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Something Is X in the State of Denmark

Filed under: — rasmus @ 29 November 2009

We received a letter with the title ‘Climate Change: The Role of Flawed Science‘ which may be of interest to the wider readership. The author, Peter Laut, is Professor (emeritus) of physics at The Technical University of Denmark and former scientific advisor on climate change for The Danish Energy Agency. He has long been a critic of the hypothesis that solar activity dominates the global warming trend, and has been involved in a series of heated public debates in Denmark. Even though most of his arguments concern scientific issues, such as data handling, and arithmetic errors, he also has much to say about the way that the debate about climate change has been conducted. It’s worth noting that he sent us this letter before the “CRU email” controversy broke out, so his criticism of the IPCC for being too even handed, is ironic and timely.

Update – the link in the letter is now fixed. -rasmus


353 Responses to “Something Is X in the State of Denmark”

  1. 301

    “Response: Marevellous – you have just defined an Alice-in-Wonderland world where policymakers should listen to scientists in inverse proportion to how much they agree amongst themselves. Try that with medicial advice. – gavin”

    That is merely your interpretation and not a statement of fact. You have fallen for the logical fallacy of the “Appeal to ridicule”.

    [Response: How is pointing out that an argument is ridiculous a logical fallacy? - gavin]

  2. 302
    Ron Taylor says:

    Richard Steckis says: “Policy makers if they have any brains whatsoever should interrogate all arguments around a particular area of science and then draw their own conclusions.”

    And how do they determine the relative merits of the arguments if they are not scientists themselves? Under your scenario, politics would carry the day, which means that the industrial lobbyists, with their vastly superior political power through money, would dictate policy. This is precisely why we have things like the National Academy of Sciences.

  3. 303
    SNRatio says:

    Martin Vermeer #234
    “I know, I know, ad hominem squared, but is there any reason after this to take Svensmark seriously?”
    Svensmark should be taken seriously when he talks about his own research. But even when it comes to applications of it, I think anyone trying to take his argumentation as purely scientific will soon get into problems. And for the big climate picture, he may even be his own worst enemy today. He seems to avoid going into both ocean circulation and greenhouse gases when discussing climate changes, while the actual (eventual) effects of cosmic rays seem to be more modulating. Whether there are systematic, long-term effects of changes in this kind of radiation – is that settled? I think Svensmark claims that the long term warming trend is strongly influenced by solar activity (mostly magnetism), but has anyone seen him applying Occam’s razor? Without cutting himself up completely, I mean.

  4. 304
    Sloop says:

    Mr. Steckis,

    I work as an advisor on science to policymakers and I must interject here quickly that your arguments on how the policy/science interface functions are woefully uninformed and simply incorrect. May I suggest that you read up on the fascinating literature that has emerged since the late 1940′s re: how scientific and technical info is utilized in policy, law, and regulation before you sound forth with such loud certainty?

    Gavin has touched too briefly on a profound issue re: what policymakers look for in determining what the science is saying to them, but what he has written this morning is in the correct direction.

  5. 305
  6. 306

    “Response: How is pointing out that an argument is ridiculous a logical fallacy? – gavin”

    Because the argument itself is not ridiculous. You used the logical fallacy of the Appeal to ridicule to attempt to reduce my argument to the level of silliness to therefore try to defeat it.

    This is also similar to the “Poisoning the Well Argument”.

    See: http://changingminds.org/disciplines/argument/fallacies/appeal_ridicule.htm

    In other words please rely on your own logical powers and not invoke fairy tale scenarios.

  7. 307

    I will say no more on this as it is OT.

  8. 308
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    “Research collaboration is good for science. Consensus is bad for science.”

    I wonder what Science is “for” in your world. In my world, Science is there to give us a better place to live in. We know more about our world and can make better choices.

    Uncertainties aren’t the point of science. The advantages of knowledge are the point. In the end, you live with a degree of uncertainty because that’s just part of the game. You can’t possibly get rid of all uncertainties. But if there were no practical consensus, no drug would be formulated. No automobile driven. Etc.

    Short view: you’re letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. I wonder if you restrict such caution to AGW.

  9. 309

    304
    Sloop says:
    2 December 2009 at 9:39 AM

    Mr. Steckis,

    “I work as an advisor on science to policymakers and I must interject here quickly that your arguments on how the policy/science interface functions are woefully uninformed and simply incorrect.”

    I work for an agency that also gives policy advice to Ministers of the Crown. Our current minister is not beyond seeking advice elsewhere if he feels he is warranted in doing so. He has shown himself to be an independent thinker and that is why he garners such respect with my agency.

    By the way. What power would lobbyists have if policy makers merely listened to their advisors?

  10. 310
    Silk says:

    ” Policy makers if they have any brains whatsoever should interrogate all arguments around a particular area of science and then draw their own conclusions. ”

    There’s a lot of rot on here, but this is about as rotten as it gets.

    Policymakers are, in general, not scientists. Virtually none of ‘em are climate scientists.

    Where should they go for information on which to base policy?

    The IPCC was formed (so far as I understand) specifically to provide policymakers with the tools they need to make decisions.

    Do you think forming the IPCC was a bad idea? Do you think politicians using the IPCC reports as a basis for their decisions is a bad idea? How else should they make decisions? Based on what?

  11. 311

    I also have some Web pages that respond to some of the claims here. I still think John Cook’s Skeptical Science site is the best resource but my pages are good “quick-hitters” for the general public:

    Consensus:
    http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/global_warming_scientific_consensus.html
    http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/global_warming_misinformation_galileo.html

    Global Cooling:
    http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/global_cooling.html

    Cosmic Rays:
    http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/global_warming_misinformation_cosmic_rays.html

  12. 312
    Scott Mandia says:

    Kulmala, et al. (2009): “Our main conclusion is that galactic
    cosmic rays appear to play a minor role for atmospheric aerosol
    formation, and so for the connected aerosol-climate effects as well.”

    Erlykin, et al. (2009): “The analysis made in the present work,
    as well as arguments presented in our previous publication ( Sloan and
    Wolfendale, 2008 ), gives sufficient basis to argue that CR are not the
    dominant factor in the formation of clouds.”

    Erlykin, Sloan, & Wolfendale (2009): ” We deduce that the maximum
    recent increase in the mean surface temperature of the Earth which can
    be ascribed to this activity is < 14% of the observed global warming."

    Pierce & Le Page (2007): “Observations from satellites and model
    simulations do not support the cosmic ray hypothesis as a major role in
    low cloud coverage and climate change.”

    Kulmala, M. et al. (2009). Atmospheric data over a solar cycle: No
    connection between galactic cosmic rays and new particle formation,
    Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions, 9(5),
    21525-21560

    Erlykin, A. D., Gyalai, G., Kudela, K., Sloan, T., & Wolfendale, A. W.
    (2009). On the correlation between cosmic ray intensity and cloud cover.
    Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics,
    71(17-18), 1794-1806.

    Erlykin, A. D., Sloan, T., & Wolfendale, A. W. (2009). Solar activity
    and the mean global temperature. Environmental Research
    Letters
    , 4 014006 (5pp) doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/4/1/014006

    Pierce, F. & Michael L. (2007, May). Climate myths: It’s all down to
    cosmic rays. Retrieved June 2, 2009, from New Scientist Web site:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11651-climate-myths-its-all-down-to-cosmic-rays.html

    Regarding global cooling please see:

    http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/global_cooling.html

  13. 313
    Ron R. says:

    David H. said, “Gavin, you can settle your credibility issues rather quickly if you were to submit to a polygraph test through a reputable source and answer several questions … Anyone else with me on this?”

    Heck yeah! I think you’re on to something there. By golly let’s breakout the lie detector and the bright overhead light in the small, darkened room. Make sure to have a few other big guys standing off half hidden in the shadows, only their burly arms and clenched fists showing.

    And let’s not forget all the other tests we should doing too. After the polygraph lets do a handwriting analysis to make sure this Gavin is not an imposter while the real one is off enjoying himself in the Bahamas somewhere. In fact let’s do a complete psychological writeup including rorschach test and physical including EEG. An eye test to make sure he’w reading all those reports right. A blood sample (FBI DNA purposes you know), and retinal scan (heck that’s about what the bank makes me go through just to cash a check these days!). A breathalyzer test of course to make sure Gavin’s not coming to any world shaking conclusions while under the influence. And an e-meter test just to please the Scientologists out there.

    Probably his phone line should be bugged and hard drive confiscated, you never know what we might find there by golly! And have someone follow him around (make sure he brings a newpaper and wears a fedora though).

    And you know, I’m thinking a loyalty oath might be called for here don’t you? Just in case we catch him later singing the Russian national anthem.

    I mean why not, I for one find this particularly inspiring! http://tinyurl.com/bc6m6

    Who else is with us?

  14. 314
    Rune says:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/something-is-x-in-the-state-of-denmark/comment-page-5/#comment-146187

    Of course they ruled in favour of Svensmark.

    A quote from judge Henrik Waaben’s letter

    “UVVU skal efter en gennemgang af sagens akter meddele, at man har besluttet ikke at gå ind i en nærmere vurdering af sagen.
    UVVU skal herved henvise til, at det er UVVU’s opfattelse, at uoverensstemmelserne mellem Dem og fhv. ingeniørdocent Peter Laut reelt er udtryk
    for en faglig strid, som UVVU ikke kan tage stilling til. Spørgsmålet
    om offentliggørelse uden partshøring af Dem hører ikke under UVVU’s
    kompetence.”

    It’s clear that if Engineerdocent Laut were to lodge a complaint about scientific dishonesty against Svensmark, he would get the same responds. That the matter is a scholarly disagreement not scientific dishonesty.

    Now Supreme Court Judge Henrik Waaben does know how to write between the lines.

    The item judged not within the resort of UVVU was the question of Svensmark not being granted the opportunity to respond to Engineerdocent Laut articles.

  15. 315
    CHS says:

    no scientist has said that sea levels will rise 20ft by 2100 (really, look it up).

    March 24, 2006

    London ‘under water by 2100′ as Antarctica crumbles into the sea

    The first study to combine computer models of rising temperatures with records of the ancient climate has indicated that sea levels could rise by up to 20ft (6m) by 2100, placing millions of people at risk.

    That means that the models of sea-level rise used to predict an increase of up to 3ft by 2100 may have significantly underestimated its ultimate extent, which could be as great as 20ft.

    “Although the focus of our work is polar, the implications are global,” said Bette Otto-Bliesner, of the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, who led the study. “These ice sheets melted before and sea levels rose. The warmth needed isn’t that much above present conditions.”

    Her colleague, Jonathan Overpeck, of the University of Arizona, said: “This is a real eye-opener set of results. The last time the Arctic was significantly warmer than the present day, the Greenland ice sheet melted back the equivalent of two to three metres (6ft-10ft) of sea level. Contrary to what was previously believed, the research suggests the Antarctic ice sheet also melted substantially, contributing another 6ft to 10ft of sea level rise.”
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article694819.ece

    [Response: That's a great example (and I use it in talks all the time). The Overpeck paper did not say this and the headline writer just made up the 'London under water' quote (no-one actually said that). Read the discussion about that paper. - gavin]

  16. 316
    CHS says:

    [Response: That's a great example (and I use it in talks all the time). The Overpeck paper did not say this and the headline writer just made up the 'London under water' quote (no-one actually said that). Read the discussion about that paper. - gavin]

    I am not suggesting that one of the researchers did. I am sure it was just an overzealous reporter/writer wanting to get more readers. Nothing like an alarming title to do just that.

    One would have hoped that Ms. Otto-Bliesner, or Mr. Overpeck, would have been able to make sure that the article was correct from a scientific standpoint, making sure something like this didn’t happen. It’s a shame that writers are allowed to spread such exaggerations. Maybe this is one way that the public gets misled.

    Thanks for the link.

    [Response: Scientists (nor the journalists that talk to them) get to decide headlines. In this case, the SF Chronicle also had a similar (incorrect) headline, but they changed it quickly after many protests. You are right about this not helping public understanding. - gavin]

  17. 317
    Brian Dodge says:

    I downloaded the HadCRUT global temperature data from http://www.woodfortrees.org/data/hadcrut3vgl/mean:1/from:1968.9 and the Oulu cosmic ray data from http://cosmicrays.oulu.fi/ for the same period, 1968.92 through 2009.67, monthly averages, and did a scatterplot using Appleworks. I also calculated the mean temperature and standard deviation for four different bins of cosmic ray intensity; this shows a “strong correlation” (statistically significant?) increase in temperature with increased Cosmic Rays. This is shown graphically at http://www.imagenerd.com/uploads/oulu_vs_hadcrut-VAtUg.jpg. The reason I like to show lines instead of just points in scatterplots is grahically demonstrated by the uncorrected Oulu counts versus barometric pressure plot in the lower right of this image; month to month changes in barometric pressure clearly influence the month to month changes in Cosmic Rays(I used the corrected CR counts for the T plots). To my eye, the trajectory of CR versus T anomaly show slight circularish orbits, which would indicate to me that there may be a transient response of temperature to CR changes.

  18. 318
    Michael Copeland says:

    In re 291, Silk said:
    “… Given that, I don’t understand how your view on whether or not ‘activism’ reduces objectivity is relevant to this debate.

    To refute global warming, you really need (to me) to knock down the paleoclimate evidence. Your perception of ‘objectivity’ is completely irrelevant if the paleoclimate data is correct.”

    Your statement, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with climate science research (in general.) Scientist who are activist, (and they don’t see that as relevant) stating their conclusions with far more confidence that what is supported by the data, downplaying the threats to the validity of their work, and pretending the worst possible outcome is the only possible outcome. (Afterall, if you’re an activist and not a scientist, you have no duty to be objective, because the ends justify the means.) That’s bad science.

    I’m not a denier, by the way. I do have a background in the academy, and so I care about the method of science. I hate the fact that science in general is going to take a black eye for this mess. Maybe the right answer to put put all the “activist” scientist into one department, separate from the objective sciences. Gender studies, Intelligent Design, and now Climate Science can all live happily together, and those of us that believe in objective research won’t have to deal with the backlash.

    [Response: People who keep claiming that climate scientists are too certain need to read the IPCC reports - you know, the ones actually written by scientists. The different issues and uncertainties are all acknowledged and discussed. Reading second or third of fourth-hand distortions of what scientists have apparently said is no way to get a handle on how the scientific community really thinks. - gavin]

  19. 319
    CM says:

    Rune (#314), the judge’s writing ability is not at issue here; your reading comprehension is. Look, Laut did not complain to the commission. Svensmark did. The commission held initial hearings, then chose not to enter into further review of Svensmark’s complaint. Specifically, the commission did not pronounce a finding, as Svensmark had wanted it to, that Laut’s alleged accusations were wrongful and that Svensmark was not guilty of scientific dishonesty. Neither, of course, did it find Svensmark guilty of anything; the complaint was not against him. It just dismissed is complaint.

    But I’m happy to agree with you – for substantive reasons, not speculative exegesis of the judge’s letter – that the Danish commission would be unlikely to find Svensmark guilty of misconduct.

    More important than any of this is how the work fits within the larger body of scientific knowledge, and whether recent findings by Svensmark et al are reproducible. Rasmus and others have had a number of good RealClimate posts on this, leaving little doubt that the solar-GCR hypothesis is seriously over-hyped.

  20. 320
    Leonard Evens says:

    Gavin’s comment about actually reading the IPCC Reports is very much to the point. It was clear to me 15 years ago that true skeptics looking for things to criticize would do better to read the IPCC Report, which made pretty clear where the weaknesses in the argument actually lay. Nothing has changed. People still look for conspiracies when in fact pretty much everything of any importantance is right there for anyone to look at, and it is provided by the alleged conspirators.

  21. 321
    Russell Seitz says:

    273
    Gavin, Google, not I , outsourced that quote link- , and distaste for the bearer of the news does not justify ignoring Newsbusters copyright notice by decapitating their lede.

    In a better world , It might have been ABC as surfaced by Wolfram Alpha, , ir Climate Progress doing its duty to bipartisan transparency. Dream on- neither side is cross referencing its media out takes or publicizing ita corrigenda.

  22. 322
    Russell Seitz says:

    Gavin: the juxtaposition of Nature & Popular Mechanics in “CRU hack More Context ” makes me feel less awful about Google dragging in Newsbustrs- there would seem to be some rough algorithmic justice in the world ;)

  23. 323

    #298 Richard Steckis

    Try this on for size:

    Consensus among people is a general agreement between like mined people.

    Scientific Consensus is a general agreement among scientists based on the scientific evidence as reasonably understood through the peer review and peer response process, in accord with the ‘Scientific Method’.

    It is reasonable to differentiate between general consensus and scientific consensus. It is more than reasonable to trust the output of the latter above the potential of the former. The first premise includes more belief orientation while the latter includes evidentiary path.

    #299

    True, the science is never done, but unless you can find attribution and refute a mountain of evidence with a brand new theory that includes observational and modeled verification that matches the TSI as well understood, you are really just a barking dog in world of pretty smart cats.

    #301

    If you are so illogical as to be unable to recognize a logical fallacy, then your credibility truly is falling faster than terminal velocity should allow.

    #306

    Because your argument is silly, i.e. based on false premise. In fact your argument is a logical fallacy because you are trying to say that consensus is merely a belief and not differentiating belief consensus from scientific consensus. Don’t forget that context is key.

    #309

    If the Ministers of the Crown are listening/acting upon anything you say on the issue of climate, I am confident that they are heading in the wrong direction on this issue, if climate is what you are advising them on.

  24. 324

    #273 Russell Seitz

    What you are doing here is illustrating that not everyone with an education is reasonable, or even knowledgeable, or logical… Certainly some are, but you do not seem to posses those qualities in your statements. In this case, quoting Noel Sheppard as a reliable source is analogically relationally akin to asking a 2 year old to make a statement on Einstein’s theory of relativity, and accepting whatever babble emanates from mouth of the babe.

  25. 325

    #256 TheGoodLocust

    Funny how you state Ray has presented a logical fallacy when by presenting a red herring that, as stated (without relevant context) is itself a logical fallacy.

    In short, you have not presented any evidence that proves this global warming event is not human caused.

    Looking forward to your evidence.

  26. 326
    Carmen S says:

    so his criticism of the IPCC for being too even handed, is ironic and timely.

    Your decision to post this now is both ironic and timely.

  27. 327

    #317 Brian Dodge says: this shows a “strong correlation” (statistically significant?) increase in temperature with increased Cosmic Rays.

    The skeptics claim: Cosmic rays increase low level clouds. When the sun is strong, cosmic rays decrease which decreases clouds – causing a warmer climate.

    If your analysis is correct you just proved that the cosmic ray hypothesis failed.

  28. 328
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Richard Steckis says, “In fact. The science should never be done!”

    Whoa! Freudian slip here. Thanks, Richard. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll keep doing science.

  29. 329

    Jimbo #288:

    “Climategate leak on the internet Gavin said words to the effect that the leaked emails were much ado about nothing… Pennsylvania State University announced it was launching an investigation into the academic conduct of Michael Mann… Yesterday, it was announced that Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, would step aside while his university conducts an investigation”

    Jimbo, remember in the original Watergate, it was the people who stole information who got into trouble.

    There is consistently a higher standard applied to climate scientists than to denialists. Despite a feeding frenzy around the blogosphere, I have yet to see anything that amounts to anything worse than venting frustration in what was obviously seen as a private conversation.

    Contrast that with outright lies told by the denial camp (e.g., one volcano vents more CO_2 than all industries in human history, the sun totally explains the temperature trend, ENSO explains so much variation that there’s no room left for greenhouse warming, Greenland was much warmer than it is now in Viking times therefore the whole world was warmer, clouds are a magic pudding feedback system that kicks in when it gets too warm…). I could go on and on but my point is sufficiently illustrated: the denial camp squeals when there is any hint of a narrow investigation into misconduct (Lomborg and Svensmark are only cases I know of), yet how often do we hear of broad attacks on the mainstream science, including these two enquiries and various US Senate hearings?

  30. 330

    Edward Barkley:

    Scientists have become fearmongerers in a time when the global temperature decline was not predicted.

    BPL: It’s GOOD that “the global temperature decline was not predicted”–since there hasn’t BEEN any “global temperature decline.” Will you kindly look at the DATA instead of some right-wing website?

    Here, I’ve listed it for you:

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/Ball.html

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/Reber.html

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/VV.html

  31. 331
    Silk says:

    Re: #318

    “Your statement, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with climate science research (in general.) Scientist who are activist, (and they don’t see that as relevant) stating their conclusions with far more confidence that what is supported by the data, downplaying the threats to the validity of their work, and pretending the worst possible outcome is the only possible outcome. (Afterall, if you’re an activist and not a scientist, you have no duty to be objective, because the ends justify the means.) That’s bad science.”

    Logic fail.

    The definition of ‘activist’ presented was

    – I define scientist X as an “activist”, for the purposes of this argument, if X has made public statements calling for action to reduce emissions.

    Am I correct?

    This definition IN NO WAY leads to any of the following conclusions

    “X states their conclusions with far more confidence that what is supported by the data”

    “X downplays the threats to the validity of their work”

    “X pretends the worst possible outcome is the only possible outcome.”

    “X has no duty to be objective, because the ends justify the means”

    All you have shown is that some (unknown) subset of climate scientists believe mankind should take mitigation actions.

    This IN NO WAY proves that these scientists are somehow ‘bad’ scientists.

    If you have evidence that specific scientists are doing ‘bad’ science, present them. Otherwise I take the ‘activist’ tag to be a slur with no actual content. It seems you can’t win the arguement on science, so you’ll win it by impuning the scientific community. Nice work.

  32. 332
    Julian Tol says:

    Many ‘deniers’ support their position by claiming that an equal or greater number of scientists DISAGREE with the IPCC – and table this website as ‘evidence’: http://www.petitionproject.org/ 

    Superficially at least, this appears to be quite convincing, since I have no way to interrogate their claims beyond a casual spot-check, and the overall impression is of a genuine (if also slightly amateurish) group trying to get a message out.  

    I would greatly value your opinion on the following:
    Is there any way to refute such a position with greater force or credibility? 
    Is a scientist head-count a valid consideration? (i.e. does a ‘majority’ either way matter?) 
    How could one measure the relative ‘credibility’ of one group of scientists versus another (degrees? honours? publications?) and is this a valid comparison to make? 

    [Response: Yes you can tell the difference. A vet's opinion is not worth the same as a climatologist's opinion when it comes to climate. The opposite would be true if the subject was animal health. - gavin]

  33. 333

    #332 regarding the Petition Project:

    http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/global_warming_denial_machine.html#Oregon_Petition

    What gives away the fraud of this petition is that the “journal” article that is presented to “disprove AGW” is from a journal titled: The Journal of Physicians and Surgeons. How weak is that?!

    In my opinion, any person/group that uses the Oregon Petition/Petition Project as supporting evidence is immediately not credible.

    More importantly, there is not a single credible national or international scientific body that holds a dissenting view from that of the IPCC (2007). These bodies represent the reputations of THOUSANDS of scientists so they do not take a position lightly.

    http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/global_warming_scientific_consensus.html

  34. 334
    Brian Dodge says:

    “If your analysis is correct you just proved that the cosmic ray hypothesis failed.”
    Scott A. Mandia — 2 December 2009 @ 8:17 PM
    Do you think, since it’s not peer reviewed, McIntyre will audit it? If I cross post to CA and WUWT, do you think anyone there will notice?

    Julian Tol — 3 December 2009 @ 8:20 AM
    “Is there any way to refute such a position with greater force or credibility?”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_consensus is a reasonable place to start.
    “Since 2007, no scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion. A small minority of organisations hold non-committal positions.”
    Doran and Zimmerman survey at tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf
    ” In general, as the level of active research and specialization in climate science increases, so does agreement with the two primary questions (Figure 1). In our survey” (Is it warming, and are humans responsible?)
    Oreskes survey at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686
    “The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.’ (My emphasis)

    “Is a scientist head-count a valid consideration? (i.e. does a ‘majority’ either way matter?)”
    The melting glaciers[1], the declining sea ice[2]. the collapsing ice shelves[3], the rising tree lines[4], rising sea level[5], and the insects moving into newly warmed forest[6] don’t give a rat’s ass what the majority of IPCC or Fox news commentators think. Scientific consensus is a good benchmark for policy decisions, but there are social, political, economic, ethical, etc considerations as well for the policy decisions. Once upon a time, King Canute made a policy decision contrary to a physical process[5]; Rush Limbaugh, George Will, Roy Spencer, and Richard S. Lindzen want to repeat the experiment.

    [1] http://www.grid.unep.ch/glaciers/img/5-9.jpg
    [2] http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/seasonal.extent.1900-2008.jpg
    [3] http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/news/story.aspx?id=383
    [4] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090812202047.htm
    [5] http://nsidc.org/sotc/sea_level.html

  35. 335
    Paul UK says:

    No. 332. Julian Tol. ‘the alleged petition’

    Even I managed to trace some of those ‘experts’ on that petition by randomly selecting names in the list.
    One I found to be a college principle who had no science qualification, another was a family doctor working in what we call in the UK a ‘General Practice’ (I even found his email address) and the one that I did find that had some science knowledge, had spent all his life in the coal industry!

  36. 336
    Rod B says:

    Silk (331), your path of scientist to activist is correct using pure logic. But that’s not what happens. First off if you claim no scientist is an activist, you need to get out more. But to the point: the characteristics that Michael Copeland described do not automatically follow logically, but are essential (with some exception to the last one – not being objective) to the activist. If the scientist as an activist does not push the argument in such manner, his/her success as an activist will be sorely wanting. All of this of course is predicated on a scientist persuading non-scientists.

  37. 337
    Silk says:

    #336

    Rod B – I’m not sure what you are saying here. It seems to be that, to be convincing to a non-scientist, one should

    “State their conclusions with far more confidence that what is supported by the data”

    “Downplay the threats to the validity of their work”

    “Pretend the worst possible outcome is the only possible outcome.”

    I’d disagree strongly. To convince a POLICYMAKER (which at the end of the day is the ultimate objective) you have to give them the worst case scenario, sure, but if you over-egg it, someone else is going to shoot you down, so you’ve got to be realistic and explain the limits of what you know. These people aren’t stupid, and will get information from other people.

    As has been said, the IPCC is a good guide for policymakers, and it doesn’t over-egg. I guess it doesn’t count as ‘activism’ but some of the scientists who contributed to it will have leaned on policymakers in a more campaigning way.

    In terms of convincing the public, it would be hard to argue that Gavin (and the rest here) are not ‘activists’ in that they run this site not (primarily) for scientists, but for all.

    I think it would be very hard to accuse RC of any of those things. There’s a lot of info here, and it very clearly shows the limits of climate science.

    That, for me, is what makes it such a wonderful, and powerful, resource.

  38. 338
    Brian Dodge says:

    wups – copy/past missed the last reference [6]http://www.m4gw.com:2005/m4gw/2009/01/canadas_forests_causing_global.html
    “Higher temperatures also are accelerating the spread of a deadly pest known as the mountain pine beetle, which has devastated pine forests across British Columbia and is threatening vital timber in the neighboring province of Alberta. More than 50,000 square miles of British Columbia’s pine forest have been stricken so far..”
    “”Once those infested trees are killed by the pine beetle, they are no longer sequestering carbon—they are giving it off.” sadly ironic.

  39. 339
    Hank Roberts says:

    > “”Once those infested trees are killed by the pine
    > beetle, they are no longer sequestering carbon—they
    > are giving it off.”

    Good news for the woodpeckers and flickers, though; there should be an increase in insect-eating birds following the wave of pine beetles, at least where the fires don’t take everything first.

  40. 340

    While we are talking logical fails …

    Never mind the cosmic rays hypothesis, the one that has me beat is the denialist sites and op eds that loudly trumpet the decline in sunspots over the last 2 years as somehow indicating global warming has ended. To me fact that we still have relatively high temperatures despite this is strong evidence for AGW.

  41. 341
    Rod B says:

    Silk (337), I still keep to my assertion (which you summarized very well), though you have a good point in that the activist’s excesses have a practical limit. You’ll never get policy makers convinced to upset the fruit basket with a bunch of maybes.

    BTW, this is not an “accusation” of any wrong doing here or anything else. Per their goal the RC moderators do a very good (though not perfect — which is OK in my book) job of sticking to the science with all of its uncertainties — big or small. (Can’t say that for all posters here though.) But if Gavin, for example, doesn’t play to his audience like his boss (?) does if called before Congress, he most likely won’t be as successful. Congress wants unmitigated and complete demons to protect their constituents from, unfortunately.

  42. 342

    On consensus versus petitions: if a lot of people weighing the evidence from different angles, using different methods to gather the evidence, arrive at consistent answers, your trust in the theory they are working to grows. That is how all science pretty much works. Newton didn’t establish his Laws by proving theorems. He did so by fitting them to observation, and they stood up pretty well until the 19th century. (And still do so if you don’t hit quantum or relativistic effects.)

    On the other hand if 100,000 people sign a petition against gravity, what effect do you think that would have? (Sadly, very little: I’d like the option to turn it off when inconvenient.)

    The number of people supporting a position only has merit as an argument to the extent that they have all arrived at that position by relatively independent and scientifically defensible paths.

  43. 343
    SNRatio says:

    #318
    “Your statement, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with climate science research (in general.) Scientist who are activist, (and they don’t see that as relevant) stating their conclusions with far more confidence that what is supported by the data, downplaying the threats to the validity of their work, and pretending the worst possible outcome is the only possible outcome. (Afterall, if you’re an activist and not a scientist, you have no duty to be objective, because the ends justify the means.) That’s bad science.”

    There is no logical necessity in this, and activists come in all flavors. But there is, for sure, a tendency among some to indulge in this behavior. I think Svensmark, Spencer and Lindzen clearly qualify for the category by contributions during the last few months. I would like you to analyze Lindzen’s new op-ed piece in WSJ in this respect. A careful analysis of the debate might show that transgressions are not symmetrically distributed with respect to the “AGW divide”.

    There should be some criteria for conduct, here is a suggestion: If you say something from a scientific standpoint to the general public, you should say the same under peer review, modulo popularization issues. If you can’t, you should mark your statements clearly as your opinion, to avoid giving the impression that this is scientifically supported. Otherwise..

  44. 344
    dhogaza says:

    Good news for the woodpeckers and flickers, though; there should be an increase in insect-eating birds following the wave of pine beetles, at least where the fires don’t take everything first

    Or at least those that specialize in such things, like black-backed, and three-toed ‘peckers :) And actually fire helps them, too, unless the trees just burn to cinders …

  45. 345
    Brian Dodge says:

    Albedo increase from low clouds causing cooling would have the greatest effect where the insolation is highest – in the tropics, during the day. High altitude clouds are generally recognized as warming[1]. Perhaps weather variations/circulation changes[2] alter GCR induced tropical and temperate cloud increases in ways that hide or change the sign of the claimed cooling effect, and the increase in high altitude high latitude clouds seen by Todd et al[3] and its warming effect cancel out any long term changes in warming or cooling. (And give no strong correlation between the solar cycle Oulu CR changes and temperature as I noted above.)

    [1] http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/04/clouds-cool-the-climate-system%E2%80%A6but-amplify-global-warming/
    “Another observation that has led to confusion over cloud feedbacks is the fact that the tropics – the geographic region where the greatest amount of sunlight is absorbed – show a distribution of low and high clouds that lead to an approximate cancellation between the low clouds’ solar shading effect, and the high clouds’ greenhouse warming effect.”

    [2]http://www.drroyspencer.com/
    “…there are substantial variations in global circulation patterns between El Nino and La Nina, especially in the tropics. These circulation changes can induce cloud changes…”
    “you can get good agreement between the model behavior and observations whether the cloud feedbacks are positive OR negative.”

    [3] wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/svensmark-forebush.pdf
    “Todd and Kniveton [2004] examined ISCCP cloud data for 32 FDs (1983-2000) and noted immediate reductions of high level cloud (especially over the Antarctic plateau in winter)”

  46. 346
    Robert Ellison says:

    I am re-imagining climate for myself. Less of either climate stasis or climate cycles and more in terms of ‘strange attractors’. States that climate chaotically falls into because of the interaction of component parts of a complex and dynamic system – and not as a result of simple cause and effect. I have commenced a study of the theory of complex systems (I may be gone for some time) and have become concerned with climate tipping points. Tipping points are thought to have happened in the distant past – or potentially from greenhouse gases in the future. Large fluctuation followed by climate settling into states ranging from Snowball Earth to the Eocene Thermal Maximum. Both must have been disastrous. The latter was accompanied by anoxic oceans but the like hasn’t been seen since the break up of Gondwanaland. Much smaller – but significant climate tipping points – occurred 4 times in the last 100 years around 1910, the mid 1940’s, the mid 1970’s and 1998/2001 (Tsonis et al, 2007, Swanson et al 2009). The lack of global warming since 1998 is consistent with the climate behaving as a forced nonlinear oscillator. Small changes in forcings (solar, gases and aerosols, albedo) are alternately amplified and damped (nonlinear) by global climate processes and climate then oscillates for a time around a different (hopefully marginally over decades) climate state.

    The direct impact of greenhouse gas increase since the start of industrialisation is about 0.5 degrees centigrade of global temperature increase theoretically. It is not insignificant as energy in the climate system. The total effect is unknown because it feeds into a dynamic climate system of sun, orbit, ocean, atmosphere, ice, clouds, gases and aerosols operating interactively. All of these change all the time. The exponential growth of ice cover is implicated as factor in ice ages – extreme nonlinear climate events. Global cloud cover has been known to change from ISCCP data collected from 1984 and the argument has been about cause and effect. There is a little more cloud cover since about 1999 – which came first the clouds or the current cooling? The question is meaningless and correlation is utterly useless as climate is dynamic and complex. Small changes in initial conditions lead to climate fluctuation which then settles into a different mean climate state that can be anything between very uncomfortable extremes for various lengths of time.

    I say 4th generation nuclear engines and accelerated space technology is the answer. But that would require steady economic development and the global economy is itself a complex and dynamic system. The only way to high rates of global economic development is to have honesty and constancy in governance, continued economic growth and good luck. Not a social democratic supernanny state wildly spending money still and plotting to take over our lives and the world through the UN. He must be stopped!

    At the policy level – it is a matter of social, economic and environmnetal risk. Continued global economic growth is critical for billions of people now and increasing greenhouse gases increases forced system instability – a balance of risk is required. It may be difficult to predict climate as states may realistically change seemingly randomly at decadal timescales. The instrumental temperature record shows increasing average atmospheric temperature rise since records began in the 1880’s at about 0.1 degrees centigrade per decade. The IPCC says the warming trend is 0.2 degrees centigrade per decade based on the temperature difference between 1976 to 1998 – a period which includes large ENSO events (climate tipping points) at either end. Determining the trend from 1979 to 1997 gives a far more justifiable estimate of warming in the last decades of the 20th century. One consequence of this is that existing deterministic models are ‘tuned’ to higher projections of temperature increase than would otherwise be the case. The lower risk boundary is very simply obtained by determining the trend of any of the intrumental global temperature datasets over a sufficiently long period (or marginally shorter) and rounding up. It is an outer envelop for climate risk in the coming decades. A few decades would be all that is required to develop dozens of low cost options for energy and development – a real market solution.

  47. 347
    CM says:

    Robert Ellison says: “I am re-imagining climate for myself.”

    Indeed.

    The IPCC says the warming trend is 0.2 degrees centigrade per decade based on the temperature difference between 1976 to 1998.

    Huh? Exact reference please?

    The only place I see the IPCC refer to 0.2°/decade of *observed* warming is in the comparison with model projections for 1990-2005. The SPM highlights the 1906–2005 trend (0.74 ± 0.18° per century), the last 50 years (0.13 ± 0.03° per decade) and the total temperature increase from 1850–1899 to 2001–2005 (0.76° ± 0.19°). I don’t see 1976-1998 anywhere (and it wouldn’t yield 0.2°/decade anyway).

    One consequence of this is that existing deterministic models are ‘tuned’ to higher projections of temperature increase than would otherwise be the case

    Double huh? Projections are model outputs. Models are not tuned to projections. Nor are the physics-based models tuned to trends, as explained here:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/11/faq-on-climate-models/

  48. 348
    Big Jim Duggan says:

    ” A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert.”
    That is obviously garbage to anyone, there are plenty of places 3-4C warmer than where I am (UK) which are not parched deserts. Also what about the places currently 3-4C cooler than the UK?
    They will be fertile farmlands won’t they.

  49. 349
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Big Dumb Juggan:
    “That is obviously garbage to anyone, there are plenty of places 3-4C warmer than where I am (UK) ”

    But these places aren’t in the UK. The UK is a maritime climate.

    What would happen if

    a) we were continental rather than maritime

    b) we didn’t have the gulf stream

    And those places colder than 3-4 C colder than the UK don’t have any soil. You need soil to grow crops…

  50. 350
    Hank Roberts says:

    Namecalling doesn’t teach people anything (nor does mere assertion of faith that everything will work out for the best, Pollyanna-fashion, of course).

    Why not make the least effort and look things like this up?

    Let’s try wheat:

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=wheat+growing+zone+global+warming

    Not so good. Try the same with corn, rice, millet, maize

    Small improvements some places, but greater losses overall, plus the need to change land ownership and use to follow the change in climate — that will take black helicopters for sure.

    Not so hopeful after all.


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