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On attribution

Filed under: — gavin @ 26 May 2010

How do we know what caused climate to change – or even if anything did?

This is a central question with respect to recent temperature trends, but of course it is much more general and applies to a whole range of climate changes over all time scales. Judging from comments we receive here and discussions elsewhere on the web, there is a fair amount of confusion about how this process works and what can (and cannot) be said with confidence. For instance, many people appear to (incorrectly) think that attribution is just based on a naive correlation of the global mean temperature, or that it is impossible to do unless a change is ‘unprecedented’ or that the answers are based on our lack of imagination about other causes.

In fact the process is more sophisticated than these misconceptions imply and I’ll go over the main issues below. But the executive summary is this:

  • You can’t do attribution based only on statistics
  • Attribution has nothing to do with something being “unprecedented”
  • You always need a model of some sort
  • The more distinct the fingerprint of a particular cause is, the easier it is to detect

Note that it helps enormously to think about attribution in contexts that don’t have anything to do with anthropogenic causes. For some reason that allows people to think a little bit more clearly about the problem.

First off, think about the difference between attribution in an observational science like climatology (or cosmology etc.) compared to a lab-based science (microbiology or materials science). In a laboratory, it’s relatively easy to demonstrate cause and effect: you set up the experiments – and if what you expect is a real phenomenon, you should be able to replicate it over and over again and get enough examples to demonstrate convincingly that a particular cause has a particular effect. Note that you can’t demonstrate that a particular effect can have only that cause, but should you see that effect in the real world and suspect that your cause is also present, then you can make a pretty good (though not 100%) case that a specific cause is to blame.

Why do you need a laboratory to do this? It is because the real world is always noisy – there is always something else going on that makes our (reductionist) theories less applicable than we’d like. Outside, we don’t get to perfectly stabilise the temperature and pressure, we don’t control the turbulence in the initial state, and we can’t shield the apparatus from cosmic rays etc. In the lab, we can do all of those things and ensure that (hopefully) we can boil the experiment down to its essentials. There is of course still ‘noise’ – imprecision in measuring instruments etc. and so you need to do it many times under slightly different conditions to be sure that your cause really does give the effect you are looking for.

The key to this kind of attribution is repetition, and this is where it should become obvious that for observational sciences, you are generally going to have to find a different way forward, since we don’t generally get to rerun the Holocene, or the Big Bang or the 20th Century (thankfully).

Repetition can be useful when you have repeating events in Nature – the ice age cycles, tides, volcanic eruptions, the seasons etc. These give you a chance to integrate over any unrelated confounding effects to get at the signal. For the impacts of volcanic eruptions in general, this has definitely been a useful technique (from Robock and Mao (1992) to Shindell et al (2004)). But many of the events that have occurred in geologic history are singular, or perhaps they’ve occurred more frequently but we only have good observations from one manifestation – the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, the KT impact event, the 8.2 kyr event, the Little Ice Age etc. – and so another approach is required.

In the real world we attribute singular events all the time – in court cases for instance – and so we do have practical experience of this. If the evidence linking specific bank-robbers to a robbery is strong, prosecutors can get a conviction without the crimes needing to have been ‘unprecedented’, and without having to specifically prove that everyone else was innocent. What happens instead is that prosecutors (ideally) create a narrative for what they think happened (lets call that a ‘model’ for want of a better word), work out the consequences of that narrative (the suspect should have been seen by that camera at that moment, the DNA at the scene will match a suspect’s sample, the money will be found in the freezer etc.), and they then try and find those consequences in the evidence. It’s obviously important to make sure that the narrative isn’t simply a ‘just-so’ story, in which circumstances are strung together to suggest guilt, but which no further evidence is found to back up that particular story. Indeed these narratives are much more convincing when there is ‘out of sample’ confirmation.

We can generalise this: what is a required is a model of some sort that makes predictions for what should and should not have happened depending on some specific cause, combined with ‘out of sample’ validation of the model of events or phenomena that were not known about or used in the construction of the model.

Models come in many shapes and sizes. They can be statistical, empirical, physical, numerical or conceptual. Their utility is predicated on how specific they are, how clearly they distinguish their predictions from those of other models, and the avoidance of unnecessary complications (“Occam’s Razor”). If all else is equal, a more parsimonious explanation is generally preferred as a working hypothesis.

The overriding requirement however is that the model must be predictive. It can’t just be a fit to the observations. For instance, one can fit a Fourier series to a data set that is purely random, but however accurate the fit is, it won’t give good predictions. Similarly a linear or quadratic fit to a time series can be useful form of descriptive statistics, but without any reason to think that there is an underlying basis for such a trend, it has very little predictive value. In fact, any statistical fit to the data is necessarily trying to match observations using a mathematical constraint (ie. trying to minimise the mean square residual, or the gradient, using sinusoids, or wavelets, etc.) and since there is no physical reason to assume that any of these constraints apply to the real world, no purely statistical approach is going to be that useful in attribution (despite it being attempted all the time).

To be clear, defining any externally forced climate signal as simply the linear, quadratic, polynomial or spline fit to the data is not sufficient. The corollary which defines ‘internal climate variability’ as the residual from that fit doesn’t work either.

So what can you do? The first thing to do is to get away from the idea that you can only be using single-valued metrics like the global temperature. We have much more information than that – patterns of changes across the surface, through the vertical extent of the atmosphere, and in the oceans. Complex spatial fingerprints of change can do a much better job at discriminating between competing hypotheses than simple multiple linear regression with a single time-series. For instance, a big difference between solar forced changes compared to those driven by CO2 is that the stratosphere changes in tandem with the lower atmosphere for solar changes, but they are opposed for CO2-driven change. Aerosol changes often have specific regional patterns change that can be distinguished from changes from well-mixed greenhouse gases.

The expected patterns for any particular driver (the ‘fingerprints’) can be estimated from a climate model, or even a suite of climate models with the differences between them serving as an estimate of the structural uncertainty. If these patterns are robust, then one can have confidence that they are a good reflection of the underlying assumptions that went into building the models. Given these fingerprints for multiple hypothesised drivers (solar, aerosols, land-use/land cover change, greenhouse gases etc.), we can than examine the real world to see if the changes we see can be explained by a combination of them. One important point to note is that it is easy to account for some model imperfections – for instance, if the solar pattern is underestimated in strength we can test for whether a multiplicative factor would improve the match. We can also apply some independent tests on the models to try and make sure that only the ‘good’ ones are used, or at least demonstrate that the conclusions are not sensitive to those choices.

These techniques of course, make some assumptions. Firstly, that the spatio-temporal pattern associated with a particular forcing is reasonably accurate (though the magnitude of the pattern can be too large or small without causing a problem). To a large extent this is the case – the stratospheric cooling/tropospheric warming pattern associated with CO2 increases is well understood, as are the qualitative land vs ocean/Northern vs. southern/Arctic amplification features. The exact value of polar amplification though is quite uncertain, though this affects all the response patterns and so is not a crucial factor. More problematic are results that indicate that specific forcings might impact existing regional patterns of variability, like the Arctic Oscillation or El Niño. In those cases, clearly distinguishing internal natural variability from the forced change is more difficult.

In all of the above, estimates are required of the magnitude and patterns of internal variability. These can be derived from model simulations (for instance in their pre-industrial control runs with no forcings), or estimated from the observational record. The latter is problematic because there is no ‘clean’ period where there was only internal variability occurring – volcanoes, solar variability etc. have been affecting the record even prior to the 20th Century. Thus the most straightforward estimates come from the GCMs. Each model has a different expression of the internal variability – some have too much ENSO activity for instance while some have too little, or, the timescale for multi-decadal variability in the North Atlantic might vary from 20 to 60 years for instance. Conclusions about the magnitude of the forced changes need to be robust to these different estimates.

So how might this work in practice? Take the impact of the Pinatubo eruption in 1991. Examination of the temperature record over this period shows a slight cooling, peaking in 1992-1993, but these temperatures were certainly not ‘unprecedented’, nor did they exceed the bounds of observed variability, yet it is well accepted that the cooling was attributable to the eruption. Why? First off, there was a well-observed change in the atmospheric composition (a layer of sulphate aerosols in the lower stratosphere). Models ranging from 1-dimensional radiative transfer models to full GCMs all suggest that these aerosols were sufficient to alter the planetary energy balance and cause global cooling in the annual mean surface temperatures. They also suggest that there would be complex spatial patterns of response – local warming in the lower stratosphere, increases in reflected solar radiation, decreases in outgoing longwave radiation, dynamical changes in the northern hemisphere winter circulation, decreases in tropical precipitation etc. These changes were observed in the real world too, and with very similar magnitudes to those predicted. Indeed many of these changes were predicted by GCMs before they were observed.

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to apply the same reasoning to the changes related to increasing greenhouse gases, but for those interested the relevant chapter in the IPCC report is well worth reading, as are a couple of recent papers by Santer and colleagues.

559 Responses to “On attribution”

  1. 451

    Most honoured Mr. Motl,

    your claim:

    ….. if there were a threat, we would have to be doing something that is unusual


    is simply a bizarre non sequitur. The conditions on Earth have been unsuitable for human life for hundreds of millions of years of the planet´s existence (and for perfectly natural reasons), as you well know. So why on Earth (sorry) should anything need to be “unusual” in Earth´s history to be able to be a threat? And your sudden distinction between “distant pasts” and recent pasts” makes even less sense considering the fact that you similarly claim that the climate sensitivity is likely a constant, and that most scientists would agree with you on that (they would not, but that is another discussion).

    Actually, Gavin Schmidt has a standard response to this claim “Your argument is like claiming that a fire caused by lightning proves that arson can never happen” which is all that needs to be said to you. Frankly, I doubt that you even believe this one yourself.

    The hockey stick was an argument that the temperatures and their rise in the 20th century were unprecedented – in the last millennium or so – but this argument was wrong


    As you know, too, this is not true. I will not bother you or your readers with linking to e.g. Wahl & Ammann, Moberg et al., von Storch et al., Rutherford et al. or the most recent Mann in PNAS or others. The sad fact is that nobody have ever succeeded in finding a statistically validated medieval warm period which were likely warmer or just comparable to present time (and please do not drag out Loehle or McIntyre – you know well that none of these were significantly validated). I agree that there is a faint possibility that MWP might just be found to be equally warm with more proxies included, but certainly the balance of evidence patently indicates that this is not the case. On the other hand, there is evidence (though the uncertainty on a global scale is much greater going back several millenia) that it was indeed warmer than now 6-8.000 years ago, at least outside the tropics. Which leads to the next phrase:

    I also disagree that “everyone” agrees that temperatures were warmer 6-8 thousand years ago. You will probably find hired climatologists who will claim that the current era is warmer than before. But what’s more important is that they have said many things that deliberately led a majority of the AGW-believing public to think that the current era is warmer than what Earth experienced 6-8 thousand years ago


    I regret to admit that I have failed ever to find any of your mentioned “hired climatologists” having claimed boldly that present times are clearly warmer than the Eemian, so if you can point me to any sources where e.g. the Realclimate team or the IPCC have done that, I will be very interested. Maybe they should write something about that in the IPCC report? Oh wait, they have a section with the heading: Was Any Part of the Current Interglacial Period Warmer than the Late 20th Century?

    in the AR4. Surely, your hired guns must be all over the place hiding declines – let us check this out:

    Extratropical centennial-resolution records therefore provide evidence for local multi-centennial periods warmer than the last decades by up to several degrees in the early to mid-Holocene.

    The warmest period in northern Europe and north-western North America occurs from 7 to 5 ka (Davis et al., 2003; Kaufman et al., 2004).

    WTF? Those hired guns freely admit that it may have been warmer by several degrees than now outside the tropics 5-7.000 years ago? They must have reedited the text after “Climategate”. Or after Schmidt´s essay. Or your reply here. Or something. Surely, barring the unlikely possibility that Mr. Motls claims are just flatly wrong, something must be very wrong and fishy somewhere.

    But again, whatever the facts here, unprecedentedness is just no argument, and there is absolutely nothing “sudden” about Realclimate´s arguments about unprecedentedness in Schmidt´s new essay. If you look at this 5 year old post “What if. the hockey stick were wrong”, you can find pretty much all your shopworn past (and likely present) arguments along the unprecedentedness being addressed.

    Other people may have a much better idea about the climate than yourself. It is a fundamentally chaotic system and the degree and precision of explanation you are asking is probably not possible. If you were doing science, you would at least consider this possibility


    I am absolutely positive that many others have a much better idea about climate than I, a humble microbiologist; this is exactly why I rely on the scientific findings of climatologists rather than e.g. people pulling pseudoscientific factoids and wild accusations from whatever convenient opening (note that this is just a hypothetical example, one that I doubt you would ever encounter on any science blogs – especially not one full of sanctimonious claims about “true” science, logic, honesty, refuting dogmas and such).

    Actually, I initially thought that an intelligent and well-published physicist like yourself would also have a better idea than I, too, and I hope you believe me when I swear that I have been quite disappointed to gradually discover that all your arguments were deeply unoriginal repetitions of old howlers adressed by most simple textbooks on the subject, or by climate blog FAQs. I remain completely open to the possibility that numerical GCMs are fundamentally erroneous, but your classic about climate as a “fundamentally chaotic system” and therefore unpredictable is just not going to impress even me – at least, you could have bothered to trot out something a bit less cliché like e.g. “how GCMs perform poorly at estimating the attractor´s position in the phase space”.

  2. 452
    neil pelkey says:

    Phil, Both references, Vermeer’s View of the Delft and Powell’s brachiopod paper, are evidence that there is substantial latitudinal variation in marine biota. Looking for ‘non-evidence’ of ‘non-event’ misses the point. A search on Emeliana huxleyi and polar sediment core should get your started, but you are a serious scientist and you already know this. An open pole was 264k YBP or 14k YBP it would neither be evidence for or against AGW. If there is an open pole in the next five years, well then it might be. The evidence of “open ocean” plankton is polar sediment cores is only evidence that it settled there.

  3. 453

    I am sure that Svensmark has enjoyed much success on “The reference frame”; I was referring to its abject want of success in the realm of climate science, sorry if that was not clear. Being an “ideologically blinded idiot”, it sure looks to me that Svensmark is on the path of Pons&Fleischmann rather than Wegener, but as you know, this is mostly based on research carried out by the likes of Calogovic et al., Kritsjansson et al., Lockwood & Fröhlich, Harrisson et al., Damon & Laut and other equally small minds which have all failed to see that there was anything important to his theory.

    But I for one would like to see my countryman prevail, so it is really a pity that a truly unbiased and antiideological scientist like you will not try to help him out. And I must admit that I fail to see the logic of your last phrase about not doing what Svensmark does because you would not like to get attacked like him.

    In my opinion, doing some real scientific work and exposing yourself to loads of harsh, but real scientific criticism should, ceteris paribus, be more satisfying and enjoyable than simply running a more and more irrelevant blog with standard arguments and rantings so pitiful and boring that nobody in the climate blogosphere at present can even be bothered to attack them.

    But I prefer blogging about climate rather than doing climate science, too. I am also from a university in a smaller European country, my degree is outside of climatology and I have not done any research on climate either so it appears that we do have quite a few things in common after all. :)

  4. 454
    Hank Roberts says:

    > The evidence of “open ocean” plankton is polar sediment
    > cores is only evidence that it settled there

    Can you cite that? Are you saying open ocean plankton can travel laterally under sea ice or ice shelves so evidence in sediment isn’t a marker for open ocean? The work out of ANDRILL and other observations using these markers is recent and extensive and claims they’re good. I’m an amateur reader, if I’ve missed something in the literature I’d appreciate a pointer.

  5. 455
  6. 456
    Hank Roberts says:

    Actually there’s fascinating work being done. Just an example of what you can find by looking with Scholar. Access to sunlight is used by some kinds of plankton to control buoyancy. The old notion was that they were passive and relied on turbulence. Not entirely so.

    My amateur take is this strengthens the reliability of this proxy in paleo work as an indicator of open water and sunlight.

    It’d be great to be hearing more from the biologists about climate change both paleo and contemporary, as they get this kind of detail worked out.

    “… Diatoms shifted from a sinking pattern before the bloom, while their populations were not growing, to a neutrally buoyant pattern during bloom development, when calm conditions prevailed, light was abundant and phytoplankton were actively growing ….

    “… diatoms respond to environmental shifts with abrupt and rapid changes in their buoyancy properties, a fact that seems to pass unnoticed in modelling and theoretical studies. Indeed, turbulence brings nutrients and diatoms to the surface, where they become exposed to light, just like a plough turns up deeply buried nutrients and seeds to the surface of the earth. However, the existence of a buoyancy control mechanism implies that, once near the surface, diatoms will not require a minimum level of turbulence to remain in the euphotic layer, as implied in the theoretical analysis by Huisman & Sommeijer (2002). Instead, diatoms should float for as long as there are nutrients and light to sustain growth, as observed in microcosm experiments by Richardson & Cullen (1995). There is now sufficient evidence to con- firm Hutchinson’s (1967) early insight on the prevalence of strong selection pressures against sinking phytoplankton. Diatoms, the paradigm of sinking phytoplankton, manage to persist by floating oppor- tunistically….”
    MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES Vol. 400: 115–125, 2010
    doi: 10.3354/meps08405
    Diatom flotation at the onset of the spring phytoplankton bloom: an in situ experiment

  7. 457
    Jim Eager says:

    Hank Roberts @423: I wonder, way back when people were starting to live in permanent settlements, and had to figure out basic sanitation engineering, were there Sanitation Skeptics?

    Hank, you might want to read up on the history of building the Paris sewer system. Indeed there were.

  8. 458
    Hank Roberts says:

    One more recent paper that doesn’t support the idea that plankton known to grow in open water aren’t a good proxy in sediment for open water, again just from poking around with Scholar as an example:

    “… only a small percentage of subpolar specimens reach the interior
    Arctic Ocean as evidenced by living assemblages in the water column and late Holocene surface sediment samples from interior Arctic sites with excellent carbonate preservation. Even with an enhanced Atlantic Water boundary current system during the last interglacial period, it is unlikely that abundant subpolar specimens were advected several thousands kilometers to the interior Arctic Ocean.
    We therefore conclude that sea ice conditions near the GreenIce site must have been reduced during the last interglacial. Whether this was related to a polynya-type setting or reflects a generally reduced sea ice cover of the interior Arctic Ocean is not known at the present stage….”
    Reduced sea ice concentrations in the Arctic Ocean
    during the last interglacial period revealed
    by sediment cores off northern Greenland
    PALEOCEANOGRAPHY, VOL. 22, PA1218, doi:10.1029/2006PA001283, 2007

  9. 459
    Jim Eager says:

    Toppy @430, why don’t you try telling us how internal variability (ENSO, PDO, AMO, etc) can monotonically add warmth in the absence of some external forcing, rather than simply move heat around within the system.

    Oh look, but there is a known external forcing: Carbon Tracker

  10. 460
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Jim Eager says: 1 June 2010 at 10:32 AM

    Hank Roberts @423: I wonder, way back when people were starting to live in permanent settlements, and had to figure out basic sanitation engineering, were there Sanitation Skeptics?

    Hank, you might want to read up on the history of building the Paris sewer system. Indeed there were.

    London, too. A thriving industry centered on excavating cesspits, dumping spoil in the Thames was threatened, mounted vociferous opposition, was ultimately extinguished. Another noisome analogy with the present case…

    History repeats itself but never with exactitude. See the matter of the table salt industry sprinkling confusion on our intellectual diet to mask the sour taste of reality: Pushed to Lower Salt Use, Food Industry Pushes Back. Eerie similarities; basic science completed in late ’70s, industry-backed researchers sow doubt, “salt is natural and good for you”, blah-blah. Result: we’re stuck with anachronistic behavior.

  11. 461
    JRC says:

    CFU, thanks for the reply. I didn’t realize it was tried. Honestly I haven’t seen the Al Gore movie. I do see from time to time a scientist on T.V. in a 30 second debate (which is really annoying that they will only spend a couple minutes on an important issue and spend days talking about Anna Nicole Smith) and on those few occasions it seems the denialist likes to play the uncertainty card and so ends the debate without the scientist being able to reply at all or without significant time to explain what degree of uncertainty there is. This in my opinion leaves the average viewer with the idea that the denialist won the debate. Just my observation, but again I appreciate your response.

  12. 462
    CM says:

    > sanitation skeptics?

    “S**t is not pollution, s**t is plant food!”
    “They call it s**t, we call it life!”
    “Nature, not man, soils the pavement.”
    “The government wants to run a pipe into every home, right into the privacy of your john…”
    “Our life-style and prosperity depends on the free, unregulated emptying of chamber pots from balconies.”

    I think I’d better stop there.

  13. 463
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “This in my opinion leaves the average viewer with the idea that the denialist won the debate.”

    This is why denialists keep DEMANDING a head-to-head. And one where they don’t have to give questions beforehand.

    cf Monckton’s assinine “what is the sensitivity of the IPCC to two decimal places”.

    If you don’t have an accuracy of two decimals, to what extent can you say the figure of the mean to two decimals?

    Then again, I wouldn’t expect a classics major to know maths well enough (you do that in O level Maths of Physics).

  14. 464
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Ken Coffman, in reply to

    I asked the NASA folks about that energy balance picture you liked. They confirm it’s based on Trenberth and Kiehl’s more detailed chart.
    gives “estimated imbalance from the enhanced greenhouse effect of 0.9 W m-2.” (p.2) and “Figure 1. The global annual mean Earth’s energy budget for the March 2000 to May 2004 period in W m-2. The broad arrows indicate the schematic flow of energy in proportion to their importance.”
    shows incoming 341.3W/m-2, compared to outgoing 101.9 (reflected) plus 238.5 (longwave), which totals outgoing 430.4 W/m-2.

    The difference is the “estimated imbalance from the enhanced greenhouse effect of 0.9 W m-2.”

    That’s all the difference — temperature goes up, like a slowly dripping tap filling up a bathtub slightly faster than water drains out.
    NASA rounded off the energy numbers in that simplified picture you prefer — to show 100 percent in and 100 percent out, in integers (no fractions).

    The imbalance causing global warming is less than one third of one percent of the total insolation. That fraction disappears in the simplified illustration.

    The simple picture isn’t meant to show that the Earth is in energy balance now.

    Kiehl and Trenberth is the source for the actual numbers.

  15. 465

    On the issue of troll vs. inquiry, generally, regular posters are reasonably fair and provide the new posters a chance to show their cards (evidence). But when asked to see their cards, some choose to hold their cards, and yet still claim to have a winning hand.

    If this played out in an old west card game in the 1800’s, say in Deadwood, Tombstone, Carson City, etc., they would see pistols drawn more often than not.

    It is easy to spot debunked, rebunked talking points, straw-mans, and red herrings, usually from anonymous posters.

    Give them a chance to show their cards (cite the ref., show evidence), if they choose not to, then draw your pistols and shoot em down like the mangy dogs they are. . .

    Sorry, could not resist the temptation to the colloquial slang :)

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  16. 466
    jim edwards says:

    “A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.” ~Robert Frost

    As an attorney, former scientist, (and former juror on a noted homicide trial), I’m compelled to bring you to task for your comments.

    Your comments attempting to link legal proof and scientific proof are dangerous. It scares me to see over 450 comments without anybody questioning the propriety of an analogy between these contradictory systems. Science is a search for actual truth; the law artificially defines ‘truth’ in order to optimize social order (i.e. – it makes us feel good / safe). To the extent scientists mimic prosecutors and become advocates of a particular version of untestable truth, that is a trend to lament.

    There is a reason the Innocence Project is winning the release of hundreds of convicts from prisons after years of incarceration. These men were wrongfully “proven” to have committed violent felonies, and subsequently had their lives ruined.

    The fact that, as you eloquently noted, “prosecutors can get a conviction without the crimes needing to have been ‘unprecedented’, and without having to specifically prove that everyone else was innocent” may be convenient for the prosecutor and the rest of the criminal justice system, but does not inspire confidence in the truth of the result.

    As Mr. Frost alludes in the quote, above, success in the legal system relies on the advocate’s ability to convince a majority [i.e. – establish a ‘consensus’] that a number of ‘facts’ chosen by the attorney support the use of state power to deprive a person of life, liberty, and/or property – after the attorney “create(s) a narrative for what they think happened” (your words).

    Consider your examples of evidence. The imperfect evidence a jury is likely to hear is: 1) there is video of a man at the scene who was the same size as the defendant, and was wearing a similar jacket and cap as the ones the defendant was wearing when arrested, 2) the defendant’s DNA was found at the scene [of course, the defendant argues it’s from an earlier visit], 3) SOME money is found in the defendant’s freezer [the defendant would say that it’s his rainy day money, but his attorney advises him NOT to testify.].

    ‘Justice’ in the legal system is a commodity; it has a price. The amount of justice we’re willing to pay for is allocated by the Legislature. Police don’t investigate every possible defendant – they quickly find one likely suspect and focus their efforts. Few cases actually go to trial; the normal practice is to overcharge defendants and offer a deal for a plea bargain – in order to minimize the expense of millions of trials. Defendants do not receive unlimited court time to make their case. Defendants’ resources are insufficient; rarely do we see an O.J. case where the defendant has resources approaching those of the state.

    The justice system should not be confused with, nor compared to, a truth system. Prosecutors might get it right most of the time, but the PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE must keep us from gambling our future quality of life on such an obviously-flawed method for ascertaining ‘truth’.

    Where I agree with you completely is that, lacking a ‘control’ Earth to experiment upon, a sufficient means of scientific proof will be an adequately predictive global model. You could have made this point without contaminating the scientific process with the taint of the appeal to force and majoritarianism inherent in law.

    It shocked me that you would analogize to the justice system, as it accentuates all of the skeptics’ claims of bias by “alarmist” scientists.

    First, we have a government-paid investigating team [the police] who pick and choose who to investigate. Some skeptics argue that climatologists are on a multi-billion dollar government-paid gravy train – and have publicly charged that scientists cherry-pick data to use [e.g. – Yamal v. Polar Urals tree rings] based upon whether it reinforces their “narrative for what they think happened” [borrowing your words, again].

    The police don’t release the results of their official investigations, unless they are used by prosecutors to advocate guilt. Skeptics have long requested, and been denied access to, unpublished data [e.g. –bristle cone pine updates, Briffa’s Yamal data…]. Some skeptics assert that unpublished data is freely shared with like-minded scientists and suddenly becomes available if used to advocate for the ‘guilt’ of GHGs.

    The police get more funding if they find more drugs, drug-traffickers, and terrorists. Skeptics have claimed that climatologists have a financial interest in finding scare stories, and are not rewarded for finding a basis for calm.

    Prosecutors are advocates paid by the state to push a narrative based upon imperfect evidence. Some skeptics argue certain scientists [e.g. – You, James Hansen, Michael Mann, Phil Jones] are well-paid by the government, and have been advocating a position based upon incomplete / shaky evidence.

    Prosecutors don’t worry about proving the truth; they worry about convincing the right people [the jury]. When skeptics request a debate on the merits, a constant reply is that a “consensus” of scientists [majority] believes X.

    Prosecutors begin the case by selecting a jury, removing jurors who have the wrong views or background. Pro-AGW advocates assert that people who disagree must be on Exxon’s payroll. Non-affiliated scientists who disagree aren’t the right kind of scientists.

    Attorneys work the rules of evidence to determine which evidence may be presented to the jury. The masses are told that only peer-reviewed science counts; skeptics claim that advocate-scientists keep ‘inconvenient truths’ out of the peer-reviewed literature. Skeptics claim IPCC authors go to great efforts to include ‘helpful’ papers, while ignoring literature that undermines the official story (e.g. – Wahl and Amman v. the Wegman Report). “Grey literature” by environmental advocacy groups suddenly becomes relevant when it is convenient [see AR4]; “grey literature” by industry groups is never relevant.

    Police do not go out of the way to help defendants prove their innocence. Skeptics note that when advocates get the science dead-wrong, pro-AGW scientists don’t correct the public’s mistaken fear. [see, e.g. – Al Gore’s description of Michael Mann’s work as ‘Lonnie Thompson’s thermometer’]

    Once a prosecutor is able to secure a conviction, he moves on and never looks back. The Al Gores of the world are constantly telling us, “the science is settled.” [this absurd statement is not heard coming from the lips of scientists, but this distinction is lost on the public.]

    The prosecutor asks the court to use state power to involuntarily deprive a convict of life, liberty, and/ or property. Various legal schemes [treaties, cap-and-trade, etc.] involve taxes, forced retrofit, and the loss of the right to choose a less efficient lifestyle. Skeptics assert that bad policies will directly result in more death among the poor, or that misguided climate policies will be chosen instead of better policies that would have saved lives [Bjorn Lomberg’s argument].

    Gavin, why would you analogize to a model that plays into all of the skeptics’ stereotypes ? Do you actually believe the legal system is an appropriate model to use to help resolve climate science ?

    Tues 6-1-10, 1:08 pm PST

    [Response: The idea that my analogy was a defense of the current criminal justice system is…. let’s just say it’s bizarre. No human institution is perfect, but people are much more familiar with attribution in a legal setting than they are with the same concept in a scientific setting. Analogies are simply designed to allow people to transfer knowledge they have in one domain to another. They are not incisive critiques of the analogous system. If you don’t like my analogy, suggest another one. – gavin]

  17. 467
    Hank Roberts says:

    And a last followup for Ken Coffman re that simplified picture of the radiation budget you prefer — it’s from old info.

    The NASA people followed up saying they did not create it. It’s from a NASA archive of stuff for teachers, grade school level, here:

    There, it’s called “Earth’s Energy Budget Diagram (image)”

    It’s linked from this page, last updated in 2005: — which describes results from the “ERBS (Earth Radiation Budget Satellite), NOAA-9, and NOAA-10 satellites over a 5-year period from November 1984 to February 1990”

    Old, oversimplified, grade-school info. Stick with the new one, Fig. 1 on the final page (the final version is probably paywalled at the journal, but the chart is the same here):

  18. 468
    Phil Scadden says:

    Hank, the work that made me think somebody might be doing this stuff is:
    “Variability of sea-ice conditions in the Fram Strait over the past 30,000 years, Muller et al, 2009.

    Neil, the question of what such work might show is more related to question of very recent past. Ie was the pole clear in the 18th century? Was it clear in the MCA? Bronze age?. I agree it is weak evidence for AGW but if pole hasnt been clear since say 14ky from biomarker work, then it is counter evidence to idea that “nothing extraordinary” going on. Depending on what the data shows, it is evidence for or against the alternative hypothesis that all this is “just a natural cycle with an as yet undiscovered cause”.

    A close study on the top part of some the ACEX core should be interesting.

  19. 469
  20. 470
    Tim Jones says:


    [Response: Sorry, but this is off topic and we are not going to comment on pending litigation in comment thread. Responses to this are on-going, and patience is requested. – gavin]

  21. 471
    wili says:

    laurence at 449 wrote:

    “rising sea levels cause added weight and compression to the ocean floor once again destabilising the entire geological framework of the crust. I think I can visualise that this could probably proove more than “just the straw that broke the camels back”. That the ramifications of glacial rebound and rising sea levels could well cause cause greatly increased levels of tectoniic activity and or tsunamis in many parts of the globe.”

    I, too, have been wondering about this, in my totally amateur way. It does seem to me that all those tons of added pressure all along the coast line could easily be, as you say, the straw the pushes a delicately balanced tension into motion.

    I have not had much luck finding research on this. The best test case would be tsunamis, but they are generally triggered by tectonic events themselves, so any later quake could be as well triggered by the first quake as by the tsunami, I suppose. The tragic Chinese earthquake coming shortly after the even-more-tragic Indian Ocean tsunami comes to mind.

    Do post any further info on this that you find.

    Many otherwise sharp minds here seem willing to spend endless (mostly wasted, in my opinion) hours battling trolls, but go silent when the actual sincere, if perhaps naive, inquirers post a query.

  22. 472
    Edward Greisch says:

    466 jim edwards: I have to side with Gavin. We have a real problem in trying to explain anything to the innumerate illiterate masses. The police are bureaucrats. In the bureaucracy game, the object of the game is to get this piece of paper off of my desk and not let it ever come back.
    In science, the objective is to find the truth. It isn’t about pieces of paper. Issues are allowed to return.
    What we really need is a world where everybody is smart enough and educated enough in science to understand the physics and instantly reject the denialist opinion. In such a world, the coal industry would have been shut down long ago.

  23. 473
    JRC says:

    CFU, I agree. Honestly anyone stupid enough to even think Monckton has a scientific bone in his body is just a [edit]. I’ve seen his “science” and “math” yet all I can do is laugh and I’m not a climatologist. I doubt he could pass a first year calculus, chemistry, or physics class. If there are denialists out there that would like to debate that, I’d love for them to speak up in Monckton’s defense.

  24. 474
    Hank Roberts says:

    Wili and Laurence, here are some places to start:

    I skimmed through a few pages of those hits. There’s certainly nothing like what Lawrence is asking about in the past record. There are quite a few long earthquake series papers; there is some clustering and some association with sea level changes. Nothing from the past that looks like a worldwide pattern, no ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ pattern like you asked about for earthquakes. There’s some mention of more collapse of underwater slopes at very low sea level times

    You can find the notion you ask about in science fiction several places; Stephen Baxter’s two “Flood” novels recently might be an example of sorts.

  25. 475
    neil pelkey says:

    Hank & Phil,

    Darling et al.
    Global molecular phylogeography reveals persistent Arctic circumpolar isolation in a marine planktonic protist PNAS 2007 104 (12) 5002-5007; doi:10.1073/pnas.0700520104

    But so what? This only shows the Beaufort gyre and transpolar drift have been around a while. It was over 130 degrees F in Sindh in the 1870’s. Again, So what? That event was associated with an excessive ice pack and dryness not CO2ness. Gavin and gang are correct that the overwhelming evidence from multiple models and data are that CO2 is causing a problem. A simple analysis of Ray L.’s probabilities fed into RA Fisher’s fusion formula give significance beyond argument. You two grabbing a gotchas here and there discredits your crowd. You both have more talent than google scholar searches and “somebody show me” arguments.

  26. 476
    jim edwards says:

    Gavin, Edward Greisch (471):

    Screw the analogies to non-scientific methods of ascertaining truth. Truth in one paradigm does not equate to truth in another.

    Non-scientific methods of ascertaining truth generally resort to faith [religious truth] or force / tyranny of the majority [political / legal ‘truth’]. Even adherents of political/ legal truth mechanisms don’t conceive of them as actually producing truth – but rather as good mechanisms for solving problems in a way that’s socially acceptable.

    That’s fine for a problem like: should we drive on the left or right side of the road ? It is totally inappropriate for a question like: should we trash an existing $30 trillion physical and intellectual infrastructure to prevent negative climate impacts ? The truth makes a real difference in correctly answering the latter question. It can’t be found through an application of force by the side that converts the greatest number of adherents.

    The only non-scientific paradigm for ascertaining actual truth is mathematics. It’s actually better for finding truth than science, in that in science we can only say, “this hasn’t been shown to be false yet, so I strongly believe it to be true.” In mathematics we can actually say, “this is true”, with authority.

    An appropriate mathematical method for gauging truth in climate science is statistics.

    Stick with predictive power, which is essentially the common man’s dead-reckoning in statistics. Climatologists should be clinging to statistics / probability, not seen to be running from it.

    The more detailed and unlikely one’s predictions of the future, the more likely the predicter knows what he’s talking about. Common people without advanced scientific training understand this.

    Tell the people:

    “Model A was released in 1997. 5% of monte carlo simulations run through this model were consistent with the actual temperature record over the subsequent 13 years. Initial accuracy of predictions was X, but capability reduced by Y per year. As a result, we modified our model.”

    “Model B was released in 2003. 28% of monte carlo simulations run through this model were consistent with the actual temperature record in the northern hemisphere over the next 7 years. 14% of monte carlo simulations run through this model were consistent with the actual temperature record in the southern hemisphere over the same period.”

    and so on… At some level of demonstrated accuracy and predicted risk, the objectively-evaluated ability of a model to forecast the future will click for people.

    [Response: Err… thanks, but if you think this has resonance in the public discourse, I predict you will be very disappointed if you ever try it out. – gavin]

    You can complain that the right result won’t be achieved fast enough, but until this methodology is begun, the public will never be on board for painful sacrifices based solely upon climate considerations.

    Pro-AGW advocates have already experienced the sting of relying upon the political method. [edit]

    Once the people figure out there will be real pain, that political decision is out the window – as the leaders end up following the electorate.

    Look at the economic crisis. Free-market economists like Peter Schiff, who publicly predicted the Who / What / When / Why / How / of the crisis in detail, years in advance, are ignored by politicians [but are popular with regular citizens who hear them…]. Dem. and Rep. ‘economists’ [Krugman, Bernanke, Paulson, Reich, Geithner…] who were completely blindsided by the crisis in all respects are the darlings of our political leaders [and ignored by the common people…]. The common political wisdom is moving away from stimulus [Krugman / Paulson, et Al] and toward fiscal restraint [Schiff, etc], as a result of public demand.

  27. 477
    Frank Giger says:

    Actually, isostatic rebound – the crust bouncing back up after the weight of ice is removed – is still happening from the last great Ice Age. The clearest example of this I can think of is the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Superior. Seventeen inches of elevation gain every 100 years since the big ice pack moved off.

    However, one has to be careful about earthquake/tsunami predictions in relationship to isostatic rebound. It’s not enough to have the crust lifting up; you have to have the right conditions for big earthquakes.

    In the Great Lakes, we see that Lake Erie has already bounced all the way up (it remains unchanged) while not very far away the effect is quite clear. Why isn’t Michigan the Earthquake State? Because the crust is pretty homogenous there. There’s no additional stress of plates pushing together, and so it’s much like a memory foam matress moving back into shape after one gets up from laying on it.

    When we look at Greenland, we see it is firmly on the North American plate and so won’t spawn huge earthquakes or volcanoes as the glaciers melt off of it.

    We also see why Iceland doesn’t need to worry about isostatic rebound when we notice that the place is literally being ripped apart by two plates going in opposite directions. Rebound is spitting into the ocean where volcanism is concerned.

  28. 478
    Hank Roberts says:

    Neil, I don’t know who you’re arguing with or against, nor about what idea. I just saw your assertions and looked for cites, and didn’t find them. Pointers welcome. Clearly I haven’t figured out what you’re saying.

  29. 479

    #466 jim edwards

    First: the math is already showing where we are going, so I don’t understand your concentration on the argument as opposed to what is known and has been reasonably understood in climate science since 1824 when Fourier first discovered the greenhouse effect.

    The models were the afterthought and are really only used to help understand what the physics and the maths already showed.

    Second: I’m not confident you have a reasonable understanding of where the real pain is going to come from. You have not been entirely clear on what you actually think about global warming and it’s current cause (in relation to current change in forcing), or what you advocate in policy? Me, I advocate making sure the economy survives to the best of our ability, but I don’t know enough about your understanding to know if you can understand what that means?

    Third: Do you believe Bjorn Lomberg’s argument makes sense?

    Forth: For clarification, can you do me a favor and tell me if you believe this global warming event is human caused or not; and if so, what percentage of the change in forcing in the climate system is human vs. natural?

    A Climate Minute The Greenhouse EffectHistory of Climate ScienceArctic Ice Melt

    ‘Fee & Dividend’ Our best chance for a better future –
    Learn the Issue & Sign the Petition

  30. 480
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ps for Neil Pelkey, assuming this* is your work, you know far more than I about these subjects. Try simpler and more detailed comments? I haven’t been a student since 1975 and don’t keep up; I try tho’.

    I do rely on folks like you. And I often do ask for simpler, clearer explanations of things. I bug Gavin and other scientists often asking if I’m understanding them, trying for simpler clearer explanations.
    I post what little I know and await correction.

  31. 481
    Jacob Mack says:

    Jim Edwards I agree even though Gavin is correct in terms of public discourse. Monte Carlo simulations are also used on quantum mechanics as well. they can be very useful in making quality simulations for complex and dynamic systems. Also statistics is actually defined in most stats books as a form of science which summarizes data. The physics and other real world processes are still summarized through statistical applications, analysis and error analysis based upon input data and mathematical equations in models and other modalities.

  32. 482
    AlC says:

    OT but of interest:
    June 9, 2010 | 8:00am – 5:30pm PT

    KPCC 89.3 | Southern California Public Radio

    * About: What is Moving By Degrees?
    * Agenda: Who, what, when?
    * Research: Climate change basics.
    * Questions: Submit a question to the moderator.
    * Contact us: Contact the Marketplace Sustaintability Desk.

    Climate and Sustainability: Moving by Degrees is a national, interactive, day-long symposium that brings the nation’s top scientists, policymakers and business leaders together with reporters from public radio and commercial stations from around the nation.

    June 9, 2010 | 8:00am – 5:30pm PT

    Crawford Family Forum at the Mohn Broadcast Center
    KPCC 89.3 | Southern California Public Radio

    Watch it live

    Join us live on the Web. Watch streaming video from the day-long symposium, and participate in interactive discussions with our special guests, experts, and journalists. No registration necessary.
    Participants include:

    * Dr. Michael E. Mann, Pennsylvania State University
    * Dr. Benjamin Santer, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
    * Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Review
    * Andrew Revkin, award-winning New York Times Dot Earth blogger
    * Joe Romm, Center for American Progress and blogger
    * Mindy Lubber, President, Ceres
    * Naomi Oreskes, author of “Merchant of Doubt”
    * Dr. Stephen Schneider, Stanford University
    * Elizabeth Kolbert, award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker

  33. 483
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Even adherents of political/ legal truth mechanisms don’t conceive of them as actually producing truth – but rather as good mechanisms for solving problems in a way that’s socially acceptable.”

    Well, you’re wrong here so the rest of your doctoral thesis is based on an incorrect axiom.

    Therefore it is itself incorrect.

  34. 484
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Wili, thanks for that. Most great discoveries or insights start with the question…what if? That cranck-starts the spatial part of the brain to visualise scenarios..thats’s fine. When you believe you can really see the wood for the’s time to find scientific evidence (from the highest quality sources) to back up your hunches..dont’ just find the supposed evidence that seems to corroborate your thoughts but try and find conflicting veiwpoints as well..make sure you understand each viewpoint and concept. For instance..we think that glacial rebound will place significant additional strains and forces on the bedrock and crust underneath (transverse and radial and combinations of the two) causing increased freq of earthquakes and volcanic activity. Time for us to do some paelio-geology to get a idea of an ice free iceland for instance..stay tuned!

  35. 485
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    473..Thanks Hank..maybe we were all just not asking the right questions? It will be interesting to see what Eyjafjallajokull’s big sister does.. Katla. These has been significant rebound thinning of the icesheet covering Katla during the past few bet is that katla will also soon erupt if Eyjafjallajokull hasn’t lessened the magma pressure too much.

  36. 486

    jim edwards 475: should we trash an existing $30 trillion physical and intellectual infrastructure to prevent negative climate impacts ?

    BPL: Who, precisely, is proposing doing that? Where did you get this denier propaganda line? As if I didn’t know.

    Energy infrastructure has to be replaced every year, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of investment. There’s no reason the new investment can’t be in renewables. And no “intellectual” infrastructure will be lost. This is typical AGW-denier alarmism.

  37. 487
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim Edwards,
    First, Gavin was merely using the legal system as an illustration of a system where we reach conclusions beyond a reasonable doubt even in the face of uncertainty.

    Second, our energy infrastructure’s days are numbered even if we did not have to make changes to keep from cooking our goose. Ever heard of Peak Oil?

    Third, who do you think ran the model runs you cited? Hint: it wasn’t denialists or “auditors”. Perhaps it would be useful to do a little research on how the science is done before you engage in arm-chair quarterbacking.

  38. 488
    John E. Pearson says:

    475: jim edwards wrote: “[Krugman] was completely blindsided by the crisis in all respects ”

    Nonsense. Here is what Media Myths wrote about housing bubbles in 2005 “So who’s right about real estate – the media that have been predicting a crash for more than four years, or past and future Federal Reserve chairmen along with millions of Americans who have bought a piece of the American dream during this run-up? ”

    but they were harsh on Krugman:

    “The number of reports about the housing bubble that involved or were written by Paul Krugman increased to 17 in 2002. His August 2 column even suggested that the Fed should, or was planning to, create a bubble. He said that to fight recession, the Fed “needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. ”

  39. 489
    Leonard Evens says:

    Jim Edwards says:
    ‘The only non-scientific paradigm for ascertaining actual truth is mathematics. It’s actually better for finding truth than science, in that in science we can only say, “this hasn’t been shown to be false yet, so I strongly believe it to be true.” In mathematics we can actually say, “this is true”, with authority.

    An appropriate mathematical method for gauging truth in climate science is statistics.’

    Mathematical statistics, being part of mathematics, has the kind of authority you attribute to meathematics. But, of course, in any mathematical deduction, you have to start with a set of assumptions, and then reason logically from them. When applying mathematics to the real world, you always have the problem of whether or not the underlying assumptions apply to the real world, and in the end you can’t prove that they do with certainty. You can only try to justify your belief that they do with the usual methods of science.

    Statistics has no special advantage in applications of mathematics to the real world, thus to climate in particular. There is no basis for ignoring all of theoretical climatology, which is based on known physical lawa and derivation from those laws of the consequences by mathematic methods. Indeed, I would say, if anything, the opposite is true. We don’t use purely statistical approaches to build bridges, design aircraft, etc., etc., etc. so it doesn’t make sense to single out the study of climate, and deny the applicability of applying physical principles, usually using mathematics, to it.

  40. 490
    Hank Roberts says:

    > AlC says:
    Great pointer, wonderful group of participants, many thanks. This is the way journalism ought to be done.

    > Jim Edwards
    > mathematical method for gauging truth … is statistics
    Chuckle. Good one. How’s the Truth Test statistic calculated? What assumptions are made? Never mind, I’m just kidding; figure you were too.

  41. 491
    CM says:

    jim edwards (#466) has a cause:

    > the right to choose a less efficient lifestyle

    Okay, so maybe it’s not much of a cause. But hey, it’s right up there with, say, the right to willful ignorance, or the liberty to recycle defamatory attacks on the scientists rather than get to grips with the issues.

  42. 492
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Barton Paul Levenson says: 2 June 2010 at 4:53 AM

    jim edwards 475: should we trash an existing $30 trillion physical and intellectual infrastructure to prevent negative climate impacts ?

    BPL: Who, precisely, is proposing doing that? Where did you get this denier propaganda line? As if I didn’t know.

    But a reminder never hurts.

    GOP and industry messaging thought-leader Frank Luntz, way back when:

    Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate…

    Scientists can extrapolate all kinds of things from today’s data, but that doesn’t tell us anything about tomorrow’s world. You can’t look back a million years and say that proves that we’re heating the globe now hotter than its ever been. After all, just 20 years ago scientists were worried about a new Ice Age.

    Blah-blah. Amazingly cynical stuff, but that’s why Luntz gets the big bucks; his hangs his conscience on the coat rack when he arrives at work each day.

    Now Luntz is sophisticated; he suggests that instead of referring to incomprehensible sums of money such as Jim Edwards does, proponents of anachronism should refer to little old ladies being starved, children deprived of education, that sort of thing. We’ve seen a lot of that lately in the form of “we should be helping poor people instead of spending money on improving our energy infrastructure.”

    The whole sorry and completely familiar script can be read here, in a memo produced by Luntz in 2002:

    Scan of memo:

    Clean copy:

    Or you can read dribs and drabs here on RC and at other sites that pose a threat to the existing flow of money into a particular set of wallets, repeated by volunteer chumps doing unpaid advocacy for BP and Massey Energy.

  43. 493
    Phil Scadden says:

    Neil, I fail completely to see the relevance of the cite. I am interested in the persistence of long term sea ice for which other papers have shown that a biomarker is in place. I failed to find any paper on high resolution late-Holocene sediments close to pole and wondered if the community knew of any.

    I also fully agree that climate scientists have nailed CO2 as cause of warming.

  44. 494
    David B. Benson says:

    Ray Ladbury — A low side climate sensitivity is most difficult to reconcile with the transient response to date:

  45. 495
    ccpo says:

    Circular and boring, Rod. You are playing games and not making any attempt to communicate.

    ccpo (430),…To my assertion that skeptics get defined as denialists thereby eliminating any distinction, you accuse my of hyperbole explaining how accepting you are of contrarian views

    False. 99% was the cause for the call on hyperbole. And what has being accepting of Lichanos to do with hyperbole?

    — followed immediately with, and I quote, “…the obvious point that there is no legitimate contrarian claim…” You cite the treatment of Lichanos as a good example of your tolerance.

    Are you daft? I never said a thing about *my* tolerance. And, given he was spouting nonsense and was not amenable to learning or accepting reality, posters here were more than generous with their time. I am repeating the same mistake here with you.

    There was a fair amount of discourse with Lichanos though it soon became nasty, and eventually there were calls to ostracize him, then ban him — even by you (167: “…don’t publish…”).

    And how is that inappropriate or nasty to call for his banning? Did he absorb any of the information given him? No. Did he demonstrate any interest in doing so? No. Try going to a lecture on, say, teaching methodology and constantly questioning whether teaching exists, and if it exists, whether it is at all useful given the variance in teaching techniques, methods and experience between teachers. Obviously any learning is purely serendipitous!

    Watch yourself get removed from the conversation forthwith. Or do you believe spouting a stream of non sequiturs to be appropriate conversational technique?

    You tried to refute my assertion by essentially repeating and confirming it!

    No, I refuted it by refuting it. You then engaged in an excellent example of GIGO. A sincere skeptic has no basis for arguing AGW doesn’t exist or isn’t anthropogenically forced. A sincere skeptic might choose to argue how long it will continue, how severe the effects will be, the exact interactions between various elements, etc., but until there is something startlingly new to add to the literature, there is no basis for questioning AGW. There is zero evidence to support an anti-AGW stance, thus, any who do are denialists, not skeptics.

    When the cloud issue was raised, it wasn’t immediately said by other scientists that those saying it were just being denialist. It is accepted that the question is open, even if most intuitively suspect it’s not going to amount to much in the long run. But if you raise the sun’s output, sun spots, just natural variation, undersea volcanoes, etc., as a primary cause and claim anthropogenic forcings are either minor or non-existent, then you are, in fact, a denialist and a troll.

    If you don’t understand these points, lord help you.

  46. 496
    jim edwards says:

    I’m glad I could provide some fodder for discussion.

    My views are immaterial; at heart, I’m an educator. I think it’s best if everybody presents their views to the public in the most effective manner. Sunlight makes the best disinfectant, after all.

    I was recently reading about a famous case involving copyright infringement of a song. [The “Rum and Coca-Cola” case – song lyrics allegedly stolen by comedian Morey Amsterdam, from the Dick VanDyke Show, and a composer he worked with.] There are only seven notes, after all. One would expect a lot of overlap between songs. What’s the difference between theft and happy coincidence ?

    In Amsterdam’s version, the lyrics were altered so a few notes were apparently added. To prove infringement, the attorney had to have experts discuss musical theory that was well beyond the most educated jurors [resolution of musical phrases, etc]. The defense had their own experts, including one who had never lost a case.

    The evidence that the jury could understand involved probability. The plaintiff’s attorney color-coded the notes and compared the songs line-by-line. He had pianists play the songs with bars exchanged. It became clear to the jury that, even with their differences, the songs were the same.

    It seems to me, if a truly predictive global model exists, then it should be possible to ‘predict’ ten years ahead, make actual measurements for ten years, then show an actual comparison of data from the two sources to the electorate.

    If the match is 5%, you have no case.
    If the match is 30%, you need to adjust the model and rerun [you should figure this out before ten years run…].
    If the match is 80+%, given the complexity, you’ve got a case for action.

    Rather than throwing up your hands and complaining about the stupidity of the electorate, start thinking of new ways of presenting data, to get them to buy in.

    The Pied Pipers of the movement have to be reined in. Scientists make measured statements, but the public isn’t getting information from scientists. They’re hearing from activists, politicians, and actors.

    They’re hearing: earthquakes and everything bad is caused by AGW, the science is settled, the world will end, polar bears will go extinct, and transitioning our economy will be painless, or even create immediate economic prosperity.

    Every time they find they’ve been oversold in one area, you run the risk of losing them, entirely.

    I understand how the economy works. One thing I would note is that history has shown that seemingly intractable problems often become easier to solve the longer you wait [as technology improves].

    Lomberg’s argument makes perfect sense, although I believe that many who parrot it would have zero intention of supporting the alternate proposals he claims are more meritorious. It’s hard to pre-judge who has the most giving heart, however. George W. Bush, who I did not vote for, probably saved more lives than anybody in the last fifty years by spending our tax dollars in Africa to combat AIDS.

    gotta go to soccer…

  47. 497
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Actually Rod B. I believe Lichanos the Broken Ukulele left when his bet was accepted and offered to be raised. Perhaps I missed another post, though.

  48. 498
    Hank Roberts says:

    > It seems to me, if a truly predictive global model exists

    You’re confusing climate and weather, a common assumption, but wrong.

    > Rather than throwing up your hands and complaining about the stupidity

    We don’t; we try to point people to the FAQs and urge them to read and think. Starting from the confusion you illustrated — assuming an “if” confusing climate and weather — how would you get them on board? How would you get yourself on board? Maybe by half an hour’s reading?

  49. 499
    Frank Giger says:

    Mr. Levenson, there are plenty of activists looking to completely upend the current financial and social system with AGW as their excuse. Indeed, the whole “social justice” Marxist song got a bar or two hummed in the IPCC reports. This was a huge mistake, IMHO, as it poisons the well politically; one shouldn’t have to put a hand on the pole that is raising the Red Banner High in order to support mitigating climate change effects caused by man.

    Talk to an environmentalist for any length of time and there is a 80% certainty that in fairly short order the blame for AGW is, at its root, Capitalism. Pretty funny stuff, considering how kind and altruisitic Communist countries have been in regards to Mother Earth.

    One must be careful to segregate the scientists from the activists, as they are mutually exclusive – a mistake far too many people make.

  50. 500
    jim edwards says:

    #485, BPL

    The $30 Trillion number is a made-up hypothetical. I would hope you could recognize a rhetorical question in an academic argument about comparing paradigms for finding correct answers. I’ve never met or heard a “denier”, nor have I been fed my question by another, so I don’t know what you are implying.

    First, of course, whatever transition cost might occur, it will completely depend upon whether the transition is a natural outgrowth of free-market response to commodity prices and consumer preferences, or from government mandates imposed from DC / Brussels / Sacramento. Precisely what the mandate might be will make a difference. [No gasoline sales after 2013 vs CAFE standards increased 11% – huge difference] If a sufficiently draconian mandate were passed, you’d be a blind fool if you couldn’t recognize that costs would be significant.

    Then my question would be the same: How can we determine whether it makes sense to pass this particularly draconian policy at this time ?

    “My side has more votes” doesn’t answer that question.

    Anybody who believes an estimate of total transition costs [whether high or low] is a fool. There are many decisions made by consumers or businesses that were a function of the price of fuel. [How far am I willing to commute ? What size aircraft should I use in my fleet ?]

    Higher fuel prices might favor depopulation of communities distant from the metro areas that residents commute to. Do we abandon perfectly good houses and build new ones close to the city ? [Of course, maybe those distant communities never should have been built…] The consequences are not as simple as we might believe.

    #486, Ray
    Yes, I realize what Gavin was doing. He may be a good modeller, but it was a poor analogy – for the reasons I gave.

    I would be better to use an analogy from medicine. We give a tetanus shot, even though we don’t know if tetanus is present. We see high temp and vomiting, we presume flu, etc. [We don’t transplant livers willy-nilly, however…]

    Heard of Peak Oil, also heard of tar sands and methane hydrates [not that I’m saying we should, just that we could]

    Nobody ran the model runs that I cited, because I made them up as an example of how an evolving series of models might eventually persuade the public. Gavin didn’t seem to get confused. Please read before criticizing.

    #490, CM

    You’re right, the right to choose a less efficient lifestyle is a cause.

    I used to love my Honda Civic 20 years ago. When I got older, my joints began to hurt. Now I wish I owned a Lincoln Town Car. Heavier cars can provide a smoother ride [Newton’s first law in play]. Elderly people like big cars; guess why ?

    If you vacation in Yosemite, the Galapagos, or Costa Rica –
    If you buy imported cheese –
    If your kids belong to a travelling soccer team, instead of the local rec team –
    If you go to a concert or play [instead of watching it on tv] –
    If you decorate your home with art –
    If you buy jewelry or stylish clothes [before the old ones are worn…] –
    … Then you’re choosing a less efficient lifestyle.

    #497, Hank

    Yes, I understand the difference between climate and weather, thanks.

    I leave it to the scientists to propose metrics other than daily temp / precip to model / compare and report to the public. One might be the expected number of winter days with temp less than X degrees [important to people who expect to harvest fruit from their trees.]

    Before lecturing me about how I need to read for 30 minutes, please take 3 minutes to read what I actually write with an open mind.