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Who you gonna call?

Filed under: — eric @ 5 December 2009

The problem of ‘false balance’ in reporting — the distortions that can result from trying give equal time to the two perceived sides of an issue — is well known. In an excellent editorial a few years ago, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called for a greater emphasis on truth, rather than ‘balance’. Unfortunately, this basic element of careful journalism seems to have been cast aside, especially in recent weeks.

I was both amused and stunned by the effort at ‘balance’ provided by Richard Harris’s report on NPR, in which he claimed that the peer review process was “so distorted” that neither John Christy nor Jim Hansen can get their work published. Notwithstanding the simple fact that both of these scientists publish regularly in leading journals, Harris’s attempt to present ‘both sides’ of the issue completely undermines his thesis. Christy thinks that the IPCC overstates the consequences of climate change, while Hansen thinks it understates it. If both feel the peer review process is biased against them, then it must be working rather well. This doesn’t mean they are wrong, but science is a conservative enterprise, and it is evident that neither of them has provided sufficient evidence for extraordinary claims.

More bizarre is that some journalists seem to have decided that scientists no longer have credibility and hence one can now turn to whomever one wants for expert advice. A case in point is Andrew Revkin’s recent query to political scientist Roger Pielke, Jr. Revkin asked, “If the shape of the 20th-century temperature curve were to shift much,” would that “erode confidence that most warming since 1950 is driven by human activities”? Pielke replied that “the surface temps matter because they are a key basis for estimates of climate sensitivity,” and that there will ultimately be a “larger error bars around observed temperature trends which will carry through into the projections.”

We appreciate that Revkin may be trying to use voices that will appear ‘centrist’ to most of his audience. But Pielke’s answers, while they sound very reasonable, are wrong.

Obviously, radical changes to the long term trend in the surface temperature record would require re-evaluation of our understanding of climate sensitivity, but such radical changes are almost impossible to envision happening. This is so because: 1) independent assessments of the surface temperature data (such as by the Japanese Meteorological Agency) agree extremely well with one another, and 2) independent evidence from borehole temperatures fully validate the long term surface trend (and actually suggest it is larger than, for example, indicated by proxy temperature constructions).

The only conceivable changes to the record of surface temperatures are in the short term variability, which provide very little constraint on the climate sensitivity. (See e.g. Wigley et al. (1997), and Knutti and Hegerl’s 2008 review of research on climate sensitivity). And perhaps most importantly, the instrumental temperature data can especially not be used to exclude high values of climate sensitivity, because any small errors that may exist in those data are completely overwhelmed by the uncertainties in aerosol radiative forcing and ocean heat uptake. In short, in the unlikely event of any changes to the surface temperature record, the changes will be too small to have any impact on projections of the future.* (See also our earlier post on climate sensitivity, Plus ça change….)

All of which goes to show that, even if ones thinks it inappropriate for scientists to talk about politics, it still might be useful to ask them about technical issues.

There’s no need to rely on RealClimate: there are hundreds of other experts that can be asked. As a colleague recently wrote independently to Revkin, “You have a very good Rolodex. If you want to ask somebody a technical question about climate science … please use it.”

Note added in proof: We have assessed the CRU data independently and show that in terms of long term trends it is no different than the underlying raw data. So the instrumental temperature data aren’t going to change, and neither is the climate sensitivity (to the extent it depends on those data), so neither are projections of the future.


References:
Wigley et al., The observed global warming record: What does it tell us? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 94, 8314–8320 (1997).
Knutti R. & G.C. Hegerl. The equilibrium sensitivity of the Earth’s temperature to radiation changes. Nature Geoscience 1, 735 – 743 (2008).

*Edited from earlier version for clarity; the original read, “In short, in the unlikely event of any changes to the surface temperature record, it will have no impact on projections of the future.” This may have confused some readers to think that I was saying it would be impossible in principlefor any change — no matter how large — to have any impact. This is obviously not the case.


181 Responses to “Who you gonna call?”

  1. 101
    SBVOR says:

    Gavin ( http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/12/who-you-gonna-call/comment-page-1/#comment-147233 ),

    Do you count me among “the denialist fringe” commenting at Roger Pielke’s blog?

    If so…

    1) Note that I would happily comment and present evidence here — but, experience tells me you tend not to publish any evidence or commentary which you find to be “inconvenient”. And, the more scientifically rigorous, the less likely it is to be published. Gee, that tactic sounds vaguely familiar.

    2) Kindly tell me which part of the following presentation (overview and more detailed) you find to be representative of “the denialist fringe”?

    http://sbvor.blogspot.com/2009/10/climate-change-science-overview.html

    I’m just asking.

  2. 102
    Erling Steen says:

    I suggest that you use TiO2 CI77891 instead of CaCO3 as the transparency of the latter weakens your case

    Kindest regards
    Erling

  3. 103
    David Heigham says:

    @eric

    “The only conceivable changes to the record of surface temperatures are in the short term variability”

    You are patient with us long aeons beyond our deserts. Nevertheless, the above is true only in the current state of scientific understanding. Many a well established and amply checked data set has later been found to incorporate a hidden systematic distortion and/or measuring error. Those hidden errors and distortions become important to the careers of those that find them, but I cannot recall any of them entailing a significant retraction of major scientific conclusions.

  4. 104
    dhogaza says:

    Kindly tell me which part of the following presentation (overview and more detailed) you find to be representative of “the denialist fringe”?

    I took a 5 second look. That’s all it took to find something representative of “the denialist fringe”.

    Your argument about geologic timescales is a red herring. We’re interested in human timescales, in particular the impact in the next century, not geological timescales. There’s nothing “inconvenient” about the well-known fact that CO2 levels in (say) the carboniferous were higher.

    Sorry, but having read that, I saw no reason to continue. If this is representative of the quality of the kind of stuff you’ve been trying to post here, it’s easy to understand why your posts haven’t seen the light of day.

  5. 105
    Patrick Stephenson says:

    I know this is a science page, but I have to get something off my chest. I hope no one minds. I’m just a bit depressed after having looked through the special comment section on climate change constructed by the New York Times.

    As people here know very well, every time there’s a story on climate change at one of the major news web sites, a Company-sized group of denialists swarms the comments section, using high school debating tactics to ignore the science, and usually trying to reduce the discussion to a clash of personalities. Often I detect the same voice behind different comments. And every time, I ask myself…

    *Who* *are* *these* *PEOPLE*?

    And that’s the problem. They’re anonymous, and they usually hide behind that anonymity, or they use fake names that are unintentionally hilarious.

    (I sometimes wonder whether the ability to remain anonymous through adopting logons constitutes the Internet’s fatal flaw, at least in the area of public discourse. After all, if someone called you on the phone, refused to identify themselves, and then showered you with insults, you would think the person insane and hang up. But that sort of thing happens all the time in comment sections.)

    But what if people were *forced* to identify themselves truthfully on comment sections? What would happen to the denialist Borg then? I suspect that many of those folks would be exposed. I also notice that quite a few people on Real Climate identify themselves, which is a good thing.

    I don’t know how or if this would work. Maybe people could enter register before leaving comments on a site in a way that would allow a server to reference legal records to establish ID. I don’t know. It’s just an idea. Curious to hear your reactions.

    The name below is in fact my own!

  6. 106
    Dean says:

    In response to Gavin’s comment about delegitimizing, the Pielke’s positions on AGW and the IPCC and RC (supportive of the A in AGW while very critical of the IPCC, etc) do tend to put them in a political middle ground that some on the media will find useful. I have seen media interviews where RPJr declines to answer questions about sensitivity claiming its not his field of expertise.

    I suggested to Roger on his blog that his calling other scientists liars and plagiarists, particularly in cases where he is not directly involved, really drives a lot of this. His behavior towards other scientists actually mimics the behavior that he complains he has been subjected to. Even though he is heavily cited in IPCC reports, they still claim to be ignored and aggrieved.

    His response was that his attacks were backed up by facts and those on him weren’t – a classic myopia. Whatever one calls his role, it is not that of the honest broker. He has chosen to try and be the enforcer of his model of proper behavior on climate science in the hope – stated on his blog – that it will motivate moderate conservatives to do the same to their more extremist elements. So if he takes care of RC and the IPCC, “they” (G. Will? who?) will take care of Inhofe, etc. Anybody who knows politics knows it doesn’t work that way.

    He does frequently state his unequivocal support for the human role on climate change, and this really gives him this unique niche since so few of his supporters can bring themselves to do so. But those who consider him a moderate fail to recognize the impact of these aggressive attacks and name-calling. That this serves to make him appear more of a moderate when combined with his support for the human role in climate change is only more galling to those subject to the attacks. Folks in the media like Tom Fuller, who always ask why Roger invoked such passions, and who consider RPJr nearly the definition of a moderate need to look at how these attacks affect the process.

    I think that the Pielke’s do not fit neatly into any of the boxes that many people get put into. Nonetheless, they are driving the politicization of climate science as much as anybody, despite their stated desire to do just the opposite.

  7. 107
    Lyle says:

    Re #53 note that the Exxon product involved is natural gas. For the sake of argument assume that this gas is burnt instead of coal exported from Australia. We get 6.5 times as much energy from a modern combined cycle gas plant than a coal plant per unit CO2 emitted, both from the higher hydrogen to carbon ratio in methane and the better efficiency in a gas turbine plant> Which plant would you rather have, assuming you need the electricity produce. This is called improving carbon efficiency of production. Actually if you look up decarbonization the process has been going on as we moved from wood to coal to oil to gas we get more energy per unit co2. One has to be careful of letting the best be the enemy of better.

  8. 108
    sidd says:

    Eric wrote:
    “I think that it is important that RealClimate get back to the science most of the time.”

    Please do.

  9. 109

    re: #22

    I’d like to know if there was ever a time when any field of science was not a bit “tribal.” It is a normal and natural state of affairs. Curry is just whining.

  10. 110
    John MacQueen says:

    I think I would worry less about fair reporting, and more about reliability of the science.

    The data sources page is a great idea to start.

    Opening up the process and having researchers release all data, code and methods so reasonable skeptics can reproduce and examine results and methods without having to reproduce the work in total from scratch.

    Open the process up, open the science up, and let the reporting do as it will, the truth will eventually be arrived at and reported on. There will always be bad reporting, the best you can do is make sure there can be no doubt about the science, no controversy about methods and data sets.

    The e-mails reveal nothing about whether the science is correct or incorrect.

    What the e-mails reveal to me, the “context”, is a closed circle making it as hard as they possibly can within the law, or maybe even outside the law, for skeptics or others outside the circle to definitively check the work and conclusions.

    According to the e-mails it’s done out of fear of misrepresentation as a reason, and time/effort involved to properly document and release data, code and methods, and surely that is justified to an extent. Worrying about the press and bad reporting is natural.

    But that is not justification enough. This science is too important and the impact is likely to have too far reaching implications for those kinds of attitudes and practices.

    After all if all the data and methods are sound, and properly documented to allow for auditing, the end result will always be that it is correct and will eventually be reported as such by the majority of media.

    The only way to get rid of unreasonable skeptics, to have their credibility destroyed in the public eye and their effect minimized, is to be completely transparent at every single step of the scientific process and every single step of studies clearly presented. The antithesis of the attitude the e-mails present.

  11. 111
    wildlifer says:

    @101
    This is representative of the “denialist fringe”:
    “‘The urge to save humanity is always a false front for the urge to rule it.'”

  12. 112

    Roger Pielke, Jr.
    Andy Revkin

    When I do have the opportunity to speak with scientists about reporters and/or reporters about scientists, I try to point out that it is very important to not just ask or answer a question, but rather to investigate the contexts involved and their relevance and address the relevance and underlying issues. The reality is ‘climate is very complex’ and it takes some work to assimilate the relationships involved and for those learning to get their heads wrapped around the issues. RealClimate does this better than just about anywhere else IMO.

    I am also very impressed with Rabbet and Skepticalscience and some of the video efforts in the past year. Nevertheless the communications issue remains confounded to a significant degree because we do not have a strategic mechanism to address the communication as yet. So we continue…

    The main problem in the media is that reporters, in general, often don’t have enough understanding to ask relevant questions regarding the context of a question or its answer and scientists often answer directly rather than being able to mind read the underlying premise of the issue (not the question).

    We need to ask and answer the issue, not the question, because the question often falls short.

    When a scientist is already making mistakes on context in addressing questions, relevance, issue and premise, then a reporter needs to know that… but how? I’d say look them up in the RC wiki first.

    That’s not so easy because some reporters don’t know. Andy does of course, but there is always the deadline problem. Andy, I recognize the difference between a blog piece and an article, but the ice is getting thinner (pun intended) and all involved need to be diligent to contextualize information so that the public begins to understand the issues better.

    We simply can’t afford to have balanced articles or even blog items that merely weigh one statement against another, when what we need is the truth.

    The reality is that as we move forward in time without relevant action, the solutions become increasing more difficult to accomplish and the economic costs (monetary and environmental) increase. Therefore, people actually need to understand climate, so that politicians can act on that understanding. Politicians are unfortunately tied to the votes they can get. I imagine that even if the understand AGW, they can’t do much until the public gets it, because if they get voted out, then they know they can’t do anything. This is part of the problem.

  13. 113
    David B. Benson says:

    Mesa (95) — For a nontechnical hisotry, read “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart, first link under the science links section of the sidebar. For a technical read, try Ray Pierrehumbert’s
    http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/ClimateBook/ClimateBook.html

  14. 114

    At this point it seems pretty simple to me.

    Let there be a National debate or opportunity to present the case in full public tranparancey – headed by popular choices from each side.

  15. 115
    Hank Roberts says:

    Phil, you’re misstating what the article says.
    You may have read someone’s commentary on it (putting the article URL into Google finds about 60 different blog comments referring to it right now, most of them denialarmist copypaste sites.

    The article doesn’t say the IPCC got it wrong.
    The article says someone in India says the IPCC got it wrong.
    The article is a story from India about an Indian claim.
    Lots of people in India claim there’s no problem right now.
    They’re at the raw edge here; look up subsidence in the same area, they’re running out of clean water. They are saying ‘no problem.’

    That’s the story.

    The head of the IPCC says the person in India is using ‘voodoo science’

    The IPCC works every five years with what it has available.
    Last time they used the information there was at the time.

    Now there’s more. Google Scholar, look for it. Like I did.

    I gave you an example showing it’s temperature — not rainfall — that’s melting the biggest Himalayan glacier, the one feeding the Ganges.

    If you expect temperature to rise, you can extrapolate.
    If you expect temperature to rise fast, the worst case is pretty bad.
    If you don’t think temperature will rise, you expect no problem.

    You can look this up for yourself.

  16. 116
    Jason says:

    This may be off topic, but I am seeing it all over the place:

    I keep reading articles and posts which say the CRU “manipulated” data. But isn’t that what they are suppose to be doing? The CRU took crude, raw data and manipulated it into a useful form. There is nothing wrong with the CRU manipulating data – that is part of their job. The verb they should be using, if they are implying that something nefarious occurred, is “to doctor” with a big allegedly in front of it. And, no, I do not think the data were doctored.

    “To manipulate” can mean to skillfully handle the data or “to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose” with the latter definition having the synonym of “to doctor”. Maybe these writers are using the word “manipulate” to avoid having to include “allegedly” in their sentences and the future possibility of libel suits.

  17. 117
    Jim Torson says:

    Jeff Masters has posted another thoughtful discussion:

    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1394
    Don’t shoot the messenger

    Excerpt:
    The Wall Street Journal has long been at the forefront of the battle to discredit the science of climate change and the scientists involved, and last week they launched a major offensive, publishing multiple opinion pieces. I’ll critique one of these, a December 1 editorial by Bret Stephens which accuses climate scientists of having a vested interest in promoting alarmist views of the climate in order to get research funding. “All of them have been on the receiving end of climate change-related funding, so all of them must believe in the reality (and catastrophic imminence) of global warming just as a priest must believe in the existence of God”, Stephens wrote.

    The amazing editorial is a good description of what the WSJ (and a growing number of politicians and members of the public) really think about climate scientists.

  18. 118

    SBVOR (101),
    You are an archetypical example indeed.

  19. 119
    Patrick M. says:

    Another post that doesn’t want to talk about the elephant sitting squarely in the center of the room …. When it comes to issues of media bias or other bias, it always boils down to what is said and what is left UNSAID. Hence it is interesting that a Wigley 1997 paper is cited, but 2009 emails are not mentioned:

    “And the issue of with-holding data is still a hot potato, one that affects both you and Keith (and Mann). Yes, there are reasons—but many *good* scientists appear to be unsympathetic to these. The trouble here is that with-holding data looks like hiding something, and hiding means (in some eyes) that it is bogus science that is being hidden. ” – Tom Wigley, 2009, in an email to Dr Phil Jones
    see e.g.
    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/climategate_which_one_blew_the_whistle/

    The question that remains unanswered: How can we believe ANYTHING you say if you won’t be 100% open in sharing ALL of what you really know?(*)

    (*) Not just all the data that makes the case stronger, but the data that makes it stronger, weaker, different, contradictory, etc… all of it, come what may.

  20. 120
    Hank Roberts says:

    > svbor

    I’d rate that at upwards of 90 percent, just speaking as an amateur reader of this stuff; most of it is recognizable from other sites making similar claims with similar advertising; the dozen cookies it tries to set are mostly, well, to be avoided. It’s a very dense site.

    The images need to be cited to an available source, so people can check the claims you make about what they illustrate.

    Of the papers you do point to, you should follow the cites forward in time. This should help:
    http://www.pnas.org/content/106/44/18431
    http://www.pnas.org/content/106/44/18443.abstract

  21. 121
    John Peter says:

    # 85 greyfox – though I suspect it may be futile, here’s one attempt to explain what the email debacle means.

    For the last few years, “warmers” have tried to cast all skeptics as deniers – a pejorative label. Many centuries of scientists have recognized skepticism as a key ingredient of good science so this behavior by new kids on the block (climate scientists, modelers, et al) was not appreciated.

    The best explanation of the effects of the disclosure of emails containing seemingly falsified data, personal attacks, and apparent attempts at thought control of “scientific” papers can be found in a 5 page piece in Popular Mechanics by Professor Peter Kelemen – especially on page 3. (in case you don’t have Gavin’s link, here it is again:
    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4338343.html

    I was taught that, when you work in a structured hierarchical environment, to “be nice to every one- if you don’t meet them on the way up, you will on the way down.” Many blogs, climate change included, ignore such teachings.

    So much for politics.

    With regard to your concerns about the dangers of Climate Change I believe you are right. However I watched “AGW” morph into Global Warning and then into Climate Change, allowing lots of latitude to most politicians and some scientists in their public pronouncements re Cap and Trade. There may be some published scientific work relating polar glacier destruction to AGW which I’ve missed, but it seems likely that CO2 lifetimes are too long and the oceans too deep for AGW to have had much effect so far. Think quantitatively.

    To repeat my comments in #81, I believe we should proceed with CO2 reduction, cap and trade if that’s the best we can come up with. But only because the risks of AGW contributing to Climate Change are too high to ignore and our global development capability for “green” technology solutions make it unnecessary to assume such risks.

    The political mistake was for some climate scientists to try to sell “cap and trade” on the basis of something called “settled science” or “scientific consensus”. This has come back to haunt them. Prof Kelemen makes this point much better than I do.

    Needless to say ALL the above is just my (I hope) humble opinion.

    John

  22. 122
    Clippo says:

    27, Mike Roddy
    The internet and blogs are great, but limited. A serious media campaign- to include cable television and feature films- is called for. The hour is getting late.
    Absolutely agree.
    We all know that a huge propaganda battle is going on, and in my view scientists have to become ‘political’ and use all the media techniques to promote the scientific ‘truth’ of Global Warming.
    One has to remember that much media thrives on controversy – IT SELLS!!!
    I am UK based and a regular Daily Telegraph reader for my sins. Today they have 4-5 articles about AGW, including Christopher Booker who still chants out the old denier myths. They have an article about how much Steve Jones is ‘making’ out of grants to do his research, an article about 46% of the UK public not believing AGW and a double page analysis of Copenhagen etc.
    Also, in another article they used the old denier technique of pointing out, (sarcastically), how much carbon dioxide the Copenhagen summit would emit. Over the last few weeks, several of their other journalists, none at all scientists, have entered the CRU fray. I particularly switch off when their articles start with something like, “I am not a scientist but….. “ or “ I don’t know the whole facts but… “. This is true, I’m not making it up – one of their regular journalists, Simon Heffer actually trumpeted his belief in Libertarianism recently and then went on to criticise AGW.
    Yet they also have very factual articles by 2 of their environmental journalists.
    Re: the BBC, a year or 18 months ago, I recorded their series of programs, The Climate Wars – which showed the basic GW science, the worldwide evidence of GW and in a second episode, the ‘politics’. The presenter went to the Heartland Institute’s Manhattan bash in 2008 and interviewed many of the ‘named’ deniers. It even showed Roy Spencer admitting that he goofed over satellite data and Patrick Michaels saying publicly he believed in GW.
    I have tried to buy a DVD of this series – but the BBC haven’t issued it yet !!!
    Not very balanced in my opinion – certainly nowhere as quick as our Channel 4 issued TTGWS !.
    So Yes – get the propaganda gloves off and fight back.

  23. 123
    Clippo says:

    27, Mike Roddy
    The internet and blogs are great, but limited. A serious media campaign- to include cable television and feature films- is called for. The hour is getting late.

    Absolutely agree.

    We all know that a huge propaganda battle is going on, and in my view scientists have to become ‘political’ and use all the media techniques to promote the scientific ‘truth’ of Global Warming.

    One has to remember that much media thrives on controversy – IT SELLS!!!
    I am UK based and a regular Daily Telegraph reader for my sins. Today they have 4-5 articles about AGW, including Christopher Booker who still chants out the old denier myths. They have an article about how much Steve Jones is ‘making’ out of grants to do his research, an article about 46% of the UK public not believing AGW and a double page analysis of Copenhagen etc.
    Also, in another article they used the old denier technique of pointing out, (sarcastically), how much carbon dioxide the Copenhagen summit would emit. Over the last few weeks, several of their other journalists, none at all scientists, have entered the CRU fray. I particularly switch off when their articles start with something like, “I am not a scientist but….. “ or “ I don’t know the whole facts but… “.

    This is true, I’m not making it up – one of their regular journalists, Simon Heffer actually trumpeted his belief in Libertarianism recently and then went on to criticise AGW.

    Yet they also have very factual articles by 2 of their environmental journalists.

    Re: the BBC, a year or 18 months ago, I recorded their series of programs, The Climate Wars – which showed the basic GW science, the worldwide evidence of GW and in a second episode, the ‘politics’. The presenter went to the Heartland Institute’s Manhattan bash in 2008 and interviewed many of the ‘named’ deniers. It even showed Roy Spencer admitting that he goofed over satellite data and Patrick Michaels saying publicly he believed in GW.

    I have tried to buy a DVD of this series – but the BBC haven’t issued it yet !!!

    Not very balanced in my opinion – certainly nowhere as quick as our Channel 4 issued TTGWS !.

    So Yes – get the propaganda gloves off and fight back.

  24. 124

    Mesa,

    Sure. If we came up with a new, more reliable record that showed no relation to the carbon dioxide level, that would be a serious blow to the theory–and along with it, physical chemistry, meteorology, and quantum physics.

    However, the correlation between NASA GISS temperature anomalies (not Hadley CRU) and ln CO2 is r = 0.87 for 1880-2007 (76% of variance accounted for). So that scenario isn’t very likely, is it?

  25. 125

    EL:
    Al-Gore and a some scientists did significant harm to progress on global warming because they turned the scientific discussion into a partisan political discussion. Instead of a science debate, the discussion is liberal vs conservative.

    BPL: Are you living beyond the Looking Glass? The people who turned this from a scientific issue into another screaming match between liberals and conservatives were people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and Sean Hannity. None of whom know d*ck about any science at all. At least Al Gore took a climatology class from Roger Revelle in the ’60s, which means he has taken at least one more course in the subject than they have.

  26. 126
    gator says:

    SBVOR — all of it is standard anti-science clap trap.

  27. 127
    Daniel C. Goodwin says:

    I much appreciate SecularAnimist’s point that subjectively extraordinary claims should not require a separate standard of proof.

    A couple of other assumptions in the original post have gone unexamined thus far. Firstly: a political scientist is still (putatively) a scientist. If it’s wrong for scientists in general to advocate or oppose policy recommendations, then it’s equally wrong for a political scientist.

    On the other hand, the dichotomy between knowledge and advocacy strikes me as superficial and misleading. With the case in point, when our knowledge indicates that human activities entail a strong risk of extreme hardship for future generations and life on earth, then the investigation and distribution of such knowledge is the purest form of enlightened advocacy.

    There is such a thing as advocacy without knowledge. Indeed, the raison d’etre of our corporate media seems to be the perpetuation of ignorance. But I can’t imagine knowledge without an implicit advocacy. As Rod Stewart said, every picture tells a story, don’t it?

  28. 128

    EL #97:

    Al-Gore and a some scientists did significant harm to progress on global warming because they turned the scientific discussion into a partisan political discussion. Instead of a science debate, the discussion is liberal vs conservative. Some have even used global warming as a stage horse to obtain very liberal ideologies such as global government.

    This is very much a matter of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We went through the exact same “this is trying to take away our rights” drivel with the tobacco and health war, and something not that different with the HIV denial war. In both cases, there were some who tried to keep it to the scientific arena. Those people were not in the denial camp. Close to 100% of the denial case in all three battles is political.

    Imagine for a moment if Al Gore hadn’t intervened. Where would we be now?

    The people being attacked politically (Hansen, Mann, Jones, Briffa to name some of the most prominent) are by and large not politicians. This world government meme is totally bonkers conspiracy theory. The nearest we have to that trend is the way the fossil fuel industry, an unelected power block, is manipulating government policy worldwide. That’s a much more scary prospect than a putative world government.

  29. 129
    Bernie says:

    Eric or Gavin:

    Would you like to comment on Michael Schlesinger’s email to Andy Revkin?
    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2009/12/climate-scientist-threatens-boycott-of.html#comments
    Wherein he apparently says:
    “Andy:
    Copenhagen prostitutes?
    Climate prostitutes?

    Shame on you for this gutter reportage. This is the second time this week I have written you thereon, the first about giving space in your blog to the Pielkes.

    The vibe that I am getting from here, there and everywhere is that your reportage is very worrisome to most climate scientists. Of course, your blog is your blog. But, I sense that you are about to experience the ‘Big Cutoff’ from those of us who believe we can no longer trust you, me included. Emphasis added.

    Copenhagen prostitutes?
    Unbelievable and unacceptable.

    What are you doing and why?

    Michael”

    Do you really think that this type of threatening language is going to persuade people? Doesn’t such an email mirror the same hubris, arrogance and nastiness displayed in some of the CRU emails. It would be nice for once if someone at RealClimate condemned the Michael Schlesinger-type of boorishness.

    P.S. I do believe in Evolution though I have no idea what Evolution has to do with Climate Science.

  30. 130
    Russell Seitz says:

    56
    Raypierre notes that ” there is much more support for the possibilty of high climate sensitivity than there is for the possibility of very low climate sensitivity, but there are different ways to assess the confidence of these judgments, and it is a subject of pretty active research.”

    But in funding research their is a natural tendency for a feedback loop to arise from the linkage of proiorities to perceptions of policy consequences- the graver a parameter’s impact is thought to be , the greater the probability of further research on it being funded first.

    It follows that funding triage can result in early emphasis on corroborating the plausablity of worst case outcomes , since bureaucrats tend to amplify funding as perceptions of outcome severity grow, and to direct funds elsewhere if perceptions of worst-case severity stagnate or decline.

    Worst-case advocacy can accordingly run afoul of this crisis of rising expectations when , to “raise consciousness” , it focuses on furthering public perceptions of catastrophic modeling outcomes while glossing over how broad the whole spectrum of scenarios may be.

    But factoids are not just the worst-case outcome of science acceding to the use of different sets of facts for internal debate and public consumption- they can be created by how funding is timed- pursuing facts conducive to optimistic or pessimistic outcomes sequentially, can lead to statistical outliers gaining initial perceptual advantages that defy objective redress , because first perceptions are often the only ones advertised, or enshrined in popular culture.

    The disconnect between the uncertainty warnings in the IPCC reports and the images of absolute catastrophe propagated by advertising campaigns that draw on the executive summary mirrors what transpired a generation ago when precious few people save the authors actually read the three volume SCOPE ENUWAR report quantifying the environmental consequences of nuclear war. Just as executive summaries invite sermonizing , prolixity favors disinformation by burying information and uncertainty alike .

  31. 131
    john McCormick says:

    RE: 97

    EL, you speak truth and wisdom; traits the renewables fixers fail to include in their pitch.

    You said:

    “To make matters worse, many people are peddling snake oil in order to profit from fear. Technologies such as ethanol are completely and totally bullshit. There also exists many resource problems in various renewable technologies that are never ever discussed; instead, people just talk about how these technologies are magical solutions. Just about every single renewable technologies requires rare earth materials that may effect the scope in which the technologies can be used.”

    I know RC is not a post that can draw out the truth about the limited potential of wind, solar, electric vehicles, smart meters, reverse metering, etc. but the policy makers and public should be given the reality of those ‘solutions’.

    Believe me, I want all those and more mitigation options to trigger in soon and vigorously. But, the infrastructure and laws of physics and going to make some difficult, most limited and all too late.

    The more the world population sees how late and ill-equipped we all are to mitigate our way out of 3-4-5 degree temp increase in this century, the better the opportunities to ALSO focus on very aggressive adaptation and accommdation.

    John McCormick

  32. 132
    Rod B says:

    I may have missed something, but ask for a clarification: is the “climate sensitivity” discussed here the temperature sensitivity per forcing, or per GHG concentration?

    [Response: it’s always per forcing (in W/m2) but it is often scaled for 2xCO2 which is ~4W/m2. – gavin]

  33. 133
    wws says:

    The useful role of a political scientist is to keep the focus on what really matters in a given situation, in this case which policies are going to be adopted. It now looks like the much awaited Copenhagen Conference is going to be a failure, producing nothing but some nice sounding but unenforceable statements of intent and memorandums of understanding. Likewise, it also looks like Cap and Trade is dead along with any chance of “green” legislation for this session. Since polls now show that the next Congress is going to be much more anti-cap and trade than this one, this means that the US is never going to adopt any cap and trade system and the world is never going to adopt any binding anti-co2 restrictions.

    And with those 2 realities, the game is now over. All the rest of the talking is just a lot of nothing – maybe it will get some people some tenure somewhere and give some grad students fodder for papers, but in the real world this issue is dead.

    Check out the recent action in the Australian Senate for confirmation.

  34. 134
    Jim Eager says:

    Re SBVOR @101, I started reading through the material at your blog link. I only needed to get to the point where you note that atmospheric CO2 has steadily increased yet temperatures have been flat to down since 2002 as if this were evidence for a trend change in climate. That you seem to think that a period of not quite 8 years can describe an underlying climate trend tells us that you have no idea what the words “climate” and “scientifically rigorous” mean.

    That you make the fact that CO2 increase lags temperature in the ice core record–something everyone here is very well aware of–a cornerstone of your argument demonstrates that you have little if nay grasp of the ability of CO2 to act as both an amplifying feedback to the initial forcing and as a direct forcing, depending on the circumstances. In your historical overview you neglect to mention episodes (besides the present) where an increase in CH4 and CO2 in fact preceded an increase in temperature, such as the PETM and End-Permian. Why is that? Could it be that they are “inconvenient” to your argument?

    And you label the IPCC as being “incredibly dishonest.”

  35. 135
    Neil Pelkey says:

    AGW seems to have fallen into a Black-Scholes. The rhetoric has gotten nastier and the whole shebang looks set to collapse. I would follow the Lanny Davis approach of tell it early, tell it straight, and apologize. I would also be really nice to the grad students/lab tech’s who have access to to the data–especially if you have been dating them on the sly. Give out a couple first authored papers here and there. Buy all the tech support people holiday presents. Double this for the physics geeks working in the basement. Thank the journalists for the coverage instead of calling them idiots.

  36. 136
    SteveF says:

    SBVOR writes:

    “Do you count me among “the denialist fringe” commenting at Roger Pielke’s blog?”

    Yes.

  37. 137
    Zer0th says:

    I read that Michael Schlesinger has had something to say about RPJr’s appearance at DotEarth… via climate science’s favored means of self-immolation, email.

  38. 138
    Sean Rooney says:

    I am curious about the implications of what’s set forth in “Runaway Climate Change, Boundary Conditions & Implications for Policy,” An Interim Report, By David Wasdell, available from,

    http://www.feasta.org/forum/files/inter … rt_153.pdf.

    In this report, its author states “… it now looks highly probable that the conditions for runaway climate change have already been met. Once that boundary has been crossed, there is only a small window of opportunity open to the global community to re-stabilise the system. Beyond that, it becomes impossible to halt and reverse the runaway condition.”

    I’d really like to know if this gentleman’s science is credible and if so, what his report means for climate science and for what might go on at or what we might expect from COP15 in Copenhagan this next two weeks

    Thank you.

    And double thanks to RC and its staff for doing a terrific job on this site! Your work is hugely appreciated.

  39. 139
    Tim Jones says:

    I think the so called Climategate email thievery will backfire on the real climate hoaxers. Resorting to such tactics and using private emails to make spurious allegations that all of the science is false at this particular time is transparent to obfuscate the facts.
    The desperation of the denialists is clear. They can’t measure up with their climate science so they make a soap opera out of the lives of a few real climate scientists to cast doubt on all of the climate science.

    Swiftboating a community of scientists? This should be fun!

    The blowback will be enormous. I suspect bringing climate change debate down to the level of thievery will have the same result as when Nixon was in power. The scandal will actually allow the real science to preponderate as these people reveal themselves to be what they are. To wit:
    http://climateprogress.org/2009/10/28/washington-post-mocks-inhofe-as-the-last-flat-earther/

  40. 140
    Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Regarding “Honest Brokering:” If you ask him, RAPjr describes himself as an issue advocate, not an honest broker, with respect to most of the stuff he posts. The point he tries to make in his taxonomy is that he’s being open about his advocacy, whereas others are engaging in advocacy while pretending to be doing descriptive science. I’m not going to comment on whether these ad-hominem charges hold water, just to point out that he DOES NOT claim that he’s acting as an honest broker of policy alternatives.

    As he points out in his book (quite a good book whether or not you like his other work and commentary), the honest broker role is better suited to committees, rather than individuals, because it’s hard for an individual to sufficiently transcend his or her personal perspectives and political biases to do the job.

    Thus, it’s more fruitful to take on Roger’s claims that his work represents honest issue advocacy, whereas RC’s represents stealth issue advocacy, or perhaps to challenge his whole taxonomy of science policy.

    [Response: I don’t necessarily take issue with his taxonomy – though ‘advocacy’ is ambiguous since it is implicit that anyone speaking in public is advocating for something, but what that might be is not defined anywhere. I’ve stated that I advocate for the proper appreciation of climate science and against it’s abuse in political arguments, but RPJr has decided arbitrarily that this is somehow impossible and that I’m advocating for something else (also undefined). Maybe I’m naive, but I feel that education outside of classroom is still worthwhile. However, the objections to RP actions has bog all to do with issues, but his use of misrepresentation and insults to try and secure an exclusive spot in the public discourse i.e. “Those bad scientists can’t be trusted to deal with policy ramifications – listen to me instead”. This explains his exclusive focus on percieved errors by mainstream climate scientists, rather than the blatant lies put out by Morano, Drudge, Beck etc. – people who are significantly more influential than any of us. – gavin]

  41. 141
    Ken W says:

    Re: 95
    Mesa wrote:
    “As a field theorist I would like an answer to my first post (#3) – are there any revisions to the temperature record, or any possible future temperature records that you believe would falsify the hypothesis that CO2 warming is a large, and potentially destabilizing threat to the planet?”

    As a “field theorist” I would think you could easily answer that question yourself. If the combination soil, ocean, and atmospheric global temperature dropped, on average over a significant period of time (e.g. 10 years), while CO2 levels remained high and there were no other (e.g. significant change in solar output or significant volcano activity) explanations, then clearly the current dominant theory of greenhouse gases would require changes.

    Of course, there’s a big difference between speculative fantasy events and probable events.

  42. 142
    Brian Dodge says:

    “2) Kindly tell me which part of the following presentation (overview and more detailed) you find to be representative of “the denialist fringe”?”
    “I’m just asking.”
    Comment by SBVOR — 6 December 2009 @ 1:40 PM

    Your implication that CO2 levels prior to evolution of mammals would be suitable to sustaining a modern society with a chart spanning 570 million years and the caption “…we’re really in a CO2 famine now.”
    Your creative editing of the temperature record in the second chart to remove the PETM spike which resulted in mass extinctions, your smoothing of the curves to hide correlation of changes in temperature with changes in CO2, and your selective omission of other factors that also drive temperature, like the dim young sun.
    Your cherrypicking of ” temperatures are flat to down since 2002.” in the discussion of the UAH curve chart. Perhaps you are willfully ignoring the fact that in 2002, UAH changed satellites and the temperatures since then show a strong annual component; this means that their algorithm to calculate the anomaly is incorrect.
    Your hypocritical use of tacking on the recent instrumental record to the Vostok core data in the 3rd graph without justification, while the rest of the blogosphere is screaming bloody murder about Briffa et al doing that same thing, except of course they have peer reviewed justification and multiple publications explaining what they did, why, what the implications are, and why more research is needed to resolve the issues.
    Your erroneous claim that “The latest warming is not even remotely unusual.” when the chart of GISP temperatures clearly shows only three previous peaks of comparable magnitude above the trend, 2 between 8.4 & 6.7 kybp, and one around 3.2 kybp which had considerably slower risetime.
    Your claim that the surface record from Box et al whose graphic you show may be “Potentially warm biased temperature measurements” which you support by a bait and switch to a paper by Klotzbach, Pielke, et al talking about potential bias in a totally different dataset.
    Your claim that “The latest warming is not even remotely unusual.” referencing a chart of Vostok temperatures showing abrupt rises ~140k and ~10k years ago, spuriously implying that such changes had no impact on prehistoric human cultural development and therefore show our 6.6 billion soul technology dependent modern socioeconomic system has nothing to worry about.

    I’m just saying.

  43. 143
    gator says:

    Re 95. “As a field theorist I would like an answer to my first post (#3) – are there any revisions to the temperature record, or any possible future temperature records that you believe would falsify the hypothesis that CO2 warming is a large, and potentially destabilizing threat to the planet? If there are, what specifically are they? If not how is this different from any other time wasting dogma?”
    Dr. Field Theorist, what measurements or changes to current measurements would invalidate current theory about the existence of the electron? What specifically? Be detailed, I’m sure you don’t want the appearance that you are hiding anything… As a field theorist you must be one of those on the public teat and therefore it is in your best interest to get rich off of public monies gotten by exploiting “field theory.” Have you ever said or written anything disparaging about string theorists?

    How is the above question different from other time wasting BS?

  44. 144
    phil cunningham says:

    Hank

    Thanks for pointing that the article was reporting a claim

    It does however say that…

    “The IPCC relied on three documents to arrive at 2035 as the “outer year” for shrinkage of glaciers.
    They are: a 2005 World Wide Fund for Nature report on glaciers; a 1996 Unesco document on hydrology; and a 1999 news report in New Scientist.
    Incidentally, none of these documents have been reviewed by peer professionals, which is what the IPCC is mandated to be doing.
    Murari Lal, a climate expert who was one of the leading authors of the 2007 IPCC report, denied it had its facts wrong about melting Himalayan glaciers.
    But he admitted the report relied on non-peer reviewed – or ‘unpublished’ – documents when assessing the status of the glaciers.”

    So the use of non-peer reviewed papers does not appear to have been denied by the IPCC, or have I got that wrong as well :)

  45. 145

    The rhetoric has gotten nastier and the whole shebang looks set to collapse.

    Scientific or engineering truth or validity is not whether it is nasty or not. The Germans and von Braun were thoroughly nasty, but they invented the best rockets in the world, which ultimately brought you the highest standard of security and protection (satellite weather forecasting for instance, and military surveillance) that the world has ever achieved. Nastiness isn’t even a quantifiable metric. You are imposing your values on nature and physics. And I hardly think carbon dioxide is going to naturally just precipitate out of the atmosphere of the planet Earth anytime soon.

  46. 146
    Hank Roberts says:

    Judith Curry is being interviewed on the radio (NPR)
    December 6, 2009
    Host Guy Raz explores some of the fallout from the “climate-gate” e-mail hack with Dr. Judith Curry…
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121139996

    “… scientific locker-room talk … never intended to be made public”
    “… this is a blow to the credibility of our science …”
    “… trying to keep certain things out of the literature is a way of keeping them out of the IPCC Report. I don’t believe the scientists were intentionally cooking the data …”
    “… two classes of skeptics here. One is scientists who are actually doing work, and that’s the kind of skepticism we need…. another class of skeptics who get their talking points from talk radio ….”

  47. 147
    Neil Pelkey says:

    The Germans lost. The point on Black-Scholes is they they had it right most of the time and the economic engineering behind it was quite solid, but they ran into a few clustered events that made their models look pretty bad. AGW, like Black-Scholes gets it right most of the time, but then clustered events such as a couple La Nina’s in a row, an NAO reversal, a particular particulate belch out of Alaska, and some snow feedback effects lead the indicators of warming take a nine year hiatus.

    As to quantifying nastiness you could read:

    The Devil Shift: Perceptions and Misperceptions of Opponents, Sabatier, Paul, Hunter, Susan, McLaughlin, Susan Political Research Quarterly 1987 40: 449-476.

  48. 148
    Hank Roberts says:

    Phil Cunningham — have you actually read the IPCC chapter?
    They did not have a lot to work with at the deadline for the last Report; they cited what they used, correctly. They have become more cautious and more conservative in what they cite with every Report, I think.

    Now I happened to point to a recent study on the glacier that feeds the Ganges above, that supports their concern (which, again, you should read in full, not rely on some guy on a blog telling you what it says).

    But here’s an excerpt. They said, and show the picture to support it:

    —–
    The 30.2 km long Gangotri glacier has been receding alarmingly in recent years (Figure 10.6). Between 1842 and 1935, the glacier was receding at an average of 7.3 m every year; the average rate of recession between 1985 and 2001 is about 23 m per year (Hasnain, 2002). The current trends of glacial melts suggest that the Ganga, Indus, Brahmaputra and other rivers that criss-cross the northern Indian plain could likely become seasonal rivers in the near future as a consequence of climate change and could likely affect the economies in the region. Some other glaciers in Asia – such as glaciers shorter
    than 4 km length in the Tibetan Plateau – are projected to
    disappear and the glaciated areas located in the headwaters of
    the Changjiang River will likely decrease in area by more than
    60% (Shen et al., 2002).
    ——

    You can look this stuff up for yourself. I post suggestions mostly for kids who come here who haven’t learned how to use their own libraries, with the encouragement to _go_look_it_up_ and think it through, not rely on something on a blog.

    So I pasted the obvious search terms into Google and it pops right up on the first page of results. You want pp. 493-494.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-chapter10.pdf

    Page down to the end of the chapter to find the references in full; paste those into Google Scholar and see what subsequent papers have cited them to do the catch-up reading.

    

  49. 149
    DB says:

    I would still like to know why the tree ring data is considered good only when it fits certain criteria but the years when it shows a decline are ‘not trustable’? Instead of being thrown out only the data that is ‘good’ was kept, and other data was tacked on to the end of it. How is this even remotely legitimate science? If you only keep the data you prefer, you don’t have data, rather you have inputs that you know before hand will conform to the outcome you want.

    In response to my post #23: Who can be fair in this debate? Can anyone be fair any more, or are both sides so entrenched that anyone that wades into these waters only has the pro-warming and non-warming rafts to hold on to and anyone other than those ordained by you allowed to speak?

    Anyway, I still would like to know why the Medieval Warm Period didn’t cause the permafrost to release massive amounts of methane? Why have the last few years not been as hot as predicted? Why can’t the GFS or other models predict short term temperatures to within a degree, yet we are to believe that it will be 3° warmer in 90 years? Most weather models can’t get a handle on things until about 12 hours out and even then they don’t always get the temperatures right? Why should I trust a 90 year model then?

    All in all I’m just a curious person that has read all the angles and honestly believes that both sides are just playing with numbers to show what they want to show. This probably won’t get published here, but I would appreciate it if you would post it. Kind Regards. :)

  50. 150
    KenH says:

    I’m sure many readers have seen this, but Dara O’Briain has some comments on media ‘balance’.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIaV8swc-fo


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