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Unsettled Science

Filed under: — gavin @ 3 December 2009

Unusually, I’m in complete agreement with a recent headline on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page:

“The Climate Science Isn’t Settled”

The article below is the same mix of innuendo and misrepresentation that its author normally writes, but the headline is correct. The WSJ seems to think that the headline is some terribly important pronouncement that in some way undercuts the scientific consensus on climate change but they are simply using an old rhetorical ‘trick’.

The phrase “the science is settled” is associated almost 100% with contrarian comments on climate and is usually a paraphrase of what ‘some scientists’ are supposed to have said. The reality is that it depends very much on what you are talking about and I have never heard any scientist say this in any general context – at a recent meeting I was at, someone claimed that this had been said by the participants and he was roundly shouted down by the assembled experts.

The reason why no scientist has said this is because they know full well that knowledge about science is not binary – science isn’t either settled or not settled. This is a false and misleading dichotomy. Instead, we know things with varying degrees of confidence – for instance, conservation of energy is pretty well accepted, as is the theory of gravity (despite continuing interest in what happens at very small scales or very high energies) , while the exact nature of dark matter is still unclear. The forced binary distinction implicit in the phrase is designed to misleadingly relegate anything about which there is still uncertainty to the category of completely unknown. i.e. that since we don’t know everything, we know nothing.

In the climate field, there are a number of issues which are no longer subject to fundamental debate in the community. The existence of the greenhouse effect, the increase in CO2 (and other GHGs) over the last hundred years and its human cause, and the fact the planet warmed significantly over the 20th Century are not much in doubt. IPCC described these factors as ‘virtually certain’ or ‘unequivocal’. The attribution of the warming over the last 50 years to human activity is also pretty well established – that is ‘highly likely’ and the anticipation that further warming will continue as CO2 levels continue to rise is a well supported conclusion. To the extent that anyone has said that the scientific debate is over, this is what they are referring to. In answer to colloquial questions like “Is anthropogenic warming real?”, the answer is yes with high confidence.

But no scientists would be scientists if they thought there was nothing left to find out. Think of the science as a large building, with foundations reaching back to the 19th Century and a whole edifice of knowledge built upon them. The community spends most of its time trying to add a brick here or a brick there and slowly adding to the construction. The idea that the ‘science is settled’ is equivalent to stating that the building is complete and that nothing further can be added. Obviously that is false – new bricks (and windows and decoration and interior designs) are being added and argued about all the time. However, while the science may not be settled, we can still tell what kind of building we have and what the overall picture looks like. Arguments over whether a single brick should be blue or yellow don’t change the building from a skyscraper to a mud hut.

The IPCC reports should be required reading for anyone who thinks that scientists think that the ‘science is settled’ – the vast array of uncertainties that are discussed and dissected puts that notion to bed immediately. But what we do have are reasons for concern. As Mike Hulme recently wrote:

[S]cience has clearly revealed that humans are influencing global climate and will continue to do so, but we don’t know the full scale of the risks involved, nor how rapidly they will evolve, nor indeed—with clear insight—the relative roles of all the forcing agents involved at different scales.

The central battlegrounds on which we need to fight out the policy implications of climate change concern matters of risk management, of valuation, and political ideology. We must move the locus of public argumentation here not because the science has somehow been “done” or “is settled”; science will never be either of these things, although it can offer powerful forms of knowledge not available in other ways. It is a false hope to expect science to dispel the fog of uncertainty so that it finally becomes clear exactly what the future holds and what role humans have in causing it.

Dealing with the future always involves dealing with uncertainty – and this is as true with climate as it is with the economy. Science has led to a great deal of well-supported concern that increasing emissions of CO2 (in particular) are posing a substantial risk to human society. Playing rhetorical games in the face of this, while momentarily satisfying for blog commenters, is no answer at all to the real issues we face.

567 Responses to “Unsettled Science”

  1. 201
    Bruce Tabor says:

    Russ @ 126
    >”Bruce Tabor wrote earlier, “I thought the IPCC put a >90% likelihood on >human action being behind climate change in AR4. Are you saying this has >since moved to an “almost certain” level?”

    >I have frequently heard that line of thinking trumpeted by groups who >don’t think policy changes are justified unless there is 100% certainty…

    I’m definitely NOT arguing arguing that lack of 100% certainty should stop a determined policy response. Far from it. As far as I’m concerned it’s up around the “beyond reasonable doubt level” (or 95% – the old p<0.05) which should compel a response on the basis that it is proven.

  2. 202
    Bruce Tabor says:

    Brian at 138,
    “As an engineer with no knowledge of climate science, it is clear to me that the science is not remotely settled.”

    Does the phrase “non sequitur” mean anything to you? If you have no knowledge of climate science you are hardly in a position to make an assessment on that science on the basis of anything other than prejudice.

  3. 203
    Chris MCV says:

    Some silver lining may exist in all this if both sides try to make a positive impact in this situation and here may be that opportunity.
    Met Office to re-examine 160 years of climate data” (hope I have the syntax right to get a link in here)

    My hope is the raw data, unadjusted gets up early along with methodology. If the everyone is sincere about just wanting to make sure the science is right, now they prove it. I don’t have the scientific chops for the data crunching, but I will provide any help I can to people on both sides of the debate to help this work. It would be nice in this case to free up some funding to get this to happen even faster then 3 years and IS an appropriate use of my tax dollars. I think, since this is so important, this should be handled like the race to the moon and the resources needed dumped into this should flow post haste.

    I am a skeptic, but am really not an obstructionist. Get people in this process and give them what they need to reduce the time needed to complete this. Let the blogs start focusing on networking people together to work on the problem instead of bickering with each other.

    Of course that is what would happen in an ideal world, I have a great fear that it is going to degrade to sniping very quickly by people on both sides with a vested interest one way or another.

  4. 204
    Gerard Tyrrell says:

    153: Response: All my code and output is online. Mike’s latest paper came with 20mb of supplementary data and code. So now do you believe what we are saying? -gavin
    twenty meg? That’s it???

    [Response: Do you even know what the paper was about? Or what was archived? Please try and keep the knee jerk reactions to a minimum. – gavin]

  5. 205
    Silk says:

    #133 – I’ll have a crack too.

    “The “real issue we face” is what “emissions of CO2 (in particular) are posing a SUBSTANTIAL risk to human society.” Give us a number that will assure that the risk becomes an INSIGNIFICANT one. Give us a number so that it becomes NO risk at all. Give us a number that would be the “natural” number for humans to emit. If this is the end of the world as we know it, we need the dire prognosis of how much carbon we actually need to sequester, not some abstract goal or best practice that we should strive for. In short, what is the optimum level of atmospheric carbon? The world needs to know.”

    There is MASSES of work on this.

    The easiest and most accessible is probably The Stern Review.

    IPCC Working Group 3 goes into some detail but because it’s ultimately about providing information, rather than making policy recomendations, I cannot say what “safe” CO2 is. That’s up to the reader to decide.

    UKs Climate Change Committee Report “Building a low-carbon economy – the UK’s contribution to tackling climate change ” sets out a convincing argument for reducing global emissions by at least 50% by 2050.

    In short, however, I can give you a political answer.

    There is no ‘safe’ level of CO2, because of uncertainty. The three big uncertaincies are climate sensitity, what impact T has on human society and what runaway events we might trigger. Current CO2 levels might trigger feedbacks we can’t stop. We don’t /know/.

    The politicians have therefore decided that 450ppm CO2e is the level we should not increase because 450ppm is /possibly/ achievable, practically and politically. 350ppm is not politically achievable, and maybe not practically.

    But the best science suggests that if you go above 450ppm, bad things happen, that they get worse the higher you go and that there is a no neglidible probability that very bad things happen.

    So, in short, the current political feeling (at least in Europe) is that we shouldn’t go above 450ppm.

    Hope that helps.

  6. 206
    sHx says:

    This may be a little Off-Topic. BBC reports that the IPCC’s 2007 report regarding Himalayan glaciers is “wildly inaccurate”…by 300 years!!! It turns out that the IPCC’s finding that 80% of the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 was based on, as RK Pachauri is quoted saying, “voodoo science”. The correct year should have been 2335! The mistake was made because it turns out the IPCC relied on “unpublished” documents. I don’t want to be alarmist about this but the science wildly unsettling. It took two years to identify and report the error. Truly worrying, no?

  7. 207


    It is an objective fact, proven by their own admission (polling data) that the mainstream media in America is ideologically liberal.

    BPL: Except that the “mainstream media” is now not the mainstream. Most Americans get their data from Fox News, which is a creation of GOP strategist Roger Ailes. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly are all Ailes creations, and Ann Coulter is certainly a close ally. And people like you get their ideas on science from these incompetents instead of from the people who actually do science for a living.

    These are the facts, pal: Global warming is happening. It’s caused by human technology. And it’s the biggest crisis modern society has ever faced outside of nuclear war.

    Deal with it.

  8. 208

    Walter Manny:

    I would argue that this business of calling people “deniers” is unfair and unreasonable to ANYONE. The term is clearly used in reference to the Holocaust to imply that skepticism regarding AGW theory is tantamount to Ahmadinejad’s rantings. At the very least, it is a tactical error on the part of AGW theory proponents to label those with whom they disagree using this noxious term.

    BPL: Then perhaps you agree that it’s wrong for the anti-AGW-theory posters on, AOL, and pretty much all over the internet, to call climate scientists and those who support them Communists, Fascists, “Liberal Fascists” (whatever that means), Nazis, “Commie attack dogs,” “enviro-Commies,” etc.? Did you object to Christopher Monckton’s comment that “the greens are too yellow to admit they’re red?” Did you object when the people at WUWT and CA and the rest continually called climate scientists frauds, criminals, hoaxers? Did you object, for that matter, when Rush Limbaugh and Breitbart called for climate scientists to be executed?

    And you claim the scientists and their supporters are using inflammatory language because they refer to people who deny reality as deniers?

    Stick your head out the window and take a look around.

  9. 209

    Gail Honeyman:

    Could you recommend any specific resources, books, or other blogs on this topic?

    BPL: Check out Spencer Weart’s “The Discovery of Global Warming” (2nd ed. 2008), or George S. Philander’s “Is the Temperature Rising?” (1998). These give a good non-mathematical overview of the issue. If you want to understand the science in more detail, try Dennis Hartmann’s “Global Physical Climatology” (1994), or, with a lot more math, John T. Houghton’s “The Physics of Atmospheres” (3rd ed. 2002) or Grant W. Petty’s “A First Course in Atmosphere Radiation” (2nd ed. 2006).

  10. 210

    Inge-Bert Täljedal:

    Firstly, anyone taking comfort in Smith must defeat Kramm et al. ( Has hardly been done, has it?

    BPL: Yes it has, and I and many others have done it. Check out Eli Rabbett’s “Rabett Run” blog. In brief, Kramm is a scientific illiterate and G&T are incompetent.

    They are saying the greenhouse effect violates the second law of thermodynamics because a cooler object cannot transfer heat to a warmer one. This is just plain, flat-out wrong, according to well-established science dating to the 19th century. What the 2LOT actually says is that in an ISOLATED system, a cooler object cannot transfer NET heat to a warmer one. Here are some details:

  11. 211

    Mike M: Any system as comlex as the climate will diverge from their model after the first few seconds on the clock.

    BPL: “Complex.” And you’re wrong. You’re confusing weather with climate. Until you understand the difference, you’ll continue to make this mistake.

    When you understand how a ca si no can stay in business even though any given hand of bla ckj ack or spin of the ro ull ette wheel is unpredictable, you will start to understand the difference between weather and climate.

  12. 212
    Zinaida Zalyotchik says:

    I am not a scientist, but most scientists supposedly believe in AGW. Still, these scientists don’t seem very honest to hide their data and to bully other scientists.

    I was interested to see the CRU e-mails were posted on an ftp server in Tomsk.

    There are some bad hackers in Tomsk. They are called “patroitic hackers” and sometimes Russian hackers are guided by the intelligence services.

    Some early Russian media reports seemed quite sure that the hacking came from Russia and seem quite proud of this.

  13. 213


    I believe that the scientists releasing papers which prove dire predictions for the earth are charlatans.

    How would you know? Do you know enough climatology to intelligently critique what they’re saying? Or are you just going by your political ideology?

  14. 214


    There’s a whole subculture of relativity deniers. Check out “” in your browser’s address window.

  15. 215
  16. 216
    Gerard Tyrrell says:

    #183 – Ice measurements from where? Your fridge? Greenland? Alaska? Antarctic ice shelves? Antarctic mountains? Kilamanjaro? Mt Fuji? Chile? Patagonia? They’ll all give you different data – local and global.

  17. 217

    Llama Cheese,

    All the data still exists. 95% is publicly available. CRU destroyed their own COPIES of the raw data from assorted National Meteorological Services (NMSs), which prohibit CRU or anyone else from further distributing the data. You can get that data by applying to those services and paying the appropriate charges.

    The FOI judge involved found that CRU complied adequately and did not do anything illegal. The FOI requests that could be filled were, the others were legitimately turned down.

    Jones said a lot of nasty things about the deniers. He was a little ticked off that A) he had gotten 58 FOI requests over one weeked, and B) when he had previously given data to Steve McIntyre in particular, SM had misused it, misrepresented it, and lied about it, about CRU, and about Phil Jones. It would be nice if Dr. Jones had the patience of St. Francis of Assisi, but that’s in short supply.

  18. 218

    Does the present shortfall in ice extent in the Barnets Sea help settle it?

    What’s that doing to temperatures on the methane-filled swamps of the tundra and precipitation in northern Europe?

  19. 219
    ghost says:

    RE: 153 “The climate warming matter has turned into an issue of good and bad – we and them. And in that battle the quest for scientic clarity has almost disappeard. I say: Michael Mann and Gavin Smith send all your data and data models to Steve McIntyre for verification. If you believe that the AGW matter is the most vital question of our generation you should take every effort to remove all possible doubts. Everything else would show that you really don’t believe in what you are saying.

    [Response: All my code and output is online. Mike’s latest paper came with 20mb of supplementary data and code. So now do you believe what we are saying? -gavin]”

    Permit me to be blunt and throrougly redundant, and to assume for the sake of argument that you are not a compensated/organized troll. The data related to greenhouse gases and climate are and always have been available to utilities and the oil, gas, and coal companies to do their own analyses. Beyond that, those industries have enough money and have had enough time to collect data, run parallel research programs, and even to launch and operate their own satellites. They don’t need to rely on others to do the research–they certainly do large amounts of expensive high level research on location, extraction, and transportation of their fossil fuel products. The scientists that are part of the AGW consensus DO NOT have a monopoly on basic climate change research. If the industries could generate a legitimate counter, how long do you suppose it would take to destroy the AGW consensus–a minute, a day? So, what legitimate research have the carbon industries generated over the decades that counters the AGW consensus? NONE (if you want to be laughably charitable, “VIRTUALLY NONE”)!!! The same goes for the so-called scientist-critics; rather than attacking peer-reviewed published research, they’ve had decades to do their own basic research, yet have nothing or next-to-nothing to show for it. Some carbon companies apparently have joined the consensus, at least for PR purposes, but most of them have gone the route of using PR to undercut public opinion, or to remain silent as their mouthpieces do that for them. Does it not affect your view of the issue that the carbon industries–even entire petro-countries such as Russia and the OPEC members–have not been able to generate legitimate counters to the AGW consensus despite their enormous financial resources, research capacity, and decades of time to do it? Each year that passes without significant research countering the consensus makes the denial position more laughable and hysterical. The only things we’ve gotten from (most of) them after decades of opportunity is a combination of radio silence and PR static (similar to the oil companies’ blizzard of propaganda and attacks over the removal of tetraethyl lead from gasoline). Propaganda is many things, but it isn’t a substitute for research. PR means never having to admit you are wrong, and we’ve had enough anti-AGW PR to flood the planet. At what point do you recognize that your friendly local narcotics salesman is lying to you about the negative effect of his products, and that the news about those effects is true?

  20. 220
    Svempa says:

    Re my comment 153 and gavins response. Don’t hide behind data and output being public somewhere. The way to do it is to send the raw data, adjusted data, code etc. to McIntyre for verification. If you can’t extend yourselves doing that in the light of what seems to have been taking place at UEA then you put yourselves in doubt. This is not a matter of academic infighting it is a matter that may affect billions of peoples economy and everday life.

  21. 221
    Mike M says:


    Why do you continue to wriggle about the lack of validity of climate models?

    Below are various papers i have found falsifying the credibility of climate predictions (at least those based on these climate models).

  22. 222
    Pat says:

    well, this is interesting to note. Looks like the Met office is going to re-evaluate some of those temperatures you like to refer too so often:

  23. 223
    Sufferin' Succotash says:

    It’s currently snowing here in Bethesda.
    And you know what that means–Al Gore is fat.

  24. 224


    Your statement is hard to reconcile with 86 leading US evangelicals signing a statement saying Christians need to do more about global warming, or Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton, who have never agreed on anything in their lives, doing a joint commercial about the importance of fighting AGW. Then there’s the fact that John T. Houghton, former IPCC chairman and the author of “The Physics of Atmospheres,” is an evangelical. As am I.

  25. 225
    Lyle says:

    To post #188, there is a second possibility about the religious motive the goal is to hasten the end of the world. Many say the Iranian religious leaders are acting to hasten the return of the Mahdi (not sure about the spelling), so its likely that some US religious leaders want to see the end of the world hastened also. To many people religion is the most important thing in their lives bar none (why do disputes in churches go so long and strong, to the point that people get really burned about it (actually in the past more rhetorically now) If you listen to the there are more earthquakes than before etc rant the people could say it is the coming end of time, and we must not slow down the coming of it.

  26. 226
    Tom Dayton says:

    Mark V Wilson, you missed the point. The point is that there already are far more than the required 100 thermometers, distributed more than sufficiently.

  27. 227
    M. Joyce says:

    I’m sorry that the CRU has been involved in this silliness. However, I view this whole thing as the last stand of the deniers. They have no compelling science to explain observations so now they’ve been reduced to attacking the data (which shouldn’t even be an issue because the raw data still exists).

    What to do about this? Welcome it. Certainly, this has disrupted research at the CRU and some peoples’ lives have been turned upside down but if the science is solid (as I find it to be) all will be vindicated in the end. It will be the deniers last stand. Skeptics will certainly remain but the gainsaying deniers will be squelched once and for all.

    Keep your chins up CRU and forge ahead.

  28. 228
    Ike Solem says:

    Denialism is fading, because the basic science is irrefutable. Denialists can’t even come up with simple physical explanations of any kind that would support their views. Nor do they have any datasets that support their views. All you have is a PR program aimed at sowing doubt and halting government action.

    The deceptionists are now the ones in charge – for example, see this story:

    West Texas coal project gets $350 million federal grant
    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    By ELIZABETH SOUDER / The Dallas Morning News

    A West Texas coal gasification power plant led by former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller has won a $350 million federal grant.

    The coal plant was proposed by Summit Power, based in Washington state, for the former oil boomtown of Penwell, near Odessa. The company plans to build a plant that turns coal into gas rather than burns it, cutting down on pollution. Summit will include equipment to gather carbon dioxide emissions.

    Will it really? And why isn’t the press asking about the details? Has ANY prototype – even a benchtop lab model – ever been built that is capable of using its own energy output to capture its emissions? NO! And yet the media institutions, and the government science institutions, blithely move forward under prompting from coal-state politicians, such as Richard Durbin of Illinois, who is essentially playing the same role for coal interests that Dick Cheney did in the last election.

    Big Oil Recruits No. 2 U.S. Senator’s Nephew to Lobby Congress
    By Joe Carroll

    Nov. 6 (Bloomberg) — The lobbying group for oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. hired a nephew of U.S. Senator Richard Durbin to argue the industry’s case against climate-change legislation that threatens to slash profits.

    and this as well:

    Durbin confident in future of FutureGen, 11/13/09, Denver News:

    The federal commitment of $1.1 billion and the work of the FutureGen Alliance bolsters U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s confidence about the FutureGen plant’s pending arrival to Mattoon in the distant future.

    Durbin, D-Ill., said in a press conference Friday at Mattoon that the U.S. Department of Energy is expected to make an announcement about proceeding with the FutureGen project in the coming weeks.

    Entrenched political interests are still doing all they can to boost coal and block renewable energy – a pattern of behavior that began in the late 1970s and which still continues today, despite the fact that the public supports rapid renewable development by a 75% margin – if that’s not a failure of democracy, what is?

    The DOE is also refusing to fund ANY basic science approaches at public universities, but rather is trying to direct all the money to the government-owned contractor-managed facilities – the National Labs, for example. The vast chunck are managed by Battelle for the DOE, and Battelle is the main private coordinator of FutureGen – but since Battelle is a private entity, you can’t submit FOIA requests to them. All in all, Obama’s DOE is not any better than Bush’s DOE – and that’s a statement based on analysis of the budget. Not even Bush’s DOE would okay nonsense like FutureGen!

    As another example, solar companies are being forced to seek complicated lo-an guarantees, while multiple coal projects are being given direct grants – and grants don’t need to be repaid! Face the facts: this administration is as dedicated to coal interests as the previous one was to international oil interests.

    Denialism is dead; welcome to the new era of deception.

  29. 229
    Ron Taylor says:

    Dan said “Science is to be skeptical, and unless the evidence is conclusive, actions should be taken with care and trepidation.”

    It all depends on what you mean by “conclusive” and “care and trepidation,” which in turn are dictated partially by circumstances. If conclusive means 100% certain, nothing much is ever likely to get done. But if you mean 90% confidence within the known error limits and with catastrophic consequences if nothing is done, then that is pretty conclusive. That’s about where we are. It is a form of insanity not to act.

    Suppose you are diagnosed by medical experts to have diabetes. But you read on a blog that you cannot really trust lab data and that many things could be causing your symptoms. You love desserts, so you choose to believe the blog. For every new test that comes in, your favorite blog has a comforting alternative explanation. After a couple of years, your organs begin to fail, you go blind and then…

    People would rather believe a convenient, comforting lie than a difficult truth. Our problem is that huge amounts of money are being spent to promote a convenient lie (actually, lies), which just happen to be in the interest of the fossil fuels industry. Imagine that.

  30. 230
    Rod B says:

    just-curious (198) says, “Looking at the data … , there has been no warming for 10 years. …How many years do we have to go without warming in order for climatologists to conclude that global warming has ended?”

    As a skeptic I’ll offer an answer because it allows me to get my position in. IMO, if you would have said ‘how long before the forcing and sensitivity equations and theory must be modified, I’d say 10-15 years; but before AGW can be declared dead, probably at least a couple of hundred or more.

    Dick Veldkamp (199), you have an interesting point/question. My difficulty stems from the fact that the atmospheric temperature is NOT random, even if it is not linear for the reasons you state. What is sometimes hard to answer is the specifics of why CO2 and air temperature seem to track closely sometime and not at other times over constrained time periods.

  31. 231
    Tim Yates says:

    “The reason why no scientist has said this is because they know full well that knowledge about science is not binary – science isn’t either settled or not settled. ”

    Please tell this to the IPCC who findings in the Fourth Assessment Report state “The warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” There must be a consensus then, it’s without question. But is it due to humans?

  32. 232
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mike M: you’ve scored a goal in the other side’s net there:
    “falsifying the credibility”?? You are using those words wrong.

    Did you even read the material you cited?
    I’d guess you got those from some site that tells you what they want them to mean and lies about it. Co2Science for example.

    Yes, there are limits to certainty in modeling.
    No, that’s not a reason to delay taking action.

    Read the citing papers and think, please. Try here and the papers it cites:

  33. 233
    Ken W says:

    Re 220:
    Swempa wrote:
    “Don’t hide behind data and output being public somewhere. The way to do it is to send the raw data, adjusted data, code etc. to McIntyre for verification.”

    Who the he** anointed McIntyre King of climate data research? Even if he did perform legitimate, unbiased analysis of data (which we know from history isn’t his style), there is ZERO obligation for any scientist in any field to make sure HE is happy with their science! Good grief, do you hear what you’re saying? McIntyre, a blogger with no credible academic training or scientific research experience, is somehow the worlds arbiter of scientific truth?

  34. 234
    Jim Ogden says:

    Gavin, you can quibble about semantics, but there is no doubt that politicians have picked up the ball and run with the notion that life as we know it will certainly cease if we don’t take immediate and drastic measures. Never mind that cooler heads have shown that even the drastic measures suggested will not succeed. As George Will points out, Obama’s promise that “U.S. emissions in 2050 will be 83 percent below 2005 levels…means that per capita emissions then will be about what they were in 1875. That. Will. Not. Happen.”

    Now I know that scientists don’t like to get onto politics, but take some responsibility. The unrealistic things that these guys say is in response to what you say.

    And what about Kevin Trenberth’s revealing diatribe when he asked “Where did the heat go?” None of you can explain where it went and you know it.

    So I recommend two things:

    EXPOSE: Call out the likes of Al Gore when he makes wild and irresponsible claims.

    DISCLOSE: Admit that, despite heroic efforts, there is an an awful lot that you don’t know about what determines the Earth’s temperature. Admit that those exceedingly complex climate models aren’t ready for prime time yet.

    If you start doing those two things, people may begin to trust you.

    [Response: Try reading our archives…. – gavin]

  35. 235
    Rod B says:

    BPL, despite the rationalization, tap dancing, and, dare I say it, denials of AGWers, “denialist” is an ad hominem of the worst kind. Then again so are the counter ad homs that you mention. But, there is a faction of AGW proponents that are using CC to aid their socia_list and trees-over-men agendas; and there are a few who are distinctly fascists (though not the others groups you state). I do not blame the mainstream AGW scientists for them though, and you might wish they would go away, but they’re there none-the-less, and even occasionally post on RC.

    Rush Limbaugh is a creation of Ailes?? Limbaugh called for execution of climate scientists???? Can you back that up??

  36. 236
    Ken W says:

    Re: 222
    “well, this is interesting to note. Looks like the Met office is going to re-evaluate some of those temperatures you like to refer too so often:”

    From the article:
    “The Government is attempting to stop the Met Office from carrying out the re-examination, arguing that it would be seized upon by climate change sceptics.”

    They are right. The sceptics will seize upon it whether it’s done or not. If they reanalyze the sceptics will say “see, even they don’t trust it”. If they don’t reanalyze the sceptics will say “see, they are continuing their cover-up”. If they partially reanalyze the sceptics will say “see, they refuse to analyze all of it because they know it’s bad”. That’s the “game” the sceptics play.

    From the article:
    “The Met Office is confident that its analysis will eventually be shown to be correct.”

    They are right too.

    Clearly, this reanalysis isn’t based on anything in the e-mails or the data which undermines the correctness of the data. It’s based entirely on the amount of public noise the “skeptics” have been making and the press has all too often bought into without checking their facts.

  37. 237
    Dan says:

    [Response: I write a whole post about why binary distinctions are misleading, and you respond by demanding I make a binary choice. Oh the irony. – gavin]

    And you’re being disingenous. You want to paint the discussion and the related science as a continuum of gray, yet the solutions proposed and apparently supported by you (those pushed by the IPCC) are quite black-and-white.

    You want to live in the world of gradations, and decry those who seek for more concrete, binary results. Yet you’re quite comfortable supporting binary results from your own research, and apparently do not want to make a point of stressing your belief the science is not settled.

    Pot, meet kettle…

    [Response: Have you even read any of my research? All papers are online at my work page. Please read them and then tell me exactly where I do all the terrible things you accuse me of. -gavin]

  38. 238
    Hank Roberts says:

    The video is the best coverage of this whole issue I’ve seen.

  39. 239
    Patrick M. says:

    #139 – “I believe the headline refers to both Al Gore’s comments on how climate change is “settled science” AND the recent comments from the White House muppet Robert Gibbs on how the climate change is “settled science”. ”

    That is indeed the case, and it has been a clear them from proponents of the theory of ACC in the political world that they have pushed the meme that the scientists have done their work and it’s settled.
    Gibbs – “climate change is happening, I dont think that’s in dispute anymore”
    “The science is settled, Gore told the lawmakers.” (in 2007)
    “Obama administration climate czar Carol Browner on Wednesday rejected claims that e-mails stolen from a British university show climate scientists trumped up global warming numbers, saying she considers the science settled. “I’m sticking with the 2,500 scientists. These people have been studying this issue for a very long time and agree this problem is real,” said Ms. Browner… ”

    In light of these sorts of pronouncements, the Lindzen oped headline is not at all inappropriate, as a rejoinder not to climate scientists but to the politicians.

  40. 240
    Hank Roberts says:

    Here’s the direct link.

    For those who haven’t watched the nitwittery about this, some of it’s captured –both network commentators and some guy with a webcam frothing about their misunderstandings, then an explanation of the text and context

    Dry British humor. Excellent.

  41. 241
    chris says:

    As a previously uninterested simple tax payer my first question is where are the long term analysis for temp & co2? There seems to be much sparing and talk about short term changes.

    The series of charts I came across for the past 400,000 years show cyclical changes:
    1/ both CO2 and temp peaks seem to track each other
    2/ The period between past events seems to suggest the current event is around due
    3/ past temp peaks seem to be about where we currently are.

    I believe reducing co2 output is a sound goal for better air quality, but interestingly the only thing that will solve the debate (and provide sound insight) is doing nothing and see if the planetary systems correct


  42. 242
    Radge Havers says:

    “Not even little oil and gas. ;) -gavin”

    Maybe they’ll give you a lump of coal for Christmas.

    I got a lump of coal once. It had interesting fossils in it, so I was grateful.


    “The way to do it is to send the raw data, adjusted data, code etc. to McIntyre for verification. If you can’t extend yourselves doing that in the light of what seems to have been taking place at UEA then you put yourselves in doubt.”

    Sounds dire! If McIntyre is that helpless, how does he manage to stand up and feed himself let alone muster the energy to form an opinion? Somebody better call him an ambulance!

  43. 243
    Marco says:

    @220 Svempa:
    There’s nothing holding YOU back sending it to McIntyre…
    Besides, do you really think McIntyre is not looking at Mann’s latest paper already? The man has an obsession, and that obsession is Mike Mann and proxy reconstructions that don’t fit his desired outcome (note that he never went deep into Loehle, getting others to correct the HUGE errors in the first version).

  44. 244
    CM says:

    Svempa (#220) thinks the way to deal with “a matter that may affect billions of peoples economy and everday life” is for the science to be verified by one (1) retired mining consultant with a blog. The mind boggles.

  45. 245
    Brian Dodge says:

    google searches

    Your search – ‘”the science is settled” – did not match any documents.
    Your search – ‘”the science is settled” – did not match any documents.
    Your search – ‘”the science is settled” – did not match any documents. (~14 journals)
    Your search – ‘”the science is settled” – did not match any documents. (publishes Energy and Environment + ~28 other journals)
    Your search – “the science is settled” – did not match any documents. (You’d think they would have let it slip at least once in 60Mbytes)

    Your search – “the science is settled” – did not match any documents.
    Your search – “climate change” – did not match any documents.
    Results 1 – 1 of 1 from for “global warming”.
    Results 1 – 10 of about 3,730 for “the science is settled” “george will”.

    Results 1 – 10 of about 379 from for “the science is settled”.
    Results 1 – 10 of about 114 from for “the science is settled”
    Results 1 – 10 of about 78 from for “the science is settled”
    Results 1 – 10 of about 14 from for “the science is settled”.
    Results 1 – 5 of 5 from for “the science is settled”.

    Results 1 – 2 of 2 from for “the science is settled”. (I expected more)
    Your search – “the science is settled” – did not match any documents. (no “alarmists” here, right?)

    Results 1 – 1 of 1 from for ‘”the science is settled”. repjy from a skeptic who starts with “All humans will suffer from controls on global warming emissions.” segues into “The Arctic is beginning to see a net increase this year.” and ends with “despite claims “the science is settled,” thousands of scientists disagree with forecasts of dangerous manmade global warming.’

    Results 1 – 9 of 9 from for ‘”the science is settled”
    8 from
    1 from,596972,597229 discussing claims made by unidentified bloggers on
    “In both cases skepticism is not tolerated ( the science is “settled”) and skeptics run the risk of losing their jobs. On top of that, prominent alarmists like James Hansen en David Suzuki want “climate criminals” on trial.”

  46. 246
    David B. Benson says:

    Etymology: Middle English, to seat, bring to rest, come to rest, from Old English setlan, from setl seat
    Date: 1515
    5 a : to fix or resolve conclusively

    Now read the summary from the Charney et al. 1979 NAS/NRC report regarding CO2 and climate:
    I don’t seem to me that much has changed in the intervening 30 years; I’d say that part is settled.

  47. 247
    John MacQueen says:

    This is the first proper response I have seen to this debacle so far.

    Will others follow?

    “The Met Office plans to re-examine 160 years of temperature data after admitting that public confidence in the science on man-made global warming has been shattered by leaked e-mails.

    The Met Office is confident that its analysis will eventually be shown to be correct. However, it says it wants to create a new and fully open method of analysing temperature data.”

  48. 248
    John Mason says:

    Re #227:
    I hope you are correct, thought I doubt it. Fully agree with what you say though. Not a shred of science is left, so hacking, theft and character-assassination attempts are the bones at the bottom of the stewpot that they are left with.

    Bad science is one thing: willful anti-science is quite another thing altogether. For that, the term Denier is exactly correct: meaning – he or she who would willingly spread deception.

    And a lot of us are well fed-up with the deniers right now!!

    Cheers – John

  49. 249
    Magnus says:

    Gavin Schmidt RC: “But if you ask me whether the CO2 rise in anthropogenic, or whether CO2 was a greenhouse gas or whether it’s increase has been the predominant cause of temperature rises in recent decades, then yes – these things are pretty much ‘settled’ (in the popular understanding of the word).”

    Yes or no?

  50. 250
    Joe Hunkins says:

    This is a good post Gavin. My observation is that most of the “real” arguments are more about interpretations of good science rather than bad science. Unfortunately critics and alarmists both paint this as a debate about “the science”.

    This obliqueness leads, for example, to skeptics suggesting stupidly that the CRU hacked emails “undermine” key points of AGW which they certainly do not. However it also leads to less transparency than is ideal, especially in the paleo dendro community. Great science requires greater transparency. You don’t agree this is an important issue to address, but even if it’s not affecting the science it is certainly affecting the public perception of scientists.