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The uncertainty prayer

Filed under: — gavin @ 29 June 2010

Seen at a meeting yesterday:


Grant us…
The ability to reduce the uncertainties we can;
The willingness to work with the uncertainties we cannot;
And the scientific knowledge to know the difference.

(Drawn from a white paper on the use of climate models for water managers).

Discuss.


140 Responses to “The uncertainty prayer”

  1. 51
    Josh Cryer says:

    You guys ought to do a post sometime soon about the arctic ice collapse we appear to be experiencing. It’s going to be one hell of an interesting summer for the arctic.

    BTW, this “prayer” reminds me of Feynman’s quote: Science is what we have learned about how not to fool ourselves about the way the world is.

  2. 52
    Kooiti Masuda says:

    Re: runaway greenhouse effect, Edward Greisch (#44) and Hank Roberts (#50):

    Not Kombayashi, but Komabayashi-Ingersoll limit. The original author spelled his name as Komabayasi, but the spelling -shi seems to be more widely known.

    The original article (short but technical) is
    Komabayasi, M., 1967: Discrete Equilibrium Temperatures of a Hypothetical Planet with the Atmosphere and the Hydrosphere of One Component-Two Phase System under Constant Solar Radiation.
    J. Meteorol. Soc. Japan, 45, 137 – 139.
    PDF available at http://www.journalarchive.jst.go.jp/english/jnltoc_en.php?cdjournal=jmsj1965&cdvol=45&noissue=1 .

  3. 53
    Jimbo says:

    Comment by Mike Cloghessy — 29 June 2010 @ 5:16 PM
    Any comparison of Earth to Venus is disingenuous…Venus’ atmosphere is made up of 97% CO2 while Earth’s is 36/100ths of 1%. Apples and oranges people.

    [Response: not really. Venus is good example of a) a demonstration that very high amounts of co2 lead to very high greenhouse effects, and b) what happens when all the water evaporates, which will happen to the Earth in a few billion years. On a more technical level, the atmospheric physics on Venus has a lot of analogies with aerosol, chemistry, and cloud processes on Earth. – gavin]

    Forgive me Gavin but in your response you forgot to mention Mars which has a high Co2 content (though further away). Let’s look at it another way, what if Earth had the same atmospheric composition as Mars then would Earth be warmer or cooler than it is now. I also think that atmospheric pressure on Venus has a part to play here but what do I know. Yeah I know – “nothing”

    [Response: Not sure what your problem is, but there is a greenhouse effect on mars exactly as would be predicted. There is more co2 sure, but the pressure is less and so line absorbances are less and there are no other greenhouse substances. -gavin]

  4. 54
    Edward Greisch says:

    50 Hank Roberts: Thanks much. That should keep me busy for quite a while.

  5. 55
    Edward Greisch says:

    52 Kooiti Masuda: Thank you!

  6. 56
    Charles says:

    30, Richard Steckis: “You do not remodel economies and civilisations based on uncertainties.”

    I have to agree with Septic Matthew: that is an odd comment. Richard, can you point to a single economy or civilization that has been established on the basis of complete certainty?

    I suspect the reason some people have difficulties with regard to understanding certainties (and I’m not directing this to you, Richard) is that they don’t quite realize how their lives are ceaselessly embroiled in uncertainties, moment to moment, day by day, year by year.

  7. 57
    Charles says:

    Oops–I meant “with regard to understanding UNcertainties ….”

  8. 58
    Chris Colose says:

    Edward,

    One of the first mathematical formulations showing an upper limit to the OLR when the optical depth of the atmosphere is sufficiently deep is contained in Ingersoll (1969) at http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/1520-0469%281969%29026%3C1191%3ATRGAHO%3E2.0.CO%3B2

    There’s subsequent work using different assumptions about radiation (e.g., a gray gas model or not), stratospheric effects, dynamics, etc

  9. 59

    I have another poem (well a prayer really) in response, relating to managing expectations of what we can expect government will achieve when tackling climater change. I think it is secretly said by governments all over the world.

    The Official Government Prayer

    Our government, somehow elected
    Delusion be our game.
    My god we’re dumb
    But there’s work to be done
    And blame to be deflected.
    Delay us today our daily decisions.
    And forgive us our empty promises,
    As we forgive those who make empty
    promises in response.
    And lead us not into innovation,
    But deliver us from progress.
    For we have the politicians,
    With the power, and the will
    To speak drivel
    For ever and ever.
    Amen.

  10. 60
    John E. Pearson says:

    47 RIchardC remarked on an idiotic comment:

    It’s worth mentioning as well that as a direct consequence of hurricane Katrina the population of New Orleans dropped 25% from about 450,00 to about 350,000 .

  11. 61
    Edward Greisch says:

    Chris Colose: Thanks. I have downloaded enough [4] papers now.

  12. 62
    Kooiti Masuda says:

    Re: Hansen and uncertainty, dcomerf (#1) et al.:

    I read Hansen’s “Storms of My Grandchildren”. It was interesting, and I understood that Hansen sincerely wants to mitigate climate change, but I felt that Hansen did not explain uncerainty of his outlook enough. I felt so partly because I had just read Stephen Schneider’s “Science as a Contact Sport”. I expected the expressions of uncertainty (likelihood, confidence etc.) which Schneider had promoted to be used by IPCC. I do not think Hansen needed to follow that scheme in his book. But I felt that he should mention the magnitude of uncertainty more explicitly anyway. I understand that he points to the worst end of the probable range of his outlook, when he tell runaway greenhouse effect, or rapid complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet, out of precautionary principle. But I guess that a non-expert reader is likely to understand that Hansen tells the most probable outlook.

    I also read Gwyn Dyer’s “Climate Wars” (mentioned by Kevin McKinney (#20)), and William Calvin’s “Global Fever”. Their outlooks of climate change seemed to me similar to Hansen’s.

    Hansen (in popular writings, not in peer-reviewed scientific articles), Dyer and Calvin commonly emphasize the possibility of runaway situation as mentioned by Kevin McKinney: climate change will be dominated by reinforcing feedbacks and human intervention cannot stop it. In other words, the climate system will go beyond a tipping point.

    Even though IPCC has discussed such possibility (in Box 10.1 of AR4 WG1), the main storyline of the IPCC reports is not that one. Though the climate system is not linear and full of feedbacks, the response of global mean temperature to CO2 concentration is bounded in a certain range, and it will be able to respond to reduction of emission with a considerable delay.

    Recently I saw a so-called climate skeptic writing something like “IPCC promotes CAGW theory”. It took some time until I decifered CAGW as “catastrophic anthropogenic global warming”. It seems that the person thinks that majority of climate scientists tell such stories as in Hansen’s book as probable scenarios. If so, it is natural for him to consider that majority of climate scientists overhype global warming. Very unfortunate misunderstanding.

    We need precautioners who point to the worst end of the probable range. We also need another group of scientists who show the whole probable range of projections. We should make clear the distinction of the two groups.

  13. 63
    Brian Dodge says:

    It just occurred to me that the axial tilt of earth -23 deg- and the associated seasons may provide a strong negative feedback to greenhouse runaway. Even if temperatures rose enough to start lowering sea level by evaporation, it would still rain at the pole during winter. The lateral transport of heat from the tropics would bring copious quantities of water vapor and latent heat; release of the latent heat requires condensation -> precipitation. Cold falling precipitation doesn’t warm by compression, and provides a powerful mechanism to remove heat from the lower atmosphere. It would have to be very hot at the beginning of winter for the Arctic basin to stay above temperatures required to prevent the eventual collection of liquid water during six months of winter. What would the surface pressure and temperature have to be to maintain the top km of the ocean as vapor?

    I wonder if increased precipitation in fall & early winter of 2009 transported latent heat into the Arctic, leading to the delayed peak of ice extent compared to previous years, as well as decreasing surface salinity and contributing to the higher peak extent seen this year? Steven Goddard had his knickers in a knot over at WUWT a while back over the heavy & early snowfall in North America – did that extend to the Arctic? (He hadn’t noticed that the decline in spring & summer snow cover was much larger; when I pointed this out, his response was “I’m guessing that you aren’t located in Washington D.C.”

  14. 64
    Edward Greisch says:

    62 Kooiti Masuda: Agreed. But did you ever try to explain uncertainty to an innumerate? You get some truly amazing responses. It is better to not confuse them with too much truth.

  15. 65
    Veidicar Decarian says:

    “You guys ought to do a post sometime soon about the arctic ice collapse we appear to be experiencing. It’s going to be one hell of an interesting summer for the arctic.” – Josh

    Don’t count your chickens…..

    At least not for another month.

  16. 66
    Veidicar Decarian says:

    “It’s worth mentioning as well that as a direct consequence of hurricane Katrina the population of New Orleans dropped 25% from about 450,00 to about 350,000.” J.E. Pearson

    And here I thought it was the Bush Administration’s fault for defunding Levee maintainence and Bushie’s brother’s fault for selling the city non-functional pumps.

    My bad.

  17. 67
    Harmen says:

    Regarding the second part of the prayer..

    “The willingness to work with the uncertainties we cannot;”

    As an economist i think two things are important..

    1. the distinction between uncertainty and risk..

    “Uncertainty: The lack of complete certainty, that is, the existence of more than one possibility. The “true” outcome/state/result/value is not known.

    Measurement of uncertainty: A set of probabilities assigned to a set of possibilities. Example: “There is a 60% chance this market will double in five years”

    Risk: A state of uncertainty where some of the possibilities involve a loss, catastrophe, or other undesirable outcome.”

    Uncertainty always implies risk but they are not the same..
    Risk is an incentive to take action because people are generally risk averse..

    2. In climate change Risk is larger because of the worst case scenarios..

    The uncertainty of outcomes is not symmetrical in the case of climate change but skewed like this..
    http://www.resourceinvestor.com/News/2008/11/PublishingImages/VOX%20EU%2011-22-08%20two.png

    The long tail to the right of this implies skewness risk..These are low probability but hight impact scenarios that a risk averse agent would like to avoid..In other words, the skewness of this distribution is/should be an incentive to take action on climate change..

    You can also calculate the skewness of a distribution with this formula..
    http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jdhf/journal/v14/n2/images/jdhf200814e1.gif

    My short resume on this topic..
    http://www.google.nl/search?hl=nl&q=%22harmen+roest%22+risk+aversion+climate+change&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

  18. 68
    Geoff Wexler says:

    #30 Richard Steckis

    You do not remodel economies and civilisations based on uncertainties.

    [Since that was a comment directed at climate mitigation the following is also ON topic]

    How about the UK, which is remodelling its economy and using uncertain * projections to justify it:

    The “New Office for Budget Responsibility” has just announced that the the governments cut’s will create 2m private sector jobs: source almost anything e.g.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jun/30/jobless-figures-guardian-treasury

    * This refers to both sign and magnitude of the job increase.

  19. 69
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Why this preoccupation with uncertainty? Even this prayer stress uncertainty. What is wrong with you natural scientists :-P
    Uncertainty is not that relevant for solving the climate problem and that reducing uncertainty is the goal of science is a very limited view of science. More so the belief that reduced uncertainty will help policymaking.

  20. 70
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andreas,
    Actually, the uncertainties are critically relevant. At present the risk calculus is dominated by the high end of the probability distribution for climate sensitivity. If climate sensitivity is in the range of 2.1 degrees per doubling (bottom end of the 90% confidence interval), we still need to act, but probably have sometime to phase in action. If it is at the favored level of 3 degrees per doubling, immediate action is crucial. And at the upper end of the 90% CL of 4.5 degrees per doubling, the appropriate action would be to SLAM ON THE BRAKES NOW.

    And because the consequences of climate change rise so dramatically with temperauture increase, it’s really the portion above the 90% CL (with probability~5%) that dominates the risk calculus. And this is just looking at the known risk–not taking into account tipping points such as loss of polar ice or outgassing of melting permafrost or clathrates.

    In probabilistic risk assessment, it is the uncertainties that wind up driving risk. If those uncertainties prevent us from bounding risk at all, risk avoidance becomes the only viable strategy.

  21. 71

    Wait,

    Is anyone seriously suggesting that the oceans will “escape” at any point in the future of our species? By which, I mean, the next million or so years?

  22. 72
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Ray, your response is exactly like I expected from a member of the natural scientists that I critiqued. Yes, uncertaintly are critically relevant for YOU, given the limited ways that you look at the world trough your disciplinary lenses. However, neither scientists, nor politicians or the public are that hyper-rational, and other scientific disciplines stress other uncertainties or dont care at all about that. We will in a world full of uncertainty and we make holistic evaluation on what to do and avoid. The natural science types of uncertainties are just a smaller part of the things that counts, also when it comes to handling climate change.

  23. 73

    I have a very simple question, but apparently, I have concluded after an extensive web search, no one has ever thought of it before.

    What is the mean global annual wind speed? At the surface, or ten meters, or 50, or 80? I can’t find an estimate anywhere.

    I did find one estimate (Archer and Robinson 2005) of the mean over land–3.28 meters per second. Is it higher over the ocean? Lower? I can’t find a figure for that, either.

    Does anybody know?

  24. 74
    J. Bob says:

    31 Richard, ever wonder how the “polar” cities would keep warm if not for fossil energy shipped in?

    Maybe the reason “polar” cities have not been abandoned is the ability to move affordable energy sources (i.e. coal, nat. gas, oil, etc. ) around the globe.

  25. 75
    Andrew Hobbs says:

    #73 BPL

    How about Archer and Jacobson
    JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 110, D12110, 2005

    a pdf at
    http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/2004jd005462.pdf

    summary at
    http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/global_winds.html

  26. 76
    wili says:

    I’d like to second Josh’s plea (at #51) for a thread on what is happening in the Arctic. The season is already breaking all sorts of records. Graphs of ice volume are going through the floor. The sea ice anomaly graph is dropping more dramatically than anything seen since it started in 1979. The ice coverage maps are exploding with the bright colors that indicate melt, all across the Arctic.

    We need some professional perspectives on these events, events that seem to us ominous in the extreme.

    I know relatively unpredictable things like wind patterns and cloud cover can change thing quickly, but it would be nice to hear if anyone had predicted this rate of melt, and what their predictions were based on, if nothing else than for scientific interest and input for future modeling.

  27. 77
    Hank Roberts says:

    > mean global annual wind speed
    http://www.google.com/search?q=mean+global+annual+wind+speed
    Lots of answers there; no one consensus answer, yet.

  28. 78
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andreas, yes people make off-the-cuff decisions about risk, and repeatedly, these decisions have been shown to be flat-assed wrong. Our species sucks at risk assessment. We over-emphasize spectacular risks like terrorism an under-emphasize risks in 1)activities we cannot or do not want to avoid (like driving eating at McDonalds or sex) or that are remote in time (e.g climate change or smoking related illness). That is why it is imperative that risk be approached in a systematic manner with proven efficacy, like probabilistic risk assessment.

    By the way, you will get the same answer not just from natural scientists, but from any discipline that deals with risk, viz. Harmen’s insightful comment #67. Good lord, man, you sound like a teenager who thinks he’s the first ever to fall in love!

  29. 79
    Septic Matthew says:

    51, Josh Cyer: You guys ought to do a post sometime soon about the arctic ice collapse we appear to be experiencing. It’s going to be one hell of an interesting summer for the arctic.

    And while you are at it, address the growing ice in the Antarctic. Both trends are “unprecedented” in recent times.

  30. 80

    #62–

    Thanks, Kooiti, for a great expansion of the idea I briefly put forth, as well as the titles–particularly the Schneider and Calvin books, which sound as if they should go onto my reading list.

    I agree, FWIW, that clarity around “worst case” versus “most probable case” is much to be desired. I’d suggest that Dyer’s willingness to look at worst cases comes partly from his military background–military planners, I’m told, spend a lot of thought on worst cases, and indeed the worst case was traditionally the one you were supposed to plan for as your primary contingency, I believe. Then focus shifted a bit to emphasize the most likely scenario more–IIRC. A lot of Dyer’s best stuff comes from his interviews with military planners.

    Those unfamiliar with “Climate Wars” can read about it here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Climate-Wars-Fight-Survival-Overheats/dp/1851687181/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

  31. 81

    The Arctic situation is indeed fascinating. After all the precipitous declines, we’ve now seen a couple of days of low declines, and some are saying “Steve Goddard was right.”

    I think we’re going to see some more spectacular declines, myself, but there’s nothing like sea-ice to make fools of all of us. Professional commentary would indeed be welcome!

  32. 82
    Ike Solem says:

    [edit]

    Re this:

    Any comparison of Earth to Venus is disingenuous…Venus’ atmosphere is made up of 97% CO2 while Earth’s is 36/100ths of 1%. Apples and oranges people.

    [Response: not really. Venus is good example of a) a demonstration that very high amounts of co2 lead to very high greenhouse effects, and b) what happens when all the water evaporates, which will happen to the Earth in a few billion years. On a more technical level, the atmospheric physics on Venus has a lot of analogies with aerosol, chemistry, and cloud processes on Earth. – gavin]

    You could add that Venus and Earth’s atmosphere can both be successfully modeled using the same framework – a radiative-convective balance model that relies on quantum physics and fluid dynamics theory. What this means is that we generally understand how planetary atmospheres operate on a very large scale, as long as we are given variables like pressure and chemical composition.

    On Venus, the chemical composition is a result of active volcanism. On Earth, this also plays a role, but biological activity over several billion years is a more important factor. Mars looks something like a fossil planet – a low pressure atmosphere, in chemical equilibrium, mostly CO2 – but the same radiative-convective approach works there too. Understanding the composition in more detail requires developing biochemical and geochemical models for “earth system processes” as they’re called.

    Since this thread is supposed to be about water resources for managers, the runoff models they describe in the paper are of interest – they take climate variables from global climate models and use them as external input for local watershed and river flow models.

    Physically based models try to simulate key physical processes of a system. In the case of runoff, they try to account for the fate and transport of water molecules in the system. For example, does the precipitation fall as rain or snow? If it falls as snow, does it stay in the snow pack, when does it melt, and does it ablate? If it falls as rain, does it run off the surface, or percolate below the surface? If it goes below the surface, does it go into an aquifer, does it go into a stream, or is it absorbed by vegetation? These processes modeled are based on what is known about physical and biological processes.

    The regional trends here are going to vary – but the American west is looking at earlier spring runoff, perhaps greater variability in winter precipitation, and late summer droughts associated with severe wildfire seasons in the summer and fall. Even though the warming trend is steady, the greatest source of year-to-year climate variation will continue to be ENSO. Extreme events of interest include summer heat waves and warm spring storms that release massive floods due to melting snow.

    Incidentally, there is absolutely no evidence for any kind of “Pacific cooling cycle” to counteract the general warming trend, despite the promotion of this theme by politicians like Barton and Inhofe, and scientists like Easterbrook. In fact, when it comes to the PDO, people can’t seem to agree if we’re in a ‘cool phase’ or a ‘warm phase’, or even what the clear indications would be, or how the signal for this putative cycle can be extracted from the ENSO system, the warming trend, and the variability introduced by volcanic explosions…

    Regarding the Arctic, here’s a good site for looking at global ice:
    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/

    Will this summer exceed previous low records? Time to place your bets:
    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/seaice.area.arctic.png

  33. 83
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Ray writes “By the way, you will get the same answer not just from natural scientists, but from any discipline that deals with risk”

    That is not true. Your answer is typical of natural sciences based on applied mathematics, as most natural science are, with a positivistic view on science, as most natural sciences have.

    If you read Ulrich Beck, probably the most famous sociologist dealing with risks, e.g. the book Risk society, you will experience a very different approach to risk.

    But the point with my first critique (which I didnt state explicitly) was to critique the linear model of science and policymaking, which the IPCC are based upon as well as most atmospheric related sciences. The linear model assume that reduced scientific uncertainty is required to reach a political concensus. This assumption has been falsified thousands of times in emprirical studies in the social science, still most natural sciences believe the linear model to be true. You guys focus on uncertainty far too much, and in doing that you gridlock and f**c up the climate problem …

    [Response: Why is it that you keep setting up this strawman? No-one that is discussing these issues at the modelling centers or at the IPCC are following this caricature of what you think we think about the science/policy interface. Just get over it. – gavin]

  34. 84

    Gavin,

    Seen on the web today:

    SCIENCE

    If you don’t make mistakes, you’re doing it wrong.
    If you don’t correct those mistakes, you’re doing it really wrong.
    If you can’t accept that you’re mistaken, you’re not doing it at all.

    (Drawn from a blog on a recent paper in Science.)

    Think.

  35. 85
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andreas,
    Who said anything about political consensus–or politics for that matter. I am talking about estimating and bounding risks so that the policy makers have a quantitative guide for allocating resources.

    Allowing resources to be assigned based solely on public outcry or political influence or “hunches” doesn’t work–demonstrably. If you look at how risk professionals allocate resources, it is based on probabilistic risk assessment. Learn it.

  36. 86
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Gavin, what kind of expertise, studies and methods are you relying on when you state that? None I guess, or?

    [Response: I hardly think I need a published study to know what I think, what i am discussing or what interactions I and my colleagues have with policymakers. -gavin]

    I can give you many referenses to prominent social scientists that studied the science/policy interface of climate change. Most, it not all of them, agree with my statement.

    [Response: Well that obviously trumps actual experience. -gavin]

    For example, to build a scientific concensus and that a political concensus would follow sooner or later was a firm belief of Bert Bolin, first chairman of the IPCC. He argued that reducing uncertainty was the means, and that one had to do that carefully becauce exaggerations runs the risk to backfire (e.g. sceptic attacks on too scary scenarios that cant be backed up with facts), and in that way, in 10, or 20 years time, the IPCC would have been instrumental in establishing a political concensus, which was the utlimate goal of Bolin as the chairman of the IPCC. Why cant we be honest about such things? Is honesty really that dangerous?

    [Response: Lovely, disagreeing with your characterisations means I’m not being honest. You do really have a way of charming the scientists you purport to study. But think about this, is it conceivable that attitudes and thinking have changed over 20 years? Is it possible in fact that scientists have actually absorbed some of that research you pride so highly? Now, if you were honest you’d at least consider the possibility…. -gavin]

  37. 87
    David B. Benson says:

    George Fripley (59) — Very well done. Is the “prayer” your work?

  38. 88

    Thanks David B. Benson (87) Much appreciated

    It certainly is my work…although I suppose I should acknowledge the Lord’s Prayer for the general form. It passed the time one day when I was very frustrated with my political masters (this a normal state of mind for me) and then sparked off a whole satirical manual.

    Cheers

    George

  39. 89
    David B. Benson says:

    George Fripley (88) — It accurately describs much of government, I fear.

  40. 90
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andreas,
    The fact of the matter is that there are established procedures for assessing risk:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=probabilistic+risk+assessment&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7GGLL_en

    The procedures are there for a reason. If you are not following them, you aren’t approaching the problem properly, AND you could be breaking the law in some fields. Political consensus is another beast entirely. That will come when people decide they actually care whether their progeny live or die…or not.

  41. 91
    Jimbo says:

    Comment by Jimbo — 30 June 2010 @ 7:21 PM
    Forgive me Gavin but in your response you forgot to mention Mars which has a high Co2 content (though further away). Let’s look at it another way, what if Earth had the same atmospheric composition as Mars then would Earth be warmer or cooler than it is now. I also think that atmospheric pressure on Venus has a part to play here but what do I know. Yeah I know – “nothing”

    [Response: Not sure what your problem is, but there is a greenhouse effect on mars exactly as would be predicted. There is more co2 sure, but the pressure is less and so line absorbances are less and there are no other greenhouse substances. -gavin]
    —–
    JIMBO RESPONSE: Thanks for the update. You really should have known better when responding to Comment by Mike Cloghessy — (29 June 2010 @ 5:16 PM) and mentioned pressure, otherwise some people would have simply accepted your very simple initial response to Mike as cut and dried.

  42. 92
    t_p_hamilton says:

    Jimbo at 91 said:”JIMBO RESPONSE: Thanks for the update. You really should have known better when responding to Comment by Mike Cloghessy — (29 June 2010 @ 5:16 PM) and mentioned pressure, otherwise some people would have simply accepted your very simple initial response to Mike as cut and dried.”

    You were the one who mentioned pressure, not Mike or Gavin in his response to Mike.

  43. 93
    Kooiti Masuda says:

    Ike Solem (#82), re PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation):

    The page you linked does not say “people can’t seem to agree if we’re in a ‘cool phase’ or a ‘warm phase’” as you labelled, but “It appears that we are still in the cool phase of the PDO”. The cool phase here is the broadly La-Nina-like phase.

    Maybe some other people call the same phase as “warm phase”, by looking at temperature at a different part of the Pacific ocean as indicators. If so, it just means that the terminology has not been settled.

    PDO does not have a regular periodicity (as is ENSO), and is difficult to predict. It will certainly be source of noise to the prediction of global warming. But a recent study shows some predictability of PDO for several years when good observations of the initial condition in the ocean is available. See the paper:
    T. Mochizuki et al. (2010): Pacific decadal oscillation hindcasts relevant to near-term climate prediction. Proc. Nat’l. Acad. Sci., 107, 1833 – 1837. http://www.pnas.org/content/107/5/1833

  44. 94
    MalcolmT says:

    #31 Richard Steckis: If you don’t like the evidence of the Dust Bowl or Katrina, go back a few hundred years to the civilisations discussed in Jared Diamond’s “Collapse”.

  45. 95

    Andrew Hobbs 75,

    Bless you! Just what I needed! Thanks!

  46. 96
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Gavin, yes I actually do think that systematic studies of many individuals and cases that apply the scientific method are better than introspection based on more or less one individual *

    [Response: My statement was concerning what I and my colleagues think and do. You apparently feel that studies about scientists 20 years ago provides more enlightenment about what I think, than me telling you. Bizarre. – gavin]

    Yes, it is conceivable, even likely, that attitudes and thinking have changed over 20 years? Unfortunately, the linear model seems to still be the dominant attitude among scientists. For example, I studied a swedish case from 2008, and the linear model is still very visible.

    [Response: I’m not saying that some scientists might still think that all they have to do is put the science out there and policies will just appear, but this is not what I think and it is not the paradigm in which most of the conversations I have with colleagues and policymakers takes place. I would have thought you would be happy about this, but instead you insist I must be wrong and that you are still free to characterise us as naive savants. Stop trying to feel superior to scientists and actually talk to them. Who knows, you might learn something. – gavin]

    * Compare with this example:
    IPCC: Climate is changing, 100 studies concludes, and the results are statistically significant.
    Introspecto: This summer feels hot, I remember that the summers of my childhood was hot.
    Who would you invest trust in? According to your reply to me, you prefer personal firsthand experience, so guess you go for introspecto ….

    [Response: Don’t be silly. We aren’t talking about whether a single person’s opinion about the real world is more reliable than a well-done assessment, but about whether a single person statement about their opinion is more reliable than a report about a bunch of other scientists opinions. – gavin]

  47. 97
    flxible says:

    Andreas: “Who would you invest trust in?

    Most everyone here would put their trust in an experienced practicing scientist, as opposed to a young turk still trying to justify the money wasted on his education in pseudo-science. You are the “Introspecto” here.

  48. 98
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Gavin,
    You twist my words, and change yours, in order to win the debate. I know I do the same sometimes. That´s one reason why debates are frustrating, the goal are usually to win (scientists have big egos), and the means includes various “tricks”. For example:

    I started out addressing natural scientists in general, especially the hard sciences, and so did you when you included the IPCC and more. But you end up to narrow it down to yourself (and some collegues). This is a smart “trick” because it changes everything to your favor (introspection is not a bad method to study oneself and you may not be representative …).

    But I´m not that interested in you, more so in natural scientists in climate change in general. We can discuss you, sure, but than we have to begin from the start¨. I´m not a gavin expert, but I have noticed your superior attitude ;-)

    – You persist in claiming that my empirical basis is twenty years old, and that things have change since than, although most studies that I rely on are from the last 10 years, my study are 2 years old, and these studies don´t really find any great changes. The changes are more rhetorical in parts of the social science that embrace stakeholder models, but the science/policy interface are still designed according to the linear model, and that is especially true of the IPCC, and no changes in that direction are visible in the outline of AR5, the procedures, etc. IPCC cling to the view of science as objective uncertainty reducer and that this mission is highly relevant for politics and policy at the same time that the IPCC is fully unpartial, disinterested and so on.

    [Response: This has nothing to do with ego, and everything to do with the way you make repeated and vague generalizations about ‘scientists’ when commenting on issues that are very specific to me and my colleagues. You started off implying that the statement on uncertainty posted above was clear evidence of the linear model in practice. Since I posted that statement, you are clearly implying that I was following the ‘linear model’ and since I don’t think I do, I suggested that you stop setting up strawman arguments (something I still suggest you do). I do not consider the IPCC to be the sole connection between scientists and policymakers on climate-related issues, and (as we have discussed many times) neither is it the hot-bed of political activists you imagine it to be. There is an interesting discussion to be had about the complexities of this interface, but that discussion can’t even start while you insist on assuming that every scientist you talk to is naive and hopelessly ignorant about policy issues. Stop tossing around cliches about the IPCC ‘clinging to its role as an objective uncertainty reducer’ and actually ask people how IPCC deals with uncertainties – whether they are reduced or not. Ask people what other interactions they have with policy makers outside the IPCC framework, etc. etc. I have absolutely no objection to people looking at the science-policy interface as an academic study, hopefully with the aim of improving methods of communication across that interface, but you appear to simply want to impose some theoretical construct on a real situation that is nothing like as simple or as clean as you imagine. Just move on from the cliches! Really, how hard is that? – gavin]

  49. 99
    Hank Roberts says:

    Septic Matthew says: 1 July 2010 at 12:08 PM
    “… address the growing ice in the Antarctic.”

    Ahem:
    http://moregrumbinescience.blogspot.com/2010/03/wuwt-trumpets-result-supporting-climate.html

    “Friday, March 12, 2010
    WUWT trumpets result supporting climate modelling
    … This is expected from climate modeling. Nice to see someone else is picking up on this interesting confirmation of our scientific expectation. The prediction is old. In 1992 ….”

  50. 100
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Gavin,
    Strawman versus ideal types. Straw men are a trick used to win a debate. ideal types are something (social) scientists use to generalise vague and messy data (the social worlds is all but clean). Some social scientists, especially post-modern ones, prefer to describe the particulars in detail and not generalize. Both seems to evoke anger in the natural scientist. Perhaps the only language natural science accept, and understand, are numbers, quantification with statistical analysis, the language of the superior culture …

    [Response: I don’t presume to speak for other scientists, but what annoys me is being generalized about without having any input into what the ‘boxes’ are. I’m a little surprised that it is ‘post-modern’ to be specific about an issue – I would have rather thought that this had always been a hallmark of useful analysis. We are far more likely to learn something useful about science/policy by looking at what happened during the acid rain or ozone depletion issues than by vague generalisations about what ‘scientists’ are or think. You are also (I think) mistaken in thinking that ‘scientists’ only respect numbers or statistics. This has nothing to do with a lack of respect for other academic disciplines, it is more a plea for greater engagement with your object of study. – gavin]

    I never claimed anything even close to http://www.articlesbase.com/self-help-articles/how-do-i-get-over-my-wife-leaving-me-1634912.htmlIPCC being a “hot-bed of political activists”. That is a strawman argument :-P


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