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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. 151

    Revkin and the NYT stab science in the back yet again:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/science/earth/07climate.html

  2. 152
    gator says:

    Phil C at 144. This is called “grasping at straws.” Read the IPCC report, then read the WWF report which was compiled as a review article from work by scientific institutes in India, Nepal and China. The article contains tables, graphs and more than 200 references. One thing it does contain is the number “2035” and it does not contain “2350”.

    Now, does the fact that the IPCC authors used this article as reference material change the fact that the glaciers are in fact melting? Does the fact that you let yourself get worked up by a blog report of a claim by someone who is wrong on at least one key claim mean anything?

    BTW, better expand your conspiracy — it’s not just the evil “hockey stick team” plus UEA — that chapter 10 was authored entirely by Asians! From Iran to China to India to Japan to the Philipines, they’re all part of the world-wide conspiracy to raise taxes in the US and the EU!

    [Response: Well put. It would be awfully nice — really really nice — if mainstream journalists would point out the ridiculousness of this too.–eric]

  3. 153
    dhogaza says:

    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.

    Well, except that climate science has never claimed that AGW will overwhelm La Nina, a NAO reversal, a volcanic belch out of Alaska, etc.

    Which makes this an empty statement.

    Nothing unexpected by any of those things.

  4. 154
    dhogaza 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?

    Because the tree ring data fits with other proxy data very well, and also with about 2/3 of the instrument record.

    This leads to a suspicion that whatever’s causing the divergence today is unique – because best evidence says it didn’t happen before.

    And, of course, the notion that you can find trees at their altitudinal and latitudinal range extremes where growth is limited by late summer maximum temperatures is based entirely on knowledge of plant physiology which is entirely unrelated to AGW or paleoclimate reconstructions in the first place (plant physiology tends to focus on how to best grow plants, i.e. traditionally it’s been part of ag science, helping us to eat cheap rather than spawning black helicopter one-world commie government plots like climate science (that’s sarcasm, BTW)).

  5. 155
    David Wright says:

    I am confused by the assertion that a changed instrumental temperature record would not change future temperature predictions. My understanding is that GCMs are calibrated based on the instrumental temperature records over the past ~150 years, such as the CRU and GISS series. Suppose, hypothetically, that those records were changed to show, say, only half as much warming over the calibration period. Are you saying that the future temperature predictions of the re-calibrated GCMs would hardly change? Or are you saying that there simply are no values for GCM model parameters which would fit the hypothetical lower temperature rise?

  6. 156
    Anonymous Coward says:

    “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”

    I think you have an unjustified inferiority complex. When I consider reports that Goldman-Sachs is itching to get into the $1 trillion cap-and-trade market, and all of the money that private investors and Congress and governments and investors world wide are putting into green energy, climate mediation, etc., and much of that comes down to your work (and claims) and the works and claims of the IPCC and others for many many years.

    I’d say you folks are winning and winning handily and that you folks have proven way way way more influential than Drudge and Beck and the rest. And good for you!

    It’s one of the reasons why I am appalled at the pettiness I see around here. Perhaps that’s explained by that unjustified inferiority complex. That you are winning and that Goldman-Sachs and others think this is worth trillions of dollars and there are laws, regulations and day to day life changing based on your efforts, is one major reason why I think not only that the public, but even your critics, should be treated by you folks with a respect that I haven’t seen.

    I went to a science and engineering school where most of the professors came from the Manhattan Project. Part of the curriculum, and many sessions between professors and students in the dorms were to speak of the roles between scientist and engineer and society. Boy oh boy, do I think you guys come out badly, just horribly, on that regard. Cf: Cargo Cult Science and integrity.

  7. 157
    phil cunningham says:

    hank, gator, eric

    I am not an expert on climate and don’t pretend that I ever will be. As such I reply on the media and internet for information. The BBC was reporting what look like errors in the IPCC, I came here to find what you thought. Now I know and I appreciate the information.

    Gator – while your information was helpful, the patronising tone was not required.

  8. 158
    Don Cox says:

    “Take the BBC. They receive money from the government ”

    Only for the overseas service. All the UK broadcasting, including the web site, is paid for by the TV license fees and by the sale of books, DVDs, etc.

    The license fee is basically the same as the license fee you pay to use Windows on your computer.

  9. 159

    DB #149

    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’?

    One specific kind of tree ring data (not every kind, there are other studies that don’t have this problem) lines up with many other lines of evidence, except for recent decades, when it doesn’t. In recent decades, we have thermometers, so we don’t need to measure tree rings to estimate temperature. We don’t really need them to estimate paleoclimate either because we have other measures like oxygen isotope-based sediment studies, but tree rings help to identify regional variations where you don’t have sediments. What’s more you have multiple kinds of tree ring.

    So what would you do if this one kind of measure that looks reliable over a period of 1,000 years, but not for the last few decades? Drop it completely? Use it where it fits well with other measures? Use it with proper caveats?

    Turn this question around now. If you know the science is fundamentally sound and are trying to undermine public confidence in the science, what do you do? Answer: pick an inconsequential anomaly that has no impact on the overall theory, and bash on it in the hope that the uninformed public will not know you are talking rubbish.

  10. 160
    Steve Carson says:

    You are talking about media balance and why presenting dissenting views isn’t necessarily balance. Fair enough.

    But at realclimate.org I think you frequently “respond” to claims or posts from wattsupwiththat and climateaudit.

    I notice that these “skeptic” sites *do* provide links to realclimate. (Well strictly speaking the climateaudit site does, but the new mirror site as of a week or so ago doesn’t provide links to any sites, skeptical or otherwise).

    Is there any specific reason why you don’t provide links to their sites?

    Thanks
    Steve

  11. 161
    harry? says:

    Marco said ‘and so far it looks like all they can see is wall effects’
    Well Marco I dont know if you have ever built or commissioned a piece of measurement kit – I have (several and NAMAS approved) and I cant recall any that performed the intended measurements from the off. Methinks your zeal for your complete understanding of the factors involved in climate change is blinding you to an honest effort to fill in some gaps. CLOUD is an experiment which, once fully commissioned, will hopefully provide details of a mechanism small, large or insignificant. It once took me 18 months of testing and design modification of kit to produce measurements within NAMAS spec. Computer models are easy in comparison ( I’ve done some of those too). Give the guys a chance why dont you. (rhetorical)

  12. 162

    DB, most of your points are common questions that have been discussed frequently on this forum. Try the sidebar links to the science, or just keep reading back threads. Briefly (and from a non-expert):

    [. . .why the Medieval Warm Period didn’t cause the permafrost to release massive amounts of methane?]

    Best indications are that it wasn’t a globally homogenous event–that is, it wasn’t warm everywhere at once. Moreover, it likely wasn’t as warm as today on average.

    [Why have the last few years not been as hot as predicted?]

    Short answer: they have. Although there is not clear evidence of a warming (or cooling!) trend over the first years of the millenium, every year since 2000 has been one of the top ten warmest in the instrumental record. These levels are quite consistent with model predictions. Anyway, how warm do you want it to be?

    In any case, a ten-year span is considered too short to have any real significance in climatic terms.

    [ 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?]

    Law of large numbers. Weather is chaotic, climate is not. For example, you yourself as a layman will be able to accurately predict the average winter temperature for your city just by looking at the records of past winters, but if you predict, say, New Year’s day’s temperature, you will be lucky to even get close.

    Climate modeling is much more complicated, of course, but because we are dealing with average conditions there is much better predictability than is the case for specific conditions at specific places on specific dates.

    No offence, but when you ask such basic questions and then say:

    “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.”

    you kind of undercut your own credibility. Obviously, you have yet to read many of “the angles,” or you wouldn’t be asking these questions. (I assume you are not a “troll,” who pretends ignorance as part of a strategy to provoke.)

    It’s also not the height of courtesy, IMHO, to conclude with “this probably won’t get published here.” In point of fact, these questions get asked here fairly frequently; that’s part of RC’s educational function. Sincere questioning is received helpfully, in my experience.

    Kind regards yourself, and hope this helps.

  13. 163
    greyfox says:

    Thanks for your lengthy and thoughtful response to my post. As usual, RC is a class act in every way. I would have let the matter drop except for a column in this morning’s paper, by Geo. Will, which reaches new heights (or depths) of insulting calumny (the kind of word he loves to use). Read it…I’m sure it’s everywhere. I quote: “Some climate scientists compound their delusions of intellectual adequacy with messiah complexes. They seem to suppose themselves a small clerisy entrusted with the most urgent truth ever discovered; on it, and hence on them, the planet’s fate depends….” and on to beat the (not) dead horse of the e-mail debacle. Another descriptor: “…intellectual arrogance of the authors of climate-change models…” segueing into the $$$ issue of what it would cost to fix things. And again: “Skeptics about the shrill certitudes concerning catastrophic man-made warming…”…there is lots more, but this one caught my eye as well: “Actually, never in peacetime history has the government-media-academic complex been in such sustained propagandistic lockstep about any subject”. Complex? News to me. Most of the media is significantly neutral or even hostile to the idea of global warming, and just how the three elements conjoin in some Kafkaesque conspiracy begs laughter, if only Mr. Will didn’t exert his own brand of influence. These insulting comments, published across the country, demean science, demean the notion of objective research, the mountains of research, the ever-growing mountains…well, Mr. Will is piqued. If it were someone else, I would say mad as hell, but in his case, the other word is more appropriate. He isn’t interested in the data any more; he, (like the other op-ed writer I alluded to in an earlier post), has seized on the e-mail issue as THE smoking gun.
    You wish to return to science discussions here; I totally understand. You raise many of the other issues (arable land, water resources, population overshoot, etc etc all of which are true and each affects the whole and each other…) that, I guess, precludes talking about climate change as the singular issue worthy of a dystopian future. At least, I think that’s what you meant. I know the other issues exist…each has to be addressed (including the most difficult one: population, the gorilla in the living room, which most folks shy away from as though it were a vial of Ebola)…but here, we are talking about climate. That is the blog’s rationale for existence. And…we have reached a watershed in the attempt to get the public and policy makers to understand what is going on. The reason that this is so crucial is time. We are swiftly running out of time. Time to ameliorate, time to get the engines of correction up and running, time to deal with the myriad other issues in order to get the time to deal with climate…
    And we have Mr. Will. Personally, he’s merely a face for the growing group of people who are unwilling to actually look at the numbers and evidence, who are unwilling to understand statistical analysis, who have socio-political axes to grind (and grind them they do). He (and they) will stop you in your tracks, merely by delay. This is the battle.
    I had cancer five years ago. Major surgery and several months radiation later, I’m alive and have a probable chance of living a normal life span. I had people tell me that the diagnosis might be wrong, that surgery was a big risk, that I should take the chance that everything was fine…you know, doctors just want to make money. Turns out I was riddled with cancer, and it had spilled out…hence the radiation. I was lucky; we caught it just in time. My point is obvious, and Mr. Will, for all his arm waving and character attacks, should be able to parse this out…we have a pretty strong diagnosis here. Very, very strong. So strong, that my own (and the absolute vast majority of scientists)opinion is that we have to act NOW. Just like my own personal history, delay would have literally killed me.
    For us to have something resembling a decent future, and to have one for our children, we can’t decide it’s too difficult or messy or off-task to engage the Wills of the world. I know you find this uncomfortable and not at all why you got your training, but it is what it is. When I got the news from my doctor, I had to stop in my tracks and make real choices that could not be put off. No matter what else I thought I ought to be doing. And so should you. (In a friendly way…I hope you understand…I support you 100%).

  14. 164
    sHx says:

    May I ask a favour from the readers? Could you please backtrack a little and focus on the conversation between phil cunningham and Hank Roberts in comments numbered #82, #86, #89, #115, #144 and #148. gator and eric contribute further comments at #152. To me, it speaks volumes about the attitudes of people on one side of the debate.

    The issue is a recent BBC report on whether the IPCC 2007 report contained any errors regarding Himalayan glaciers and the how it came to cause a ‘confusion’ in the media and what the IPCC did about it. Excerpts:


    Himalayan glaciers melting deadline ‘a mistake’

    The UN panel on climate change warning that Himalayan glaciers could melt to a fifth of current levels by 2035 is wildly inaccurate, an academic says.

    J Graham Cogley, a professor at Ontario Trent University, says he believes the UN authors got the date from an earlier report wrong by more than 300 years.

    He is astonished they “misread 2350 as 2035″. The authors deny the claims.

    …….

    Mr Cogley says it is astonishing that none of the 10 authors of the 2007 IPCC report could spot the error and “misread 2350 as 2035″.

    “I do suggest that the glaciological community might consider advising the IPCC about ways to avoid such egregious errors as the 2035 versus 2350 confusion in the future,” says Mr Cogley.

    ……….

    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.

    ……………..

    Michael Zemp from the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich also said the IPCC statement on Himalayan glaciers had caused “some major confusion in the media”.

    “Under strict consideration of the IPCC rules, it should actually not have been published as it is not based on a sound scientific reference.
    …….

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8387737.stm

    Meanwhile, there is no sign of any confusion at all in a Times Online report published on the same day that BBC reported confusion:


    The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in 2007 that they could disappear by 2035, causing famine, water wars and hundreds of millions of climate change refugees.

    The problem is that because of their inaccessibility, there is still not enough systematic scientific data to prove the melting is caused by climate change, allowing naysayers including, as of last month, India’s own Environment Ministry, to deny that the glaciers are retreating abnormally fast.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/copenhagen/article6945249.ece

    How long has it been since the IPCC 2007 report, and who is to blame for this ridiculous ‘confusion’?

  15. 165
    sHx says:

    [NOTE TO MODS: LOL. Impish apologies for my share of the confusion. I’m still bad at with my blockquotes and italics. So here is the Take Two]

    May I ask a favour from the readers? Could you please backtrack a little and focus on the conversation between phil cunningham and Hank Roberts in comments numbered #82, #86, #89, #115, #144 and #148. gator and eric contribute further comments at #152. To me, it speaks volumes about the attitudes of people on one side of the debate.

    The issue is a recent BBC report on whether the IPCC 2007 report contained any errors regarding Himalayan glaciers and the how it came to cause a ‘confusion’ in the media and what the IPCC did about it. Excerpts:

    “Himalayan glaciers melting deadline ‘a mistake’

    The UN panel on climate change warning that Himalayan glaciers could melt to a fifth of current levels by 2035 is wildly inaccurate, an academic says.

    J Graham Cogley, a professor at Ontario Trent University, says he believes the UN authors got the date from an earlier report wrong by more than 300 years.

    He is astonished they “misread 2350 as 2035″. The authors deny the claims.
    …….

    Mr Cogley says it is astonishing that none of the 10 authors of the 2007 IPCC report could spot the error and “misread 2350 as 2035″.

    “I do suggest that the glaciological community might consider advising the IPCC about ways to avoid such egregious errors as the 2035 versus 2350 confusion in the future,” says Mr Cogley.
    ……….

    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.
    ……………..

    Michael Zemp from the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich also said the IPCC statement on Himalayan glaciers had caused “some major confusion in the media”.

    “Under strict consideration of the IPCC rules, it should actually not have been published as it is not based on a sound scientific reference.
    …….”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8387737.stm

    Meanwhile, there is no sign of any confusion at all in a Times Online report published on the same day that BBC reported confusion:

    “The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in 2007 that they could disappear by 2035, causing famine, water wars and hundreds of millions of climate change refugees.

    The problem is that because of their inaccessibility, there is still not enough systematic scientific data to prove the melting is caused by climate change, allowing naysayers including, as of last month, India’s own Environment Ministry, to deny that the glaciers are retreating abnormally fast.
    …”
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/copenhagen/article6945249.ece

    How long has it been since the IPCC 2007 report, and who is to blame for this ridiculous confusion?

  16. 166
    Ike Solem says:

    Note to Pielke Sr.

    When are you going to put a disclaimer on you Lyman et. al blog post that states that the paper showing global warming was retracted due to instrumental errors?

    Most people would agree that refusing to retract that is highly deceptive, especially since you are encouraging journalists to use your blog as a reliable source of scientific information.

    Note to Pielke Jr.

    Doesn’t your affiliation with the Rockefeller-sponsored “Breakthrough Institute” front group indicate that you are just another API “media scientist”?

    “The Breakthrough Institute was founded on the premise that the complaint-based, interest group liberalism born in the 1960s and 1970s is failing to achieve the broad social and ecological transformations America and the world need.”

    I’m not sure how they intend to convince the Rockefeller Trust to drop their Chevron and Exxon investments and instead move that money into renewables, however – but then, that’s not exactly their objective, is it?

    Ever read about the “parachutists” in the old Soviet sy
    stem, Pielke Sr. & Pielke Jr.?

    Eventually, a Russian wrote a novel about the scientific life under the Soviet System: White Robes, or Robed in White by Vladimir Dudintsev.

    His fundamental point rings very true today in many American scientific circles – although it’s not considered polite to discuss it – that would be a betrayal of academic collegial rules. The following discussion was pulled off a Russian server; White Robes has never been translated into English in the West.

    Quote:
    “White Clothes” also contains the idea of “parachutists”, described by Dudintsev this way:

    “People thrown from the destroyed world into the conditions of Soviet reality. Entrepreneurs and egoists in their souls, they looked around and saw that here, too, it was possible to live if they accepted the new “rules of the game”. And hiding their true nature they began to shout along with everyone else, “Long live the world revolution!” Masking their insincerity, they shouted louder and more expressively than others so that they quickly rose to the top, occupied leading posts and began to struggle for their own personal, comfortable lifestyle.”

    “According to Dudintsev, this is why gray-haired academics supported Lysenko and gave the leadership the needed “scientific” conclusions; and this is why, says Dudintsev, “ministers built not what was needed by the people, but that which did not contradict their personal interests.” To Dudintsev it is obvious that the ecological disasters around the Aral Sea, the Volga, and Lake Ladoga are the work of the “parachutists”.

    Clearly, second-rate scientists can find political patronage in the form of Daniel Inhofe and similar figures and so can make a name for themselves, despite the complete lack of citations, right? It’s called corporate Lysenkoism, and it’s the dominant theme on U.S. academic campuses these days.

  17. 167
    Jimbo says:

    So much for calling McIntyre a sceptic. As I said in another thread yesterday the truth is stranger than fiction.

    “While McKitrick said he’s dubious about the threat of climate change, and thinks his research has helped cast doubt on such fears, McIntyre – despite the demonization of him by his opponents – said he really doesn’t know what to think.

    I honestly don’t know whether it is a big problem, a little problem or a medium problem,” he said. “And I don’t think the skeptics have proven that global warming is not a problem.”

    http://www.edmontonjournal.com/technology/Climate+dissenters+vilified/2307733/story.html?id=2307733

  18. 168
    Ken W says:

    Re: 149
    “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’?”

    I’m not familiar with the specific reconstruction Jones was referencing, or the purpose of his chart (though it doesn’t appear to have been anything for peer review). But I do know that atmospheric changes in our modern era require adjustments for many measurements (e.g. Carbon Dating requires special adjustments for objects that lived since the 1890’s when industrial emissions became vast).
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Hockey-stick-without-tree-rings.html

    “I still would like to know why the Medieval Warm Period didn’t cause the permafrost to release massive amounts of methane?”

    Regional, not global in extent.
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/medieval-warm-period.htm

    “Why have the last few years not been as hot as predicted?”

    Predicted by who? And predicted when? We are still clearly on a long-term trend that is climbing between 0.15 and 0.19C per decade. Those people that claim it’s been cooling since 1998, are either deceptive or simply don’t understand the process of trending.

    Don’t confuse the surface temperature with all the heat trapped on our planet by greenhouse gases.
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-cooling.htm

    “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?”

    Because weather is NOT = climate. Weather is very short-term and chaotic, climate is the average of weather over long periods of time (e.g. 30 years is how the WMO defines it).
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/weather-forecasts-vs-climate-models-predictions.htm

  19. 169

    The Germans lost.

    What did they lose, exactly? Germany seems fine today to me. They’re make some first rate scientific instruments.

    As to quantifying nastiness you could read:

    Not a chance, I want YOU to quantify nastiness, right here and now, using SI units.

  20. 170
    mauri pelto says:

    It is Graham Cogley a glaciologist, Trent University who dug up the source of the error. In the community we have recognized the problem with the demise of the Himalayan glacier by 2035 statement. This number is not referred to in the report on Glaciers and ice sheets, where it would have been caught, but in a regional section of the report. The importance of these glaciers to hydropower today and going forward is huge. They are retreating significantly.
    In 2005 the Tehri Dam was finished on the Bhagirathi River, it is a 2400 mw facility that began producing hydropower in 2006. The headwaters of the Bhagirathi River is the Gangotri and Khatling Glacier, Garhwal Himalaya. Gangotri Glacier has retreated 1 km in the last 30 years, and with an area of 286 km2 provides up to 190 m3/second of runoff.(Singh et. al., 2006). The Zemu Glacier has a similar story, and I could go on and on. Zemu-hydropower
    Nepal is beginning to turn to hydropower, with run of river hydropower development on the glacier fed Arun River opening in 2003. The Arun River has a large number of glacially dammed lakes resulting form glacier retreat.

  21. 171

    151
    Tenney Naumer says:
    6 December 2009 at 10:16 PM

    “Revkin and the NYT stab science in the back yet again:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/science/earth/07climate.html

    Seems like a fairly balanced article to me. You seem to have a problem about it not being biased enough to your dogma.

  22. 172
    Bryan S says:

    “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”

    Only you know if this is true Gavin. The only thing the rest of the rest of us can judge you on are your actions, not just your words. When you choose to appear with a group of blatant political operatives who clearly advocate Keynesian-type economic policy, it is not “arbitrary” that some might conclude that you concur with their policy recommendations. Clearly, the fact that a particular political action group is willing to sponsor your appearance serves as compelling evidence that *they* themselves have made the judgement that you will help bolster their political advocacy. Gavin, surely you are not so naive as to fail to realize that when you appear in these types of forums, your claim to political neutrality is compromised (fairly or unfairly). You can’t bash Limbaugh or however, then appear on a platform with the other side of the political spectrum, and still maintain your claim to political indifference. That will not fly with the public. You have willingly offered yourself as a public intellectual on the issue of climate change, and like it or not, it is high time you wisen up about how to operate effectively in this arena.

    P.S. please post this comment, and I would sincerely appreciate a serious response

    Thanks, Bryan

    [Response: I don’t see the contradiction here. First, the fact that any particular group likes what RC has to say doesn’t say anything about RC’s politics. Second, Limbaugh (for example) abuses science in political arguments and if any of us have ‘bashed’ him, that is the only reason why. Third, this post — by me, not Gavin — is complaining about someone who is identified as a liberal by most! Fourth, I’m aware of nothing negative we’ve said about any conservatives — or anyone else — who present the science honestly. As for us being naive: yes, clearly we are naive. It never occurred to us — or at least not to me — that so many people were so intellectually bankrupt that they would resort to the tactics they are using now.–eric]

    –eric]

  23. 173
    Hank Roberts says:

    Just above, finally, a pointer to the glacier confusion source:
    mauri pelto says: 7 December 2009 at 10:31 AM

    > … Graham Cogley a glaciologist, Trent University who dug up the source
    > of the error. In the community we have recognized the problem with the
    > demise of the Himalayan glacier by 2035 statement. This number is not
    > referred to in the report on Glaciers and ice sheets, where it would
    > have been caught, but in a regional section of the report.

    I’m just repeating Mauri’s post to ask if there’s a link/pointer to this history in something published, for reference.

  24. 174
    Ron R. says:

    Mike Roddy #88, Sorry I missed our reply. The IPCC should put it in their job description. This idea of not dignifying the liars with a response is not working.

    I like your idea of an article but much more needs to take place as you indicate in your comments as well. I don’t know the answer, but a thorough debunking in one offline place, like a book, would be helpful. Of course the deniers will immediately respond with their junk science reply. So the real science book needs to be strong. Concrete answers but also honesty about uncertainties. I really wish the television media would also begin to take on the liars for hire at these rightwing thinktanks too instead of forever giving them a pass.

    RC is a good place to talk about the nitty gritty of climate change, math, codes and all, the individual trees but maybe a sister site is called or that takes on the deniers and posts more than once a week. The forest. After all RC is “climate science for climate scientists”. The talent is out there for a sister site, e.g. Desmogblog. People that post here, like Hank Roberts etc.

    In the end, though, will it make a difference?

  25. 175
    Ron R. says:

    An “official” sister site would have the side benefit of allowing this site to restrict their discussions to the actual details of the science rather than battling the same big questions over and over again. If someone posts a generalistic comment on global warming you just send them an auto note to post it on the other site. Time saved.

  26. 176
    Dan says:

    re: 164. Oh brother. You are sorely confused about the difference between politics and science. And yes, the article is poor. Science is not conducted in the manner you seem to think it is. Never has been. Try actually reading the peer-reviewed journals to learn something.

  27. 177
    John MacQueen says:

    Re: 160

    “So much for calling McIntyre a sceptic. As I said in another thread yesterday the truth is stranger than fiction.

    “While McKitrick said he’s dubious about the threat of climate change, and thinks his research has helped cast doubt on such fears, McIntyre – despite the demonization of him by his opponents – said he really doesn’t know what to think.”

    I tend to agree. I have never seen McIntyre as a skeptic, or pushing some alternate theory, just as someone who wants to check the math and methods for correctness.

    I also agree with Judith Curry…

    “What McIntyre has done is elevate the level of statistical analysis used in constructing the paleo temperature record.”

    I think it’s disappointing he had to jump so many hurdles to be able to do so.

    I also believe we need to do a couple of things in public policy.

    1) Spend a lot more money on this science in the form of instrumentation and research. Too much is yet unknown.

    2) Reconstruct the past records and science in an open and transparent manner to clear up any sloppiness or cut corners in the past due to lack of funding and resources. Audit the records, audit the stations, allow the mathematicians and other sciences open access to properly documented methods and data to help clean up the doubt and ambiguity.

    I think that if anything should be the #1 policy priority.

  28. 178
    MarkB says:

    Richard Steckis writes:

    “Seems like a fairly balanced article to me.”

    Let’s take a closer look (for the benefit of everyone):

    Revkin: “The Climatic Research Unit’s role as a central aggregator of temperature and other climate data has also made it a target. One widely discussed file extracted from the unit’s computers, presumed to be the log of a researcher named Ian Harris, recorded his years of frustration in trying to make sense of disparate data and described procedures — or “fudge factors,” as he called them — used by scientists to eliminate known sources of error. ”

    Very odd characterization, considering such test code wasn’t used in any reconstruction. Reality:

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/12/quote_mining_code.php

    Revkin:”In recent days, an array of scientists and policy makers have said that nothing so far disclosed — the correspondence and documents include references by prominent climate scientists to deleting potentially embarrassing e-mail messages, keeping papers by competing scientists from publication and making adjustments in research data — undercuts decades of peer-reviewed science.”

    Lots of innuendo here.

    – The reference to deleting emails was a single email from one scientist, done in frustration to being overwhelmed with frivolous FOI requests. No mention of this in Revkin’s article.

    – The “keeping papers by competing scientists…” refers to scientists expressing their opinions to a journal where contrarians were gaming the system by sending their work directly to skeptical editors. No mention of this in Revkin’s article.

    – “making adjustments in research data” – given that this is in the context of all these other sinister charges, the reader might conclude these adjustments discussed are unwarranted and dishonest. The proper context could be found if Revkin bothered to read the responses from scientists most familiar with the email discussions. He doesn’t appear to be inclined to do this.

    Revkin:”The debate, set off by the circulation of several thousand files and e-mail messages stolen from one of the world’s foremost climate research institutes, has led some who oppose limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and at least one influential country, Saudi Arabia, to question the scientific basis for the Copenhagen talks. ”

    Does Revkin naively believe that a Saudi politician’s view on climate science is a result of stolen emails? At the very least, that’s quite an assumption – one that further hypes up the incident.

    Also see Arthur Smith’s comment #24. He summarizes a common problem with mainstream media’s characterization of climate science.

    [Response: Yeah, some context would be nice. And the idea that Saudi Arabia has suddenly seen the light on the basis of one email, and was previously all about science is well… just a tiny bit hard to believe.–eric]

  29. 179
    john says:

    Name one decent retirement (government, union or personal) account that does not include Exxon in the portfolio. All this whining about Exxon is worthless tripe.
    Exxon employs hundreds of thousands of people
    Exxon employees pay LOTS of taxes the government sorely needs
    Exxon pays taxes the government sorely needs
    Retirement accounts money when withdrawn pays taxes at the going rate – Exxon investments going up increases portfolio value and government wins
    Exxon gasoline is taxed in each state on a per gallon basis – imagine the state budgets without this tax.

    So let’s stop bashing a company that helps fuel our benevolent governments every wish and desire.

  30. 180
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John@173, How does Exx-Mob’s importance in the economy change the physics of greenhouse gasses? How does it change the fact that when Exx-Mob pays to fund character assassination of scientists and even overrules its on scientists on matters of scientists that it is being at best unwise and quite possibly mendacious?

    The evidence is the evidence. It doesn’t change because we don’t like it. It doesn’t change because some scientists aren’t “nice”. Ignoring the evidence is denialism.

  31. 181
    eric says:

    Well, personal attacks are once again outnumbering thoughtful criticism about 10:1, and the criticism is 10:1 off topic. I do wonder why we bother reading the comments section at all.

    I think the statement from Pershing (State Department deputy special envoy on climate change), cited by Revkin (here) sums things up pretty nicely:

    My sense about the climate emails … is that they have released a barrage of additional information which makes clear the robustness of the science, the multitude, the enormous multitude of different strands of evidence that support the urgency and the severity of the problem, that have been managed in multiple places around the world. What I think is unfortunate, and in fact shameful, is the way some scientists who’ve devoted their lives are being pilloried in the press without due regard to process.

    Comments now closed on this post.