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Advocacy vs. Science

Filed under: — gavin @ 1 April 2009

The advocate will pick up any piece of apparently useful data and without doing any analysis, decide that their pet theory perfectly explains any anomaly without consideration of any alternative explanations. Their conclusion is always that their original theory is correct.

The scientist will look at all possibilities and revise their thinking based on a thorough assessment of all issues – data quality, model quality and appropriateness of the the comparison. Their conclusion follows from the analysis whatever it points to.

Which one is which?


595 Responses to “Advocacy vs. Science”

  1. 51
    spilgard says:

    Re #15:
    Over the past several hundred years, a series of forums have been created for the exchange of valid debate. They are still quite active and spirited today, and are known collectively as “the reputable scientific journals”. Of course, the fact that a viable alternative explanation for existing climate trends has not appeared simply demonstrates the censorship stranglehold exerted by the IPCC and the global cabal of funding vampires in their determination to suppress The Truth.

  2. 52

    Re: #15

    Dear Mike Strong,

    The debate IS over.

    Real Climate is infinitely patient with learners. If you have serious questions, then ask them.

  3. 53
    sidd says:

    “The so called evidence that ‘antarctica is stable and not showing signs of melting’then the equally sudden about face ‘now antarctica is melting’… ”

    Not so. Weertman and Mercer warned, three decades ago, that West Antarctica was unstable.

  4. 54

    For all those commenters begging Real Climate to get back to just the science and stick to it, remember that it is best to nip this type of thing (WUWT Lindzen thingy) in the bud, asap, with humor, and then get on with it.

    And this blog will now be a particularly good resource for all the new MSM “science” reporters who have no background in science.

  5. 55
    SecularAnimist says:

    “Advocacy vs. Science” is a false dichotomy. Plenty of advocates — e.g. folks who advocate measures to reduce CO2 emissions — are thoroughly committed to scientific empiricism.

    Indeed, effective advocacy of action to deal with anthropogenic global warming depends on science. And not only on climate science, but on (for example) the various scientific and engineering disciplines related to alternative energy technologies, which are crucial to understanding the strengths, weaknesses, and cost-effectiveness of various alternatives to carbon-based fuels. And not only on the “hard” sciences, but on economics (for example, to understand the likely relative merits of carbon taxes vs. cap-and-trade etc.) and other “social” sciences.

    Within some narrow point you are trying to make about pseudo-scientific AGW denialists, the distinction between “advocates” of discredited or unsupported hypotheses who deliberately misrepresent evidence, and impartial “scientists” who are committed to the findings of empirical observation, may have some value.

    But you are tarring all “advocates” with far too big a brush.

  6. 56
    George Ray says:

    Excellent blog.

    Based on your definition, I would suggest a better word than Advocate would be Politician. This would be even more relevant where money was involved. Money being defined broadly to include speaking fees, government funding, etc… (not just the often common spin that all money is “big business money”).

    On the scientist side you should add that a scientist welcomes debate/critique and is as transparent as possible so that others could replicate their findings. A sure sign of a faux-scientist (regardless of title, degree or peer group) is one that stifles open debate and/or frustrates attempts at replication.

    It takes courage to be a scientist.

  7. 57
    Russ Doty says:

    Did anybody read # 19? Regardless of your view on this topic, it is something you can agree on. You can generate more (LED) light than “heat” over the advocacy or science debate, and cut CO2 from nighttime electricity by 60% or save $$ whatever is your priority.. http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/ssl/caliper_round_7_summary_final.pdf Two LED street lights now have positive 15-year NPV. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/gatewaydemos_results.html You can get 2009 stimulus money to fund the transition. And energy star has also now qualified 26+ indoor products. http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=ssl.display_products_com_pdf

  8. 58
    pete best says:

    This is the best site on AGW available as it is written scientists who are talking about AGW science. Proper peer reviewed stuff and from a reputable establishment, GISS no less. I have been here two years now and it is the best. What other access to the science does us laymen have, this one will always be the best.

    Do not listen to anyone who asks this place to be stopped, it would be a fatal (ok serious maybe) mistake to make.

  9. 59
    Aaron Lewis says:

    “Apologist”; as in one who defends a religious sect.

    [Response: Hmmm... yes, but Lindzen doesn't seem the apologetic type. - gavin]

  10. 60
    dennis baker says:

    http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/010/0001/0001/0012/0002/0008/s7_e.htm

    The argument that scientists support this deferral technology carries little weight, as we’ve all heard from expert scientists who have disputed the dangers associated with smoking, disputed the dangers associated with toxic chemicals such as DDT, and promoted the use of Thalidomide. Individual economic reality all too often dictates the support of irresponsible academia.

  11. 61
    Mark says:

    [Response: Hmmm… yes, but Lindzen doesn’t seem the apologetic type. - gavin]

    How about apologoplectic? A word I just made up for someone who’d go apoplectic if they ever apologised?

  12. 62
    bi -- IJI says:

    Mark:

    But where you also make a mistake is in thinking that the denialosphere has a hypothesis. Their closest element to a hypothesis is “AGW isn’t happening”.

    I think the denialosphere’s hypothesis is more like “There’s no global warming, and even if there is, we should do nothing about it unless it involves stuff that goes ka-boom. Also, Al Gore is fat.”

    bi

  13. 63
    Ike Solem says:

    Speaking of MSM reporters who don’t cover climate science very well – they’re not very lkely to change. I had a rather long back-and-forth conversation with a reporter from the Union-Tribune regarding his claims that La Nina was the culprit behind California’s drought:

    http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/2009/jan/06/1n6weather0030-la-ni241-blamed-more-drought/

    Our discussion eventually culminated in this response:

    Ike:

    I stick by my story. There’s nothing inaccurate in there. If NONE of my sources even MENTION global warming as a cause of current weather patterns, cramming it in there is not only irresponsible, it would make me look ridiculous. I talk with these people often. None of them deny the influence of of global warming. You can argue about whether it’s a La Nina or not. That may be debatable. But if the story is about La Nina, you talk about La Nina – not global warming.

    You make the same mistake naysayers do all the time. You confuse weather and short-term patterns with global-warming impacts. It’s no more accurate to point the finger at global warming every time it gets hot and dry, than it is to deny global warming exists every time it gets cold. We have a few days of cold weather down here, and all the idiots start talking about how stupid Al Gore is. It’s infuriating. But what you’re doing is no better.

    Whether you want to admit it or not, there are natural cycles out there that have been going on since before global warming became a factor, and these fluctuations will continue to play a role. You want to blame everything on global warming. I’ve spoken with some of the most respected climatologists in the world, many who have worked on the various IPCC reports. Every one of them says there’s no way to make a definitive link between global warming and any one CURRENT event. They emphasize the overall trends and the big picture. They’ll say this pattern is indicative of what you’d EXPECT due to global warming, but they won’t attribute current weather conditions to global warming.

    I sent you those links to show you that there is plenty to be said about global warming, and I’ve been saying some of it. And I’m just one reporter here at the paper. There have been many more GW stories in the Union-Tribune by other reporters, some of them dealing with the issue you bring up – GW’s influence on the Western drought.

    But you obviously have built-in biases and blind spots. You’re busy concocting conspiracy theories and looking for boogeymen everywhere. I’m sure you’ll continue to find them, often in places where they don’t exist. You’re convinced the media is part of some grand deniers’ scheme. You’re just flat-out wrong.

    However, what kind of response should I give? The reporter seemed to think that my “cause” is global warming – but it’s not – if anything, it’s to get the media to report accurately on a wide variety of scientific issues, global warming and renewable energy being among the most important.

    I had already gone through the routine of explaining politely how La Nina was rather weak, and that the main warming trend was also reflected in wildfires, in snowpack, in the soil moisture, and that it also matched the latest predictions of coupled atmospheric-ocean models – to no avail. The truth is what the paper says it is, and I am simply concocting “conspiracy theories”.

    And the story – about La Nina? Here is the headline, as printed:

    CALIFORNIA’S WATER: A VANISHING RESOURCE
    La Niña blamed for more drought

    Funny, the story seems to be about the long-term water crisis facing California, doesn’t it, with La Nina being the culprit – and a drought is not a “single event”, it’s a the result of a great number of events – all the rainstorms, all the heat waves, all the snowfall events, the snowmelt events, and the human demand on top of that, integrated over several years.

    If that’s the typical press mentality (I couldn’t get Andrew Revkin of the NYT to retract his claim that the atmospheric brown cloud over the Indian Ocean was “mostly due to the smoke from dung and wood fires”, either), then how do we make progress? There is a deliberate refusal among science reporters and their editors and publishers to go back and acknowledge error – and that fits the behavior of various climate denialists as well – for example, Roger Pielke Sr. never bothered to alter any of his numerous blog posts on the Lyman cooling paper (with the bad data?), and “science reporters” from places like examiner.com then link to that site as a proof that the ocean is cooling. That’s not science – that’s propaganda.

    Thus, I think the real question isn’t about the difference between science and advocacy, but rather about the difference between science and propaganda.

    In any case, I’ve never met a scientist that wasn’t an advocate for their own projects and funding schedules, believe me – but that’s how the peer-reviewed grant process works – you have to demonstrate that what you do is of some value, or you won’t get funded. In today’s world, you also have to be sure that your work isn’t pissing off some powerful corporate conglomerate that has a public-private partnership with your administration… a separate topic, I suppose.

  14. 64
    MarkB says:

    The standard response from contrarians seems to be ignoring the corrected data, as is always the case when the corrections go against their pre-determined hypothesis. Example (from Watts):

    “I know that many of us here don’t trust “corrections” applied to data.”

    Certainly, when corrections lead to conclusions of higher climate sensitivity, or more warming, they don’t trust it and claim scientists are biased towards warming. At the same time, when corrections lead to less warming or imply lower sensitivity, they claim the scientists had an “AGW” bias to begin with (note the average contrarian obsession over NASA data, for example). This allows them to cover all bases.

    Re: #32:

    Yeah, I get that impression too, although it seems a bit insulting to zoo animals. Most of them tend to be a bit more calm and rational.

  15. 65
    MarkB says:

    I forgot to ask: has anyone contacted Lindzen about this obvious oversight? Any response? It’s hard to assume good faith from someone who should have known better, but I’ll give him a chance.

  16. 66
    James says:

    Russ Doty Says (2 April 2009 at 10:18 AM):

    “Did anybody read # 19? Regardless of your view on this topic, it is something you can agree on…”

    Yes, I read it, and looked at the link. For me it’s irrelevant. First, I can’t advocate the use of LED streetlights in my city, because I don’t live in a city. Second, I have a logical problem advocating the use of low-energy outdoor lighting. What I really want is for unused lights to be turned off entirely: http://www.darksky.org/mc/page.do Reducing lighting energy use (& therefore cost) just makes it more attractive to leave existing lights on, or install more.

  17. 67
    wmanny says:

    Lindzen:

    “Recently, Wong et al (Wong, Wielicki et al, 2006, Reexamination of the Observed Decadal Variability of the Earth Radiation Budget Using Altitude-Corrected ERBE/ERBS Nonscanner WFOV Data, J. Clim., 19, 4028-4040) have reassessed their data to reduce the magnitude of the anomaly, but the remaining anomaly still represents a substantial negative feedback, and there is reason to question the new adjustments.”

    From a presentation some time in the last two years. Haven’t found anything more specific yet.

  18. 68
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 19, 66, LED street lights.

    Sorry, they’re using the wrong wavelength. Stick with the amber sodium vapor. The LED lights are like cheaper fluorescents, with a blue-violet emitter and a phosphor, producing more glare. Big, big mistake. Use only enough light to get the job done. Use long wavelength light:

    docs.darksky.org/Docs/ida_wildlife_brochure.pdf

    There’s a huge amount of cheap blue-white LEDs out there looking for a use. Avoid the stuff.
    http://www.sciencenetlinks.com/sci_update.cfm?DocID=170

    The industry PR folks went ballistic about the science as soon as it started to be published, going on 8 years ago now — that’s where the scare stories are coming from, because of the growing impact on both medicine and city/building design of the science about the effects of short-wavelength (blue) light at night. It’s not just turtles and birds, it’s people too.

    The first study is cited here, in the first industry PR broadside trying to minimize it from 2001. You can follow that forward from there:
    Brainerd et al. Action spectrum for melatonin regulation in humans: evidence for novel circadian photoreceptor. Journal of Neuroscience 2001;21:6405. …
    http://www.acsh.org/healthissues/newsID.1022/healthissue_detail.asp

    The leaving-little-babies-shivering-in-fear-in-total-darkness nonsense comes from those people. You’ll see it often now. They’re ignoring the fact that long wavelength (amber-yellow) light doesn’t cause problems at night, not for turtles, or birds, or people. They’re pushing cheap lights. Eschew.

    Look it up.
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&lr=&safe=off&q=melatonin+light+wavelength+lighting+sleep
    ______________________
    “domestic designer” … hat tip to ReCaptcha’s AI

  19. 69
    Ike Solem says:

    Oh please, not again… what is this, the broken record? Here is my first ever post on Richard Lindzen on realclimate (though I had been watching his antics for at least a decade before that). Unedited, warts and all:

    Begin:
    # Ike Solem Says:
    15 February 2006 at 2:0 AM

    Re #1 and #2,

    I had thought that the actual difference in Milankovich forcing (between extremes) was much smaller then current CO2 et al forcing. Are Milankovich cycles seen as a trigger for postive feedbacks going into or out of glacial periods? But then, ice records show associated CO2 changes, but is this the chicken or the egg? In any case, how much can we learn about our current interglacial but getting warmer situation from looking only at the past millions of years of glacial/interglacial cycles? Glacial cycles are apparently associated with a drying and cooling of the atmosphere. It seems that a warmer world would be a wetter world, unlike Lindzens argument r.e. water vapor feedbacks.

    From listening to Lindzen, it seems he believes strongly in stable equilibrium – the notion that a stable system will respond to stress in such a manner as to restore stability. This is still a valid scientific viewpoint, which could account for Lindzen’s credibility. Some systems (buffers, for example) display this behavior, but it doesn’t seem to apply to the climate system, which has many positive feedbacks (pebbles starting avalanches). The large swings of glacial cycles and sea levels in the absence of any human perturbation should suggest a relatively sensitive climate, especially if the glacial/interglacial switches occurred very rapidly (100-1000 years?).

    Lindzen should consider that an honest approach to the problem involves openminded consideration of all possible forcings and feedbacks, not just those that happen to fit with one’s notions. Calling people ‘alarmists’ and suggesting they are trying to terrify the public into funding science is reducing a scientific debate to a political squabble. In any scientific area one can find a dissenting scientific opinion, whether you are talking about the K-T boundary and the extinction of the dinosaurs, quantum mechanical theories, or whatever. Generally, unless they have some startling new evidence, outliers to general scientific consensus are not handed bullhorns and invited to speak to Parliament.

    End.

  20. 70

    http://www2.canada.com/topics/technology/science/story.html?id=1456186

    is an article (one of many posted in the last day) on a NOAA report. The post says “Climate change not all man-made, report says”

    When I googled the text, I found the actual NOAA report at

    http://www.climate.noaa.gov/education/docs/Climate_Literacy_CCSP_final_030609.doc

    It boggles my mind to see how the posts (there are many, all parroting the same line) can read the original NOAA report and treat it as they do.

    Comments anyone? Am I missing something?

    Burgy

  21. 71
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Lindzen: “…and there is reason to question the new adjustments.”

    Translation: Give me ambiguity or give me something else…

    Well, I guess since Lindzen is not trying to convince an audience with any scientific sophistication, this suffices for his purposes.

  22. 72
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Burgie, the article in question is from Canada’s National Post Mortem. No more need be said. The credibility of said rag is less than zero. If I read in the Post that it was sunny, I’d buy an umbrella.

  23. 73
    Hank Roberts says:

    Gavin, I’d nominate this site for consideration in your sidebar. Hope you’ll take a look a few times and see what you think. From today’s:
    http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/environmental_law/

    “Science – Scientists Track Changes in Oceanic Biological Productivity Caused by Climate Change

    What a tangled web we weave….. everything really is connected to everything. Over the past several decades, the climate of the western shelf of the Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) has been changing from a cold, dry polar climate to a warmer, more humid climate marked by retreating glaciers. As a result, populations of species that depend on sea ice — such as krill and Adelie penguins — are being displaced poleward and replaced by other species that are typically averse to ice. According to Montes-Hugo et al. in the 13 Mar 2009 Science…”

  24. 74
    MarkB says:

    Re: #70

    Yeah, that is pretty lousy reporting. First, note the strawman:

    “Most climate researchers today deal exclusively with man-made “greenhouse” gases, and often dismiss suggestions of naturally caused warming as unscientific.”

    What? Most climate researchers only study manmade GHGs? That’s news to me.

    The article starts by intentionally blurring the line between regional North American climate, which the study addresses, and global climate. Here is another article that has similar spin:

    “Natural causes also responsible for global warming: Scientists”

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Natural+causes+also+responsible+global+warming+Scientists/1453524/story.html

    Again, they reference the same study that covers North American climate, not global climate. Here is the study:

    http://downloads.climatescience.gov/sap/sap1-3/sap1-3-final-ch3.pdf

    The article claims:

    “It estimates the “natural” change is substantial and could be close to half of all warming in North America”

    This is an error, largely of omission, since the study indicates that natural forcing in North America might not have been substantial at all. See figure 3.4 on page 64. Note the range of natural forcings in North America. It could be substantial on the high end, accounting for close to half, or it could have resulted in slight cooling. Most importantly, note the global model. On average, natural forcing since 1950 should have lead to slight global cooling, and the range of uncertainty is smaller, such that natural forcings even on the warm end don’t account for any significant global warming since then.

    More spin: “It’s “unlikely” that patterns of drought have changed due to global warming caused by human pollution. Rather, natural shifts in ocean currents are probably to blame.”

    This is another error of omission. From the study:

    “It is likely that anthropogenic warming has increased drought impacts over North America
    in recent decades through increased water stresses associated with warmer conditions,
    but the magnitude of the effect is uncertain.”

  25. 75
    Robert says:

    John ,

    Did you mean _Reanalysis of Historical Climate Data for Key Atmospheric Features_ http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap1-3/final-report/

    Re: John Burgeson Says:
    2 April 2009 at 1:22 PM

  26. 76
    Phil Scadden says:

    Mike Strong – your wish for a place for debate predisposes that both sides are actually striving to find the truth. The complicating factor is that there is instead a lot of deliberate mis-information being pumped out by carbon lobby. I think they would regard this as a duty to their shareholders? (ditto tobacco companies). The proper forum for real debate on any search for scientific truth happens in the journals not blogs. Any time you see you a “debunking” of AGW, then ask the proponent where their view is published. (Energy and Environment doesnt count). If you get an answer (most unlikely), then use citation indexes to look for the counter arguments. Works both ways of course.

    When a science question gets vexed, it is common to set up workshops where proponents of different views can get together and thrash out the issues. A good outcome is a new direction or experiment to explore the ambiguous areas. Now if say Richard Lindzen, Bob Carter really wanted to get to bottom of it, then you could suggest private (no media, no statements) workshop with appropriate scientists to just thrash it out. I am sure Gavin et al would be happy to attend but for the other side? Now what have they got to gain from such a workshop? Do they really think their objections have real scientific merit that could be debated with their peers? I think the closest you got was public debate at AGU but a large audience and too many speakers doesnt resolve anything.

  27. 77
    Hank Roberts says:

    Aside — someone should be doing something like this for writing about climate change, showing to what extent a paper does or doesn’t reference other work, and to what extent it relies on science or opinion sources, and perhaps where the funding comes from.

    These are data mining tools worth knowing about:

    http://computationallegalstudies.com/

  28. 78
    Doug Mackie says:

    No real comment but recaptcha was “Dawkins as”.
    Made me think of denial arguments as memes.

    I had an experience when rebutting some same old excrement in a business newspaper. Editor saw validity of my position but said his readers would not because they were more likely to be convinced by force of an argument than truth. Editor told me my article was “not confrontational enough”. (I revised it).

    As a scientist I had erred (in his eyes) by presenting caveats. The denialist had lied and made absolute claims and therefore (to the editor and readers) seemed stronger. What to do?

  29. 79
    John Philip says:

    At any rate, we are–very–light on the delete button and generally lean on it only in cases of personal attack on fellow-commenters

    Evan – I know this to be false from personal experience …

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/03/a-potentially-useful-book-lies-damn-lies-science/langswitch_lang/it#comment-117396

  30. 80
    James Staples says:

    We can only hope that the ‘advocates’, in the interest of being as correct as possible when making their decisions regarding waht they chose to ‘advocate’, will read Gavins’ little piece here, and adopt a more open, critical mode of thinking; i.e.: “The Scientific Process” (most people don’t really know what that means, do they Gavin?)
    You should have heard me trying to explain Difraction Index’s to an anti-’Con-Trail’ Greenpeacer! You know, the type who thinks the Gov is releasing ‘Nuclear Waste’ from the jets of high altitude Aircraft!
    I try to make the point that they should direct their noble efforts towards combating REAL problems, and to no longer make ‘advocates’ look like dumb-s**ts who should be marginalized.

  31. 81
    Jarad Holmes says:

    Slightly off topic, but within the past couple of hours, the NSICD finally updated the trend graphs for the Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice Trends to include data through March 2009… compared to the holy grail 1979-2000 “average” (which excludes 2001-2008 data in the averaging, of course…which is my constant gripe that they throw out 30% of the data since 1979 when calculating the average (mean).

    http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/index.html

    Arctic now at -2.7% per decade (last month it was trending at -2.8% and last year it was -11% per decade)

    Antarctic now trending up at +4.7% per decade, up from +2.8% through February.

  32. 82
    Lawrence Brown says:

    Re: 16
    RC moderator’s non-response to this statement is an example of what I believe earns RC its “advocacy site” label.

    Which part of my post(#11) do you disagree with manny? Let me guess. My complimentary remarks about Al Gore. He’s the anti’s favorite whipping boy.Let the truth be damned.
    Don’t underestimate the contributors to RC.They can’t respond to everything.It’s a wonder that they respond to as much as they do, considering their challenging(to me) day jobs, writing for peer review publications as well as books, attending and organizing periodic conferences, and responding to requests to appear in public debates(what did I leave out) is a heavy load.

  33. 83
    Geoff Russell says:

    Your characterisation of a scientist is accurate when
    answering “is” questions. What IS happening and what are
    its causes. But it won’t provide values and is irrelevant to
    the issues of what people care about.

    Good science might tell me that global warming is happening
    and why, but can it make me decide to forgo my current
    lifestyle for the sake of future generations?

    Suppose I decide the future IS important, I might decide
    that MY children’s future is most important to me, and if
    I’m Canadian, for example, the optimal way of ensuring prosperity
    for MY kids, MAY be to welcome and encourage global
    warming. Such questions of optimality are amenable to
    rational examination, but the cost function (the decisions about which things have value and how much) is just a choice.

    Are scientists who understand climate change in the front line of people changing their lifestyles to reduce their footprint?
    Science can order pretty precisely the impacts of various
    lifestyle changes, but a person’s personal
    preferences frequently preclude them acting rationally.

    Australian scientists have identified the biggest
    components of an Australian’s greenhouse footprint

    http://www.acfonline.org.au/default.asp?section_id=86

    and, in most first world countries the answer will be the
    same … flying will be number one for many scientists but
    for the general population, animal foods (meat and dairy)
    are the single biggest immediately
    modifiable component. But when was the last time anybody
    went to a climate change conference with vegan catering?

    At the 3rd International Solar Cities Congress 2008, a notable
    event was a BBQ with 3 kinds of beef.

    So clearly, even people who care about climate change care
    about other things far more.

  34. 84
    wmanny says:

    Lawrence, I understand that Gore is a whipping boy to the right and much of that is irrational, but there has been plenty of legitimate protest lodged against his proclivity for overstatement — I don’t hold that against him as much as many do because he is, of course, an advocate and I believe he is sincere. Let’s put it this way, though: I am going to be far more curious about what Dyson has to say than Gore. The former is a proven scientist and a famously open-minded thinker, and the other is a politician who has political goals. Whether one is on the right or wrong side of the debate remains to be seen (and you never hear Gore say, “I could be wrong about this,” as Dyson routinely does) but for RC moderators not to challenge the broad-brush assertion you made is either a sign that anything goes on the correct side of the debate, or that, as you point out, they simply have too much to read.

    Walter

  35. 85
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    No, no, no, no, no. An advocate will rely on what the scientists say. You’re right that they will certainly not do studies after studies, and will certainly not come to thoughtful, scientific conclusions based on tons of the best evidence & considering all possible theories (even cosmic rays). They’ll let the scientists do all that, then they’ll use their conclusions.

    And a policy maker (say, gov officials charged with the safety of the people and planet) will look at initial scientific studies that merely suggest a problem (.05 sig. or less on the null certainly not necessary), and start prudently mitigating the problem just in case it pans out to be a real threat. Just like all our wonderful policy makers have been doing since 1990. Some initial studies or theoretical conjecture back in the late 80s & early 90s say we might have had terrible hurricane seasons, wildfires, sea rise, arctic melt, droughts, floods, disease spread, etc. by the early 2000s, but we’ll never know since the world reduced its 1990 GHG emissions by 75% and we’re currently down to 314 ppm and decreasing. (And BONUS BONUS, our economy is doing so well with alt energy & smart efficiency/conservation; we never thought we could be so materially well off and happy, and bring the poor nations up to a better life as well.) But that’s just the way policy-makers are. Great guys, aren’t they!

    I’m not sure what R. Lindzen is. Isn’t he a scientist??

  36. 86
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter, Gore is a politician. He would be a retired politician had any politician on the right had the courage to stand up with him and proclaim what they knew to be the truth–that climate change is a threat. None did. Not McCain. Not Jim Baker. None of the majority of Republican senators on record as concerned about climate change. It is precisely because he stood up alone that he received the attention–and awards–he did. I would not say that he overstates his case, but he states it as strongly as the science allows, like a politician.

    Dyson, on the other hand, should know that unless someone has made a real effort to understand a field outside one’s own expertise, one has no special authority just because one is a physicist. From his characteizations of models, etc., it is clear Dyson has made no such effort. And in this case Gore is far closer to the truth than Dyson.

    [Response: Ray, I don't think that's quite fair. McCain, in my view, took a fairly courageous stand against those in his own party who sought to attack the science (and the scientists). Others in his party, such as outgoing Science Committee Chair Sherwood Boehlert, did as well. And there is of course Schwarzenegger. This doesn't need to, and shouldn't be, a partisan issue. Climate Change doesn't care about your party affiliation. -mike]

  37. 87
    dhogaza says:

    Arctic now at -2.7% per decade (last month it was trending at -2.8% and last year it was -11% per decade)

    No way this trend line went from -11%/decade to -2.7%/decade in the last year.

    How did you come to that conclusion?

    [Response: He's confusing the trends for a particular month with the trends using all monhly anomalies. -11%/dec is for September extent. See here. - gavin]

  38. 88

    #81 Jarad Holmes

    Just FYI, NSIDC is showing ice extent, that means coverage. It’s a 2-dimensional picture. It is not showing ice mass loss. It’s an important distinction.

    btw, check back there next Monday
    http://www.nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

  39. 89
    Ike Solem says:

    Too bad Al Gore didn’t find a Republican who would cooperate with him on the issue – that would have eliminated the whole effort to tar his efforts as political opportunism. Maybe he should team up with Pat Robertson?

    P.S. I would agree with Dyson that nuclear and biological warfare are still greater immediate “existential threats” than global warming and species extinction are, but the warming climate and the loss of biological diversity are building up a momentum that becomes impossible to deal with via transparency and international accords, as is the case with nuclear and biological weapons. Dyson’s problem is that he doesn’t acknowledge the immediate problems human civilizations will face due to agricultural collapses, fishery collapses, etc. He’s right in a sense, that if we are to return the planet to 4 million year ago conditions, in the “big picture” that is not total catastrophe – but in the picture that includes the next several human generations, it certainly will be a catastrophe – with water, food and living space being the big issues.

  40. 90
    Kipp Alpert says:

    Isn’t it a rather strong assumption to say that the Global Warming debate has been the cornerstone of the Bush Administration. George Bush was busy burning his Scientific notes while the Pentagon was planning their mitigation response to Global Warming.Republicans have done nothing but throw the Global Warming Science debate under the bus. After all, it threatens their Big Buisnees profits, and those comapanies that pay for their elections.A few renagade Republicans have come over to the Real Science, but only in the smallest way.Deniers are mostly right wing republicans. Does George Will believe in AGW.How about RUSH.Ray Ladbury is spot on, and you should realize that the bigest threat to the human race is finally being delt with by Barach Obama, a Democrat. Mike, it shows more about your goodness than the reality of what has happened before, and now is the time to access blame so such sin’s against Humanity never rear it’s ugly head again.

  41. 91
    walter crain says:

    mike,
    that is the thing that so totally riles me up. this SHOULDN’T be a partisan issue, but it IS.

  42. 92
    walter crain says:

    ike solem,
    that would be SO great (#89). remember a few years back when newt gingrich and john kerry “toured” together talking in agreement about the science aand arguing about the solutions. i was so hopeful when that happened. finally, i thought, maybe we’d move beyond discussing whether global warming was a man-made threat to figuring out what to do about it. we’ve regressed since…

  43. 93
    Michael Hauber says:

    I’ve always considered that the scientific debate on climate change has been well and truly over for years.

    However the public debate continues on, and it is the public debate that decides what actions politicians will enact.

    It is hard for nonscientists to trust science, especially when it involved personal cost. I think one way we do learn to trust the scientists is from experience. We trust the science behind electronics and internal combustion engines because we see that cars and TVs work.

    The best way for the general public to see that climate science ‘works’ is to be reminded of predictions made in the past, and see how these predictions work. As far as I can tell there are some significant predictions, by Hansen etc from as early as the late 70s of global warming, and that the trend has been fairly close to what was predicted. However there is hardly anywhere on the internet where this is highlighted.

    Should sites such as realclimate have a prominent link to a comparison of temperature trends against model projections, that is updated on a monthly basis?

  44. 94
    Kipp Alpert says:

    Mike and Ike:I have been over at AccuWeather for a year now arguing daily,in whatever way possible to convince,expand,and further the realization that AGW is an extremly dangerous reality that we must face sooner rather than later. Deniers have mattered, however negative and misguided they are.I wonder if they will ever get the Science, as they seem to be short on substance and highly attuned to Politics.Just to see what Obama has done in sixty days is wonderful. A mandate on Coal Sequestration by the EPA is a huge step. Barbara Boxer is moving for legislation with cap and trade.I grew up in Darien Ct.,a republican segregated town fifty minutes from N.Y. These people mostly care about the money, and being born again, better than anyone else. It is a wierd and backward town.Here, is where the big players live. After their wives turn forty,they divorce and get a new blonde, thirty years younger than themselves, and start a second family that might not have a father when the kids graduate college.They are not enviromentalists. They are business men,in a war against each other for profit. There only belief is conformity, and they have sold America out.So you don’t get that factor of unity, or a feeling for all humanity.
    But that is just one battle lost,in a war to free mankind from his lesser nature and self obliteration.You can’t have your cake and eat it to.We can’t stop Global starvation,or desease, tomorrow, but we may have saved mankind.That’s why AGW has to be our greatest challenge, as nothing less would suffice.Yes,now more than ever,let us fight for what is right,and leave the second guessing and dashed hopes for when we get old. I am going to fight for this realiazation until I die.Save the world first, than we can sit down and ask those other questions about our nature. KIPP

  45. 95
    Jarad Holmes says:

    To dhogaza, comment 87. The trend data is on the NSIDC site, if this pastes correctly:

    Year of September Average Extent Extent (million sq. km.) Anomaly Relative to 1979-2000 Average (million sq. km.) Anomaly Relative to 1979-2000 Average (%) Anomaly Relative to Previous Record (million sq. km.) Anomaly Relative to Previous Record (%) Linear Trend Since 1979 (sq. km. per year) Linear Trend Since 1979 Relative to 1979-2000 Average (% per decade)
    2002 5.96 -1.08 -15.3 -0.17 -2.8 -51,000 -7.3
    2003 6.15 -0.89 -12.6 0.19 3.2 -53,000 -7.5
    2004 6.04 -1.00 -14.2 0.08 1.3 -55,000 -7.8
    2005 5.57 -1.47 -20.9 -0.39 -6.5 -59,000 -8.4
    2006 5.89 -1.15 -16.3 0.32 5.7 -60,000 -8.6
    2007 4.28 -2.76 -39.2 -1.29 -23.2 -72,000 -10.2
    2008 4.67 -2.37 -33.6 0.39 9.1 -78,000 -11.1
    September Average Extents, 2002-2008: Calculated by Walt Meier, National Snow and Ice Data Center. All values in table estimated based on the NSIDC Sea Ice Index.

  46. 96
    Russ Doty says:

    #66 James:
    LEDs are not irrelevant for you James, if they can cut nightime energy use from lighting by 60%. I thought you scientists perceived things on a global scale. LEDs work as yard lamps in rural areas that don’t need to be lit all night. They can be uses with a motion sensor, dimmed. A small German town is turning them off most of the night ans if someone needs them, they can dial a cell phone number and get light for a few minutes in that neighborhood. The town of 900 is saving $5,000/year on energy. So you may not get the lights out entirely, but you do get luminaires that do not bleed over to the night sky or second story windows or onto property lines where it is not needed. In parking ramps, they are dimming the lights when they are not needed, so LEDs don’t make it more attractive to leave lights on. They make it easier to turn them off and on.

  47. 97
    Jarad Holmes says:

    To John Reisman (OSS Foundation), Comment 87: regarding the new global ice trend from the NSIDC for the end of March 2009.

    John: I AGREE: Ice extent does not equate to depth or concentration. But, in 2007, there was almost no “multi-year” ice in the Arctic compared to previous recent years. But now, we have two years of building ice in the Arctic. And you know,of course, that the Antarctic has so much multi-year ice (on shore and off shore) that the extent indicates the concentration (3D) is building up (down there) and no one understands it yet, despite the melt on the west side versus growth elsewhere around the continent.

    Look, this website claims to be unbiased. So let us study this. The fact is, that since 2007, there has been a recovery in the Arctic. It is fragile, but THERE. It may not be high density (3D) but it is certainly extent (2D).

    If the readers of this blog are truly scientists…we need to reconcile the data and understand it.

    I am making no conclusions. I am merely saying that the Arctic extent loss trend is decreasing and the Antarctic trend is growing by a bunch. You can go to the NSIDC site and get the history This won’t past well, but here is a recent table from the NSIDC:

    Year of September Average Extent Extent (million sq. km.) Anomaly Relative to 1979-2000 Average (million sq. km.) Anomaly Relative to 1979-2000 Average (%) Anomaly Relative to Previous Record (million sq. km.) Anomaly Relative to Previous Record (%) Linear Trend Since 1979 (sq. km. per year) Linear Trend Since 1979 Relative to 1979-2000 Average (% per decade)
    2002 5.96 -1.08 -15.3 -0.17 -2.8 -51,000 -7.3
    2003 6.15 -0.89 -12.6 0.19 3.2 -53,000 -7.5
    2004 6.04 -1.00 -14.2 0.08 1.3 -55,000 -7.8
    2005 5.57 -1.47 -20.9 -0.39 -6.5 -59,000 -8.4
    2006 5.89 -1.15 -16.3 0.32 5.7 -60,000 -8.6
    2007 4.28 -2.76 -39.2 -1.29 -23.2 -72,000 -10.2
    2008 4.67 -2.37 -33.6 0.39 9.1 -78,000 -11.1
    September Average Extents, 2002-2008: Calculated by Walt Meier, National Snow and Ice Data Center. All values in table estimated based on the NSIDC Sea Ice Index.

  48. 98

    Ike, what happened to all the research that shows it likely that global warming will cause the jet stream to move to higher latitudes, and I thought it was Hansen who many years ago predicted more drought in the Southwest?

    Lu et al., 2008: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2008GL036076.shtml

  49. 99
    CM says:

    Re headline cited in #74:

    “Natural causes also responsible for global warming: Scientists”

    I am not sure it’s entirely accurate to call scientists a natural cause. But anyway, the truth will out: Scientists are responsible for global warming. So that’s why you guys have been pestering us about fossil fuels all these years – just to deflect our attention. Now what have you to say for yourself? :)

    Even when not unintentionally funny, headline writers rather than journalists seem to be responsible for a lot of distorted stories. See the autism researcher’s story in last week’s New Scientist.

    (reCAPTCHA: “voicing impact”. A stirring mission statement for an advocacy group?)

  50. 100

    Can I ask a stupid question that makes it difficult for me to read Lindzen’s paper? What is a “nonscanner”.

    And, assuming it is just a scanner, another question – Why is it given such a stupid name?

    Cheers, Alastair.


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