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IPCC errors: facts and spin

Filed under: — group @ 14 February 2010 - (Czech) (Svenska)

Currently, a few errors –and supposed errors– in the last IPCC report (“AR4”) are making the media rounds – together with a lot of distortion and professional spin by parties interested in discrediting climate science.  Time for us to sort the wheat from the chaff: which of these putative errors are real, and which not? And what does it all mean, for the IPCC in particular, and for climate science more broadly?

Let’s start with a few basic facts about the IPCC.  The IPCC is not, as many people seem to think, a large organization. In fact, it has only 10 full-time staff in its secretariat at the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, plus a few staff in four technical support units that help the chairs of the three IPCC working groups and the national greenhouse gas inventories group. The actual work of the IPCC is done by unpaid volunteers – thousands of scientists at universities and research institutes around the world who contribute as authors or reviewers to the completion of the IPCC reports. A large fraction of the relevant scientific community is thus involved in the effort.  The three working groups are:

Working Group 1 (WG1), which deals with the physical climate science basis, as assessed by the climatologists, including several of the Realclimate authors.

Working Group 2 (WG2), which deals with impacts of climate change on society and ecosystems, as assessed by social scientists, ecologists, etc.

Working Group 3 (WG3) , which deals with mitigation options for limiting global warming, as assessed by energy experts, economists, etc.

Assessment reports are published every six or seven years and writing them takes about three years. Each working group publishes one of the three volumes of each assessment. The focus of the recent allegations is the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), which was published in 2007.  Its three volumes are almost a thousand pages each, in small print. They were written by over 450 lead authors and 800 contributing authors; most were not previous IPCC authors. There are three stages of review involving more than 2,500 expert reviewers who collectively submitted 90,000 review comments on the drafts. These, together with the authors’ responses to them, are all in the public record (see here and here for WG1 and WG2 respectively).

Errors in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4)

As far as we’re aware, so far only one–or at most two–legitimate errors have been found in the AR4:

Himalayan glaciers: In a regional chapter on Asia in Volume 2, written by authors from the region, it was erroneously stated that 80% of Himalayan glacier area would very likely be gone by 2035. This is of course not the proper IPCC projection of future glacier decline, which is found in Volume 1 of the report. There we find a 45-page, perfectly valid chapter on glaciers, snow and ice (Chapter 4), with the authors including leading glacier experts (such as our colleague Georg Kaser from Austria, who first discovered the Himalaya error in the WG2 report).  There are also several pages on future glacier decline in Chapter 10 (“Global Climate Projections”), where the proper projections are used e.g. to estimate future sea level rise. So the problem here is not that the IPCC’s glacier experts made an incorrect prediction. The problem is that a WG2 chapter, instead of relying on the proper IPCC projections from their WG1 colleagues, cited an unreliable outside source in one place. Fixing this error involves deleting two sentences on page 493 of the WG2 report.

Sea level in the Netherlands: The WG2 report states that “The Netherlands is an example of a country highly susceptible to both sea-level rise and river flooding because 55% of its territory is below sea level”. This sentence was provided by a Dutch government agency – the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, which has now published a correction stating that the sentence should have read “55 per cent of the Netherlands is at risk of flooding; 26 per cent of the country is below sea level, and 29 per cent is susceptible to river flooding”. It surely will go down as one of the more ironic episodes in its history when the Dutch parliament last Monday derided the IPCC, in a heated debate, for printing information provided by … the Dutch government. In addition, the IPCC notes that there are several definitions of the area below sea level. The Dutch Ministry of Transport uses the figure 60% (below high water level during storms), while others use 30% (below mean sea level). Needless to say, the actual number mentioned in the report has no bearing on any IPCC conclusions and has nothing to do with climate science, and it is questionable whether it should even be counted as an IPCC error.

Some other issues

African crop yields: The IPCC Synthesis Report states: “By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%.” This is properly referenced back to chapter 9.4 of WG2, which says: “In other countries, additional risks that could be exacerbated by climate change include greater erosion, deficiencies in yields from rain-fed agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000-2020 period, and reductions in crop growth period (Agoumi, 2003).”  The Agoumi reference is correct and reported correctly. The Sunday Times, in an article by Jonathan Leake, labels this issue “Africagate” – the main criticism being that Agoumi (2003) is not a peer-reviewed study (see below for our comments on “gray” literature), but a report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Climate Change Knowledge Network, funded by the US Agency for International Development. The report, written by Morroccan climate expert Professor Ali Agoumi, is a summary of technical studies and research conducted to inform Initial National Communications from three countries (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and is a perfectly legitimate IPCC reference.

It is noteworthy that chapter 9.4 continues with “However, there is the possibility that adaptation could reduce these negative effects (Benhin, 2006).”  Some examples thereof follow, and then it states: “However, not all changes in climate and climate variability will be negative, as agriculture and the growing seasons in certain areas (for example, parts of the Ethiopian highlands and parts of southern Africa such as Mozambique), may lengthen under climate change, due to a combination of increased temperature and rainfall changes (Thornton et al., 2006). Mild climate scenarios project further benefits across African croplands for irrigated and, especially, dryland farms.” (Incidentally, the Benhin and Thornton references are also “gray”, but nobody has complained about them. Could there be double standards amongst the IPCC’s critics?)

Chapter 9.4 to us sounds like a balanced discussion of potential risks and benefits, based on the evidence available at the time–hardly the stuff for shrill “Africagate!” cries. If the IPCC can be criticized here, it is that in condensing these results for its Synthesis Report, important nuance and qualification were lost – especially the point that the risk of drought (defined as a 50% downturn in rainfall) “could be exacerbated by climate change”, as chapter 9.4 wrote – rather than being outright caused by climate change.

Trends in disaster losses: Jonathan Leake (again) in The Sunday Times accused the IPCC of wrongly linking global warming to natural disasters. The IPCC in a statement points out errors in Leake’s “misleading and baseless story”, and maintains that the IPCC provided “a balanced treatment of a complicated and important issue”. While we agree with the IPCC here, WG2 did include a debatable graph provided by Robert Muir-Wood (although not in the main report but only as Supplementary Material). It cited a paper by Muir-Wood as its source although that paper doesn’t include the graph, only the analysis that it is based on. Muir-Wood himself has gone on record to say that the IPCC has fairly represented his research findings and that it was appropriate to include them in the report. In our view there is no IPCC error here; at best there is a difference of opinion. Obviously, not every scientist will always agree with assessments made by the IPCC author teams.

Amazon forest dieback: Leake (yet again), with “research” by skeptic Richard North, has also promoted “Amazongate” with a story regarding a WG2 statement on the future of Amazonian forests under a drying climate.  The contested IPCC statement reads: “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000).”  Leake’s problem is with the Rowell and Moore reference, a WWF report.

The roots of the story are in two blog pieces by North, in which he first claims that the IPCC assertions attributed to the WWF report are not actually in that report. Since this claim was immediately shown to be false,  North then argued that the WWF report’s basis for their statement (a 1999 Nature article by Nepstad et al.) dealt only with the effects of logging and fire –not drought– on Amazonian forests. To these various claims Nepstad has now responded, noting that the IPCC statement is in fact correct. The only issue is that the IPCC cited the WWF report rather than the underlying peer-reviewed papers by Nepstad et al. These studies actually provide the  basis for the IPCC’s estimate on Amazonian sensitivity to drought. Investigations of the correspondence between Leake, scientists, and a BBC reporter (see here and here and here) show that Leake ignored or misrepresented explanatory information given to him by Nepstad and another expert, Simon Lewis, and published his incorrect story anyway. This “issue” is thus completely without merit.

Gray literature: The IPCC cites 18,000 references in the AR4; the vast majority of these are peer-reviewed scientific journal papers. The IPCC maintains a clear guideline on the responsible use of so-called “gray” literature, which are typically reports by other organizations or governments. Especially for Working Groups 2 and 3 (but in some cases also for 1) it is indispensable to use gray sources, since many valuable data are published in them: reports by government statistics offices, the International Energy Agency, World Bank, UNEP and so on. This is particularly true when it comes to regional impacts in the least developed countries, where knowledgeable local experts exist who have little chance, or impetus, to publish in international science journals.

Reports by non-governmental organizations like the WWF can be used (as in the Himalaya glacier and Amazon forest cases) but any information from them needs to be carefully checked (this guideline was not followed in the former case). After all, the role of the IPCC is to assess information, not just compile anything it finds.  Assessment involves a level of critical judgment, double-checking, weighing supporting and conflicting pieces of evidence, and a critical appreciation of the methodology used to obtain the results. That is why leading researchers need to write the assessment reports – rather than say, hiring graduate students to compile a comprehensive literature review.

Media distortions

To those familiar with the science and the IPCC’s work, the current media discussion is in large part simply absurd and surreal. Journalists who have never even peeked into the IPCC report are now outraged that one wrong number appears on page 493 of Volume 2. We’ve met TV teams coming to film a report on the IPCC reports’ errors, who were astonished when they held one of the heavy volumes in hand, having never even seen it. They told us frankly that they had no way to make their own judgment; they could only report what they were being told about it. And there are well-organized lobby forces with proper PR skills that make sure these journalists are being told the “right” story. That explains why some media stories about what is supposedly said in the IPCC reports can easily be falsified simply by opening the report and reading. Unfortunately, as a broad-based volunteer effort with only minimal organizational structure the IPCC is not in a good position to rapidly counter misinformation.

One near-universal meme of the media stories on the Himalaya mistake was that this was “one of the most central predictions of the IPCC” – apparently in order to make the error look more serious than it was.  However, this prediction does not appear in any of the IPCC Summaries for Policy Makers, nor in the Synthesis Report (which at least partly explains why it went unnoticed for years). None of the media reports that we saw properly explained that Volume 1 (which is where projections of physical climate changes belong) has an extensive and entirely valid discussion of glacier loss.

What apparently has happened is that interested quarters, after the Himalyan glacier story broke, have sifted through the IPCC volumes with a fine-toothed comb, hoping to find more embarrassing errors. They have actually found precious little, but the little they did find was promptly hyped into Seagate, Africagate, Amazongate and so on. This has some similarity to the CRU email theft, where precious little was discovered from among thousands of emails, but a few sentences were plucked out of context, deliberately misinterpreted (like “hide the decline”) and then hyped into “Climategate”.

As lucidly analysed by Tim Holmes, there appear to be a few active leaders of this misinformation parade in the media. Jonathan Leake is carrying the ball on this, but his stories contain multiple errors, misrepresentations and misquotes. There also is a sizeable contingent of me-too journalism that is simply repeating the stories but not taking the time to form a well-founded view on the topics. Typically they report on various “allegations”, such as these  against the IPCC, similar to reporting that the CRU email hack lead to “allegations of data manipulation”. Technically it isn’t even wrong that there were such allegations. But isn’t it the responsibility of the media to actually investigate whether allegations have any merit before they decide to repeat them?

Leake incidentally attacked the scientific work of one of us (Stefan) in a Sunday Times article in January. This article was rather biased and contained some factual errors that Stefan asked to be corrected. He has received no response, nor was any correction made. Two British scientists quoted by Leake – Jonathan Gregory and Simon Holgate – independently wrote to Stefan after the article appeared to say they had been badly misquoted. One of them wrote that the experience with Leake had made him “reluctant to speak to any journalist about any subject at all”.

Does the IPCC need to change?

The IPCC has done a very good job so far, but certainly there is room for improvement. The review procedures could be organized better, for example. Until now, anyone has been allowed to review any part of the IPCC drafts they liked, but there was no coordination in the sense that say, a glacier expert was specifically assigned to double-check parts of the WG2 chapter on Asia. Such a practice would likely have caught the Himalayan glacier mistake. Another problem has been that reports of all three working groups had to be completed nearly at the same time, making it hard for WG2 to properly base their discussions on the conclusions and projections from WG1. This has already been improved on for the AR5, for which the WG2 report can be completed six months after the WG1 report.

Also, these errors revealed that the IPCC had no mechanism to publish errata. Since a few errors will inevitably turn up in a 2800-page report, obviously an avenue is needed to publish errata as soon as errors are identified.

Is climate science sound?

In some media reports the impression has been given that even the fundamental results of climate change science are now in question, such as whether humans are in fact changing the climate, causing glacier melt, sea level rise and so on. The IPCC does not carry out primary research, and hence any mistakes in the IPCC reports do not imply that any climate research itself is wrong. A reference to a poor report or an editorial lapse by IPCC authors obviously does not undermine climate science. Doubting basic results of climate science based on the recent claims against the IPCC is particularly ironic since none of the real or supposed errors being discussed are even in the Working Group 1 report, where the climate science basis is laid out.

To be fair to our colleagues from WG2 and WG3, climate scientists do have a much simpler task. The system we study is ruled by the well-known laws of physics, there is plenty of hard data and peer-reviewed studies, and the science is relatively mature. The greenhouse effect was discovered in 1824 by Fourier, the heat trapping properties of CO2 and other gases were first measured by Tyndall in 1859, the climate sensitivity to CO2 was first computed in 1896 by Arrhenius, and by the 1950s the scientific foundations were pretty much understood.

Do the above issues suggest “politicized science”, deliberate deceptions or a tendency towards alarmism on the part of IPCC? We do not think there is any factual basis for such allegations. To the contrary, large groups of (inherently cautious) scientists attempting to reach a consensus in a societally important collaborative document is a prescription for reaching generally “conservative” conclusions. And indeed, before the recent media flash broke out, the real discussion amongst experts was about the AR4 having underestimated, not exaggerated, certain aspects of climate change. These include such important topics as sea level rise and sea ice decline (see the sea ice and sea level chapters of the Copenhagen Diagnosis), where the data show that things are changing faster than the IPCC expected.

Overall then, the IPCC assessment reports reflect the state of scientific knowledge very well. There have been a few isolated errors, and these have been acknowledged and corrected. What is seriously amiss is something else: the public perception of the IPCC, and of climate science in general, has been massively distorted by the recent media storm. All of these various “gates” – Climategate, Amazongate, Seagate, Africagate, etc., do not represent scandals of the IPCC or of climate science. Rather, they are the embarrassing battle-cries of a media scandal, in which a few journalists have misled the public with grossly overblown or entirely fabricated pseudogates, and many others have naively and willingly followed along without seeing through the scam. It is not up to us as climate scientists to clear up this mess – it is up to the media world itself to put this right again, e.g. by publishing proper analysis pieces like the one of Tim Holmes and by issuing formal corrections of their mistaken reporting. We will follow with great interest whether the media world has the professional and moral integrity to correct its own errors.

PS. A new book by Realclimate-authors David Archer and Stefan Rahmstorf critically discussing the main findings of the AR4 (all three volumes) is just out: The Climate Crisis. None of the real or alleged errors are in this book, since none of those contentious statements plucked from the thousands of pages appeared to be “main findings” that needed to be discussed in a 250-page summary.

PPS. Same thing for Mike’s book Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming, which bills itself as “The illustrated guide to the findings of the IPCC”. Or Gavin’s “Climate Change: Picturing the Science” – which does include a few pictures of disappearing glaciers though!

Update 24 March: Simon Lewis has made an official complaint to the Press Complaints Commission about Leake’s Amazon story.

Update 29 March: IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri has published an interesting article in the Guardian.

601 Responses to “IPCC errors: facts and spin”

  1. 451
    ferocious says:

    Ray Ladbury says:
    15 February 2010 at 1:20 PM

    Ferocious says “Before you even look at the data you decide on how important the conclusion is going to be. The more important, the more strict the statistics. 95% confidence interval has been traditionally used because it is wide enough to be attained in many instances, but robust enough that unfounded conclusions aren’t very likely be made.”

    Now, hold on just a wee minute here! Are you seriously contending that the standards for scientific truth be contingent upon the desirability of the conclusions? Because if you are saying anything even remotely like that, I believe you are proposing a rather significant change to the scientific method.

    CO2 sensitivity below 2 degrees per doubling is precluded at the 95% confidence level. The fact that every year this decade except 2008 has been among the 10 warmest and that 17 of the top 20 hotest years on record have been in the past 20 years (the others were all in the ’80s) precludes random chance at better than 95% confidence even with red or pink noise! The fact that the stratosphere has been cooling as the troposphere warms is absolutely diagnostic of a greenhouse mechanism. Want me to go on?

    I’m more than willing to talk evidence, ferocious. It’s much more interesting than typos and email gossip.”

    You have it exactly right Ray. When the results are very important and will be used to affect trillions of dollars globally in spending they have to be held to a higher standard. At the local parlor, it makes little difference if the house take is 51% or 56%. I always lose in the long run but I never lose enough to get into to trouble, so the odds make little difference.

    The 95% CI level is used exactly the way I said above. It is wide enough that it pretty reliably captures real effects and robust enough that you are fairly unlikely to draw wrong conclusions. Over the long haul, for scientific work, it is a reasonable compromise. If you get a result that most other labs can’t confirm you go back and try again, and may say “nope, that first experiment was wrong”.

    If the likelihood that a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere will result in a 2 deg. C increase in global temperature is less than 95% that just isn’t good enough to put a few trillion dollars on. When you are using other people’s money you have to have really good odds. If you can predict with 99.9% confidence that over the next 30 years that the temperature is going to continue increasing and not turn down, as it has in the past, that may be good enough for trillions of dollars. Not withstanding the fact that even the IPCC thinks nothing less than a complete stoppage of man-made CO2 emissions has even a chance of turning the temperature curve down!

    The fact that every year in this decade except 2008 has been among the 10 warmest on record means nothing. As the climate scientists are wont to say, “that is weather, not climate”. You can’t have it both ways, so don’t spout weather data to support climate predictions like the IPCC does.

  2. 452
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Are you for real? You made a mistake”

    Except why was the mistake made? Misled.

    Or maybe you can give another explanation of why jonesy said nothing more than “they made a mistake on table 10.9”?

    If I’d seen it, I’d still have asked “what mistake?”.

    Why? Because he didn’t say.

    He was strangely proficient later on, though, wasn’t he…

  3. 453
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Seriously, the bias in the censorship here is working against your own goal. I believe in climate change and wants political action.
    Some believers here act like idiots. They make YOU look bad. US!
    Moreover, the tone from Gavin and some other that run the site are rather arrogant and does not build credibility.

    This blog is good to some extent – but your aggressive narrowminded attitude just reinforce the public view that climate scientists are biased and narrow-minded…

  4. 454
    David B. Benson says:

    robert (441) — Glacier retreat in the Alps is essentially nil or offset by advnaces until after 1850 CE. By 1980 CE retreat there highly pronounced. Also, GIS has only started significant melting rather recently.

  5. 455
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    @450 Ray Ladbury,
    Your choice to distort, and with intentional distortion, serious discussion breaks down … bye!

  6. 456
    Completely Fed Up says:

    ferocious whines “Now, hold on just a wee minute here! Are you seriously contending that the standards for scientific truth be contingent upon the desirability of the conclusions?”

    No, you seem to be saying it though.

    All Ray is saying is that if the thing you’re looking at is IMPORTANT then you should take extra care.

    Or are you saying that if it’s unimportant, you don’t have to care whether you’re accurate?

    “When the results are very important and will be used to affect trillions of dollars globally in spending”

    Uh, how much is that compared to GDP?

    According to the Stern Report it would mean it would be a 3-7 year delay in growth.

    At worst.

    Trillions were spent in the Iraq War 2. But the perpetrators of this remain at large “because we’re here now and though this isn’t the reason we went there in the first place, hey, it’s a good thing Saddam’s dead, eh?”.

    Ditto bank bailouts.

    No congressional hearings about that, are there.

    And trillions is over what period?

    You miss so much out.

    “The 95% CI level is used exactly the way I said above. It is wide enough that it pretty reliably captures real effects and robust enough that you are fairly unlikely to draw wrong conclusions”

    Well the lower limit of that 95% CL still has 2C per doubling and this would mean that we cannot afford BAU and have very little time left. And that time left STILL requires spending “trillions of dollars globally” to avoid catastrophic change.

    So in what way does your off-again/on-again relationship with the 95% confidence limit change the need to mitigate AGW? You can only avoid mitigation needs if you accept the long-odds of a 2.5% CL.

    “The fact that every year in this decade except 2008 has been among the 10 warmest on record means nothing.”

    Really? So for you there’s nothing that could prove global warming is true, because the record means nothing to you.

    Are you a re-release of Axle?

  7. 457
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Puhlease Fed Up go back and learn a bit about how to use statistics.”

    Puhlease, read up on books. They help.

    Then once you have english down as a fluent language, reread YOUR post.

    You said that it is highly likely that accepting a “likely” event happens would be wrong.

    Well here’s a truth table (a VERY basic form of statistics):

    Event happens (likely: 60%)
    Accept it: Good (60%)
    Reject it: Bad (60%)

    Event Doesn’t happen (unlikely: 40%)
    Accept it: Bad(40%)
    Reject it: Good(40%)

    Now given that, is “Event happens: Accept it” likely (60%) or unlikely (40%)


    I shall help yo out here: it is not unlikely.

    Now, given that, what are the chances that Rejecting the event is a good result?

    Is it likely to be a good thing to do (60%) or unlikely to be a good thing (40%)


    I shall help you again: unlike your original proposition, it is not likely a good thing.

  8. 458
    Tim Jones says:

    Re:424 noel says: 17 February 2010 at 12:10 AM
    “Bending over backwards…lol..’

    Yeah buddy, bending over backwards, and for the
    likes of even you for crying out loud.

    The fact that accomplished climate scientists have
    provided you a forum where you could learn and
    discuss a science, a forum monitored well beyond
    normal working hours, where even your unwarranted
    aspersions and useless drivel are allowed as civil
    discourse should be viewed as meaning people are
    bending over backwards to enlighten you.

    To have to live with the language hate mongers
    vomit forth through newsrooms all too full of sick
    vultures certainly even means they sacrifice their
    personal life.

    This is not to mention even keeping a job where
    despicable people are howling for their heads on a
    plates goes well beyond the job description.

    Why are you here? Have you put up a single
    verifiable fact to add to the sum of what we need
    to know? Or are you just seeking attention by
    throwing thorns on the floor?

  9. 459
    Wayne Heywood says:

    Who are you going to believe? The unpaid volunteers who have no reason to lie or the fossil fuel funded “skeptics” that have every reason to lie. The aim for them is to delay action. The longer it takes the more profit there is to be made.

  10. 460
    DGH says:

    The graph in the supplementary material became less debatable last night with an update by RMS of their statement confirming Muir-Wood’s quote.

    “A graph showing averaged global temperature and averaged catastrophe loss since 1970 was included in supplementary material rather than the IPCC report itself and was not itself published. RMS believes that the graph could be misinterpreted and should not have been included in these materials.”

  11. 461
    AxelD says:

    CFU @445 just can’t resist it – he cherrypicks the data to try to score a feeble point. What I actually said was “The evidence, whatever it says, is meaningless, because what counts is the message communicated to the general public by the media.” Which, for the hard of thinking, simply means that the evidence is subjugated to the media message. And that’s exactly what’s happening.

    If that’s the best you can do, CFU, then you really should find another forum in which to express yourself, as I suggested before. Your behaviour makes you part of the problem (the public’s perception of climate science) and, as such, you should have no place here.

  12. 462
    noel says:

    Re 458
    Oh please, so I should be expressing gratitude because they work overtime? I wouldn’t express any gratitude if they sold their first born. It’s their problem if they make a forum where they spin all sorts of stories. Like attempting to find excuses for the “glaciergate” scandal. There’s no conceivable way of finding excuses. Here is what Pachauri said on the issue, when the Indian government claimed their reports are wrong:
    “We have a very clear idea of what is happening. I don’t know why the minister is supporting this unsubstantiated research. It is an extremely arrogant statement.”
    Only to be a few months later utterly refuted.

    [Response: You are conflating two separate, but related issues. Pachauri’s statement concerned a badly written report on the Himalayas in general that he (correctly) criticised. This report did not mention the 2035 issue at all. This report has not been supported and Pachauri’s comment on it, has not been refuted, utterly or otherwise. Read the Kargel et al backgrounder for more information. – gavin]

    It’s not like some small error somehow got in. They knew about it, they were warned about it, and yet they called the “deniers” arrogant. This perfectly summarizes how the IPCC works.

    I don’t need anyone bending over backwards, fabricating an apocalypse, claiming to be my savior, and then asking me money for it. Wait, not ask, force me to pay for their stories.

  13. 463
    Completely Fed Up says:

    And why bold out the bit that shows you DID say “ignore the evidence”?

    “The evidence, whatever it says, is meaningless,”

    It doesn’t matter what the evidence says. Ignore it.

    Or are you going to call this evidence meaningless too?

  14. 464
    Completely Fed Up says:

    PS ironic again that someone who has no problem with cherry picked and even completely made up words attributed to others complains about part of his message being taken.

    Even worse for axle (the squeaky wheel who gets the kick), this was to indicate where someone would get the idea that he’s said “Ignore the evidence!” which he professed NEVER to have said.

    There aren’t many ways of interpreting “The evidence, whatever it says, is meaningless” other than “Ignore the data” unless you wish merely to copy verbatim, which takes more words.

  15. 465
    AxelD says:

    Ray L @449, thank you for your considered response. I can’t come up with a complete answer to the points that you raise because there are a lot of aspects of the organization and politics of the IPCC that I don’t begin to understand. I do understand, of course, that the IPCC is really only a collator of information. But it does publish its forecasts based on a range of climate models, and that may be a good place to start. Bring in programming teams that can inspect the code (a technique that’s been around for years in the commercial world, even if it is expensive in time and effort.) Review the models. Review the data (yes, I know what you’re going to say) but get sceptical statisticians in to retrieve all the raw data and validate that it genuinely does deliver the adjusted data that’s used today. And re-review the confidence limits on the forecasts/predictions/scenarios with a complete re-evaluation of the areas of uncertainty and their impact on the models.

    That’s a start. You’ll want to argue about my suggestions, but something along those lines, with the right people and brief, would do a lot to change public perceptions. It need not take a huge amount of time, but a smaller independent group that independently validated (or even, maybe, adjusted) the tools, data and scenarios that are used today would make a huge difference to public confidence. And then get an efficient PR team in to make sure the message is promoted in the right way.

    You’re sceptical that the most vehement “denialist” groups would accept even that. Right – so get the groups to nominate their own participants, given that they can meet the required (high) qualifications in whatever disciplines are defined: atmospheric physics, statistics, computer programming, etc. If the denialists have their own people on board there is less chance of them being able to disregard the conclusions.

    I know that I haven’t responded completely to what you have to say. But I get the impression that you’re defending the status quo, when what’s required is bold and imaginative action. I’m repeating myself, a bad habit, but repairing a brand really is painful and difficult. Perhaps a new and imaginative chairman might be able to re-invent the IPCC. Or maybe the UN (and I’m way out of my depth here) could reconstitute another panel with a much tighter brief.

    But I’m neither a climate scientist nor a politician (thank goodness.) You must know people who’re far better qualified to help get the public face of climate science back on track.

  16. 466
    Tim Jones says:

    Re: 436AxelD says: 17 February 2010 at 6:02 AM
    “Your understanding of the evidence is irrelevant if the decision-makers and the public understand believe something else. This is what’s called realpolitik. It’s a hard fact for you and your cronies at RC to accept, but it’s crucial to you making progress.”

    Language heavily laden with the continual aspersions, insults and name calling is hard to overcome without it coming back.
    You put people on the defensive from the git go. You reap the results. I guess so you can whine about that too.

    Presumably you mean realpolitik to mean: “politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic premises.”

    So the operating word would be practical? Gee, that helps a lot!

    I would suggest that the denialists are using realpolitik “…pejoratively to [be] politics that are coercive, amoral, or Machiavellian. Realpolitik is a theory of politics that focuses on considerations of power, not ideals, morals, or principles.”

    Do you mean this too?

    For all the loss to climate action that the denialist’s are inflicting I don’t think we should stoop to this level. It would most likely blow back with even worse results than we have.

    As has been pointed out, climate science is building a body of knowledge to act upon. The IPCC is collecting together the knowledge. The deniers are trying to destroy it. It’s always much easier to do the latter. That’s were we are. I doubt a knee jerk reaction before the dust even settles is warranted.

    You spoke of other ways to communicate and brought up the corporate model. Here is an article regarding corporate public relations:

    Tell Cable News: No More PR Pundits
    Channels disguise corporate propaganda as ‘analysis’

    Is the way we should be exposing “the brand” to people? You give many words to what science communication is doing wrong. How do we communicate convincing and compelling ways to act correctly, so as to avoid or undo a concerted campaign of disinformation and misinformation designed to promote heavy industry’s corporate interests?

    AxelD: “So, my constructive suggestions? I’ve told you before, many times, but you won’t listen. You have to rebuild your brand.”
    “It is essential that the IPCC is seen to be either replaced or radically reorganized.’

    That’s it? That’s all there is to it? AxelD, For thirteen years I was an appointed official on an advisory board for a medium large city. I’ll tell you now you don’t give up enough to work with. And the way you preface your remarks…
    people would just turn a deaf ear, exactly as you perceive they do.

    For all your words telling us what we don’t know and don’t do I see precious little from you of what to do besides nebulous statements inferring people need to get their acts together and fire everyone who failed to measure up.

    If I’m wrong make a list. Nobody’s going to do a long search through a thousand emails to find a point you’ve made.

    Yes, and I know who I am.

  17. 467
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andreas, What did I distort. I asked for an instance where science did not self correct. You started talking about natural philosophy in medieval times! Do you really not understand that they are two very different enterprises? Bacon’s innovations changed and systematized the entire enterprise. And of course the introduction of consensus didn’t arrive for at least another hundred years–that was crucial to prevent situations like the adoption of Newton’s corpuscular theory of light in England, while the rest of Europe left them behind with Huygen’s superior wave theory. This is a classical case of a departure from what is current scientific mothodology. The adoption of Lysenkoism in Russia is another. Another: the rules against study of rare-earth chemistry in 1920s and 30s Soviet Russia–which nearly led to Russia being annihilated before it came up with its own nukes.

    Andreas, I am not telling you this to intimidate or put you down. You need to look much more deeply into the history of science. You need to talk to scientists and find out why they do things the way they do. You have a model, but it doesn’t fit the data.

  18. 468
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Tim Jones,
    AdelD is making very sound statements, well known within the social sciences. It is indeed very hard for science to impact on policy and public opinions when they have interests or other bias which they usually have.

    [Response: Sorry, but it’s because of these grand generalizations about the motives of scientists that you can’t be taken very seriously. Have you worked with scientists or done science yourself? Just how is it that you’re so sure of these statements you make. You seem to have bought into some impression of scientists that’s been fed to you in the social science arena.–Jim]

    About the name-calling, yes that is not so good. Yet, his statement that most people (climate experts) are idiots in this area are true.

    [Response: You want that one back?–Jim]

    The people to run this site think it is very sound to call people idiots in there area of expertise when someone disagree with them. I think the blog owners needs to start at home. 1) get a better attitude. 2) be less arrogant 3) subsume the debate to some rules 4) block all that mere try to sabotage debate, e.g. the fed up guy and a few others.

  19. 469
    Tim Jones says:

    Re: 461 AxelD says: 17 February 2010 at 6:17 PM
    “The evidence, whatever it says, is meaningless, because what counts is the message communicated to the general public by the media.”

    And this is fickle as the wind. The IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created by governments to
    they could have information to base policy on. I seriously doubt if they feel constrained to let the media filter the message
    before they use it.

    In this way you are quite mistaken. The evidence, per se, is meaningful.

    But you are right insofar as the public’s perception can be swayed by misinformation campaigns. And certain state governments are using the media message to substantiate a legal campaign to undo the work of the US EPA. Even the congress is being held back from action by the right wing using manufactured evidence of wrongdoing.

    I seriously doubt if there was or is any way to present information to keep this from happening. Long before the IPCC/email imbroglio appeared the campaign was well underway. It shouldn’t be surprising that many recent developments are a result of mischief generated by actors within that campaign.

    If we do as you suggest it’s tacit admission that a nasty campaign works and they were right all along. On anything significant they were not. Acting on your suggestions is premature and will likely be found unwarranted, no beneficial results accruing at all.

    As for FCU, as usual your advice is to kill the messenger instead of reflecting on the message.

  20. 470
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ferocious@451–what you are talking about is no longer science. In fact what you are doing is conflating science and risk management. Think about this. You are saying we need different standards for scientific truth when we like the implications and when we don’t. That is a recipe for self-delusion.

    Rather, once the science reaches a 95% CL (confidence, not probability), it’s highly improbable that it is wrong. At that point, you accept it and use it to do risk mitigation. Now the first step in risk mitigation is ensuring you have a credible threat. It is here that you have to show that the risk (=probability times potential loss due to the threat) is greater than the cost of mitigating the threat. This means that first you need to find some sort of upper bound to the potential loss. There’s nothing controversial about this.

    And looking at record warms–again, if you look at enough years, it’s climate. According to Hadcrut–27 of the 30 warmest years have been in the previous 30. By GISTEMP, it’s only 2 of the most recent 30 that miss out on the top 30. Sorry, dude, but by any measure, it’s a very warm world!

  21. 471
    Tim Jones says:

    Re: 462 noel says: 17 February 2010 at 6:19 PM

    “Re 458 I wouldn’t express any gratitude if they sold their first born.”

    I’m sure none of us would.

    You’re obviously expressing pain for being deceived by
    someone. It would be interesting to see the energy you
    put into your feelings based on facts instead of illusions.

    Why do you say climate scientists are fabricating an
    apocalypse? Can you point to the error or deceit from
    which this kind of future might arise?

  22. 472
    Ray Ladbury says:

    AxelD, I really don’t think you understand the motivations of the hardcore denialists. They will not accept a conclusion that humans are warming the planet under any circumstances. The prior probability assigned to that event is zero–no posterior probability distribution can ever show a finite probability there! I am sure they would make a big show during a come-to-jeebus moment, and at a critical moment, they will denounce the entire process as partisan and resign “in protest”. Their goal is not understanding, but delay. That is documented.

    You suggest “independent panels”. Who is more independent than the NAS? And who knows more about the climate than the climate scientist? Who is more motivated to understand.

    You talk about standards as if science has none. Science actually has rigorous quality control–it’s called independent analysis, with the key word being “independent”. It’s called validation. AND IT WORKS!! No other human enterprise is as good at delivering reliable knowledge as science. And yet you are saying it is science that must change. I’m sorry. I don’t agree. I’ve seen ISO9001 and SixSigma. They’re crap.

    You claim that it is necessary for science to change in order for people to accept it. Did it occur to you that there is a reason why science works the way it does, and that launching a social engineering project on the scientific community just as humanity confronts the greatest threat it has faced might not be a great idea?

  23. 473
    John E. Pearson says:

    468: Andreas Bjurström says: I think the blog owners needs … block all that mere try to sabotage debate, e.g. the fed up guy and a few others.

    The fed up guy has annoyed me on more than one occasion but unlike the vast majority of denialists, the vast majority of the time he doesn’t babble nonsense. The occasional sharp word is called for when the same person asks the same question over and over and over and over and over and over and over and …

  24. 474
    flxible says:

    “I don’t need anyone bending over backwards, fabricating an apocalypse, claiming to be my savior, and then asking me money for it. Wait, not ask, force me to pay for their stories.”

    Actually Noel, you should talk to your politicians and their financial muscle about those problems of yours, science and scientists are certainly not invloved. Think about it.

  25. 475
    flxible says:

    If the blog owners were to “block all that merely try to sabotage debate” there might fewer social science students and PR hacks and more actual debate. This blog isn’t about how to do better PR or examine what motivates the deniers, but about the objective world “out there” – the science of climate. If Axel and Andreas want to see the science better understood and disseminated, they should get on with it instead of blaming the scientists for doing science.

  26. 476
    Tim Jones says:

    Re: 468 Andreas Bjurström says: 17 February 2010 at 7:31 PM

    “AdelD is making very sound statements, well known within the social sciences. It is indeed very hard for science to impact on policy and public opinions when they have interests or other bias which they usually have.”

    I’m glad AxelD has a friend out there. It must be lonely at times. He invites a lot of derision by his demeaning of the scientists hereabouts. And he gets it.

    As for sound statements, I disagree. I see his point, but I’m not interested that the press or some sort of PR originate policy. This is absolutely NOT how government should be influenced to act. As a matter of fact corporate lobbyist PR is one of our more egregious problems and much of what’s wrong with government.

    As for reinventing the IPCC. Any action or plan of action would be premature until the chips have fallen. It’s being explained ad nauseum that climate science has been building as solid a case as humanly possible for fifteen or twenty years. But it’s easy to destroy what’s been built. It doesn’t mean it was built wrong. It means that ruthless people are out to have their way and they won’t let anything stand in their way.

    Fortunately the science is intellectual property, not real property, nothing that can’t withstand mendacious propaganda. The continuing accumulation of empirical evidence as well as refinements in models will prove the physics is correct. Sooner of later there will be action to contain the effects of greenhouse gases. If it’s after the tipping points the people with blood on their hands will be answering some nasty questions.

    I would be careful of the word “they.” To be careless with scientists’ reputations and careers could win you powerful enemies.
    If you’re hitting Dr. Pachauri I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. But I’m unstudied in that particular aspect.

    Are climate scientists dealing in patents and corporate profits with their work? Who? How? These are dangerous waters for a PhD candidate such as yourself to be wading into. I’d be very careful to have my ducks lined up perfectly before I ventured forth with suggestions of impropriety. Otherwise it’s unfair and demeans your stature in the community.

    AB: “About the name-calling, yes that is not so good. Yet, his statement that most people (climate experts) are idiots in this area are true.”

    Tim: It’s stupid, defamatory and undeserved on the face of it. The fact that he can say such in a worldwide public forum speaks to how open and accepting of ideas these scientists are and have been for years. Good PR for the science I’d say.

    AB: “The people to run this site think it is very sound to call people idiots in there area of expertise when someone disagree with them. I think the blog owners needs to start at home. 1) get a better attitude. 2) be less arrogant 3) subsume the debate to some rules 4) block all that mere try to sabotage debate, e.g. the fed up guy and a few others.”

    Tim: I like it as free wheeling as it is. I think Gavin and other moderators demonstrate remarkable restraint as well as incredible tolerance. Completely seems to be under a bit of stress lately. Normally he’s quite perceptive and horribly on target. Let me just say, if you don’t want it, don’t dish it out around that guy. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

    Can you see how it is to be where people line up to take pot shots at your people on a daily basis? Yes, CFU’s completely fed up.
    So am I, I just haven’t been around as long.

  27. 477
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    468 Jim,
    You are right that I generalize too much. That´s a weakness, I know.
    Still, your response is also general and not related to the statement. Response:
    I have not stated many things regarding motives (that is a specific answer).
    My background is from the natural sciences, but I do social science research.
    I have some natural science collegues (e.g. one of my professors)
    but mostly are natural scientists (and politicians) my objects of study.
    [Response: You want that one back?–Jim]
    No ;-) But that was an illustration of double standards. I had especially this statement in mind (a nasty way of talking if you ask me. At the same time I understand the frustration of Gavin, talking to sceptics all the time and also believers with limited knowledge, but still, nasty talking and arrogance is not doing any good for your cause):
    “As a former advocate of global warming I must say that your reference to anyone who does not believe as you do as a “crank” offensive to say the least.” [Response: Well, if I’d said that, you might have a point. But you have a serious logic fail if you think that the following statements make logical sense “Cranks exist. Cranks disagrees with me. Therefore everyone who disagrees with me is Crank”. If you want to discuss something I actually said, please try again. If you want to tilt at strawmen, do so somewhere else. – gavin]

  28. 478
    Tim Jones says:

    Here’s where much of the progress we’ve made on getting anything done will actually play out. Someone please tell me this doesn’t look grim.

    Oil-Funded Gov Joins with Oil-Funded Front Group to Appeal Greenhouse Gas Regs
    Submitted by Lisa Graves on February 17, 2010 – 1:07pm.

    “Although it seems a bit like a dog-bites-man story, the New York Times reported that Texas Governor and 2012 presidential aspirant Rick Perry (R-TX) has joined with the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to regulate carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. As the Center for Media and Democracy has documented on our SourceWatch site, CEI has been well-funded by Exxon and other oil companies, and is one of the main U.S. corporate front groups fighting efforts to address global warming and regulate the industry that feeds it funding. But, the courts are now stacked in Perry’s favor, as noted below.”

    Just this week, the Texas Oil and Gas Association endorsed Perry in his re-election bid, based on his opposition to carbon trading and regulation of the oil and gas industry. While this move is not surprising, it is very worrisome because the Bush Administration was so successful at packing the courts. The Perry-CEI petition for review has been filed with the D.C. Circuit, an eleven-judge court on which Bush was able to install four judges, in addition to the many right-leaning judges put on the court by his father and President Reagan. Six of the current appointees were chosen by Republican presidents; three were chosen by Democratic presidents, and Chief Justice John Roberts served on the D.C. Circuit before being tapped by Bush for the Supreme Court. So this move reflects hope on the part of those who want to throw a wrench in efforts to address global warming that they can win in the appellate court and prevail before the Supreme Court, which has strongly signaled its sympathy for the corporate “rights” agenda in the discredited Citizens United decision last month. (For more information, on that case please check out our Corporate Rights clearinghouse.)

    So, while the New York Times story does have a dog-bites-man feel to it, it forebodes a much bigger story in the making, given the direction of the five men in the majority in Citizens United and the right-wing domination of the federal appellate court. Chief Justice Roberts, by the way, has expressed great concern about how little old Exxon was being treated for its environmental damages, as noted in this article about the Exxon Valdez case. And, then he voted in favor of cutting the damages award against Exxon in half, as noted in this story about the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision in that case. So, who will the dog bite next?

  29. 479
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    475 flxible,
    the objective world “out there” = mere the physics? No humans? No society out there?
    To understand communication will not help climate scientists to communicate better?
    Pedagogy is of no use for a teacher?
    How do you define and delimit the climate problem? Humans are not part of it at all?

    476 Tim Jones,
    It´s not about making friends. I just observed that the statement has strong support in the scientific literature on policy reseach, political science and science studies. Your moral statement is besides my point, my statement was mere factual. Whether you want to understand what is happening (e.g. why politicization of science takes place) and whether you want to use that for your advantage or not is up to you. Why is it defamatory to state that most climate scientists have no knowledge on social theory? Several climate scientists here state that all the time, that people that comment lack knowledge on their specialty. Is this defamatory? No, it is not. It is a valid statement. It even seems that many climate scientists here take proud in being ignorant on the social.

  30. 480
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Ray Ladbury,
    Well, I gave you valid reasons for using a historical case and you mocked me. Only in retrospect can we see clearly when things went the wrong track. Not even then actually: cause when something change, you will interpret that as progress and self-correction, but how could I illustrate that we went wrong and did not self-correct yesterday? It is rather impossible cause that imply that I know the truth but noone else.

    The Copernican Revolution is probably the far most used case to discuss paradigms, progress, etc. in science. Have you read Thomas Kuhn? He is using it as well. To me, it sounds that you mere state pre-Kuhn ideology: “before Kuhn, there was little by way of a carefully considered, theoretically explained account of scientific change. Instead, there was a conception of how science ought to develop that was a by-product of the prevailing philosophy of science, as well as a popular, heroic view of scientific progress. According to such opinions, science develops by the addition of new truths to the stock of old truths, or the increasing approximation of theories to the truth, and in the odd case, the correction of past errors. Such progress might accelerate in the hands of a particularly great scientist, but progress itself is guaranteed by the scientific method.”
    I did not claim basic Malthus theory wrong. Heck, I did quantitative population models when I studied evolution and theoretical ecology. My claim was quite explicitly on neo-malthusianism in the 1960s (not same as Malthus) and framing and values. Moreover, Malthus was wrong on population increase on other important aspects, just as Garrett Hardin was proven wrong by last year Nobel price winner Elinor Ostrom, exactly because his premises did not correspond very less to empirical reality.
    You expect me to prove something very complex in a blog post. You have nothing to back up your claims with. But I don’t expect you to present data to prove your point. Give me a couple of those billions of US dollars you climate modellers have, and I will give you the data and present the result at same time as 5AR ;-P
    It does not hurt to be open for other possible truth than the old progress all the time … And take this issue into the IPCC and ask whether there is institutional and other mechanisms that run contrary to self-correction …. I think for instance that a better cross chapter and cross wg interaction in developing the assessment and in review would improve the results.

  31. 481
    Completely Fed Up says:

    DGH: “RMS believes that the graph could be misinterpreted and should not have been included in these materials.”

    Something just occurred to me here.

    Isn’t this exactly the sort of statement that gets accusations of conspiracy to silence others that Dr Jones et al received.

    Whatever the merits of this statement from RMS (which isn’t actually a statement, but a restatement, else there would have been quotes), I do not remember anyone complaining about conspiracy and attempts to silence.

  32. 482
    AxelD says:

    Tim Jones @466: Yes, by realpolitik, I meant “politics based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations.” I’m sure your experience as a city official must have taught you that’s how politics works: as Bismarck said, “politics is the art of the possible.” Which is a rather more elegant way of saying you have to be realistic, rather than idealistic, much as you may be loath to compromise your high ideals. Every day, political leaders like Merkel, Brown and Obama have to tread an exceedingly fine line between what’s possible and what they’d like to achieve, with regard to public opinion, money and so on. And all the time with an eye on the next election or by-election. That’s the context in which climate science has to pitch its message. And that context has got a lot tougher.

    You accuse me of “putting people on the defensive from the git go” but that’s because you don’t like the basic truths in what I’m saying. Cognitive dissonance is tough. I knew that it would be difficult (though some of the contributors here reluctantly acknowledge there may be something in what I say) because climate science has to change its public posture, and change is always difficult.

    To accuse me of “language heavily laden with the continual aspersions, insults and name calling” is really a bit rich on this forum! You suddenly seem to have developed an amazingly thin skin. I think you should try to empathize with those who dare to put forward alternative views to the RC Gospel – think about the abuse that your most voluble contributors heap on them, and compare that with the very moderate language that I use. Perhaps the moderators (who I agree are much more tolerant of sceptical voices than they were) should perhaps be rather less tolerant of the worst excesses from their own side?

    As for your excuse on CFU’s behalf that “he doesn’t suffer fools gladly”, well, nor do I. That’s why I strongly suggest that he takes his talents elsewhere, for the good of RC. People like him are now part of climate science’s problem but, if you’re right about stress, he’s too “stressed” to see it.

  33. 483
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andreas, The problem with so many sociological studies of scientists (and of people in general) is that they do not consider motivations, or rather they assume common motivations to all subjects.

    Yes, motivations are complicated and messy to assess. Unfortunately, they matter a great deal. My PhD thesis was in particle physics. I remember a study published when I was a grad student that purported to be an anthropological study of particle physics. The story it told was utterly unrecognizable to me. Gone were the all-night data runs where you were too excited to sleep anyway because you were so tantalizingly close to “THE ANSWER”. It was all about power and politics. The woman who published the study had a feminist agenda, but really, it was her methodology that led her astray. Because she was afraid of the subjective motivations of the individual scientists, she never made it to the big tent and spent the whole time observing the sideshows.

    Yes, I freely admit that scientists all have an agenda and a vested interest in their field. However, that interest is not in the status quo. The most exciting period in physics was from about 1900 to 1930, when the entire field was in turmoil due to discoveries in the micro-realm. Nothing was set. Everything was up for grabs–including conservation of energy and momentum (by Bohr and Heisenberg, no less!). At the LHC, at least half the experimenters and a good portion of the theorists are hoping they don’t find the Higgs!

    You cannot analyze social interactions among scientists unless you take into account their motivations. Scientists are different from most people. Yes, they are ambitious and political and want to advance. However, the motivation to understand their subject matter subsumes all other motivations or they won’t be particularly good scientists.

    Do you know the story about Hans Bethe’s discovery of stellar nucleosynthesis as their power source? The evening of the day he’d worked it out, he was walking with his fiance. It was a cold, moonless Winter night, and the stars were shining brightly. Looking up at the heavens, Bethe’s fiance said, “Aren’t the stars shining beautifully tonight?”

    “Yes,” Bethe responded, “and I’m the only one who knows how they shine.”

    That is the moment scientists look for all their lives and devote all their energy toward.

  34. 484
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Ray: “Looking up at the heavens, Bethe’s fiance said, “Aren’t the stars shining beautifully tonight?”

    “Yes,” Bethe responded, “and I’m the only one who knows how they shine.””

    And that is one reason why most scientists aren’t religious or become more devoutly religious but less awed by a mere book.

    Sometimes when you see how things fit together, the feeling is almost religious extasy. There comes a point then that you either decide this is PROOF there is something more: it fits so well and is just plain awesome, but a knowledge that all this is missing from plain old stone-age stories, OR it makes you think there’s no need for anything behind this: it is amazing in itself.

    It’s also why I discard Roy Spencer. He sees some of this awesomeness but if it comes down between the ecstasy of knowing how the world works and the ecstasy of what a book tells him, he plumps for the book.

    Sad, really.

    And if he’s ready to do that on, say, evolution or geology, what other ideas could he hold that would make him ignore the science and evidence similarly?

  35. 485
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Axle: “That’s why I strongly suggest that he takes his talents elsewhere, for the good of RC. People like him are now part of climate science’s problem..”

    In other words “Stop destroying my case!”.

    You get fine well on with fools as evidenced with the prattle that you post. You get fine well on with fools as long as they are useful fools or support you.

    You don’t like people who do not respect you (that you have not earned such and, in fact, earned scorn, if anything) and try to paint them fools.

    People like me are a problem for people like you who wish to paint a middle ground toward the denialist camp. People like me are a problem for people like you who wish to state falsities and fake controversy because I illuminate your lunacies and you wish not to have that light.

  36. 486
  37. 487

    Ray @ 449:


    He’s making an argument similar to what I’ve made before, and he’s being branded a Heretic for what seems to be the same set of reasons. Now that I’ve seen it happen as an outsider, I’m even more in agreement with him (and more validating in my own arguments) in his particular set of arguments.

    My main gripe with the IPCC and various assessments is, and has been, that “BAU” is not attainable within economic reality. Simple stuff — BAU requires that we destroy the global economy on the way to extract all of the carbon needed to reach those targets. Feel free to disagree, but please do it on =economic= terms, because it’s an economic argument.

    I’ve also made the argument, numerous times, that “Global Warming” is the wrong name and that “Climate Change” is far more accurate. If “Climate Change” were the accepted term, this present winter experience would be more directly attributable to rising CO2. Years and years with no winter in Central Texas: that would be “Global Warming”. But we’re locked in a miserably bitter winter here, with average daily temperatures continuing to fall, and that’s doesn’t much seem like “Global Warming”. Climate Change? Yes.

    This seems to be the crux of AxelD’s argument: that there is this arrogance in how the data is presented that is interfering with the message. I don’t tell people “Do this to reduce CO2”, I tell people “Fossil fuel prices are rising, and will continue to rise. Renewable energy prices are falling, and will continue to fall.” People like my message and I don’t get tied up with CO2 and climate controversies. I just show them the falling prices of one, the rising prices of the other, and that’s that. Up and down squiggles and maybe flat temperatures since 1998 don’t stand up to falling prices for wind and solar.

    The “branding” of the message is broken. Not only is it broken, but whenever someone points out that it’s broken, instead of looking out and observing that the message is broken, the response is to attack whoever is saying the message is broken, making matters worse.

  38. 488
    Completely Fed Up says:

    FCH: “BAU requires that we destroy the global economy on the way to extract all of the carbon needed to reach those targets.”

    This is SOP for BAU.

    Dustbowl USA
    Indonesian Rainforest
    Corn farming
    Credit Default Swaps/Derivatives

    just to name a few big ones.

    On a smaller scale,

    DRM (see this story for how DRM makes a game unplayable

    and the entire antiP2P rhetoric that is killing music far more than any piracy.

    Or, indeed, the “Chopper Harris” CEO who turns up at a company, cuts 50% staff, runs off with stock options exercised on the uptick and kills the company left behind.

    Heck, Yahoo has INVESTORS demanding a chopper harris fire sale that will kill the company because they can cash in on a short term pump.

    SCO and Darl Mc Bride killing the company (though SCO were dying anyway: nothing differentiating them from any other Linux company). Made millions, killed the company.

    and so on…

  39. 489

    Few of us dispute the effects of global warming. What we are confused about is the cause. That confusion is compounded by carbon trading. Production of high carbon emission should not get rewarded through carbon trading. That clouds the issue, since huge vested interests can skew the debate.
    We need to focus on sustainable living and get more independent scientists involved in this debate, also looking at the now popular theory that the heat is due to nuclear testing and radiation fall out.
    Is it also possible that whether man made or not, human actions that reduce levels of carbon dioxide can reduce the temperature of the globe and thereby actively help the planet? If that is possibly the case we must continue with advocacy for change of behaviour.

  40. 490
    Grabski says:

    Jim it’s because of these grand generalizations about the motives of scientists that you can’t be taken very seriously.

    I’ve seen comments from The Team which questions the motives of ‘skeptics’. I’ve read them on this blog.

  41. 491
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I think a good definition of “scientist” is one who publishes in a particular field of science. By that definition, the denialists are not scientists.

  42. 492
    Michael says:

    Scientists are the enemy of propagandists and others who wish to preserve what they believe is their right to tell the public what and how to think (the media). These “scandals” are yet another clear illustration of their disproportionate influence in our society…and of their obvious detriment.

  43. 493
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ruth Rabinowitz says, “also looking at the now popular theory that the heat is due to nuclear testing and radiation fall out.”

    Uh, no. Do the math, Ruth. All the uranium on Earth fissioned simultaneous would yield about the same energy as 6000 years of sunshine. All of the uranium consumed in one year supplies as much energy as about 2.78 hours of all the sunlight incident on Earth.

  44. 494
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I’ve seen comments from The Team which questions the motives of ’skeptics’.”

    No, you’ve read then on the motives of denialists.

    But even those of the denialists are backed up by proofs.

    As, for example, the money that goes to the Heartland Institute is (or was) fact. Lobbying monies paid are facts. “our product is confusion” is fact.

    The motives aren’t questioned: the facts are propounded that inevitably leads to questions about their veracity when they state “I’m not paid by Big Oil”.

  45. 495
    JD says:

    Thanks for a sensible and informative article – reflective of the rest of this site so far as I have seen. One criticism though:

    “It is not up to us as climate scientists to clear up this mess … We will follow with great interest whether the media world has the professional and moral integrity to correct its own errors.”

    A passive response that calls to the integrity of the media can only lead to a worsened understanding among the public and so a weakened pressure on politicians …”Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place”. That’s running, rather than observing …more’s the pity!

  46. 496
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Andreas Bjurström says: It does not hurt to be open for other possible truth than the old progress all the time … And take this issue into the IPCC and ask whether there is institutional and other mechanisms that run contrary to self-correction.

    Institutional analysis as applied to scientific undertakings seems a worthwhile endeavor from which we can probably learn a lot, so I welcome Andreas’s inquiry.

    Re climate science and IPCC, I’ll suggest that any internal biases that run counter to self-correction are small in comparison to the immense scale of the anti-science efforts arrayed against the discipline. For example, any impulse on the part of Dr. Jones to “hide the decline” (an impulse which I regard as nonexistent) surely was overwhelmed by his reaction to the assault of vexatious FOI requests.

    Few scientific disciplines have received this kind of sustained, long-term assault from anti-science forces: evolutionary biology, cancer research, geology, cosmology. Any institutional analysis that seeks to understand internal biases in these fields must consider the state of continuous siege in which they operate.

  47. 497
    Tim Jones says:

    Re: 479 Andreas Bjurström says: 18 February 2010 at 1:27 AM
    Re: 482 AxelD says: 18 February 2010 at 5:48 AM

    You try to convince us of a better way of selling AGW.

    But I hope you can grasp that if you’re trying to sell an idea, disparaging the intelligence or integrity of the people you’re trying to sell it to is the best way in the world to make your effort fail and your idea as well as yourselves look ridiculous.

    I see Pachauri is resigning, on the CNN scrawl.

    [Response: No. Yvo de Boer – someone else entirely. – gavin]

  48. 498
    Tim Jones says:

    The CNN scrawl referred to UN Climate Chief. I was mistaken to think this meant IPCC “chief” Dr. Pachauri.
    The facts (I hope) are:
    Yvo de Boer, the Dutch bureaucrat who led the international climate change negotiations over four tumultuous years, is resigning his post as of July 1.

  49. 499

    AxelD @ 436: It is essential that the IPCC is seen to be either replaced or radically reorganized.

    BPL: Nope. Won’t work. Even if you did that, the denial crowd would immediately say the new organization/new version of IPCC was corrupt, and would manufacture evil deeds the said organization had done. You’re the naive one here, not Ray Ladbury.

  50. 500
    Tim Jones says:

    I was watching CNN report a small plane having just crashed into a building in north Austin, my town, as I replied to comments. The scrawl appeared, I jumped to a conclusion and didn’t check the facts in a rush to get posted.

    In a small way this incident illustrates how initial news reporting can misconstrue the facts and is often wrong. There are many things happening where a full report unfolding over time is required before people start demanding change.

    I’m glad Pachauri has NOT resigned. I hope he doesn’t.