on the economics of climate change, between 7 million and 300 million more people would be affected by coastal flooding each year, there would be a 30-50% reduction in water availability in Southern Africa and the Mediterranean, agricultural yields would decline 15 to 35% in Africa and 20 to 50% of animal and plant species would face extinction.

    In the UK, the most significant impact would be rising sea levels and inland flooding. Climate modellers also predict there would be an increase in heavy rainfall events in winter and drier summers.

    Watson’s plea to prepare for the worst was backed up by the government’s former chief scientific adviser, Sir David King. He said that even with a comprehensive global deal to keep carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere at below 450 parts per million there is a 50% probability that temperatures would exceed 2C and a 20% probability they would exceed 3.5C.

    “So even if we get the best possible global agreement to reduce greenhouse gasses on any rational basis you should be preparing for a 20% risk so I think Bob Watson is quite right to put up the figure of 4 degrees,” he said.

    One big unknown is the stage at which dangerous tipping points would be reached that lead to further warming – for example the release of methane hydrate deposits in the Arctic. “My own feeling is that if we get to a 4 degree rise it is quite possible that we would begin to see a runaway increase,” said King.

    He said a two-and-half-year analysis by the government’s Foresight programme on the implications for coastal defences had more impact in the corridors of power than any other research on the effects of climate change that he presented.

    “No other single factor focussed the minds of the cabinet more than the analysis that I produced through that … We begin to have to talk about ordered retreat from some areas of Britain because it becomes impossible to defend,” he said. “There’s no choice here between adaptation and mitigation, we have to do both.”

    Other experts were concerned that Watson’s comments might be seen as defeatist and an admission that emissions reductions were impossible to achieve.

    “At 4 degrees we are basically into a different climate regime,” said Prof Neil Adger, an expert on adaptation to climate change at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Norwich.

    “I think that is a dangerous mindset to be in. Thinking through the implications of 4 degrees of warming shows that the impacts are so significant that the only real adaptation strategy is to avoid that at all cost because of the pain and suffering that is going to cost.

    “There is no science on how we are going to adapt to 4 degrees warming. It is actually pretty alarming,” he added.

    Speaking to the Guardian, Watson, who is a former science adviser to President Clinton and ex-chief scientist at the World Bank, said the UK should take a lead in research on carbon capture and storage (CCS).

    Alluding to the US effort in the 1960s to put a man on the moon he advocated an “Apollo-type programme” to introduce 10 to 20 CCS pilot projects – which work by burying carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels underground – among OECD countries to develop the technology.

    “This would allow coal-fired power plants that are currently being built to be modular and capable of having carbon capture retrofitted, and would show the world that we take the issue of climate change seriously, thus demonstrating real leadership. Without this technology we have a real problem.”

    He also said as coal burning is cleaned up to remove harmful sulphur pollution climate change would actually get worse. The sulphur aerosols are actually preventing some warming from taking place currently.

    “This offsetting effect, which is equivalent to about 100 parts per million of carbon dioxide, will largely disappear if China and India follow the lead of the US and Europe in limiting sulphur emissions, the cause of acid deposition,” he said

  13. 413
    Anne van der Bom says:

    #400, John Mathon:

    I’m just a layman, so my questions may be silly.

    1. What is your figure for climate sensitivity?

    2. According to your post the AGW community claims a climate sensitivity of 2-4 K per doubling. To me this is just a number, the result of a bunch of calculations. You attach an emotional qualification to it, saying it is ‘high’. Where is your analysis to support the notion 2-4 K can be labeled as ‘high’?

    3. This issue at hand is some figure, called climate sensitivity. The IPCC says this number is between 2 and 4.5, you say (I’m speculating here) it is below 1. I say both parties have the same obligation to back their numbers with proof. You say this obligation lies only with the IPCC, not with you. Why?

    4. You state that the data overwhelmingly shows that there is no AGW, suggesting that it is – so to speak – apparent to anyone who is not blind. It is my standpoint that there is such a vast amount of data, complicated by the fact we are trying to analyze chaotic behaviour (in the scientific sense) of a very complex system, you need some sort of analysis to make any claim about the data. What is your standpoint on this: is it obvious to any laymen or do the data need analysis? And in case of the 2nd option, how much analysis? Can you show me an example of what you would consider sufficient to back your assertion?

  14. 414

    John Mathon posts:

    I think the principle weakness at this point in the high sensitiivty thesis is that H2O in the atmosphere is not experiencing the kind of feedback put into all the models. It appears that somehow H2O is “raining out” of the sky faster than is expected.

    This is wrong from beginning to end. Water vapor is up, not down. Here’s one of the most recent empirical studies, which confirms that precipitable water has risen at about 0.9 millimeters per decade for the past several decades — about what we’d expect from the Clausius-Clapeyron law:

    Brown, S., S. Desai, S. Keihm, and C. Ruf (2007), Ocean water vapor and cloud burden trends derived from the topex microwave radiometer. Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium 2007, Barcelona, Spain, IGARSS 2007, IEEE International, 886-889.

  15. 415
    SecularAnimist says:

    It is probably necessary to explain again and again to people new to this discussion what the term “theory” means in the context of science, because the term actually does have different meanings in different contexts. It is understandable that ordinary, non-scientist laypersons might misunderstand what it means in the context of “global warming theory.”

    As a musician, I would point out to them that “music theory” does not mean a conjecture that such a thing as “music” might exist.

  16. 416
    Hank Roberts says:

    Note: check the web search tools for frequent repetition of beliefs, absence of response, and lack of citation, before wasting time.

  17. 417

    Mark, +326:

    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?

    Trying to communicate our story clearer. I tried that in my blog entry about Monckton by showing precisely how he selected the data, complete with graphs that should make it possible even for people with no background in statistics to understand.

    The only alternative I can see is to give up and stick to our ivory towers – not the solution I’d prefer.

    Maybe at least some scientists – those likely to interact with the public at large, at the very least – should consider taking up classes in non- scientific writing (or speaking, for that matter), so that they are able to communicate their knowledge better. Typical scientific papers are so filled with jargon that the average layperson has no hope of understanding most sentences. Necessary for scientists, perhaps – but if scientists don’t have any experience with any other kinds of texts, then they will be be unable to write information that the public can understand, and thus will loose the attention of the public.

  18. 418
    Jaye says:

    [Response: If independent groups with independent methodologies with models that range from the 1-layer energy balance, to line-by-line radiative transfer to full blown GCMs all agree on something, then yes, that counts as scientific replication. There is zero chance that this result is not a consequence of the physics being built into the models, therefore all the IV&V documents in the world aren’t going to make the blindest bit of difference except for those people who want to delay recognition of the situation. – gavin]

    Surely, you aren’t serious. At least one of the models has to be shown to actually predict something physical in a repeatable way (IV&V) or its all just a closed system of assumptions, that may or may not be true. Comparing results to a validated sim (with an occasional field test) is one thing, I do it frequently, but trusting N sims all based on different representations of the same physical system is a gigantic gamble. What is the success criterion for the predicted metric? N-2 sims all agree. Since, you’ve said IV&V doesn’t matter maybe only 2 of the sims (the two that don’t agree) actually match the data. How would be able to detect this situation? Based on your comments and the previous comments I originally responded to, I claim that you can detect nothing of the sort.

    [Response: But of course the models are compared to data – your question above was very specific – are increased anthropogenic GHGs warming the climate – this has been replicated til we are blue in the face with dozens of different and independent approaches and with matches to observed radiation measurements etc. – gavin]

  19. 419
    Hank Roberts says:

    Jaye’s beating horseburger, frequently posted elsewhere. No learning curve detectable, seems to me. Misdirection, adding confusion.

    You can look this stuff up.

    NASA’s IV&V program has a task:

    “… we established the Fairmont IV&V Facility to bring
    focused assurance to NASA’s flight software efforts – over this decade, the utility of the operation is evident every day. While the complexity of software and avionics have increased dramatically since the inception of the IV&V Facility, we continue to fly successful missions with robust software.”
    [2004 Annual Report]


    “… Problems with the Russian computers during
    the recent ISS visit by the shuttle in mid-June [2007]
    served as a reminder to us all of the critical nature
    of what we do here at IV&V. All three strings of
    computers (2 computers per string) on the Russian
    side failed …. worst case scenarios included
    abandoning the station …. The root cause of the event has not been determined, but a number of efforts have begun to ensure that alternatives exist should similar
    events occur in the future, including software-intensive / only solutions on which ISS IV&V personnel will perform assurance …
    [April-June 2007 IVView v3n2]


    Go out and wave to the ISS as it crosses your night sky — tell your neighbors what it is.
    It’s the only one we’ve got.

  20. 420
    Mark says:

    Jurgen #417
    “Trying to communicate our story clearer. I tried that in my blog entry about Monckton by showing precisely how he selected the data, complete with graphs that should make it possible even for people with no background in statistics to understand”

    However, our clear story has necessarily a lot of “lies-to-children” in it to make it understandable without years of research. And then the denialosphere use these simplifications to continue to say AGW is wrong. And this ends up confusing the people we’re trying to educate: “Well, there seems to be some brushing over of the facts in the case and a lot of debate. Best wait until they sort the answer out”.

    A simple message IS available. However, denialists just rely on the confusion of a contrarian position rather than make THEIR counter proposals apprehensive to the common man.

  21. 421
    TB says:

    I know his Lairdship has challenged Al Gore to a televised debate, but has someone from the scientific community challenged him back? Actually getting a climatologist to rebut him in a forum other than the Internet, I think, would be pretty devastating….

  22. 422
    Mark says:

    Jurgen. We already HAVE a very simple and essentially trivially provable explanation:

    The carbon we emit as CO2 blankets the earth in an atmosphere that traps the sun’s heat, slowing its ability to get away and, just like when you put on a blanket that stops you losing heat so quickly, and despite producing no heat of its own, the earth is warming in response.

    That story, or ones very like it, have been doing the rounds for nearly 200 years. And yet still it isn’t believed.

    So what is wrong with the situation?

    a) Your demands for a simple explantion is already proven wrong
    b) A simple explanation won’t help
    c) Nobody is listening
    d) Nobody understands even that simple explanation
    e) Those who don’t WANT to know the trouble being caused won’t be persuaded
    f) Denialists abuse the simple explanation to add confusion to engender a “wait and see” approach which is, really, exactly what they want
    g) A mix of all the above

  23. 423
    Chris Colose says:

    418, Jaye

    These GCM’s have shown very good ability at simulating the 20th century changes in temperature, past climates (LGM 8.2k event, etc), stratosphere cooling, polar amplification, ocean heat content, and many other things. Temperature wise, they do a great job up until mid-century with natural forcings only…terrible after that. Put anthropogenic + natural forcings in the same model, and it does much better. But you don’t need models to tell you adding CO2 will cause warming, that’s just radiative physics. The paleoclimate record provides evidence of this, and constraints on climate sensitivity. There is absolutely no line of evidence to suggest adding CO2 will not create a long-term trend, and lots of different people are coming to this same conclusion.

  24. 424
    veritas36 says:

    Professional contrarian at it again?

    so what does Singer’s new research report actually say?

    [Response: Look at the date. This is nothing new (and turned out to be rubbish as usual). – gavin]

  25. 425
    Rod B says:

    In the endeavor to figure out how to address the public with AGW, I suggest you all pay close attention to Jürgen’s post 417. I deviate a little in his recommendations in that, as I’ve said before, training dyed-in-the-wool scientists in the skills necessary is much easier said than done, and not very efficient. But his main point, while not perfect as Mark points out (420, 422), has some golden nuggets for you all, IMO, Mark’s caveats not withstanding. I would suggest, however, that Mark’s (and others; he’s far from alone) implication that the ones needing convincing are stupid and trouble makers not be the opening line.

  26. 426
    Rod B says:

    CL (164), there is a jillion miles of a roughly linear progression between (completely) free market enterprise and soc_ial_ism. You seem to see it as bimodal, mostly it seems because you have “a thing” against private enterprise, economics being irrelevant. Pure or near soc_ism is not desirable because it does not work except in some special situations. This assumes economic success a wide distribution (beyond the government) of economic well-being and growth. Another odd problem with soc_ism is that many soc_ial_ists (and I was one and a member of the Fabian Society once) have little knowledge or interest in economics — they’re simply out to save the masses from devils and make everyone equal(ly poor, I might add).

    btw, no one knowledgeable would suggest a completely free private enterprise economy. Pure laissez-faire in models have shown virtually zero usable output, which increases quickly with just a bit of regulation and rules for the game, reaches a peak, then deteriorates, eventually back to near zero, as the economy becomes more and more centrally controlled.

  27. 427
    manacker says:

    I think John Mahon’s comment (400) may have some merit, “I think it is deceptive of the scientists who proclaim that the science is “proven” when actually very little is proved. It is deceptive that scientists don’t tell people that feedbacks which are 2/3 of the expected heating by 2100 are not proved and in quite a lot of trouble.”

    Fortunately science is never “settled” and we learn new things every day. Some of these things can even make 1,000-page IPCC reports out-of-date before the ink dries.

    IPCC AR4 WG1 Chapter 8 (p.633) states that the (2xCO2) climate sensitivity including all feedbacks except clouds is 1.9°C. Including feedback from clouds the GCM estimates for climate sensitivity are 3.2°C.

    It goes on to say, “The mean and standard deviation of climate sensitivity estimates derived from current GCMs are larger (3.2°C ± 0.7°C) essentially because the GCMs all predict a positive cloud feedback (Figure 8.14) but strongly disagree on its magnitude.”

    IPCC SPM 2007 concedes (p.12): “Cloud feedbacks remain the greatest source of uncertainty.”

    In other words, all models assume a positive feedback from clouds, which has the effect of raising the climate sensitivity from 1.9°C to 3.2°C, but there is disagreement on the magnitude (a large portion of the ± 0.7°C) and there is a concession that “cloud feedbacks remain the greatest source of uncertainty.”

    Some of this “uncertainty” may have gotten cleared up since IPCC issued its report. Subsequent to the ICC report a study by Spencer et al. shows, based on physical observations, that the feedback from clouds is negative rather than positive, and that it is strong. “Our measured sensitivity of total (SW + LW) cloud radiative forcing to tropospheric temperature is –6.1 W/m^2°K.”

    These physical observations raise serious questions regarding the validity of the climate model assumptions regarding cloud feedback and, indeed, on the validity of a climate sensitivity of 3°C. Correcting for the impact of clouds, this should now be around 0.8°C instead.


    [Response: Nonsense. Spencer has proved nothing of the sort (since the MJO on monthly timescales is not the same as greenhouse forcing on decadal timescales), and you (and he) neglect all of the evidence for climate sensitivity not derived from models. A sensitivity below 1 deg C is just not compatible with paleo climate history. – gavin]

  28. 428
    manacker says:

    A comment to the lead article

    The lead article corrects Monckton’s assumptions with, “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).”

    Monckton may be off, but it looks like Hansen may need a new computer as well, since the one he is now using seems to be giving him fishy results.

    To start off, IPCC has a slightly different take on this. The radiative forcing from CO2 without feedbacks (from a pre-industrial CO2 concentration of 280 ppmv in 1750 to the 379 ppmv in 2005) is stated to be 1.66 W/m^2. Using Myhre et al. of 5.35 * (ln 379 / 280) one would arrive at 1.62 W/m^2. (But this is only a minor discrepancy of 2.5%.)

    Using this value one arrives at a forcing of 3.708 W/m^2 (instead of 4.0) for a doubling of CO2 concentration from 280 to 560 ppmv. (A slightly larger discrepancy here, but still below 10%.)

    Last time I checked, the Stefan-Boltzmann constant (sigma) was 5.6705E-08, thus 4 * 5.6705E-08 * (288.16^3) = 5.427, and dividing 3.71 by 5.427 gives me a 2xCO2 temperature increase of 0.68°C (not 1.2°C). (We now have a major discrepancy of 75%.)

    So the 2xCO2 climate sensitivity without feedbacks is really around 0.7°C instead of Hansen’s 1.2°C.

    Just to clear this point up.


    [Response: You clear nothing up because you don’t understand what is being talked about. The ‘no-feedback’ change is not the SB response to the global mean forcing, but the the change in surface temperatures required to rebalance a radiative-convective model after a change in CO2. – gavin]

  29. 429
    CL says:

    Rod B. You appear to be responding to something I wrote in reply to someone else in a different thread. Bimodal ? Not at all. Thing against private enterprise ? Not at all. Soc-ial-ism doesn’t work ? Nonsense. (I gave the example of Sweden. Works very well.) The person I replied to did want a complete free market (as I understood him).

  30. 430
    Mark says:

    Rod B #425

    “would suggest, however, that Mark’s (and others; he’s far from alone) implication that the ones needing convincing are stupid and trouble makers not be the opening line.”

    Well you misunderstood what I said, either because you’re

    a) stupid
    b) making trouble
    c) reading what you want to read

    The ones “needing convincing” requires that you specify “convincing of *what*”. The general public already HAVE a really good explanation. However, they are told by troublemakers (not the public, and not, in “explaining to the public” the people who need to be convinced) that this is complete rubbish and then trot out explanations that require a lot MORE knowledge to understand than Jurgen is on about.

    a) MWP: Where was it warmer, how did we find out, how does it compare to now

    b) Climate always changes: Well, what changed them last time? Could they be doing it now? Why does that preclude changing by our actions now?

    and so on.

    If you mean skeptics, then they are already conversant with the required maths and science. They can go to the papers and Jurgen’s point is not valid.

    If you mean denialists, then we don’t need to convince them because

    a) there’s none so blind as will not see
    b) they aren’t looking for enligtenment

    Take your recent rants about Monkton’s assertion being “correct” when people pointed out where you and he were wrong, you changed what you said you were asking. Were you convinced by the arguments? Well, given you didn’t shut up about it, it’s either “no” or “you merely fought another argument” (which is no improvement). The denailists really don’t care because they just trot out anything and say “well, you can’t really tell which of us is right, so we need more data and hold off on changing anything until this is sorted”. Conveniently “forgetting” that “hold off on changing” is what they are looking for, so by being “balanced” and “waiting to be convinved” you are in effect agreeing with the denialists’ agenda.

    Troublemakers WON’T be convinced and we already HAVE simple explanations. That the denialosphere comes along with either irrelevancies (Climate Has Always Changed, Always Will) or with rebuttals that to see if they are valid require a FAR GREATER education (MWP) that the denialists DO NOT PROVIDE either (so where are you two going to go to ask them to “make an argument people can understand”?) leaving it to climatologists to explain why the rebuttal doesn’t work. Which doing so then leaves Jurgen saying “You are using too much science, we need some explanation that tells the ordinary person what’s going on and not this ‘science stuff’ that’s confusing them”.

    And so we have the circular argument:

    a) AGW: Simple explanation
    b) A-AGW: Rebuttal by incorrect (and unspecified) example
    c) AGW: Explanation of why example is incorrect
    d) Definitely not A-AGW: Stop it with the complex explanation
    e) AGW: Go to (a)

    Meanwhile, guess what? Nothing changes. Which is EXACTLY what Anti-AGW want. And why they don’t have to actually explain ANYTHING: all they need is enough confusion.

    It’s a lot easier to confuse than educate.

  31. 431
    manacker says:

    Hi Gavin,

    You point out that Spencer must be wrong, since any “sensitivity below 1 deg C is just not compatible with paleo climate history”.

    Paleo? Wow! Here we have actual physical observations of today that must be incorrect because some paleoclimate proxy studies (“bristlecone pines”?) say so.

    Think you have to admit that this is fuzzy logic.



    [Response: Try the last glacial maximum – and try not to be such an ass. – gavin]

  32. 432
    Rod B says:

    CL, my 426 was accidently posted on this thread, and correctly posted on the other thread (Bridging). I tried to get it deleted here to no avail, though they did not post my follow-on “OOPS” apology :-)

  33. 433
    John Mathon says:

    SecularAnimist Says:It is “irrefutable evidence based fact” that (1) human activities, principally the burning of fossil fuels, are releasing large amounts of CO2 and other “greenhouse gases” into the atmosphere, that (2) the resulting increased concentration of these gases in the atmosphere is causing the Earth system to retain more of the sun’s heat, that (3) the Earth is getting hotter as a result, and that (4) this anthropogenic warming is causing rapid changes in the Earth’s climate, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. These statements are all based on direct empirical observation.

    Point 1 is not disputed. The rest is disputed. [edit] You are discrediting yourselves as scientists (if you are) by making statements that cannot be defended. The only thing we know for sure is that the earth since the last ice age is getting warmer. We have some theories WHY it is getting warmer but we don’t KNOW why. Some people believe it is CO2 in the last 30 years that is responsible and that temperatures are higher than in millions of years and other people believe that we are simply going through another warm period not much different than the 300-400 year long “midievel warm period”. CO2 SHOULD add heat to the system but assuming it does the heat it adds is minimal, something like 1 degree. The majority of the “predicted” and according to the writer above that is “proven” (but which is not proven by any means) temperature increase of 3 degrees comes from models that have no proven nature whatsoever. These models depend on assumptions and physics and interactions that are unproven. The current data and all past data disagree in large part with the models. Study after study has come out showing the models have no predictive power in any respect regardless of the time frame or area of the world or even on the variable being predicted.

    Simply stating over and over again that something is proved is stupid.

    [Response: Contrarian heal thyself…. – gavin]

    [repetitive unsourced declarations deleted]

  34. 434
    Rod B says:

    Mark (430), after re-reading your posts I might have been confused when suggesting a way not to convince people — public implied. It seems you think the problem and people needing convincing is not necessarily the public, but instead the rabble rousers that keep messing with the public’s minds. But I’m not sure. You say “the public HAVE an good explanation” and the simple story is clear. Though you also say “nobody listens” and “nobody understands even the clear simple story”. I now have no idea who you think needs educating and why and how. (You do imply “deniers” might need the education but that it is futile by definition.) Given that, I should not have suggested otherwise (and especially should not have singled you out) and apologize. My remarks were related to educating the public at large and other key non-scientist people.

    One minor point: if you understood perception and, it seems (??), the science there is no way you could call the AGW story clear and simple.

    In the just can’t let it pass department, your example is ridiculous. I was not wrong in my questions and observations re Monckton (ignoring the retort like ‘it all depends on what the definition of wrong is’ — to most it’s clear and obvious) despite your all’s incessant ranting to the contrary.

  35. 435
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Manacker #428: for Bolzmann you should use 255 rather than 288 degrees, as that is the temperature at which the radiation leaves to space. Then you get 1 degree, close enough to Hansen’s value.

  36. 436
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    Re #431 and other comments by manacker

    manacker was very active at gristmill. I can guarantee that he will not follow Gavin’s suggestion and try not to be such an ass.

  37. 437
    Dan says:

    re: 433. No, simply failing to read and understand the peer-reviewed science and thinking that you know something that literally thousands of climate science researchers and every major climate science scientific society (including the National Academy of Science) don’t is profoundly “stupid” (using your term).

    And how many times must you be told that “proof” is a *mathematical* concept, not a scientific one? Your failure to try to understand how basic science is done is simply nothing less than astounding.

  38. 438
    Mark says:

    Yes, Rod B, it isn’t the public that needs a simple answer. They need less lying to from the denialists.

    I’ve had another look and I didn’t say (even as a misquote) “nobody listens” and “nobody understands even the clear simple story”.” (Ah, I see, this wasn’t me saying nobody understands but giving several likely options why the simple explanations aren’t working and asking which one is most likely to Jurgen. You like to drop the context of lots of things, don’t you?)

    I said that the general public understand the simple story but some don’t believe and the denialists help them justify it.

    A little aside: the “hockey stick” was, when first brought up, actually acceptable “skepticism”. There really was a lot less utility in the hockey stick than could drive policy. But those shortcomings were addressed and sorted. But the denialists haven’t let go. It would be worthwhile if the real skeptics were going on to new unknowns (even better, checking whether they themselves are right in calling in a shortfoll, but that’s just being naive, maybe).

    The denialists putting up the hockey stick or things that have already been sorted out (like MWP) are brought up YET AGAIN as “proof it’s all a lie” but not explained WHY these “prove” it a lie.

    You were wrong in your query: you were asking whether Monkton was telling the truth and when people said “no” you turned round and said “the maths is completely easy: the figures are going down” and people pointed out that this wasn’t significant because the noise too big to say *anything* about the measurement, you changed what you meant by “was he telling the truth” to “was the maths right” and when that was pointed out to be wrong, you then changed AGAIN to something like “are the numbers going down”? And when people said “the numbers aren’t telling us anything meaningful” you kept harping on about it.

    You made statements and when these were explained as “wrong” and you couldn’t get out of it, you changed your query.

    you were wrong with your original query and your changed queries were

    a) disingenuous
    b) still wrong

    or in the last case

    c) technically right but useless

    as in “although those numbers DO go down if you pick the right start and end, this doesn’t tell you anything, any more than taking the average of people’s guess as to the size of the emperor’s nose tells you anything about how big his nose is”.

  39. 439
    manacker says:

    Message to Nick Gotts

    In an earlier blog you asked RonC, “can you give examples, preferably from the last century or so, of criticism from outside a specific field overthrowing a scientific consensus in that field, or even making an important difference to a technical argument within it?”

    There are many, Nick.

    Thomas Kuhn observed that most scientific paradigms are broken from the “outside”, rather than the “inside” of a specific scientific discipline, where the “herd instinct” often makes scientists blind to any data that lie outside the accepted paradigm.

    Two such “paradigm shifts” that came from the outside:

    The now prevailing theory of the root cause of the K-T extinction is the impact of a giant asteroid. Based on supporting physical evidence this theory was proposed by a physicist, a geologist and two chemists, and hotly disputed at first by the paleontologists, who had their own theory.

    The age and origin of human ancestors has experienced a similar paradigm shift when molecular genetics challenged previous knowledge gleaned by the “insiders” (the archeologists, paleontologists and geochronologists) from their fossil carbon dating.

    As Thomas Kuhn observed, the insiders often have a hard time “thinking outside the box” and even when evidence that lies outside the prevailing paradigm is presented it is often ignored, thrown out as an “outlier” or often not even physically seen.

    For a real good treatise on why this is so and why the “experts” are often more wrong than the “non-experts”, I can recommend “The Black Swan”, by Hassim Taleb.



  40. 440
    Rod B says:

    Mark (438), well I’m getting to not caring, but to support my thought of what I said you said — What I said (434) was, “…Though you [Mark] also say “nobody listens” and “nobody understands even the clear simple story”.” You say I got that all wrong. To waste space, this is what you wrote (422) that I was referencing (emphasis mine):

    “So what is wrong with the situation?

    a) Your demands for a simple explantion is already proven wrong
    b) A simple explanation won’t help
    c) Nobody is listening
    d) Nobody understands even that simple explanation

    If I got that wrong, I can’t see how, but do apologize.

    I will not continue to repeat, explain, clarify, interpret what I asked (but never changed) re Monckton. I’ve done that ad nauseam and you just repeat the liturgy that, ‘No, that’s not what I asked or said’ and then proceed to tell me what it was really that I asked. (It does seem like I ought to know…) Your continued chanting simply moves the debate from the ridiculous to the pathetic. Any further explanation would be quite similar to the process of educating the “deniers” that you describe.

    On the main point, I was simply offering suggestions how AGWers might best present their case to the public. If you don’t think that is necessary or don’t want to, that’s perfectly all right. I suspect you’re in the minority, but that doesn’t matter. Just don’t pay any attention to my thoughts.

  41. 441
    MikeTabony says:

    Gavin, you are a saint for continuing to respond to certain posters who seem determined to mislead and deny what is right under their noses.

    On the more positive side, thanks 4 Degrees for post #412. Quite good that the scientists of the UK see the danger of the carbonization of the atmosphere due to fossil fuel use but isn’t the government still pushing several new large coal burning power plants. It will be interesting to see if any of those proposed plants get cancelled.

    There was some discussion here about why the stratosphere was cooling while global warming was occurring. Would it be too simplistic to say that we expect global warming to cause statospheric cooling because more of the heat that would be heating the stratosphere is getting trapped below in the troposphere by the increases in greenhouse gas levels there? Any heat trapped by the troposphere is not available to heat the stratosphere and only some of the additional trapped heat would be radiated to the stratosphere with the rest going to the surface including the biosphere. Hence the stratosphere would cool. Too simplistic?

    Mike Tabony

  42. 442
    Owen Phelps says:

    Mark (To Rod B): You made statements and when these were explained as “wrong” and you couldn’t get out of it, you changed your query.

    I don’t agree. His latter statements were what he intended all along, more or less. And at one point in the chain of clarifications, he even said pretty much exactly that it was “technically right but useless”.

    I don’t believe he was changing his position much as he went along (there was probably some refinement though). But I also don’t believe he appreciates how wrong his original questions sounded, and how even reasonable people could have been misled.

  43. 443
    dhogaza says:

    But I also don’t believe he appreciates how wrong his original questions sounded, and how even reasonable people could have been misled.

    Well, given that what he wrote was in plain english, has a standard meaning which doesn’t match what he claims he WANTED to say, you’d have to be an unreasonable person to not be misled.

    Rod B could improve his reputation a bit by simply saying “I misspoke, and should’ve admitted it rather than insisting people should’ve undertood ‘white’ where I said ‘black'”.

  44. 444
    Petro says:

    The conversatiom with Rod illustrates very nice way typical denialist’s behaviour. Even when revealed in detail how his statements are not true – and this can verified from the above coversatiom by anyone who has the slightest comprehension – Rod still maintains the position that he didn’t said anything untrue.

    Contrary to other denialists Rod keeps sprouting his views again and again. More often denialists just disappear when revealed. Maybe it is useful to keep him as pet denialist or this blog as a specimen.

  45. 445
    Hank Roberts says:

    manacker Says:
    > now prevailing theory of the K-T

    Cite please? you’re referring to an ongoing area, not a paradigm overthrow, as I read the literature. Examples:

    Where do you find the idea that it was a revolutionary change? In the relevant science journals? Or from bloggers or outside commenters? Beware oversimplification, especially to make a point.

  46. 446
    Hank Roberts says:

    Here’s a bit more.
    Note the spelling for reference: Nassim Nicholas Taleb

  47. 447
    Mark says:

    Owen, #442

    Rod B admitted that the paper was useless HALF WAY THROUGH his continuing queries about “is it true?”.

    If he’d really meant it and understood it, why ask if something that is irrelevant is true? Whether it is true it is still irrelevant. If it is false. Guess what? Irrelevant.

    So why did he continue to ASK about what he’d already said was irrelevant.

    a) he wanted a canned quote from here from someone saying “yes, he’s right” and then nipping just that bit off.
    b) he didn’t believe it really WAS irrelevant but was saying so so that people would answer him and then the waverers wouldn’t backtrack to see that it was irrelevant.

  48. 448
    Rod B says:

    Owen (442). Thanks. I was kind of aware that my choice of words might not have been correct, even in my 1st post on the subject, though my caveat in that post was not very good either. As my posts went on I was indeed aware of my poor terminology as it was saliently pointed out, and struggled strongly to overtly come up with the correct meaningful words. [Eventually coming up with, “…So, I’ll ask, no more, no less, does the smoothed out global temperature measurements decrease between 2002 and 2008? (regardless of Monckton’s terminology, which I have admitted ad nauseam that I think is misleading.)“, to which I got beat up over “smoothed out”.] But, nobody, with maybe one exception as I recall, would have any part of that, and most don’t to this day — and I guess never will — though all but a couple have long since given up on it, appropriately bored out of their mind I would guess.

  49. 449
    4 Degrees says:

    Mike Tabony at 441

    There is a lot of activity here in the UK against the proposed new coal-fired power stations, eg see

    I have tried to ascertain what is UK government policy in terms of the temperature that the UK is trying to achieve. No-one seems to know.

    It would seem prudent to have a target and it seem even more prudent to make that target no more than 2 degree C.

  50. 450
    Mark says:

    Rod B, #448 “…So, I’ll ask, no more, no less, does the smoothed out global temperature measurements decrease between 2002 and 2008? (regardless of Monckton’s terminology, which I have admitted ad nauseam that I think is misleading.)“,

    Nope, you got bashed because answering that question was irrelevant. If you smooth it out, you chuck out THE MOST IMPORTANT element of statistics: the errors.

    And you still forget to say “yeah, I know the answer is irrelevant”.