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Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind

Filed under: — group @ 24 February 2010

Guest commentary from Ben Santer

Part 2 of a series discussing the recent Guardian articles

A recent story by Fred Pearce in the February 9th online edition of the Guardian (“Victory for openness as IPCC climate scientist opens up lab doors”) covers some of the more publicized aspects of the last 14 years of my scientific career. I am glad that Mr. Pearce’s account illuminates some of the non-scientific difficulties I have faced. However, his account also repeats unfounded allegations that I engaged in dubious professional conduct. In a number of instances, Mr Pearce provides links to these allegations, but does not provide a balanced account of the rebuttals to them. Nor does he give links to locations where these rebuttals can be found. I am taking this opportunity to correct Mr. Pearce’s omissions, to reply to the key allegations, and to supply links to more detailed responses.

Another concern relates to Mr. Pearce’s discussion of the “openness” issue mentioned in the title and sub-title of his story. A naïve reader of Mr. Pearce’s article might infer from the sub-title (“Ben Santer had a change of heart about data transparency…”) that my scientific research was not conducted in an open and transparent manner until I experienced “a change of heart”.

This inference would be completely incorrect. As I discuss below, my research into the nature and causes of climate change has always been performed in an open, transparent, and collegial manner. Virtually all of the scientific papers I have published over the course of my career involve multi-institutional teams of scientists with expertise in climate modeling, the development of observational datasets, and climate model evaluation. The model and observational data used in my research is not proprietary – it is freely available to researchers anywhere in the world.

The 1995 IPCC Report: The “scientific cleansing” allegation

Mr. Pearce begins by repeating some of the allegations of misconduct that arose after publication (in 1996) of the Second Assessment Report (SAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These allegations targeted Chapter 8 of the SAR, which dealt with the “Detection of Climate Change, and Attribution of Causes”. The IPCC SAR reached the historic finding that “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”. Information presented in Chapter 8 provided substantial support for this finding.

I served as the Convening Lead Author (CLA) of Chapter 8. There were three principal criticisms of my conduct as CLA. All three allegations are baseless. They have been refuted on many occasions, and in many different fora. All three allegations make an appearance in Mr. Pearce’s story, but there are no links to the detailed responses to these claims.

The first allegation was that I had engaged in “scientific cleansing”. This allegation originated with the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) – a group of businesses “opposing immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.

In May 1996, a document entitled “The IPCC: Institutionalized ‘Scientific Cleansing’?” was widely circulated to the press and politicians. In this document, the Global Climate Coalition claimed that after a key Plenary Meeting of the IPCC in Madrid in November 1995, all scientific uncertainties had been purged from Chapter 8. The GCC’s “scientific cleansing” allegation was soon repeated in an article in Energy Daily (May 22, 1996) and in an editorial in the Washington Times (May 24, 1996). It was also prominently featured in the World Climate Report, a publication edited by Professor Patrick J. Michaels (June 10, 1996).

This “scientific cleansing” claim is categorically untrue. There was no “scientific cleansing”. Roughly 20% of the published version of Chapter 8 specifically addressed uncertainties in scientific studies of the causes of climate change. In discussing the “scientific cleansing” issue, Mr. Pearce claims that many of the caveats in Chapter 8 “did not make it to the summary for policy-makers”. This is incorrect.

The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the IPCC SAR is four-and-a-half pages long. Roughly one page of the SPM discusses results from Chapter 8. The final paragraph of that page deals specifically with uncertainties, and notes that:

“Our ability to quantify the human influence on global climate is currently limited because the expected signal is still emerging from the noise of natural variability, and because there are uncertainties in key factors. These include the magnitude and patterns of long term natural variability and the time-evolving pattern of forcing by, and response to, changes in concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols, and land surface changes”.

Contrary to Mr. Pearce’s assertion, important caveats did “make it to the summary for policy-makers”. And the “discernible human influence” conclusion of both Chapter 8 and the Summary for Policymakers has been substantiated by many subsequent national and international assessments of climate science.

There were several reasons why Chapter 8 was a target for unfounded “scientific cleansing” allegations. First, the Global Climate Coalitions’s “scientific cleansing” charges were released to the media in May 1996. At that time, Cambridge University Press had not yet published the IPCC Second Assessment Report in the United States. Because of this delay in the Report’s U.S. publication, many U.S. commentators on the “scientific cleansing” claims had not even read Chapter 8 – they only had access to the GCC’s skewed account of the changes made to Chapter 8. Had the Second Assessment Report been readily available in the U.S. in May 1996, it would have been easy for interested parties to verify that Chapter 8 incorporated a fair and balanced discussion of scientific uncertainties.

Second, the “pre-Madrid” version of Chapter 8 was the only chapter in the IPCC Working Group I Second Assessment Report to have both an “Executive Summary” and a “Concluding Summary”. As discussed in the next section, this anomaly was partly due to the fact that the Lead Author team for Chapter 8 was not finalized until April 1994 – months after all other chapters had started work. Because of this delay in getting out of the starting blocks, the Chapter 8 Lead Author team was more concerned with completing the initial drafts of our chapter than with the question of whether all chapters in the Working Group I Report had exactly the same structure.

The reply of the Chapter 8 Lead Authors to the Energy Daily story of May 22, 1996 pointed out this ‘two summary’ redundancy, and noted that:

“After receiving much criticism of this redundancy in October and November 1995, the Convening Lead Author of Chapter 8 decided to remove the concluding summary. About half of the information in the concluding summary was integrated with material in Section 8.6. It did not disappear completely, as the Global Climate Coalition has implied. The lengthy Executive Summary of Chapter 8 addresses the issue of uncertainties in great detail – as does the underlying Chapter itself.”

The removal of the concluding summary made it simple for the Global Climate Coalition to advance their unjustified “scientific cleansing” allegations. They could claim ‘This statement has been deleted’, without mentioning that the scientific issue addressed in the deleted statement was covered elsewhere in the chapter.

This was my first close encounter of the absurd kind.

The 1995 IPCC Report: The “political tampering/corruption of peer-review” allegation

The second allegation is that I was responsible for “political tampering”. I like to call this “the tail wags the dog” allegation. The “tail” here is the summary of the Chapter 8 results in the IPCC Summary for Policymakers, and the “dog” is the detailed underlying text of Chapter 8.

In November 1995, 177 government delegates from 96 countries spent three days in Madrid. Their job was to “approve” each word of the four-and-a-half page Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC’s Working Group I Report. This was the report that dealt with the physical science of climate change. The delegates also had the task of “accepting” the 11 underlying science chapters on which the Summary for Policymakers was based. “Acceptance” of the 11 chapters did not require government approval of each word in each chapter.

This was not a meeting of politicians only. A number of the government delegates were climate scientists. Twenty-eight of the Lead Authors of the IPCC Working Group I Report – myself included – were also prominent participants in Madrid. We were there to ensure that the politics did not get ahead of the science, and that the tail did not wag the dog.

Non-governmental organizations – such as the Global Climate Coalition – were also active participants in the Madrid meeting. NGOs had no say in the formal process of approving the Summary for Policymakers. They were, however, allowed to make comments on the SPM and the underlying 11 science chapters during the first day of the Plenary Meeting (November 27, 1996). The Global Climate Coalition dominated the initial plenary discussions.

Most of the plenary discussions at Madrid focused on the portrayal of Chapter 8’s findings in the Summary for Policymakers. Discussions were often difficult and contentious. We wrestled with the exact wording of the “balance of evidence” statement mentioned above. The delegations from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait argued for a very weak statement, or for no statement at all. Delegates from many other countries countered that there was strong scientific evidence of pronounced a human effect on climate, and that the bottom-line statement from Chapter 8 should reflect this.

Given the intense interest in Chapter 8, Sir John Houghton (one of the two Co-Chairs of IPCC Working Group I) established an ad hoc group on November 27, 1996. I was a member of this group. Our charge was to review those parts of the draft Summary for Policymakers that dealt with climate change detection and attribution issues. The group was placed under the Chairmanship of Dr. Martin Manning of New Zealand, and included delegates from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Kenya, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. Sir John Houghton also invited delegates from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to participate in this ad hoc group. Unfortunately, they did not accept this invitation.

The ad hoc group considered more than just the portions of the Summary for Policymakers that were relevant to Chapter 8. The Dutch delegation asked for a detailed discussion of Chapter 8 itself, and of the full scientific evidence contained in it. This discussion took place on November 28, 1996.

On November 29, 1996, I reported back to the Plenary on the deliberations of the ad hoc group. The Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti delegations – who had not attended any of the discussions of the ad hoc group, and had no first-hand knowledge of what had been discussed by the group – continued to express serious reservations about the scientific basis for the detection and attribution statements in the Summary for Policymakers.

On the final evening of the Madrid Plenary Meeting, debate focused on finding the right word to describe the human effect on global climate. There was broad agreement among the government delegates that – based on the scientific evidence presented in Chapter 8 – some form of qualifying word was necessary. Was the human influence “measurable”? Could it be best described as “appreciable”, “detectable”, or “substantial”? Each of these suggested words had proponents and opponents. How would each word translate into different languages? Would the meaning be the same as in English?

After hours of often rancorous debate, Bert Bolin (who was then the Chairman of the IPCC) finally found the elusive solution. Professor Bolin suggested that the human effect on climate should be described as “discernible”.

Mr. Pearce – who was not present at the Madrid Plenary Meeting – argues that the discussion of human effects on climate in the IPCC Summary for Policymakers “went beyond what was said in the chapter from which the summary was supposedly drawn”. In other words, he suggests that the tail wagged the dog. This is not true. The “pre-Madrid” bottom-line statement from Chapter 8 was “Taken together, these results point towards a human influence on climate”. As I’ve noted above, the final statement agreed upon in Madrid was “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”.

Is “suggests” stronger than “points towards”? I doubt it. Is “The balance of evidence” a more confident phrase than “Taken together”? I don’t think so.

The primary difference between the pre- and post-Madrid statements is that the latter includes the word “discernible”. In my American Heritage College Dictionary, “discernible” is defined as “perceptible, as by vision or the intellect”. In Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, one of the three meanings of the verb “discern” is “to recognize or identify as separate and distinct”. Was the use of “discernible” justified?

The answer is clearly “yes”. Chapter 8 of the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report relied heavily on the evidence from a number of different “fingerprint” studies. This type of research uses rigorous statistical methods to compare observed patterns of climate change with results from climate model simulations. The basic concept of fingerprinting is that each different influence on climate – such as purely natural changes in the Sun’s energy output, or human-caused changes in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases – has a unique signature in climate records. This uniqueness becomes more apparent if one looks beyond changes averaged over the entire globe, and instead exploits the much greater information content available in complex, time-varying patterns of climate change.

Fingerprinting has proved to be an invaluable tool for untangling the complex cause-and-effect relationships in the climate system. The IPCC’s Second Assessment Report in 1995 was able to draw on fingerprint studies from a half-dozen different research groups. Each of these groups had independently shown that they could indeed perceive a fingerprint of human influence in observed temperature records. The signal was beginning to rise out of the noise, and was (using Merriam-Webster’s definition of “discern”) “separate and distinct” from purely natural variations in climate.

Based on these fingerprint results, and based on the other scientific evidence available to us in November 1995, use of the word “discernible” was entirely justified. Its use is certainly justified based on the scientific information available to us in 2010. The “discernible human influence” phrase was approved by all of the 177 delegates from 96 countries present at the Plenary Meeting – even by the Saudi and Kuwaiti delegations. None of the 28 IPCC Lead Authors in attendance at Madrid balked at this phrase, or questioned our finding that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”. The latter statement was cautious and responsible, and entirely consistent with the state of the science. The much more difficult job of trying to quantify the size of human influences on climate would be left to subsequent IPCC assessments.

Mr. Pearce’s remarks suggest that there is some substance to the “political tampering” allegation – that I was somehow coerced to change Chapter 8 in order to “reflect the wording of the political summary”. This is untrue. There was no political distortion of the science. If Mr. Pearce had been present at the Madrid Plenary Meeting, he would have seen how vigorously (and successfully) scientists resisted efforts on the part of a small number of delegates to skew and spin some of the information in the Summary for Policymakers.

The key point here is that the SPM was not a “political summary” – it was an accurate reflection of the science. Had it been otherwise, I would not have agreed to put my name on the Report.

A reader of Mr. Pearce’s article might also gain the mistaken impression that the changes to Chapter 8 were only made in response to comments made by government delegates during the Madrid Plenary Meeting. That is not true. As I’ve mentioned above, changes were also made to address government comments made during the meeting of the ad hoc group formed to discuss Chapter 8.

Furthermore, when I first arrived in Madrid on November 26, 1995, I was handed a stack of government and NGO comments on Chapter 8 that I had not seen previously. I had the responsibility of responding to these comments.

One reason for the delay in receiving comments was that the IPCC had encountered difficulties in finding a Convening Lead Author (CLA) for Chapter 8. To my knowledge, the CLA job had been turned down by at least two other scientists before I received the job offer. The unfortunate consequence of this delay was that, at the time of the Madrid Plenary Meeting, Chapter 8 was less mature and polished than other chapters of the IPCC Working Group I Report. Hence the belated review comments.

The bottom line in this story is that the post-Madrid revisions to Chapter 8 were made for scientific, not political reasons. They were made by me, not by IPCC officials. The changes were in full accord with IPCC rules and procedures (pdf). Mr. Pearce repeats accusations by Fred Seitz that the changes to Chapter 8 were illegal and unauthorized, and that I was guilty of “corruption of the peer-review process”. These allegations are false, as the IPCC has clearly pointed out.

The 1995 IPCC Report: The “research irregularities” allegation

The third major front in the attack on Chapter 8 focused on my personal research. It was a two-pronged attack. First, Professor S. Fred Singer claimed that the IPCC’s “discernible human influence” conclusion was entirely based on two of my own (multi-authored) research papers. Next, Professor Patrick Michaels argued that one of these two papers was seriously flawed, and that irregularities had occurred in the paper’s publication process. Both charges were untrue.

On July 25, 1996, I addressed the first of these allegations in an email to the Lead Authors of the 1995 IPCC Report:

“Chapter 8 references more than 130 scientific papers – not just two. Its bottom-line conclusion that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate” is not solely based on the two Santer et al. papers that Singer alludes to. This conclusion derives from many other published studies on the comparison of modelled and observed patterns of temperature change – for example, papers by Karoly et al. (1994), Mitchell et al. (1995), Hegerl et al. (1995), Karl et al. (1995), Hasselmann et al. (1995), Hansen et al. (1995) and Ramaswamy et al. (1996). It is supported by many studies of global-mean temperature changes, by our physical understanding of the climate system, by our knowledge of human-induced changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, by information from paleoclimatic studies, and by a wide range of supporting information (sea-level rise, retreat of glaciers, etc.). To allege, as Singer does, that “Chapter 8 is mainly based on two research papers” is just plain wrong”.

In the second prong of the attack, Professor Michaels claimed that a paper my colleagues and I had published in Nature in 1996 had been selective in its use of observational data, and that our finding of a human fingerprint in atmospheric temperature data was not valid if a longer observational record was used. Further, he argued that Nature had been “toyed with” (presumably by me), and coerced into publishing the 1996 Santer et al. Nature paper one week prior to a key United Nations meeting in Geneva.

My colleagues and I immediately addressed the scientific criticism of our Nature paper by Michaels and his colleague Chip Knappenberger. We demonstrated that this criticism was simply wrong. Use of a longer record of atmospheric temperature change strengthened rather than weakened the evidence for a human fingerprint. We published this work in Nature in December 1996. Unfortunately, Mr. Pearce does not provide a link to this publication.

Since 1996, studies by a number of scientists around the world have substantiated the findings of our 1996 Nature paper. Such work has consistently shown clear evidence of a human fingerprint in atmospheric temperature records.

Disappointingly, Professor Michaels persists in repeating his criticism of our paper, without mentioning our published rebuttal or the large body of subsequently published evidence refuting his claims. Michaels’ charge that Nature had been “toyed with” was complete nonsense. As described below, however, this was not the last time I would be falsely accused of having the extraordinary power to force scientific journals to do my bidding.

A Climatology Conspiracy? More “peer-review abuse” accusations

Mr. Pearce also investigates a more recent issue. He implies that I abused the normal peer-review system, and exerted pressure on the editor of the International Journal of Climatology to delay publication of the print version of a paper by Professor David Douglass and colleagues. This is not true.

The Douglass et al. paper was published in December 2007 in the online edition of the International Journal of Climatology. The “et al.” included the same Professor S. Fred Singer who had previously accused me of “scientific cleansing”. It also included Professor John Christy, the primary developer of a satellite-based temperature record which suggests that there has been minimal warming of Earth’s lower atmosphere since 1979. Three alternate versions of the satellite temperature record, produced by different teams of researchers using the same raw satellite measurements, all indicate substantially more warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The focus of the Douglass et al. paper was on post-1979 temperature changes in the tropics. The authors devised what they called a “robust statistical test” to compare computer model results with observations. The test was seriously flawed (see Appendix A in Open Letter to the Climate Science Community: Response to A “Climatology Conspiracy?”). When it was applied to the model and observational temperature datasets, the test showed (quite incorrectly) that the model results were significantly different from observations.

As I have noted elsewhere, the Douglass et al. paper immediately attracted considerable media and political attention. One of the paper’s authors claimed that it represented an “inconvenient truth”, and proved that “Nature, not humans, rules the climate”. These statements were absurd. No single study can overturn the very large body of scientific evidence supporting “discernible human influence” findings. Nor does any individual study provide the sole underpinning for the conclusion that human activities are influencing global climate.

Given the extraordinary claims that were being made on the basis of this incorrect paper, my colleagues and I decided that a response was necessary. Although the errors in Douglass et al. were easy to identify, it required a substantial amount of new and original work to repeat the statistical analysis properly.

Our work went far beyond what Douglass et al. had done. We looked at the sensitivity of model-versus-data comparisons to the choice of statistical test, to the test assumptions, to the number of years of record used in the tests, and to errors in the computer model estimates of year-to-year temperature variability. We also examined how the statistical test devised by Douglass et al. performed under controlled conditions, using random data with known statistical properties. From their paper, there is no evidence that Douglass et al. considered any of these important issues before making their highly-publicized claims.

Our analysis clearly showed that tropical temperature changes in observations and climate model simulations were not fundamentally inconsistent – contrary to the claim of Douglass and colleagues. Our research was published on October 10, 2008, in the online edition of the International Journal of Climatology. On November 15, 2008, the Douglass et al. and Santer et al. papers appeared in the same print version of the International Journal of Climatology.

In December 2009, shortly after the public release of the stolen emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, Professors David Douglass and John Christy accused me of leading a conspiracy to delay publication of the print version of the Douglass et al. paper. This accusation was based on a selective analysis of the stolen emails. It is false.

In Mr. Pearce’s account of this issue, he states that “There is no doubt the (sic) Santer and his colleagues sought to use the power they held to the utmost…” So what are the facts of this matter? What is the “power” Fred Pearce is referring to?

  • Fact 1: The only “power” that I had was the power to choose which scientific journal to submit our paper to. I chose the International Journal of Climatology. I did this because the International Journal of Climatology had published (in their online edition) the seriously flawed Douglass et al. paper. I wanted to give the journal the opportunity to set the scientific record straight.
  • Fact 2: I had never previously submitted a paper to the International Journal of Climatology. I had never met the editor of the journal (Professor Glenn McGregor). I did not have any correspondence or professional interaction with the editor prior to 2008.
  • Fact 3: Prior to submitting our paper, I wrote an email to Dr. Tim Osborn on January 10, 2008. Tim Osborn was on the editorial board of the International Journal of Climatology. I told Dr. Osborn that, before deciding whether we would submit our paper to the International Journal of Climatology, I wanted to have some assurance that our paper would “be regarded as an independent contribution, not as a comment on Douglass et al.” This request was entirely reasonable in view of the substantial amount of new work that we had done. I have described this new work above.
  • Fact 4: I did not want to submit our paper to the International Journal of Climatology if there was a possibility that our submission would be regarded as a mere “comment” on Douglass et al. Under this scenario, Douglass et al. would have received the last word. Given the extraordinary claims they had made, I thought it unlikely that their “last word” would have acknowledged the serious statistical error in their original paper. As subsequent events showed, I was right to be concerned – they have not admitted any error in their work.
  • Fact 5: As I clearly stated in my email of January 10 to Dr. Tim Osborn, if the International Journal of Climatology agreed to classify our paper as an independent contribution, “Douglass et al. should have the opportunity to respond to our contribution, and we should be given the chance to reply. Any response and reply should be published side-by-side…”
  • Fact 6: The decision to hold back the print version of the Douglass et al. paper was not mine. It was the editor’s decision. I had no “power” over the publishing decisions of the International Journal of Climatology.

This whole episode should be filed under the category “No good deed goes unpunished”. My colleagues and I were simply trying to set the scientific record straight. There was no conspiracy to subvert the peer-review process. Unfortunately, conspiracy theories are easy to disseminate. Many are willing to accept these theories at face value. The distribution of facts on complex scientific issues is a slower, more difficult process.

Climate Auditing – Close Encounters with Mr. Steven McIntyre

Ten days after the online publication of our International Journal of Climatology paper, Mr. Steven McIntyre, who runs the “ClimateAudit” blog, requested all of the climate model data we had used in our research. I replied that Mr. McIntyre was welcome to “audit” our calculations, and that all of the primary model data we had employed were archived at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and freely available to any researcher. Over 3,400 scientists around the world currently analyze climate model output from this open database.

My response was insufficient for Mr. McIntyre. He submitted two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for climate model data – not for the freely available raw data, but for the results from intermediate calculations I had performed with the raw data. One FOIA request also asked for two years of my email correspondence related to these climate model data sets.

I had performed these intermediate calculations in order derive weighted-average temperature changes for different layers of the atmosphere. This is standard practice. It is necessary since model temperature data are available at specific heights in the atmosphere, whereas satellite temperature measurements represent an average over a deep layer of the atmosphere. The weighted averages calculated from the climate model data can be directly compared with actual satellite data. The method used for making such intermediate calculations is not a secret. It is published in several different scientific journals.

Unlike Mr. McIntyre, David Douglass and his colleagues (in their International Journal of Climatology paper) had used the freely available raw model data. With these raw datasets, Douglass et al. made intermediate calculations similar to the calculations we had performed. The results of their intermediate calculations were similar to our own intermediate results. The differences between what Douglass and colleagues had done and what my colleagues and I had done was not in the intermediate calculations – it was in the statistical tests each group had used to compare climate models with observations.

The punch-line of this story is that Mr. McIntyre’s Freedom of Information Act requests were completely unnecessary. In my opinion, they were frivolous. Mr. McIntyre already had access to all of the information necessary to check our calculations and our findings.

When I invited Mr. McIntyre to “audit” our entire study, including the intermediate calculations, and told him that all the data necessary to perform such an “audit” were freely available, he expressed moral outrage on his blog. I began to receive threatening emails. Complaints about my “stonewalling” behavior were sent to my superiors at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and at the U.S. Department of Energy.

A little over a month after receiving Mr. McIntyre’s Freedom of Information Act requests, I decided to release all of the intermediate calculations I had performed for our International Journal of Climatology paper. I made these datasets available to the entire scientific community. I did this because I wanted to continue with my scientific research. I did not want to spend all of my available time and energy responding to harassment incited by Mr. McIntyre’s blog.

Mr. Pearce does not mention that Mr. McIntyre had no need to file Freedom of Information Act requests, since Mr. McIntyre already had access to all of the raw climate model data we had used in our study (and to the methods we had used for performing intermediate calculations). Nor does Mr. Pearce mention the curious asymmetry in Mr. McIntyre’s “auditing”. To my knowledge, Mr. McIntyre – who purports to have considerable statistical expertise – has failed to “audit” the Douglass et al. paper, which contained serious statistical errors.

As the “Climategate” emails clearly show, there is a pattern of behavior here. My encounter with Mr. McIntyre’s use of FOIA requests for “audit” purposes is not an isolated event. In my opinion, Mr. McIntyre’s FOIA requests serve the purpose of initiating fishing expeditions, and are not being used for true scientific discovery.

Mr. McIntyre’s own words do not present a picture of a man engaged in purely dispassionate and objective scientific inquiry:

“But if Santer wants to try this kind of stunt, as I’ve said above, I’ve submitted FOI requests and we’ll see what they turn up. We’ll see what the journal policies require. I’ll also see what DOE and PCDMI administrators have to say. We’ll see if any of Santer’s buddies are obligated to produce the data. We’ll see if Santer ever sent any of the data to his buddies”

(Steven McIntyre; posting on his ClimateAudit blog; Nov. 21, 2008).

My research is subject to rigorous scrutiny. Mr. McIntyre’s blogging is not. He can issue FOIA requests at will. He is the master of his domain – the supreme, unchallenged ruler of the “ClimateAudit” universe. He is not a climate scientist, but he has the power to single-handedly destroy the reputations of exceptional men and women who have devoted their entire careers to the pursuit of climate science. Mr. McIntyre’s unchecked, extraordinary power is the real story of “Climategate”. I hope that someone has the courage to tell this story.

Benjamin D. Santer

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow
San Ramon, California
February 22, 2010*

*These remarks reflect the personal opinions of Benjamin D. Santer. They do not reflect the official views of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory or the U.S. Department of Energy. In preparing this document, I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Tom Wigley, Myles Allen, Kristin Aydt, Graham Cogley, Peter Gleckler, Leo Haimberger, Gabi Hegerl, John Lanzante, Mike MacCracken, Gavin Schmidt, Steve Sherwood, Susan Solomon, Karl Taylor, Simon Tett, and Peter Thorne.

1,047 Responses to “Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind”

  1. 501
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Don Shor says:
    28 February 2010 at 11:54 AM

    There is no evidence that global warming has increased drought activity.”

    Don, even if you admitted any, this would be correlation, not causation.

    However, we DO have a causation.

    Or please explain why drought areas like the Australian Outback won’t get worse if temperatures rise.

    PS see also how denialists still crow about how the sun causes the changes and that’s why we’re in a cooling phase, therefore we don’t (and can’t) do anything about climate change.

  2. 502
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Ray Ladbury says:
    28 February 2010 at 12:31 PM

    Gilles, Are you actually contending that it is impossible to achieve prosperity without fossil fuels? ”

    Ray, Gilles has been peddling that idiotic axiom since he started posting here.

    Yes, he IS contending that.

  3. 503
    Avatar says:


    1. I never said the climate hadn’t changed. Just that the changes have been modest, and it’s not credible that all the changes have been bad.

    [Response: That last clause is a strawman. Nobody’s saying there might not be some positive benefits.–Jim]

    2. A pause in warming has certianly occurred. Statistically it probably means nothing. But Gore’s comment is nonsensical on the face of it.

    3. The point about a spatially weighted average temperature 5 ft above the grounds is obvious – you can have very large changes, in opposite directions, in air temperature all over the globe and still come up with the same average. Also, the heat in the oceans is as or more important than air temperatures, and it’s not only the surface temperature of the oceans that matters. Heat content broadly defined is a much more intelligent way to talk about this issue.

    [Response: You are aware that the heat stored in the oceans is the reason why the observed atmospheric temperature increase is a substantial underestimate of what will manifest, right?–Jim]

    The current anomaly idea doesn’t play well since no-one really experiences this average temperature. That’s a problem with pitching the average. And it ain’t selling.

    [Response:This makes no sense but seems likely to be connected to your belief that there is no such thing as a global mean temperature, which is among the most absurd arguments ever offered against global warming.–Jim]

  4. 504
    Don Shor says:

    Drought in Australia:

    “please explain why drought areas like the Australian Outback won’t get worse if temperatures rise.”

    There is no evidence that it will, or that it won’t; more important, there is no evidence that drought is increasing worldwide.

  5. 505
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Don Shor

    Don, I suggest again that you look at the original material — and then look at the footnotes, put the paper into Scholar and look for subsequent material, and — as Martin points out — look at the author’s website.

    Don, don’t get into fights with people who come here to have fights. There are a good many of us here to try to learn about the science and help each other look things up and think things through.

    This is a good example. If you just post stuff from places like WCR without looking beyond what they provide, people will doubt you’re thinking.

    If you look stuff up, read the references, and ask questions based on your own reading, some folks will try hard to be helpful.

    Ignore the people here just to call others names and you’ll learn more than if you get into arguments with them, is my best suggestion.

    Ask yourself, skeptically, why WCR wouldn’t quote you this part from the website, and whether you can imagine any reason they would not inform you of this information — and ask yourself how this compares to what they claim.

    — excerpt follows —

    18 May 2008: Our paper published in Climate Dynamics shows that drought will increase globally over the 21st century. We analyzed soil moisture from 8 climate models that participated in the latest IPCC assessment (AR4) and calculated changes in drought frequency, severity and spatial extent globally and regionally. The regions projected to be hardest hit are the Mediterranean, southwest US, central America, southern Africa and Australia: regions that currently suffer from drought. The main culprit is descreasing precipitation, coupled with warmer temperatures that lead to increased evaporation. Although the climate models generally predict wetter conditions in high northern latitudes, these will be offset somewhat by earlier and faster spring melt and increased summertime evaporation. The time frame for these changes to be noticeable (statistically different form current climate variability) is of the order of a few decades in some regions.

    The figure …

    shows the changes in drought frequency, duration and severity for the world and 20 regions for the SRES B1, A1B and A2 future climate scenarios. The bars indicate the range across the climate models.

    Sheffield J., and E. F. Wood, Projected changes in drought occurrence under future global warming from multi-model, multi-scenario, IPCC AR4 simulations, Climate Dynamics, 13 (1), 79-105, doi:10.1007/s00382-007-0340-z
    — end excerpt —

  6. 506
    Avataer says:

    You guys don’t read very carefully so here are the main points again:

    1. Many of the weak arguments for AGW ( proxies, cherry picked climate events, accelerating current warming) pollute the strong, physics based arguments for slow, inevitable warming with various effects both positive and negative. These weak arguments are on full display in Al Gore’s op-ed piece.

    [Response: Baloney. Your so called “weak arguments” are supporting evidence that the radiation physics are right, not the opposite.–Jim]

    2. The idea of a global air temperature doesn’t mean much to many people as the center point of a marketing campaign. I’m well aware that it “exists” as do many other averages.

    [Response: Then why did you say this: “Maybe instead of focusing on the mysterious idea of an average global temperature (which doesn’t really exist anyway, and averages mask the dispersion which is the real problem)…”? As to your main point, most people can understand that the increased heat will not necessarily be equally distributed globally.–Jim]

    In summary – drop the weak arguments, censure the bad actors and salesmen in your community, find a better and more moderate way to explain the strong part of the argument to the rest of the population. I’m not claiming RC is particularly guilty of these crimes, but the general climate change community certainly is.

    Let’s start here – anyone here willing to criticize anything about Al Gore’s piece in the NYT?

    [Response: Why are you obsessed with finding fault with Al Gore and/or his synopsis of the situation? –Jim]


  7. 507
    flxible says:

    Don Shor@292:
    Trends in drought frequency [abst] and effects on loss of dissolved organic carbon from UK upland peats
    Trends in 20th century drought over the continental US [abst], noting the regionality of decreasing AND increasing trends.
    Trends in drought intensity & variability, Iberian peninsula [PDF], emphasizing the “origin and direction of air masses and flows”, as in atmospheric conditions affecting precipitation.
    Trends in drought in Swiss forested ecosystems “(…) the analysis detected an increase of drought during the observation period. The trend is particularly pronounced in rather dry areas as the inner-alpine valley of Valais”.
    Trends of Drought in the Canadian Prairies “studies suggest that the Canadian Prairies is among the regions which have exhibited the strongest rising trends in drought over the second half of last century.” [Canadas major grain producing area]

    [PDF]: “over the past thirty years, droughts have dramatically increased
    in number and intensity in the EU and the cost in this period amounts to €100 billion”

    You can argue whether “global warming has increased drought activity”, I’d think risk analysis indicates it’s time to consider dealing with facts.

  8. 508
    John Peter says:

    JRC (487)

    Thanks for agreeing with about about INTERNET email. The babel on RC was always about invasion of privacy on the INTERNET . There is very little privacy on the INTERNET, certainly not using email. INTERNET is about as private as a postcard..

    Thanks for the links, there sure is more than I realized.

    I also discovered that they still haven’t prosecuted the teenager who guessed security question answers, got access to Sara Palin’s account, changed her password then read her email looking for “dirt”. That happened two years ago (>(

  9. 509

    Avatar (488): It’s not credible that the modest degree of warming we have seen has produced **only ** negative effects. It’s just not.

    BPL: Oooh, good line of logical reasoning there. I’m sure it convinced a lot of readers.


  10. 510

    Avatar: he point about a spatially weighted average temperature 5 ft above the grounds is obvious – you can have very large changes, in opposite directions, in air temperature all over the globe and still come up with the same average. Also, the heat in the oceans is as or more important than air temperatures, and it’s not only the surface temperature of the oceans that matters. Heat content broadly defined is a much more intelligent way to talk about this issue.

    BPL: What the heck do you think temperature IS? Do you know how it’s defined? It’s a measure of heat content, for God’s sake!

    H = m cp T

    Remember that one? Heat content (in Joules in the SI) = mass (kg) x specific heat capacity at constant pressure (J/K/kg) x absolute temperature (K).

    And your hypothetical case of wide dispersion is true but irrelevant. Why don’t you TAKE THE ACTUAL NUMBERS AND CALCULATE THE MEAN AND MEASURES OF DISPERSION, instead of just gassing about it?

    I find it very, very hard to believe at this point that you are any kind of scientist, let alone a physicist. No physicist I know–and I know quite a few of them–would think an armchair argument trumps field measurements and/or statistical analysis.

  11. 511
    Don Shor says:

    503: Actually, Hank, I did read the paper in its entirety. I prefer not to link pdf’s in general, but I guess

    Sheffield’s 2008 paper does not negate my comment. That paper, based on your excerpt, is an analysis of what might happen. I agree, drought might increase in areas currently prone to drought; rainfall might increase in other areas. Changes in the distribution of precipitation are certainly possible. Ethiopia may get more rainfall, while nearby desert areas less. Here in California, we expect that we could get more rain, less snow. The impact on our (California) state water system will require adaptive planning for those parts of the state dependent on Sierra snowmelt. There are some interesting models about how that would affect different watersheds and water districts in the state, and it is highly variable depending on the orographic precipitation patterns.
    Is all of that happening already? Not provably.

    [Response: Actually there is such evidence, via a series of changing hydrology attribution studies in the western USA over the last couple of years.–Jim]

    That is what Sheffield’s 2009 paper indicates. Their 2008 hypothetical projections, compared to their 2009 actual analysis, indicate that increased drought is not yet a reality. Anecdotally, there are epic droughts in the last hundred years in all of the drought-prone parts of the world; see the Australia link for examples there. Should we plan for increased drought? Certainly.

    Flxible — thanks for the links. I won’t comment specifically until after I’ve read the articles. But to your conclusion — “risk analysis indicates it’s time to consider dealing with facts…” I agree. I think that Roger Pielke Sr.’s “vulnerability paradigm, focused on regional and local societal and environmental resources of importance” is the most reasonable approach to drought and land-use issues.

    I agree that trying to have a conversation with CFU is like trying to sculpt pudding. I give up.

  12. 512

    Don Shor (503): there is no evidence that drought is increasing worldwide.

    BPL: PDSI < 3.0: 12% of Earth's land surface 1970. 30% 2002.

    Which is greater, 12 or 30? You can use a calculator.

  13. 513
    Don Shor says:

    Truncated by mistake!

    “I prefer not to link pdf’s in general, but I guess…”

    should read

    “I prefer not to link pdf’s in general, but I guess that would be better than linking to a web site that has a perceived agenda. I tend to assume people here can sort the grain from the chaff at other sites. A lot of the articles we talk about here are either pdf’s or at subscription sites.”

  14. 514
    dhogaza says:


    Sorry Edward, that’s not acceptable. You can’t ask people to strongly reduce there standard of living just with some “possibility” of trouble, unquantified neither in amplitude nor in time

    Oh, I don’t know, countries like the US, Japan, and Chile require people to spend extra money, often significant amounts, on construction in order to strengthen buildings against earthquakes.

    Haiti doesn’t (nor unfortunately can she apparently afford to).

    Haiti: 200,000+ dead. Chile: some hundreds dead.

    Ask the people of Chile if spending the extra money for (at the most basic level) rebar to help protect against “some possibility of trouble, unquantified in amplitude or time” was worth it.

    Well, OK, Chile knows it’s going to get whacked once or twice a century with a big earthquake so amplitude and time are somewhat quantified.

    So is climate change, however.

  15. 515
    Avataer says:

    505 – Wow.

    Maybe because he is the lead figure in trying to sell the idea of Climate Change around the word, because he was awarded the Nobel Prize along with the IPCC? Because he did more than anyone to place the “hockey stick” at the center of the debate? Because he is as guilty as anyone of the cherry picking fallacy?

    The existence of this blog is an attempt to interface with non climate scientists and explain the issues, yes? If so, the way that the science is being presented to the public is a key, maybe *the* key point.

    As an educated and interested non climate scientist with a science background I’m trying to help you guys see what is going wrong. But you can;t see it.

  16. 516
    Edward Greisch says:

    461 FHSIV: “That would mean that there was climate change prior to the late 20th century! But that couldn’t be true because it conflicts with our conclusions!”
    Nobody I know of ever said that there were never climate changes before. FHSIV is just another dis-interpreter. Of course Nature caused previous climate changes. So what? Nature’s climate changes caused major and minor disasters and major and minor EXTINCTION EVENTS.


    470 Gilles: “You can’t ask people to strongly reduce there standard of living just with some “possibility” of trouble, unquantified neither in amplitude nor in time.”

    Who asked you to reduce your standard of living? Not me! And it IS A CERTAINTY OF TROUBLE! We just don’t know the date. We do know plenty about the amplitude: Gilles will not survive. Neither will Billions of other people. Humans may well go extinct. Civilization WILL collapse. GW WILL put an end to your standard of living if we don’t end GW.
    You can keep on using just as much energy as before, you just can’t get it by burning fossil fuel any more.
    Again, you sound like a person who is ignorant of probability and statistics. Take the course. Aheemm yourself.

    Thank you Ray Ladbury and Completely Fed Up

    489 Completely Fed Up: “So why isn’t there a FOIA for corporate emails and minutes?”
    Agreed. But my reasoning is that corporations are quasi-governments.

  17. 517

    #all by Avatar

    Didn’t you say somewhere up-thread you are a scientist?

    Based on your lack of logic, I don’t see how that is possible?

    Or did you get one of those online degrees that you don’t have to study for?

    You know…, the ones where they just trust you when you tell them that you studied stuff and then send them a check, and they send you a diploma.

    The Climate Lobby
    Understand the Issue
    Sign the Petition!

  18. 518
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Don Shor
    > That paper, based on your excerpt,

    Don, read more carefully. Martin Vermeer pointed you to the author’s website.
    I quoted from, and linked to an illustration from, the author’s website.

    This is why it’s important to provide people _good_ sources of information, rather than the limited spin you got about it from WCR.

    Look, seriously, you know you ought to look for the original source material, not rely on second hand opinions. Remember all the concern because the IPCC cited a WWF report instead of citing the actual research papers that were in the footnotes?

    The WCR isn’t giving you any help finding real info, because the real info contradicts the spin they’re selling — Martin did give you the pointer to the author’s website, and I quoted from it.

    Focus. Be skeptical. Don’t be fooled, go to the source material.

  19. 519
    dhogaza says:

    Thanks for agreeing with about about INTERNET email. The babel on RC was always about invasion of privacy on the INTERNET . There is very little privacy on the INTERNET, certainly not using email. INTERNET is about as private as a postcard..

    John Peter, you were told some hundreds of posts ago that breaking into a server is a crime, The fact that the data stolen happens to be e-mail is besides the point. It is you that has consistently been trying to divert the argument into one of privacy and e-mail.

    CRU’s backup server was illegally accessed. The server hosting Real Climate was illegally accessed. Both are crimes (not civil) offenses in the US, and I imagine the UK.

    End of story.

  20. 520
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    #505 Avataer

    Al Gore’s op-ed is here:
    We Can’t Wish Away Climate Change

    What he says about the science is:
    “Here is what scientists have found is happening to our climate: man-made global-warming pollution traps heat from the sun and increases atmospheric temperatures. These pollutants — especially carbon dioxide — have been increasing rapidly with the growth in the burning of coal, oil, natural gas and forests, and temperatures have increased over the same period. Almost all of the ice-covered regions of the Earth are melting — and seas are rising. Hurricanes are predicted to grow stronger and more destructive, though their number is expected to decrease. Droughts are getting longer and deeper in many mid-continent regions, even as the severity of flooding increases. The seasonal predictability of rainfall and temperatures is being disrupted, posing serious threats to agriculture. The rate of species extinction is accelerating to dangerous levels.”

  21. 521
    Molnar says:

    Avataer (505)

    “censure the bad actors and salesmen in your community”

    Sure thing, mate. I’ll just call the Ministry of Truth IPCC and they’ll get right on it. Would you also like them to be fed to the polar bears?

  22. 522
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Hank Roberts says: 28 February 2010 at 2:37 PM

    Be skeptical.


  23. 523
    moray watson says:

    Avatar: It is of no use. Amazingly, and ironically, they profess to be researchers of “change”, but they do not recognize change when it readily presents itself. I have no trouble understanding that you are trying to help them salvage what is good in the efforts they have expended. But they are too faithful to their cause to see that the time has come to do just that.

    [Response: Maybe you should go back and read through Avatar’s posts, where s/he made numerous assertions about the quality of the science and Al Gore, under the guise of helping to illuminate the nature of the problem. Many of these were wrong, and rebutted, but not acknowledged or responded to, followed then by an increasing focus on the “Rev.” Al Gore and his supposed mistakes to the exclusion of the larger message that he has correct.–Jim]

  24. 524
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Avatar, OK, I read Gore’s editorial. Let me preface things by saying that I’m not a huge Al Gore fan. I think he ran a piss poor campaign in 2000. Having said that, I didn’t see too much in terms of the science that he got wrong. I still think the evidence for any trend in hurricanes is rather more tentative than Gore does, but I’m probably on the more conservative side of the consensus on that issue. His discussion of the relation of the big snowfalls to precipitation trends while not wrong was a bit simplistic. Other than that, what I saw was a politician using a fair laymans understanding of the science to beat his political opponents severely over the head.

    What, pray, did you find that was so tremendously wrong?

    See, we all know that Al Gore has a political agenda. What I find remarkable is that he seems to have no problem squaring his political agenda with physical reality, while the libertarian types prefer to attack science rather than find solutions to the problems science has alerted us to. I think that’s a pretty big difference there, and as I say I’m not a big fan of Al Gore.

  25. 525
    Don Shor says:

    Re: 511 [Response: Actually there is such evidence, via a series of changing hydrology attribution studies in the western USA over the last couple of years.–Jim]
    Hi Jim,
    I would be interested in a link toward those articles. If you remember some authors and journals, I can Google it from there.
    (ps — Good to see UC Davis represented here!)

    [Response: Don, I started looking for them and got sidetracked. I need to re-read at least one of them anyway. Check back here later today.–Jim]

    [Response: Here’s a few–there are others as well. The Pierce etal and Bonfils etal papers are the two with the strongest attribution base.–Jim

    Western USA/N. Am.:
    Regonda et al, 2005, J Climate.
    Andreadis et al, 2005, J Hydrometeor.
    Pierce et al, 2008, J Climate.
    Bonfils etal, 2008, J. Climate

    Stewart, 2009, Hydrol. Process.

    Howat and Tulaczyk, 2005, J Geophys. Res.
    Howat and Tulaczyk, 2005, Annals Glaciology.]

  26. 526
    David Harington says:

    There will be no libel or defamation writs issued in the UK or anywhere else. Why? Because the truth is the nuclear defence to any claim of defamation or libel and the issues being defended here would not in any way stand up to scrutiny in a court of law and the defenders know this.

  27. 527
    Andrew Adams says:

    dhogaza #519

    CRU’s backup server was illegally accessed. The server hosting Real Climate was illegally accessed. Both are crimes (not civil) offenses in the US, and I imagine the UK.

    I’m in the UK and when I log into our company’s network I get a message saying that it is criminal offence to gain access without proper authorisation, so I think you are correct.

  28. 528
    John Mason says:

    re #515 Avataer:

    “Maybe because he is the lead figure in trying to sell the idea of Climate Change around the word, because he was awarded the Nobel Prize along with the IPCC? Because he did more than anyone to place the “hockey stick” at the center of the debate? Because he is as guilty as anyone of the cherry picking fallacy?

    The existence of this blog is an attempt to interface with non climate scientists and explain the issues, yes? If so, the way that the science is being presented to the public is a key, maybe *the* key point.

    As an educated and interested non climate scientist with a science background I’m trying to help you guys see what is going wrong. But you can;t see it.”

    You must think we were born yesterday!

    Most if not all people on here recognise that Gore is a politician. Most if not all of us on here recognise that the “hockey stick” has been independently replicated by various researchers using various proxies. More importantly, we recognise that the stick’s blade represents what is being directly observed. Does that not concern you at all?

    What is “going wrong” is that science is up against a rejectionist political mindset that has no science of its own but instead an arsenal of dishonest targeted PR stunts that is has been deploying, and what it “goes wrong” against is the global economy and, ultimately, people. If you have any young offspring or other relations who might normally see it out towards the latter years of this century, and who might indeed have children and grandchildren, then you might want to pause and consider what kind of future these rejectionists do not care about them and their offspring having to experience. Looking further ahead, you might want Mankind to have a viable future. Or, perhaps, not? Nice people, huh? For a few dollars more, eh?

    Cheers – John

  29. 529
    Dave G says:

    David Harington says:
    28 February 2010 at 3:57 PM

    “There will be no libel or defamation writs issued in the UK or anywhere else. Why? Because the truth is the nuclear defence to any claim of defamation or libel and the issues being defended here would not in any way stand up to scrutiny in a court of law and the defenders know this.”

    That depends what was said. You surely can’t be saying that anything derogatory which is said about climate scientists is true, therefore any libel suit would be bound to fail.

  30. 530

    Avatar wrote:
    “Right – if you don’t like what the IOP has to say…..attack the IOP! I suggest a more fruitful response would be for those involved in this (however peripherally) to step outside themselves and see how this looks to uninvolved parties. The answer is that the entire picture looks as if the “mistakes”, or “errors in judgment”, or “unfortunate e-mails”, or “data problems”, or “upside down proxies”, or “statistical tricks: are **all** stacked one way in terms of the impact on the interpretation of the science. ”

    Except that’s not true. The IPCC actually has also erred in the direction of *understating* AGW effects too. How do you square this with your simplistic ‘entire picture’?

    As for the IOP submission, I’m fairly confident that we’ll be hearing more about just how that came to be. The submission of the other two reputable scientific umbrella organizations (chemistry and stats) are *far* more evenhanded.

  31. 531
    votenotokyoto says:

    Since he thinks so much of Roy I’d like to hear Tim Jones (286) comments about Roy Spencer’s latest posting about Jones’ spurious US warming since 1973. Does this support the agwarmer case? Us ‘denialists’ don’t deny the world warms and cools. We just deny that so-called global warming gas emissions will cause catastrophic warming. I know sea temperatures are high now because of an El Nino. Hasn’t exactly caused catastrophic warming on land has it? Our weatherman has just told us we are in for another week of winter at least despite the calendar moving to spring. I wish to God the world was warming as you guys predict. Unfortunately I fear that we are in for a few very cool years as a result of recent solar activity, or lack thereof.

    Many engineers like myself rely on data. That is why we question agwarming armageddon. [OT]

  32. 532
    Gilles says:

    [Response: He has published dozens of papers and communicated his work very widely, what are you talking about? – gavin]
    I meant : why was it such a mess with the communication of data and procedures he used to get these results ?

    [Response: No, you are wrong. It’s precisely because the forcings and reconstructions for the medieval period are uncertain that using that time period to constrain sensitivity or the magnitude of internal variability is not very useful.]
    OK, but I never said they were used quantitatively to constrain the sensitivity ! juste that a high temperature in the MWP would reduce the probability of a low influence of natural variability. For instance, a important – and for me mysterious – assumption of models is that the average temperature is a single, univalued fonction of the forcing. This is wrong if large scale oscillations change the relationship between average temperature and power emitted , which is by no way impossible, since the average temperature is a very approximate estimate of the radiative power. Large amplitude of the past temperatures would lead to enhance the possibility of such secular oscillations.
    [Response: I’ll give two examples: Ocean warming implies a radiative imbalance – which was predicted ahead of time for a GHG-induced change (not so for an ‘internal change’), stratospheric cooling is a clear signature of CO2 related changes to radiative transfer (and the opposite effect to what you’d expect from solar or ocean induced warming). The fact is that there are fingerprints of changes that differ depending on the cause – and this fingerprinting is not just done using the global mean temperature changes. – gavin]
    For ocean temperatures : I heard that everything wasn’t fully understood on the radiative balance. For stratosphere cooling : if I understand well, this is the consequence of the increase of cooling , due to increasing radiative emissivity of CO2. So basically it confirms that CO2 concentration is increasing in the stratosphere. Nice, but few people are denying that. It doesn”t prove much on the origin of the variation of ground surface temperatures : for instance, the 1900-1940 warming period wasn’t due to the increase of CO2 concentration…
    BTW, I do not deny that the CO2 has some warming effect – I am just not really convinced by the imminence of a catastrophe scenario

  33. 533
    Jerry Steffens says:


    ” anyone here willing to criticize anything about Al Gore’s piece in the NYT?”

    You appear to be operating under the misapprehension that Gore is the SOURCE of mainstream climate-change science. He’s merely REPORTING the conclusions of actual scientists, and doing it rather well. (Not perfect, but light years beyond the capabilities of most politicians!)

  34. 534
    Gilles says:

    BPL :BPL: Do you know how to multiply?

    Fraction of Earth’s land surface “severely dry” by Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI < 3.0) in 1970: 12%.

    In 2002: 30%

    strange : the food production per capita has increased by more than 20 % in the same period, with a doubling population. Any explanation ?

    But i DO think we'll have problem with the food. But first due to the lack of fossil fuels, which will make the price of food increase on a long term. Reducing fuel use would worsen the problem, instead of fixing it.

  35. 535
    Daniel C. Goodwin says:

    Avatar (#506): anyone here willing to criticize anything about Al Gore’s piece in the NYT?

    Gore advocates in his NYT piece, as elsewhere, for Cap & Trade – which is a good way to get the geniuses at Goldman Sachs involved, and to waste another decade or two accomplishing nothing in terms of emissions reductions.

    The alternative, Fee & Dividend, is also vulnerable to unproductive gaming of the system – but Cap & Trade is an engraved invitation.

  36. 536
    Gilles says:

    Ray : “An avalanche is an excellent example. But then you can’t ask people to curtail a fun day of skiing just with some “possibility” of trouble, can you?”
    you know that avalanches occur because you have statistics.. And you quantify the risk following statistics. So indeed , what you say is true : you can’t convince people to curtail their fun with a poor statistics.
    “Are you actually contending that it is impossible to achieve prosperity without fossil fuels?”
    Yes. And that “idiotic axiom ” following CFU is much more proved that any influence of the temperature on prosperity. Again, simple question above : what is brought by prosperity, that doesn’t require fossil fuels?

    ” Did you ever consider that the correlation might run the other way–increased prosperity leads to greater fossil fuel use?”
    that’s basically the same. What does prosperity brings to you, that doesn’t require fossil fuels (compared with poorer countries)?

    Did you ever think what your contention might imply given the fact that fossil fuels are running out.

    Of course : big trouble. Much bigger than the increase of some fraction of degrees of the average temperature. Much bigger, much sooner, and much more certain.

  37. 537
    Gilles says:

    “Civilization WILL collapse. GW WILL put an end to your standard of living if we don’t end GW.”

    I do think that civlization will eventually collapse. But not because of GW, but because of the end of fossil fuels. You can be rich in hot countries and with fossil fuels, even in deserts (look at Saudi Arabia , California, Nevada, Florida..). You cannot be rich without fossil fuels (look … everywhere).

  38. 538
    Mark A. York says:

    My biggest problem with Al Gore is that he didn’t win in 2000, for the reason Ray stated, and here we are. As has been said here before, he got the science right. He raises the hackles of the hard right, because they choose to be blinkered by ideology and junk science manufactured for political reasons alone. That’s a big difference. Gore linked an interesting hurricane intensity paper too.

  39. 539
    FHSIV says:

    516 E. Greisch:

    “Nobody I know of ever said that there were never climate changes before.”

    OK, but why so much effort by Mann et al. to rewrite Holocene earth history to make the perceived changes in the 20th century seem to be ‘unprecedented’? What are you trying to sell?

    [Response: Get your facts straight before basing a false conclusion on a suggestion of fraud. The last 1000 years does not constitute the Holocene, and moreover, many reconstructions now exist that show this same pattern of 20th century uniqueness, as anyone looking at the topic with the intent to understand knows.–Jim]

    “FHSIV is just another dis-interpreter.” what’s a dis-interpreter?

    “Of course Nature caused previous climate changes. So what?”

    Would you be offended if I spelled ‘nature’ without a capital ‘N’? I don’t want to be insensitive to your religious beliefs!

    “Nature’s climate changes caused major and minor disasters and major and minor EXTINCTION EVENTS.

    Can you name a single species that has become extinct because of AGW? How come the fragile species you seem to be so concerned about didn’t succomb to the nine previous temperature driven shifts in North American vegetation since the end of the last glacial epoch?
    I guess that I’ll have to unlearn what I know about Holocene biogeography and palynology if I want to be able to appreciate your perspective.

    [Response:If you know palynology like you claim, you’ll know that the detection of individual species’ extinction is largely impossible, because pollen cannot usually be resolved that finely. And the extinction concern is more about the future rather than what has happened to date. And we are moving into a state we have not seen in millions of years, rendering the Holocene analog questionable.–Jim]

  40. 540
    FHSIV says:

    538 M.A. York:

    “…they choose to be blinkered by ideology and junk science manufactured for political reasons alone.”

    Those that live in glass houses should not be throwing stones!

  41. 541
    J Bowers says:

    Gilles # 537: “You can be rich in hot countries and with fossil fuels, even in deserts (look at Saudi Arabia , California, Nevada, Florida..). You cannot be rich without fossil fuels (look … everywhere).”

    Depends on your definiton of rich. The party’s over, the house is a tip, the whirlwind we’ve been reaping looks damned certain to hit soon (pun intended), and the grandkids are gonna have to live in a shed or a tent in a world resembling Mad Max on crack. Think I like that image? Time to change the paradigm and get out of the fossil fuel trap.

  42. 542
    Hank Roberts says:

    > For stratosphere cooling : if I understand well

    You don’t. Let me try a little recreational typing, though someone can probably point to a more carefully worded explanation.

    You got this wrong: CO2 doesn’t increase only in the stratosphere (how would it get there?); CO2 is well mixed, when added from fossil fuel, the amount increases throughout the atmosphere. Don’t make a Wegman error either, it doesn’t sink to the bottom. It mixes.

    The increased amount of CO2 in the lower atmosphere intercepts more of the infrared coming off the warm surface, before it reaches the stratosphere.

    Some of that heat gets radiated back to the surface, and that CO2 shares the heat among the other gases in the lower atmosphere by collision.

    The increased CO2 in the stratosphere isn’t getting as much heat from below, because it’s “shaded” by the extra CO2 below it.

    Remember it’s the surface that’s emitting infrared.

    The CO2 in the stratosphere still does emit heat to space, so the stratosphere cools.

  43. 543
    flxible says:

    Don Shor@525 – As someone in an area of agriculture dependent on degree days, hydrological info relates:

    Human-Induced Changes in the Hydrology of the Western United States, 2008
    Detection and Attribution of Temperature Changes in the Mountainous Western United States, 2008
    Detection and Attribution of Streamflow Timing Changes to Climate Change in the Western United States, 2009
    Structure and Detectability of Trends in Hydrological Measures over the western United States, 2010

    The first 20 or so years I’ve been involved in fruit production I never saw the phenomena of blooms occuring in late summer/fall – the last 10 years it’s become quite regular, although obviously spatial, and thankfully not widespread ….. yet.
    But Gillies assures me the Saudis can use their “fossils” to overcome the climatic requirements of agriculture, so maybe he can conjure some of that oil into water for California too. :)

  44. 544
    Geoff Wexler says:
    A “broader” inquiry. No not the one demanded by the IOP. Any advance on four? It looks as if the lobbyists have discovered divergent sequences:

  45. 545
    Jerry Steffens says:


    “The CO2 in the stratosphere still does emit heat to space”
    Actually, one can do a little better: the increase in CO2 in the stratosphere INCREASES the emission of infrared radiation (for a given temperature); the combination of reduced energy input from below and greater energy loss implies cooling.

  46. 546
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Gilles, OK, so you are willing to admit that CO2 cools the stratosphere, but not that it causes warming in the troposphere? Dude, are you even capable of taking a self-consistent position?

  47. 547
    John Peter says:

    Gavin (454)

    Another crazy idea. Why not have on RC a simple and bullet-proof single paragraph rebuttal. Anyone could tweak it and send it individually as a letter to the editor wherever we saw claims not backed by science.

  48. 548
    David B. Benson says:

    Hank Roberts (542) — That was exceptionally clear! Thank you.

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